I'm used to enjoying the annual conference of the Children's Literature Association as a weekend of exuberant play where I spend three scrumptious days doing nothing but hearing wonderful papers and catching up with dear friends. But this year I have official duties to discharge as vice president/president elect of this organization that I love so much. I have spent the past year in the vice presidential role, preparing to ascend to the ChLA throne at noon today.
Well, not "throne" exactly: I'm going to be president, not queen, and presiding over a 750-member organization, not ruling an empire. But the responsibilities are still daunting, as the organization hosts a huge annual conference, is associated with the publication of two scholarly journals and a book series, presents many awards and grants, and much more. Of course, the president herself does little of this. The organization is extremely well structured, with the bulk of its work done both by a professional management company and by a host of astonishingly accomplished colleagues who volunteer their time to chair our many committees. But mine is a big job nonetheless, and the current holder of the presidency, Claudia Nelson (we call ourselves Claudia N. and Claudia M.), has amazing gifts, which include a brilliant brain, a generous heart, delicious wit, and patience for tireless toil.
My best gift, I've come to realize, what I'm good at, really truly excellent at, is simply this: I'm good at loving things.
It doesn't sound like much, but I think it's going to be enough to get me through the coming year of the Children's Liteature Association presidency. The president, after all, is above all a cheerleader, an encourager, an appreciator - someone who makes it easier for everyone who does the real work of the association to do the jobs they've been elected or appointed to do. I can cheer! I can encourage! I can appreciate!
I'm working on some other skills as well, which don't come as easily to me:
The ability to talk less and to listen more.
The ability not to be confident that my own crystal-clear views about the obviousness of how things ought to be are infallibly correct.
The ability to ask for help when I need it.
The abilty not to procrastinate. This will be the hardest one! So maybe: the ability not to procrastinate on any task for more than a day. That seems more doable.
I'm sure there are other skills I'll need as well, but this list is a start. I'll love, listen, and try not to procrastinate. Sounds good so far.