Conference Weekend

I just got back from attending my first conference ever, The Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR), wherein I also presented my first paper ever! The paper is about how Gaia Theory is altered through three works of science fiction: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, “Vaster than Empires and More Slow” by Ursula K. LeGuin, and the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. It was incredibly fun to write and even more fun to share with a room full of academics.

Meanwhile, I stayed in my second fanciest hotel room ever and generally luxuriated. I had good intentions to be productive in my down time, but instead found myself taking advantage of the huge bathtub, the not-too-atrociously-expensive room service, and the free soaps.

Some things I learned from this conference:

  • Fun topics at conferences get people excited
  • I’m better at public speaking than I thought I was
  • I’m way better at networking than I thought I was
  • Sometimes it’s ok to be a little hedonistic in your fancy hotel room

In sum, I spent this weekend making really cool friends, learning really cool things, and ignoring the little voice in my head that worries about stuff like impending thesis deadlines. So, to everyone out there who can’t fathom taking a break right now: do it anyway. Just for a day. It’ll be time well spent.


Literary Influences

I am always thinking about how authors have shaped me, as a person and as a writer. Every so often I write a line of dialogue or use a turn of phrase, look at it, and realize that’s not me, it’s another author speaking through me.

I’ve tried to go for non-obvious options (so not Riordan, Colfer, Rowling, Lewis…) and steer towards subtler influences. I find it endlessly fascinating (and a little upsetting) that something which rocked my world to the core didn’t touch another’s life.

Naturally, most of them are concentrated in my childhood, which is why I personally believe MG and YA to be some of the most important literature out there. In no particular order, and with no discrimination towards genre, here are five authors + books to whom I owe quite a bit.

  1. Diane Duane and the Young Wizards Series: the dregs of Duane’s writing will probably be forever apparent in my own, in both tone and theory. I have met one other physical person who has read these books not of my urging, a beloved religious studies professor and kindred spirit.
  2. Wendy Mass and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life: the first realistic fiction book that really made me stop and think dang, that was a good book.
  3. Pat Murphy and The Wild Girls. This book had a level of influence on my life and writing that I cannot quite comprehend. I keep finding plot elements of it that I’ve subconsciously incorporated into my writing. It’s a book about a girl learning to write, which can be hard, but it’s also much, much more than that.
  4. Elizabeth Kay and The Divide series: a cooler feat of magical worldbuilding I have yet to find. The ending devastates me to this day, but in a good way.
  5. Francis Hardinge and Fly by Night: this book was my artistic muse as a child. I really do need to re-read it. I am left with the barest memories of geese, musty books, and a claustrophobic city.

I have of course read more books that have profoundly impacted me, and I hope I never stop meeting them along the way. But childhood books are different. They get you while you’re still malleable, and they change you. It’s kind of magical.

✴This has been a queued post, as I am currently in the Amazon with no Wifi.