Believe it or not, I am much more patient now than when I was younger. I don't feel the need to be the FIRST (nor the second third, etc.). I tend not to rush as quickly. I bide my time frequently knowing things will occur as they are supposed to occur. This does not mean, though, that I have stopped doing the prep work. I still stage meals (working n Easter dinner now as I have a trip to the grocery store tomorrow to gather the ingredients I will need for the dishes I plan to prepare) and I still plan ahead on projects (and I have a reputation for this planning, just ask Donalyn Miller and Karin Perry). But I am trying to be better about this as well (and failing miserably sometimes, I know).
However, I have absolutely no patience for folks looking for a short cut. Someone asked me recently how I got to be a judge for the National Book Awards. This person did not know me at all, so I began to talk about other committee work I had done. The questioner did not know about any of the ALA committees I mentioned. The person in question simply wanted the magic ticket to the NBA committee judge position. This happens often to me (and I know it happens to many others of my friends and colleagues). People want the "free" books, the "cushy" job teaching lit classes, the "fast track" to committee membership.
I began my prep work years and years ago. I attended conferences. I bought books, read them, talked about them to others. I stood in autographing lines; I spoke to publishers in their exhibit booths. I had no idea what might happen over the years, but little by little, the books began to arrive (and while it seems as though I get them all, I assure you I spend $$$ purchasing books and audios and eBooks, too). Proposals to present at conferences were accepted (not always, though) and invitations to do workshops began to arrive. I applied annually for committee work and served on lots of committees not about books to pay my dues. I had mentors who helped me enormously (thanks to Ted Hipple, Dick Abrahamsson, Patty Campbell, Michael Cart and others).
The prep work continues to pay off for me as I work with new friends and colleagues, as I learn new technology, as I try to push myself to something NEW. There are still no shortcuts. But hard work is still rewarding. I guess this is particularly on my mind today as Karin Perry and I work on some upcoming presentations. We are doing the prep. We hope it will bring some rewards down the road. But we do not mind the prep; we do not mind the work. We relish the learning of something new, the experience of trying out an idea to see how or if it will work.
So, want advice about how to get my job? I am happy to share it with you. It involves a lot of work, but the work is incredibly rewarding. I joked at a recent teen book con that I had the best job in the world because I got paid to read books and talk about them. A young woman came up to me at the end of the panel and asked how she, too, could get a job like mine. She listened intently as I talked about my work in the field and how it landed me in the job I love. She walked away thinking about how to make it happen for her. No short cuts. Lots of prep work/ Step One: stopping to buy some books and talk to their authors. She is on her way.