Yesterday I attended the Third Annual Cavalier Conference on Writing and Literature at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. This year's theme was Showcasing. There was an undercurrent or sub-theme of collaboration as well, which made for a very enlightening day.
Coffee and a small, informal breakfast were available before the opening remarks. There were some mini danishes, a raspberry spice cake, a blueberry cake, and fresh fruit in addition to coffee, tea, and water. I met a wonderful teacher from St. Thomas Aquinas (Paula McCarthy) and we had lots to talk about--it felt really good to connect with new people in the writing, English, and teaching community! First we talked about the food at the breakfast, and among other things, how excited we were to be in attendance. Other attendees included high school and college level instructors, authors and professional writers, and graduate students.
After opening remarks, there were two sessions where multiple presenters were contributing their teaching methods, research, and collaborative works with the attendees. I attended a session by Dr. Kevin Rabas (professor and chair of the EMLJ department at Emporia State University AND newly appointed KS Poet Laureate: see the post here) about playwriting and producing student work on college campuses. Having taken his playwriting and screenwriting class as part of my education at Emporia State University, I had the student's perspective under my belt. Seeing the class and the goal of producing student work from the instructional and mentorship standpoints was really wonderful. What I learned in that session may lead to some very exciting endeavors for Tin Lunchbox in the future!
The second presentation I attended had multiple presenters (Ande Davis of UMKC, Jane Blakeley of UMKC, and Louise Krug of Washburn University) who discussed topics like scholarly publications to be used as teaching tools and classroom models, random acts of kindness and the use of the scientific method in writing assignments, and the value of using archival research for creative writing projects. Everything in this session thrilled me and really struck a chord with me. I found that topics presented and specific projects referenced throughout the day had a strong connection between writing and food--which is what Tin Lunchbox is all about!
On my way to the conference room where lunch was served, I came upon a table with books for sale. Some were by Thomas Fox Averill, the keynote speaker for the 2017 conference and current instructor at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. But the book that really stood out to me (and that I brought home!) was Andrea Broomfield's Kansas City: A Food Biography (Look for my review in the coming weeks!). Andrea Broomfield teaches food & lit courses at Johnson County Community College as well. I might even take a course or two in upcoming semesters, time allowing! (As an aside: If you're in the KC area and you're considering taking classes for continuing education or to start your post-secondary education, take a look at what JCCC has to offer--their campus and courses are evolving and growing in wonderful ways!)
Lunch was served just before the keynote speaker, Thomas Fox Averill, spoke about a collaborative writing project that he conducted in public schools in rural Kansas. Collaboration among writers is not only an important task, but can result in an experience that will impact the writers, students, and the audience for the rest of their lives. "[Writing] is the least lonely task I know of."
Averill also spoke about food as a collaborative act and how writing about food can lead to discoveries about history, culture, and the publishing process. He specifically referenced his book, Secrets of the Tsil Cafe (out of print), which is based on The Tsil Cafe located in Westport.
In case you're wondering: lunch consisted of a Southwest chicken salad, water and iced tea, and cheesecake for dessert. The dressing that came with the salad was a chipotle ranch. The chicken was tender and juicy and not too fatty. Toppings on the salad included black beans, diced tomatoes, jalapenos, red bell peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, and crispy tortilla shreds. The cheesecake came with two topping choices: one had cherry topping and one had a chocolate drizzle. Usually one for chocolate myself, I went with the cherry instead. Both the meal and the dessert were delicious and filling, but not overbearing.
After lunch we moved to the new CoLab on campus in an adjacent building, where we viewed a brief presentation for GIFTs (Great Ideas For Teaching). These were all submitted by conference attendees prior to the conference and were not necessarily tied to the presentations that took place in the morning sessions. After Thomas Fox Averill presented one of his GIFTs to kick off the time in the CoLab, we intermingled in smaller groups to talk about the other collected GIFTs in topics like technology, descriptive writing, research, and classroom activities.
What a day it had been! So many teaching ideas swirled around in my mind, and even more ideas for Tin Lunchbox's future were forming or being solidified in other ways. Next year will be the 4th annual JCCC Cavalier Conference on Writing and Literature, and it will be held on Friday, April 20, 2018. If you're interested in attending, you can register online on the JCCC website (though registration likely won't be open until next spring). You can bet I'll be attending again next spring. I can't wait to see what the theme is for next year! And who knows--maybe I'll see YOU there, too!