If this story speaks to you, please share it 🙏

*Will update post with video soon*

Hi, I’m Kailey. 

This video that you decided to watch 

         is something I’ve been avoiding for…

         A long time.

I know there’s a lot of us talking amongst one another right now,

And we’re all quite upset about the recent attacks 

         on our right to privacy

         and bodily autonomy

So yeah, this is another one of those videos –

So if you don’t make it to the end, thanks for stopping by –

         And if you do watch all the way through, thank you –

Because I’ve been suppressing all these feelings ever since

Something happened to me in back April 2020.

*Sensitive Content Warning*

Most of you probably haven’t seen this news story:

“Naked Man Wearing Only Homemade Face Mask Invades Kirksville Student’s Home”

which was published after midnight following the incident 

on April 7, 2020 in Kirksville, Missouri.

That Kirksville student? 

Yeah that was me.

It was my first semester as a Master of Arts in Leadership student

         at Truman State University, where I was specializing in 

Intentional Writing and Creative Nonfiction.

*Spring 2020*

And WHAT a time to decide to go to grad school!

Most colleges and universities in the country, including mine,

had just made the decision to close campuses and 

         move to virtual learning for the rest of the semester –

And I was sort of rocked by that in general at the time –

My introductory & foundational coursework for Leadership was

         focused heavily in organizational theory & decision-making,

Which quite frankly became both fascinating and absolutely terrifying

as each and every system and body I was studying was absolutely 

just like – ripping apart at the seams:

I remember starting a lot of writing assignments in those days like

         WHAT EVEN IS A DECISION? 

         WHO IS MAKING DECISIONS??

         HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT TO WRITE RIGHT NOW???

Anyway, my professors were great, 

and they gave us all a LOT of Grace, especially in those first days

. . .

April 7th was a Tuesday. 

I was just getting the hang of Zoom,

Which all of us understand Now,

Was so utterly new and alien to most of us,

No matter which generation was dealing with it 

#Millennial

And it was sunny, and 72-degrees,

         and there was a light breeze,

         and I spent all afternoon pumping myself up,

         sitting in the sun on my front porch,

         talking with classmates about our Reading Journals –

Here’s an excerpt of mine from that week

Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age” expresses NCTE’s position on a variety of developing curriculum standards. They say that, eventually, “learners need to move from content consumers to content curators to content creators.” I think that’s why there’s lots of us feeling shook right now: we have no idea what to do, but we know that we all have to step up soon, most of us whether we want to or not. This isn’t the school we hoped for, but at least we chose to be here; there’s agency in that. I think about those K-12 kids and the questions burn. It’s time to get loud. Now what do I say?

I’m rambling, I know. It’s just that I can hardly stand the people who keep acting like there’s nothing frightening about all this. […] I’m a graduate student and barely know where to look for answers. Can you imagine being nine?

By Kailey Ann, ENG 507G – Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing | March 31, 2020

That Tuesday was a good day.

I was just getting the hang of things.

I talked to my parents later that evening,

         first my Dad and Bonus Mom,

         then my Mom on FaceTime. 

I had asked my family to share some stories about our family 

         because we were practicing writing memoir and 

         biographical texts in that class, 

         Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing –

And on that FaceTime call, 

         Mom and I talked about my Great-Grandma, 

         Mamaw Maggie,

         While I sat on my front porch in Kirksville,

         and we laughed,

         and after all that,

         right at 9-0’clock,

 I told Mom I was going to pick up my books and crap 

         and then watch AJ (my husband) on the News at 10 –

*Hoosier love you, love you, love you too, talk to you soon, okay love you bye*

That’s the closest TikTok sound I could find to what I heard

         right after hanging up –

I whipped my head around, and there was Buck

         (that’s what I call him)

Standing in the shadows – A complete and total stranger

         BUCK ASS NUDE

Sneaking up behind me in our side-yard.

I stood up at once, turned square to face him –

         I was roughly 3-feet off the ground on the porch –

Balled my fists, and hollered, 

         “HEY!”

Buck Ass took off running through my back yard.

I called 911.

So it all happened very fast.

I hung up on 911 in panic and 

Ran out of the house through the front door –

I made sure to slam it tight behind me –

And listen, in that state of mind,

         Survival Mode: Fight or Flight,

I was able to analyze things very quickly.

I shut the door tight because I knew it was hard to open:

         It had one of those old latches so to open it from the inside,

[You had to turn the knob and the latch above it at once]

         For it to open – And I knew that would give me more time –

I was just deciding which way to run –

         That decision took milliseconds –

         I was Captain of the Track team in high school –

         I know how to TAKE-OFF –

When, to my utter horror, I heard the door opening behind me –

Remember realizing Buck Ass KNEW how to open my front door from inside –

And I decided to turn around and face him instead of running into the dark street –

FIGHT or FLIGHT

FIGHT was the right decision because

         As I pivoted I saw Buck Ass – Full Frontal – 

         Light blue mask covering the lower half of his face –

         Hurtling with his arms wide –

He meant to tackle me but I dropped to my tailbone like a stone –

         I broke it actually – 

But that was better than Buck tackling me 

         BACKWARDS off the porch –

I pulled my knees and elbows to my chest to kick him,

         But at that point he was on top of me,

I mean,

         Bare balls on my knees,

         Face-to-Face,

         And he locked his arms around my shoulders and

         Tried to pick me up.

