Most of the world's children's literature scholars are these days in Brisbane, for the biennial conference of IRSCL, the International Research Society for Children's Literature. I am not there because it's too far away, too expensive and too close to my travel to Brazil. I am disappointed that I am not there because I feel strong bonds with this organisation.
I learned about it in mid-'70s when I was writing my first reviews and articles on children's literature. There was a short report from a conference in the Russian professional journal. IRSCL was a magical word that opened Aladdin's caves of children's literature. I knew some people who knew other people who had attended the conference. Then suddenly, in 1981, the conference was in Moscow. I couldn't even dream of participating, but I offered my services as an interpreter. I was the only interpreter at this conference who was interested in children's literature, all the others saw it as just another conference topic, somewhere between biochemistry and political economy.
Then I moved to Sweden, and everything became possible. I became a member and started attending conferences, all of them from 1983 to 1999. In 1991 I became a board member, in 1993 I was elected President, and in 1995 I ran a conference in Stockholm. I invested a lot of time and energy in this organisation. I am happy to see it thriving, but I am upset that I have lost touch with it. It's not my fault. It just so happened. In 2001, I missed it because it was right after we had moved back home from California. A trip to South Africa didn't look too attractive at the moment. And then, for many long years, I couldn't travel at all. One time, I was registered and had paid the fees and bought tickets, but had to cancel at short notice.
Two years ago I went for a nostalgic IRSCL conference in Frankfurt. I think I knew already then that I wouldn't be going to Australia.
I am looking at the conference programme and see many familiar names. I also see many, many unfamiliar names, and I am happy that so many new people from so many contries have discovered the joys of children's literature scholarship.
I am a bit sad.