Confessions of a Conference Attendee
By Devon Thomas
As indexers, we mostly work in isolation, with the radio and maybe a pet for company. So what happens when classic introverts get together? A lot of talking about indexing, books, families, and any other topics. If you’ve ever wondered what a national conference is like, here’s my experience at this year’s conference in Portland, Oregon.
Catch first flight from Detroit Metro, start worrying about making the connection in Houston. Mutter about the vagaries of airline pricing that require me to fly away from my destination before I can fly to it.
Have no problem making connecting flight in Houston. Commence worrying about getting from Portland Airport to the conference hotel, the DoubleTree Lloyd Center, despite the clear directions and the nearly door-to-door service of the Max Light Rail that runs from the airport. It can’t be that easy. Can it?
Find hotel (easy) and hotel room (not so easy). Settle in and check email, worried about unhappy client, who, happily, admits his problem is not a problem after all.
Go to bed at 10:00 p.m. Portland time, 1:00 a.m. Michigan time.
Rise bright and chipper at 6:30 a.m.—This never happens to me at home! Run into Sandi Schroeder in the buffet line.
Feel like I am at the first day of school, with my fresh pad of paper and extra pens. Enjoy the half-day workshop on cookbook indexing, which gives me lots to think about in terms of indexing cookbooks and titles of cookbooks I now want to buy.
Have the afternoon free. Use Portland’s convenient, often free public transportation to get downtown for lunch and some foodie shopping. Everything is green and lush with all the flowering trees in bloom. It rains two or three times, but it’s sunny in between showers.
Get back to the hotel for the ASI Chapter Meeting and then another light rail trip to Powell’s Bookstore for our opening reception. Powell’s is an independent bookstore the size of a city block and they have placed “Welcome Indexers” on the marquee—not a sight I see every day. Mingle among the books, play Indexer bingo to meet new people, nibble on snacks, and then watch Jan Wright be presented with the Wilson Award.
The temptations of Powell’s are too much. Drift off into the rare book room, then into literature, and then through the maze of rooms until I find cookbooks and browse for an hour. Resist temptation, on this visit, at least.
Return to the hotel and go to bed, feeling like it is 1:00 a.m. Tomorrow is a busy day.
Begin early again, as the keynote speaker, Carol Fisher Saller, is speaking at 7:30. She is bright and funny and makes new fans for the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A feature.
Attend morning sessions on handling the metatopic, when is a name indexable, when to index notes, and how to handle indexing negative information. My pristine pad of paper is filling up with notes and my conference tote bag is getting heavy with handouts.
Take a much-needed break at lunch and gear up for a two-part afternoon session on handling gardening and environmental studies materials. Take careful notes on and samples of the afternoon refreshment break sponsored by the Heartland Chapter—lemon and blueberry tea breads, scones, berries, and whipped cream, oh my!
Check out the exhibits and buy the latest ASI publication Indexing Specialties: Cookbooks (do I sense a theme?). Attend reception where teams compete in the Indexing Olympics and mingle more. Finally get to talk to other Heartlanders, including Judy McConville and Kay Reglein.
All the mingling is doing me in. Gratefully go to dinner with Margie Towery and a couple of other attendees at a nearby restaurant. Stroll through the mall on our way back—it has an ice rink in it! Watch the Zamboni and then the kids who skate.
Collapse into bed, without knowing what time it is.
Saturday’s breakfast includes the business meeting. It’s getting harder to process information and now I have to look at numbers?? Fortunately there are handouts and I don’t actually have to DO anything.
The first sessions today are longer: The Visual Appeal of Indexes is hands-on indexing; the other two I attend, A Writer’s Perspective on Indexing and Working with Authors and Editors are less demanding. I sit back and try to cram just a little bit more information into my head.
At lunch, the Kohlrabi Awards are announced. Think I must really try kohlrabi some day.
One last session, on updates to Cindex. It’s hard to hang in there but this is stuff I’ll use every time I index.
Fun time—join thirty or so ASI members on the tours of the Portland Classical Chinese Garden (beautiful and serene) and the Portland Underground (spooky and dusty).
Go back to Powell’s and buy something to read on the way home. Eat dinner and meet up with several other indexers heading back to the hotel to pack up and go to bed.
Think the conference is over, until I run into Naomi Linzer from Texas at the airport. Not only are we on the same flight—we are sitting next to each other. Have a nice conversation on indexing, working alone, health insurance, knitting, etc., until we part in Houston.
Worry about making connecting flight. Hustle to the gate to find it has been delayed. Plane arrives from Mexico—new worry: swine flu.
Arrive at home at 1:00 a.m. While it doesn’t feel like 4:00 a.m. Portland time, my body knows it is late. Pet cats and collapse in bed, grateful to be home but happy I went.
I hope I haven’t frightened you off from attending a conference. Now that I’ve had some time to process and recover, I can re-read my notes and, hopefully, absorb more of what I learned, from simple tips to overarching strategies. I find this sort of continuing education to be enormously useful, but there are other benefits to attending a conference as well. For one, there is the simple pleasure of being among people who know exactly what it is you do for a living! Maybe I’ll see you next year in Minneapolis. I’ll be the one worrying about my flight home.
© 2009 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.
What Was Your Favorite Conference Presentation?
Kay Reglein, of newly formed Rowan Tree Indexing, gained useful insights from the Pacific Northwest Chapter's overview and demonstration of their peer review process. Their chapter organizes two to three ongoing, monthly peer review get-togethers, where reviewers meet for a meal or coffee and spend fifteen minutes reviewing each submitted index. If there are no indexes to review, they enjoy the time together anyway.
The panel handed out a concise description of how to conduct a positive, friendly peer review and tips for getting peer review groups started in other chapters. Kay notes, “Their approach seems very adaptable to the widespread pockets of members in the Heartland Chapter.”
Visit Kay's website: http://www.rowantreeindexing.com