My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011 [Tribute Post 8]: Conference Connections

Just found out that a proposed conference panel on public scholarship, which I started thinking about in direct conjunction with this blog, wasn’t accepted (don’t worry, I don’t blame you). Certainly I could write an entire post on rejections, and perhaps will tomorrow (don’t worry, I’ll do so in an upbeat way). But it got me thinking about my favorite part of the conferences I’ve attended: the connections I’ve made with other folks there, many of which have continued long after the particular conference ended. And so here (in first-name alphabetical order) are five (well, six) such people I was fortunate enough to meet at conferences and whose work and voices I’m very proud to know and be in conversation with:
1)      Hunt and Cole: At my first-ever conference, in the summer of 2002, I met a couple of funny and friendly and smart as hell Northwestern grad students, William Huntting (Hunt) Howell and Coleman (Cole) Hutchison. A lot has happened in the nearly 9 years since, including both guys landing great jobs and putting out equally great work. But when we finally managed to get together again as a trio a month or so ago, it felt like 2002 all over again, in the best sense.
2)      Jason: Jason Stupp and I shared a panel on Richard Wright at the 2007 American Literature Association conference; Jason’s paper connected the role of the media in Native Son (1940) to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and was one of the best AmericanStudies talks I’ve ever heard. And a couple years later, he sent me (entirely out of the blue) one of the kindest emails I’ve ever gotten, letting me know that he’d happened to read and enjoy my first book. Great ideas and that kind of spontaneous collegiality will get you on a list like this every time.
3)      Kelley: I met Kelley Wagers at a Northeast MLA conference in the spring of 2005, and have found a way to get her on two other panels of mine (and one more proposed panel that didn’t end up happening) in the years since, which should tell you more than enough about what I think of her work and voice. Does it hurt that she’s written great articles on two of my favorite Americans, Du Bois and the novelist David Bradley? No, but even if Kelley were writing about, I dunno, Adam Smith, I’d still want to read her stuff.
4)      Michael: True, the “conference” at which I met Michael Thomas was the second Glory Days conference, dedicated entirely to Bruce Springsteen (I’ve attended and presented at both, shockingly). And true, Michael is a big Atlanta Braves and Dale Murphy fan who maintains a wonderful blog on the Boston Red Sox. So perhaps our connections are not strictly academic in nature—but they’re very AmericanStudies, and very Ben. Works for me.
5)      Veronica: I first met Veronica Hendrick in person (she had been part of a proposed panel of mine for that conference so we had communicated by email previously) the same day I interviewed for my Fitchburg State job, at the MLA conference in December 2004. Since she’s a very smart and impressive reader and writer of historical fiction, one of my most overarching and lifelong interests, and a generous and kind person to boot, that makes my memories of that particular day even more positive!
Conferences can be a drag sometimes, even when they don’t reject you! But as this list hopefully makes clear, I sure am glad I’ve gone to those that I have. More tomorrow, that upbeat post on rejection.
PS. Seven links to start with:
5)      Michael’s blog:
7)      OPEN: Any unexpected and rewarding friendships you’d highlight?

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