I attended most of the Placing the Personal Essay colloquium held today at Massey University, organized by Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey. It took me some time to get a clear sense of the proceedings, as the first sessions were largely devoted to historians of 19th and early 20th Aotearoa. That made me think I’d either stumbled into the wrong event, or that the inevitable burden of academic-sponsored conferences on writing means that you have to include (mostly) academics. Curiously, later in the day, Ashleigh Young, a writer and editor, was rather apologetic in her role as session chair for not being an academic. (Although I should be used to incongruous apologies by now, this is NZ) And the overwhelming demographic in the room really struck me: mostly women (that’s fine!) and median age 50ish (OK too, I suppose, I’m 47). But that did make me wonder: where are the young(-ish) folk? Moreover, is interest in (which evidently was considerable given the nearly full amphitheatre) the so-called “personal essay” only a concern of aging Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers? I admit that I left after the last “formal” session and prior to the round-up discussion that might have considered elements of what I’m mulling over here. There were some fine and insightful (if necessarily compressed to very compact 7 minute bursts) talks, including those by Ian Wedde and Harry Ricketts. Lynne Jenner questioned why genre parameters are so strictly adhered to and enforced in some creative writing contexts. Giovanni Tiso spoke about Google+’s hijacking of his uploaded photos to reconfigure them into a formulaic, technologically-curated album with the title: “story by Giovanni Tiso.” As so often happens, things were starting to get a little more intellectually provocative just as this audience member was tiring of nursing cups of lukewarm coffee, nibbling generic biscuits, and yearning for a drink.