December 29, 2020 -- Columbus City Schools middle school teacher Ryan Wallace got his idea to write a book while eating a strawberry yogurt with his wife.
“We were talking about how I try to connect with my students and how challenging middle school can be,” said the Indianola Informal K-8 teacher.
Wallace said that middle school students are a pivotal point in their lives, often trying to figure out who they are.
“What they see in the mirror may not be what others see or what they feel on the inside,” said Wallace. “I wanted to write a story that challenged the concepts of identity and illustrated the different pressures and forces that make us who we are and tell us who we should be. I wanted to bring to light the differences between our internal identities, our external identities, and our expected identities. I wanted to try to understand better what it’s like when what the world sees, and what the world expects of you doesn’t match how you feel or what you see when you look in the mirror.”
Wallace’s novel, titled “Awaken,” is a science fiction thriller that he self-published on Amazon. The target audience is the same people who like to read “The Hunger Games,” and the main characters resemble James Bond/Jason Bourne and an average teenager.
“I hope that in ‘Awaken,’ readers will find a compelling story that poses multiple moral and philosophical questions,” said Wallace. “I want ‘Awaken’ to give those who haven’t lived through this identity experience better insight into the minds, lives, and challenges of those who have and maybe challenge their views on what a person's identity is and what it means to them. And conversely, I want to give people who have lived through this experience some characters they can connect with, even if their experiences aren’t identical.”
It took Ryan Wallace two years to write the book, which he stresses is a work of fiction and not about his students.
“It was a summer project that kept me busy,” said Wallace. “The book did give me more empathy. I feel I can cerebrally and emotionally better understand what my middle students are experiencing.”
A fellow teacher, Ryan’s wife, and a professional editor all assisted Wallace so that his first novel was ready for publication. While at times overwhelming, Wallace said that writing this book has been a very positive and rewarding experience.
“I’m working on a sequel,” said Wallace.