One of the things I love about attending conferences is the chance to meet people and have great conversations. Then there are just those who I get to meet. I got to meet Paul Hewitt several years ago at a conference, and I got to tell him that I knew a woman who had taken his physics course and majored in physics because of him. I got to make him smile.
Paul Hewitt is the author of a physics textbook called Conceptual Physics. We use it at my school for the lowest level of first year physics, and I also have AP students read it. Many physics teachers admire Paul Hewitt very much, so it is actually pretty cool to have met him. I can also impress my students by recounting how I heard a talk by S. James Gates, who to my students is “the guy on the poster.” I’m not sure why it is so exciting to have seen in person a guy on a poster, but OK.
Well, this conference is the one where I got to have my picture taken with Connie Willis, one of my favorite authors! Woot! She even gave me permission to put the photo on my blog, so here it is:
When I was in high school, I first read Willis’s novelette Blued Moon, which was published in Asimov’s* (a magazine of short science fiction stories) in the 1980’s. I loved it, and thought that even my mother would enjoy it. My mom said she didn’t like science fiction, but this was a story about coincidence, language, and English majors.
Since then, I have read every book and story by Connie Willis that I have been able to find. I learned that he husband was a physics professor somehow, which made a lot of sense when I read At the Rialto and her novel Bellwether. At the Rialto is a short story that takes place at a quantum mechanics conference, and Bellwether involves someone who keeps alive the memory of her high school physics teacher.
I met Connie’s husband Courtney Willis at a conference in Madison, WI. I was heading out to find dinner one evening with my friend Liz, and Courtney was also on the same mission. We all found our way to an Afghan restaurant and had a good meal and a good conversation. Then a year or so ago I finally met Connie Willis when she gave a talk and a reading at Swarthmore College. She had a bad cold at the time, but she did the reading anyway and I hung on every word, and afterward asked her to sign my copy of her novel Passage. The novel she read from that night will probably be published next spring (2010) and I am very much looking forward to reading it! It takes place largely in her favorite time and place: World War II, the Blitz. It features characters who are time-traveling historians, as in her short story Fire Watch and her novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog.
So, I still haven’t had a true conversation with Connie Willis, but I am still pretty pleased to have had several opportunities to say hello at the conference, and feel all glowy that I was at the same conference as Connie Willis. I also stayed at the same hotel Al Gore spoke in, in the same city where President Obama was spending the weekend, and I was in the same room as a Nobel-prize-winning physicist more than once! So I guess it was a pretty special weekend, but I still missed my husband and our cat. I’m glad to be home!
*short for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine