News

Archive for March 2018

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 4 (March 2018), Programming Edition

In this issue:

 

SIRENS SCHOLARSHIPS

Thank you to everyone who has already donated to our scholarship fundraiser! So far, we’ve raised 65% of our goal of $4,380.

We have already funded three scholarships for people of color, three for exemplary programming proposals, and one for those with financial hardships. If we meet our goal, we’ll provide another two for those with financial hardships and three for librarians, educators, and publishing professionals.

March 31 is the last day to donate toward this year’s scholarships, so if you can, please take a moment to chip in. Every amount helps us add more voices to Sirens!

Donate to Sirens Scholarships

If you need assistance attending Sirens, we hope you’ll apply for a scholarship. We’ll have application information on our Scholarships page starting next week!

Sirens logos 2014-2018, 2018 highlighted

2018 PROGRAMMING

All of Sirens’s programming—the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes presented at Sirens each year—is crafted, proposed, and presented by Sirens attendees. We hope that, this year, that will include you! From April 2 to May 6, anyone planning to attend Sirens this year, regardless of vocation, level of experience, or years at Sirens, is welcome to propose programming—and if selected, present that programming at Sirens. Our programming series provides an overview of the proposal process, an examination of each type of programming, and advice for preparing your proposal:

Since our 2018 theme is reunion, we discussed that theme and revisited our past four years’ themes on our blog for additional inspiration. If you’re new to Sirens, you can learn more about each theme at each of these links: reunion, hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. If you’re a returning attendee, we invite you to take a stroll down memory lane with us!

Have questions? Looking for a co-presenter? Need more inspiration? Check out the #SirensBrainstorm tag on Twitter; every Monday in April we’ll tweet fresh ideas free for the taking. In addition, we’ll be hosting two programming chats on our Chat page, which will be live at the scheduled times:

  • Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
  • Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

For her March book club, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink muses on villainy in Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns: “A villain story is, by definition, about the bad guy. Otherwise, the villain wouldn’t be a villain at all, of course, but a deeply conflicted heroine or even an antiheroine.” Read her thoughts on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

An Ember in the Ashes

How’s that 2018 Reading Challenge coming along? For hers, Communications Director Faye Bi reads and reviews Sabaa Tahir’s popular An Ember in the Ashes, with ruminations on young adult literature, fantasy, and bestseller-dom: “It bothers me when people cast down young adult fantasy for being more simplistic and less rigorous than adult fantasy, with worldbuilding just the backdrop for the kissing, the angst, and the feelings.” Read her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …

Sirens Scholarship Fundraising:

2018 Programming:

Themes:

 


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

 

Sirens Scholarship Fundraising: Professionals

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. Each year, Sirens raises funds to provide scholarships to help a number of people attend Sirens and add their voices to those conversations. Our scholarship fundraising will continue through March, but this week, we want to highlight the importance of our scholarships for those with financial hardships. In past weeks, we discussed our scholarships for people of color and those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and those with financial hardships.

Sirens invites everyone with an interest in the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature to attend our conference and participate in our conversations. Our attendees run the gamut of vocations—readers, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, authors, and more—and each of their voices is critical to the Sirens community.

The beauty of Sirens, in fact, are the many different perspectives, experiences, and identities that our attendees represent in our conversations and community. Each year at Sirens, you’ll see readers present alongside librarians, booksellers collaborate with educators, and authors learn from scholars.

Over the past decade, however, we have discovered that it’s significantly easier for some people to attend Sirens than others. In particular, librarians, educators, and publishing professionals so often provide exceptional services to book-loving communities—and are, especially at the beginning of their careers or when working with underserved populations, so often poorly paid for their efforts.

These librarians, educators, and publishing professionals who are creating the books we love and putting them in the hands of book-loving people everywhere have perspectives and experiences that make the Sirens conversations and community more vibrant and more brilliant.

New this year, we are asking the Sirens community to raise funds to help some of these professionals attend Sirens. Assuming that we reach our fundraising goals, we will provide a Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket to one librarian, one educator, and one publishing professional (which may be anyone from an editor to an agent to a publicist to a cover designer to a bookseller). As part of the application process, we will ask for a resume and a statement of interest.

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

If you can—whether that’s $5 or a full scholarship of $365—we hope that you’ll help us provide these scholarships!

 

2018 Programming: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures and panels, and roundtable discussions. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

Workshop are an opportunity to teach practical skills, often through hands-on instruction. Workshops sometimes feature writing topics, such as building magical worlds or how to form an effective critique group, but can just as easily tackle different topics for different audiences: how to plan a book club, where to find resources for library collection development, or how to create a feminist course curriculum based on fantasy reading.

