“Let’s get messy… life isn’t scripted. Feed into your work and see what happens.” A mantra most artists can live by, for Amy Hallberg this was the jumping off point for her adventures as a writer almost 31 years ago while she was working with a COMPAS Teaching Artist at Prior Lake High School.
“I didn’t think of myself as creative,” she remembered. “The reason I actually believed I could write a book is because COMPAS felt it was worthwhile to publish my work.”
Hallberg was published in the 1987 anthology - Three Magics - Her piece titled “The Dream”, was based off an actual dream she had and fashioned into a visceral and powerful short story.
Here is an excerpt:
“I sat in a room of the old house, with a fireplace, looking at a book. The room was dark and furnished with rich oriental rugs and dark wood paneling on the walls, lending a feeling of dreary despair.
Suddenly, he threw open the door. He was a man, middle-aged, and very large. But most of all, he was ugly. Hs face wore a mask of rage, but even without it, his face would have been marked with distortion.”
Her teacher, Julie Albers, connected with the story on a deep level that took Amy by surprise. “She interpreted the work differently than I ever had. It’s a validating feeling.”
Now years later, Amy has published her first book - German Awakening: Tales from an American Life -, a memoir of her time spent in Germany and as a German teacher, and how the language and learning experiences from it have shaped her life.
“My mother always told me not to go around reading, or I would learn something,” reads the first line in Amy Hallberg’s book. Her mother wasn’t wrong. We’re so glad she didn’t follow this advice!
As Amy looked back at her time with COMPAS and the writing process she gave a little advice to teachers considering bringing in a Teaching Artist: “Do it! As a teacher, I had a clear sense of how we’re supposed to do writing… but those ways don’t always serve students. Working with a COMPAS Teaching Artist provides teachers the opportunity to get out of students way and let them discover different perspectives for themselves.”
For all those inspiring writers out there, Amy has a simple (or simply put) way to stay inspired and to keep creating. “It’s scary but you just need to keep showing up. Take little steps. If you have the desire to write that’s your calling. Pay attention.”
This year, we celebrate the 39th anthology, “No, That’s Not the End.” Here’s to 39 (plus some!) years of writers paying attention to their calling!