Computers and Writing was my third conference this year (fourth, if you count The Southwest English Symposium, but I was on the organization committee for that one; I didn’t present). I don’t say that to brag, but rather to contextualize the following statement: Computers and Writing has been, far and away, my favorite conference experience. This is certainly not that the other conferences I went to this year weren’t valuable experiences; they definitely were. I learned something at every conference I attended this year, either about being a scholar, a grad student, or just the content of others’ presentations. I also met some wonderful colleagues at Social Media and Society.
My Computers and Writing (C&W) experience was amplified, of course, because I was able to attend and present with my good friend Rebecca Robinson. But, I got the sense that even if I had attended alone, I would still have had a great time there. C&W is very friendly to early-career scholars, and they practice a culture of academic generosity including mentorship for new attendees. I signed up last-minute for the mentorship program, and was lucky enough to be matched up with Nick Carbone, who I found out is a veritable institution at C&W since he’s been attending for about 15 years. He was an amazing mentor, taking the time to hang out with me and talk everything from shop to personal interests.
Rebecca has been telling me that C&W is one of her favorite conferences, and in this, I was not disappointed. This year, at the urging of Rebecca, I attended the Graduate Research Network (GRN). On the GRN website claims to Discover potential venues for publication, Prepare for your academic career search, Attain feedback on current research activities, Overcome dissertation and thesis dead ends, Network with new and established scholars from across the country, and Get to know, learn from, and conspire with key members of the C&W community. If those seem like a high expectations, let me assure you that they were readily met.
At the GRN, students were grouped according to interest and given a discussion leader, or two, that helped to facilitate and give some professorial feedback. At my table was Quinn Warnick and Stacey Pigg, both warm and welcoming, and with insightful comments about the projects that were discussed at our table. After a quick break for lunch, we reconvened and the tables changed to different topics in relation to the job market and other grad student needs (publishing as a grad student, curating an online presence, teaching portfolios, interview strategies, etc.). I learned so much at the GRN, and the conference hadn’t even started yet!
Nick invited my ASU colleagues and I out for drinks before Cheryl Ball‘s keynote that night. There, in addition to hanging out with my mentor, I was able to meet Janice Walker (GRN organizer along with Angela Haas), Cynthia Selfe, Dickie Selfe, and Michael Day, among others (we took up almost the entire patio). And in a very casual setting, I was able to chat with and get to know some of the big names in our field; this is part of the magic of C&W.
Computers and Writing is a place of community. An open, welcoming community where newcomers get to do things like hug Cheryl Ball and have a beer with Cynthia Selfe in addition to finding colleagues and making connections they look forward to renewing in the future. C&W is definitely a conference that I not only look forward to attending in the future, but can see myself growing with and being able to pay it forward by becoming a mentor and helping to give future attendees the same kind of warm welcome that I received.
Stay tuned for C&W Part 2: The presentations.