Eight Tips for Programming Proposals

Are you coming to Sirens? Terrific! At Sirens, programming is crafted, proposed, and presented by attendees—and we hope that all our attendees will consider proposing a topic or two. To help you on your way, here are our top eight tips for getting ready, based on some common issues that we’ve noticed in proposals.

  1. You should take a few minutes to look through the programming section of the Sirens website. If you’ve attended or presented before, this will refresh your memory and give you the chance to see if something you need to know has changed. If you’re new, welcome, and we hope this provides you with plenty of preparation information.
  2. Use women, fantasy, and literature as your frame. This is vital. No matter what topic you’d like to present on, you’ll have to make explicitly clear in your proposal how that topic relates to our overarching focus on women in fantasy literature. “Explicitly” might mean, as an example, mentioning a fantasy book—or film! Or story!—in your summary (which will be posted on the website and published in the program book) and including fantasy-specific information and examples in your abstract. Find out why here.
  3. Carefully consider how many proposals you’d like to propose. Most potential presenters will propose only one or two, to ensure that they have the time to craft them thoughtfully. Please don’t propose a mountain of topics in the hope that more proposals means a greater chance of being accepted!
  4. Push beyond “101” on topics. As a general rule, Sirens attendees are brilliant and have spent some time in critical conversations, sometimes at Sirens and sometimes elsewhere, regarding women in fantasy literature. As a general rule, we’re looking for smart, savvy, thoughtful, challenging presentations, roughly at upper college level or graduate level. Also, you’ll want to avoid repeating what has been presented before, unless it hasn’t been addressed in a long time, or unless you can update and extend the conversation. [You can review past programming here.]
  5. Carefully consider how your topic matches your chosen presentation style. For example, if you want to communicate a lot of information that your audience won’t necessarily have, you’ll probably want a paper/lecture/talk or a workshop—rather than, say, a roundtable, where you’re posing questions for the audience to answer, or a panel, where you’re often talking about experiences. You can find more information on presentation styles in our presentation guidelines, and if we can be helpful, we’re happy to consult before you turn in your proposal.
  6. Write a strong summary and a thoughtful abstract. They are not the same thing! You can see examples of summaries in the conference archives, and an abstract will be a paragraph or three about your analysis, or a proposed lesson plan, or sample questions for a panel or roundtable. Also, spellcheck is your friend! We’ll be posting more help on abstracts in the coming weeks.
  7. If your presentation will involve other presenters (whether as panelists, co-presenters, or authors of other papers that you want to pre-empanel with your own), coordinate with them to ensure that you are all on the same page with regards to your presentation. Your collaborators will need to confirm that they will be presenting with you before the presentation deadline, and in the case of pre-empaneled papers and panels, will need to provide supplemental abstracts or other analytical responses to the panel abstract.
  8. This year’s theme is women who work magic, and you may want to engage with that theme in proposals, though it’s not required. You might explore different cultural depictions of magical women, delving deeply into an examination of particular magic-working female characters, or discussing different perspectives and opinions—negative or positive—of women’s magic.

You can propose programming on the programming proposals section of the website beginning April 1.

If you have any questions about programming, we’re happy to help answer them. Write to us at (programming at

Cora Anderson
Programming Coordinator

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