Tales from the assistant’s desk: The magical meeting

By Sara Cleary, acquisitions assistant

A week ago today, I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a stranger to the world of professional conferences. I’ve been to a few industry-specific meetings—writing, editing, and the like. I have the tote bags, the laminated name tags, and the collection of business cards to prove it. But, I must admit, there is something entirely different and exciting about meetings of academic societies. I might even call them “magical.” (Yes, you read that correctly. I am officially a university press nerd.)

To understand my enthusiasm, you must first understand what my day-to-day is like here at the Press. I’d estimate that I write 30 to 50 emails per day, most of which are addressed to authors of our consumer health and history of medicine books. I converse with these authors on a range of topics, from how to use our file-sharing website, to the proper way to format their manuscripts, to their summer vacation plans (just in case their advance copies should arrive mid-beach trip!). Sometimes I speak with authors on the phone, but, as I’m sure we can all admit, even the phone conversations are becoming few and far between. It is rare for me to have a face-to-face with the people at the other end of the email chain.

So, with this in mind, picture me at the History of Medicine meeting. There I was, stationed behind our booth in the book exhibit hall, my eyes glued to every passing name tag. At one point, I got so excited when I recognized an author that I instantly blurted out, “Oh, your book [The Bleeding Disease] is down there, at the end of the table!” Stephen Pemberton graciously answered, “I wasn’t searching for it, but thank you anyway.” I reined myself in after that awkward exchange.

Seriously, though. What a pleasure it was to meet in person the people I work with each day, to see them holding their books and talking about their next projects. I enjoy being part of a university press because it makes me feel like I am contributing to something larger than myself, whatever that may be (general academia, the advancement and distribution of knowledge, etc.). Attending the AAHM meeting, putting faces to email addresses, and experiencing the buzz of an academic meeting was a pleasant refresher of that greater purpose.