I stared Buck Ass dead in the eye,

And he never made eye contact with me – NOT ONE TIME.

And I was bellowing “HELP!” –

         I got it out five times when –

I watched his eyes shift up – to the road

         and he let go, straightened, and leapt off the porch,

Ran straight past the group of five fellow Truman students

         who responded to my shouts from the house across the street –

And Buck Ass plowed straight down S Fible Street,

         Never To Be Seen Again.

*Deep Breath*

Hey, I’m Okay.

I’m Alive Today.

The Cops came and AJ,

         who was the evening news anchor at the time,

had heard our address on the police scanner at the station

and was home like, right after the police got there even though

         he drove quadruple the distance –

AND…

That’s what happened.

Scary, I know.

But the worst is what came after, because I was…

Wrecked.

Not many people know that long before all that,

I battled with PTSD — For reasons unrelated to the Masked-Invader event,

         and that I’m not lead to share at this time 🙂

And the reason that’s significant to me is,

         I had just completed 9-months of CBT

         *Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*

         Which thanks to my counselor was

         A wildly successful experience for me;

         So I started grad school feeling Powerful, Healed, Metamorphic –

         Feeling like this fully functional, capable, joyful person –

         The person I’ve always been and had been trying so hard to 

         Get back in touch with –

I was ready – To study. To learn. To apply myself to the great challenges facing our nation and world as the first wave of the Pandemic wrought so much havoc – Feeling so properly placed, so grateful to have chosen the program I did – 

And then some Naked Guy had to go and ruin it all.

It wasn’t just that it was my first semester in grad school; it wasn’t just that I was totally new to virtual learning; it wasn’t just that there was a Global Pandemic so, all the businesses, schools, and public spaces closed; it wasn’t just that I had nowhere to go so I sat feeling trapped where *Something Worse Might Have Happened*; it wasn’t just that all my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy didn’t prepare me to get stuck in FIGHT when I’d only ever warred against FLIGHT; it wasn’t just that when news of the break-in spread, people made cruel jokes in the comments on Facebook like how ‘defenseless and stupid I must be to just curl up and scream’ like that’s anything like what actually happened it’s just how certain people read “fetal-position”; it wasn’t just that I couldn’t fall asleep without the distinct feeling of being struck by lightning – which I have been before actually; it wasn’t just that the President was Impeached in the House but not the Senate, or that our Government was so busy with the Trial that they missed the Planning stage of COVID-19 Crisis; it wasn’t just that every time I tried to get on the Zoom class and read the books and write the papers, I just kept running to my typewriter and hacking out the ever-storm of thoughts and flashes tearing me limb-from-limb internally 

*I had some psychosis at that point in time*

as all the stress of everything exacted too-high a tax on my mind and my body and my spirit —

In April 2020, I weighed somewhere-abouts 140-pounds. I remember that because I was so, so proud of myself for getting healthy at the Dunes all 2019, losing 70-pounds over the course of the year, eating better, hiking, traveling to see AJ and our cats on the weekends while he job-transitioned to Missouri, and I finally joined him full-time to pursue my Masters degree –

But that last thing didn’t happen; I had to drop out.

By my 27th birthday in July 2020, I weighed only 107 pounds. 

That’s when I said DAMN TO ALL THE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS because I HAD to go home and let my parents cook for me because I COULD NOT EAT, I COULD NOT SLEEP, and I was WITHERING AWAY and felt absolutely, completely powerless to stop it. 

I wasn’t helpless. I have a loving hero of a life-partner named AJ, 

And we survived this.

And I have avoided talking about all this because

I didn’t know what I wanted to say

Trauma rains; I’ve overshared on many occasions

But never had it all out like this –

I’ve dismissed a lot of early drafts I’ve written

         addressing topics like violence against women and stuff

Because, I never felt like I was saying enough,

Never felt like it was really adding to the conversation,

         Like I was really helping others understand that as women,

         The issue we face is that the world isn’t safe,

And it places undo burden on us, who

         Now, factually in the United States

Don’t the same Equal Rights as… many of you.

IT’S THE 21ST CENTURY!

See, I hate to play the ‘What Might Have Happened’ game –

It can be dangerous for people like me,

         Who suffer things like

         hyper-sensitivity, heightened anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and

         Let’s say, ‘Baggage’

         Like environmental and situational triggers,

         worsened by stress, and rest, and everything else –

To tread down the “WELL IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE” road –

Even so.

It could have been worse.

