Today we present thoughts from Hallie Tibbetts, Sirens’s programming coordinator, on why presenting a paper worked for her.
Last year, I decided to propose a paper for Sirens. I knew I’d be going back to school, and a paper is a really, really good excuse to miss class—and for me, as an introvert and a staff member, the more we get into the weekend that is Sirens, the more I need something pre-written to help me organize my thoughts. I’m tired—happy, but tired—and I’m not really able to think on my feet, which can make participating on a panel, teaching a workshop, or leading a roundtable challenging for me. (Really. I’m not sure that what comes out of my mouth makes sense by Friday afternoon, sometimes!)
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a paper at first, or even whether I wanted to have a shorter paper (a 25-minute time slot) or a longer one (a 50-minute time slot, for slightly longer papers and audience discussion). Papers, lectures, and presentations are great ways to inform the audience when you know about something they might not, to analyze things, to compare and contrast, and to go into research. I had some blog posts that would make great jumping-off points, and I thought about grabbing a couple of people to put together a set of short, pre-empaneled papers, too.
In the end, I proposed “It’s Coming from Inside the Dollhouse,” about haunted toys in middle grade books. Over the summer, I (re)read the books and jotted down thoughts on each, so that when it came time to write my paper—which isn’t, actually, a requirement, but something I needed to do so I had something to read from—it was easy work. Since I had my presentation finished in advance, I just read over it a few days before my presentation to check on my timing, made a few notes, and brought a copy along to Sirens. After I read my paper, the audience had a lively discussion about the topic, which was pretty amazing.
This was my summary:
Literature for young people in the 1970s and ‘80s included a number of scary stories, including The Dollhouse Murders and The Doll in the Garden. Haunted toys can still be found in books like Doll Bones. This paper will explore haunted objects in books that have been aimed at young readers of yesterday and today.
My abstract, which is a little on the short side, but still okay:
Much “middle grade fiction” limits its scope is to family, friends, or a child’s immediate community, and to finding a place for oneself within those boundaries; young adult fiction typically pushes the young person toward adulthood. Haunted toys, or hauntings that include toys, seem to occupy a liminal space between young adult and middle grade, where no bookstore dares go, but where children must leave behind games and face a harsher reality. These stories show up in works including The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Wren Wright (originally published in 1948, and in new editions as recently as 1995), The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn (1989), and Doll Bones by Holly Black (2013). This paper will examine the use of haunted toys in these and other books as markers of the unnatural, particularly for children, and explore what makes a scary story for young readers, as well as address the shift in focus for these books over the years from younger to older middle grade readers.
I recommend giving papers (or lectures, or talks) a try! I’m already brainstorming one for this year.
Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)
Join Us for a Chat!?
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Friday, April 22, from 9 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern or Sunday, May 1, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.