On Wednesday, February 26, four English majors and our English professor attended the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention at the Marriott Riverfront Hotel in Savannah, Ga.
Sigma Tau Delta is the National English Honor Society, and attendees of its annual convention go to present papers and/or serve as moderators for presentations at one of the many sessions that take place in the hotel ballrooms. Among the accepted papers include critical, academic and creative works, as well as original poetry. I was accepted to the convention for my critical paper, “Defending a Classic: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” and I was scheduled to present with three scholarly students from other chapters on Thursday, February 27 at 2:45 p.m. Also attending and excitedly cheering me on were senior English majors Kimberly Abad, Ashley Day and Erin Linskey, as well as Professor Rebecca Lartigue, who serves as advisor to Springfield College’s chapter of the honor society.
This convention was Professor Lartigue’s second year attending with Springfield College students, and the third year our students have been accepted to present their work.
“I really enjoy supporting our students as they present their work and participate in workshops, as well as hearing the creative and scholarly work of students from other colleges,” Lartigue said.
The convention was indeed a place where ideas flourished, and conversations about books, writing and personal work ensued excitedly and without hesitation.
The other Springfield College students and I were able to attend sessions for other students, workshops held by guest speakers, and readings by renowned authors like Daniel Mendelson and Justin Torres, who was the featured author in the “Common Reader Review” and celebrated at this year’s convention for his publication of We The Animals.
Members of Sigma Tau Delta chapters shared the experience of reading and discussing Torres’ novel before the convention, then were able to ask him questions about the novel and his writing process.
Ashley Day recounted the convention as being “an educating experience,” and one that “provided the opportunity for students who share a passion for English and literature to come together and celebrate works written by peers from around the globe.”
Yes, you heard that correctly: around the globe. Among the 209 Chapters present at the convention were students hailing from Canada, as well as the International University of Kuwait, thus making the experience for attendees that much more expansive. Day even plans to become an active alumnus of the society and to attend next year’s convention, which will be held in Albuquerque, N.M.
Kimberly Abad had similar thoughts, adding that, “being able to step out of our small English community at Springfield, into an enriching culture with a bunch of English lovers from all over the country was such an eye opener to what we are a part of as English majors.”
Members of chapters were not all English majors necessarily, but regardless, they all had this talent and desire to be present, and when you see this in a fully crowded hotel ballroom, it really is something to marvel at, and it left us with the impression that we are a part of a very powerful and interconnected society.
Stepping out of our close-knit community at Springfield also meant stepping into the historic city of Savannah, as we found time between attending sessions and making new connections, to venture out in the city squares and riverfront, and even plan excursions like a nightly Ghost Walk, an afternoon at Tybee Island, and a visit to Bonaventure, the graveyard featured in the best-seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Lartigue highlighted how well Sigma Tau Delta plans these annual conventions, and how the society chooses cities with an unlimited amount to do and see alongside the successfully planned itinerary of sessions in the hotel. There was no argument: the sunny and springy Savannah, Ga. was truly a brilliant pick for this year’s convention site.
I found this conference to be an opportunity of a lifetime. Being present made me realize how much of a gift it was to be considered among these writers and how invigorating it was to be surrounded by peers who were there for the same love and intrigue. On December 17, 2013, I received my acceptance for my paper and immediately shrieked over the phone to my mother, who was on the quiet 2:48 p.m. train home from Manhattan. What was slightly unpleasant for my mother at the time was the real-life lesson coming true before my eyes, a lesson that extraordinary teachers want to instill in their students: keep writing.
Use your voice, because your words have power, and you never know who might hear them. This is a lesson I personally hope to carry with me into my own classroom.
One message we shared upon our return was just how tremendous of an experience it is for college students to attend these sorts of events. Erin Linskey took the final comment on the convention, stating that “conferences are something that people should really make the effort to attend regardless of their major, because it allows them to meet people with the common interests, to get different academic and creative perspectives, and to try new things pertaining to the major, which is always important to do.”
Attending the Sigma Tau Delta Conference was valuable for those very reasons; it was a time for us to really focus on who we are as writers and what new ideas could develop from inspiration found at the conference. It was also a reminder of why we fell in love with English in the first place.
It’s easy to get caught up in the overwhelming life on-campus, but this convention offered us a fresh perspective, where we could fully immerse ourselves in this passionate, student-friendly culture. We hope to spend the rest of the semester attending Sigma Tau Delta meetings held in the Weiser conference room, encouraging our members who will still be here next year to attend this conference, to reach for this opportunity, and to see where their writing could truly take them.
Albuquerque is in your hands, Sigma Tau Delta members.
Go be extraordinary.