Sirens Mods (sirens_mods) wrote in sirenscon,
Sirens Mods

Get Involved with Programming, Part Six: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

Reminder: Programming Chat
Want to brainstorm? Looking for collaborators? Need to talk out your idea? We're devoting our next chat to programming: topic discussions, possible collaborator matching, and answering all of your questions about the proposal submissions process. As always, general chatter, book chatter, and conference questions are welcome as well: bring your recommendations of what to read. We hope you'll join us!

DATE: Saturday, April 16, 2010
TIME: 6-8 p.m. Eastern/5-7 p.m. Central/4-6 p.m. Mountain/3-5 p.m. Pacific

You don't need to download anything or have any special software to participate: the webpage will turn into a chat room when the chat begins.

As part of our ongoing series on programming proposals, it makes sense to us to combine our posts about proposing workshops and afternoon classes because the format for both types of proposals is very much the same.

Workshop sessions are led by an instructor and focus on the application and practice of craft. Generally, an attendee will expect to gain or expand upon a particular skill at a workshop, and the opportunity for participation marks this style of presentation. Seating specifics depend on the allotted rooms and overall program schedule, but typically, workshops have limited seating so that the instructor (or instructors) can answer questions and provide assistance to all of a workshop's attendees. These often focus on some aspect of fantasy-related craft, like writing or art, but might also take a practical turn, perhaps helping the audience plan a book club/reading group, addressing professional topics, or providing resources and hands-on time for planning library collections. Workshops are scheduled in 50-minute time blocks; a request in one’s abstract (or lesson plan) for additional time can be considered for more in-depth presentations.

Afternoon Classes
Less formal demonstrations or classes in areas related to fantasy literature may be proposed as well. They are not meant to replace workshops; instead, they are an opportunity for presentations that are of interest to fantasy fans but that are less closely related to the conference's focus or theme, or topics that are fantasy-based but not necessarily related to a particular work. A non-exhaustive list of sample topic areas includes historical dress and music, martial arts, weaponry, battle strategy, costume construction, and so forth. Afternoon classes may be similar to workshops or be more demonstration-based, and may be led by one instructor or a group. Instructors may be asked to repeat their classes on both of the main days of the conference (Friday and Saturday). Lesson plans are a welcome alternative to abstracts for this type of proposal. These classes are scheduled in blocks that range from one hour to 90 minutes, depending on available spaces during the conference, but instructors should plan for a shorter time block rather than a longer one.

And please note: If you’re unsure about which particular proposal type to choose, we’re happy to help. You can leave a comment here, attend an open chat, or write to (programming at for a consultation.

Getting Started
First, you'll need to choose a focus for your workshop or class. What do you know that you can teach to someone else--in about an hour? How can you make your workshop interactive and relevant? Are you aiming your workshop at beginners, intermediates, or advanced participants? Once you've focused your idea, you'll need some information ready to make your proposal.

Personal Information
First, we'll ask you for some contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via e-mail, so make sure to use a contact address that you'll have through the end of 2011. Please don't use your LiveJournal forwarding address; our correspondence to you will most likely bounce. You should also add (programming at to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.

Next, we'll ask for name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that's a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we do drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you're welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The "name to be published" will be the name we show to the vetting board and programming volunteers, as well as the one connected to your presentation.

We'll allow you to specify professional affiliation. This is for those presenters who wish to note their association with a university, and occasionally, a business or professional organization if their presentation is related in some way. Some people use this field, and others don't.

Finally, we'll need your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences is fine! You can explain any experience or studies--or even long-term interest--in your topic, tell us where you're going to school, or what you do as a job or as a hobby. Shorter is better, since space is limited.

Proposal Information
There are three items that you'll need for a complete workshop or afternoon class proposal.

First, you'll need a title. Remember that this will be shown to the vetting board, so neither "Untitled" nor "TBA" is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don't have to come up with an obscure or witty title--just one that explains what your presentation is about.

Next, you'll need a summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to impress and attract an audience who will be interested in participating in your workshop and learning from you. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective on the topic. Here's one example that we've borrowed from "Whose Side Are You On: The Power of Point of View" which was presented at Terminus:
Imagine the story of Harry Potter as told from Dumbledore’s point of view, or how different book seven would be if we were inside Snape’s head. Would we have loved this tale so much if it had been presented from another viewpoint? Choosing the right voice for your story can make all the difference. In this workshop, we’ll explore the different types of point of view, their benefits and limitations, and explore how changing POV can drastically alter a story through a writing exercise.

Finally, you'll need an abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete--but short--version of your presentation. For a workshop or afternoon class, you can choose to summarize your workshop in a paragraph or two, or you might put together a lesson plan for your workshop instead. (In fact, a lesson plan is welcomed; an outline of your plans can be more helpful than a summary of your philosophy.) Here are a couple of resources you might use to put together a brief but cohesive abstract section for your proposal:
An article on abstracts prepared for Terminus, a past event from Narrate Conferences
How to Write an Abstract by Philip Koopman at Carnegie Mellon University (a formal article for those writing academic papers, but a good place to start)
A very detailed lesson plan format (you could condense the main points for your abstract section)

If you’d prefer to write a formal abstract, some of the previous posts in this series included more in-depth information.

Timing and Audio-Visual Requests
If you choose to propose a workshop or class and it is accepted, you'll be scheduled in a 50-minute time block (unless you’ve explained and justified a request for additional time and we’re able to provide it). If you have a workshop or class idea that could be presented in less than one hour, please consider teaming up with another presenter to team teach or present on two items in a 50-minute block.

Workshops seat 25-40 attendees, so the provision of microphones depends on the overall schedule, the size of the room we have available for your workshop, and so on. You can make a request for an easel, LCD projector, or DVD player, but please remember that we prioritize use of equipment for visually-oriented presentations, and consider what you might do if extra audio-visual support isn't available. We do try to fulfill as many audio-visual requests as possible, particularly for presentations like workshops, but it never hurts to have a plan B in mind. Afternoon classes are supported in much the same way, though of course, a demonstration or class where materials aren’t needed might seat quite a few more people.

FAQ about Proposals for Workshops and Afternoon Classes
Do you accept all proposals?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects which workshops will be accepted for Sirens.

If my proposal is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we've found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include.

Should I contact the vetting board about my proposal?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your workshop. Instead, please write to (programming at

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. If you find that you've had a high acceptance rate and that you're overcommitted, we do request that you consider whether or not you can make that many presentations before we complete the final schedule.

What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 6, 2011. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others.

What is the proposal deadline?
May 7, 2011.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before June 7, 2011, you can ask around to see if someone can take your place. Perhaps another attendee would be willing to fill in at the conference if you can provide your lesson plan. We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your presentation can remain on the schedule. If you’re unsure what to do, write to (programming at and we'll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my workshop or class later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the presentation is passed on to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary, as long as the focus of your workshop is not substantially changed. You may not change your presentation’s direction or format once it has been accepted; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board approved. If you wish to make substantial changes to your presentation, and it is earlier than May 7, 2011, please withdraw your existing presentation and create a new one.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, such as jury duty or presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters that we’re unable to take scheduling requests (everyone wants to present at the same time, but without being at the same time as any other presentation!). The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space, and availability of audio-visual equipment.

Do you "track" presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. We aren't always able to do so, however, due to the reasons we mentioned above.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to post responses here, and to check out our message boards to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

Questions? Concerns? Please e-mail general queries to (help at and questions about programming to (programming at
Tags: programming

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