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2021 Programming: Panels

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2021 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 concept 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. Previously, we’ve explored workshops/afternoon classes and papers/lectures; later this month, we’ll review roundtable discussions. Submissions will be open until May 15.

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 to the audience, 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.

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 responsible for eliciting thoughtful discussion among panelists, which means preparing questions in advance, ensuring that all panelists have a chance to speak, and keeping the conversation flowing. Moderators may also participate in the discussion if they wish, and may take questions from the audience as well, though the bulk of the time should be reserved for panelist discussion. 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, or have similar perspectives, 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 and debate.

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 a paper or lecture, since you’ll likely be spending more time conveying information than debating your topic. You only have 50 minutes for your panel, so we cap panels at five participants to ensure that everyone gets to participate in a meaningful way. In the past, we have found that panelists on larger panels often come back to us with the feedback that the panelists didn’t have enough time to contribute individually, while audience feedback indicates 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 moderator must submit the initial proposal and should provide their own biography, the panel’s summary, and the primary abstract. Each additional panelist will provide their own biography and supplemental abstract.

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 summary paragraph and a series of at least ten questions for the panelists (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, perhaps by answering a question or two from the question list. The vetting board will consider all abstracts (including any missing abstracts) in making its programming selections.

Moderators are responsible for ensuring that their panelists submit their confirmations and supplemental abstracts through our online system by May 15.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 and 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?

  • Free Topics: During April and May, 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 conference panels from Sirens:

  • Poor Unfortunate Souls: Women, Magical Power, and the Idea of Evil; Nicole Brinkley, E.K. Johnston, Katherine Locke, Natalie C. Parker, and Shveta Thakrar: Traditionally, women with magic in fantasy media are presented as evil: a witch that steals away the innocence of a princess without power, or an evil queen set up against a pure-of-heart prince. But women with magical power being classically seen as evil is being subverted and challenged in today’s fantasy stories. This panel will discuss how and why women with magical power were traditionally seen as evil, and what happens when you overlap women with power with other marginalizations: queer women with magical power, women of color with magical power, and—heaven forbid—queer women of color with magical power, as well as favorite magical ladies who got the short end of the proverbial stick.

  • Conversations with Octavia Butler; 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.

  • Why We Write About War; Cass Morris, Tina LeCount Myers, Rook Riley, Cristal G. Thompson, and K.B. Wagers: Why do we write about war? With such a vast quantity of fantasy novels with war as either the primary focus or the landscape is there something particular that makes writers—even those without military backgrounds—come back to war stories again and again? Do we write about war because we are writing fantasy? Or do we write fantasy so that we can write about war? This panel will discuss not the reality of war, but the writing of it.

  • Are You Experienced: The Gendered Sex Gap in YA Fantasy; Kate Elliott, Mette Ivie Harrison, Robin LaFevers, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rebecca Kim Wells: There has been a long tradition of heroines in young adult literature having minimal sexual experience. Unlike in male-centered stories, these heroines’ early sexual experiences are not celebrated as heroic accomplishments or rites of passage in a bildungsroman. What are the cultural, societal, and historical roots of this experience gap? Why is sexual inexperience still such an important component of a likeable heroine? Do heroines in fantasy have more latitude in closing that experience gap? This panel will discuss how issues of sexual experience play out in works of fantasy and how the genre reinforces or subverts them.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

2021 Programming: Papers and Lectures

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2021 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 concept 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. We’ve already discussed workshops/afternoon classes; later this month, we’ll review panels, and roundtable discussions. Once submissions open in mid-April, you will be able to submit a proposal any time until May 15.

Papers and lectures are our umbrella terms for a presentation format in which a single presenter or a coordinated team convey research, analysis, or other information. Maybe you’re a reader who wants to examine common tropes of origin stories in comic books, or an educator who wants to deconstruct the idea of a literary canon, or a pair of publishing professionals who want to analyze challenges in the publication of fantasy work. 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. You’re welcome to read a paper, give a slide presentation, 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 following Sirens.

