SOTA News 19 Feb 2014

19 February 2014

Hi All,

And happy Sun in Pisces! You know what this means — spring is coming! And it can’t be soon enough to suit me this year…I am sick to death of wind and snow and cold. Here’s hoping we’ll be seeing the last of it soon and will get a gorgeous spring to make up for it.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest edition of SOTAnews. And this time I’d like to feature a couple of Toronto-area speakers — Kelly Surtees and Michael Barwick.

As you probably know already, Kelly will be doing the keynote, Purpose and Passion, at SOTA’s opening reception. But did you know she’s also lecturing in the main portion of the conference? Uh-huh. Here’s her topic:

The Fire of 2015

How Jupiter in Leo, Saturn in Sagittarius, and Venus retrograde in Leo combine with Uranus in Aries to provide a taste of the future. After a few years in yin territory, we great 2015 with a yang focus. This provides a preview of the longer elemental Saturn/Jupiter cycle, which shifts into air in December 2020. What does fire, which is hot and dry, offer? How can this element, which represents the choleric temperament, provide clues to the year ahead?

Kelly gained her earliest lecturing experience in Australia, where, judging from her reception at the FAA conference in Hobart, she is still a big hit. We are fortunate to have her here in Ontario. And if you haven’t heard her yet, I’m sure you’ll enjoy her.

…And yes, Michael Barwick is back! Back with a very hot topic too, I might add. Here it is:

Lead into Gold: Astrology and Alchemy

Like astrology, alchemy has ancient roots and rich symbolism, some of which it shares with astrology. The goals of alchemy sound distinct: the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, the fame of which was most recently culturally exploited in the first novel in the Harry Potter series; an elixir of fire that confers youthfulness and longevity — sort of an ultimate Oil of Olay; and the ability to change base substances into nobler ones, such as the transformation of lead into gold. Common to all is a language of developmental procedures or stages whose symbolism can be used to enhance astrological interpretation. Michael will explore how a metaphorical understanding of alchemy applied to both natal and predictive astrology can result in true gold — the development of the living, conscious, authentic self.

Years ago when I started out in astrology, there was some discussion of the interface between alchemy and astrology. Then for many years, interest in alchemy languished. There now seems to be a resurgence and it would appear that Michael is right out there at the leading edge of it. If your orientation is spiritual, metaphysical, psychological, or philosophical, you might want to check this one out.


One of our requests for SOTA 2014 was “more Canadian speakers”. I’m happy to tell you that just under half of our speakers this year are Canadian, but I’ll be honest — I’d be happier still if that was exactly half. And while we’re on the subject of speakers, I would have liked a couple more from the Buffalo/Niagara/upstate New York area too. And I know there are willing volunteers out there, but we need to also do our best to make our attendees happy. That’s why we only consider experienced speakers.

What? You say you’re experienced? You say you gave a lecture a couple of years ago? Uh-huh. And nothing since??? OK, let’s define “experienced” so that we’re all on the same page. Experienced, to me, means that at minimum you’ve done 2 or 3 lectures of an hour in length or more for an astrological audience either at a conference, at your local astrological group, or perhaps at a school at a guest lecturer. And ideally, you’ve done one of those lectures in the past year.

Note that most of the lecturers on the SOTA roster have been out on at least the local circuit for 5 years or more. Some, like Kelly and Michael, have also lectured at other conferences. The more you lecture, the better you get. And we want good — because if our lecturers are not good our attendees — who pay for this conference with their registration fees — complain at best and become disenchanted and don’t return at worst.

Ok, you say you haven’t lectured for an astrology group, but you’ve lectured at a psychic fair, or at your Spiritualist Church, or for the local Parents Without Partners group? Or maybe you’ve been on radio or TV. Maybe you’ve even had your own show. That’s nice, but unfortunately it’s not the kind of experience we’re looking for.

Lectures at psychic fairs or for non-astrological venues tend to be entry-level at best. The audience is different, and the requirements are different. SOTA doesn’t even have a beginners’ track anymore. We want intermediate, advanced, or specialty topics. What draws raves at a psychic fair is apt to draw sneers and sighs of “Too basic” at SOTA.

As for lectures at the Spiritualist Church or non-astrological lecturing in general, if you’re looking for a slot in the Spirit Track or Astrology And… track, your expertise may very well stand you in good stead, but as far as the astrological tracks, it’s not what we’re looking for. The audiences are different, and while there MAY be some crossover, you are generally better off sticking to what you know. As for radio shows, those too are generally geared to the general public, and additionally tend to feature call-ins. Not the skills we’re looking for.

How about teaching? OK, there are definitely similarities between teaching and lecturing, though they are not identical. For one thing, I have found that teaching online is no guarantee of lecturing ability. For one thing, audiences like your presentation to be interactive. That means they expect you to put your notes down, stop reading from your PowerPoint, and make eye contact so they can get any confusions straightened around and any questions answered. Talking heads, no matter how good the information, put people to sleep.

For another thing, if you’re teaching and you run out of time, you just pick up where you left off next week. There IS no next week at a conference. And while nobody complains if you run 2-3 minute over time, if it’s more like 15-20 minutes, you are holding up the wheels of progress and annoying attendees, staff, and possibly other speakers alike. So if your experience is mainly the result of teaching, be aware of time constraints. That said, yes, if you are currently teaching a live (in-person) class and have an intermediate topic that you’d like to present, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you. It’s too late for this year, but next year the search will begin again.

If you DON’T have the experience you need, maybe it’s time to volunteer to lecture at your local group. If you don’t have a local group, maybe it’s time to start an astrology Meetup. Or maybe it’s time to start teaching or start teaching in person rather than on line.

For those of you who are interested in the ins and outs of getting a lecture slot, I am trying to put together a FAQ sheet. This probably won’t happen for a month or so, but if you want to receive it, let me know and I’ll send it when it’s ready. For the rest of you, thanks for reading and look for more SOTAnews next week.