Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And Now I Panic


I submitted a proposal for a presentation to be included in the Red River Women's Studies Conference at University of North Dakota, and I was accepted. The conference is held annually and I presented an academic paper last year, but this year the conference is accepting creative presentations so my proposal was to do a reading from my sci-fi/chick lit WIP.

Imagine how excited I was when I was accepted into the program. Yay! I get to do a reading!

Today I received the schedule of events and I am the only creative submission in the entire conference. The only one. Everything else is hoity-toity academic stuff. Suddenly I feel seriously out of place, like a black sheep, like a silly little piece of fluff amongst the academic heavy weights. A sampling of the other presentations at the conference finds such offerings as:

"Community Circles: Unveiling the Gap Between the Realities of Domestic Violence and the Paternalistic Assumptions of the Adversarial Process." (what does that even mean????)

"The Evolution of Western European Feminism and its Relation to the New Left."

"Gendered Discourses of Stability and Change: Women Communicating Wisdom."

And then you see me on the schedule as: "Excerpt from a Science Fiction Novel."

I am so outclassed it's not even funny. Not only have I never done a creative reading of my own work, but I am not an actress. How am I supposed to make these characters come to life like they are in my head and not sound like a complete moron in front of all these academic types? They probably don't even read fiction unless it's part of the "canon" and written before, say, 1950 (preferrably 1900). I can't compete with the canon.

I'm really thinking about backing out because I don't have nearly enough confidence to pull it off.

Anybody else ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did you deal? Run screaming from the room and hide in a dark corner hoping it would all just go away? Or did you face your demons and pull off a victory?

6 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

I think you'll be a hit! People won't be expecting a serious and heavy topic - they'll enjoy your voice and style. Believe in your words :)

stu said...

I find myself torn at this point.

On the one hand, I want to point out that most of the academics probably read all sorts of stuff, and many of them will hate reading the serious stuff on their own time. I also want to say that the organisers would not have accepted your proposed reading if they didn't think it fit in.

At the same time, I want to be wary of giving the generic 'you'll do fine' advice, because I know from my own experience that it isn't helpful when you have worries about an academic conference. Various people ignored my concerns over one, and I ended up having a nervous breakdown in the middle of Canterbury.

What I will say is that, if you are starting to have concerns over the suitability of what you're doing, talk it over with the organiser. If they haven't read the whole extract that you're planning on reading, suggest that they might like to do so to check that it is appropriate. They will know what fits their conference.

Laura Canon said...

I think you'll be surprised. They've probably all written papers (or secretly want to) on Star Trek and Lady Gaga.
And if they've accepted it there must be some merit in it.
Maybe they'll put you in at the end of the day when everyone is tired and needs a break, so the audience might be quite receptive.

Mellie said...

You'll probably be the hit of the conference. All of the other serious stuff is just that....serious. Hopefully, your story isn't. Their somber lessons will be the perfect foil for some nice, light relief! You'll stand out like a star.

Previous comments have pointed out the need to verify appropriateness with the organizer. Once you've done that, then your attitude will make all the difference. View yourself, not as a black-sheep kind of misfit, but as a Mae-West-flaunt-it-all kind of misfit! Select a section of your story that is as far removed from their usual subject matter as possible. Don't try to fit in.....STAND OUT. Have fun, too! :)

Tessa Conte said...

You'll do great! I love your story, you'll be just fine.

Think of it this way... there's no other fiction to be compared to, you don't need to measure yourself (indeed you can't) against the academic presentations, so you're basically in a class of your own.

Here's a chance to shine, my dear!

Break a leg! (don't actually do that, though, please)

M. Bail said...

You guys are all awesome and thank you so much for your advice and suggestions. I need to calm down and assess what section from my story I want to read and then practice. And then hopefully I won't sound like an idiot. And Stu, you're right, I need to verify with the organizers that they actually read my proposal and know what I'm presenting!