Goodbye, Old Friend

Posted May 29 2012

 

Today we at Chooseco would like to remember our dear friend, Choose Your Own Adventure author Jim Wallace.

Jim grew up in the "wilds" of Westchester county, New York in the late 1930s and 40s, spending a great deal of time outside in the pristine woods and rivers surrounding his childhood home.  He had a successful academic career, graduating from Williams College in 1959 and working on a doctorate in Literature from Yale a few years later.   Like the majority of our writers, he loved adventure and travel.  Jim lived in Norway for a year on a Fulbright Scholarship, and later in Uganda where he taught school for three years.  Africa remained very important to Jim.  A few years ago he brought his beloved son Iain to Rwanda to share the experience of living "under the African sun.”

One of Jim's most vibrant qualities was his exceptional skill at friendship.  All of us at Chooseco were more than once the recipient of a quiet, thoughtful, often pensive email, letter, or telephone call from Jim.  If a friend was upset, he meditated on why.  And when he discovered why, he meditated on how he could help.

When I began work at Chooseco as a very young person, Jim wrote me letters of encouragement with regularity and heart.  Jim had written for the series when he was himself much younger, and although I was in the early stages of beginning work as an editor, Jim was also our proofreader; so he had the first and last word on some of the books we worked on together.

On my horror at realizing there was an error in Jim's book, he wrote to me: "A fly in the soup makes things interesting."  The academic mind is one which constantly questions and analyzes, yet Jim was abundantly positive in our communications.  In his heart, he was a teacher.

I am very sad to lose Jim as a person, as well as a thinker.  As his spirit goes, so go thousands of tiny seedlings of ideas, unfinished thoughts, and creative ways of seeing things.  I hope that if you have one of Jim's books, you will take a look at it today, and appreciate the kind intelligence in his writing.

- Melissa Bounty, Associate Publisher


Edited with correction: Jim was an extremely gifted learner and teacher, graduating top of his class on full scholarships at Middlesex and Williams, but he did not receive a doctorate degree.  Instead, he left his postgraduate studies before receiving his degree, to join Teachers for East Africa, and then continued on to work in Uganda.