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Archive for April 2015

Perspective: On Programming – Artemis Grey

Sirens Programming I Have Loved

I’m an old crone in the Sirens world, having attended every conference since its inception in 2009. That’s given me years of experiences to draw from, so when Amy suggested writing a little something about Sirens programming that I’ve loved, I was like “I’m on it!” Then I actually tried to narrow the lists of programming that I loved down to something manageable, and things got more difficult. The truth is that I’ve loved every program at Sirens I’ve ever attended. So I sat and brooded a little, and tried (without cheating and looking back through program books) to single out programs that were still sitting fresh in my head.

First up, and one that’ll probably always stick in the forefront of my mind, is an afternoon class, “Dark Ages Armor,” presented by Dave Horvath, which took place at the very first Sirens in 2009. The class introduced us to armor of the dark ages, the parts of the armor, what it was made of, and a sample of Dark Ages weaponry. Not only was it an interesting class, but we were able to try on the pieces of armor, and Dave brought in some straw and we were allowed to actually try our hand at using a spear to pierce a shield. I mean, really at what conference can you use an actual weapon to stab an actual shield? Sirens, that’s what conference!

From the 2010 Sirens, I still think very often of two programs. One is “The Golden Age of YA” panel, with Rachel Manija Brown, Malinda Lo, Janni Lee Simner, and Sarah Rees Brennan. As someone who writes YA, it was wonderful to hear them discuss how it had evolved in recent years, blowing away the prior accepted length of 60,000 words and bulling its way through censorship and into a new world of writing where adults read the books as much as young adults do. As someone who was reading Stephen King when she was in her early teens, and who didn’t pick up a lot of YA books until she was in her twenties, I loved hearing the authors discuss these phenomena.

Also in 2010 Sirens was the workshop “Revision: Openings,” hosted by Sherwood Smith. Writers were able to bring WIPs and Sherwood read them aloud so that we could experience our openings the way a reader does. This was invaluable (and slightly terrifying) and I had such an amazing time that four years later, it’s still right there with me. Participants had the chance to weigh in (kindly but honestly) on each opening and briefly discuss what worked about it, and what didn’t, and even offer suggestions if they had them. You just can’t beat that sort of experience.

Sirens in 2012 brought “Siren with a Sword: Fencing 101” in the afternoon classes. Need I say more? FENCING. It was amazing. We had a room full of participants and not one person got run through. That in and of itself warrants note. What’s more, we learned basic positions and how to move from one to the next, how to balance them, and exactly how much core strength it takes to carry them out. All experiences you wouldn’t likely get anywhere else! And, as always, the company of other Sirens attendees cannot be beat.

For me, every piece of Sirens programing is one I’ve loved, because each one was an experience to be shared with my fellow Sirens. It’s this sense of inclusion and unity that makes Sirens such a wonderful place. Whether you’re an established and well-known author or a first time conference attendee, once you’re here, you’re a Siren forevermore. My personal favorite programs are ones that stir the imagination, but there’s always something for everyone. I implore anyone who has ideas for programming to submit a proposal! I was a first-time presenter back in 2009, and it was the best introduction to presentations I could have asked for. I’ve been a presenter off and on in the years since, and I plan on submitting to the vetting board for program in 2015 too!

–Artemis Grey
 

Perspective: On Programming – Kate Larking

What programming topic do you wish someone would present at Sirens?

I love anime and manga. I really hope that someone proposes topics that are either focused on anime and manga, or has topics where anime and manga are included. I do enjoy how Sirens doesn’t treat any genre or storytelling form as less-than. Stories with pictures are awesome!

 
If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back to Sirens?

I’m addicted. Sirens gives me a place to relax and rejuvenate myself as a reader and writer, spurring me forward for the next year to push harder as a diverse reader and budding writer. Pretty much it crams a university-level education in women in fantasy over a weekend without the harshness of grades, incompatible professors who look down on genre, and contradictory students.

 
Tell us about a Sirens Guest of Honor that you’ve found particularly inspiring.

I have found many of the Sirens Guests of Honor to be inspiring. But if I am going to go off keynote speeches, Alaya Dawn Johnson blew me away in year 5. Articulate and thought-provoking, her talk really opened my eyes to things I had been missing in terms of reading and writing, life and diversity.

 
What is your favorite part of Sirens?

Every year is a bit different. Some years, I fall in love with the Bedtime Stories. Other years, the ball delights me. But every year, the quality of the programming and keynotes gives me creative energy for the year to come.

–Kate Larking
 

Perspective: On Programming – Meg Belviso

What is your favorite part of Sirens?

The programming! Seriously, every year I find myself feeling like Hermione Granger before she got her Time Turner. I want to attend everything! The only trouble with the presentations is that they’re too short. It doesn’t take much to start an interesting conversation going with the people at Sirens.

 
Tell us about a Sirens presentation that you loved.

I’ve yet to go to a Sirens presentation that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, so I just let my mind go blank and answered with the first one that came to me. I was completely surprised by the answer. It was a paper from 2014 by Hallie Tibbetts called “It’s Coming from Inside the Dollhouse.” It was about middle grade novels of the 70s and 80s that dealt with haunted toys.

I expected the paper to be a fun discussion about haunted toy stories—and it was—but like all the best papers of this kind, it also discovered a pattern that said something deeper. It was really a discussion of the use of toys as a metaphor for growing up, specifically transitioning from childhood to adolescence. I can’t wait for the compendium to come out so I can read it again!

Not surprisingly, it sparked a great discussion about toys and the way we relate to them, and lots of obscure books and movies. We looked at all of them in light of these new ideas. It made me excited to reread and watch them again, and to just think more about the discussion. This is the kind of thing I come to Sirens for, and I loved finding such a great example in a paper focusing on something very specific. The best way to describe it would be say it was a true gem!

 
Tell us about a Sirens Guest of Honor that you’ve found particularly inspiring.

