East Texas Historical Association's fall meeting in Nacogdoches last week in order to present a paper showcasing a tiny sliver of my Chicken Ranch work. The paper's title, "The Last Madam: The Unexpected Life of the Chicken Ranch's Edna Milton (1928-2012)," pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the subject matter. What it doesn't tell you is how unbelievably nervous I was. Writing a book is one thing. Putting together a paper for an oral presentation for a conference teeming with folks boasting Ph.D.s in history and exceptionally accomplished lay people proved quite stressful in the extreme. Yes, I'd uncovered quite a bit of heretofore unknown information in my research, but my inexperience in this form was a big disadvantage. My book is 110,000 words long, and Miss Edna's chapter alone is 30-plus pages. I had to distill all that down to a 20 minute presentation, roughly 10 pages, focusing on my original research while making the whole thing coherent. I expected any minute for someone to rise up, point a finger, and shout "Imposter!" It didn't help that I arrived in Nacogdoches around 5 p.m. Thursday evening before my presentation, tired and hungry. After checking in to my hotel, I drove around the Stephen F. Austin State University campus, thinking to browse through the botanical gardens and arboretum there, maybe taking some photos. But shadows were already growing long and I was tired, so despite the beautiful campus, I went and had dinner instead. Afterward I went back to the hotel and laid down, feeling rather ill. Lack of sleep or the stress of the drive caught up with me, I suppose. After a few hours I began to feel a bit better, so I got up and did a few read-throughs of my paper before watching a little television ("Big Bang Theory" if you're curious) before turning in.
Chicken Ranch Central