An Interview with Amy Wallace
What classes are you teaching at Aim Academy this fall and what makes each of them unique?
I’m excited about teaching three courses with Aim Academy: Comprehensive Language Arts: Middle School, Comprehensive Language Arts: High School, and Novel in a Year.
Many students are intimidated by intense grammar instruction and poetics, but I engage students through both of these elements of writing to show them how to use their words well and wisely in any medium of composition. I am a true logophile, and this comes through when we study vocabulary. Part of our weekly vocabulary lessons are times where students practice and play with our vocabulary words to make unique and entertaining sentences. I believe deep learning can be deeply fun, and I’ve seen how every year students who come into Language Arts with a dislike of writing, poetry, and vocabulary leave class having learned a great deal, improved their writing, and actually enjoyed the process.
Novel in a Year is a one-of-a-kind, interactive class where students learn the vital skills needed to write, complete, and edit an entire novel in the course of one school year. Students in this class are taught fiction writing and publishing industry standards of editing from the perspective of a published novelist, someone who has been there and understands the emotional, physical, and spiritual rigor required to complete the monumental task of finishing a novel. Another unique feature of Novel in a Year is the writing community students create that remains intact long after our school year is finished.
How did you become a professional writer and how does that experience impact your teaching?
My publishing journey began with reading novels where I’d reach the end and want to rewrite it because I didn’t love the ending or didn’t want the book to be over. Apprehensive at the idea of writing my own novel, a series of God-directed meetings inspired me to begin researching and then writing my first novel. My next step was attending a writing conference where I met not only people who would become my best friends but also my future agent and editor. God opened the right doors at the right time, which included signing a contract for my first piece of fiction and working with my dream publisher and editor.
Being a published author, I can relate to student writers and teach them not just facts about writing but the heart and soul of what writing is and how to give their all to their writing to make it the best it can be. I also draw from a plethora of “in the trenches” stories to teach, encourage, and illustrate the why behind the what that I teach. I also like to tell writing stories that make my students laugh because I believe when we laugh and love what we’re learning, we learn better and retain more than we would otherwise.
What advice would you give to parents whose children are motivated writers?
Building a writing community with critique partners and fellow writers who can brainstorm with them is so vital to student growth, story depth, and the drive to complete a novel, a journey many adults don’t complete because it’s tough and trying work.
I would also suggest writing clubs and writing classes geared for students. Most writing books and writing conferences focus on adult writers, but students require a more structured approach that provides for mastery of topics with directed application.
Also, as an author and mother of authors, I would recommend great patience and kindness when your student talks non-stop about his or her story or when he or she gazes out the window, world building for some imaginary intergalactic battle instead of finishing math homework. Yes, math is vital and has to be done, but sometimes day dreaming is productive work, especially for a writer.
What advice would you give to parents of reluctant writers?
One of the best ways to encourage reluctant writers is to help them get excited about reading. I’ve found that when my children or my students find books they connect with, they see in practice good writing, strong vocabulary, and excellent pictures created with words. That helps build their writing toolbox.
Also, making writing fun is a huge part of inspiring reluctant writers. I teach my children and my students to write about what they love. Their passion for the subject can help motivate them to express their ideas and work hard to use their words well and wisely.
How does your Christian faith impact the way you view and teach writing?
I see every student and family as a gift from God, and they extend to me a trust and privilege by allowing me to speak into their lives, not only about writing and editing, English and essays, but also about life and character and growth and encouragement. It’s my heart to teach students, to inspire, to encourage, and to help them grow, and to do all of that prayerfully and for the purpose of glorifying God.
I believe teaching and writing are not only skills to be learned and careers to enjoy, but they are also a calling and ministry that involves all of who I am. Because of my faith, I bring great passion and joy into the work God has given me, and I endeavor to teach well and show students that learning- even punctuation rules and why they are vital- can be fun and fruitful work.