Afternoon classes are also an opportunity to teach skills through hands-on instruction, though these skills tend to be of interest to fantasy readers—but may not be connected directly to literature or other media. Think topics as diverse as battle weaponry, self-defense, historical dress or dance, and costume construction.

Audience size for both workshops and afternoon classes will be 25–40 people, depending on available room size.

The boundary between a workshop and an afternoon class can be thin, so feel free to write us at (programming at sirensconference.org) for guidance.

Co-taught workshops or afternoon classes are welcome. Collaborators who have similar or complementary expertise may wish to present together, either to maximize the opportunity for hands-on instruction or to present different skills on the topic (such as clothing construction and embroidery).

Materials, if needed, are provided by the presenters. If your workshop or afternoon class is accepted, you are welcome to request a small donation from audience members to defray costs. Please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) for assistance in framing the wording for your summary.

Workshops are always 50 minutes long. If you have a topic that’s shorter than 50 minutes, you might consider finding a collaborator to present on some other element of the topic. Presenters should strongly consider hands-on elements and time for audience questions.

Afternoon classes can range from 50 to 90 minutes. Often these topics require additional time for instruction or practice (or, to provide one past example, taking turns stabbing a bale of hay with battle weaponry). We also often schedule afternoon classes in larger spaces, particularly if they’re demonstration-based or require room to move (such as martial arts or dancing).

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. Each presenter must provide a biography, though no supplemental abstract is required. The abstract is for the vetting board. It should explain your topic and approach and be far more in depth than your summary. Presenters of workshops and afternoon classes may present a traditional abstract or, if they prefer, a detailed lesson plan.

Room set-up will depend heavily on the content and design of your presentation, as well as the available room. Set-up often includes tables and chairs with space for audience members to write or craft, though, if your topic is physical, we will help clear the room so you have space to work. Projection equipment and a small dry erase board or easel may be available as well (though we will ask you to specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it, and make sure to clear it away if it might be damaged). If the room size warrants, we will provide a microphone (and if we do, we require that you use it, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience).

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past workshops and afternoon classes from Sirens:

  • Ballads and Marching Songs by Ellen Kushner and Ysabeau Wilce: “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!” said Duke Ellington. As authors, we are very aware of how sound and rhythm inform good writing, and so we heartily agree! We also draw on music, particularly traditional music of the fireside and the parade ground, to inspire and support our work. And so: Ellen will sing some of the traditional ballads that inspired her novel Thomas the Rhymer, and Ysabeau will counter with some of the military ditties that form the backdrop to the campfires, parade grounds, and blind tigers of her Califa series. We’ll then turn around and show participants how to create a fresh ballad or marching song that fits the needs of an original fantasy novel.

  • Let’s Talk About Sex: Worldbuilding Through Lovers by B R Sanders: What counts as sex? What counts as love? Who is allowed to do what to whom and why? What happens when rules are broken? When you are worldbuilding, these questions can become murky and complicated very quickly. In this workshop, we will explore how using themes of romance, sex, love, queerness, and marriage can deeply inform worldbuilding in speculative fiction.

  • No Key, No Problem by Erynn Moss: When fighting the establishment, it helps to have a few picks up your sleeves. Or in your hair, under your collar, clipped to your belt … you get the idea. Come join us in some subversive fun! Tumblers, bumpers, Bogota picks, and shims. Work your way free from cuffs, and hone your hands with the tips and tools of professionals.

  • Siren with a Sword: Fencing 101 by Manda Lewis and Marie Brennan: Have you always wanted to join your favorite character on the training grounds where she first picks up a blade? Have you wished yourself in her place as she readies for the attack? This class will provide you the opportunity to do just that! Join us as we explore the history, terminology, and rules of the sport of fencing. Then you’ll take up a foil and practice what you’ve learned with your fellow attendees. You will see that fencing is not simply about overpowering your opponent, it’s about planning and strategy. We recommend wearing comfortable or athletic clothing.

2018 Programming: Roundtable Discussions

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures and panels; we’ll review workshops/afternoon classes later this week. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

At Sirens, roundtable discussions are moderator-led conversations among an audience of roughly 25 people. These presentations approximate college discussion sections, and because of this format, are best suited to topics where everyone in the audience is likely to have something to contribute. A discussion of reading practices, a debate over effectively retold fairy tales, or a conversation on sex in young-adult fantasy literature would all be great roundtable topics.

Roundtable moderators will lead the discussions through a series of questions and will be responsible both for facilitating the conversation and keeping the audience on track. Moderators who wish to tackle an esoteric topic or convey their research, analysis, or viewpoint should strongly consider presenting a paper or lecture where their knowledge can shine, instead of a roundtable discussion—here, it’s essential that the audience not need an introduction to the topic.

