It’s that time of year—lots of things winding down, a few more starting. It’s been a month since my school year ended, but Nick’s last day of school is tomorrow. He’s ready — and so are we all. The end of the school year has been taken up with tests, projects, and the occasional field trip, and it’s starting to feel as if they’re just marking time. So tomorrow is the last day, and then he has the rest of the week free before a one-week summer camp that provides his transition to our summer in England.
I’m finishing up, too. I finished a conference paper last week and delivered it this weekend. More importantly—at least, to me personally—I wrote and published my last (for a while) column for LiteraryMama.com. I’ve been writing a column called Children’s Lit Book Group for almost five years, and this week’s is the last installment. I never really imagined quitting what was a very pleasant bi-monthly writing assignment, but new responsibilities have intervened and I just don’t have the time any more.
LiteraryMama was my first big venture into web publishing. I started writing there in 2003, when the site launched, and I also served briefly as Profiles editor. It was LiteraryMama that prompted me to start experimenting with blogging, and it became an outlet for the creative nonfiction writing that I was just starting out with as well. After the first year there, I shifted the focus of my column to children’s literature, to try to align it a little better with my academic work, and that has remained my focus up to the end. Writing the column, I got the chance to reflect on books I was teaching in my courses, to try out ideas that later made their way into articles, and to feel myself part of a larger conversation about children and books, one that stretched out beyond the academy into the living rooms and playgroups of my friends and their friends and on and on into the wider world.
Most academics don’t get the opportunity to write for a non-academic audience very often, and I highly recommend it. Writing for a broad audience helped me think through how to present material to my students; it also helped me synthesize material that I was working on for more scholarly papers. I got feedback on my work, and the satisfaction that comes from participating in a conversation that matters. So I’ll miss the column, and the benefits it provided for me, but it’s time to move on. Fortunately, I get a few of those same pleasures from this blog — even if I’m not writing about children’s literature, I certainly get the sense of participating in a broad and important conversation.
This summer I’ll be teaching in England, and in the fall I begin a new administrative position and my daughter heads off to college. As we face these new challenges, I may miss a week or two of this blog now and then, but I’ll still be here, reflecting on this mid-career life and the changes it can bring.