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August 28, 2013

Birmingham teen’s adventure tale wins Clawson writing contest

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
A.J. Rowe poses with his book, “Falsely Accused,” inside his Birmingham home Aug. 23.
Members of the Clawson Arts and Cultural Foundation pose for a photo with 14-year-old A.J. Rowe, who won the foundation’s first writing contest for teenagers. Standing from the left are foundation members Jill Sykes, Lisa Ball and Matthew Ball, and Rowe’s parents, Cathy and John. Mayor Penny Luebs, also a foundation member, sits next to A.J. Rowe.
 

CLAWSON — When Cathy Rowe heard about a contest in Clawson for teenage writers, she went home and told her son, A.J. Rowe, about it.

At 14, A.J. already had shown a knack for writing and creativity. A box in their Birmingham home is filled with old joke books, staple-bound short stories and illustrations that progress in skill with his age.

So when A.J.’s former English teacher told Cathy about the writing contest for the city’s second annual Arts and Authors Festival, she knew her son would be interested.

Like any author, A.J. spent both days and nights in his basement typing out a 150-page tale of a boy, his sailboat and a band of pirates.

“I was like, ‘It’s time to go to bed,’” his father John recalled telling A.J. on one of those late nights writing. “And he’d say, ‘Just one more chapter.’”

Three weeks later, A.J. had a manuscript. He called it “Falsely Accused.”

In July, the Clawson Arts and Cultural Foundation named his book the winner of its first teen writing contest. A.J. was the youngest participant.

“I honestly didn’t believe my dad when he told me,” A.J. said of the day the foundation announced the winners.

As of this month, A.J., who started his freshman year at University of Detroit Jesuit High School last week, is a published author.

Let that sink in.

Cathy and John recently reminisced about their son writing and illustrating his own books throughout elementary and middle school.

One of them was 27 chapters long.

“It just kept going on and on and on,” Cathy said of it.

Back then, A.J. had little sense of geography. For example, one of his books took place on the “high seas of Wisconsin.”

“I remember thinking, ‘Dude, time to do some research,’” Cathy joked.

Despite A.J. calling that story “terrible” and shaking his head in embarrassment, he realizes all of those stories were all building blocks to “Falsely Accused.”

A.J.’s parents admittedly are not creative writers. John is an engineer and deals with mostly technical writing. Cathy was an English minor in college but never ventured into fiction writing.

Instead, A.J. found inspiration in the author and teen-phenomenon Christopher James Paolini, who wrote his most notable book, “Eragon,” at 15.

“I think that got him motivated to write,” John said.

As for the future, A.J. is far from being done writing.

“I’m thinking of a lot of things,” A.J. said.

He listed off a series of ideas he has been tinkering with in his mind, but added he hasn’t started writing any of them down.

“I usually remember,” he said. “And if I don’t, I will eventually.”

A.J. will have his book for sale, signing and discussion at the second annual Arts and Authors Festival, which will take place Sept. 8 on the south side of City Park. The free event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Organizers said that in honor of A.J.’s book, the volunteers at the event will be dressed as pirates. In addition to A.J., there will be artists with their pieces on display, live music and food.

The foundation is still accepting artist submissions. Those interested can submit applications at www.elevatethearts. vpweb.com.

“Falsely Accused” is available at Amazon.com for download on the Kindle.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.