Each year around this time the pace in our offices start to pick up. Students and professors heading back to school need books. We make books. Academics also seem to get back in their groove after a summer spent
feverishly writing enjoying their breaks, and now they want to get their books in shape for publication before the annual conferences taking place in later autumn. Editors, designers, typesetters, and marketers (at least the ones with whom I work!) are doing their parts to make sure these books see the light of day. The intensity builds right up until we board the plane to make the trek to that year’s location for the AAR/SBL conference, the apex of our publishing year.
In many ways AAR/SBL (and ETS, which immediately precedes it in a nearby location) is an exciting and fun trip. It’s a lot of work to be sure, with days beginning in the early mornings and going into the later part of the nights, but it gives us a chance to show off our books, meet in person authors we’ve known only by email and phone for months, see old friends we’ve not seen since the last conference, and meet new authors and friends that will become a part of the two aforementioned groups. A good many of the academics I know who go to the annual conference year after year do so for two reasons: friends and books. Of course there are those younger, eager students or would-be-students who attend to meet luminaries, get that first paper presentation under their belt, and generally soak in the environment. There are also those seasoned veterans who like nothing more than attending sessions and hearing paper presentations. And usually there is a session or two featuring a hot topic, book, and/or figure that people will look forward to attending. But on the whole the “academic” side of the conference is not at the top of most people’s list of reasons to attend. I’m lucky. My primary reasons for being at the conference—selling books and building relationships—are at the top of most lists.
This post is not about why people attend AAR/SBL, or to tell you how excited we get as the conference approaches. Rather, this time of the year makes two blog posts I’ve read recently especially pertinent, and I want to bring attention to them.
The first is a post from a while back by David Lincicum, “Some scattered tips for not being a jerk at conferences.” (See also Mark Goodacre’s much older post “How to enjoy SBL“) The second references David’s post and was written by an author with whom I’ve had the privilege of working: Christopher Skinner, “Negative Reviews and Unintentional Slights: Some Further Tips on Not Being a Jerk in Academia.” Both of these posts have great advice for academics: praise others effusively and genuinely, network without instrumentalizing, have fun, keep your ego in check, retaliation is rarely worth it, maintain perspective, be nice, etc. The thing is this is all advice for living as a human, whether one within or without academia. Though I wouldn’t use the same words every time, this is advice I’m trying to pass along to my three boys: encourage others, toys do not a friend make, have fun, don’t hit back, keep your reaction the same size as the problem, be nice. What Lincicum and Skinner are really saying to their academic peers is “Be a good person! Or, at least try.” And never forget to use turabian annotated bibliography.
See you in San Diego!