The first year I went the theme was Monsters and I was really surprised at how the three speakers with the same job (writer) could be so different and so equally interesting. Each writer had her own story that led to her own unique voice. That’s continued to be true for every speaker in all the years I’ve gone. It really is inspiring because it reminds me that everyone has their own voice—that it’s the voice that creates the story. That sounds like a cop-out that I’m not picking one, but really that’s the inspiring thing!

–Meg Belviso
 

Help Us Fund Sirens Scholarships


Progress to $2295


Thank you to everyone who donated generously to fund our scholarships this year. Our fundraising for our 2015 scholarships is complete, but if you’d like to donate to Sirens itself, please visit our donation page to see the types of support we can most use.

We’re thrilled to say that the Sirens community raised the funds for eight scholarships in 2015. Please see our scholarships page for more information and how to apply.

-----

 

Seven years ago, we created Sirens as a space to support and discuss the remarkable work of women in fantasy literature. As past Sirens attendees know, critical to that mission is including a wide array of voices in our community.

 

Why offer scholarships?
 

Sirens is an in-person conference, and attendance requires funds—which means that not everyone who wishes to is able to join us. Their absence makes both our conference and our community less vibrant.

Because each Sirens attendee comes with additional conference expenses, from food to registration bags, and because Sirens endeavors to keep its attendance cost as low as possible for everyone, Sirens does not have funds available to both present Sirens itself and to award scholarships. Previously, we have offered occasional scholarships, funded either by our staff or supportive donors, but we’ve never been able to offer nearly so many as we’d like. This year, we hope that you’ll help us raise the funds necessary to do so.

 

What kinds of scholarships will be available?
 

Scholarships will cover both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket for each recipient. We’re hoping to receive enough funds to cover the following proposed scholarships, designed to serve a multitude of potential attendees. But in the event that we don’t, we will fund scholarships in the following order:

  • Con or Bust
    Con or Bust helps people of color/non-white people attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. Sirens’s staff have donated Sirens registrations to Con or Bust in the past, but this year, Sirens would like to provide Con or Bust with three Sirens registrations and Sirens Shuttle tickets in order to help people of color/non-white people attend Sirens. Con or Bust will allocate these registrations according to its rules.
     
  • Programming Presenters
    Every voice at Sirens is vital to the vibrancy and diversity of our conversations, but we always appreciate the skill, talent, and expertise that our accepted programming presenters have volunteered to share with our community. In the past, because of a generous donor, we were able to provide two presenter scholarships, and we’d like to again recognize exemplary programming proposals with financial support. This year, we’d like to award three accepted presentations with a Sirens registration and Shuttle ticket. (Selected presentations with co-presenters who have opted in for scholarship eligibility will share the funds across applicable presenters.) These are merit-based scholarships, and will be selected by a committee.
     
  • Financial Hardship
    People sometimes say that money makes the world go round; we’d like to counter with the idea that generosity makes the world go round. Not all individuals who wish to attend Sirens can afford to do so, and you can help make Sirens a possibility for those who can’t. Sirens would like to award as many selected recipients as possible with a Sirens registration and Sirens Shuttle ticket, in the hopes that this will enable them to attend Sirens in the fall.

 

Can you help us reach our goal of including more voices in Sirens?
 

You can donate any amount to these scholarships, and if you choose to donate—no matter the amount—we will feature you, under your chosen name (or anonymous), on our website and in our program book. More importantly, both our Sirens team and our community will be grateful for your commitment both to those who might not otherwise be able to attend Sirens and to the diversity and inclusiveness of our community.

Donations for the scholarship program will be accepted through May 15.

As Sirens operates under the auspices of Narrate Conferences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, all donations are eligible for tax deduction within the United States. Sirens staff are, of course, not eligible for scholarships (and, in fact, purchase their Sirens registrations and tickets like any other attendee). Any leftover or unclaimed funds will be considered donations to Sirens. If you have any questions or concerns, please write Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org).

If you choose to donate, thank you! It means the world to us.

 
 

Scholarship Donors 
Anonymous (8)
Amy
Edith Hope Bishop
Cheryl
Sabrina Chin
Ellie
Faye
Nivair H. Gabriel
Andrea Hairston
Hallie
For Katie Hoffman by her parents
Ellen Kushner
Catherine Lundoff
Manda
Erynn Moss
Sharina Pratt
Simon
Amy Wilson
Zee

 
 
 

Please help our scholarship campaign by sharing news of your support!



Help Sirens reach its goal of including more voices!

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 6 (April 2015)

In this issue:

 

PROGRAMMING DEADLINE APPROACHING
The deadline to submit programming proposals to Sirens is May 15, 2015.

We look forward to receiving your proposals. Remember, all programming at Sirens is created and presented by attendees. Submit your proposal now!

You can get information on how to put together a programming proposal on our website, and we’ve posted our annual programming series on our blog. Check it out for help turning your idea into a presentation, as well as for thoughts and experiences from others who’ve presented and how they made a proposal.

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook or the Sirens message boards?

If you’re still thinking about what to present, please join us for a chat. We’ll be talking about programming ideas on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. This link will take you to a chat on the Sirens website during that time; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

#SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras). We recently held a chat on Twitter, too, where ideas were floated for anyone to take. Here are just a couple examples:

  • Bring It On: Are Girls More Fearless in Fantasy Literature?
  • Forgiveness and Revenge in Fantasy
  • Murder, Mistake, Rebellion, Revolution: Our Changeable Thresholds of Female Villainy in Fantasy Literature
  • Homicidal Asylum Prisoner to Practically Perfect Authorial Insert: The Many, Many Faces of Alice of Wonderland
  • “How about something with women-led societies and matriarchal lines: Sorrow’s Knot, The Demon King, Queen of the Tearling?”
  • “40+-year-old women in fantasy lit: Paladin of Souls, A Crown for Cold Silver, Granny Weatherwax…”
  • Handbook of Revolution: Deploying Your Dragons, Mages, Spies and Wannabe Queens

We believe involving everyone in the dialogue of the conference is critical, and that’s why our only presenter requirement is that you be old enough to attend. Please know that we value hearing from everyone—and if a topic interests you, it probably interests other attendees, too. If you have any questions about programming, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

REGISTER
Staff members recently visited the 2015 site for Sirens. We’re happy to report that the lobby space at the Inverness Hotel has been renovated! Now better than ever, the hotel boasts ample natural light, outlets for all your power needs, a new fireplace, and plenty of cozy seating. In addition, the dining locations have been renovated, and a new coffee bar serves your favorite caffeinated drinks until early afternoon. We can’t wait to share this lovely space with you.

