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Attending to CCCC and Other Conventions: An Unconventional Guide

posted: 3.11.13 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

CCCC, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, takes place March 13-March 16, 2013 at the Riviera Hotel andCasino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This conference constitutes the largest annual meeting of teachers/scholars in college rhetoric and composition and writing studies. If you have attended before, you have experienced the size and scope of convention and its far-reaching workshops, discussions, exhibits, presentations and parties.

If you are attending for the first time this year—or if you have always wanted to attend, but still cannot journey to Las Vegas this week, perhaps an introduction is in order. For readers who will journey to CCCC in person, this post from the Writing Program Administrators email list offers useful suggestions for first-time attendees, with an emphasis on networking at the convention.  At the same time, the plethora of events and opportunities can seem daunting at times, if not a little overwhelming. The list that follows provides five meditations on finding focus at CCCC.  As an unconventional guide to the convention, please consider adding your own thoughts in the comments section. Working together, we can imagine a wide variety practices to attend to our health and wellbeing in order to stay fully present at CCCC.

  1. Pay attention to feelings and needs.  If I need to skip a session or a social event due to sensory overload or fatigue or for any other reason, I try to excuse myself politely—and try even harder not to make excuses. Some of us need more solitude and rest in order to stay focused and to avoid burning out. I definitely have those needs and the Committee on Disability Issues, in recognizing those needs has, for the second year in a row, arranged for a Quiet Room onsite at the convention. (See this year’s Convention Hospitality Guide, which offers a section on accessibility that states: “There will be a quiet room provided for conference attendees, adjacent to the conference registration area.”).
  2. Take life seriously while not losing a sense of humor. Although surrounded by people who are highly informed about scholarship and pedagogy, I want to remember to not be intimidated. Every one of us was once a beginner and many of us have endured significant struggles on the numerous roads that lead to Las Vegas. We need to honor our own triumphs and hold compassion for ourselves—and for those whose paths may differ from ours. Moreover, I hope to be able to laugh, or at least smile, to ease myself out of my comfort zone—all the better to accept and present new ideas. A sense of humor definitely helps.
  3. Remember the global context. In 2003, I was living and working in Houston, Texas and had to travel to New York City for CCCC. With memories of 9/11/01 still fresh in my mind, I felt deeply concerned for this journey. Indeed, President G.W. Bush declared war against Iraq the week that CCCC 2003 was in session. I wished fervently that I were home, but since I was in New York, I made the most of it by taking part in mass demonstrations and trying to stay on top of the news. It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly one of the most memorable conventions that I have ever attended.
  4. Consider the local context. If at all possible, try to take time away from the general area where the convention and the convention hotels and restaurants are located. In 2011, when CCCC was held in Atlanta, a friend and I took a long walk through the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Sweet Auburn was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood home and also the home of Dr. King’s ministry at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Making the pilgrimage to Sweet Auburn helped me to learn about Atlanta’s local contexts and to become more aware of the historical significance of this convention city. Additionally, by offering a brief respite from workshops and sessions (see #1), I was able to return to the intensity of the convention in a more focused frame of mind.
  5. Reflect on our students. In moments when I feel most overwhelmed by my surroundings, I try to remember our students and what I can bring home to share with them. I continually ask myself: In what sessions have I chosen to participate? How have the needs of students been addressed, whether directly or indirectly? What do I do if I find those needs missing from the official conversation? How can I make time to learn new skill sets or to attend to new theories and ideas that will allow me to grow as a teacher/scholar— and for students to have access to the wider world of scholarship in rhetoric and composition and writing studies?   While my responses are ever changing, the questions themselves allow me to stay mindful of my larger purposes and goals in attending to the convention.

Indeed, these purposes and goals remain the point of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Much as my learning as a student happened both inside and outside of classrooms, so too does the knowledge I gain at CCCC not only from the convention itself, but also from experiences outside the convention. So let’s take good care of ourselves and have fun—and also remember to look out for unconventional opportunities to deepen our experiences and to sharpen our awareness of learning and of life.

APPENDIX: For those readers unable to attend CCCC in person, there are several means of checking in with the convention in virtual reality. The Council on Basic Writing (CBW) will offer live blogging for the Wednesday pre-convention workshop, “Basic Writing and Race—A Symposium.” Also, the session “There’s Nothing Basic About Basic Writing.” will be offered on Thursday morning 3/14 at 10:30 a.m. (MT), both live in Las Vegas and virtually via live chat. See the CBW Facebook page to read and participate in pre-convention discussions for this session.  Additionally, a conversation about CCCC has already begun on Twitter #4C13, and many people attending and participating in the convention often write live updates on a wide variety of subject areas.

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