By Allison Collins
UNADILLA – Unadilla third grade teacher, Jamie Franklin Rowe, recently marked a major milestone with the publication of her first children’s book: We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September. The story, which details the real-life events leading up to and during the September 11th attacks in an accessible, child-friendly style, doubles as a teaching tool in and out of the classroom.
Rowe said that becoming a children’s author has long been a goal of hers. Noting that it was something she hoped for even as a small child herself, Rowe said, “This was definitely on my bucket list.”
No stranger to the would-be author struggle, Rowe’s recent success came on the heels of several previous attempts at publication. “I’ve been sending stuff out for so long and now it’s real,” remarked Rowe. “And I’m still overwhelmed … I still haven’t really accepted that this is a thing yet.”
Rowe said the first iteration of We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September came about unexpectedly on a trip back home from her daughter’s volleyball game in New Hampshire. “I wrote it in the car, on my phone, and just didn’t think anything more about it,” said Rowe. That was in 2015.
As spontaneously as the story came to her, Rowe’s inspiration was no accident. Rowe said every year that she teaches, she strives to emphasize tolerance and acceptance related not only to September 11th, but humanity in general, and those are the tenets at the heart of her story.
Through teaching about the 2001 attacks, Rowe said she realized, “There isn’t [a book] out there for this age group … there’s nothing else like this out there.”
It was as she recognized her book’s relevance and matchlessness that Rowe, through word-of-mouth, simultaneously became aware of Green Ivy Publishing of Chicago, the firm that would ultimately publish her work.
After beginning to consider her story differently, and for publication, it was in February of 2016 that Rowe got the official notice of acceptance from Green Ivy. “I thought, ‘this could be a book,’ then it’s off we go!” said Rowe. Following a lengthy process, the book was released just weeks ago.
Elaborating on her inspiration, Rowe, aunt to two blind nephews and mother to a military son (US Air Force), said, “I feel very passionate about the tolerance piece.” Invoking the push toward tolerance she’s witnessed and promoted in her own family, she added, “All of this just kind of snowballs together.”
We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September is currently available for purchase through Amazon.com, though Rowe said she has plans to get hard copies into area bookstores in the near future. She also hopes her work can find a place in cultural exhibits in places such as the New York State Museum in Albany or the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. And, slightly further down the road, Rowe said she intends to schedule regional book-signings.
Already, though, Rowe has enthusiastic fans. “My students are really excited about it,” said Rowe, noting that last year’s third graders, Unadilla Elementary’s current fourth graders, have been particularly exuberant. Recalling her former students’ near-constant inquiries about where she was at in the process (since they were hers when she first began the publication process), Rowe said, “As soon as I had it in my hands, I had them down here.”
At a May 12 assembly, all Unadilla Elementary students and staff and several community members got to hear the story in its entirety, as principal Katherine Mazourek read We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September aloud to the crowd. Rowe, who has been a teacher for 28 years, was visibly moved following the reading and called the experience “really sweet” and “surreal.”
Asked if she will incorporate We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September into future curricula, Rowe said, “Absolutely. I’ll probably develop a unit to go along with it.”
Even with the checking off of such a standout bucket list item, Rowe said she has no plans of stopping. Rather, she hopes the publication of We’ll Always Remember the 11th of September will be just the beginning of a second career as a children’s book author.
“After this one sits a while,” said Rowe, “I’ve got three ready to go to the publisher.” Rowe’s manuscripts span topics such as bullying, nicknames, death and the American forefathers. Rowe added that additional manuscripts and story ideas are in various stages of completion and, reflective of the profession to which she has otherwise dedicated her life, she said all of her work will be geared toward school-age readers.