Papers and lectures require advance research—though “research” can mean a number of things. As this format is ideal for sharing specialized information, we anticipate that papers and lectures will depend upon 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 curriculum presentation, or an overview of legal provisions will involve gathering information prior to the presentation. Depending on your topic and your existing knowledge, your research needs may vary. You might hit the library, conduct a survey, or re-read a book series (or re-watch some TV!) to take notes.

Papers and lectures may be 25 or 50 minutes long. Shorter slots generally are equivalent to reading 6—10 pages of a double-spaced 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. We encourage presenters to practice and time their presentations prior to arriving at Sirens.

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, we strongly encourage you to consider proposing a paper or lecture instead of 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 (who may or may not contribute a paper) may organize the group and keep everything on time, perhaps also leading the audience question period (or even asking questions of the presenters).

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 and 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?

  • Free Topics: During April and May, 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:

  • Heroic Fantasy Saves Lives by Shaista Fenwick: This presentation explores how heroic fantasy reading and writing can be part of pedagogical practice and therapeutic interactions with school age children and adults as a mechanism for de-escalation of diagnosed and invisible trauma (including ACEs). Attendees will leave with a vocabulary of theory and research supporting the need for heroic fantasy generation and consumption by women and nonbinary folks in mainstream education and therapeutic settings.

  • Trends in Speculative Poetry by Disabled Poets by Lisa M. Bradley: “Speculative poetry by disabled poets” may sound like a very narrow niche, but it’s actually quite expansive. Learn the current trends in fantasy poetry written by disabled poets and how these trends differ from those in the wider spec field. What do merfolk and changelings mean for poets with disabilities? For that matter, who identifies as a disabled poet, and how do gender, race, and ethnicity interact in their poetry? Disabled poet and editor Lisa M. Bradley will share insights from editing the poetry for Uncanny Magazine’s special issue “Disabled People Destroy Fantasy.”

  • 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.

And the two separate summaries from a set of pre-empaneled papers:

  • Reading Bodies by Bethany Powell and Charis M. Ellison:
    • The Page Is No Mirror: The Limited Bodies of Literature

      A woman checking out her sexiness in a way so rooted in male gaze as to be ridiculous makes the rounds of Lit-Twitter, and it is easy to laugh. The more troubling undercurrent takes more time to deal with–our bodies are often not on the page in a way we see them. Often, too, we are presented with false dichotomies: thin or fat? Strong or weak? Nerdy or athletic? Our bodies can be as complex in identity as our minds. This essay explores how we read outside ourselves and how disembodying that process can be.
    • Where Are the Fat Girls? The Absence of Plus-Size Characters in Fantasy Literature

      In popular culture, fat bodies are discussed most frequently in terms of negative space: pounds lost, dress sizes dropped, the empty half of a pair of giant trousers. This void extends deeply into the worlds of fantasy literature, art, and film. Despite the boundless opportunities presented by the genre for women to explore new worlds, identities, and power, fat women continue to be a notable absence. This presentation is both a personal essay about the experience of being a fat woman, and an exploration of fat representation in fantasy, including discussion of existing fat characters and misconceptions about fat bodies.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

2021 Programming: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2021 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 concept 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. Previously, we took a deep dive into papers and lectures, panels, and roundtables. You can submit a proposal any time from mid-April to May 15.

Workshops are an opportunity to teach practical skills, often through hands-on instruction. Workshops sometimes feature writing topics, such as building magical worlds or forming an effective critique group, but we welcome presenters tackling 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. Topics may be as eclectic 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 please email 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 related to the topic (such as clothing construction and embroidery).

Materials, if needed, must be 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. If more than one person will be leading the class or workshop, each presenter must provide a biography, though no supplemental abstract is required for additional presenters. 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 programming help or inspiration?

  • Free Topics: Over the next several weeks, 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tools and Techniques for the Reluctant Rewriter by B R Sanders: Masterpieces are rarely written perfectly the first time around. Revision, rewriting, and editing are key steps in the writing process, but they aren’t always fun, and they aren’t always easy to master. For many of us, learning to write first drafts is more straightforward and easier than picking up the skills necessary to polish those first drafts. In this workshop, we’ll explore a variety of techniques writers can use to structure their revision and rewriting process to get the most out of it. Writers at all stages of their career and of all levels of expertise are welcome.

  • Chainmail 101 and the Steampunk Maker Ethos by Fred Loucks-Schultz and Rebecca Loucks-Schultz: From Bilbo’s mithril shirt to Red Sonja’s infamous bikini, and from steampunk retro-futurism to post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies, chain mail has long been a staple of fantasy literature. Learn about the Maker side of Steampunk, the cross-cultural history of mail both as armor and decoration, the tools and techniques for making modern mail accessories, and then build your own key fob or bracelet in this hands-on workshop.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

Programming Tips, Tricks, and Frequently Asked Questions

Earlier this week, we shared how programming works for Sirens—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 about our programming process. Here we go!

 

Conference General Information

  • We will open for proposals mid-April and accept submissions through May 15. All proposals must be submitted in full, including any supplemental abstracts for panels, by May 15, and all presenters must have “checked in” by following the links in emails that we send out when a main presenter indicates there will be a co-presenter.

  • The Sirens vetting board will make decisions by June 15. All accepted presenters must be registered and paid for Sirens by July 10.

  • We will have three scholarships (a 2021 Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket) available for exemplary programming proposals. We also have one Sabrina Chin “Braver Than You Think” Memorial Scholarship available for a first-time presenter. 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 as a set of pre-empaneled papers/lectures on a single topic), panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, afternoon classes, or a combination of multiple formats. (Please consult with the programming team before you submit a combination, though!)

  • You are welcome to present with co-presenters, except for roundtables, which may have only 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). Again, please make sure that your collaborators are aware that they will need to confirm their participation by May 15—and in the case of panels and pre-empaneled papers, will need to submit a 300–500-word 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 2021, 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.

 

Conference Programming Help from Real People

  • Free Topics: Over the next several weeks, 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, and are glad to help you figure out the best format for your proposal, answer questions about the process, and so on.

 

Conference Programming Tips and Tricks

  • Everyone is welcome to propose programming! Sirens is a conference where readers and students present alongside authors and scholars, who present alongside 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.

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

  • Consider what type of presentation suits your topic best. We’ll be doing a deeper dive on each of these in the coming weeks, 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; roundtable discussions are great for topics where every audience member will have an opinion or contribution; and workshops and afternoon classes are perfect for hands-on explorations of practical topics.

  • 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 15.

  • You are not required to present on this year’s theme of villains. Proposal topics must be relevant to Sirens, but do not need to address our theme for this year. Please do be sure that, at minimum, you’ve mentioned how your topic relates to fantasy!

 

Conference Programming 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 21, 2021. 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. If you already had programming accepted for presentation at Sirens 2020, we ask that you not submit additional proposals during the 2021 submission period.

Can I change my proposal later?
Before the May 15 deadline, you can submit a correction or contact us to withdraw and resubmit the proposal. Following May 15, 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 Programming Comes From Attendee Proposals

How to Propose Programming for Sirens

Welcome to our annual programming series! In these posts, we’ll give you all the information you’ll need to propose programming for Sirens. We’ll have a post with tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions next week, and we’ll feature a post specific to each type of programming in the following weeks.

In 2020, we conducted our annual round of submissions. Because of the pandemic and our transition to Sirens at Home, many of the accepted submissions have rolled over to this year. We’ll open our proposals system mid-April for a second round so that we can arrange a full schedule of programming for 2021.

We invite all Sirens attendees and potential attendees to submit a proposal or two—though if you had a proposal selected for presentation at Sirens in 2020, we ask that you do not submit additional proposals during this secondary round.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Programming, for Sirens, is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of the conference. While a thousand conversations happen at Sirens every year, the true vanguards of those discussions are the brave and brilliant individuals who share their wisdom and expertise as part of our programming. See the archives to find out more about the kinds of topics and discussions that have been presented in the past.

