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Miss MTN visits Liberty

By Zoe Haggard - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 3/22/22

Miss Middle Tennessee Karissa Wheeler read her new children’s book “Reveal of the Royal Puppy” to Liberty School’s kindergarten through third graders on Friday morning. Wheeler, 24, is a Nashville-native who has a passion for sharing the arts to young students. Below is her interview with the Times-Gazette.

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Miss MTN visits Liberty

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Miss Middle Tennessee Karissa Wheeler read her new children’s book “Reveal of the Royal Puppy” to Liberty School’s kindergarten through third graders on Friday morning.

Wheeler, 24, is a Nashville-native who has a passion for sharing the arts to young students. Below is her interview with the Times-Gazette.

Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from and where did you go to school?

I'm a Tennessee girl through and through. I was born and raised in Nashville, graduating from Hume-Fogg Academic High School in 2015.

For undergrad, I attended Sewanee: The University of the South and graduated from there in 2019 with a double-major in English and Theatre and a Dance minor.

After graduation, I moved to New York City to pursue post-graduate acting work at Michael Howard Studios in Manhattan. I was there until the pandemic hit and came back home March of 2020.

Career and future goals?

I had moved to NYC to pursue post-grad acting training after I graduated from Sewanee in 2019 with degrees in English and Theatre and a minor in Dance. Pre-pandemic, I was teaching and training simultaneously, but with COVID, I landed back at home in Nashville.

I've worked on a few different projects over the last few years including The Least of These: A Christmas Story, The Song, I'm Not Ashamed, commercial work and theatrical productions.

What's the story of you becoming Miss Middle Tennessee?

I came across the Miss America circuit as I was looking at opportunities for scholarships for grad school programs. I signed up for the Miss Middle Tennessee Scholarship Competition, a preliminary for Miss Tennessee, on a Sunday night, completed the paperwork in the wee hours of the morning on Monday right before the deadline, and competed on that Saturday. It was a whirlwind, but I felt super at peace the whole time knowing I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do.

Stepping out in faith can be scary, but the reward for the obedience is always worth it. Since February, I've hit the ground running preparing for Miss Tennessee in June and serving in my current title. My goal in everything I do is to be light and show love, and I went into that experience knowing if I did that, then the day itself was a success whether I won the title or not.

What are your goals with creating a social initiative that will impact arts education, including writing, reading and social emotional learning skills (SEL)?

My social initiative centers on arts education. I've been traveling across the mid-state visiting schools and sharing my children's book, Reveal of the Royal Puppy and doing arts sessions (acting, dance, musical theatre).

Through my afterschool arts education initiative, my goal is for students to be introduced to the transformative power of art equipping them with the skills they need to be world-changers. These skills include social emotional learning skills (SEL), cultural awareness, cognition, communication, creativity and literacy skills.

What was the inspiration for your children's book?

Experiencing the grief of what seemed to be a loss of a dream, I sank into a depression and was diagnosed with anxiety. My counselor suggested thinking of ways to unleash my creativity while theaters were closed and production shutdown that would still allow my artist heart to have a means of expression...so I began to write.

Shortly after the diagnosis and researching emotional support animals, I decided to adopt a sweet morkie who inspired my children's book, “Reveal of the Royal Puppy.” She was the biggest blessing to me throughout that time!

One of my mom’s friends, a fellow children’s book author, Shirley Gould, mentored me through the publishing process. It was neat because her talented nephew, Justin Steward, ended up doing my illustrations for it!

A large part of Princess Charlotte’s journey is learning to have a thankful heart in the middle of going through her parents’ divorce. Encouraging readers to have an attitude of gratitude regardless of circumstance was one of my biggest goals in my writing, and while this book is written for younger hearts, the story will remind all readers that having a grateful heart makes difficult situations bearable.

How has faith had an impact on what you're doing today?

My faith is the most important part of who I am. It influences every aspect of my life, and it's my hope that it's not just something I talk about, but truly something people see in my actions and the way I strive to love people. God has been so good to me, and I just want to honor Him through every opportunity He gives me.

Where can people find your book?

The book is available anywhere books are sold (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wal Mart, Target, LifeRich, GoogleBooks, an e-book on Kindle and a few independent bookstores as well).

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