The 31 January was a magical day. I woke up in Swansea (in a terrible hotel, but that didn’t manage to ruin the day). My PhD viva was scheduled for later that Friday. Needless to say, I was nervous even though I kept telling myself that I wrote the thesis so I knew what it was about and that I could easily answer any question about my research. But my subconscious didn’t quite latch on to that.
Just before my taxi arrived, I received an email from my publisher, telling me that The Pirate Tree has been shortlisted for Derby Children’s Picture Book Award. This wasn’t great news just because of the nomination, it was also that little nudge I needed to help me relax about the viva, too.
And what an enjoyable viva it was! Both examiners were experts in their fields, both supportive and probably aware that a viva is stressful. But we had a lovely discussion (and I mean that: it wasn’t them interrogating me about my work, we had a stimulating discussion about it). To be honest, I was almost sorry when it was over. It was a nice change to have someone be genuinely interested in my work as opposed to most people starting to yawn about two minutes into my answer when they ask me what I’m researching.
I passed with no corrections and my thesis is already being bound to be sent to the University. But what I wanted to say here was that I was grateful for that bit of good news that helped me relax before my viva because I could then enjoy it. Being at ease is not just about being able to answer the questions better, it’s about being fully present and aware for one of the most important events of your life. Few people get to go through a viva more than once. It’s an unforgettable experience and it’s a shame if you’re too stressed to be able to enjoy it.
And being shortlisted for the picture book award is fantastic in itself. The shortlisted titles were chosen by primary school teachers for whom I have the utmost respect, and the winner will be chosen by their students later this Spring.
The novel I wrote as part of my PhD thesis has also been longlisted for the Cinnamon Literary Award, and for another very cool award but that’s still hush-hush. 😀