Landenberg teenager publishes her poems and photos in local magazine
● By Richard Gaw
To hear 17-year-old Sierra RyanWallick of Landenberg begin to talk about her life – one that has been filled in the last few years with home schooling, playing on the Avon Grove tennis team, and operating two non-profit organizations – one would never believe that she is living with a debilitating form of Lymes Disease.
Although she readily admits that her condition limits her to between four and five productive hours every day, she still manages to operate AutumnLeaf Fundraisers as its founder and chief executive officer, which has raised over $27,000 for the organization, Forgotten Cats, an organization that works with caretakers to reduce the unwanted cat population through sterilization, vaccination, and finding homes for adoptable cats and kittens.
Recently, she also found time to indulge in two of her other passions – writing and photography – and the results are now published in a regional magazine. Three of RyanWallick's poems and three of her photographs appear in the 2014 edition of IMAZINE, an annual magazine produced by the Delaware library system that features the creative work of local teens. One of RyanWallick's photos – a self-portrait called "Mask" that she took while aboard an airplane on her way back from Canada – graces the magazine's cover.
The photograph is accompanied by a poem, which reads: "You say what you need to say and do what others think you should do but it's only the kindred souls who can tell when it's just a mask you hide behind."
In addition to "Mask," RyanWallick published her poems, "The Scream", "Echoes," and "That's When We Know," as well as two additional photos, "Glimpses" and "Catgazing."
This is not the first time the teenager has published; she's already won awards for her writing from Scholastic magazine, as well as recognition from the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition in 2103 and 2014. Her photography has also been published in Cicada, an international, award-winning literary magazine.
"I get inspiration from the stress and the struggle," RyanWallick said. "The words I'm writing and the emotions that come out of them mostly come through my health issues and the struggles that I've been having with that and trying to get through it. Writing is an opportunity for me to get it all out. It allows me to sit down, write, get it out and walk away, and there it is, on the paper."
"When Sierra was five years old, someone described her as a wise person in a young body, and that's how I think of her, as being wise beyond her years," said her mother, Jennifer. "I look at her as an old soul."
RyanWallick is heavily influenced by the work of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest every Nobel Prize laureate. RyanWallick said that she and Yousafzai not only share the same age, but the same goals and perspective.
"I just read her book, 'I am Malala,' and in it, she said it is never about winning prizes and money," RyanWallick said. "It is about doing what she is passionate about, which is standing up for education, and if no one else was going to do it, that she was going to do it. For me, it's about helping. It's a passion that I have for everything I do, and I put all of myself into it."
The Lymes Disease that RyanWallick lives with remains, however, the elephant in the room of her great aspirations, but rather than let it limit her, she uses the pain, frustration and restlessness of her condition as a catalyst. Recently, she's thought about writing a book about a patient's journey through Lymes Disease, from the view of her poetry and photographs.
"Whenever anyone has asked me what I want to do when I get older, I said that I want to change the world," RyanWallick said. "I stick by that now, but I don't know in what way I'm going to do it yet. But writing and photography are really powerful, and that's always going to be a major part of my life and I would love to make it a career...but I also want to find a way to put all of my other interests together with writing and photography, and not just focus on one thing."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.