Buck Ass could have tackled me from behind if I hadn’t turned to fight,

         and I might have fallen face-first off porch,

         three-feet down into the bushes,

         on a dark street in Kirksville, Missouri,

And Buck Ass could have done a lot worse to me.

Praise J, it didn’t go that way.

But I don’t think it’ll take that big of a leap for most y’all to get that,

         I’ve already walked down that “What If” path more than was good for me,

         And my hope here is that others will think about how,

When Systems We All Tend to Agree Are Broken

(We Just Don’t All Tend To Agree On the 5 W’s and H)

Make Backwards Decisions About What Half Our People are Allowed to do

         to Safeguard Our Own Mind, Body, and Spirit…

Well, We ALL have to STEP UP and FIGHT.

Because losing protections like we just did with the Supreme Court’s overturning

of Roe vs. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022

Does not ‘save lives’ no matter what Five out of Nine Justices said.

         Stripping away a woman’s right to a safe abortion is 

         Not an Act of Valor –

         I mean it’s ludicrous –

If something like what happened to me –

         That whole thing about the MASKED NAKED MAN who

         Targeted and sexually assaulted me I just told you all about?

– happened NOW to someone else in Missouri –

         A State where, like many states,

         There were pre-existing Trigger Laws in place,

         Which took effect between ‘INSTANTANEOUSLY’ and ‘DAYS-LATER’

         Making the practice of medical abortion ILLEGAL,

         EVEN IN THE CASE OF RAPE AND INCEST –

It is alarming to me if the audience can’t make the jump to my point from here.

I just want to share a few things I’m thinking.

I think that women should reserve the right to their own Personhood.

“What a tragic thing” is not an appropriate or adequate response 

         to a survivor of sexual violence; 

Prioritizing the ‘personhood’ of an unborn fetus 

         over the life of a fully-manifested Person bearing the injuries of their survival 

         before their healthcare provider, is despicable; 

We need Agents and Allies for Change,

Because we need to address the problems we’re really facing,

And guys, this is just one win for the Evangelical State,

         Who are at this moment threatening the lives and safety of our People

         Here in the United States – 

In the NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, No Less.

I must confess,

If it weren’t for my PERSONAL SAVIOR, J –

         There’s no way I’d be telling this story,

         Or saying any of this for that matter.

I ain’t trying to SAVE anybody,

         In fact, 

and this is as humanly tactless as I can be:

There are Radicals in the Christian Church,

and there are ‘Christian’ organizations and leaders

who are responsible for making grabs

at Our Free Peoples’ Entitled Rights & Liberties,

         and these Actors manipulate slews of folks in pews,

using ill-conceived notions of Righteousness,

and FALSE teachings and meanings of Scripture,

to make $$$ and force their agenda on people who,

despite a Constitution which MAKES PLAIN

THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

Seek to install Government Leaders who’re ‘ON THE SAME PAGE’

So that Church&State become one and the same,

So their beliefs are upheld before any ‘divergents’

In spite of the fact that our Founding Fathers 

who were undeniably also ‘Christian,’

Expressly wrote that the separation of these systems was vital

To our very survival.

And it seems to me if THOSE FOKES like MOST OF THOSE WHO CLAIM

         TO PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS

         WOULD KNOW THE GOOD BOOK WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT

THE POINT OF READING IS TO LEARN

         HOW TO HEAR HIM ON YOUR OWN.

I hear, loud and clear.

         I’ve got the Holy Spirit INSIDE of ME, MY Person, heard?

         So I’ve got any and all conversation on-lock.

And I do not require assistance our outside review.

.

.

Thank you all for listening to my TEDtalk.


Author Made in Indiana, USA.

Follow @bykaileyann on social media for frequent writing updates!

The Good Example, i.e. Hermione Jean Granger

A microessay in-response to a prompt sponsored by RandomHouse

What has reading taught you about navigating the world? What is one story that has most impacted your worldview or way you move through life?

Prose. Challenge. 300 – 500 words allowed.

I’m inspired by what is, quite controversially, my favorite book of all time: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. My literary hero is Hermione Granger, who is both an exceptional intellectual and super-savvy communicator. In Order, Hermione teaches her peers about democratic leadership by simply starting a conversation. During the first meeting of a secret student Defense Against the Dark Arts group, Hermione suggests that they all “ought to elect a leader” and “ought to vote on it properly.” Harry Potter may have been the ideal, presumed selection, but Hermione insisted on a vote to manifest consensus. She used plain language to encourage their participation, leaning into proven decision-making methods like inclusive polling to “make it formal” and “establish authority.” Reading this scene at the early age of eleven, it became clear I wanted to be that kind of leader: a person who would speak with great wisdom but communicate using common sense.