Roundtable discussions may have only one presenter. Since the moderator is the facilitator in a roundtable discussion, we limit this presentation format to only one presenter.

Roundtables are always 50 minutes long. Presenters should plan enough questions to fill the entire time. As audience participation is the heart of this presentation format, presenters need not save time specifically for audience questions.

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. The abstract is for the vetting board. It should explain your topic and approach to the vetting board and be far more in depth than your summary. Roundtable abstracts may be in the form of a series of at least ten questions (with appropriate follow-up questions), rather than a more traditional paragraph format, if the presenter prefers.

Room set-up includes tables and chairs arranged in a square or U-shape. As the rooms hosting roundtables are small, no audio-visual equipment will be provided. However, a small white board or an easel will be available.

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past roundtable discussions from Sirens:

  • Can You Go Home Again?: Fantasy, Re-Reading, Childhood Favorites, and Nostalgia by Faye Bi: This roundtable will explore the transformative joy of re-reading an old favorite, as well as the flip side of discovering that a beloved book is no longer a favorite. With influence from Jo Walton’s and Laura Miller’s ideas on re-reading, we’ll delve into the books read long ago and see how time, successive reads, and reading companions change our relationships with them.

  • Female Game-Changers by Sherwood Smith: Let’s talk about heroines as catalysts in revolutions. Not all heroines are battle commanders, though we can take time to appreciate the ones who are. Many begin with little besides their wits and skills. Some have special gifts, some do not. Some are born to rank, others are outsiders in various ways. In this roundtable discussion, we will talk about the different ways heroines in genre literature bring about change.

  • Queer-Coding and Queer-Baiting by Kate Larking: Queer-coding, when a character is given traits commonly associated with queer people but not explicitly stated as queer, has been present in fiction media for some time. A more recent narrative evolution is queer-baiting, where implied sexual tension or character dynamics are constantly and frequently thwarted, leaving a promise of queer representation that isn’t, ultimately, fulfilled by the canon. Join in on a discussion of queer representation in media, subtext and canon, and the impacts on both fiction tropes and queer identities.

  • The Socioeconomics of Magic: Correlations Between Class Structure and Use of Magic in Fantasy Narratives by Emma Whitney: In the struggle for power that constitutes the plot of many fantasy novels, magic is often the primary tool. This use of magic generally confers a particular social status to the user. Frequently, especially in classic “epic” fantasy, this is an elevated status, but that is not always the case. In this roundtable we will discuss how magic is used to reinforce or break down social structure, and what this might say about how we view class distinctions.

2018 Programming: Panels

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures; we’ll review roundtable discussions and workshops/afternoon classes later this week. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

At Sirens, panels are a group of 3–5 presenters discussing and debating a given topic. Unlike papers or lectures, where the primary purpose is to convey information, panels are all about robust dialogue among panelists. Panels are led by a moderator, who will guide the discussion and may ask questions of the panelists (and panelists may, depending on preference, give a brief position statement to start the panel).

The strength of a panel depends on two things: the skill of the moderator and the inclusion of different perspectives on the panel.

  • Skill of the moderator: The moderator is generally responsible for eliciting thoughtful discussion among panelists, which means preparing questions in advance and ensuring that all panelists have a chance to speak. Moderators may also participate in the discussion if they wish. For Sirens, the moderator must submit the primary panel proposal on behalf of the group.

  • Different perspectives: Because panels are designed for discussion and debate, a panel’s success generally depends on the inclusion of panelists with a variety of perspectives and opinions on the given topic. If your panelists all agree, you’ll be conveying information rather than engaging in robust dialogue—and we strongly encourage you to consider a co-presented paper or lecture instead.

Panels are always 50 minutes long. While your panel may feature brief opening position statements by the panelists, you should use most of your time for your panel’s discussion, perhaps with some time for audience questions at the end.

Panels should have three to five total panelists, including the moderator. Panels must have only one moderator. If your panel has only two panelists, you might consider co-presenting another type of presentation, since you’ll likely be spending more time conveying information than debating your topic. You only have 50 minutes for your panel, so including more than five panelists will mean that not everyone gets to participate in a meaningful way. Typically, larger panels come back to us with the feedback that the panelists didn’t have enough time to contribute individually, and typically, the audience feedback is that larger panels end up lacking the depth everyone hopes for.

Proposal requirements include presenter biographies (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), a primary abstract (300–500 words), and supplemental abstracts (300–500 words). We will publish the biographies and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend.

