Sunday, October 28, 2007

Two-Year College English Association (TYCA): Attending regional conferences

Two-Year College English Association (TYCA): Attending regional conferences

I'm also back from attending two TYCA regionals: TYCA Midwest in Chicago at the beginning of the month and TYCA Northeast in Philadelphia a week ago. They were both exciting and stimulating conferences with lots of energetic and interesting presentations.

But I attend all conferences now differently than I did in the past: as editor of TETYC I'm there in a role I can only describe as "talent scout." I arrive with a bunch of sample issues and a ton of my business cards, and then I try to "sign up" presenters to convert their presentations into article submissions to the journal.

And here's what I'm interested in hearing more about: I sense a reluctance to take the plunge and submit an article. Why? I know how busy two-year campus English faculty are, but these are folks who have carved out the spare hour before the sun comes up (or after the kids go down in the evening) and have created a conference presentation. One more step, and it's an article. So I don't think it's the time element.

At both conferences, I chaired panels called "How to Publish in TETYC (Or at least enhance your chances)." I borrowed a great panel idea that Sharon Mitchler created for last year's 4Cs when she, I, Greg Shafer (Michigan), and Alexis Nelson (Washington) spoke on the same subject. Not to bore you with the details, but Martine Courant Rife, in Chicago, and Barbara Morris, in Philadelphia, both on the panels as recent first-time authors in the journal, made the same point: they had submitted manuscripts in order to put themselves on the line, to experience the evaluation process just as their composition students were doing in their own writing classes. Both Martine and Barbara received feedback, revised, and ultimately published, but their message was that the experience paid off in their teaching. They could empathize anew with anxious students, and, better yet, they could share their own ups and downs as writers with their students.

That's what initially got me into submitting my own work --the desire to gain legitimacy in discussing writing with my classes. Sort of a "been there, done that" which I could share with them. And students do listen to those stories of anxiety and success and, yes, rejection. Martine and Barbara urged the participants at our sessions to give it a try. Sounds about right to me.

Jeff Sommers