Hermione had a certain knack for making good decisions, a fact which points to certain insight, yet she kept her mind sharp by not bending to the ‘fragrant guesswork’ of the divining arts. She was a known rule-enforcer, an ally to proper procedure (as am I), but Hermione Jean’s record of rule-breaking is directly correlated to the numerous courageous decisions made in the face of crisis, danger, and emergent peril. She’s a good egg, hard to crack; she can be trusted. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione appealed to the leadership at Hogwarts School at age thirteen to expand her magical studies and was presented with a “Time-Turner,” a magical device which allowed her to take more classes, even when the lessons were scheduled for precisely the same window of time. Her thirst for knowledge matches mine, and her bravery stands as a pillar of magical realism I can lean on when I’m in a tough spot. I trusted Hermione to the very end because she said things like, “I also think we ought to have a name. It would promote a feeling of team spirit and unity, don’t you think?” I read, I remembered, I gleaned. Words are power, just ask Dumbledore (Rowling, 391).


@bykaileyann

An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling

Addressing Your Misperceptions of America


Dearest Teacher,

My name is Kailey Ann. I’m 27 as of writing this, and I’m a Ravenclaw through-and-through. If you’d asked me even back in 2015, I’d have told you proudly I was a Gryffindor, but wisdom has a way of revealing itself through the Spirit in time. My aura bleeds blue and brawn, as it were. 

I’m writing to you because quite frankly, I’ve been thinking about doing it for nearly my whole life, and I’m pretty sick of chickening out at this point. I figure, there’ve got to be lots of people like me who, in light of your recent points-of-view, finally said to themselves, “Ah th’heck with it! She ought to know what I have to say.”

So I guess I’ll start by saying this: I’m an American. That means in my own fantasy-reality, I really never could have been a Ravenclaw. Unless, maybe, I happened to be one lucky winner of an international student exchange program to Hogwarts, somehow open to American students of magic who did not attend Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—which of course, any American knows would be the case for the vast majority of young witches and wizards in the United States, given the nontraditional nature of our decentralized, state-run systems of education. So, even though the old Pottermore sorting test said I’d be a Horned Serpent, the frown I wear now thinking about it is the real thorn in my side I’d like to tell you about. 

Hear me Teacher, because I keep deepest respect for you, even in spite of the pitiless disagreements you and I now share. I’ve been attending midnight premieres and book releases since I was eight, so it’s coming up on twenty years of things I’ve thought about saying to you one day. I’m not just a fan (though that, I am). I’m a writer. I write because I hafta. It’s always been that way. When I was young and began reading your books, I didn’t know yet that words had that same kind of hold on you, too. I have faith that you, the very greatest writer of our time in my eyes, will do your best to use your words for the good of others until the very end.

But I’d like to take you back to when I was ten, even then pretending to be a magical kid at schools in America we thought we might attend. My best friends since birth were as big of fans of the series as my big brother and I were, and we spent long hours in our childhoods dreaming up people and places who fit into our idea of the Wizarding World from right where we were in the center of the Midwest of the United States.

Up till the end of the summer in 2003 when I turned ten, I had been living in Northwest Indiana at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. There, nestled along shores of singing sand in most northern reaches of my home state, are the Indiana Dunes: a place so full of magic that I can only wish that statement is enough to inspire you to come and see it one day. Living dunes, mountains of sand standing 60-meters high in some instances, some moving over a meter every year. Over 350 species of birds migrate through the interconnected web of ecosystems on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. The weather quite literally can change any minute. I was living there again in 2019 when the Polar Vortex hit, and for two days the winds blowing off the Great Lake made it a breathtaking -48°C outside. But in the springs, when over 1,100 flowers and plants bloom, and the summers, when monarch butterflies voyaging across North America settle there for the milkweed, I can’t imagine a more beautiful place. Most winters are unimaginably gorgeous too; have you ever seen shelf ice in real life?

All that to say, that’s the wondrous land I explored everyday, just steps beyond my backyard, when I first discovered Harry Potter. On June 20, 2003, my big brother’s twelfth birthday (exactly a month before my tenth), he and I stood in line with our dad at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore for the midnight release of Order. My brother had been waiting eagerly for the next book for a lot longer than I had because he was older; he’d already read most of Goblet by the time I was literate enough to pick up Sorcerer’s Stone in second grade. But he’d made me promise to finish the fourth book before the fifth came out, and by that time—I was almost a fourth-grader—I’d become something of a reader. My brother and I had talked for nearly a year about what dangers Harry would encounter next. That night I wore a black OOTP ballcap, a special souvenir for us kids whose parents were cool enough to preorder the book. Our parents were the coolest; they’d preordered copies for us both. 

I remember diving right into it that night, but unlike my brother (who finished reading it in under a week), I didn’t fall into it right away. I attribute this to the anticipation I was feeling of our family’s upcoming relocation. Our parents, recently divorced, had sat my brother, little sister, and me down to tell us that at the end of the summer, we’d be moving “back” to Central Indiana. That was where both my parents were from, and where I was born, but I didn’t remember it like that. The Dunes was my home, and that town 280-kilometers south just passed Indianapolis was only a place I went to see family on Memorial Days, Thanksgivings, and Christmases. As I’m sure you’ve heard in bulk over the years, the tone of book five didn’t give me that spark I’d gotten used to in books one, two, three, and four. 