So how does Sirens create its programming?

We don’t create the Sirens programming. You do! We don’t want Sirens to be limited by the interests, knowledge, and networking of our staff, so we invite our attendees — readers, scholars, librarians, authors, and more — to propose programming for our schedule. And each year, dozens of individuals answer the call: they create, craft, propose, and present the lectures, papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that become the programming at Sirens.

A special note: We want our programming to represent a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and identities: readers, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, and authors, of course, but also individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. Similarly, we hope that, regardless of your vocation, your level of experience, or how many years you’ve attended Sirens, you’ll take a crack at sharing your thoughts and expertise as part of our programming. Every voice is important at Sirens, including yours.

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, relevance, and inclusiveness, and then select which ones to include on that year’s programming schedule.

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

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

  • Inclusiveness: Sirens values diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities. Does your topic address an inclusive selection of literature? Do your co-presenters represent a variety of perspectives, experiences, and identities, whenever possible?

In crafting your presentation, please also consider the following:

  • Audience: You are likely to find your presentation audience composed of voracious, critical readers, as well as accomplished scholars, librarians, educators, authors, and publishing professionals. Further, Sirens attendees tend to be quite experienced in discussing women in fantasy literature, as well as related topics such as feminism, social sciences (and occasionally hard sciences), and writing. Please plan the sophistication and complexity of your proposal accordingly.

  • Repetition of Past Presentation Topics: The vetting board is familiar with programming presented at Sirens in the past, and duplicative topics are often considered less relevant. Please make sure that you have reviewed our archive page before deciding on your topic and that, if you intend to propose a similar topic, you highlight the innovation of your work in your proposal.

How does someone propose programming?

Sirens operates its own proposals system specifically for programming proposals. We’ll open this system on mid-April and close it May 15, which is this year’s deadline for proposals. After May 15, our vetting board goes to work.

You need five things for a proposal:

  • Personal information: Your name, contact information, and a third-person 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 (see our 2019 summaries for examples)

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

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

  • 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, more interesting, and just plain better.

We hope that that will include you this year!

 

2020 Programming: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2020 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 concept 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. Previously, we took a deep dive into papers and lectures, panels, and roundtables. You can submit a proposal any time from March 16 to May 15.

Workshops are an opportunity to teach practical skills, often through hands-on instruction. Workshops sometimes feature writing topics, such as building magical worlds or forming an effective critique group, but we welcome presenters tackling 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. Topics may be as eclectic 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 please email 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 related to the topic (such as clothing construction and embroidery).

Materials, if needed, must be 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. If more than one person will be leading the class or workshop, each presenter must provide a biography, though no supplemental abstract is required for additional presenters. 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:

    Sunday, March 22, 2–4pm Eastern (11am–1pm Pacific)
    Monday, May 4, 9–11pm Eastern (6–8pm Pacific)

  • Free Topics: Throughout March and 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tools and Techniques for the Reluctant Rewriter by B R Sanders: Masterpieces are rarely written perfectly the first time around. Revision, rewriting, and editing are key steps in the writing process, but they aren’t always fun, and they aren’t always easy to master. For many of us, learning to write first drafts is more straightforward and easier than picking up the skills necessary to polish those first drafts. In this workshop, we’ll explore a variety of techniques writers can use to structure their revision and rewriting process to get the most out of it. Writers at all stages of their career and of all levels of expertise are welcome.

  • Chainmail 101 and the Steampunk Maker Ethos by Fred Loucks-Schultz and Rebecca Loucks-Schultz: From Bilbo’s mithril shirt to Red Sonja’s infamous bikini, and from steampunk retro-futurism to post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies, chain mail has long been a staple of fantasy literature. Learn about the Maker side of Steampunk, the cross-cultural history of mail both as armor and decoration, the tools and techniques for making modern mail accessories, and then build your own key fob or bracelet in this hands-on workshop.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

2020 Programming: Roundtable Discussions

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2020 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 concept 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. Previously, we’ve taken a deep dive into papers and lectures and panels; later this week, we’ll review workshops/afternoon classes later this week. You can submit a proposal any time from March 16 to May 15.

