Sunday, 6 February 2011

More academic joys

I wrote recently about why we academics unually enjoy what we are doing. Today I am going to a conference in Stavanger, Norway. It isn't an academic conference, but a children's literature festival, with authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians and all those wonderful people who are passionate about children's books. There will even be children, called Super Readers, who have read some books and will talk about them in front of the audience. Wow! I've been to one of these recurrent events in Stavanger, and it's fun. Too much going on, but fun: exhibitions, recitals, round tables, film screenings and theatre performances. Many friends are coming, and I am looking forward to it. I am going because I am passionate about children's literature, because - let me be honest - I am flattered about being invited to do the opening talk, because I think I have something important to say, because it will be nice to meet old friends and make new.

Yet looking back I can think of many occasions when my motivations were different. That was when I was young, both in terms of age and career, and felt I needed to attend everying to build up my professional network. When I applied for scholarships and invited myself to international universities that would have me. I remember doing three or four lectures a day five days a week because my hosts wanted to make the most of my visit. I was passionate about children's literature and everything else I was doing, but I didn't have to be that ambitious. I thought it would count. It didn't, and I don't think anybody who read my reports was impressed. Rather they thought: what an idiot! Actually, my colleagues did ask me: Why do you travel so much, what are you getting out of it? Yes, what did I get out of it? Experience of other cultures, academic and otherwise; networks, professional satisfaction. I tested new ideas; my guest lectures fed into my research. I could do things that I for this or that reason couldn't do at my own institution. I also wanted to share my knowledge and my ideas.

Most of it is still valid although I don't need another conference paper or guest lecture on my cv. I am doing it because I enjoy doing it, and while I am thinking with horror about travelling to the airport, flying, changing planes, flying again, getting from the airport to the hotel, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed - I am looking forward to it. I know I'll be happy when I am there.

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