But when I got to my roots in Central-IN at the age of ten, I had never felt more like Harry Potter in my life. Like I said, both of my parents were from there, and I was instantly overwhelmed with the number of strangers who knew my name and seemingly everything about me. It was the start of a new school year, and I was the new kid, and I’d always been a middle-kid and natural introvert, so I didn’t like being shoved under the spotlight so much. That’s when I put my time back into Order to help myself acclimate to the new environment. 

Everyday in my new fourth grade class, we were given twenty-minutes for silent reading. Most kids hated this part of the day, but naturally I found the minutes always flew by too quickly. I’m a good reader, but I’ve never been fast; by then I was reading about 200-words-per-minute, which meant I could almost never get through an entire chapter in the twenty minutes I was given. One Wednesday, that really screwed me over.

I’ll never forget closing my copy of Order on page 805. My heart was hammering in my chest. My throat constricted, twisted, ached—I choked on the word No as my eyes came to the end of the sentence, “The second jet of light hit him squarely on the chest.”

I blinked a few times to clear my vision, so blurry with tears that I couldn’t quite read, “The laughter had not quite died from his face, but his eyes widened in shock.” Before I was through blinking, my ears burned at the sound of students around me giggling—I looked up and met sets of eyes staring right at me, smirking, gazes jumping between our teacher and me, sitting at my desk with rigid shoulders and both sides of my open book clenched in my fists.

Silent reading was over. Evidently, our teacher had said so two or three times, but I was the only one who hadn’t looked up yet. I was a good kid, but when she told me for the third or fourth time I guess to close my book, I’d replied, “Can’t I please just finish the chapter?” The answer was no, and after a great round of laughter, I spent the rest of the day in a dark cloud. Every few minutes I’d get a painful bolt of hope that I’d somehow misread the colors—I remembered red and green, but did I get the order right? I knew the answer already, but I held on for the rest of the day, trying hard to convince myself that Sirius Black wouldn’t be dead when I flipped to page 806.

I called up this memory because I think it gets the closest to this standing-at-the-edge-of-the-veil feeling that’s been swelling in my gut since I went to the midnight premiere for the first Fantastic Beasts film in 2016. A bit of writing wisdom every teacher I’ve ever had shares is simply, “Write what you know.” It’s taken some time for me to find the words to describe how I’m feeling, but today I think I’ve finally got enough gumption to just say plainly: What gives you the right to write about life in America?

No offense Ms. Rowling, Ma’am, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.

In 2018, I took a job back up in Northwest Indiana, returning for a brief two years to live in my magical Dunes. During my time there, I had the privilege of working daily with the National Park Service, which is how I was introduced to some important local partners: members of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi, who are actively finding ways to “revive the knowledge of [their] clans” in their native lands in and around the Dunes region. That’s how I learned that the Ojibwe cultural histories contained not one, but two miraculous beings which were familiar to me because of your Wizarding World: the Thunderbird and the Horned Serpent.

Like many of my fellow Americans, I’m now faced with a moral reckoning in the fact that my History education was quite lacking in inclusive perspectives. So, I’m not going to spend more than the next sentence whining about how the white Americans depicted in Fantastic Beasts are boring, two-dimensional caricatures that I know for a fact you could have written better. I had been so excited to discover a magical United States as I faced the first wave of fear in November 2016 wondering, “What happens next?”—only to leave the midnight premiere at the movie theater thinking, “All that could have happened anywhere, what does it have to do with me?”

More importantly, what does the Wizarding World have to do with the Indigenous peoples of North America? I wonder if you spoke with any of my neighbors before turning the main figures of their Creation stories into magical creatures kept in a suitcase by a British man named Newt Scamander. I doubt it because I’ve only just now been able to swallow my own pride and admit that I marvelled over that stupid CGI bird for more than a year before I realized I’d been daydreaming in sheer ignorance. 

And here I stand, not about to chicken out on writing this, or writing lots of things I’ll probably think of that I ought to say to you down the road. I have a lot to learn as a person, and being a writer is the set robes that helps me be the best me. Isn’t it the same for you? Don’t you put on your thoughts on paper so you can see yourself plainer? I’m standing under the archway of Cancel Culture hoping that you haven’t yet fallen beyond the curtain. I’m rooting for you to just suck it up and admit that you’re no alchemist and that you don’t know the secrets of life and death just because Harry died and rose again in your fairytale. Go on, take a big swig of your bad brew and swallow it down. I believe you can transform your vision of what makes the United States such a magical place. 

While assembling my closing thoughts on all of this, I returned to page 806 of my well-read copy of Order of the Phoenix. There I read the screams of fifteen-year-old Harry Potter as the deepest, most desperate desire of his heart cries out, “Get him, save him, he’s only just gone through!” 

