As of this summer, I’ve officially been in my PhD program for a full year. I earned my MA in English (focusing in Children’s Literature) from Fall 2010 to Spring 2012 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and loved the program. There, I had to be self-motivated and I presented at conferences as much as I could, trying to force myself into the field of children’s literature as an academic discipline. I knew that I had a year to get as many presentations under my belt so I could apply to PhD programs with a full CV– I told myself I needed to look as impressive as possible to be accepted somewhere, because I needed full-funding and wanted to teach.
Ohio State accepted me into their PhD in Education program. I was also wait-listed and then accepted into a really prestigious children’s literature program in an English department. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my academic career because the second program was the “smart” choice. It was in the middle-of-nowhere but in a field I knew. It was a program that was graduating top scholars and where graduates got jobs in big schools. My MA advisor told me to apply there and was pushing me to go there. I felt guilty for loving Columbus and wanting to go to Ohio State for the name, even though I wasn’t sure I’d fit in with Education people.
But as of today, with a year under my belt, I am so glad I came here. My advisor is phenomenal and emailed me recently, out of the blue, to ask if I’d want to review a book with her (and have my name listed first as an author). She said she would walk me through the process and add a publication to my belt. Obviously, I said yes, and that project is due in December for publication in 2014. Also, she emailed me because the book is on werewolves, vampires, and popular culture… because she knows paranormal romance is my guilty pleasure and she found a way for me to turn that into an academic interest. (Seriously, I keep waiting for someone to pinch me and say this is all a dream.)
In one of my “required” courses this past semester, I worked on a paper with three other students. Our professor was interested in our project and asked if she could join us as a co-author because she wanted to see the research published. She sent the final paper off last week to a journal in Art Education, a field which I never thought I’d be published. We’re exchanging emails and putting together drafts for two other academic journals– without that professor’s intervention, I would have probably wrapped up the paper and called it a day… but we’re constantly talking about new ways to take the research and turn it into future publications.
To get hired as a professor, you need academic publications. You want to write articles for journals and occasionally chapters for books (but the journal articles, surprisingly, are “better”). You want to teach different classes and have syllabi created– I’ve taught 2 sections of “Introduction to Children’s Literature” and am about to start my third this summer. I’m teaching two sections of “Young Adult Literature” this fall, which is a dream come true for me.
I took out a LOT of loans to get my MA. It is not pretty and sometimes makes me upset to think about, but I told myself it would be worth it if I could get into a funded PhD program and crank out the publications… which I’m finally doing. In 2013, I will have (hopefully) gone from 0 publications to 3. I’ve been expanding from queer theory and gender studies to graphic novels and educational research. Honestly, it’s ridiculously fun and I really enjoy it. I love writing and I love learning and this is just a combination of the two.
When most people ask me what I’m studying, I say “I’m working on my PhD in Education, studying children’s literature and children’s literacy and stuff” because it sounds a little better than “I get paid to read young adult literature and write about it.” But, I totally GET PAID TO READ YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE AND WRITE ABOUT IT. I want to be a professor someday, though I also would be happy working in publishing or even potentially being a middle school English teacher, but I’m not worried about that yet. For now, I love what I’m doing and, if you’re thinking about going to graduate school for children’s literature, you should totally do it.