InvernessLobbyRenovated

Register now for Sirens in Denver, Colorado.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

TheYoungElites

Come read with us! Sirens co-founder Amy leads the Sirens Book Club each month. April’s book is The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Join the discussion here on Goodreads.

 

YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT…

Interesting Links:

Marvel is spotlighting female heroes in their new bi-monthly anthology.

Awesome: Women SFF artists redesign female characters.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Kazuo Ishiguro: “Are they going to say this is fantasy?

From Harper Voyager: Fiona McIntosh remembers Sara Douglass.

Princess Rap Battle: Cinderella vs. Belle.

From Esquire: A look at genre vs. literary fiction.

From NPR: A Girl, A Shoe, A Prince: The Endlessly Evolving Cinderella.

From The Guardian: Kapow! Attack of the feminist superheroes.

Matrilines: The Woman Who Made Fantasy: Katherine Kurtz.

 

Recent Releases:

2015AprilCollage

Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

March 1:
The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Anne Noble

March 3:
Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4), Patricia Briggs

March 10:
The Doll Collection, Ellen Datlow
Persona, Genevieve Valentine

March 17:
The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1), M. J. Rose

March 19:
The Glorious Angels, Justina Robson

March 24:
Medicine for the Dead (Children of the Drought #2), Arianne “Tex” Thompson

April 1:
By Tooth and Claw (Clan of the Claw), S. M. Stirling, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Jody Lynn Nye

April 2:
The D’Evil Diaries, Tatum Flynn

April 7:
Awakening, Shannon Duffy
Dark Heir (Jane Yellowrock #9), Faith Hunter
Emissary: The Second Book of the Seven Eyes, Betsy Dornbusch
Empire of Night (Age of Legends #2), Kelley Armstrong
Every Breath You Take (Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire #3), Chris Marie Green
Garden of Dreams and Desires (Crescent City #3), Kristen Painter
Genuine Sweet, Faith Harkey
Miss Mayhem, Rachel Hawkins
Palace of Lies, Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rolling in the Deep, Mira Grant
Tracker: A Foreigner Novel (Foreigner #16), C. J. Cherryh
Vengeance of the Demon (Kara Gillian #7), Diana Rowland

April 9:
Lumberjanes #1, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke A. Allen (Art)

April 10:
Lagoon (U.S. edition), Nnedi Okorafor

April 14:
Bloodkin (The Maeve’ra Trilogy #2), Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Dream a Little Dream, Kerstin Gier
Forged (Taken #3), Erin Bowman
Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, Liesl Shurtliff
The Second Guard, J. D. Vaughn
The Water and the Wild, K. E. Ormsbee and Elsa Mora (Illustrations)
Window Wall (Glass Thorns #4), Melanie Rawn
The Wondrous and the Wicked (The Dispossessed #3), Page Morgan

April 15:
Vermilion, Molly Tanzer

April 21:
Beauty’s Kingdom, A. N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Becoming Jinn, April Goldstein
Castle Hangnail, Ursula Vernon
The Decaying Empire (The Vanishing Girl #2), Laura Thalassa
Desert Rising, Kelley Grant
Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas, Kazuki Sakuraba
Pirate’s Alley (Sentinels of New Orleans #4), Suzanne Johnson
The Silver Witch, Paula Brackston
Stolen Magic, Gail Carson Levine
War of Shadows (Ascendant Kingdoms #3), Gail Z. Martin

April 28:
Charm, Sarah Pinborough
Deception’s Pawn, Esther Friesner
An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
The Eternity Key, Bree Despain
The Game of Love and Death, Martha Brockenbrough
The Girl at Midnight, Melissa Grey
Hunted Warrior, Lindsey Piper
The Jumbies, Tracey Baptiste
Legend: The Graphic Novel, Marie Lu, Leigh Dragoon, and Kaari (Art)
Magonia, Maria Dahvana Headley
Medusa the Rich, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
The Memory Painter, Gwendolyn Womack
Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce
Rogue, Julie Kagawa
The Shattered Court, M.J. Scott
Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5), Mary Robinette Kowal
Rook, Sharon Cameron
Valiant, Sarah McGuire

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD
We’d love a few more volunteers to supply us with short reviews of works they have read and loved. If you think you could contribute a book review of at least 250 words sometime during the next year, we would love to have your recommendation for the Sirens newsletter.

Review squad volunteering is quite flexible; we simply ask that you share information about books you’ve enjoyed. (We are, of course, especially interested in fantasy books by and about women, and we hope you’ll consider interesting, diverse selections.) You can contribute once or on an ongoing basis, and on a schedule that works for you. Please visit the volunteer system and, when we ask you what position you’re interested in, type in “Book Reviewer.”

 

InterrogationofAshalaWolfThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
Ambelin Kwaymullina
Candlewick

When I started The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, I kept flipping to the flap copy—was this book two? At the beginning, Ashala aks her captor philosophical questions and refers to past events in a way that feels very much like a sequel. Yet, this was Kwaymullina’s first novel, so I knew I had to read on. Over the course of the first fifty pages, I gathered a handful of ideas. The world we know has ended, and 300 years after that, the scant human population shares space with sentient cats and saurs, and is asking a great question: Should all humans be allowed to live freely, and are all humans included in the old definition of human? Soon after, I realized that the story didn’t start in the wrong place—instead, I had a mystery to unravel.

