Even if the conference had sucked, the fact that my flights to and from Atlanta for this conference left and arrived on time and without incident would have made it noteworthy, given how terrible my flying experiences in the past year have been. I got there, my suitcase was one of the first out, and I loaded $5 onto my MARTA card and followed the directions from the Midtown MARTA station to my hotel.
That was Thursday--I had scheduled library day for my WGS classes, as they're working on their research papers and most of them are rather clueless about academic research and writing papers. The librarian seems like she did a really thorough job--she sent me the five page handout she gave all of them! That should be a good basis for a quiz on Tuesday, I'm thinking, along with some questions about the assigned reading. We're reading Neil Gaiman's short story "Changes" for Tuesday; I hope it goes over well. I think it's a really great story.
So I got to my fancy hotel room around 4:30 on Thursday (a tv in the bathroom! separate shower and bathtub! robes! your choice of two textures of toilet paper!) and was hungry--checking out the room service menu, silly me assumed it would be cheaper to go down to the restaurant and get food, and the cheeseburger with smoked gouda sounded perfect. However, they weren't open when I tried them at five, so I tried again at six--only to realize once I was seated that they were much fancier than the room service menu. No cheeseburgers here. So, I went ahead and ordered a fancy dinner--spinach and arugula salad (with caramelized bacon dressing and really sharp bleu cheese) and a fried chicken dinner that came with mac and cheese that tasted like it had smoked gouda in it (so, I did get the smoked gouda). I was so full that I didn't even get dessert.
I made it to the 8am panels in the morning (despite being in EST time and not being able to sleep that night, from anxiety and a lot of coffee)--the 8am one was about publishing, and there was a lot of good nuts and bolts advice. I introduced myself to the associate editor of the Mississippi Quarterly, who seems like a nice person. I then went to a panel on Susan Glaspell, about whom I know very little, and quite honestly, that was one of the panels that just seemed like words words words to me. My session was the one after that, so I probably would have been like that regardless. I did see a friend from Tennessee there, whom I was quite glad to see.
My panel had two other panelists, a panel chair, and three audience members. Friday, there were concurrent panel sessions all day, with no break scheduled for lunch. So, despite being the Flannery O'Connor Society panel, I think being scheduled for 11:45-1:15 means that most people went to lunch. Sigh. I played my clip of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and gave my paper, and afterward had some good questions that I was able to answer. No one asked about The Violent Bear it Away or any of the other O'Connor texts which I haven't read that I was afraid they would ask about. (Though this fear isn't unfounded--Eudora Welty Society and Edith Wharton Society people were all asking questions about this particular letter and stuff--my fears weren't completely unfounded.) I was quite relieved to get through that--and am really glad that I've now had the experience of standing at the front of a conference room and turning my boom box up to 11 as industrial music plays. I sure wish I could go back in time to 1991 and show myself this image.
I had a lovely lunch with my fellow panelist, saw UT and Ole Miss people I like, and met several people who went to LSU, several of whom had the same adviser as me. Their success gives me hope.
It really was wonderful to get my presentation over with and enjoy the conference. After having lunch, I returned to panels until 8 Friday night; I made to the 8:00 panel on Saturday, too, and went until about 6, ate dinner, and then went to the music performance that ran from 9:30-midnight that night. As the alarm clock went off (I even dug the alarm clock--it had a choice of alarm noises, and I'm now a fan of waking to cathedral bells) Saturday morning at 7, my urhg I don't want to wake up was quickly replaced by--ooh! Edith Wharton panel at 8! which got me out of bed. I realize how few people this would work for. I am, indeed, a dork.
I came away with three distinct ideas for papers/articles. One, I'd like to expand my conference paper, interview the musicians I referred to, really explore the connection between the "masculine technological sublime" of Wise Blood that so appeals to this particular group of Wax Trax musicians. Perhaps expand to include Deliverance, as Al Jourgensen also samples that, and Corrosion of Conformity, prior to their song and album Wise Blood, had an album called Deliverance.
Two, I was inspired by the Appalachian lit panel (besides reveling in hearing people who sound like my relatives), in which someone defined Appalachian lit in terms of its connection to land--I think there's something to be considered in what Appalachian studies can contribute to southern studies and its confusion over place versus real estate versus can we ever escape the Agrarians? Most of the Agrarians who wrote about place and the idealized farmer never worked a plow--however, I think a lot of Appalachian writers are in fact writing about what they know. I think the southern rural/urban split is not as binary as it's been claimed--even rural people now make regular trips to Walmart. And tend to love Cracker Barrel.
And three, I was thinking about what a good introduction the anecdote that Kaye Gibbons told about going to wire her daughter bail money from the Berry Southern Women Writers Conference and asking herself, "What would Eudora Welty do?" Thinking about her orphaned character Ellen Foster, when compared with Welty's ophaned Laura McRaven in Delta Wedding, I'm curious as to what happens when you put them side by side. Do they diverge? Did Gibbons ask herself WWEWD? when she was writing Ellen Foster, and, if so, did she then do the same thing or something different?
I'm pleased with these ideas. And then last night, Knoxville musician R.B. Morris played along with an amazing fiddle player from West Virginia--between that and the mountain accents, I was in heaven. Two hours of fine mountain music. I felt so, so homesick that I'm thinking of taking my mother up on her offer of a mandolin for Christmas. There's definitely still a time for drumming in my life, but I'm thinking mandolin music might be medicinal, too.
Now, on to another big week. Right now, I'm scheduled to be at school every day. We'll see if that actually happens.