The abstracts are for the vetting board. The primary abstract should explain your topic and approach and be far more in depth than your summary. If the moderator prefers, the primary abstract may be a series of at least ten questions (with appropriate follow-up questions) rather than a more traditional abstract. To provide the vetting board with insight as to the direction that the panel will take, each panelist must provide a supplemental abstract demonstrating the thoughtfulness and experience that they will bring to the panel. The vetting board will consider all abstracts (including any missing abstracts) in making its programming selections.

The moderator must submit the initial proposal, and should provide their biography, the panel’s summary, and the primary abstract. Each additional panelist will provide their biography and supplemental abstract.

Moderators are responsible for ensuring that their panelists’ confirmations and supplemental abstracts are submitted by May 6. This means that moderators should make sure that all panelists know what is required of them in advance!

Room set-up includes several microphones, a podium and table, projection equipment, and a small dry erase board or easel. We can accommodate a variety of presentation styles, and we ask that, as part of your proposal, you specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it. Presenters are welcome to stand or sit, though we do require that you use the microphone, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience.

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past panels from Sirens:

  • Conversations with Octavia Butler by K. Tempest Bradford, N. K. Jemisin, and Kiini Ibura Salaam: Octavia Butler’s novels have taken millions of readers on a fantastic journey—but what about the woman herself? This panel will give participants a glimpse into Octavia Butler, the individual. Through audio clips, we’ll hear from the woman who has brought the world fantastic vision, as Sirens guest of honor, novelist N.K. Jemisin, and two speculative fiction writers, Kiini Ibura Salaam and K. Tempest Bradford, engage in conversation with Butler’s ideas, visions, and brilliance.

  • Fans and Fandom as (Re)Tellers of Tales by Andrea Horbinski, Marie Brennan, Rachel Manija Brown, and Hallie Tibbetts: It’s a common jump from loving a book, a story, a TV show, or a movie, to wanting to play around with its elements oneself. Fandom offers many girls and women a space in which to do just that. This panel looks at fandom and fans as retellers of tales, asking questions such as: what kinds of stories do fans choose to retell? What are some of the most common, or most interesting, kinds of fannish retellings? What is the line between “fannish” and “professional” retellings of stories such as fairy tales? What makes fandom (and retelling) original and creative?

  • The Great Big Interfaith Dialogue by by s.e. smith, Gillian Chisom, Kate Elliott, Shveta Thakrar, and Amy Tenbrink: What happens when an atheist, a Jew, a Hindu, and a Christian walk into a panel? Find out in this discussion of faith, collaboration, humanity, and the role of faith in real life as well as fictional faith, cataclysmic social change, and more. Panelists will discuss the role of faith in both new and beloved fantasy texts in addition to exploring the incorporation of religion in worldbuilding.

  • The Magic of Beauty: Beauty as Narrative Device and Social Construction by by Kate Elliott, Faye Bi, Dhonielle J. Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Kiini Ibura Salaam: In what sense has beauty been treated as a special magic gift that some girls and women possess? How has it functioned as a narrative device that gives its holders a form of power other girls and women don’t receive? This then obliges us to confront and discuss social constructions of beauty. Who is allowed to be beautiful in narratives and on what terms? For whom is beauty a limiting characteristic? For whom is it an empowering one?

2018 Programming: Papers and Lectures

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Later this week, we’ll review panels, roundtable discussions, and workshops/afternoon classes. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

Papers and lectures are our umbrella terms for a presentation format in which one or more presenters convey research, analysis, or other information. Maybe you’re a reader who wants to examine the use of technology in fantasy literature, or an educator who wants to analyze course curricula that includes fantasy works, or two agents who want to deconstruct frequently seen feedback on fantasy submissions. These approaches to these topics would make terrific papers or lectures.

The difference between a paper and a lecture, at least to Sirens, is quite small. For Sirens, you’re welcome to read a paper, present with PowerPoint slides, or simply speak from your notes. Please note that you need not provide your paper or slides as part of the submissions process, though you may want to have us publish them in our compendium after Sirens.

Papers and lectures are researched in advance—though “research” can mean a number of things. As this format is great for sharing information, papers and lectures often require some amount of research. Scholarly papers, certainly, are heavily researched (usually for academic work that is relevant to Sirens), but even a reader’s textual analysis, a course curricula presentation, or an overview of legal provisions involves gathering information for presentation. You may do more or less research depending on your topic and your existing knowledge.

Papers and lectures may be 25 or 50 minutes long. Shorter slots generally work out to reading about 6–10 pages of a paper. Some presenters may prefer the longer period, especially if they want to dedicate time for audience questions; these presenters will need closer to 10–15 double-spaced pages to read or the equivalent in speaking notes.

