Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, May 14, 2016

#Kzoo2016 Reflections

I am currently sitting at the Kalamazoo airport having just attended my first International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Having been warned about the sheer size of Kzoo, I carefully planned out my limited days, designing my two days around trying to meet as many Twitter folks in person.
I arrived late Wednesday, and my Kzoo roomie was nice enough to come get me from the airport.
Thursday morning I started my day with a run around the Haymarket district which is really quite pretty. But what I gained by not running at altitude I lost by running in humidity. What I saw of Kalamazoo was very pretty although I admit that after three years in the desert my eyes don't know what to do with all the green. But I do miss it. And the houses are adorable, and I'd forgotten what houses looked like.
I spent Thursday wishing I'd worn sneakers, and really regretted that I'd set my Fitbit to charge Tuesday night, and forgot to grab it before I left. I feel REALLY cheated that I didn't get ANY credit for all of my schlepping around campus.
I certainly felt it in my Friday run.
Friday I presented first thing as part of a Hell Studies panel for Societas Daemonetica. Richard and Nicole also graciously added me to their group, Societas Daemonetica, which I am excited about, so look for me to be promoting that on Twitter, and Facebook, once we get a group up and running there.
My Kzoo was shorter than many, as my conference travel always revolves around Puppy Overlord, and despite repeated attempts to get them to do so, my vet does not do Sunday pick up so I have to be back home before 4p on Saturday to get the wee demon.

I always hack my conference badge first thing, adding my Twitter handle and name. I also usually doodle a little devil me. I make sure to post a picture on Twitter so people know what "conference me" looks like versus "me with sunglasses and Nehi" looks like. One thing that did strike me about Kzoo was that the tweeting seemed uneven and there were no guidelines (a la SAA), no encouragement of tweeting, and no one tweeting from the Kzoo account. I did tweet to them with suggestions for next year, including clear guidelines, adding Twitter handles to the conference badges, and having reps from them to tweet panels. Another suggestion that came out of a lunch was having one of the social events be a Tweet-Up for people.
I received no response. But, I don't know how well monitored the account is, and imagine that they're busy with the actual conference. We'll see, but with the power of #Medievaltwitter, it makes sense that this is an area that could be improved.

I found attending Kzoo a month before #DevilDiss2 defense a unique experience. Before at conferences I always talked up my work, but somehow it seemed more tangible to say "I defend in a month." I got a lot of congratulations, which was nice, but you could almost feel the shift from viewing me as a student to colleague. I met a lot of people whose work I use in #DevilDiss2 and it's still surreal to think that these are (potentially) my colleagues for the next thirty years. It's encouraging, and humbling to have giants in the field, whose work is foundational to mine, interested in my work. I also got to meet many of my Twitter feed in person, and they're all just as lovely as they are in all our interactions online. Again and again I heard how invested they felt in my progress, having followed the dissertation process online.

All of #Kzoo2016 was lovely, but some highlights that stand out:
  • Having a committee member introduce me to a senior scholar whose work was essential to #DevilDiss2, and then inviting me out to dinner with them. It was a great evening.
  • Lunch with a Twitter friend
  • GWMEMSI's Play roundtable was just wonderful, for a variety of reasons
  • I had a great meeting with an acquisitions editor with McFarland
  • I not only got to meet one of my academic crushes but had some really nice conversations with him, managed not to be a spastic fangirl, but also admit to crushing harder than ever now
  • The BABEL social event I attended last night proved that the group which I support and believe in, is just as lovely in person
I think I did okay with my social interactions, always a concern with me. I can recall only one misstep when someone said- Oh you're at UNM, do you know X? And I responded yes. It was only once they responded with Oh, okay that I realized I had shown my Amelia Bedelia colors. I HAD answered their question, but they were looking for something else.

This conference is perfectly timed, which was not initially what I thought. At first, with last revisions on #DevilDiss2 looming, I was worried about getting those done before heading here. I as also very upset to miss graduation yesterday, but my Twitter support network came to my rescue here assuring me that medievalists missing graduation for Kzoo was a rite of passage most of us go through. I was nervous about my UNM class ending this week and getting final grading done. I was nervous about missing two days of my high school teaching job and having to prep sub plans. But as always, conference attendance has proven restorative and I now feel fortified to finish the last two weeks of my high school year.
"Medievalists in their natural environment"
Another thing attending Kzoo has reinforced though is how much I want this world.
In just a few short months I will go on the Job Market: The Sequel. And again, the stats aren't good. Nothing has miraculously become better. But man, do I want this life. I WANT these to be my colleagues the next thirty years. I WANT to have Kzoo a yearly thing. I WANT to continue these conversations and friendships. And the idea of not doing this makes me sad.
I have a lot to say. I have a lot to contribute. I can make an impact. And I admit, that if I don't get an academic job this year, I don't know if I want to continue trying to attend conferences. For one, there would be no institutional support, so it would be expensive. But more so, it would be the feeling that I would be on the outside looking in. Glimpsing a world I was not allowed to have.

I don't know what the next year will bring.
For now I'm going to focus on getting home, picking up my Puppy Overlord, laundry, last looks on #DevilDiss2, sending it off one last time to my committee, heading to work on Monday, finishing teaching, grading last work, final exams. After 27 May I plan on collapsing for a couple of weeks before coming back to #DevilDiss2 and prepping for the defense.

Until then, thank you to everyone who made my first Kzoo so wonderful, and who were so generous with their time.

I hope it's the first of many.

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