Sirens roundtable discussions are moderator-led conversations with a participating 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 the merits of various social media platforms for reading groups, a dialogue about effectively retold fairy tales, or a conversation about ideal books for introducing new readers to the fantasy genre could all be excellent roundtable topics.

Roundtable moderators lead the discussions through a series of questions and are 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. Usually, ten solid questions and follow-ups will be more than enough for a 50-minute discussion.

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 and 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:

    Sunday, March 22, 2–4 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m.–1 p.m. Pacific)
    Monday, May 4, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Free Topics: All through March and 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.

  • Obligatory Horrors by Jen Michaels: Daughter, sister, girlfriend, mother, wife, companion, princess–murderer. Fairy tale stories have always had a dark side, but in a number of new story collections, such as Angela Slatter’s A Feast of Sorrows: Stories and Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster, a repeated commonality between protagonists in roles traditionally held by women in fairy tales is how choices and circumstances lead them to murder. In this roundtable discussion, we will examine how societal expectations and obligations are the true horrors in many of these stories and how the authors enable us to root for those who might have been portrayed as villains in traditional fairy tales.

  • Reinventing the Literary Canon—Why Don’t We Teach That? by Katie Passerotti: In high school English classes, students are required to read books considered classics within the literary canon. With few exceptions, these books are written by white, cis-het men. The adherence to this list is stifling today’s students. The world is changing and the current educational system no longer meets the needs of its students. This discussion will examine how the needs of students are evolving, what the purpose of English classes should be going forward, and ways to expand the curriculum to include more diverse books that better represent not only the student population, but the world students live in.

  • 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.

  • There’s No I in Hero: A Discussion of Communities as Agents of Change by Jennifer Shimada: One of the most pervasive American myths is the idea of “rugged individualism”–that individual heroes can save the world or push their society toward progress. However, real, lasting change never comes from a single hero fighting on their own, or even from a small band of heroes working together. Real progress and change comes from movements and communities, with many people working together and separately over a long period of time. In this roundtable, we’ll discuss the problems with depending on individual heroes to save the day, and the ways in which fantasy stories can center movements and communities instead./p>

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.
 

2020 Programming: Panels

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2020 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 concept 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. Last week, we took a deep dive into papers and lectures; later this month, we’ll review roundtable discussions and workshops/afternoon classes. You can submit a proposal any time from March 16 to May 15.

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 to the audience, 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.

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 responsible for eliciting thoughtful discussion among panelists, which means preparing questions in advance, ensuring that all panelists have a chance to speak, and keeping the conversation flowing. Moderators may also participate in the discussion if they wish, and may take questions from the audience as well, though the bulk of the time should be reserved for panelist discussion. 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, or have similar perspectives, 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 and debate.

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 a paper or lecture, since you’ll likely be spending more time conveying information than debating your topic. You only have 50 minutes for your panel, so we cap panels at five participants to ensure that everyone gets to participate in a meaningful way. In the past, we have found that panelists on larger panels often come back to us with the feedback that the panelists didn’t have enough time to contribute individually, while audience feedback indicates 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 moderator must submit the initial proposal and should provide their own biography, the panel’s summary, and the primary abstract. Each additional panelist will provide their own biography and supplemental abstract.

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 summary paragraph and a series of at least ten questions for the panelists (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, perhaps by answering a question or two from the question list. The vetting board will consider all abstracts (including any missing abstracts) in making its programming selections.