You can collaborate on papers and lectures. Often, individuals with complementary expertise or shared opinions on a topic will co-present a paper or lecture. This can work in two ways: (1) the presenters co-present the topic itself in a way that works for them (perhaps presenting jointly or splitting a topic into sub-parts), or (2) the presenters propose pre-empaneled papers. If you and your co-presenters generally tend to agree on a topic, though, we strongly encourage you to consider proposing a paper or lecture, as opposed to a panel (which is a format best suited for discussion and debate among panelists with different perspectives).

Pre-empaneled papers—a series of two or more papers or lectures on a similar topic or theme—are one option for multiple presenters. Pre-empaneled papers are proposed as a unit, but presented individually in sequence. Each presenter will have 25 minutes to present their individual paper. If presenters prefer, a moderator may organize the group and keep everything on time, perhaps leading the audience question period (or even asking questions of the presenters), and that moderator may also read a paper if they choose.

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. The abstract is for the vetting board: It should explain your topic and approach, be far more in depth than your summary, and demonstrate your research, analysis, and conclusion.

In co-presented papers and lectures (including pre-empaneled papers), each presenter must provide a biography. In pre-empaneled papers, each presenter must also provide an abstract for their individual paper or lecture.

Room set-up includes a microphone, a podium and table, projection equipment, and a small dry erase board or easel. We can accommodate a variety of presentation styles, and we ask that, as part of your proposal, you specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it. Presenters are welcome to stand or sit, though we do require that you use the microphone, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience.

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past papers and lectures from Sirens:

  • “All the Queen’s Women”: Female Political Leadership in Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles by Joy Kim: The women of Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles are queens and pawns, survivors and victims, exiles and prisoners, young and old. This paper will explore how the author complicates traditional narratives of male heroism by offering alternative narratives of female political leadership through the stories of Isaboe, Quintana, and Phaedra. It will compare and contrast their leadership styles and journeys, and consider how their leadership and power is influenced by their age, sexuality, and romantic relationships.

  • Female Warriors, Magical Beings, Goddesses, Storytellers, and Questing Women in Indian Comic Books by Rachel Manija Brown and Shveta Thakrar: Using storytelling and slides, we will share the stories of female warriors, Goddesses, magical beings, storytellers, and questing women from Indian history and legend, as they appear in Indian comic books. This presentation will be based on the comics by the publisher Amar Chitra Katha, whose books have been beloved by Indian girls and boys since 1967.

  • Intersecting Magics: Examining Assemblages of Magic and Technology in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti by Alyssa Collins: This paper examines the intersections of magic and technology in the novellas of Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor’s Binti series prompts us to think about the particular ways in which the black fantastic and black technological practices align to create moments of history-making and memorialization, especially in the community-building moments after persecution or state violence. This paper examines not only the operations of such magic and technology in the text, but also gestures to the affordances of such magical and technological thinking in what can be seen as analogous memorializing and community-building moments in black contemporary culture.

  • Sorceresses Transgress: Examining Treatment of Female Magic Users by Casey Blair: Fantasy literature is rife with incredible sorceresses, witches, and other female magic users. Magic can be an avenue for female characters to play an integral role in an otherwise patriarchal narrative, but does that approach give women power, or is it another kind of trap? This paper will discuss the ways magic is used to empower and constrain female characters, from the evolution of tropes casting feminine magic as “good” or “evil” to the limitations and opportunities for female magic users in their worlds—and what that says about ours.

Read Along with Faye: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Each year, Communications Director Faye Bi attempts to read the requisite 25 books to complete the Sirens Reading Challenge. In 2018, a Reunion year, she’ll be reading books from the past four years’ themes: hauntings, revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. Light spoilers ahead. If you’d like some structure—or company—on your own reading goals, we invite you to read along!

As someone who works in the publishing industry, I know a few things about what it takes to make a big book. Particularly, a big, popular, bestselling YA book. Have a fast-paced, competently plotted manuscript. Include elements that are immensely popular at the time: dystopias, revolutions, mythical creatures, love triangles, school stories, settings in Ancient Rome or Ancient Persia, athletic tournaments, an “edgy” quality. Have a spec’d out, shiny, eye-catching cover. Take an engaging author, and put her in front of gatekeepers and teens. Send plenty of early copies out for review. Time those ads, promotions and media pitches. Get buy-in from major accounts. Make sure that around the time of on-sale, anyone interested in YA, fantasy, or buying books sees this book everywhere.

