Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Chapter Events

Sometimes planning chapter events can be a daunting task. There are so many possibilities! How do you narrow them down? How do you know that people are actually going to enjoy the activities you plan? What if you pick the wrong ones? What do you do?

Not to worry! Take some time to analyze your wants, your needs, and your chapter’s past activities, and you’ll be on the right track! When brainstorming, ask yourself these five questions:

1. What Do You Want to Do?

This is your chapter. If something sounds fun to you, give it a try! Have you always wanted to participate in a book exchange? Throw one around the holidays! Is there a book you really want to read and talk about with others? Hold a reading group! Use your imagination; the possibilities are endless!

2. What Has the Chapter Done in the Past?

Sometimes you can gain a lot of inspiration from those who led the chapter before you arrived. If there are chapter traditions that everyone loves, go ahead and keep them up! You can also improve upon old traditions: if that Tuesday evening meeting time hasn’t been working for a lot of people, you can always move it to Wednesday if that works better for everyone.

3. What Can You Do to Get Faculty Involved?

Planning Chapter EventsYou don’t have to restrict your events to students; getting the faculty to join in on the fun can be great, too! For instance, Alpha Tau Phi (U. of Oregon, Eugene), often holds multiple Faculty Firesides per term, which are events where students spend an hour talking with a featured faculty member about their research, teaching, their life, their favorite TV shows, and whatever else happens to come up. This is a great way for students to get to know their professors outside of class, and it can also build professional relationships with people who can become influential to a student’s future. Faculty love to interact with their students, and if you ask nicely they’d probably love to participate in your events!

4. What Nearby Locations Would Be Great Event Spots?

Why keep all of your events on-campus? If there’s a great literary spot nearby, you can take the opportunity to make a chapter event around that location. For instance, Alpha Tau Phi, in conjunction with the University of Oregon English Undergraduate Organization (EUO), organizes an annual trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, every year to see a play together. This partnership has allowed dozens of chapter members to attend wonderful plays such as The Tempest, Pericles, and Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, at no cost. You can also ask your Faculty Sponsor to help you navigate university transportation options—maybe you’ll be able to use the university carpool at a very small cost!Planning Chapter Events

5. Are You Still Having Fun?

Once again, this is YOUR chapter. If that monthly meetup to talk about what everyone has read this month that everyone loved three years ago feels like it has run its course, you can cut it. Traditions can change; the longevity of a once-beloved activity does not justify keeping it on the schedule once it has become more of a chore than a fun event. Ultimately, these events are supposed to be enjoyable for you and your fellow chapter members.

Keep these five steps in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to planning great events throughout the year!

What fun activities has your chapter done?

Resources for Planning Chapter Events

Amber RoseAmber M. Rose
Far Western Associate Student Representative, 2015-2017
Alpha Tau Phi Chapter
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Embracing Mistakes: Daniel Mendelsohn and Storytelling

Amy Pollard2014 Convention Story
by Amy Pollard
Vice President, Kappa Upsilon Chapter
Saint Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

I traveled 3,000 miles to Savannah, Georgia . . . to learn that I’d made a mistake.

It was Friday night. I’d just returned from dinner at a South African restaurant with some new friends. The convention program informed me that the guest speaker was widely published and held a Ph.D. in Classics, so I decided to swing by the lecture room and hear what he had to say. Little did I know that the first thing I’d learn was that I’d made a mistake.

Savannah, GeorgiaDaniel Mendelsohn had a clear, eloquent voice that resonated throughout the room. He commanded our attention as he spoke, leaning slightly over the podium and making eye contact. He told us that, as a college student, he made a mistake: he changed his major from Economics to Classics. His parents were confused at the time. Even he was uncertain. There was simply no way of knowing that this “mistake” would lead to a Ph.D. from Princeton and a successful career as an author, essayist, critic, and translator.

As I sat and listened, I realized that I could identify with this mistake. In my freshman year, I switched my major from Criminal Justice to English. Although my friends and family have always been supportive, others questioned this decision—why not criminal justice and law school, as I had originally planned? Why English?

Savannah, Georgia picture 2Coming to Savannah helped me answer that question. As I listened to papers on Dante, Shakespeare, and Ancient Greek literature, I was captivated by the ideas presented and the questions they sparked. Overall, I was energized by the space for creative expression and public discourse that literature seemed to create. The convention reminded me that books are so much more than paper and ink—they are ideas that spark debate, challenge norms, and inspire us to imagine our full potential as human beings.