Moderators are responsible for ensuring that their panelists submit their confirmations and supplemental abstracts through our online system by May 15.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 and 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:

    Sunday, March 22, 2–4pm Eastern (11am–1pm Pacific)
    Monday, May 4, 9–11pm Eastern (6–8pm Pacific)

  • Free Topics: Throughout March and 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:

  • Poor Unfortunate Souls: Women, Magical Power, and the Idea of Evil; Nicole Brinkley, E.K. Johnston, Katherine Locke, Natalie C. Parker, and Shveta Thakrar: Traditionally, women with magic in fantasy media are presented as evil: a witch that steals away the innocence of a princess without power, or an evil queen set up against a pure-of-heart prince. But women with magical power being classically seen as evil is being subverted and challenged in today’s fantasy stories. This panel will discuss how and why women with magical power were traditionally seen as evil, and what happens when you overlap women with power with other marginalizations: queer women with magical power, women of color with magical power, and—heaven forbid—queer women of color with magical power, as well as favorite magical ladies who got the short end of the proverbial stick.

  • Conversations with Octavia Butler; 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.

  • Why We Write About War; Cass Morris, Tina LeCount Myers, Rook Riley, Cristal G. Thompson, and K.B. Wagers: Why do we write about war? With such a vast quantity of fantasy novels with war as either the primary focus or the landscape is there something particular that makes writers—even those without military backgrounds—come back to war stories again and again? Do we write about war because we are writing fantasy? Or do we write fantasy so that we can write about war? This panel will discuss not the reality of war, but the writing of it.

  • Are You Experienced: The Gendered Sex Gap in YA Fantasy; Kate Elliott, Mette Ivie Harrison, Robin LaFevers, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rebecca Kim Wells: There has been a long tradition of heroines in young adult literature having minimal sexual experience. Unlike in male-centered stories, these heroines’ early sexual experiences are not celebrated as heroic accomplishments or rites of passage in a bildungsroman. What are the cultural, societal, and historical roots of this experience gap? Why is sexual inexperience still such an important component of a likeable heroine? Do heroines in fantasy have more latitude in closing that experience gap? This panel will discuss how issues of sexual experience play out in works of fantasy and how the genre reinforces or subverts them.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

2020 Programming: Papers and Lectures

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2020 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 concept 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 month, we’ll review panels, roundtable discussions, and workshops/afternoon classes. You can submit a proposal any time from March 16 to May 15.

Papers and lectures are our umbrella terms for a presentation format in which a single presenter or a coordinated team convey research, analysis, or other information. Maybe you’re a reader who wants to examine common tropes of origin stories in comic books, or an educator who wants to deconstruct the idea of a literary canon, or a pair of publishing professionals who want to analyze challenges in the publication of fantasy work. 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. You’re welcome to read a paper, give a slide presentation, 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 following Sirens.

Papers and lectures require advance research—though “research” can mean a number of things. As this format is ideal for sharing specialized information, we anticipate that papers and lectures will depend upon 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 curriculum presentation, or an overview of legal provisions will involve gathering information prior to the presentation. Depending on your topic and your existing knowledge, your research needs may vary. You might hit the library, conduct a survey, or re-read a book series (or re-watch some TV!) to take notes.

Papers and lectures may be 25 or 50 minutes long. Shorter slots generally are equivalent to reading 6—10 pages of a double-spaced 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. We encourage presenters to practice and time their presentations prior to arriving at Sirens.

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, we strongly encourage you to consider proposing a paper or lecture instead of 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 (who may or may not contribute a paper) may organize the group and keep everything on time, perhaps also leading the audience question period (or even asking questions of the presenters).

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 and 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:

    Sunday, March 22, 2–4pm Eastern (11am–1pm Pacific)
    Monday, May 4, 9–11pm Eastern (6–8pm Pacific)

  • Free Topics: Throughout March and 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:

  • Heroic Fantasy Saves Lives by Shaista Fenwick: This presentation explores how heroic fantasy reading and writing can be part of pedagogical practice and therapeutic interactions with school age children and adults as a mechanism for de-escalation of diagnosed and invisible trauma (including ACEs). Attendees will leave with a vocabulary of theory and research supporting the need for heroic fantasy generation and consumption by women and nonbinary folks in mainstream education and therapeutic settings.

