Me the copycat is once again responding to Philip Nel's blog post. I think his story is more typical than mine: someone discovering that children's literature is fun and successively making it the focus of study. In my case, I always wanted to study children's literature. When I was finishing middle school/junior high/whatever; when I was 15 I was seriously considering quitting my very prestigeous school and change to a library college because they taught children's literature. But they taught a lot of other things I wasn't interested in, so finally I didn't. Schools of librarianship were the only places you could do children's lit, but there was another path: translation, and that was the path I took. And then, by serendipity - as everything else - I met an editor from the only Russian professional journal in children's literature, which mostly targeted librarians, but at least I found myself in a community of devotees.
The rest is history, but I'll tell it very briefly. Since I could not do children's lit for a living, I did it in my spare time, writing essays, book reviews and stuff. So in this respect, I was an autodidact, like Philip. But later I took undergrad and masters in child lit in Stockholm, did my PhD in child lit, so I actually have formal qualifications for what I am doing now. In contrast, I have been obliged to publish on general literature (two single-authored books, several edited volumes, scores of articles) for promotion, and I have taught almost everything, except ancient and medieval literature: Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Austin, Swedish Romantic poetry, Russian magical realism, Imre Kertesz, feminist theory, you name it. And supervised on almost anything one can think of.
Children's literature is my Rachel, everything else my Leah, and I have worked hard for both.