In the time of rebuilding, there are humans who have developed abilities, most of them related to manipulating the natural world. The government won’t allow them to be citizens, for the most part, and too often, children found to have abilities die during the identification process. Ashala, leader of a Tribe of children with abilities who hide in the Firstwood, has been captured and taken to a detention center, where new technology, a computer, can look into her brain for information about rebels. If anyone can fight the interrogation, it’s Ashala, who can Sleepwalk and perform amazing feats while she dreams. Soon, however, all her stories begin to unravel, and her ability to protect the Tribe, and herself, is endangered. The problem is that her memories are suspect, and it’s not clear who she can trust.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a fascinating example of both near-future fantasy and of nonlinear storytelling. Kwayamullina, an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people in Australia, is shaping a series about the Tribe, and an author’s note at the end of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf explains a bit of how her cultural beliefs influenced the story. If you’re looking for a page turner, I recommend trying this book. – Undusty New Books


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Perspective: Presenting a Workshop or Afternoon Class

Today we present thoughts from Manda Lewis, who—among other roles—creates most of the art for Sirens, on why presenting an afternoon class worked for her.

In 2012, my friend Erynn and I wanted to run an afternoon class on a topic we both loved. As we both enjoy costuming and creating clothing, we thought teaching a sewing basic class would be a lot of fun. It also seems like a topic that comes up in fantasy literature in many ways, either through thread or textile magic, showcasing talent, or even basic survival. We thought running through basic hand stitching and embroidery techniques would work well, teach participants something they didn’t know, and facilitate discussion about sewing in the books we love, so we proposed an afternoon class titled “Thread Magic: Hand Sewing for Beginners.”

We laid out a basic lesson plan that included an attention step (talking about stories and characters we’ve seen use sewing as a plot point), a materials overview, a few basic pointers, construction stitches, and decorative stitches. Erynn and I created a PowerPoint presentation since we thought it would be good to have some close–ups of the items we wanted to show. We had to do a little research, but it was easy to pull information from a lot of the materials we had at home. Both of us have a lot of craft and sewing books!

When the time came for the class, we ran through the beginning of our lesson quickly so we’d have a lot of time for folks to do the hands on activity. Participants picked fabric, thread, and needles and then tried out all of the stitches we had talked through. With two of us running the class, it was easy for us to move around to everyone and provide instruction and help where needed.

Teaching an afternoon class was a lot of fun and I felt like we engaged in Sirens in a different way than we had in other years. I hope we were able to give the audience some skills to take home and try so they could make their own thread magic!

Here’s our summary for “Thread Magic: Hand Sewing for Beginners”:

Alanna tells us that a woman with a bit of string in her hands can bring down a troupe of armed knights if her will is strong enough. Thread magic weaves its way throughout fantasy literature and we’ve even seen some of our favorite characters dabble in textile arts for fun or necessity. This class will teach participants the basics of construction and decorative stitching. By the end, participants will create a final project for charity and be a little more armed when they find a bit of string in their hands. $2 donation for materials is requested.

For our abstract, we submitted a lesson plan:

Lesson Plan:
The objective of this afternoon class is to teach attendees the principles of hand sewing for construction and decoration.

Attention Step: (5 minutes)
The lesson will begin with various quotes from fantasy novels that show characters sewing, weaving, or engaging in some form of textile art. Students will also be asked what examples they can think of from books or media that they’ve read or watched.

  • Marian in Outlaws of Sherwood sews clothing and makes tapestries
  • Alanna and her protégé in Woman Who Rides like a Man use thread magic
  • Sandry in the Circle of Magic books uses sewing and spinning to control magic
  • Herald Talia in The Heralds of Valdemar series helps to sew uniforms at the collegium
  • Hanna in Bleeding Violet sews clothing for herself and her mother

Tools and Materials Overview: (10 minutes)
The first topic that will be covered will be the basic tools used in hand sewing. Examples of each will be brought to be passed around so the students can become familiar with them and see the differences.

  • Thread (different types and what they’re best suited for)
  • Needles (different types and what they’re used for)
  • Thimbles
  • Pins
  • Fabric (different types and what they’re best suited for)
  • Shears (different types and what they’re used for)
  • Other: marking pencils, threaders, irons, etc.

Threading the Needle and Knotting Thread: (3 minutes)
Threading a needle will be demonstrated and then students will have the opportunity to try it out with their own materials.

Using a Thimble: (5 minutes)
The technique for sewing using a thimble to aid in pushing the needle through fabric will be demonstrated and time will be given for students to practice.

Construction Stitches: (20 minutes)
Stitches will be demonstrated followed by a few minutes for students to practice the stitch with their materials.

  • Straight stitch/Running stitch
  • Backstitch
  • Overhand stitch
  • Whipstitch

Decorative Stitches: (20 minutes)
Stitches will be demonstrated followed by a few minutes for students to practice the stitch with their materials.

  • Blanket Stitch
  • Chainstitch
  • French Knot
  • Lazy Daisy

Project: (30 minutes)
The students will have 30 minutes to work on a small sewing project using the skills they have learned in the class so far. The project will be a small pillow. Once completed, the pillows will be donated to breast cancer patients who use them for comfort post–mastectomy. Instructions will be given and each student will have a print out to refer to. The teachers will move around the room helping students as they complete the project.

Closure: (2 minutes)
The lesson will end with a discussion about using textile arts to create magic in our own lives that parallels what we’ve read or seen in our favorite stories. Students will also be given a hand out with diagrams for the stitching they’ve learned in the class.

Materials:

  • 15 Spools of thread
  • 30 Fat Squares of quilting fabric
  • Stuffing
  • Several sets of scissors to share
  • 30–40 needles
  • Example needles of various types
  • Pins
  • Projector and screen

If you love to get hands–on with fantasy, we recommend a workshop or afternoon class!

