By Alec Prevett:
My time participating in this year's CMA was brief. I flew out of Atlanta at nine eastern on Wednesday, arrived in Dallas around eleven their time (what do they call that? Mountain time? that can't be it), and, after some socializing, crashed at around two that night.
From the moment I wake up the next morning, I am wrestling with the combined anxiety of having to speak at a panel at one and then get to the airport (and not miss my flight home) by nine. Strangely, the multiple cups of coffee do not aid me in easing that stress.
The presentation goes well, thanks in no small part to Bryce's co-participation in it. Public speaking is always easier when someone's speaking with you, especially when you're speaking in strange lands and in front of people who are strangers to you. I may speak too quickly, and perhaps I stutter a few times, and sure, I accidentally bump someone in the front row because I don't realize how close I've gotten, but nonetheless, the audience seems to gain something from what Bryce and I discuss. I consider this a success.
Afterwards, I am free of a third of my anxiety, and believe now that I can confidently sit still for an hour or two, so I visit a panel titled "Get Out of Your Own Way", hosted by students from Texas Woman's University. The panelists discuss the comings and goings of their university's literary journal, and how the experiences they've gained running their journal can assist others in starting their own. Though I came to the panel thinking it was about how to better yourself as an editor by learning to organize yourself and your time (my own misinterpretation and no fault of the panel description), I still find it valuable to get some insight into how another journal was produced, funded, and distributed. I must also add that they were unable to get their slideshow working, a fate Bryce and I almost suffered ourselves not one hour before, so I must offer a congratulations to the students who kept their panel going sans-PowerPoint, and my condolences to the hard work that was dedicated to those slides.
Immediately after this panel comes "Think Outside the Mag", a presentation focusing on demonstrating how a literary journal can (and should) not only publish itself, but also serve as a conduit of creativity to the campus it calls home. The presenter, Olivia Wilkes of Appalachian University, discusses the efforts of their literary journal The Peel took to bolster student participation: open mic nights, bonfire-side scary story contests, profiles of student artists, and more. This session leaves my head swimming with ideas for GSU's own literary journal to adopt. Even as I type this blog post, the chambers of my brain still slosh about with plans and experiments inspired by The Peel.
Eager to enjoy the city, I dedicate my last few hours to spending time with some other GSU students participating in the conference. For two hours, we explore the wonderful and strange land that is Deep Ellum. I believe this place affects everyone in the group, and perhaps everyone who ever sets foot their, differently. It is an interesting and unpredictable place. I recommend it.
Finally, I follow the gang to a restaurant, where they plan to watch the Atlanta United game. From there, with a bit of unmentioned sadness in my heart (do we have to go home yet, Mom?), I call a Lyft to the airport. I console myself with Whataburger (something I can usually only get once a year when visiting Alabama family), and board my flight. Free of my anxiety, I'm left wishing I'd stuck around a bit longer.