in which i celebrate a victory at the end of a string of failures

Oh, dear readers. While my plan is to fail loudly once per week, this week a trip to Toronto for IRSCL happily interfered. And, while I was away, the University Press of Mississippi sent me the author’s copies of my forthcoming book, Between Generations: Collaborative Authorship in the Golden Age of Children’s Literature!

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So I’m feeling very fuzzy about all of the excellent humans who helped the book on its way — those who witnessed it transform from a series of failures into what is (I hope) a triumph. With that in mind, in lieu of a traditional blog post, I’m including below the acknowledgments that appear in the book’s first pages. (Scholarly books are pricey! I want my thanks distributed for free.)

Fortunately (and unfortunately), I feel that my professional circle has only grown more rich and varied in the time since I had to submit these acknowledgments, so many kind souls are left unrecognized. It seems that properly thanking everyone is a task at which we are all destined to fail.



Between Generations
is about collaboration, so I have reflected for many hours on how claims of sole authorship hide the vast networks of individuals and support systems that surround the person holding the pen—or, in this case, the person at the laptop. Many brilliant people have helped make this book happen. It turns out all their names won’t fit on the title page, so I will name them here.

I am grateful to Richard C. Sha, who introduced me to the Victorians, led me to the archives, and first suggested that writing about and teaching literature might be something I should pursue as a career. I also was lucky to sit in on discussions led by Marianne Noble, who modeled for me the intellectual curiosity I want to instill in my students, and Henry Taylor, in whose poetry workshops I discovered I loved words even more than I had previously imagined.

I feel profoundly lucky to have written the earliest versions of Between Generations at Rice University. I benefited from Robert L. Patten’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything Victorian and, as I drafted this book, came to admire his genuine enthusiasm, his creativity as a thinker and teacher, and his reliability and warmth. This book surely would not have happened without Helena Michie, who asked tough and important questions, helped me revise my terrible chapter titles, and taught me the indispensable building blocks of navigating academia—everything from mapping paragraphs to conference presentations. Thad Logan demonstrated through example that a genuine love of my material, an appreciation for its beauty, could enrich my work. Martin J. Wiener and Elizabeth Long were generous with their time and expertise. These scholars—at the most trying and the most triumphant moments of my work—reassured me through their calm confidence that I would succeed.

I could name here all of my colleagues and friends at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. I am especially fortunate that I work down the hall from Katharine Capshaw. She writes beautiful and important scholarship and helps others do the same, champions me and my work, and ensures that UConn is one of the best places to study children’s literature. She’s also seriously fun. Thank you to Margaret Higonnet—a mentor who made me feel welcome and valued as soon as I stepped on campus and who has the enviable talent of nuancing and refining the ideas of everyone around her with grace. And I have so many colleagues and friends in Storrs whose advice, feedback, and support have inspired me, especially Margaret Breen, Dwight Codr, Lindsay Cummings, Cora-Lynn Deibler, Anna Mae Duane, Clare Eby, Wendy Glenn, Bob Hasenfratz, Kathy Knapp, Charles Mahoney, Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, Samantha Olschan, Tom Recchio, Cathy Schlund-Vials, Chris Vials, and Sarah Winter. Thanks as well to those inimitable UConn graduate students I have encountered thus far, especially my advisees, who challenge me with new ideas every year: Sara Austin; Emma Burris-Janssen; Kathryn Coto; Amanda Greenwell; Katie Nunnery; Rebecca Rowe; and Michelle Resene, who lent me her expertise in disability studies by reading parts of this book’s conclusion.

I am grateful as well to the children’s literature community, which is the friendliest academic family I know. Thank you to my anonymous reviewers, whose insightful comments helped me refine my ideas, and to the Children’s Literature Association Publications Advisory Board—Jackie Horne, Kenneth Kidd, Maria Nikolajeva, Marek Oziewicz, and Michelle Martin—for supporting this project. Additional thanks to those children’s literature scholars whose friendship makes my disciplinary home a welcoming one. There are far too many of you to name, but I would like to extend special thanks to Michelle Abate, who with her usual humor soothed my first book anxiety; Derritt Mason, whose GIFs kept me going; K Cummings Pipes, who is always a willing editor and a delightful fellow lover of literature; Alexandra Valint, whose feedback on this book’s introduction was extraordinarily helpful and smart; and Marah Gubar, whose work on child agency and commitment to talking about real children in children’s literature scholarship inspires my own research and indeed makes it possible. Marah’s unflagging support for this book, her generous comments on my writing, and her encouragement to be daring and joyful as a scholar were invaluable, and continue to be.

I cannot express how much I appreciate my fearless writing group. Little did I know, when I first met Susan Cook and Ryan Fong at the Dickens Universe, a powerful alliance was forming. Thank you for reading all of my drafts with compassion and attention, for sharing with me the victories and frustrations of academic work, and for being Fancy in your own ways. It was only through your friendship and our many hours online that this book came together.

[As an aside, the following exchange occurred between me and the copyeditor related to the above: ML: Is “Fancy” an inside joke? It’s ok, I’m just curious. VS: Yes! I think they’ll appreciate it.]

Thanks to all of my family—Todd, Amy, Andrew, Matt, Tracey, and Linda—and above all to my dad, Mike “Boots” Ford. He is seriously the best. He is always up for a friendly bowling tournament, and whenever I’m nervous about my next big endeavor, he shows up with a high five and a moving truck. He teaches me every day how to be a good person, and his love for me is unwavering. This book is a testament to his support, and I’m sure he will read it, even though he jokes that he’s going to wait for the movie adaptation. And, of course, I will always be thankful to my mom, Susan Ford, to whom this book is dedicated. I love reading, writing, and teaching because I saw her do all three with such love—for me, for my family, and for generations of students. She gave me Mousekin’s Golden House and Anne of Green Gables. She celebrated my victories as her own. It’s hard for me to think about publishing this book without her here to read it, but I know she’s been watching it happen and cheering me on.

My husband, Danny Smith, never doubted that this book would be published (even when I insisted stubbornly that it was a lost cause). He’s been by my side in Charlotte, Houston, and Storrs from my senior year of high school to my first years as a professor. He patiently listened to me talk about the obscure relations of Victorian authors, helped out with his tech skills, tolerated the full repertoire of songs I sing to the cats, and cooked me delicious steak and butterloo chicken. When I feel uncertain about my own projects, I need only look to his own dedication as an illustrator, because he works with unmatched resolution, creativity, and purpose. He has built with me a partnership in work and in life, and he is the best collaborator I could ask for.

 

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