Archive for testimonials

The Effect of Sirens Scholarships

By Gillian C. (@gnomes_g)

Receiving a scholarship to attend Sirens last year meant so much to me: I’m a grad student, and I live on a very small income. I have to plan very carefully to be able to afford any travel, and the scholarship made all of the difference for me. I look forward to Sirens all year, and it was a weight off my mind to know that I could go without having to worry as much about the cost.

The Inclusiveness of Sirens Scholarships

By Shveta Thakrar (@ShvetaThakrar)

Sirens is a conference that means so much to me. I love fantasy, I love intersectional feminism, I love enchantment and wonder and ideas. Sirens has all these things. It is a place where people can go to discuss being queer, being brown, being disabled, being neuroatypical, being a woman or a nonbinary person in fantasy literature—all within a framework that actively seeks to include voices traditionally shut out or even silenced elsewhere.

But Sirens is also just plain fun. It’s a place to celebrate with fellow fans. People who love unicorns and nagas and epic series get together to geek out over the use of language and fashion in books, host workshops on fencing and sewing, trade book and author recommendations while wearing gorgeous costumes. They drink tea and laugh and make friends. They form community.

Not everyone can afford to attend, however, and I can say that Sirens really does make an effort to help ease the financial burden for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to take part by providing scholarships. But it needs donations to do that. If you can, would you consider contributing toward a scholarship to allow another voice to be heard?

The Magic of Sirens Scholarships

By Lisa M. Bradley (@cafenowhere)

I’d heard great things about Sirens, but every time I checked the registration page, I thought, “No way can I swing that fee plus room, plus meals, plus flight.” (I didn’t realize how many meals were included in the registration fee!) But when I learned the 2015 theme was rebels and revolutionaries, I knew I had to go. I’ve always felt a bone-deep affinity with rebels.

But if I had to go, I had to get funds. My best bet was to earn a scholarship. While researching for a novel, I’d learned about Sara Estela Ramírez, a Mexican journalist-poet who helped spur the Mexican Revolution while living in exile in Texas. I couldn’t fit her into my novel, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind, either. Sirens seemed the perfect venue for sharing my passion for this all-but-forgotten revolutionary who’d also written fantasy poetry. To my delight, the vetting board approved my proposal and Sirens gave me the hoped-for scholarship.

At the conference, I was warmly welcomed by staff and fellow attendees. Still, I was nervous. What if my topic was too academic? Too regional to attract a wider audience? What if no one came to my presentation?! Happily, my worries were unfounded. I had a small but attentive audience, some of whom scribbled intensely the entire time I talked. People asked questions and offered new insights. Beyond my presentation, I connected with new friends and old, added to my teetering to-be-read pile, attended thought-provoking panels, and tried to absorb all the wisdom offered by the guests of honor. I might also have had a drink or two in the hotel bar.

I am so grateful for the scholarship that enabled me to attend Sirens. The aid demonstrated, in a very concrete way, that my perspective was valued. The conference itself reinforced that message of inclusion. I left invigorated and determined to return to my fellow Sirens.

What is it like presenting programming at Sirens?

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
I’ve given presentations, run roundtables, and moderated panels at Sirens. I was sort of terrified before running my first panel—I’d never moderated before, and I didn’t really know most of the brilliant women who’d agreed to be panelists—and the Sirens staff was fabulous. They were available when I was figuring out whether and how to propose the panel at all, and when I was jittery before the event itself they were ready with encouragement, distraction by book recommendation (the Sirens bookstore is a dangerous place), and calm reminders of the “just breathe, you’re fine” variety as necessary.

The great thing about programming at Sirens is that people attend because they’re actively interested. If you run a roundtable, you will have no trouble getting audience participation—and they’ll blow through easy questions. I love the opportunity to generate discussions on questions I have no easy answers for, because Sirens have so many thoughtful opinions. They’ll ask insightful questions about presentations and challenge panelists. While I think it’s important to stay generally on topic, trust the audience and panelists to move the conversation forward and adapt with them, because Sirens attendees are sharp.

s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
Sirens is absolutely my favourite con when it comes to paneling. My co-panelists are always super-involved and engaged, as is the audience, and it’s wonderful to have a chance to collaborate with guests of honour on panels, which isn’t always possible at larger cons. The broad format also leaves considerable room for opening up panels to conversations that don’t happen in other spaces, especially for marginalized people who might not feel safe at big cons. I’ve paneled on everything from religion to Katniss’ hair, and loved every minute of it.