Words are, in fact, our most renewable source of energy. You, Author, have wielded the written word to an astonishing Historical place of power. Until recently, I never thought Sirius Black’s special brand of arrogance was really your style. To tell you the truth, when all the time-turners went berserk in Cursed Child, I thought it was your way of finally saying, “Go forth, all ye fanfic dreamers: Your will be done.” Like it was a step towards opening up the Wizarding World not just to new places, but new people and writers, or something like that. But staring straight up at Fantastic Beasts on the big-screen in my mind, I’m hung up on the depth of your lack of research and the chasm of cruel objectifications of others’ cultural heritage and lived experiences. 

Because you’re the person who wrote the story that’s given so much of my life meaning, I am not through with you. The thing about Dolores Umbridge that really twists the thorn in my side is her privlege—she had too much influence to be bothered when students called her on her predjudices. Don’t be a Toad, for gosh sakes Ms. Rowling! Be a good Badger and go find the right answers so you can go on being your best. I still dream of showing the kind of selflessness as that wizard kid named Harry Potter, who once looked on the great Mirror of Erised and was found worthy to receive the Philosopher’s Stone.

And if you must continue staging my country as a main setting in your story, would you consider what I’ve said here and then…

… if you’ll humor this admiring writer just a teensy-bit longer 😉

Maybe give this wacky exercise I just whipped up a quick whirl:

A gang of chattering girls separated Snape from James and Sirius, and by planting himself in the midst of the group, Harry managed to keep Snape in sight while straining his ears to catch the voices of James and his friends…

“Did you like question ten, Moony?” asked Sirius as they emerged into the entrance hall.

“Loved it,” said Lupin briskly. “‘Give five signs that identify the [woman].’ Excellent question.”

“D’you think you managed to get all the signs?” said James in tones of mock concern.

“Think I did,” said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd thronging around the front doors eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. “One: [She’s] sitting on my chair. Two: [She’s] wearing my clothes. Three: [Her] name’s Remus Lupin…’”

Wormtail was the only one who didn’t laugh.

“Chapter Twenty-Eight: Snape’s Worst Memory,” Order of the Phoenix, pg. 643

I am, yours most sincerely,

@bykaileyann

“Today, I was a Learning Coach.”

An essay considering hopeful new ways to engage student writers.
Photos taken at Indiana Dunes National Park.

Once upon a not so long ago, I was studying towards a Master of Arts in Leadership. My graduate program was tailored to my professional goals, so I decided to specialize in intentional writing and creative nonfiction. Essentially, I wanted to learn how the world worked and why we do things the way we do them and how to use writing to make more things better for more people.

I learned how exactly the world did and didn’t work during the first six months of 2020 — yep, you guessed it… also my first semester of grad school. My goal was, in the grandest inner piece of me, to find the keys to liberty through literacy. I didn’t go to grad school for an M.A. in English or Education. I went for an M.A. in Leadership, and I entered this carefully chosen path of study believing whole-heartedly, as C.S. Lewis put it best:

“You can make anything by writing.”

When the rules aren’t written, it feels an awful lot like Team Rocket looking up from the bottom of another hole they fell right into — I improvise daily and learn new ways to say things plainly. When the rules aren’t clear, it’s hard to know which way’s up. Am I supposed to begin here, or there? And how is it supposed to go again?

My performance is packed with knowledge from my past; I pass on the parts I’ve found the most practical. I’m 27, and my resume and professional portfolio reflect things that are tangible — students see me and think for maybe one of the first times, “I could be doing that in a few years.” One of the primary responsibilities of my job description is to build one-on-one relationships with students. The defining purpose of my job is, simply: to mentor college students.

Today, I was a mentor, as defined here: an experienced and trusted advisor.

A difficulty I often face amongst fellow professionals is saying concisely what I do, or what I’m good at. You (who’s reading this) may have noticed that I ended my last sentence with a preposition. You very well might not have noticed it at all, or if you did, maybe you didn’t much mind. Rules like that fall flat in higher learning because they’re often enforced in classrooms filled with students who think they’re bad writers. Whether writing an email or essay or your name on an exam, the writing process starts and ends with one condition: The writer must engage with the process. Participating takes confidence, creativity, curiosity, inquiry, knowledge, practice, time… among many other token skills in academics. What that looks like is me, right now, thinking it out, doing my best to explain just what it takes to put my voice on this page so that you can hear me.

A voice is hard to find if you’re worried about where the commas go all the time. Writing isn’t math — there’s no distance between the value of a word and the person working the problem. It’s an incredibly vulnerable place for most people, but I’d argue that undergraduates of most disciplines confront one of the toughest levels of writers’ block. For some, their future careers depend on them writing a proper five-paragraph essay, using proper citations, punctuation marked in all the right places, structured neat-and-tidy with a thesis and topic sentences, and of course never forgetting to spellcheck and double-check all capitalizations, headings, formats and things, oh, what am I forgetting?

