Washington author overcomes disabilities on road to success
Observer-Reporter - 10/19/2017
Dave Howard is known for his gumption and drive.As a child, the Washington resident had attention deficit disorder, Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia, and was placed in special classes in school. Regarded as somewhat different by his classmates because of his disabilities, he suffered from bullying and harassment from his fellow students.A Christmas gift in the form of a word processor made a positive change in his life. Plagued by the inability to spell correctly because of dyslexia, Howard's early artistic endeavors had been limited to drawing and painting. Now, with another tool at his disposal, he had an expanded palette that included the ability to create poems, tales and stories.As Howard entered junior high, he was able to write an autumn-themed poem. It was his first. By the time he donned a cap and gown at Ringgold High School in 1992, his literary output spanned several genres, including science fiction, westerns, horror and works for children.Another step forward came with his admission to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. While there, he discovered, among other things, the editing program Photoshop. He'd later use the tool for illustrating a series of children's books he wrote after earning an associate's degree in visual communication in 1995.To further hone his artistic interests, Howard enrolled in California University of Pennsylvania, where he took a variety of art-focused classes that ran a wide gamut of subjects ? illustration, stained glass, sculpture, printmaking and pottery.When Howard got word in 2009 that a niece in New Jersey was pregnant, he expanded one of his poems, about a Jack Russell terrier-Maltese-cocker spaniel mix named Lady, into a book as a gift to his unborn great-niece.At his niece's baby shower, the book was a big hit with her friends, and Howard decided to print copies as an online self-publishing enterprise. Sadly, his great-niece, Aubrey Nicole Bogess, passed away two months after her birth from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."Her death inspired me to write a larger version with illustrations, and I looked for a different publisher," he said.Headline Kids, a division of Headline Books of Terra Alta, W.Va., published "Lady's Day to Play," which drew inspiration from his ex-wife's profession as a dog groomer. The book won a Mom's Choice Award from an organization that evaluates products and services created for children, families and educators. It also won USA Best Books and International Best Books awards.Howard dedicated the book to his great-niece and sent her family a copy as a keepsake. He donated $1 from each sale to SIDS research. To date, almost 1,000 copies of the book have been sold.Howard has written and/or published 18 children's books targeted for the age 8-and-under market. He's also illustrated books for a handful of authors, and completed two chapter books for children from ages 6 to 13."A lot of my ideas for my books come from my family and childhood, and from my experiences of being bullied at school," he said.Howard's best seller is "Billy Beakhorn and the Booger," which he co-authored with Melanie Michael, a children's book author with the same publishing house. Published in 2016, the book is about a booger that comes to life and infects a town."The moral of the story is to use a tissue and say ?bless you' when someone sneezes," he said.For the past 17 years, Howard worked as a machine operator for the Eaton Company, a division of Crane-Hinds, in Meadow Lands, making outlet boxes for lights and switches. He occasionally teaches art at the Phoenix Art Center in Uniontown and has taught stained glass and held children's book workshops at the Community College of Allegheny County.As Uncle Dave, he gives talks and read-alouds at birthday parties, libraries, schools, colleges and universities, festivals and craft shows. On Monday, he gave a talk at the Lions Club in Hickory."To me, books are doors to the imagination, and I hope to be able to continue tapping into mine to write future books," Howard said.To purchase Howard's books, go to www.amazon.com, www.UncleDavesBooks.com and www.UncleDaveHoward.com.