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Stomping Stangs book club takes reading by the reins
Members of the book club listen as author Amy Wallace speaks to them about the writing process. - photo by Photo provided

It was a great pleasure to have author, Amy Wallace, come to speak with students at April’s South Effingham High School Stomping ‘Stangs Book Club meeting.

Wallace is the author of “Ransomed Dreams,” the first novel in a Christian crime series that also includes the books: “Healing Promises,” and “Enduring Justice.” A nice crowd of 15 students and seven faculty members, attended along with honorary book club members, Wallace’s husband and Web site designer, David, and their three daughters: Elizabeth, Hannah and Sarah.

After an introduction of the author by SEHS 10th grader Jacquelyn Miller, who was also instrumental in setting up the book talk with the author through daily e-mail correspondences with her, the group of Stomping ‘Stangs reading enthusiasts welcomed Wallace with a round of applause.

Wallace shared with listeners her advice on how to “live your dream,” which for her was her writing and her family. She expressed her belief that “the world needs what you have to offer,” so she recommends committing yourself to what you love to do and getting started today.

Wallace expressed that there are three things that will draw you closer to living a life where your dreams can come true, including, “One to live with passion, i.e., to do what you love with everything that you are as a person; two to live with sacrifice, i.e., to be willing to give up something you want for something you want more; and three to live with a connection to the community, i.e., to be willing to share your dream once you reach it.”

And living the dream is what author Wallace is all about. Inspired to write as a result of the 9/11 attacks on America, our guest author states that she felt compelled to write down her thoughts in response to having everything near and dear to her heart placed suddenly at risk, especially her new and growing family.

Now, after three published novels and several short works, she represents the quintessential juggler of commitments to home, family and her creative work as she home-schools her three elementary children by day, then burns the proverbial candle at the other end of the day by writing evenings and weekends.

To listen to her, surrounded as she is by a loving family, yet taking the time to speak eloquently and with great sincerity to high school students and staff in our library, Wallace demonstrates how one really can live life to the fullest, giving and sharing her art, loved ones and herself with the wider community.

Wallace explained that she writes because she is committed to “giving the world something that she feels that she can give deeply from within herself.”

It is clear that each part of this creative equation of passion, sacrifice and cooperation all appear to work seamlessly together in her life. And while her works deal with themes of “good vs. evil,” she believes in the innate goodness in people and writes, due to a strong background in her faith, with the implicit purpose of “raising other people up.”

Wallace shared that her work is empowered by the lessons true to her heart: “Forgiveness, what happens when life hurts, how abusive situations can lead to the healing process,” how people can grow from life’s painful and joyful experiences.

When asked about her writing process, Wallace presented an eight-inch thick folder stuffed full of single sheet, word-processed pages and plopped it on the table in front of the students. Telling students the stack was a final manuscript complete with publisher edits, it actually represented 16 Saturdays, or 300 hours total, of writing, followed by two months of hard work re-editing the story. The stack was visual evidence that she “bleeds her whole soul into each book.”

Once finishing a book, the timeline to publication includes three stages of preparing a manuscript. The first is the “substantive edit,” which is a comprehensive edit from her editor about the story. Next is the “line edit,” in which the editor examines the entire story of the book, “line by line” with lots more red ink. For the final stage of editing, the author receives the “galleys,” or the actual pre-published pages of her manuscript, for one last fine-tooth comb review.

“All’s well that ends well,” as the saying goes, and Wallace’s approach to writing is no different. She told students that her “favorite part of the writing process is the ending,” even when she has to create one twice as in the case of one of her books when the editor did not like the ending and insisted that she change it. After some struggle and praying, a personal experience brought about a new perspective on the book and eventually the ending re-wrote itself.

But writing is as much perspiration and sticking to the grindstone as it is creative inspiration. Wallace explained to the room full of hopeful authors-to-be that “you don’t have time to wait for the creative moment to happen when you are doing something professionally; whether singing, dancing or writing, there is the time when you just must simply sit down, get focused and get started and that is how you get something done in life.”

When asked how to get started on a writing career, she encouraged students to write every day in a journal and to form writing support groups with local authors who can share meaningful critiques.

But, most importantly, Wallace advises students not to give up on their dreams.

“Life is full of lessons,” she said. “Take advantage of these lessons. We have something to learn from life every day, so seize the opportunity and write about it.”

At the end of her presentation, Wallace answered students’ and staff’s questions, followed by an informal chat with individual students while she signed her books and flyers from her book promotions.

Principal Dr. Mark Winters, stopped by to thank Wallace for speaking to the SEHS Stomping ’Stangs Book Club members and for sharing her knowledge and writing expertise with young, aspiring writers and reading enthusiasts.

Submitted by Catherine Olivier