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Alumni Spotlight: Katey (Marcinkowski) Howes

by Bridjes O'Neil


Author Katey Howes, a middle-aged woman with long dark hair, wears a sweater with a star on it and holds her children's picture book, Be a Maker.
Howes making an appearance on the streaming series Reading Rainbow Live (submitted photo)

When Katey (Marcinkowski) Howes (DCHS ’99, Grad DCHS ’01) was 7 years old, she aspired to be an interior designer for the first hotel on the moon — or maybe a police officer, teacher or health care worker. But the notion of becoming a children’s book author seemed foreign to her.

“I didn’t know any authors, so I never thought about doing that,” Howes said. “I had this idea in my head that all authors lived in England in a tower someplace with a typewriter.”

A job-shadowing experience in high school exposed Howes to physical therapy. She gravitated toward the collaborative and holistic approach to care physical therapists provided for patients and their families as they rebuilt their lives after injury.

In 1995, the Michigan native enrolled in Saint Louis University’s accelerated physical therapy program and graduated with her master’s degree in 2001. Howes worked as a physical therapist for 12 years, primarily in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation for adults.

In 2009, Howes had just given birth to her youngest child. As a mom to three kids under 6, Howes said her PT job’s physical and emotional demands began to take a toll.

“Sometimes I would be wiped out, and I wouldn’t have much left for my kids. I said, ‘OK, I’m going to stay home with the kids for a while, but I can’t just be home with the kids. I need something that’s mine, too.’”

Cover of the children's book Grandmother Thorn showing a sketch of a woman standing in front of a tree
Howes' book Grandmother Thorn

Howes, who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was running a weekly blog about engaging young readers when she began to consider writing a book. She found a knack for storytelling at home, where she made up stories to slow down her active children and steal a few quiet moments of quality time.

As her life moved in a new direction, Howes wrote her first book, Grandmother Thorn, about relinquishing control and embracing life’s unexpected yet sweet surprises. Grandmother Thorn was named a 2018 Anna Dewdney Read-Together Honor Book by the Children’s Book Council, providing the validation Howes needed that she was on the right path.

Her seven books often focus on STEAM/STEM themes to help children build an innovative and creative mindset, and many of the books have won awards. Her latest novel, Woven of the World, explores the ancient art of weaving and the ways lives are interconnected.

Cover of children's book Rissy No Kissies showing a drawing of a bird
Rissy No Kissies explores the concepts of autonomy, boundaries and consent in a kid-friendly way.

Howes’ books also can facilitate discourse around uncomfortable conversations. Rissy No Kissies explores the ABCs of autonomy, boundaries and consent in a kid-friendly way. The book was born from her experience working with children and adults with sensory processing disorders who didn’t like to be touched and struggled to communicate how they preferred to show their affection.

Themes like that resonate with the audiences Howes meets while she travels the country visiting schools. She also shows that pursuing a career that truly brings joy is possible, offering the advice, “Find those things that feed your soul and stick with them.”

About Universitas

Universitas, the award-winning alumni magazine of Saint Louis University, is distributed to SLU alumni, parents and benefactors around the world. The magazine includes campus news, feature stories, alumni profiles and class notes, and has a circulation of 132,438.