Embrace It

Sara Laborby Sara Labor
Sigma Beta Chapter
Chadron State College, Chadron, NE

Sara’s blog was selected 2nd Place in the 2014 Convention Story Contest.

I walk out of the tattoo parlor into the blinding sun and a warm breeze. Savannah air fills my nose: the smell of river, trees, and life. As we walk, there is a little skip in my step. I can’t tell if it’s a leftover euphoria from the adrenaline of the tattoo or if it’s just the gorgeous weather. Probably both.

“Oh my God, the world is beautiful!” I say, skipping a few steps ahead of Hannah. I look back at her; she is smiling.

We walk along the brick sidewalk and enjoy the city sounds. At every direction there is something to see: beautiful historic buildings, moss-covered trees, and street musicians. Hannah points out a brass fountain nearby. We rush excitedly across the street to get a closer view.

When I finally get to peel the bandaging from my wrist, the two black words “Embrace it” greet me. One summer night, while explaining minute plot points of a Doctor Who episode, I stopped mid-sentence to say “Am I boring you with all my nerd talk?” My friend Katie shook her head and said, “I think it’s interesting. It’s cool that you talk about nerd things. Embrace it.”

Inspired by her words, I grabbed a sharpie to write “Embrace it” on my wrist. Even before it was permanently scrawled into my body, I would glance at my wrist when I felt unsure about myself.

Sara Labor with Daniel Mendelsohn at his book signingBut as I peel off the bandage, it has become so much more than that. For now I am thinking of the speaker we just saw, Daniel Mendelsohn, who said “I made my mistake and I stuck to it.” He was talking about the major he’d chosen in college: Classic Greek Literature. “I bet since you’re all here,” he said, “you stuck to your mistake too.”

From day one of the convention, I’ve been unsure of myself. At open mic night, I heard someone bragging about getting her novel published, while others spoke about graduate school or teaching. Meanwhile, little ‘ol me is about to graduate college with no plan and certainly no novel.

But as I look at the new ink in my skin and think of Mendelsohn, I have to smile. I don’t have to be unsure of myself. I am doing what I love: writing, reading, and discussing these things in a beautiful city.

I made my mistake.

I decide to embrace it.

English Undergrad-Friendly Conferences

kboles150by Kelsey Hixson-Bowles
Student Advisor
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

I am a conference-going junkie. Seriously. I love presenting my research, hosting workshops, and traveling to different cities. The Sigma Tau Delta 2010 Convention in St. Louis was my first conference-like experience. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to attend our annual convention, you know what I mean when I say it is a great place to meet people you never knew you missed. Convention bonds English majors.


Sigma Tau Delta members Hunter Gilson, Alicia Beeson, Kelsey Hixson-Bowles, and Rachel Smith explore the town during the Midwest Writing Center Association Conference in Chicago.

Convention is so much more than just a social experience. What I loved most about convention is also the part that made me search out other conferences: it is a concentration of ideas. It is a place to refresh your brain, gather new insights on your favorite author, reshape the way you have always thought about what qualifies as literature. As a writer, a reader, a feminist, and a thinker, I was interested in finding other conferences that engage in discussions beyond literature.

Like many of you I tutor writing. As a beginning tutor I thought, “Great, I can help people and enhance the marketability of my English skills.” The more I tutored and read about tutoring, the more I realized that there is a lot more to it than I originally thought. This was exciting and I wanted to share my excitement with other writing center enthusiasts.

Students presenting at the Midwest Writing Center Association Conference. From left to right Alicia Beeson, Dory Cochran, Kelsey Hixson-Bowles, and Kate Nygren.

Students presenting at the Midwest Writing Center Association Conference. From left to right Alicia Beeson, Dory Cochran, Kelsey Hixson-Bowles, and Kate Nygren.

Lucky for me (and for you), writing center conferences are especially friendly to undergraduate scholars. Undergraduates are treated as equals among the graduates and faculty. Though I’m a grad student now, as an undergrad I always felt welcome and comfortable with the writing center crowds at the International Writing Center Association’s Conference, the Midwest Writing Center Association’s Conference, and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring Writing.

Do you have a favorite conference? Use the comments below to share your conference experiences!


Prepping Chapters for a New Year

nmiller150by Nick Miller
High Plains Associate Student Representative, 2012-2013
Chadron State College, Chadron, Nebraska

Making the transition from one school year to the next is a crucial but also tricky stage for every chapter. Choosing new officers and preparing them to assume their positions, keeping momentum going over the summer, and getting organized to hit the ground running in the fall are all big challenges facing chapters at this time of year. There are a few steps that your chapter can take to ensure that this transitional time is not only comfortable but productive as well.


Lincon University, Pennsylvania Induction

Lincoln University, Pennsylvania Induction

All chapters are required to complete the Chapter Annual Report Survey at the end of every school year. This survey was recently emailed to Lead Chapter Sponsors, but it is recommended that the Sponsor and officers meet and fill out the survey together. This also can be an excellent time to put together any end-of-year reports you need to send to school administration, student government, and/or donor groups, and go over any paperwork or other preparations that will need to be in place for the next year.

In addition, Chapter Officers, both outgoing and incoming, should fill out the Officers Only Survey, due May 13.

A chapter meeting at the end of the year, with everyone present, is a great way to generate ideas for what the chapter would like to accomplish next year and to set up your event calendar for the coming year. Everyone can voice their ideas and more veteran members and officers can give guidance and let other members know what works and what does not. You’ll also want to decide if you will be able to have any meetings over the summer.


Chapters are strongly encouraged to maintain communication over the summer. The Chapter Sponsor and Chapter Officers should try to hold at least one officer meeting over the summer, even if it has to be held via conference call or web chat. Officers can use the summer to begin planning fall activities such as new member recruitment and fundraisers. Use the Chapter Life section of the website to get ideas.

New Officers

Becoming an officer for a chapter can be an intimidating prospect until you are comfortable with the position. I know I felt overwhelmed and a little confused when I became a student leader. To smooth this transition, outgoing officers can meet with incoming officers to go over the responsibilities that come with the office and to share various tips and resources to help out while they get used to the responsibilities of their positions. I recommend meeting over lunch or coffee, something to make everyone comfortable. Make sure everyone can get questions in and everyone knows what is expected of them in their different offices. Chapter records should be provided to new officers as soon as possible.

It’s also a good idea to direct new officers to the various online resources available to chapters, such as the Chapter Life section of the website, the official Facebook page, the regional discussion groups, and the WORDY by Nature blog.

Finally, remind your Chapter Sponsor to update the chapter’s Write Away records ASAP to remove all outgoing officers from the officers list and to add any new officers with accurate contact information. This is essential to ensure that current officers receive the eNews and other important communications from the Central Office and their regional leaders.

Following the above advice will prepare you to be a better leader and position your chapter for a productive and successful year. Remember to ask questions and take advantage of the experience of Chapter Sponsors and outgoing officers. Being an officer is a very rewarding opportunity. It’s not just a good line on a resume. It also gives you a lot of leadership experience that will be useful to you throughout your academic career and into the workforce.