2012 Convention Stories

N'awlins, with a Drawl

by Rebecca Renee Hess
Chapter Sponsor
Alpha Iota Upsilon Chapter
La Sierra University, Riverside, CA

"N'awlins, mom. It's pronounced with a drawl," I explained. Touristy knickknacks in hand and munching on a pecan praline, I maneuvered my way through the crowds on Canal Street, back toward the New Orleans Marriott and my final night in New Orleans. A first-year Sponsor and third-year convention attendee pro, I traveled to the 2012 Sigma Tau Delta Convention excited to fulfill my new role. As a volunteer moderator on a regional poetry panel that included our chapter President, I mentally prepared myself to ask dazzling and insightful questions that encouraged audience members to remain engaged and invested in modern prose, while not sounding like a complete nerd.

"Mom, I met some amazing people at the Regents and Sponors Luncheon and now I have the poetry panel and then tonight we're going to the Mahalia Jackson Theatre to see Salomé. It's only in town this one weekend," I added, eager to brag about the travel itinerary I'd put together for the trip. With pre-purchased tickets to see the New Orleans Opera production of Oscar Wilde's Salomé, maps of the French Quarter and local cemeteries, travel guides checked out from the University library, and four copies of a three-day itinerary, our group set out to conquer the Crescent City.

We ate Café Du Monde beignets every morning, easing ourselves into the crowded restaurant while other tourists stood confused by the crowd and clamor of the packed courtyard. We chatted with friendly bartenders at hole-in-the-wall joints who gave us tips on nightlife, and snapped our fingers along with local Jazz musicians. We braved the St. Charles Streetcar up to the Garden District and got lost searching for New Orleans' best po'boy at Parasol's. Still, the magic of an academic conference in New Orleans was not lost on us. Through a literary lens, we gazed onto the streets of Storyville, hoping to catch a glimpse of Bellocq's Ophelia or Anne Rice's Lestat.

At the convention, we shared stories of home, stories of death, and stories of love, opening up to our peers and learning from each other's experiences. We made plans for local outings with regional chapters, exchanging email addresses and hugs as we promised to send out a revised version of the piece we read.

"I've got to go, mom. I'm getting on the lift and it's a really confusing, supposedly "smart" elevator, so I have to concentrate," I said and hung up the phone as I squeezed in between a group of fellow lit nerds, red Steven Barclay badges hanging loosely around their necks. I smiled at the woman nearest me. She had white powdered sugar crusted lightly on her collar and a Sigma Tau Delta canvas book bag slung over her shoulder. Definitely the kind of girl to pronounce N'awlins with a drawl.