UAC Chicago in 2018 was nothing short of amazing. How many astrologers can fit on a boat? (The answer is 750). And how many astrologers can you fit into a hotel?
I think the final count on astrologers in a hotel was 1500. To be honest, I don’t mind too much. This was a highly successful conference for me (as well as many others) and it gets my “Jupiter Award” for bringing together so many people, for providing so many opportunities and for getting me to church on a Sunday morning with a hangover. Expensive? Yes but I (eventually) recovered my expenses, recruited many speakers for IVC 2020 and had a lot of fun.
My massive thanks to coordinator Laura Nalbandian and all her crew.
I loved the location and especially I loved being so near to local shops and restaurants. I dislike feeling trapped “on campus” and I strenuously avoid events that make me feel like I’m back in primary school. As a teacher, I get enough of eating the same sub standard meals as everyone else. So being in Downtown Chicago, I definitely wasn’t going to feel like I was trapped in a crappy hotel eating crappy hotel food.
And there was no crappy food in Chicago! Popcorn, pizza, Chinese food, Trader Joe’s, Mexican food. . .and the good thing was there was always leftovers to share back at the bunkhouse (more on this in a minute).
I’m not much of a shopper but there were opportunities for lots of this as the hotel was located on the “Magnificent Mile”. There was plenty to see and do and it really felt like I could enjoy a good slice of American pie.
UAC of course stands for “United Astrology Conference” and it brings together several astrology organisations. I won’t belabour details because everything that one needs to know about UAC Chicago is on their well designed website.
If this post has given you a great sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), UAC Chicago’s website is where you can buy recordings of all the lectures (including mine!).
One criticism I’ve heard about UAC Chicago is that is was “too big”. Um. . .yes it’s big. You won’t be able to do everything you wanted to do or see everyone but you can give it a pretty good try. Personally, I never once felt overwhelmed in the UAC Chicago crowd (but I do divide my time between the UK and India).
I aim to try to please so if a “too big” conference is not for you, then I’ve written a few astrology reviews for other major astrology conferences across the world of various sizes. Just click the links to get to the review.
Northwest Astrology Conference, Seattle Washington, every year in June
International Society for Astrological Research, various locations in the US, every other year in the autumn
Institute of Vedic Culture (IVC), Kolkata India, 4-9 February 2020
Kepler Institute, Belgrade Serbia, every year in March
Associação Portuguesa de Astrologia, ASPAS, Maia Portugal, 23 and 24 March 2019
Associazione Cultural Jayavidya, Perugia Italy, every year in June
State of the Art Astrology, Buffalo NY every year in October
Astrology Restored, Cape Town, next one in 2020
Before getting the UAC Chicago review, just a bit of my own stuff first.
As September is back-to-school month, I’m giving readers a little heads up that there may be a few website updates in the near future. I hope these updates won’t clog your inboxes too much but if they do, please forgive me. I hope you won’t unsubscribe (because that would mean you are going to miss out on some good stuff!) but that is always an option if you get too many notices from this site.
I’m really focusing on getting the message out on how astrology can be an incredibly useful tool to parents and educators. I’ll be writing special posts for each year group just in time for September. And I have a lot of other goodies up my sleeve too. If you prefer webinars, I’ll also have plenty of those too.
And if you’ve ever wondered if children misbehave more on a new moon or a full moon, then check out my youtube video. Please leave”thumbs up” and comments on youtube–it helps boost rankings.
My latest webinar was “The Gift of Flight” which was my first offering as a tutor for the International Academy of Astrology. This four hour “pocket course” will shortly be available to order. I had a lot of fun doing this but I also learned a lot: for one thing, I have way more to say about astrology in education than I thought I did! If you asked me a few weeks ago if I thought I’d have enough material to talk for four hours, I would have been very doubtful. But I had no problem at all! In fact, I have even more to say. And now that I’ve done it once, I have TONS of ideas for how I can continue to build on simplifying the main points and making them more accessible to non-astrologers.