Go back: All the posts tagged with programming

 

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Quick links:?
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 

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.

 

Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.

Our Annual Programming Series, Part Six: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

In this last part of our annual series on programming proposals, we’ll cover workshops and afternoon classes. While the focus and structure of these types of presentations are a little different, the proposal process is very much the same.

 
Workshops
Workshop sessions are led by an instructor and focus on the application and practice of craft. Generally, an attendee will expect to gain or expand upon a particular skill at a workshop, and the opportunity for participation marks this style of presentation.

Workshops often focus on some aspect of fantasy-related craft, like writing or art, but might also take a practical turn. Some examples:

  • how to plan a book club/reading group
  • how to write a satisfying ending
  • resources for library collection planning and development
  • how to self-edit your fantasy book
  • how to draw La Llorona

Seating specifics depend on the allotted rooms and overall program schedule, but typically, workshops have limited seating so that the instructor (or instructors) can answer questions and provide assistance to all of a workshop’s attendees.

 
Afternoon Classes
Afternoon classes are less formal demonstrations or classes in areas related to fantasy literature. They are not meant to replace workshops; instead, they are an opportunity for presentations that are of interest to fantasy fans but that are less closely related to the conference’s focus or theme, or topics that are fantasy-based but not necessarily related to a particular work. Afternoon classes may be similar to workshops or be more demonstration-based than how-to, and may be led by one instructor or a group. Some examples:

  • historical dress and music
  • martial arts
  • weaponry
  • battle strategy
  • costume construction
  • folk dancing
  • displayed collections of related works, like comics about women in fantasy

Afternoon classes are scheduled in blocks that range from one hour to 90 minutes, depending on available space and time during the conference, but instructors should plan for a shorter time block rather than a longer one.

Please note: If you’re unsure about which particular proposal type to choose, we’re happy to help. You can leave a comment here, attend an open chat, or write to (programming at sirensconference.org) for a consultation.

 
Timing
If you choose to propose a workshop or class and it is accepted, you’ll be scheduled in a 50-minute time block (unless you’ve explained and justified a request for additional time and we’re able to provide it—we won’t be able to confirm the length until the schedule is complete, usually in August).

If you have a workshop or class idea that could be presented in less than one hour, please consider teaming up with another presenter to team-teach or present on two items in a 50-minute block.

Afternoon classes are usually scheduled in the late afternoon, as more formal presentations wind down, and so we can rearrange chairs or make some noise if needed. We’ll try to find the best fit on the schedule, however, even if that means a different time during the day.

 
Getting Started
First, you’ll need to choose a focus for your workshop or class. What do you know that you can teach to someone else in about an hour? How can you make your workshop interactive and relevant? Are you aiming your workshop at beginners, intermediates, or advanced participants?

Once you’ve focused your idea, you’ll need some information ready to make your proposal.

 
Personal Information to Gather
1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2015 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.

2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.

3. Professional affiliation. This is for those presenters who wish to note their current association with a university, and occasionally, a business or professional organization if their presentation is related in some way and they’re speaking with the endorsement of their job. Some people use this field; most don’t unless they’re currently teaching at a university.

4. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 
Proposal Information to Gather
There are three items that you’ll need for a complete workshop or afternoon class proposal.

1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the workshop or afternoon class is about.

2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in attending your workshop or afternoon class. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective(s) on the topic.

Here are a couple of examples from past years that we think are excellent:

What brings people together better than the written word? If you’re looking for a way to increase the appreciation and readership of speculative fiction in your city or school, you might consider creating your own literary journal or zine! We’ll learn about the simple steps to create your own journal and then develop a unique concept to take home! [workshop]

Would you love to include horses in your manuscripts, but find that you don’t actually know much—or anything—about them? Many authors write horses into their books without consulting a professional horsewoman (okay, or horseman) first. The result might be an amusing mistake, or a total turnoff to the reader. Don’t worry; with a basic understanding of horses and the equipment related to them, anyone can write horses into their stories as a mode of transportation or as fully realized secondary characters. [workshop]

Bring your curiosity to this presentation on dark ages armor. Dave will show you materials commonly used to make dark ages armor such as leather, hides, and wrought iron, as well as a few dark ages weapons. He will demonstrate the effectiveness of these weapons in penetrating these armor materials. Attendees may be able to try on various bits of armor. By the end of this class, you’ll have an appreciation for armor used in the dark ages and how effective it would be at enhancing the survivability and combat potential of those who wore it. [afternoon class]

You are invited to an introductory class about Scottish Country Dancing, an eighteenth century style of ballroom dancing that is still popular today. This is a fun and social style of group dancing (and it’s really hard to step on your partner’s toes!). The class will include two ceilidh (informal) dances and one basic ballroom dance. Enthusiastic participation is necessary, but previous experience is not. [afternoon class]

This afternoon class is designed to teach attendees the very basics of faerie wing construction using at least two distinct types of materials: fabric and cellophane. Other materials and types of wings will be discussed to show attendees the variety of options they have when creating costume pieces. Each person will be given a pre-built wire frame as a base to build their individualized wings. Participants are asked to donate a small amount to material costs. [afternoon class]

As a storyteller, a public person in the world, your voice is an important and powerful instrument. Your whole body, your whole being is your voice! This workshop will give you a toolbox of warm-ups and exercises that will set you on the path to your own sound. Would you like to explore vocal techniques that help keep an audience riveted as you read to them? Would you like to learn how to project your voice powerfully without fatigue or soreness? Would you like to feel freer using your voice? Come prepared to work your breath, move your body, and make noise with Pan Morigan, music director of Chrysalis Theater and award-winning vocalist/songwriter. You absolutely do not have to be a singer or experienced “voice person” to attend! Even experienced singers have to deal with vocal basics every day, and you can do it too. Come play! [afternoon class]

3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but short—version of your presentation.