Sherwood Smith (@sherwood_smith)
I was delighted by the enthusiasm of a packed room who wanted to hear the history of fan language drawn from a number of world cultures. Then everyone got into the fun of putting together skits demonstrating fan language, and guessing the coded meanings. The only con at which I consistently have that much fun with other creative smart people has always been Sirens.

Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
I found presenting at Sirens to be a warm and welcoming experience. I was nervous, yes, but the Sirens staff and volunteers worked extremely hard to make sure I had everything I needed. They helped connect me with people who ultimately made our panel on mothers and self actualization a success.

What is some amazing programming that you attended at Sirens?

s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
The diversity of programming is always amazing. I will never forget attending a live workshop where we discussed fencing techniques and choreography—as a fencer, I found it really enlightening to see how other people fence and integrate the sport into their work. I’ve also attended some fabulous roundtables, including one where we went in deep on reproductive issues and the day-to-day of life in fantasy landscapes, and the role that women play—where do people get their clothes, how do they prepare their food, and who cleans the toilets? My all time number one favourite panel, though, has to be one I was on (of course)—in which Andrea Horbinski, Jen Michaels, Rae Carson, and I took on the strong female character archetype and deconstructed it, all while drinking wine, beer, and cocktails.

Sherwood Smith (@sherwood_smith)
It is difficult to choose which program items were amazing because there have been so many, on such a variety of subjects. If I have to pick one, it would be last year’s panel on religion in fantasy. The panelists were from a diverse range of religious viewpoints, plus non-religious, and yet the atmosphere was never acrimonious. All treated one another with respect, while delving deeply into the topic.

Karen Bailey
Over the years, I’ve been coming to Sirens I’ve attended a lot of wonderful programming. The variety of programming is one of the best parts of conference.

One of my favorite workshops was a class on the language of the fan taught by author Sherwood Smith. We talked about different books that used fans as a language. Then we divided into groups and made up our own languages. We came up with a message and the other groups had to see if they could figure out what we were saying. Some of the misunderstandings had us in hysterics laughing.

Another high point for me is the Bedtime Story sessions. Getting to hear the Guests of Honor read from their unpublished works is a treat. The variety is amazing. I have heard everything from poetry written as a teenager to sneak previews of works in progress.

Faye Bi (@faye_bi)
I love all of Sirens’s programming, to the point that my fellow staff-people know that they can’t take programming away from me! (Not that they would ever.) Besides the atmosphere, programming is the highlight of my Sirens experience–I’ll share one of my earliest Sirens memories, which was the roundtable led by Katie Hoffman back in 2009, called “Finding Femininity in a Warrior’s World.” I distinctly remember going around the room, having the moderator ask us to give an example of what it meant to be “feminine,” and listening to everyone’s responses, like “curves” and “nesting in one’s home.” We went on to analyze examples of femininity of characters we read in fantasy books, from Kel’s cool-as-a-lake competence to Nimiar’s strength in etiquette. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had about books, and the stuff college-discussion-section dreams are made of.

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Edith Hope Bishop

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
Sirens are fabled to be seductive, often dangerous creatures who lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths beneath the sea. While I admit to some personal delight in this characterization, the truth is that my experience with Sirens has been entirely different. Sirens has been life-giving, healing, honest, and authentic. When at Sirens I feel both safe and buoyant, lifted up by the supportive, loving, and highly intelligent people who attend. The truest connection I see between the conference and the mythological creatures is through song. Sirens are known for the power of their voices and for the undeniable allure of their being. That, I believe, is true. I hope it isn’t too sappy to say, that yes, Sirens, your voices are strong and have absolutely won my heart.

Love Song for Sirens
Seaweed girls-
Water demons-
Rebel swans.
All of the sea-
That deep body
New and old.
Fluid words, story song.
The long slow tide
Of time
Into what we dream

With all my heart,


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Artemis Grey

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Artemis Grey (@greyartemis)
She was going to fail. That wasn’t in question. Her mother knew it, and her father, too. They had told her as much. Even her grandmother, wild in her youth, agreed with the others. They warned her away with the kindest intentions, speaking with love and protective ministrations. Writing is something almost no one succeeds in. You don’t want to waste yourself. Think of the heartache.

They were right, she knew.

For a while, she resisted. But the song of lost words, of tales long untold, began to writhe and roil beneath her skin, crawling along muscle and nesting against bone. To ignore them brought only more discomfort, an artificial tumor that she could excise if only she lanced the growth with a pen and allowed it to bleed out onto paper.