Reaching non-astrologers is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. Some astrologers write horoscopes and although I think it’s perfectly fine, it’s not something I find particularly edifying. Nonetheless, after a brief break from writing horoscopes for the Cosmic Intelligence Agency, it looks like I may be getting back in the starry saddle again. But my horoscopes will have a very distinguishing feature: they will be aimed at parents and teachers. It’s far too niche for any newspaper or magazine (great goddess I don’t see how anyone could bear the monotony of doing that! Give me a classroom any day of the week!) but it will be something I think I can run with. It will be an experiment and provided it doesn’t get in the way of all my other writing commitments (Did someone say “The Wolf You Feed”?), I’m going it give it a shot.
Ah the United Astrology Conference in Chicago! What can be said about the biggest astrology conference in the world (so far)? It was a lot of fun, a lot of people and a lot of really great lectures. But there was also a lot of fun before and after the conference.
UAC was part of my US tour beginning and ending in NYC. Despite being well travelled, there are a few states I have never visited and wanted to tick off my to-do list. I also wanted to avoid planes where I could. So I took a lot of Greyhounds.
From Chicago, I greyhounded east to Kalamazoo to see some WMU college buddies, then to Detroit to see my sister and her children. From Detroit, I greyhounded to Denver to speak at Chris Brennan’s group and then greyhounded back to NYC to have lunch with Ronnie Grishman and Shelley Ackerman and get my plane back to London.
Getting a bus takes longer but it isn’t unpleasant to watch the world roll by while someone else drives. I can sleep anywhere and I had wifi for almost the whole time. And it’s cheaper and less hassle than flying. I’m not a fan of fast food but for the most part, there were good alternatives when we stopped for breaks.
I mention this tour because it gives an example of how to get the most out of an astrology conference. There’s some more advice at the end of this post.
But back to UAC Chicago. . .
Things got off to a great start with breakfast in New York City with Michael Lutin and his adorable kitties and our Slovakian astrology friend Peter Poffowskij. Then things really picked up pace with a television interview in NYC. What did the honorary British astrologer talk about? Of course it had to be a certain Royal wedding and its connections with a certain star!
Apparently our interview will be played–wait for it!–in the back of New York taxis! How cool is that!? Many thanks to the gorgeous Shelley Ackerman for coordinating this!
I travelled to Chicago on the “UAC Love Train” with a whole bunch of other astrologers (we took over a whole coach). The journey took about 19 hours. A lot of astrology happened in 19 hours. We were doing chart readings for train conductors, live feeds and telling Chicago to get ready for us via social media.
This could ONLY be topped by a sunset dinner on the train with Tad Mann and Chris Flisher. What a day it was and we hadn’t even arrived at the conference! With a few live feeds from the Love Train, it felt like we had built up a lot of momentum.
Thanks to social media (and Shelley!), our arrival was greeted by many early birds to the conference. I was delighted to see editor of Dell Horoscope Ronnie Grishman. Her first words to me were: “When are you going to write me another article?” I love this woman.
I also saw the gorgeous and hard working Demetrius Bagley who I met at SOTA 2014!
After getting lost in the massive hotel and losing our luggage in the ensuing confusion (and bumping into SO many Facebook friends), I finally got to my room. I was tired and in need of a shower. Oh, um, we were on the 15th floor (yikes).
The MAJOR bit of UAC Chicago fun was the “bunkhouse”. My astro sister Mj Patterson came up with the mad idea of sharing a hotel room with us and two other women and my EIGHT pairs of shoes (oh the shame! I didn’t even know I had eight pairs of shoes! I’m TOTALLY blaming Christina Caudill for this one, lol).
We’d be crowded but I thought I’d hardly see any of the other roommates. I may have been a little wrong on that point but happily so: we had such a lot of fun sharing giggles, food and friendship. I’ve stayed in so many hotel rooms that to be honest, I now find them quite lonely and sterile. So I am very grateful to my new astro sisters for the companionship.