For a workshop or afternoon class, you can choose to summarize your workshop in a paragraph or two, or you might put together a lesson plan for your workshop instead. Be sure to explain any terms that might be unfamiliar.

You are welcome to submit a lesson plan; an outline of your plans can be more helpful than a summary of your philosophy. Please note, however, that a lesson plan is more than just an outline. A lesson plan includes, very specifically, the purpose for the lesson, what a student will learn, how the teacher will go about the lesson, and what the outcome will be.

Here are a couple of resources you might use to put together a brief but cohesive abstract section for your proposal:

If you’d prefer to write a formal abstract, some of the previous posts in this series included more in-depth information.

 
More tips:
Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources. If you’re taking the lesson plan route—highly recommended—you’ll need to walk through the content and timing of your workshop or afternoon class.

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual workshop or afternoon class, and helps the vetting board see the value of what you’ll teach, and why it’s important.

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” usually results in a declined presentation, because the board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal, or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board will decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary and abstract.

 
Audio-Visual Requests
Workshops typically seat 25–40 attendees, so the provision of microphones depends on the overall schedule, the size of the room we have available for your workshop, and so on. You can make a request for computer and LCD projector, but please remember that we prioritize use of equipment for visually-oriented presentations, and consider what you might do if extra audio-visual support isn’t available. (We’re typically able to offer projection to workshops, but we can’t confirm availability until the schedule is complete. Please do explain how you’ll use a projector at the end of your abstract!) An easel and a small dry erase board will be provided.

We do try to fulfill as many audio-visual requests as possible, particularly for presentations like workshops, but it never hurts to have a plan B in mind. Afternoon classes are supported with audio-visual equipment in much the same way.

Typically, we schedule afternoon classes in larger spaces than workshops, particularly if they’re demonstration-based or if materials aren’t needed for each person.

 
FAQ about Proposals for Workshops and Afternoon Classes
What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 8, 2015. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

When is the proposal deadline?
May 15, 2015.

Do you accept all workshops/afternoon classes?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects the presentations that will be accepted for Sirens.

If my proposal is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my paper/presentation?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your paper. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 15, 2015, you can ask around to see if someone can take your place or withdraw the presentation. Perhaps another attendee would be willing to fill in at the conference if you can provide your lesson plan. We have a Facebook page and message boards where you can post for assistance. We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your presentation can remain on the schedule. If you’re unsure what to do, write to (programming at sirensconference.org) and we’ll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my workshop or class later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the presentation is passed on to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary, as long as the focus of your presentation is not substantially changed. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been accepted; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board approved. If you wish to make substantial changes to your presentation, and it is earlier than May 15, 2015, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests (everyone wants to present at the same time, but without being at the same time as any other presentation). The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 9 or 10, 2015.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter, to post on Facebook, and to check out our message boards to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

 
Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information
Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)
 

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook or the Sirens message boards?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’re hosting a chat on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas. Join us on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during that time; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

Also, our Twitter account is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15. #SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras).
 

Perspective: On Programming – Kate Tremills

Tell us about an interesting or inspiring presentation you attended at Sirens.

I was deeply inspired by the talk Andrea Hairston gave at the 2014 Sirens conference. Her keynote was part poetry, part lecture. Part lullaby, part rallying cry. Every woman in the room felt seen and inspired. I especially loved her fire and her tenderness. We often think those qualities are mutually exclusive. But I believe the most powerful women express them openly, as Andrea showed us.

 
Tell me a story about something that happened at Sirens.

I was touched and inspired by the response to our “Haunted Landscapes” panel. Creating and preparing a panel is a vulnerable place. My fellow panelists and I all wondered whether the attendees would understand or just stare at us like we were crazy. As we plunged into the event, offering time for the attendees to share their stories, and having an incredible discussion, I soon discovered that our time had elapsed. And we had so much more to share! For the rest of the conference, attendees came up to us and told us how much they loved the discussion and that it revealed something personal to them. This experience reminded me that no matter how crazy you feel, the courage to share our stories allows others to find the courage to share theirs.

 
Tell us about something wonderful that’s happened to you at, or because of, Sirens.

After presenting a panel at Sirens, I feel I have a stronger connection to the fantasy community. Even more, Sirens gave me an opportunity to share a panel I might not have had the courage to share at a predominantly male conference or one that had tens of thousands of attendees. The intimacy and the kindness, combined with the fierce intelligence and voracious appetite for books, in the organizers and the attendees was unparalleled. As a result, I know I deepened my courage to present such a topic at a bigger conference and share ideas on my blog and in my author talks that I might have previously avoided.

–Kate Tremills
 

Perspective: Presenting a Roundtable Discussion

Today we present thoughts from Sarah Benoot, who regularly coordinates special programs for Sirens, on why presenting a roundtable discussion worked for her.

For me, roundtable discussions are my favorite way of hearing from lots of different people, all at once, and having discussions that start out in one place, but surprise me, too.

I’m going to be blunt: it’s not always easy to moderate a roundtable discussion. It can be tough to interrupt people, and it’s tough to figure out if that person on the other side of the (small) room—whose nametag you can’t quite see from your seat—is gathering her thoughts, or if she would have lots to say if you asked if she had anything to add. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the topic, if you are passionate about it, and you have to remember to give yourself some distance so that you can listen to everyone. Sometimes, the audience members are coming from really different places, and they’re trying to negotiate what might be a really complex conversation, and you as the moderator have to help them do that. You have to decide, on the fly, if things are healthily in disagreement—or not. And you want to have at least a couple of questions that will generate some conflict!

At the same time, that’s part of the fun. Sirens attendees are really thoughtful, and have a lot to say. If you’re energized by great discussions, and you don’t mind taking the lead in a group, you should consider proposing a roundtable discussion.