I’m still asking the question: Why are we teaching this when we know that the vast majority of students will never — outside of education and related disciplines — be asked to write something like a five-paragraph essay ever again in their professional lives?

I love writing, and I’m lucky to have a passion that matches my profession. I believe that I can make anything by writing. I have faith because everytime I try, I wind up doing something incredible that I never imagined. Writing is an interdisciplinary art, and yet we leave teaching it all to the English professors. They do a fantastic job! But next to no one is going to be writing about Literature or composing a research paper in their post-college future.

Something clicked today as I mentored, and now I wish for the day when writing is a common minor study track in schools of all sorts, not just Liberal Arts. I wish for every one of my students, no matter their trade, to get what I mean when I say I’m here and I’m just gripped by the sweetness of good sense, like when a student sends me an assignment days late but decided to write their pronouns in their email signature because I shared mine with them in last week’s class.


@bykaileyann

Read this post on Medium.

“Is it working?”

A draft of a five-paragraph personal narrative essay before I start teaching Introduction to College Writing.


I remember being so offended at my score on the AP Lit Exam: Four. I was a senior at Franklin Community High School, where everybody knew I was going to be a writer. It was 2012. We called ourselves the “Last Class” because the world was supposed to end that year or whatever. I remember the daywhenmy Probability and Statistics class counted down together to the moment that something unimaginable was supposed to happen — to end it all. Of course, it didn’t, whatever. But getting a Four on the AP English Literature and Composition felt a little world-ending because it meant that I wasn’t even close to being the best writer in Franklin, and it was the thing— the one thing — I was good at.

What I was really upset about was that only a Five would have allowed me to “test-out” of First-Year Composition at Purdue University. My score of Four did at least turn my year in AP Lit into transferable credit, but it still meant I’d be stuck in a class I was (in my 18-year-old brain) already beyond. I felt this especially when everyone shared their scores, and one of my classmates waved a hand in my general direction and said, “We all know Kailey got a Five. How’d you do?!” I laughed and played with my fingers, ready to confess that I hadn’t actually gotten a perfect score, but then I saw how many of their smiles said Five! and I let the moment pass. My Four was really no big deal, I thought, still glowing from the assumption of perfection. And besides, I was truly proud of them. I think it’s the runner in me — there were days, races, when I woke up and knew I would win, but I generally embrace the inevitability that anyone might just blow right on by me.

My favorite tests were the ones I failed most often — it was different with math: when I got a wrong answer, there wasa clear explanation for how and why. Even though I was never great at math and never claimed to like it, the measurable growth of my own abilities was empowering. Writing required an investment to work. What I came up with must be in my own words. No matter how long I’ve had to consider the question, nevermind the context. Feedback on that AP Lit Exam would have helped me understand the college criteria better than a stupid FOUR in the mail that I couldn’t muster the courage to be proud of amongst my peers. I would never understand how I could have gotten a Five or why I only deserved a Four.

As with sprinting, I liked the way writing always pushed me to take it get to my next PR (personal record). I had just finished writing my second book, which made two published works in my high school career. Going to Purdue to study Creative Writing felt like betting on my strengths — at a school for astronauts, chemists, and engineers, I thought I was sure to stand out in a liberal arts program at a public university. But I was only 19, and I still thought that I was working for my education instead of the other way around.

It wasn’t until I started grad school in January of 2020 that I finally realized that whether or not a Four was a good score didn’t matter. What mattered — what matters — is whether or not I learned. “Is it working?” is a question education should answer first. What does it matter if I end my sentence in a preposition if I’m supposed to write in my own words? In the present and future, I want students to know that their words are worth more than any score I could prescribe.


by Kailey Ann

First Draft:
WORD COUNT – 640

Final Draft Goal:
WORD COUNT – 800

Letter to an Ally

In regard to a MySpace message I received on a Thursday morning when I was 13

I typed your name in Google and found that you were whole and well. At least, that’s how you seemed on my computer screen. I was happy to see your face glowing—I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I saw you—but the shadow of doubt lifted when I clicked the link and saw your smile. It’s been a long time, and that time will go on because, well, you don’t know about me looking you up.

I looked you up because I’ve been trying to unravel this mess of a thing in my heart and head, and there’s a pretty serious knot tangled all around you. It’s not about you anymore, like I said, because I forgave you a way-long time ago. Thirteen years! Has it really been? Since the forgiving. We were never what people call “friends” again, but like good friends do, I solemnly swear there’s no hard feelings.

But you’re all wrapped up in it still, and somehow I’ve got to detach you from all the lost strands and crooked ends. I’ve got to untie you from this hold so that I can wrestle with all the rest of it.

I know that you must have been afraid back then. God knows I was too. The Library was probably your only respite, and I got to keep it… so I know what you ended up missing. It’s a good thing they took you out of school because the talk was kind of hectic for a while. I didn’t tell anyone (who would?), but the boy whose profile you used… Well, I don’t blame him for defending himself when he got called to the Principal’s office. Good kid like him, I bet he was scared sick about what people would think if (when) they found out—he put his hands right up the moment he spotted me in the main hall and called out, “Kailey! I’m so sorry—I didn’t—It wasn’t – you’re okay?” His class’ line was too far past mine, but I nodded vigorously and told him it was fine, I know, it’s okay, it’s fine.