I saw An Ember in the Ashes everywhere when it first came out. The book is wildly successful, with healthy sales, widespread media coverage, a full trilogy planned, and a movie deal. It is good to muse on why certain books do so well, so that the success can be replicated for other books. But this is, alas, not a campaign analysis. It’s a review.

I can easily see the strengths of An Ember in the Ashes: I read it in one huge gulp, eager to keep flipping the pages and find out what happened next. At the start of the book, Laia’s family is murdered and her brother is taken to prison; in order to save him, she ends up spying on the most ruthless, dangerous person in the empire—the Commandant, the head of the military training academy—who maims loved ones to discipline those who displease her. Despite my general indifference towards reluctant heroines, I like that Laia’s resistance isn’t flashy nor does she have any experience whatsoever at spying—she’s no Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop. She is insecure about her abilities, yet does everything she can to survive. Laia’s relationships, too, with her fellow slaves Izzi and Cook, are refreshing.

But, as someone who has read a lot of fantasy, a lot of YA, and a lot of fantasy YA that has this book’s basic premise, it’s disappointing. Absent are worldbuilding details that go beyond surface-level, most notably linguistic ones: The Martial Empire conquered the Scholar people (those are the names in the book), with a glimpse of tribes and magical creatures such as djinn, efrits, and ghuls; the military academy’s name is Blackcliff, there’s a character named Keenan. I know the Roman Empire reached the land of the Celts, but this struck me as far more modern than the historic era presented in the book. Absent is a consideration of technology—we know the Martials have steel, but that’s about all. Magic exists only to serve specific plot points or to deus ex machina a way out of a tricky situation. Absent, too, is a thoughtful contemplation of colonialism, and how resistance movements might actually gain steam and succeed.

But perhaps, I’m completely mistaken. Perhaps, you could argue, the main audience for this book doesn’t care about these details. But, as a reader who sees An Ember in the Ashes widely lauded for its worldbuilding, I think teens can and do recognize these failings. It bothers me when people cast down YA fantasy for being more simplistic and less rigorous than adult fantasy, with worldbuilding just the backdrop for the kissing, the angst, and the feelings.

I won’t even begin to touch on the eyeroll-inducing romantic subplots, particularly the—what does one call this? A love parallelogram?—where there are two simultaneous love triangles involving the two main characters. What troubled me most is the constant threat of violence against women, so ubiquitous that it practically becomes background noise, and the suggestion in writing by a sympathetic character that a girl’s chances of getting raped are directly correlated to how attractive she is. Contrasted starkly with the rather chaste romantic developments—there’s some dancing, and one consensual kiss—it leaves the reader with absolutely no examples of sex-positivity in this book.

Finally, as much as I did like elements of Laia’s point of view, An Ember in the Ashes also features the perspective of Elias, a privileged guy and the eventual love interest. I do think Tahir succeeded in that she captured Elias’s melodrama and whininess (really, he thinks that absolutely no one else in this rigid military academy thinks the way he does?) to a tee. The problem is, I think the reader is supposed to like him, and I would have much preferred his best friend Helene’s narration. As racist as Helene is, you don’t get to be the only girl in a generation to train at this fancy military school and not question some stuff, even if your one big failing is falling in love with an anguished privileged dude who thinks only he can save the Empire.

For me, there are too many books that do this age group, genre, and premise better. I recommend turning to Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives instead, which didn’t break out in the same way but improves on my complaints in An Ember in the Ashes on nearly every count. But I’m only one reader, and given the immense success of these books, there are plenty of readers who disagree.

Next month’s book: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann


Faye Bi is a book-publishing professional based in New York City, and leads the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is happiest planning nerdy parties, capping off a long run with brunch, and cycling along the East River.

 

2018 Programming: Tips, Tricks, and Frequently Asked Questions

Several days ago, we posted about how Sirens’s programming works—and we highlighted how, each year, our programming is the collective work of our attendees. Regardless of your vocation, your level of experience, or your number of years at Sirens, you have something to say. And we hope that you’ll take a crack at sharing your thoughts and expertise as part of our programming this year!

Today, we have general programming information, how to find help from real people, tips and tricks for proposing programming, and answers to frequently asked questions on our programming process. Here we go!

 

General Information

  • We are accepting proposals from April 2 to May 6. All proposals must be submitted in full, including any supplemental abstracts for panels, by May 6.

  • The Sirens vetting board will make decisions by June 11. All accepted presenters must be registered and paid for Sirens by July 10.

  • We will have three scholarships (a 2018 Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket) available for exemplary programming proposals. You can apply for these scholarships as part of the submissions process.

  • You can propose programming in a number of formats: papers or lectures (including a set of pre-empaneled papers/lectures on a single topic), panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, afternoon classes, or a combination of multiple formats. (Please consult with the programming team before you submit a combination!)