One of my first roundtable discussions for Sirens was pretty general. (I’ve led two roundtable discussions related to Game of Thrones, and those worked because the series is widely read; they would have had a lot of dead air, otherwise. Your roundtable might have to address a theme or topic in several different books or series so that the audience has a way in to the discussion.)

This was my summary for “Not Overshadowed by Awesome: Girls on the Side”:

Sidekicks. Backup. Whatever name you use, they serve the same purpose: to help the main character succeed in their quest. Without them, the world would not be saved, the crime would not be solved, the quest would not be successful. Despite being relegated to a secondary role, the girls on the side can be an important part of a story in their own right. What would Harry have been without Hermione (J. K. Rowling), or what fate would have befallen Olympus if Percy hadn’t had Annabeth (Rick Riordan)? What lessons might Beka have missed if not for Clary Goodwin (Tamora Pierce)?

My abstract, which uses the sample questions format:

  1. Is the female sidekick the “heart” of the male hero by default?
  2. Does a female sidekick tend to serve as a tool for exposition more often than a male sidekick? (For example, Harry Potter often gets his information from Hermione’s reading rather than Ron’s experience actually growing up in the wizarding world.)
  3. In the case of a male hero supported by a female sidekick, there is often a romantic component in their relationship. Does this tend to have a negative or a positive effect on the story?
  4. The roles of sidekick and mentor are rarely filled by the same character. What impact does it have when they are?
  5. What happens when the sidekick comes into power of her own?
  6. Does she become a hero herself, or a villain? Is she more likely to become a villain than a male sidekick in the same situation?
  7. Is a female sidekick more likely to be sacrificed “for the greater good” than a male sidekick?
  8. Which do you think tends to be more successful: a partnership where power of the hero-sidekick relationship is often based in friendship, or one where previous enemies are forced to work together? Can you argue for a more successful partnership?
  9. Is the success or lack thereof affected by the genders of the characters?
  10. When the hero professes to prefer to work alone, is it usually the female sidekick who convinces him otherwise? If so, why?

If you love to talk through big ideas with people, consider leading a roundtable discussion!

Go back: All the posts tagged with programming

 

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Quick links:?
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 

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.

 

Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.

Our Annual Programming Series, Part Five: Roundtable Discussions

Proposals are due May 15, 2015! Jump on over to the programming section of the Sirens website if you’re ready to submit your proposal now.

 
Next up in our ongoing series on preparing a programming proposal: roundtable discussions!

Roundtable discussions are group chats led by a single moderator. These discussions are scheduled in rooms that accommodate no more than 25 attendees so that everyone can take an active part in the discussion, and so that it’s possible for the moderator to keep the discussion on track.

Roundtables depend on audience interaction for success. If you’re trying to figure out whether a topic is best suited to a roundtable or a panel, consider the degree of interactivity and the scale of participation, as well as whether you have a topic broad enough for the audience to dig into as individuals. For a roundtable, the interest is in the discussion the audience brings to the presentation, and the moderator proposes questions for everyone to answer; for a panel, the interest is in the viewpoints, discussion, and knowledge of the panelists, and the panelists do the majority of the talking.

A roundtable is:

  • a small and highly interactive discussion,
  • led by one person who keeps order and keeps the conversation moving
  • about a topic that is familiar or accessible to most of the audience
  • designed to engage all of the members of the audience

Roundtable discussions are scheduled as 50-minute blocks. Plan for at least 40 minutes of lively discussion, and you’ll probably find that audience questions and contributions easily fill 50 minutes!

 
Getting Started
First, you’ll need to choose a topic and focus for your roundtable. Consider the potential directions that the discussion about your topic might take and make notes of works that might be relevant. You’ll need to propose at least ten thoughtful questions for a 50 minute roundtable discussion. Once you’ve focused your idea, you’ll need some information to make your proposal.

 
Personal Information to Gather
1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2015 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.

2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.

3. Professional affiliation. This is for those presenters who wish to note their current association with a university, and occasionally, a business or professional organization if their presentation is related in some way and they’re speaking with the endorsement of their job. Some people use this field; most don’t unless they’re currently teaching at a university.

4. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 
Proposal Information to Gather
There are three items that you’ll need for a complete roundtable proposal.

1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the roundtable discussion is about.

2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in attending your roundtable discussion. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective(s) on the topic.

Here are a couple of examples from past roundtable discussions that we think are excellent:

In recent years, there has been a growing acceptance and inclusion of gay and lesbian characters in fantasy literature. But these still fall into binary patterns: men and women, heterosexual and homosexual. What about people who fall outside of this binary? Asexuals, demisexuals, transgender people, and people without gender? How are they represented? This roundtable encourages discussion on these topics as well as reading recommendations for those interested in books that fall outside the binary.

Female political leaders in fantasy include hereditary rulers and elected leaders, women warriors, and civil servants. This roundtable will consider the different types of political leadership demonstrated by women in fantasy literature. How is their leadership shaped by their gender, their age, and the political system in which they work? How do these characters gain and exercise their political power? Have depictions of female political leaders in fantasy changed over time?

Whether she’s the hand that rocks the cradle, offers the poison apple, or laces up the corset, a mother’s influence is a powerful thing. This roundtable will discuss popular images of motherhood in fantasy and examine young heroines both as daughters and as potential mothers themselves. We’ll pay special attention to the dark, violent, or monstrous mother figure who lurks behind the caregiver—and might want to eat you.

Having once read about the “invisible hands” of the off-page servants and staff in Austen’s work and other historic literature, I wonder about how much history-inspired S/F either relegates off the page or forgets entirely the community required to run a great house, fortress, or even ranch. Who is raising the corn? Who is hauling the bathwater? Do they have stories to tell?

