Student authors Ashlee Harry and Ryan Sotelo with Dr. David Chin

Challenges of Creativity

A government installed drone database system hacked. Siblings with all-consuming mental anguish. Headlines from the nightly news? These storylines come from the minds of Wilkes-Barre students.
By: Rachel Rybicki

“Writing is like meditating for me,” explains Ryan Sotelo. “It’s really relaxing, it’s how I get my thoughts out there and helps me connect with how I’m currently feeling.”

Sotelo’s book Sheep Herd Nation, published in January 2016, takes place in America's future in a parallel New York City, The Empire City. The city’s mayor installs a drone database that spies on the American people in order to better society as a whole and keep everyone safe. A writer for the city’s paper discovers the mayor has sold drone plans to enemies of the United States, and tries to expose him. Eventually the drone system gets hacked and a massacre begins. As the writer uncovers who hacked the system and why, he is faced with every parent’s worst nightmare; save his child or save the world.

“The most challenging aspect of writing for me is getting the story going,” describes Sotelo. “The hardest part is getting started. Once you start going, you build momentum and the story ends up writing itself most of the time.”

Ashlee Harry echoes Sotelo’s sentiments, “The story was never the challenge for me. For me it was actually the title. The title took me as long to think of as it took me to write the book, and I ended up changing it twice!”

Published in April 2015, Harry’s book The Guardians is the first book in a trilogy about twins Laura and Jake Adams. Following a move to a manor in California, the twins discover a secret surrounding their family and their ordinary lives are soon left behind. Their parents refuse to tell them what they know, but their strange dreams are ready to reveal the truth. As they begin to discover the powers they can wield, they learn the Guardians are desperately searching for them.

“I look forward to reading both Ashlee and Ryan’s books,” states Dr. David Chin, Associate Professor of English at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. “I had both of them in class and I 100% support their success. I have to congratulate them on their enthusiasm and creativity. This is a wonderful accomplishment for both of them.”

“I can certainly attribute my writing skills to Penn State,” explains Harry. “I started writing my second and third chapters when I became a student here and classes like Dr. Chin’s showed me how to fix common writing mistakes I’d made.”

Sotelo agrees, “Penn State has done a lot for me, from the basics to how to better myself as a writer. The professors have all been great in helping me build my skills, very helpful.”

Sheep Herd Nation and The Guardians are both available for purchase in the Penn State Wilkes-Barre bookstore.