Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Convention Stories

by Sean Cullen
Kappa Pi Chapter

On March 25, 2009, I embarked on a plane ride to an international convention that quickly established itself as the highlight to my final semester as an undergraduate. The convention was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at The Hyatt Regency, for Sigma Tau Delta members, the International English Honor Society founded in 1924.

When I first thought of any English Honor Society I usually imagined a room full of pipe-smoking white-bearded snobs. During my stay I failed to see even a single pipe, and a diminutive number of beards in white or any shade for that matter. What I discovered was an atypical assembly of students, scholars, and others who all shared the common interest of reading and writing.

This mix of people along with the thought-provoking sessions and presentations, the bad poetry contest, the speakers, the assortment of note-worthy restaurants, and the really big mall made the Sigma Tau Delta convention an experience guaranteed to please. I particularly enjoyed hearing stories of Sigma Tau Delta past, and how the society is moving forward each year. The featured speakers were my favorite part of the convention. Speakers were Alexandra Fuller, Neil Gaiman, Michael Perry, and Chris Crutcher. I was the most enthused by the lectures by Alexandra Fuller and Michael Perry. I felt that their lectures were each notable in their own distinctive ways.

Fuller had the ability to speak of a childhood that was chaotic at best in Africa, and she now lives as a liberal-minded female writer in conservative Wyoming. Through all of her personal struggles and the struggles she has seen and written about, Fuller was able to make jokes, but still got a strong message across to me.

Michael Perry’s life is much different than Fuller’s. He has a degree in nursing and was writing while having a mix of odd jobs that included being a truck driver, cowboy, music roadie, and firefighter. During his lecture he stayed true to himself and his unique stories. I went to Perry’s question and answer period where I was lucky enough to have my question answered.

I asked Perry if staying true to his sense of style had ever run him into any troubles while attempting to get any of his works published. He then told us of how his father had always stressed the importance of being who you are. He took that advice to heart and truly believed that if he had not been himself he doubted his career would be going where he would like it to be headed. He told us of how when his first book tour was being scheduled he changed the agent’s plans so that he could drive himself around to places that people were more likely to relate, buy, and enjoy his books.  

The featured speakers may have been my favorite, but other components of the convention will remain with me for years to come. The bad poetry contest, the t-shirt skits, and the creative nonfiction sessions were three other focal points of the convention. The bad poetry contest not only allowed me to finally let out my true feelings for Professor DeMeo, but also allowed me to see how talented some of my fellow Sigma Tau Delta members were when it came to their own terrible works of poetry. Before coming to the convention I had heard stories about this contest. I can now proudly say that I have participated in it.

The t-shirt skit was one of the easier skits to write. Dr. DeMeo’s choice of t-shirt design practically wrote our skit for us. I enjoyed being on the stage with other members of our chapter. Writing the script and performing it brought our group closer together. I am still delighted that we tied for second for our t-shirt skit.

An experience that I would not want to overlook was having the opportunity to see the city of Minneapolis. All of the people whom I had the pleasure to talk with were incredibly friendly and helpful. I mostly stayed in our area by the hotel. The Newsroom was an attention-grabbing restaurant. All over the restaurant were enlarged newspaper clippings that had some significance in world history.

Unfortunately, the convention had to finally come to an end. It was not until after I was blessed enough to make some new friends, grow closer to older ones, and listen to excellent stories and presentations. I only hope that I will be in a position that I will have the opportunity to go to the convention next year. Until then, I will continue to share my stories of this convention. As a speaker quoted Polly McGuire at the awards banquet, “Stories are like fairy gold; the more you give away, the more you have.” I feel that this captures the significance of having a convention like Sigma Tau Delta’s. It is necessary to share stories in order to grow as a writer, a reader, and as an individual.

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