This roundtable discussion will examine and dissect everyday sexism found within fantasy literature. We will focus both on the sexism women writers encounter within the publishing industry in regard to their characters and stories as well as in regard to themselves as writers, and how they’re subsequently represented to the public at large. Participants will be prompted to discuss commonly known facets of sexism, such as the encouragement of J. K. Rowling’s publisher that she use only her initials because they feared boys would be less interested in reading a book written by a woman, as well as lesser known incidents or personal experiences of sexism. This can include anything from writing under a pseudonym, to being asked to change a character’s sex simply for audience appeal, or the always popular “Your female character isn’t likeable or approachable, change her.” In addition to looking at female authors and the sexism they’ve faced, we’ll explore the fact that under certain circumstances, a male writer having written the same thing might not have been asked to alter their characters or the name under which their work is being marketed.

Death and rebirth is a common step along the hero’s or heroine’s journey, so it is not uncommon for sci-fi and fantasy characters to have near-death experiences or ghostly visitations while on death’s threshold. This roundtable will explore the purpose and commonalities of fictional near-death experiences and associated tropes. We will also discuss how the fictional depictions compare to real life accounts and various cultural myths.

Why can only a virgin girl tame a unicorn? And what is the origin of the succubus—always a beautiful, seductive woman, who is not only hyper-sexual, but often intent on killing her male lovers? How have these portrayals of women in mythology and folklore affected fantasy writing to this day? And how much of women’s sexuality in current fantasy novels is reflective of our own modern social mores?

Can Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games be understood as folklore? Katniss’s journey is that of the archetypal hero in many aspects. If viewed from a folklore perspective, the narrative role of storytelling and the storyteller is complicated, especially in regards to Katniss’s story versus the Mockingjay’s, and in the ownership and creation of that storytelling process. After outlining folklore conventions evident in The Hunger Games, we will discuss how this perspective alters and illuminates the role of stories retold, again and again. Perhaps we can even answer the question behind it all: just whose story was Collins telling?

For more inspiration, you might visit the Sirens archive to read summaries that have been accepted in the last few years.

3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but short—version of your presentation.

For roundtable discussions, you have the option of submitting sample discussion questions instead of an abstract, and this option is highly recommended. You’ll need at least ten thoughtful questions. An example of how you might approach your abstract as a series of questions is included below.

  1. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna refuses to be bullied, in part because she does not respond to that sort of attention. How does this illuminate her decision to become part of Dumbledore’s Army?
  2. Do you think she’s inclined toward resistance due to her beliefs about what is right, or because she’s already inclined to be unconventional? Or some other reason?
  3. How has Harry’s understanding of and relationship with Luna changed over the last few books? What about Luna’s relationship with other members of The Six?
  4. J. K. Rowling uses Luna as the commentator for the last Quidditch match we see in the books. Why Luna? What particular meta commentary can only Luna make here? What other characters might have worked in the same role, if not Luna?
  5. What role do you think Luna played in Dumbledore’s Army at Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
  6. How do you think Luna responded to punishment she received while at Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
  7. We finally meet someone from Luna’s family: Xenophilius Lovegood. Is this the home life you’d imagined for Luna?
  8. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Luna is briefly matched against Bellatrix with Hermione and Ginny. Is there something more here—is this partly because Bellatrix and Luna are both guided by faith, or perhaps to show Luna as having “grrl power”?
  9. Many of the women in the Harry Potter series could be said to represent ideas for Harry—love, family, etc. If that’s so, what might Luna represent?
  10. J. K. Rowling has mentioned in an interview that she imagines Luna going on to become a naturalist and marry a grandson of Newt Scamander. Is this what you imagined for her? What other alternatives would seem likely, given what we learned about Luna in the series?

If you’d prefer to write a formal abstract, some of the previous posts in this series included more in-depth information. View them using the programming tag on our blog.

 
More tips:
Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources. If you’re taking the discussion questions route, you’ll need at least ten solid sample questions. (And one extra tip: avoid yes/no questions for these!)

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual roundtable discussion, and should be able to stand alone. A good abstract will include your thesis or approach, supporting details or arguments, and most importantly, your results, recommendations, or conclusion. The vetting board wants you to spoil the ending! (In a summary, you probably want to write something more like book jacket copy, but for the abstract, summarize the plot.)

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” usually results in a declined presentation, because the board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal, or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board will decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary and abstract.

Remember that the roundtable discussion option allows for only one moderator/presenter. Please don’t plan a co-moderated roundtable discussion; if you’re looking for an option that allows for collaborators, try another presentation style. Not sure what to do? Email us! We’re happy to help.

 
Audio-Visual Requests
Roundtables are meant to be interactive and conversational, and so they are scheduled for smaller spaces. No microphone will be needed or provided, and projection is not available. Need a visual aid? Consider printing out one or two copies to pass around the room. An easel and a small dry erase board will be available.

 
FAQ about Proposals for Roundtable Discussions
What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 8, 2015. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

When is the proposal deadline?
May 15, 2015.

Do you accept all roundtable discussions?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects which roundtables will be accepted for Sirens.

If my roundtable discussion is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my roundtable discussion?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 15, 2015, you can ask around to see if someone can take your place or withdraw the proposal. Alternatively, perhaps another attendee would be willing to take your place at the conference if you can provide them with your sample questions. We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your roundtable can remain on the schedule. If you’re unsure what to do, write to (programming at sirensconference.org) and we’ll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my roundtable later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the roundtable discussion is passed on to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been accepted; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board approved. If you wish to make substantial changes to the content of your presentation, and it is earlier than May 15, 2015, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests (everyone wants to present at the same time, but without being at the same time as any other presentation). The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 9 or 10, 2015.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter, to post on Facebook, and to check out our message boards to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

 
Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information
Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)
 

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook or the Sirens message boards?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’re hosting a chat on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas. Join us on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during that time; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

We’ll also be holding a chat on Twitter: Sirens will hold a Twitter brainstorming session for programming topics. It will be held on on April 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Our Twitter account is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15.

Also, #SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras).
 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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