Remember I mentioned the First Annual English Conference hosted by my school, University of Maine at Augusta?
Well it seems I did submit a paper for consideration after all. And apparently it’s been accepted. And yes, members of my class have formed a Brontë Sisters panel, so we can read and discuss our papers…in front of people…and answer their questions.
A few days ago I saw a mock-up of the schedule for the conference. There it is – Colleen Conlan, The Passions of the Two Mrs. Rochesters. It’s with an equal measure of pride and dread that I see my name and paper listed…first.
Yes, that’s right. I’ll be giving the first paper during the first panel of the very First Annual UMA Undergraduate English Conference.
So now I’m getting nervous. Last night I even had a version of that dream where you’re naked in front of people and can’t do anything about it. So yeah, I’m a little worked up. (I’ll be fine)
See, I’m not keen on public speaking. I’m a wicked blusher, even at 48, and my voice sometimes gets a little trembly. But I’m trying to convince myself that this isn’t really public speaking, it’s just public reading. I like to read, right? (I’ll be fine)
And I’m reminding myself that it’s good – actually quite good – to go first. Then there’s less of that horrid anticipation, only half-listening to the current speaker because I’m obsessed with the fact that that it’s my turn after the guy after this woman. This way, I’ll be able to get my paper out of the way, and then relax and really enjoy the rest of the conference (I’ll be fine)
I’m quite excited about the keynote speaker, Alison Bechdel. Last week I bought and devoured her graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. As implied by the title, it’s sad and it’s funny, and it’s so smart. I’m always a sucker for the kind of introspective and observant little girl that Bechdel was and brings to the page. As a way of appeasing my anxiety, I’m trying to think that I’m sort of a warm-up act for the keynote. Some day I can tell my grandchildren, “Yes, my dears, it’s true! I once opened for Alison Bechdel!” (I’ll be fine)
Seriously, though, I’m also excited about our panel and about my part in it. I’m eager to hear my Brontë co-panelists’ papers. I also recognize names of classmates from prior online classes among the other panelists, so it will be good to see and hear them in person. In reality, my paper is one small contribution to what will probably be a pretty cool day. Giving papers…sitting on panels…hearing the keynote speaker: it all sounds so collegiate, and such a great way to end my experience at UMA.
I might blush, I might even quaver, but I’m not likely to faint, and I’m certain I won’t die. I’ll be fine.