I can’t know what you were thinking in 2007 when all of this happened. I wonder whom you’ve told, if anyone, about the murder message. Do you fear, like I think so many men do, that someone will find out, that it’ll ruin you? I hope not. I honestly hope you talked it through, and it sorta seems like you have—dude, you’re in full drag!

I hope it’s clear that I don’t mean to cause you fear, but the truth is I need to tackle my own. I don’t mean to give rise to skeletons, but that’s the thing, there are a few whose bones are rattling in the attic space of my brain where I hid them away, and which need consulting. Specifically, a 13-year old me, kneeling behind the paperbacks in T-Z.

It was February, and you had just asked me to the first seventh grade dance of the semester. I declined. I was already going with—well, you know. It was only a few minutes into sixth period, so the time we had to kill was…tense. I mean, it had been awkward for a while at that point. You wrote me a note and asked me to be your girlfriend at some point during first semester. I remember I wrote back, “No. Sorry,” and added a frowny face. I remember telling my best friend that you liked me and she squeaked, “Are you serious?” with her face all scrunched up. She told me I shouldn’t have said sorry for saying no, and she was right. I won’t get stuck on it because I have been cruising your feed, and it seems like you’re really vibing with the idea of gender equality nowadays. 

But those weeks built pressure until you ultimately asked me out again, which made me mad, and I think it showed because I hurried through alphabetizing the paperback cart and wheeled it behind the bookshelf with my head down. And that’s the moment I always go back to—ducking behind the bookshelf in T-Z because you shot me with the discharge gun.

Got my laser
Do-dodododo
Shield your eyes!
Do-dodododo

I’d been seeing red, but I’ve seen it through to the end—the whole rainbow, isn’t it stunning? I don’t know what was happening inside your head that made you want to murder me—or maybe it wasn’t really ever that at all. Maybe you just wanted to say something that hurt like you were hurting. We were just kids. I heard someone say recently that seventh graders don’t care about you (the adult in the room), and that really threw me back to that time in our lives, when all we wanted was our peers to accept us, to think we were cool, or cute, or whatever. 

I’d never been called a whore before. I’d never even kissed someone, never even held a hand except for my family members’ during circle prayer. I wore high-waters and Sketchers right up until the next year, when one of my friends told me they weren’t cool anymore. I’d never been called a bitch, and that one bit because I was bullied in middle school too, so I knew how much it mattered to be nice to everyone. I’d definitely never had anyone threaten to shoot me, and that piece is what played over and over in my head, the whole scene, kidnapped off the bus, dragged into a field, shot right in the face. I read a lot of books—I was used to seeing things in my mind. I remember being afraid to tell boys I didn’t have any interest after they expressed theirs in me, after that. I was careful about how close I would get as friends because I didn’t want there to be any confusion. Even though I always clicked with boys, I ended up hanging out with mostly only girls instead.

And they were good girls—good girls in the sense that they were just the friends I needed. Supportive, silly, sure of themselves, and sure of me even when I wasn’t. I hope they treated you nice, wherever you went. I hope they treated you nice when you got back—I never really asked since we only ever had that one class together, one where we were expected to only speak with our hands and eyes, at that. I’m sorry I avoided your gaze sometimes. I hope you know I won’t avoid you if I ever see you again, in real life, not just online. I hope you’re happy and healthy and hopeful about our future. I hope you hold onto your Pride. I’m glad to see that we share it.

Call this a thread of thought, untangled from the knot, unraveled. I put it away for someday when I was ready to pull through all the cables and lost loops. I didn’t want to tear it to shreds and leave the ends all mangled. I wanted to turn that story into something that brings me joy instead of fear. I’m not afraid. I see this new you from a hindsight view. Don’t shield your eyes—new looks good on you.


by Kailey Ann

Discovery Draft – typewriter essay

6 June 2020

“By George” was inspired by a few things that have been on my mind lately.

One is the importance of good educators, and the best example I have is my Mom, so she’s central to this; another driver of this piece is the idea of Leadership, which I’m currently studying at Truman State University.

I remembered this time in second grade when everyone of us seven-to-eight year-olds performed as George Washington in a play for our parents and teachers. We told his life a sentence at a time, each of us telling a little piece of the first President’s story.

We all have a part to play that’s unique to us, I really believe that. Today my professor quoted a book I can’t remember the name of that basically said that the purpose of memoir is pursuing the truth. It’s creative nonfiction, but with the intent of telling the truth. Whatever that means.

I think I get what it means, or I’m getting it, and I’m starting to sort out my truths through reflection. So, here’s a look at some of the first steps into my memory pool.

Happy Reading,

Kailey Ann