Houlton Region

Smyrna author pens first novel

SMYRNA MILLS, Maine — D.J. Howard, a retired educator from Merrill who taught writing along with math and science to gifted and talented students in rural Maine, has published her first book.

Hunt and Peck Publishing announced “Schooled in Silence,” was published on Sept. 1. The book is the story of three women struggling for their independence and dignity against abuse from the men and society that control them.

A dramatic, moving novel about 18-year-old Mary Ellen Underwood, a motherless, fatherless girl raised in her sisters’ brothel in Vermont during the early 1800s, Mary Ellen defies all odds when she gets a job as a respectable school teacher in upstate New York. Mary Ellen falls in love with the man of her dreams; then, her life changes forever. 

Reacquainted with a vile, unscrupulous man from her past, Miss Underwood finds her life intertwined with two of her students, Maggie Mae Shepard, a meek, insecure girl with strong traditional beliefs, and Emma Whitman, an outspoken independent spirit. Romance, tragedy, and heartbreak lead these three women on an arduous journey of love, sex, betrayal, violence, and shame— one they may not survive.

Howard, a lifelong writer, holds a master’s degree in education and undergraduate degrees in elementary education, psychology, and accounting. Hailing from upstate New York, Howard has deep roots on Chestnut Ridge dating back to the early 1800s. She currently resides in northern Maine, where she enjoys organic gardening and being outside with her husband and a small flock of chickens.

The book is available online and also locally at Spring Break Maple Farm in Smyrna Mills.

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