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Metaphor researchers are a friendly bunch. And it turns out that they are pretty sneaky too…
As the chair of the local organizing committee for RaAM 2020, I was approached by two separate groups of researchers. The ringleaders for the first group were Ana Piquer-Píriz, and Rafael Alejo-González, who wanted to hold a special session in honor of the achievements of Fiona MacArthur for the advancement of metaphor research. These two were the editors of a festschrift for Fiona that had been published earlier on in the year (see here), and their idea was to have each of the authors of the individual chapter say a few words about the impact of Fiona’s work for the metaphor community and beyond. We decided that we needed to create a plausible cover story – an event that would attract both Fiona & conference delegates – where we could spring this surprise on everyone.
In the midst of working out the details for Fiona’s event, I was contacted by Esther Roth from John Benjamins, who told me of a second group, led by Christian Burgers and Herb Colston, who wanted to do pretty much the same thing, but for another pioneer in metaphor research: Ray Gibbs. They too had prepared a festschrift, but this one hadn’t yet been published. They wanted to launch it at the conference, with Ray present.
Clearly something that we had to do! But while I was perfectly comfortable in deceiving RaAM 2020 conference delegates with a fake event once, I felt that doing so twice would be a bit over the top.
So why not combine them in a single fake ‘Meet the editors’ event?!?
Christian wrote an upbeat text for the conference proceedings, promising conference delegates the key to the mint: a roundtable discussion with experienced editors talking about how to get work published. Then we asked both Ray and Fiona to contribute with their wisdom as editors, but explained to them that the ‘editors’ event would actually only run for 30 minutes. To Fiona, we explained the first half hour would be a surprise for Ray, and the ‘editors’ event would take place during the second half hour. Ray was told that the ‘editors’ event would comprise the first half hour, while we would be honoring Fiona during the second half hour. Then all contributors to the two actual events were told the entire story, while everyone else was only informed about the ‘editors’ event.
Triple deception! And weeks of doublechecking emails before sending, to make sure we were telling the appropriate story to the addressee.
And then I made a mistake.
In the weeks before the conference, I set up practice webinars with various speakers so that they would see what it was like: to understand the difference between being an attendee and a panelist & have the chance to talk over who would do what and when. I had set up a practice webinar for ‘Ray’s’ people at 8pm on the Wednesday before the conference. After my Zumba class, naturally.
But after my work-out, I completely forgot. Instead, I biked over to my boyfriend’s house where he made dinner for us. So I was peacefully enjoying our meal, when suddenly my iPhone starting exploding with emails: ‘I’m waiting and it hasn’t started up’, ‘She’s not here’, ‘I’ll set up a meeting and we can go there’, etc.
So I grabbed my iPhone and sent a garbled message ‘on my way, wait’, ran to my BF’s computer and logged on. The participants started popping up, so that was fine. But that new computer set-up was different from mine, so I had to ask my BF stuff like ‘Aarrrggghhh where is that button? How do I move this out of the way?’, etc.
He also recalls me asking ‘Is that the mouse?!?’
So. I show up late & don’t know what I’m doing when I finally am there. Not exactly something that inspires confidence in anyone that this woman will possibly be able to run a 4-day virtual conference in only a week’s time.
And the thing is, I knew a couple of these people from before, but had never met the others. For me, they were the names from my reference lists, and now there they were listening to me babble on about how the same thing was NOT going to happen next week. And that yes, I knew what I was doing.
But they were all very kind & forgiving. At least outwardly. 🙂
And everything turned out GREAT in the end, with 145 people from 33 different countries gathered to celebrate Ray, Fiona and the first day of our conference. #2020INNmetaphor