You might think a student who is balancing academics (he’s a President’s Honor Scholar), athletics (he’s on the men’s soccer team) and an on-campus job (in housekeeping) would want to collapse on the couch or zone out in front of the TV at the end of a long day. Grayden McClellan, of Itasca, IL, says that, while he may do that from time to time, he prefers creative writing as a way to unwind.

“Writing is something I enjoy doing,” McClellan says. “It’s like, ‘OK, my homework is done, I finally have time to write.’ It’s a motivator.” Plus, he adds, “I don’t play many video games, which frees up a bunch of time.”Ignotia-Grayden McClellan.jpg

He put his love of writing use during the pandemic, and has now self-published a novel, “Ignotia: The Staff of Ivellious,” on Amazon. The book tells the story of a group of students with magical abilities who must join together to stop their classmates from carrying out a murderous mission—but there is more to their devious plan than meets the eye. McClellan drew his inspiration from popular fantasy books and media, including the Harry Potter series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and Dungeons & Dragons.

With many activities canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, “I found myself with enough time to actually start writing something,” he says. “It began as just one of those little creative writing projects, but I got far enough into it and I realized, ‘Oh, I have enough to say to actually write a full story here.’ At that point, there was no turning back. I wanted to finish it.”

He has since written a second book that’s in the process of being edited—fellow CUC student Gabrielle Mintrup, a freshman accounting major, is his editor—“and I have a couple more in the works,” he says. McClellan, a middle grades education major with a math and science specialization, looks forward to one day becoming a teacher, another passion of his. But he hopes that, no matter where his vocation takes him, he will always continue writing books.