Back in those academic days, I used to attend the CAA conference, and before it the MLA--the Modern Language Association--in a professional capacity, mostly either looking for jobs myself or on the search for new faculty for the college I served. The trips were generally a feast for the ego, a fine way to feel like an important person devoted to a significant career, but that ego gratification was always accompanied by a feeling of being out of place. I never felt entirely comfortable in the academic world. It always felt like I was acting out a part for which I was not entirely suited, as though I were wearing some other person's clothes. The throngs of colleagues around me seemed so much more comfortable than I, so much more knowledgable, so much... well, smarter. To attend a conference was to revisit my school years and the discomforts of adolescence.
I'm attending this CAA as a writer and exhibitor, and sharing my table with an artist, Nancy Turner Smith, whose lovely book I reviewed in The Buddha Diaries some months ago. Our hope is to introduce our creative work to the academic world--to libraries and teachers and, in Nancy's case, to curators of exhibits and special collection. I'll be "showing" Persist and Mind Work, and hoping to generate some interest in my "One Hour/One Painting" series. This involves, of course, a bit of self-promotion, but I'm not uncomfortable promoting ideas and programs that I very much believe in. Indeed, I have come to consider this kind of action to be an integral part of what I do, something I owe my work as a writer. I would, particularly, love to see Persist adopted as a text in graduating ("professional practices") classes for students graduating with BFAs and MFAs from art schools and college art departments, where I am sure it would be helpful. As I have said elsewhere, writing is, for me, an act of communication. I don't do it "for myself." I do it in order to connect with other human beings in the best way I know how, and these are opportunities it would be foolish to pass up.
So I'll be spending the next couple of weeks, at the CAA and, next week, at the NAEA (the National Art Education Association) in New York, in full conference mode. Wish me luck.