There is a room sharing option at most conferences. Usually I don’t care who I share a room with but I’ve learned my lesson after a particularly bad experience. I’m a bit more careful now.
Interestingly, I had met all of my UAC Chicago bunkmates at previous conferences. I met Mj maybe 20 years ago at an astrology camp the UK. After losing track of her for 17 years, I found her at the SOTA conference in 2015. I was so happy to re-connect with her at IVC 2018 and guess what? She’s coming back to IVC 2020!
At around the same point I re-discovered Mj, I met Juliet and even more interestingly, I also know her father who is a regular at SOTA AND her charming daughter! All in the family, eh?
Now lovely Elodie, I met at ISAR 2016. And guess what? She’s coming to IVC 2020 too!
We stockpiled enough wonderful memories to last a long time. Juliet, I hope you come to IVC 2020 xxx
Opening night at the conference featured another one of Aleksander Imsiragic’s movies (I have to find out what software he uses). Although I have to say, it was a little uncomfortable when a certain controversial character received very little applause when his photo popped up.
After the opening, it was ice cream social time but it was more like an IVC reunion.
It was fab to catch up with familiar folk like Roy Gillett, Ana Andrade, Rod Suskin, Nicky Smuts, Rick Levine, Chris Turner, Lynn Bell, Sol Jonassen, Kenneth Miller, Stef Johnson, Julia Simas, Olga Morales and my astro brothers Sam Reynolds and Ian Waisler and my astro sister Michelle Gould but it was equally magical to meet Facebook friends Tracy Quinlan, Rebecca Gordon, Cassandra Tyndall (and so many others) in person! I even met a few people I hadn’t seen in, like 10 years.
Oh and the ice cream was DIVINE! Me, Sam, Christina, Amanda Walsh and a few others had to work extra hard in the hotel’s lush gym!
After a day of lectures, it was time for some more socialising. One thing I hadn’t planned on was joining the boat cruise on Lake Michigan. I mean, I’ve been on Lake Michigan a million times. I thought I’d leave the opportunity for someone from Australia. But as everyone was leaving, I was offered a ticket at the last possible minute.
A very handsome astrological researcher (who would also be my hot date at the Regulus Awards Dinner) persuaded me to come along. Cruising along the river really made me feel nostalgic. . .and there was so much more of that to come!
It was great to see Linea Van Horn and Alan Bronstein (who wrote a review for my book as a teacher and non astrologer), Meredith Froemke and Jenny Burack and so many others!
Saturday was another day of lectures with a brief interlude of breakfast with Sonal Sachdeva and then lunch with fellow Brits Kim Farnell and Sue Farebrother and other astro folks. Poor Kim was limping on a broken ankle and I was working hard on persuading Sue to come to India (she gave in!).
On a bum note, my Moon in Leo was slightly less than impressed that a certain so-called “academic” from a certain “anonymous” centre could not have been bothered to do a little research on her guests and introduced me as someone she “didn’t know”. Rude? Just a touch. How hard is it to look up someone’s biography or to ask a mutual friend for details? Hmmmph! But it’s OK, I’m not terribly interested in her either. Fortunately, one bum note doesn’t ruin the whole symphony (but it does stand out!). I’ll try very hard not to hold a grudge (great Goddess help me). I mention this incident as an example of how NOT to network at a conference!
Saturday night was Jazz night and guess who came as a flapper? Yep. Me and a whole lot of others all seemed to have gotten the same dress in different coloured sequins. But I had pink kitten heeled shoes to match mine, lol. Oh and a blonde wig to preserve my dignity! (The wig and the boa were much loved gifts from Christina Caudill.)