  • You are welcome to present with co-presenters (except for roundtables, which must have a single moderator). Please note that the person submitting the proposal will be our main contact for the proposal (and in the case of a panel, will be the moderator). Please make sure that your collaborators are aware that they will need to confirm their participation by May 6—and in the case of panels and pre-empaneled papers, will need to submit a 300–500 abstract of their own (note that the vetting board will review all abstracts in determining whether to select a proposal).

  • All communication is via email. Please use an email address to which you’ll have access throughout 2018, and that you check regularly.

  • Programming is reviewed and approved by an independent vetting board. All proposals are kept confidential.

  • Additional information can be found in Sirens’s official Call for Proposals.

 

Help from Real People

  • Programming Chats: Have questions? Looking for topic ideas or collaborators? Want some advice on selecting a presentation format? We’re holding two online chats with our programming team. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chats will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Mentors: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org). They can’t guarantee your acceptance, but they’re full of helpful advice.

 

Tips and Tricks

  • Everyone is welcome to propose programming! Sirens is a conference where readers and students present alongside authors and scholars, not to mention librarians, educators, and publishing professionals. Everyone’s voice is valid, valuable, and necessary to our conversations and our community!

  • Look at past programming schedules. Our vetting board knows what topics have been presented in past years—and you should, too, so you don’t repeat them! New topics, or brand-new takes on old topics, will be considered more favorably. We make all our past programming available in our conference archive.

  • Push beyond 101-level topics and analysis. Sirens is ten years old this year, and we assure you, most Sirens attendees are well-versed in basic topics like “Reclaiming Fairy Tales” and “What is Diversity?” Push further the sophistication of your topic and your analysis.

  • Consider what type of presentation suits your topic best. We’ll be doing a deeper dive on each of these next week, but here’s a preview: papers and lectures are good for experts to convey information or frame an argument; panels are suitable for rigorous debate among experts with differing expertise or opinions; workshops and afternoon classes are perfect for hands-on explorations of practical topics; and roundtable discussions are great for topics where every audience member will have an opinion.

  • Focus on one or two proposals rather than several. This will help ensure your proposals are well-prepared and well-argued—and will increase their likelihood of acceptance.

  • Choose your co-presenters wisely. We strongly encourage you to seek out co-presenters with a variety of expertise, perspectives, and identities. Differences in expertise can bring additional thoughts and approaches to your work, while different perspectives and identities can enrich discussion and debate over your topic. (Bonus tip: If your topic is for people with complementary expertise to present information, we strongly encourage you to consider a paper or lecture with co-presenters, rather than a panel; the panel format is best suited for discussion and debate among panelists with different perspectives.)

  • Leave enough time to write a thoughtful summary and abstract. Since these descriptions are what the vetting board will judge your proposal on and will determine fellow attendees’ interest in your topic, it behooves you to not wait until the last minute! This is especially true for pre-empaneled papers and panels, where co-presenters must also submit an abstract by May 6.

  • You are not required to present on this year’s theme. Proposal topics must be relevant to Sirens, but do not need to address our theme for this year. If you’d like to, though, here are our thoughts on our relevant themes for this year: reunion, hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for being a presenter at Sirens?
The only requirement is that you must be a Sirens attendee, which also means you have to be 18 years old by October 25, 2018. Otherwise, everyone is welcome to propose programming—and if accepted, to present it!

How can I find co-presenters or panelists?
You can tweet @sirens_con or post on the unofficial Sirens Attendees Facebook group. You might also be able to find co-presenters or co-panelists at our programming chats.

How many proposals can I submit?
There is technically no limit, but we recommend focusing on one or two as it usually makes for better-prepared (and better-received) proposals.

Can I change my proposal later?
Before the May 6 deadline, you can submit a correction or contact us to withdraw and resubmit the proposal. Following May 6, however, we will pass your proposal on to the vetting board and you can no longer make changes.

Can I contact the vetting board about my proposal?
Please direct any questions to (programming at sirensconference.org) instead. Vetting board members only review proposals, and we ask them to keep their reviews confidential.

Can I request a specific day and time to present?
The schedule depends on our ability to track presentations by type, theme, and audio-visual needs, so we can’t accommodate schedule preferences. If you have an immovable conflict, such as your grandmother’s 100th birthday party, please write to us at (programming at sirensconference.org).

