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The Antelope

The Antelope

Word nerds seek freedom in Queen City


Schneider recounts adventure, Sigma Tau Delta’s 2018 international conference in Cincinnati
By: Kaitlin Schneider

There are few college students more zealous about their studies than English majors. No matter whether you enjoy the classics, contemporary literature, grammar or linguistics, you are sure to have a fabulous experience at an English conference. Being surrounded by numerous, like-minded people who want nothing more than to argue about the finer points—there aren’t many experiences that can match that.

It is a chance to spend the better part of a week around fellow English students and professors, authors and scholars alike—you know, word nerds—who feel as passionately as I do about language and literature. However, it doesn’t take long for a conference attendee to realize that English majors aren’t just obsessed with the best books available. Conversations revolve around life, the universe and everything, really, offering infinitely priceless memories for anyone who decides to make the trip. Whether you’d like to discuss the classics, graphic novels, linguistics or even memes, there’s something here for everyone who loves stories.

Three UNK students, including Emily Hemmer, Mary Spencer and myself, made the journey to Cincy for the 2018 International Sigma Tau Delta Conference, themed “Seeking Freedom.” Each of us presented a paper during the March 21-24 convention. Although at first seemingly nerve-wracking, these presentations are great fun and a fantastic experience for anyone, no matter the paper topic or research focus. Plus, the subsequent Q&A sessions are often full of insightful comments and questions from panelists and audience members alike.

Naturally, conferences are filled with astute presentations and creative readings, but they are also punctuated with featured speakers and other events. Some highlights of this year’s STD gathering included panels on transformations in original fiction—during which I presented my paper, graphic novels as valid pieces of literature, language as a powerful tool for sociopolitical change, women and freedom at the turn of the twentieth century, gendered identities in popular culture, language in Shakespeare and so many more that I couldn’t attend because this conference had more concurrent presentations than nearly any other, according to STD Executive Director Bill Johnson during the annual and exhilarating (no sarcasm intended, either) General Business Meeting.

Two guest speakers also made the journey to “Cin-City”: Christina Henriquez and Mary Norris. Henriquez was the author of 2018’s Common Reader for STD, “The Book of Unknown Americans,” while Norris worked at the “The New Yorker” copydesk for three decades and penned a memoir of her illustrious and varied life titled “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.” From athlete’s foot and dairy cows to comma shakers and peanut butter crackers, Norris’s talk really did fall into the life, universe and everything categories I mentioned above.

Another significant highlight: I met Norris on Friday afternoon. During our brief conversation when she signed my copy of her brilliant book, she asked me what I did besides going to school, so I told her I was also a copy editor for the student newspaper on campus. We discussed the job for a bit, and then I went on my way, feeling rather warm and fuzzy inside because I had met another on my list of favorite (and still living) authors. Honestly, what is it about someone scribbling a barely legible signature and message in a book that makes humans feel so sentimental?

The convention concludes on a high note every year with the Red & Black Gala Dinner, where everyone sports their best black, red and white formal attire to support the English honors society. Besides an elaborate and eloquent three-course meal, awards for outstanding chapter presentations are given out, and information on next year’s conference location and theme is announced upon the event’s end.

Even though the conference was, at heart, an academic function, it was also a perfect opportunity to use some free time to explore a new city—try the local food, do some sightseeing, just become an annoying tourist through and through. Sometimes, like any English major, you must read between the lines to really see the full value of something, and as a result, Cincy was no different to other conference trips I have made in the past. I took full advantage of exploration during my limited leisure time.

During my time in the Queen City, I trudged through Wednesday’s peculiar snow showers for some delectable homestyle Italian food, dug into a plate of chicken biryani and garlic nan at an Indian restaurant and happened upon a quaint hipster eatery that had some of the most scrumptious margarita pizza I have ever tasted in my life (even if their cocktails were not really to my liking). I meandered the city streets, testing out local cupcakeries and ice cream shops—if you are ever in Cincinnati, you must go to Graeter’s and try their delectable black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, which was, again, one of the best dishes I’ve had to this day.

However, Cincy isn’t just awesome because of their food. As I wandered through town, I was obligated to take the elevator to the forty-ninth floor of Carew Tower, which is right by the conference hotel and offers a lookout area of the rest of the Cincinnati skyline. As a word nerd, I absolutely had to stop by the Booksellers shop on Vine Street, where I picked up two more additions for my future personal library. Before packing up and heading back to Kearney, I stopped at a nearby art gallery that was showing an entirely feminist exhibit for the month of March. Finally, I wandered down to the Ohio riverside to see the beauty of Smale Park and then stopped by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for a bit more education, branching away from all the literary and linguistic analysis, for a short time, anyway.

The freedom was sought and several new memories gained. This year’s conference was filled with plenty of awesome experiences, fantastic presentations, and a lot of thought nuggets to chew on during the flight home. I am almost sad to be graduating from UNK in December, because this could very well have been my final STD conference as an undergrad. Oh well, there’s still graduate school, and at least now I can spell the word Cincinnati!

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