Big Fish author inspires students, teachers

Published 4:02 pm Monday, May 3, 2010

When Pelham Library Director Barbara Roberts asked if Pelham High School would be interested in a visit from Daniel Wallace, the novelist who wrote “Big Fish,” I said, “Absolutely!” and luckily, our literary-minded administrators agreed.

Roberts worked with Terri Sullivan, Executive Director of The Shelby County Arts Council, to secure the funding to bring Wallace to Shelby County and make it possible for him to appear at both Pelham Public Library on Sunday afternoon and Pelham High School on Monday morning.

From Pelham High School, Wallace went on to speak at Calera High School and also made an appearance at Harrison Regional Library in Columbiana.

Raised in Homewood, Daniel Wallace said that “Big Fish” reads like mythology because he loves mythology, and also because he grew up under the shadow of Vulcan. The movie, made from the novel, was shot on location in several Alabama settings.

Wallace said, “I had a role in the film version of “Big Fish” as a professor. My role lasted only a few seconds, but I’m sure they were the most important 8 or 9 seconds of the movie.”

Wallace offered great advice to parents and students. He said that the best writing school is the school of hard knocks.

Wallace said, “You have to be writing to learn to write.” Wallace said excellent writing begins with great ideas.

“Ideas are hard to judge,” he said. “If you shop at the dollar store, you expect dollar store quality, but if you shop at Saks Fifth Avenue, you can be sure you’ve bought the best quality. The trouble with ideas is that it’s so hard to tell whether they’re of the dollar store or Saks Fifth Avenue variety.”

At Wallace’s library presentation, PHS junior Sarah Banasiewicz asked Wallace, “How do you find out whether your ideas are the dollar store or Saks kind of ideas?”

Wallace said, “You have to put your writing out there.”

Banasiewicz has put her writing out there, and she, along with other PHS students, will soon see themselves in print in the school’s 2010 Literary Magazine.

With visits and encouragement from authors like Wallace, perhaps we’ll see many locals dive into the writing life.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e-mail at