by Aileen Hower

I was not always a writer. In fact, there are still days when I have to remind myself that I am a writer, given my past relationship with writing.

I did not “get” how to write an essay until the middle of 10th grade. Because I was in accelerated classes, the teacher assumed that I should already know how to write essays.

When the “ah-ha” occurred, and it was the purest form of an epiphany I can recall ever having, it was the structure that I internalized. Very logical. Very controlled. Perfect for my Type-A personality.

As a result, I embarked upon a career of writing academic analysis in perfect formulation. Every once in a while I would be able to create a quippy intro, or a clever circular ending. Citations and explanations abounded (aka other people’s words).

I wrote a master’s thesis. I wrote a dissertation. This should have been enough to prove that I was a “good” writer. But so much was missing…

People encouraged me to write a journal article, to write a book, after an inspirational professional development session I delivered.

I could not do it. My writing told, but did not show. The rejections started to pile up.

So this year, I determined to just write. No proposals, no opinions. No editors – just thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes, it looks like this:

I was once asked by my biological father, why didn’t we want adopt one of the needy children right here in America? I didn’t have an answer formulated at the time. But there were many reasons… The book, There is No Me Without You, was extremely compelling.

While the conditions that children in poverty in America face are horrible, someone at church once talked about poverty in a country like Haiti. There is no comparison to third world poverty and what life could be like for a female child in one of these countries.

Ultimately, our hearts said, Ethiopia. No other explanation was needed.

I explain and answer a question my daughter may have one day, when we are further away from remembering.

Other times, my writing is more academic-focused:

If a student has a literal mind that focuses on specific topics and does not play creatively, sitting down to write a story about any topic you want is an overwhelming task…

For Liam, identifying Writing Territories worked best. He identified three topics about which he felt he was an expert and would be willing to write. The topics were: video games, his family, and building with Legos or K’nex.

I want to make sure that strategies that have worked for my son in the past are preserved to help other children.

Finally, I write to play and to love:

            Everybody says

            I look like a mini-Liam,

            I do wear all of his hand-me-down clothes,

            how well I do at math and music,

            also our mutual love for video games.


            Everybody says,

            Everybody says,

            Everybody says…

            But I just want to be me.

With a nod to my mentor text: “Everybody Says” by Dorothy Aldis in Songs of Myself compiled by Georgia Heard and posted/blogged by Lynne Dorfman.

This makes me the happiest of all.

I have received kind notes from local parents and questions from as far away as Seattle. My writing has reached readers in 37 countries. People I did not even know would be interested have share that they read my blog from time to time. I am a writer after all.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Aileen Hower. I teach undergraduate and graduate literacy courses for Millersville University in Pennsylvania. This is my 23rd year in education, mostly as a high school English teacher. I am running a statewide literacy conference (#KSRA17) this October, which is what I think about in all of my current spare time. You can find me on Twitter at @aileenhower and on my blog,