  • Trends in Speculative Poetry by Disabled Poets by Lisa M. Bradley: “Speculative poetry by disabled poets” may sound like a very narrow niche, but it’s actually quite expansive. Learn the current trends in fantasy poetry written by disabled poets and how these trends differ from those in the wider spec field. What do merfolk and changelings mean for poets with disabilities? For that matter, who identifies as a disabled poet, and how do gender, race, and ethnicity interact in their poetry? Disabled poet and editor Lisa M. Bradley will share insights from editing the poetry for Uncanny Magazine’s special issue “Disabled People Destroy Fantasy.”

  • 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.

And the two separate summaries from a set of pre-empaneled papers:

  • Reading Bodies by Bethany Powell and Charis M. Ellison:

    • The Page Is No Mirror: The Limited Bodies of Literature

      A woman checking out her sexiness in a way so rooted in male gaze as to be ridiculous makes the rounds of Lit-Twitter, and it is easy to laugh. The more troubling undercurrent takes more time to deal with–our bodies are often not on the page in a way we see them. Often, too, we are presented with false dichotomies: thin or fat? Strong or weak? Nerdy or athletic? Our bodies can be as complex in identity as our minds. This essay explores how we read outside ourselves and how disembodying that process can be.

    • Where Are the Fat Girls? The Absence of Plus-Size Characters in Fantasy Literature

      In popular culture, fat bodies are discussed most frequently in terms of negative space: pounds lost, dress sizes dropped, the empty half of a pair of giant trousers. This void extends deeply into the worlds of fantasy literature, art, and film. Despite the boundless opportunities presented by the genre for women to explore new worlds, identities, and power, fat women continue to be a notable absence. This presentation is both personal essay about the experience of being a fat woman, and an exploration of fat representation in fantasy, including discussion of existing fat characters and misconceptions about fat bodies.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.

 

Programming Tips, Tricks, and Frequently Asked Questions

Last week, we posted about how programming works for Sirens—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 about our programming process. Here we go!

 

General Information

  • We are accepting proposals from March 16 to May 15. All proposals must be submitted in full, including any supplemental abstracts for panels, by May 15, and all presenters must have “checked in” by following the links in emails that we send out when a main presenter indicates there will be a co-presenter.

  • The Sirens vetting board will make decisions by June 15. All accepted presenters must be registered and paid for Sirens by July 10.

  • We will have four scholarships (a 2020 Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket) available for exemplary programming proposals. We also have one Sabrina Chin “Braver Than You Think” Memorial Scholarship available for a first-time presenter. 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 as a set of pre-empaneled papers/lectures on a single topic), panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, afternoon classes, or a combination of multiple formats. (Please consult with the programming team before you submit a combination, though!)

  • You are welcome to present with co-presenters, except for roundtables, which may have only 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). Again, please make sure that your collaborators are aware that they will need to confirm their participation by May 15—and in the case of panels and pre-empaneled papers, will need to submit a 300–500-word 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 2020, 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:

    Sunday, March 22, 1–4 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m.–1 p.m. Pacific)
    Monday, May 4, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Free Topics: All through February, March and 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, and are glad to help you figure out the best format for your proposal, answer questions about the process, and so on.

 

Tips and Tricks

  • Everyone is welcome to propose programming! Sirens is a conference where readers and students present alongside authors and scholars, who present alongside 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.

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

  • Consider what type of presentation suits your topic best. We’ll be doing a deeper dive on each of these in the coming weeks, 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; roundtable discussions are great for topics where every audience member will have an opinion or contribution; and workshops and afternoon classes are perfect for hands-on explorations of practical topics.

  • 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 15.

  • You are not required to present on this year’s theme of villains. Proposal topics must be relevant to Sirens, but do not need to address our theme for this year. Please do be sure that, at minimum, you’ve mentioned how your topic relates to fantasy!

 

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 22, 2020. 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 15 deadline, you can submit a correction or contact us to withdraw and resubmit the proposal. Following May 15, 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).

 

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