Practical Notes: Revising Your Conference Paper for Assay

On this #submissionsaturday, we have some tips and tricks to revise your NonfictioNow, AWP, MLA, ASLE or other conference paper into an Assay submission.

We love conference-papers-turned-submissions, but they do need a bit of finessing before you submit them. Conferences are often where we try out new ideas, and in the case of nonfiction, that work doesn’t often get published—and we want to change that.

Conferences are (often, but not always) more diverse than the pages of journals. The panelists are also (often, but not always) more diverse than journal offerings, and so are the texts, authors, scholarship, and ideas you’re working with. We want to publish that. Because Assay is flexible in its definitions of scholarship and analysis, we’re the perfect home for scholarship and pedagogy that doesn’t fit well into other journals.

Want an example of what we mean? Check out Keri Stevenson’s “Partnership, Not Dominion: Resistance to Decay in the Falconry Memoir” from our Spring 2018 issue—hers came out of a presentation at an ASLE conference. Just pause for a second. Falconry memoirs. When was the last time we thought about memoirs like that? (Editor’s note: we’d really like to see much more work like that.)

Okay, so the nitty gritty tips and tricks. How do you turn your conference panel talk into a submission? It’s pretty obvious that you can’t (shouldn’t) just send in the thing you just delivered.

Revision Tip #1: Audience Awareness. (1) Revise out the vocal nature of the talk. (2) Revise for an audience you can assume does not need to be introduced to common NF tenets. Conference talks are often geared for a generalist audience. If you’re familiar with Assay, you know that you don’t have to do too much explaining of things like Vivian Gornick’s situation and story, for instance. However, you should provide some sort of summary or context for the works you’re referencing. You’re writing for an intelligent, but general, reader.

Revision Tip #2: Textual References. The second thing we commonly see lacking in panel papers-turned-submissions is a lack of textual references, primarily to the primary text itself. We’re talking basic quotes, basic paraphrases, basic textual examples. Conference papers don’t often have these, for time and space reasons, but written work does—so make sure that you have enough references to the text itself.

Revision Tip #3: Poor Introductions. Ditch your dry, academic opening. Conference talks don’t get to the point soon enough. For a written audience, get there quicker. Cut down your runway. Be clear (but you don’t have to be pedantic about it) about what you’re doing and why it matters.

Part of this is confidence on the page: don’t be shy about your personal voice. Claim your authority. Be bold. Write as a writer, not as an apprentice.

Revision Tip #4: Dare to tell us why the text you’re writing about matters.

Revision Tip #5: Do your homework—see what else has been written on the subject. Assay has a subject and an author index, as well as a search function. You can see what, if anything, we’ve published on the subject.But, this also means, if you’re working with something like “truth in nonfiction,” we expect that you have read and are familiar with—and in conversation with—previous texts on the subject.

Revision Tip #6: Give your work to a trusted reader to identify problems. You should never send unedited conference papers, seminar papers, or unedited critical theses or craft papers to us. Your professor is one audience—we are another.

Here’s a good example of an AWP talk revised into a submission–Amy Monticello’s amazing “The New Greek Chorus: Collective Characters in Creative Nonfiction” also from our Spring 2018 issue. In our Fall 2018 issue, we published a Spotlight feature on “The So What? Factor in Nonfiction” that came out of an AWP panel, but what we published was heavily revised from its original conference paper origins.

And when you’re ready, send it our way! We can’t wait to read it!

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