Monday, March 10, 2008

conference proposals and current work: yea or nay?

I'm toying with the idea of proposing a roundtable session for next fall's M/S/A conference -- toying in the sense that I've already written the proposal, but am hesitating mainly because I'm not sure people will find the proposal as it stands interesting enough to apply to. It's on a topic that is integrally related to my current chapter, which is making me wonder about the timing of conference applications vs. current academic work, and I thought I'd ask the readership:

When you apply to a conference, do you apply based on the work you're doing then or the work you think/hope you'll be doing when the conference actually takes place? There's such a time lag on these things (this application, for example, would be over 6 months in advance of the conference proper) that I've never applied to a conference based on projected work. I could apply to M/S/A with the expectation that, by November, I'll be working on the chapter after this one, and guess at the issues that will come up. But I prefer to have more or less worked out my thoughts before sharing them in such a forum, and I also just find it hard to get motivated about a topic I haven't thought much about yet.

What's your standard practice (if any)? What have you done in the past? I'm curious about what level of investment you have in your material before you feel the desire to have a conversation about it.


Hilaire said...

I seem to be on a permanent chain track of "making shit" up for conference proposals, and then hoping it will all work out. I guess I use it as a way to get my work done - it makes me do the work. It's certainly anxiety-producing, but it seems to work out well enough. My MSA paper will be this way this year, too - more than ever, I think.

Leighton said...

My approach is a lot like hilaire's (hurrah! I'm not the only one!), but I've also written abstracts based on work that I know is solid but that I haven't had a chance to articulate at length on pen and paper (which is what I did for a/s/e/c/s this year -- am still doing, in fact).

Sisyphus said...

Not to be a wet blanket, but don't the roundtables for said conference have to already have scholars lined up at the time they are submitted?

To answer the question, though: I can't handle the pressure of not knowing whether a paper is going to work just a few weeks before the conference. My friend E blazed through several chapters in a little over a year by marking off chunks of proposed work and sending everything off to conferences, so as to set herself hard deadlines and a tight writing schedule.

I tried it, since it worked so well for her, and reduced myself to a quivering puddle of stress. Now I hold off to send out stuff I'm at least in the drafting stage at the time of the CFP. But that has its drawbacks as sometimes I'm just between everything at CFP deadline time: old chapters have all been presented on and new chapters are little more than a gleam in the eye.

Someday I'll get this timing thing right.

kermitthefrog said...

Yes -- I think I'm in agreement with Leighton's second approach, and Sisyphus'. I wonder whether it's also a matter of the stage of one's career: I was just reading Dr. Crazy's account of how her drafting process changed between grad school and professorship. Perhaps it's different when you're not thinking in terms of seminar papers/dissertation, always.

Any others?

And Sisyphus, this would be a proposal to solicit other scholars for the roundtable, before submitting it to MSA proper. I think this particular topic would really lend itself well to roundtable format, but unfortunately my network of connections is limited! Hence the search.

Belle said...

I've done it both ways - current and to force self to do new stuff. Both work for me. And I can't count the times I've revised it significantly the night before the presentation, or even on the fly when the other papers in the session offer an opportunity.

I'm about to propose a paper on work I want to do before then. I go by conference, rather than by work. Is that sad or what?

kermitthefrog said...

No, I don't think it's sad at all! At least if I'm reading you right, it makes total sense to me to use a conference as an excuse to either motivate or to travel somewhere fun and say hi to people, while giving some paper along the way.

The MSA proposal went out, by the way, so hopefully I'll get some bites.