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A Matter Of Mutual Respect

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

Alleen began seriously courting authors to come to Arizona when in the 1980s she was helping her husband, Don, set up April Fools Day Humor Conferences. The Nilsens called these "Stone Soup" conferences in an allusion to the old folktale about the itinerant French soldiers who managed to get the townspeople of whatever village they camped in to contribute something—a pinch of salt, a carrot, a potato, an old onion, a mutton bone, etc.—to their cauldron, which at the beginning had nothing in it but boiling water and a smooth, round stone. The contributions to the Humor Conferences equivalent to salt, a carrot, and a mutton bone came mostly from Cartier Replica the Arizona Humanities Council, from local hotels that provided one free room for every 20 rented, from various small grants provided by the University, and in the final year—which was a truly international conference—from many Arizona State University (ASU) employees (ranging from a vice president to department secretaries) who opened their homes to visitors from foreign countries so that they did not have to pay for hotels, taxis, and food.

There were no conference registration fees because the original Humanities Council funding came with the proviso that the public would be invited to participate at no cost. What little money was available to run the conferences came from membership dues that the speakers paid to join what was called the Western Humor and Irony Membership (WHIM). Nationally known authors were not asked to pay a membership fee, and where possible we provided them with one of the free hotel rooms and some of them did manage to get their publishers to pay their airfare.

Alleen was also working with the State Library Association to sponsor the Arizona Young Readers Awards program in which children voted for their favorite authors. We scheduled the Young Readers Award conference the Thursday before the weekend of the Humor Conference in hopes that the authors who were chosen as favorites and whose publishers usually paid their expenses would stay over an extra day to participate in the Humor conferences.

One of the things we learned from managing these two conferences is that people can be paid in different ways, the most important of which is respect. Today, we treat our authors as if they were the most treasured of friends Omega Replica Watches or relatives coming for a visit. We have an advantage November through April when our beautiful winter weather, dramatic scenery, and diversity of culture entice authors to want to visit. We also have the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Native American cultural events, Latino/Latina cultural events, and other wonders of the great Southwest. We ask if there is anything in the area that they would like to see or do or anyone they want to visit, and we also try to arrange newspaper or television stories or interviews. Such preplanning facilitates the development of special, long term friendships while planting the seeds for return visits.

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