It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions. These are all women who have taught me something and I want to share what each of these women are up to you with you.
Amy Vetter has been a friend for a very long time, she's a professor, runner, cyclist, wife, mother and writer among a few things. To me she's a super hero, I hope you'll find her as inspiring as I do.
Q. Who are you?
A. Amy Vetter. I’m a professor in English education at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. I’m also a sister, wife and mother of two daughters and a dog. I run and ride my bike for fun and sanity.
Q. How do we know each other?
A. I met you when you were teaching free yoga classes in Bur-Mil Park and at Revolution Cycles. We connected and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve had great conversations on long hikes, humid early morning runs, and beautiful bike rides on country roads.
Q. What is your work?
A. I am a professor in English education at UNCG. I used to be a high school English teacher in Austin, Texas. Now, I work with undergraduates or graduates who are interested in teaching or hope to improve their teaching practices. I write and publish research about how classroom talk shapes learning related to reading and writing in high school classrooms. I also explore the identity work of young writers.
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Over the past five years, I’ve directed a two-week young writers’ camp at UNCG. I look forward to the camp every year, because it opens opportunities for young people to situate themselves as writers. They talk with local authors, draft a piece of writing, publish it, and read it aloud to an audience at Scuppernong Bookstore. I don’t think students get to play with language very often in school. In high school, if students write, they write very structured 5-paragraph essays. By creating this camp, I was hoping to foster a writing community for young people who hope to one day be a writer in some way.
Over those five years, I’ve interviewed campers in grades 9-12 about their writing experiences. I’ve learned young people write vigorously - they write collaboratively, use digital and social media as productive tools to write, and thrive on the collective reflection of a community of writers. Unfortunately, the idea that teens write in sophisticated ways is not typically shared by many adults, including some teachers. So, I’m working with other educators across the U.S. to engage in similar interviews with young writers. We hope to produce research that informs teachers about what it means to be a young writer today so that they can better prepare them for the writing they will engage in, in the future.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. This summer, I wrote a few children’s books and a short story. Since August, I’ve gone to a few writing groups in town and I joined an online writing group where I submitted my work for critique. It’s intimidating to have people read and comment on something that you’ve been working on. It definitely puts you in a vulnerable position. With that said, the feedback has been really helpful. Already, I feel like I am growing as a creative writer and that has been my goal all along.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. Every now and then, when I’ve been cooped up in a meeting for several hours, I wish I was at home, just writing. There is something romantic about the opportunity to write creatively, in ways that help me make sense of myself and the world around me, and potentially help others engage in that sensemaking process as well. I recognize, however, that notion is pretty romantic. I like the balance of teaching and writing. The hard part is finding the time to do it all between my work and family.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. I would tell my high school self, who did not always make the healthiest choices, to go for a run or bike ride. I didn’t start running or biking until college. It made me feel better, both mentally and physically.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Recently, I listened to Magic Lessons, a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert - thanks to your recommendation, Alisha. In the last one, she argues that in order to create, people must believe they are entitled to do so. She says:
Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and believing that — merely by being here, merely by existing — you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.
Later, I read that Elizabeth was inspired by the poet David Whyte who says that “without the arrogance of belonging — you will never be able take any creative risks whatsoever. Without it, you will never push yourself out of the suffocating insulation of personal safety, and into the frontiers of the beautiful and the unexpected.”
I’ve appreciated this way of thinking - that we all have something to say and that the world would benefit in some way from hearing it. I return back to this idea when I start to doubt if I can write something meaningful that people want to read.
Q. what keeps you teaching, or writing when you don't feel like it?
A. For the most part teaching energizes me. I am passionate about education and I hope to play a part in inspiring others to feel the same way. Oftentimes, I may not want to go teach, but when I get there and start interacting with students, I’m motivated.
For writing, when I try to talk myself out of doing it, I make myself sit down for just ten minutes and write. Most of the time that gets me into it and I will end up writing for much longer. Other times, if I’m stuck, I go for a run or ride and that either helps me take a brain break or process the writing in a new way. I also spend a lot of time reading other’s people work from a writer’s perspective.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I’ve enjoyed reading your Wise Women Wednesday posts. I’m planning to run the Triple Lakes Marathon in October. I’m hoping that one of your wise women will give me a good mantra for having fun while running it.