2010 Convention Stories
by Sean Cullen
Eastern Student Representative 2010-2011
Kappa Pi Chapter
Alvernia University, Reading, PA
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.
by Raina L. Shults
Theta Omicron Chapter
Union University, Jackson, TN
When Professor Stanley told me that I would be the only member of Sigma Tau Delta from the Union University chapter attending the annual convention, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. The excitement that I had felt upon the acceptance of both of my submissions began to dissipate into dread of lonesomeness. All of the other attendees would be arriving with their chapters to enjoy the convention and downtown St. Louis. Sure, I was excited to present my papers, but I was dreading the prospect of spending four days locked away in a hotel room in the Gateway City.
When I settled in at my gate at the airport, I noticed a group of college aged people across from me that spoke like English majors--I do not know how, but I just knew that they were. As the various zones were being called to board the plane, I heard one of the girls say something about presenting a paper. I then recognized a Sigma Tau Delta pin on another girl's coat. My suspicions were confirmed after I briefly engaged them in a conversation, and I discovered that they were the Sigma Tau Delta chapter from Auburn University Montgomery. It turns out that I not only shared a flight with the Auburn crew, but I also shared a shuttle bus with them to the hotel.
I ended up spending a lot of my free time exploring the city with several of the girls from the Auburn chapter. We explored the Arch, meandered around the heart of downtown, shopped to our hearts content, ate mouthwatering gyros at a small convenient store down the street from our hotel, and sampled a delectable palate of tapas at a restaurant called Mosaic. In fact, most of my meals were spent in downtown St. Louis with the members of various school chapters that I met at the convention.
I met most of my new acquaintances through the sessions that I attended. Because I was the only member of my chapter to present, I was free to attend sessions that interested me most. I chose to attend mostly creative writing sessions so that I could hear the various writing styles, and I can still remember vivid imagery from several student short stories. Additionally, hearing great writers like Li-Young Lee and Chris Abani was one of the greatest highlights of the trip. The passion and creativity of these writers along with the student writers that I listened to are proving to be a great influence in my own writing this semester. The convention closed with the Red and Black Gala, where students were encouraged to wear the Sigma Tau Delta colors and honor chords. Because I usually despise going to large, dressy events with strangers in a strange place, I thought I was going to hate it. However, the Gala turned out being a great venue for me to reunite with the students I had met at the convention one last time before we all went home. Plus, I had the opportunity to wear the red dress that I had bought at the Macy's in downtown St. Louis the day before.
I never would have met such fascinating people if I had been in my own group. I would have had fun, sure, but I would never have dared to leave my own group to meet the students from the other schools. And, while I am still going to razz my fellow Union Sigma Tau Delta friends about not submitting to the convention, I am glad that I was able to meet so many of the fascinating students that make up this English honor society.
by Victoria L. Weaver
Alpha Epsilon Beta Chapter, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Fifty-Six. 56. Fifty-six is my age, yet most of the students are in their 20s. However, though the number 56 seems so ancient, I know and feel I am a part of this group. Why? It's the love of English. The desire to be a part of it all. 56. The first time I wrote poems--poems that seemed to come so easy--yet accepted and approved by others with the same desire . . . the love of English. It is 2010, March 17-20 to be exact--St. Louis, Missouri. This is my first Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. Yes, at 56 years of age, I am finally a senior reaching for and close to achieving my B.A. degree!
How will I be accepted? How will my poems go over? I get to the convention and attend opening night ceremonies after a day of discovering the Arch and Tom Sawyer's Riverboat Cruise. Am I really here? I sit and listen to the featured speakers and am amazed at the large turn out of others that have the love of English. To make my experience more enlightening, I listen to those who read at The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle forum. My heart went up into my throat as I hear all of their works of art. My poems could not compare. My poems are simple nature poems. I think to myself and say, "Uh oh! I'm in trouble. My stuff doesn't add up to this caliber of writing. I am making a mistake . . . a big mistake!"
I go back to my room and peer out at the Arch overlooking the Mississippi River. I share this scene, the same scene shared by others such as T.S. Eliot, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tennessee Williams, William Wells Brown, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Vance Randolf, and Margaret Truman. This convention is entitled "Storytellers." I say to myself, "Hey! I have a story to tell. It might not be as polished or intense as others, but I have a story to tell--my love for nature. In this day of tweeting, texting, emailing, Facebook, digital cameras, cell phones--everyone looking through a lens or at a screen--we need to stop and look at what is around us--the beauty of nature." But will people laugh or not clap as I finish reading my poems? Will they find them old-fashioned and silly? I'm sensing a bit of nervousness or possibly I'm losing my confidence. But I remember my love for nature which is so intense as well as my love of English.
I prepare for my session knowing I own my poems. They are my words and I owe it to nature to deliver them. It is time--I start to read my poems. Ahhhh! I'm happy because I recite them the way I want to--with error-free confidence. The audience claps at the finish of my poems. CLAP! I feel good but still I think, "Are my poems good enough to be part of such high caliber work that surrounds me? Well, maybe--maybe not--but I deliver my inner-most love and expose my soul through the love of English." To my surprise I am approached by several people who loved my work. I'm ecstatic! It was, and is, totally worth it!
Yet another challenge awaits me on Friday night--Open Microphone Session. I meet lots of wonderful fellow "lovers of English. We eat, laugh, and get to know each other. And then the evening came. I stand on stage, shaking at the knees without a podium to hide behind, in front of a crowd to tell two more of my poems. This time I am unsure how my poems went over. I start to doubt myself again until at a stoplight the next afternoon, on my way to lunch with my new friend Marcy, a young woman walks up to me and tells me I did a good job and she loves my poems. WOW!!! That is all I could think. WOW!!
Looking back on my whole experience at the convention, I must say the guest speakers were all outstanding and each had lovely messages to bring. What a wonderful experience to be a part of. I'm so thankful for the love of English. My life and soul are joyous for being a part of this event! My work has only started because next year I want King's College to be represented with at least four students presenting their works of art. I want the whole convention to know that King's College arrived.
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9. Amy L. Woody