For a Jazz Night, there was a conspicuous lack of music. I’ve heard of “silent auctions” before but I thought this was taking things to the extreme! I had dressed as a flapper with the hopes of doing The Charleston or something. A few far more creative astrologers managed to set up some impromptu speakers but this was one night that jet lag and bootleg beverages got the better of me.
Sunday morning and I got a message from an old friend. It said something along the lines of: “I see you’re in town. Get yourself to Church. You can borrow one of my trumpets!” What what what? I thought. But I managed to pull myself together and travelled across town to a local Salvation Army where I met someone I hadn’t seen in about 35 years!
You know what old people say when they see each other after a long time? “You haven’t changed a bit!” Yup, that’s what we said to each other! So I went from flapper to playing the trumpet in the Salvation Army band on a Sunday morning in the space of
about 12 hours. Talk about a transformation! I even sang in the choir and surprised myself with sight reading quite a challenging piece. “You can take the girl out of the Salvation Army. . .” someone once said.
I had lunch with my friend and his family. It was wonderful to catch up with him and to ask him about life in the Salvation Army. As a teenager I considered becoming a full-time Salvation Army officer. But eventually I knew I was destined for other things. I think I would have eventually felt I was missing our on something if I had to wear black and white every day (never mind the bonnet). But I kept this thought to myself.
Sunday night was the astrology organisations’ party night. It’s supposed to be kind of like a pub crawl but in a hotel. So I went to one party and after about half an hour, security arrived and told us we had to vacate the room. Well OK, we all thought, there’s another party somewhere else. But word was getting around that one by one, the parties were getting shut down. I made it to another when security crashed in again. And then again at another. Well I thought, there’s always tomorrow night! By the way, Richard Smoot wrote a very funny piece (“Saturn Comes to the Party”) in the ISAR Journal about the shut downs!
Monday night was of course the Regulus Banquet. I had a hot date and high heels (no, my hot date wasn’t wearing the one wearing the high heels!). As always at these things, the food can be a little like school dinners but it was better than a lot of other conference banquets I had been to. And I had my hot date to distract me.
Presenter Nadiya Shah killed it. She shimmered in her gorgeous dress. Everyone applauded her when she went to the microphone. With the timing of a seasoned performer, she said: “I know, you’re applauding the dress, right?” We had talked about UAC dresses when we were in Belgrade together but even I was blown away! And I had a warning!
The awards ceremony was surprisingly moving. There were a few disappointments (bummer that Brits Robert Currey, Roy Gillett, Clare Martin, Melanie Reinhart and Frank Clifford didn’t win one!) but I was very happy for Deb Houlding, David Cochrane and Tem Tarriktar! I thought Richard Smoot’s was very well deserved too! And Steven Forrest? I love dat man.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be dead soon,” Steven said. He went on to say that our focus should be kept on the young astrologers. We should give them opportunities. It was a message that weighed very heavily on me.
By the way, IVC 2020 will feature an International Student Competition. If what Steven said weighs as heavily on you as it did on me, contact the coordinator Lea Imsiragic (email@example.com). IVC has been conducting student lecture competitions for many years. I hope UAC and other Western astrology conferences follow suit.
Oh and thanks for the beer Frank Piechosky!
Now with all these distractions, it would be very easy to forget that I was at UAC to deliver a lecture. And deliver a lecture I did (thank you Wade Caves for that pep talk!)! I was on fire! I sold some books! And I got some appointments for consultations! I also made some SERIOUS connections for further opportunities! So all in all, UAC was a fab way for me to make some connections and get some jingle in my pockets!
An international astrology conference like UAC Chicago is a very big event that takes a lot of preparation. When I spoke at UAC Denver (2008), I really had no idea what to expect. It was my first international conference (what an entry, eh?) and I was so green, I glowed. I also dressed up as Scarlett O’Hara but that’s another story entirely.
I took a financial hit in 2008 but was determined to make UAC Chicago work. With a few compromises, it ended up being a wonderful opportunity for me.
Advice for Attendees: