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As a child, BJU Press textbook author Kim Stegall was not interested in following her parents’ English teaching careers, but love for the English language ran in her blood. Distinctive phrases, unusual vocabulary words, and “listen to this!” created a daily atmosphere in which English linguistics were a beloved part of everyday life. Throughout her grade school years, that influence appeared in Kim’s love for her writing assignments, but she opted to study history in college. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education, Kim began teaching history and English in Pennsylvania, but less than a year later, the school focused her on teaching solely English classes.
After four years of teaching junior high and high school—and gaining a much clearer vision of student needs—Kim decided to pursue a master’s degree in English. While she studied at Bob Jones University, BJU Press hired Kim as a graduate assistant to write stories for the K5 age group, eventually transferring her to the Secondary Authors department to work on English curriculum. Kim knew from firsthand classroom experience that textbook authors are “already . . a step behind because people come in dreading [grammar and writing]. We need to have our graphic designers and writers pull out all the stops to make this interesting.” She then implemented that knowledge in the substantial revisions of both the Grammar & Writing curriculum and Excursions in Literature.
But Kim’s most recent written accomplishments are notably non-academic: two picture books for children. The first, Mumsi Meets a Lion, she based on a true story and developed while taking a class on writing for children. Her upcoming release, Rodney Robbins and the Rainy Day Pond, is also based on true story: her grandfather’s calm handling of a lake-sized problem.
Kim Stegall’s writing can take readers into the jungles of Africa or the mysterious intricacies of fine literature, but she primarily wants homeschool students to see the transition from studying abstract grammar and writing principles to real usage. “Once they realize it’s a tool—grammar . . . [is] a communication tool—then it really makes it fun.”
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing BJ textbooks?
A: I really just enjoy the subject matter: Grammar is fun—I really do believe this is true! Etymology and linguistics fascinate me, and I’m constantly looking things up in the dictionary, but I love a sticky grammar question.
Q: What first drew you to writing? Had you always been interested in it?
A: I never kept a regular diary—I was very sporadic—but I enjoyed the writing assignments our teacher gave us. And my fifth grade teacher was Jamie Langston Turner, the award-winning novelist. She was, is, positively smitten with words. I remember she would fill out my report cards to my parents, but also write notes to me on the same cards, always making a point of using big words. So I would get the dictionary out to look them up and be ready—I knew she’d use them and expect me to know what they meant.
Q: How would you recommend teachers/parents encourage their homeschool students who are not interested in or get easily discouraged with reading?
A: Read to them. Read books, magazines, newspapers, billboards, recipes, emails—anything that you think would appeal to them. Read in front of them—show them that reading is an important part of your day. Find something the student is interested in and seize upon that. I had a student who didn’t like to read, but he liked baseball. So we started a project about Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the student found the court proceedings of Joe’s trial online. He read the entire court transcript—all 50 some pages!
Q: Your husband does a lot of work with dramatic productions. Has it influenced your writing?
A: Well, since he organized The Summer Shakespeare Company, I’ve become his chief play-cutter and adaptor for the summer plays. I also write the worksheets—word-play, coloring pages, word-coining, etc.—that tie into the play. What he does gives me another outlet for my writing. And he and my two children are very supportive of my writing ventures. They read over everything I write and provide good comments and feedback. It’s very helpful to have their input.