In fact, what grabbed me about Mendelsohn’s talk—besides the self-deprecating humor and references to Battlestar Galactica—was the storytelling. His retelling of key moments in The Odyssey and Antigone reminded me of the most important reason I decided to study English: I love stories. I love reading, writing, listening, reflecting. Stories have always been a window to the world and to my view of it. That night, Mendelsohn invited me to reconnect with storytelling. He invited me to embrace my “mistake.” He invited me to keep reading, writing, and following my dreams.

Sigma Tau Delta 2015 Convention

Plan now to join over 1,000 Sigma Tau Deltans at our 2015 International Convention, March 18-21 in Albuquerque, NM. Over $10,000 will be awarded for student works presented at the convention. Featured speakers for the 2015 Convention include: Gary Soto, Simon Ortiz, and Leslie Marmon Silko.

Convention Submissions

Paper submissions open on September 29 and close on October 27.
View: Guidelines for Paper Presentations and Roundtable Proposals

It’s All About the Fog

This piece was the honorable mention winner in the 2013-2014 Far Western Region Blog Contest.

lbeckerby Leah Becker
Vice President, Alpha Upsilon Epsilon chapter
University of Portland, Portland, OR

Northwest literature is all about fog. Yes, there is much more to Northwest literature than the weather, but what it really comes down to is fog. You see there is no other fog like Northwest fog. It’s not like the fog in New York City that tumbles in like ocean waves and swarms around buildings and into alleyways. It’s not like the yellow fog in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that rubs its nose against the windowpanes and circles before slumping sleepily on the floor. No, Northwest fog is tall. Northwest fog drips, but at the same time it floats. Northwest fog is tinged blue, giving everything a hue of late dusk or early morning. Northwest fog isn’t a wall and it isn’t a soup: it’s another sky.


Foggy view of Lake Washington in Washington state

The reason why fog is so important in Northwest literature is because a huge part of life in this region revolves around the weather. One of the main reasons it took so long for our forefathers to settle this region of the country was due to the inclement weather. In fact, the weather was more than inclement: it was aggressive, menacing, and threatening. The chaotic downpours of rain, hail, and flurried and watery snow did not allow for the patterned, exacting life of the early Americans. Crops that thrived one year were dead and dormant the next. Houses that withstood winter might crumple in the mudslides of the spring. The land of the Northwest was unpredictable, and thus the region drew a motley crowd of stubborn and crazed settlers from the fringes of “regular” American society.

These settlers—the lumberjacks, determined farmers, pioneer women, and hard-worn children—became the Northwest’s first written authors, following generations of Native American storytellers and oral historians. These original settlers wrote about standing up to the nature of the Northwest, transforming the land in order to build more prosperous lives. While sometimes noted for its beauty, the landscape of this early Northwest region was more often seen as a challenge to overcome.

However, as the proceeding generations learned to listen to the language of the land and live alongside it, the literary depictions of the Northwest region evolved. The hard-worn children of the first settlers learned to accept the region’s “faults” and build their lives around the rain, hail, mud, and ice. As their acceptance of the region grew, so did its value. Thus, nature in current Northwest literature is no longer a driving, antagonistic force, but is instead seen as a daily part of human life that is embraced and utilized for spiritual and meditative experiences.


Cathedral Park underneath the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, OR

Northwest literature today, however, is often overlooked as being Northwestern, for the stories no longer focus solely on mountains, weather, and forests. Instead, books by Northwest writers, or even books taking place in the Northwest, tell larger stories with heroic characters, fantastic events, and dramatic endings. Nature, it seems, has taken a backseat in such literature, for it is no longer a main character, but rather a member of a large and inconsequential chorus. However, to put region and nature into this box in the background would be wrong, for it is not lying in wait behind more essential plots and characters. No, rather nature and region is overarching in Northwest literature. It is in every scene and within every character, shaping actions, words, thoughts, and motives. In this way Northwest literature mirrors Northwest life, for just as the region becomes a part of those who live here, so it becomes a part of all of the literature it inspires. In the world that is Northwest literature and life, region is the sky, encompassing every aspect of the small corner of the world it “rains” over.  The people and the novels soak up this inspiration and become denizens of a Northwest spirit that lives through them.

Thus, Northwest literature is all about the fog. Fog in the Northwest doesn’t tumble or nose its way into things. Instead it slowly eases down from the sky in wisps and droplets. It falls down into the dips in the tree lines and it encircles and curls around those who walk within it. It is weighty and patient as it carefully and expertly seeps into our lives and into the day. Just like the fog, region is not overt in every Northwest novel or poem that it inspires. In Northwest literature the region seeps into the story in the same determined, yet gentle way the fog seeps into the morning. Both fall from their overarching states and settle among us, however subtly, and in all we do, in all we write, we reflect the region and the fog.