In the daylight, it was easier, amid the raucous churning of others’ lives, oblivious to the worlds rising and crumbling inside her soul. But the dark hours were long, filled with the whispers of unheard voices and the leftover pieces of unlived lives. And the twilight of dawn was the hardest of all, when she had to turn and face the rising of the sun, and put her back to all that she loved. It was the sickle moon that finally broke her chains, lancing loops of shackle with horns upturned, piercing tips all jagged truth.

And in the smallest hours of deepest night, she drew her pen, and chose to write.


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Yoon Ha Lee

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai)
Sirens Story Wot Needs a Title

In a tower by the sea, there lived a woman who sang to the gulls every morning. Hers was not a beautiful voice, but she knew the storm-words and the rain-words and the tide-words, and with it she enticed the boys and girls and alts of the village. They would listen to her weather-prophecies before going to sea, and their nets brought back not only fish and kelp and shrimp but shattered chains, bent coins, silks rotted partway through: the treasures of ancient pirates and tribute ships.

One evening, as the woman gazed out the window, she sang again, and this time not to the village children but to the sea’s denizens. From the depths of the moon-blurred sea came sirens, their eyes dark as pearls, their skin like deepest night, their hair tangled with the broken-off bits of coral and driftwood. They sang back to the woman, saying: Why do you stay in the tower where you cannot swim? And she said, Why do you sing when you do not fish? They conceded the point, but from then on they sang to each other every morning and evening. As for the villagers, they kept this their secret, and so it went for generations.


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Nivair Gabriel

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Nivair Gabriel
At my first Sirens, I experienced a keynote address the likes of which I had never before seen. Alaya Dawn Johnson blended her genius with that of Janelle Monáe in a musical journey that made me see her work in a new and richer light. Johnson shared adventures from her travels, surprises from her research, and gems of her ideas with us. The depth with which she spoke and the thoughtfulness of the audience chatter afterward felt unique and exceptional. I decided: I have to come back to this conference every year that I can, come hell or high water.

Two years later, my bookshelves have grown fuller, my circle of friends has expanded, and my writing aspirations have found new encouragement. My hope in the transformative power of literature and the specific power of women is renewed every time this community meets. “I have a book for you” is still the most exciting sentence I hear, and I hear it every year from someone I admire as soon as I meet them. I thank the Goddess that this thrilling, inspiring gathering exists!


Testimonials: Write about something that happened at Sirens.

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
I forgot to bring a bathing suit, and really regretted it when a couple of attending authors announced an impromptu dip in the hot tub. Turns out underwear is just fine for a hot tub, though. A bunch of us sat there in the chilly night air, soaking in the warm water, and getting into a passionate discussion about the lack of good zombie romances. Sarah Rees Brennan is making a passionate demand for love stories about zombies. Why are zombies, amongst all Dark Creatures, left out of the Dark Romance trend? To make her final point, she faceplanted in the water like Ophelia. It was an inspiring moment.

Kate Larking (@astres)
What happens at Sirens stays at Sirens.

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
My first year at Sirens, I arrived at the welcome reception early, so early there was basically no one there. I kind of milled around slowly, trying to mimic normal human behavior and not draw attention to the fact that I had no idea what to do with myself. Eventually I set my purse down and then went to take my sweet time choosing desserts and snacks so I wouldn’t just be sitting alone at a table.

Eventually I could dither no longer, but to my happy surprise the table had become occupied in my absence. In short order I found myself in an animated conversation with another woman who also loved one of my favorite obscure anime. At some point I glanced at her name tag and realized I had been chatting with Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year.

That sort of set the tone for my experience with Sirens: arriving feeling awkward and then having awesome people totally blow my concerns out of the water. Pro or fan, we all go to Sirens because we’re passionate about women in fantasy.

A couple of years later, I was struggling with a novel that I just could not make work. I knew I needed help, and I found myself looking again at science fiction and fantasy workshop applications. I recognized enough of the names of instructors on the list for Viable Paradise that year to be daunted, but then I discovered Sherwood Smith among them. I figured, well, if Sherwood hadn’t devoured me whole as a wee convention-goer, I would probably survive a workshop she’d joined. Knowing at least one person on that board would consider my broken work seriously and respectfully was the impetus I needed to apply, and I was only confident in that assumption because of my experiences at Sirens.

Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I always volunteer to lead a hike. Last year I didn’t even look at what volunteer slots were covered and just said dibs on the hike. And then I got the reply that I wasn’t needed because our keynote speaker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, would be leading it. I recovered enough by con time to be mostly joking when I told her that she stole my thunder. She was so nice and charming about it and in the end we didn’t even go. Our group voted to skip the rain and gathered around the fireplace instead to chat and giggle with the author of Texas Gothic, who, by the way, is susceptible to chocolate.


Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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