After two weeks of glorious idleness as I recovered from teaching Maymester, I embark tomorrow for six and a half weeks away.
First I go to Columbia, South Carolina, where I'll preside, as president, over the annual conference of the Children's Literature Association, a group of some 800 literature professors and scholars, and me, their lone philosophy Ph.D. I love this organization beyond all reckoning. My long-standing love for it was my chief qualification to be elected to its helm. Whenever I attend a conference, which is just about every single year (in 23 years, I've only missed 3 times), I walk in the door of the conference venue, and I think, "THIS is my world. THESE are my people." Oh, the bliss of being with people who love what you love, and love it even more and better than you do.
That said, I'm a teensy bit stressed this year at the thought of running an all-day board meeting on Wednesday and a general membership meeting on Saturday, as well as serving as host/MC for the awards banquet Saturday night. But in between the weight of my official duties, I'll get to luxuriate in the delicious papers on offer, hundreds of them, and catch up with dear friends from all over the country and world.
On Sunday, my year as president done, I'll drive with a friend up to Roanoke, where I'll spend six weeks teaching in the graduate program in children's literature at Hollins University. I spent two weeks there as a writer-in-residence in 2005, and when I arrived I knew I was entering the portals of paradise. The class I'm going to teach has SEVEN students in it. I'm teaching what I know best in the whole world: chapter book writing (books for second-fourth graders, transitional books to take kids from easy readers to full-fledged middle-grade novels, books like my How Oliver Olson Changed the World, 7 x 9 = Trouble!, and Kelsey Green, Reading Queen). The class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-12, so I should have heaps and heaps of time for my own writing, which is good, as I have heaps and heaps of writing I need to do. But there will also be time to play with other writer friends, as well as friends from my University of Maryland days, who will be joining me in Roanoke for a mini-reunion.
Part of me almost wishes I weren't going off for this delectable summer of fun. I should be here in Boulder, getting ready to make a Serious Plan for my Wonderful New Life. But then I remembered: part of my plan for my Wonderful New Life is to have lots of gigs just like this one. I need money, and I love teaching, and I adore being in the company of other writers. So I'm not postponing the start of my Wonderful New Life.
This IS the start of it, right now.