If I Were a Middle-Class White Kid

Gene Marks’ instantly infamous “If I Were a Poor Black Kid” column (Forbes, 12 Dec. 2011) is a classic example of how privilege remains invisible to the privileged.  Though he acknowledges that he is “a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background” and so “life was easier for” him, the…

Advice from the Least Likely to Succeed

When I was a graduate student, I would have voted myself Least Likely to Succeed in Academe. I published nothing while in graduate school. I worked hard on my seminar papers, but none would work as an article — so, I didn’t send them out. I didn’t figure out how to write publishable literary criticism…

10 Tips for Writing a Biography

As we await a verdict from my editor on the official title of the book formerly known as The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming 2012), I thought I’d share a few tips with any aspiring biographers out there. Since I’ve only written one biography…

Professional Autodidact; or, How I Became a Children’s Literature Professor

I teach children’s literature, write books about children’s literature, and direct a graduate program in children’s literature.  But I’ve never taken a single course in children’s literature, neither as a graduate student nor as an undergraduate student.  I have no formal training in the field of my alleged expertise. So, in the words of David…

How to Write a Book

Since I’m an English professor and this advice derives from my experience, the following will be more pertinent to writers of non-fiction than it will to writers of fiction.  For good advice on fiction (and on writing in general), please read Elmore Leonard’s “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.” 1. There is no one foolproof way…

How to Find Good Children’s Books

I’m thinking, in particular, about how to find the good new ones, from among the many thousands of children’s books that appear each year.  This is a question I’m often asked, but it’s a question of particular interest to my Literature for Children classes right now, since their third paper requires them to find a…

Meritocracy in Academia: A Useful Myth?

I’ve previously blogged about enhancing production as a way to develop a more robust CV, and have suggested that publishing well and widely may (for instance) increase one’s odds on the job market.  Both imply that academia is a meritocracy.  It isn’t.  But meritocracy can be a useful myth.  Please note: that’s can be, not…

Get on that pig, and hold on tight.

With a hectic new semester about to begin (or, for many of us, already begun) and our new governor’s proposed assault on some of Kansas’ most vulnerable citizens, let us seek solace — and inspiration — in the verse of our greatest living YouTube poet, Parry Gripp.  As he counsels, when The world has gone…

How to Publish Your Article

The sequel (or prequel?) to “How to Publish Your Book,” here’s something else they don’t always teach you in graduate school.  As in that earlier post, this is what has worked for me.  Results may vary. Please note: the advice below derives from my experience as an English professor who specializes in children’s literature.  This…