I have more questions!
We have more answers! Write us at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Sirens Scholarship Fundraising: Financial Hardships

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. Each year, Sirens raises funds to provide scholarships to help a number of people attend Sirens and add their voices to those conversations. Our scholarship fundraising will continue through March, but this week, we want to highlight the importance of our scholarships for those with financial hardships. In past weeks, we discussed our scholarships for people of color and those submitting exemplary programming proposals; next week, we will address our hope that we’ll be able to provide scholarships for librarians, educators, and publishing professionals.

Attending Sirens requires money.

Everyone knows this. Whether or not you’ve attended Sirens, at some point you’ve probably saved your pennies to go somewhere.

And Sirens knows this.

We want Sirens to be available to as many people as possible—and a critical part of that is making the Sirens registration price as low as possible. So each year, we price the Sirens registrations below the cost of providing the food, program book, and other benefits that come with those registrations. And each year, to cover the difference, we ask for additional support from those who can afford to do more.

This budget structure works for us only because the Sirens community is magnificent. Each year, amazing individuals offer additional support—whether that’s an extra $5 or $500 or a handcrafted auction item—to help Sirens continue to suppress its registration prices so that more people can afford to attend.

But those donations also do something more. Because sometimes, a lower registration price isn’t enough.

Most of us have been there. Most of us have stared at an opportunity that we wanted, and maybe we needed, but that we couldn’t afford to take. Most of us, at some point in time or another, have depended on the kindness of strangers.

So each year, the Sirens community raises funds to provide Sirens registrations and round-trip shuttle tickets to those with financial hardships. Assuming that we reach our fundraising goals, we will provide three of these scholarships in 2018. Everyone is welcome to apply; we ask only that you state that you have a financial hardship. We select recipients randomly from among the applicants.

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

If you can—whether that’s $5 or a full scholarship of $365—we hope that you’ll help us provide these scholarships!

 

2018 Programming

Welcome to our annual programming series! In these posts, we’ll give you all the information that you’ll need to propose programming for Sirens. Stay tuned: We’ll have a post with tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions later this week, and then we’ll feature a post specific to each type of programming next week. Then on April 2, we’ll open our proposals system.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. While a thousand conversations happen at Sirens every year, the true vanguard of those discussions are the brave and brilliant individuals who share their wisdom and expertise as part of our programming.

So how does Sirens create its programming?

We don’t! Many conferences select their own topics and then select the individuals to present those topics. Sirens could have done this—but we don’t want Sirens to be limited by the interests, knowledge, and networking of our staff.

Instead, we invite our attendees—from readers to scholars to librarians to authors—to propose programming for our schedule. And each year, dozens of individuals do: they create, propose, and present the lectures, papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that become the programming at Sirens. Regardless of your vocation, your level of experience, or how many years you’ve attended Sirens, every Sirens attendee has something to say! And we hope you’ll take a crack at sharing your thoughts and expertise as part of our programming.

And how does Sirens choose its programming?

Each year, an independent vetting board, a diverse group of tremendous individuals who know and love Sirens, review the proposals for thoughtfulness and relevance, and then select which to include on that year’s programming schedule.

  • Thoughtfulness: Is the proposal well-conceived? This means the vetting board considers the research, logic, and sophistication of the arguments. Is the proposal well-argued? Is it innovative? Is it interesting?

  • Relevance: Is the topic relevant to Sirens’s global topic of women in fantasy literature? The topic doesn’t need to specifically address the theme of any given year, and doesn’t have to be about women and fantasy and literature, but if your proposal doesn’t address at least two of the three, you might want to consider how can make your topic more relevant to the Sirens audience.

How does someone propose programming?

Sirens operates its own proposals system specifically for programming proposals. We’ll open this system on April 2, and close it May 6, which is this year’s deadline for proposals. After May 6, our vetting board goes to work.

Proposals generally comprise five things:

  • Personal information: Your name, contact information, and a biography that we can use on our website and in our program book

  • A summary: 50–100 words about your topic and approach, which we’ll also publish on our website and in our program book

  • An abstract: 300–500 words explaining your topic and approach to the vetting board; this should be far more in depth and should demonstrate your research, analysis, and conclusion

  • Audiovisual requests: Information on your requested audiovisual equipment for your presentation

  • Contact information for any co-presenters: Your co-presenters will then receive an email asking them to provide their personal information and, in the case of panels, a supplemental abstract of 300–500 words demonstrating the perspectives and expertise that they will bring to the panel

So let’s do this!

We know that the proposal process can be intimidating, especially for those new to Sirens: It takes a lot of courage to put your thoughts and analysis out there, first to a review board and then at Sirens itself. But each year, dozens of individuals screw their courage to the proverbial sticking place and, in doing so, make Sirens smarter, more thoughtful, and just plain better.

We hope that that will include you this year!

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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