In 2011, a number of scholars of lesser-known female modernists were sitting in a bar at a conference. Yes, we know that sounds like the setup for a joke. And perhaps in a way, it is. For out of that casual conversation, we (Erica Delsandro and Julie Vandivere) decided to produce an international conference, focusing on all of Virginia Woolf's female contemporaries, at Bloomsburg University, a small Pennsylvania state institution that, because of its rural location, had never before hosted an international conference of any sort. Ever. The punch line to the joke, of course, is that the conference was a big success—and planning and presenting it was the best time many of us have had in years. We learned that campuses like ours can be perfect settings for conferences—and that hosting the Virginia Woolf conference, in particular, can offer tremendous benefits to any institution.
Never would we have imagined just how great and positive an impact the Woolf conference would have on our university and hometown. It gave us the means to develop bonds between “town and gown” as never before: We secured grants from local corporations and businesses, connected local readers with international academics in book groups and at the conference, and involved undergraduates and area high school students in reading, writing, and presenting on Virginia Woolf at the college level. In turn, conference- goers poured into the towns’ shops and restaurants, not only providing a jolt to the local economy but also giving residents real pride in our downtown. Bloomsburg University and the town of Bloomsburg truly welcomed and, we must say, delighted in the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.
Because of the very positive and unexpected results of marrying the town, university, and conference into one event, we'd like to use this introduction to give you a behindthe- scenes look at how we made the conference happen and encourage future conference organizers to use what we learned to even greater success.