Aspiring Author Hayden Miskinis

A local student finds publishing success

Hayden Miskinis, who just wrapped up seventh grade at Epping Middle School, has always loved a good story. Just ask her mom.

“My husband always had to make up a new story before bed,” Elaine Miskinis recalls of her daughter’s early years. “That was one of the most challenging slash heartbreaking things about having a dyslexic child, watching her want to read books — she’d pick up books, flip through books and want to read.”

It was especially hard, Elaine says, knowing how eager Hayden was to dive into reading but how difficult it was for her to get started.

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Epping Middle School student Hayden Miskinis’ essay was recently published in The New York Times as a part of the Seventh Annual Student Editorial Contest. Courtesy photo

But, as Hayden recently wrote in The New York Times (yes, The New York Times): “After years of intensive interventions, including tutors and outside programs, I can finally pick up a book and read it like it’s nothing.”

Hayden’s essay about her journey with dyslexia — including her struggle, at least initially, to get the right support from her school — was selected from a pool of 7,318 pieces of writing from all across the country as part of the Times’ Seventh Annual Student Editorial Contest. Hayden initially wrote the essay as part of an assignment for her English teacher, Linsay Kaplan. With students’ permission, Kaplan submitted a dozen pieces to the Times contest.

News of her first Times byline came as, well, unexpected news to Hayden. She says she found out she had been named one of the top three essay contest finalists — and would have her piece published — because her mom saw a post about it on Facebook.

Most of the editing process, as Hayden recalls, happened before the essay was submitted. With the help of her classmates, she refined her piece through several rounds of revisions to try to take a “very standard” first draft and turn it into something that was “more like a casual conversation.”

Hayden says of her effort to incorporate her classmates’ feedback: “I think that definitely helped to get my message across and to get people to listen.”

Being published in the Times at her age is a big accomplishment on its own, especially for someone who’s weeks away from her 13th birthday. But for Hayden, it was even cooler to be able to use this national platform to “inform people what [dyslexia] is and what the hopes are for the future, what schools can do, and what schools can do better for the future.”

And for Hayden’s mom, who’s a local English teacher, the publication of this piece has added significance. Not only was it “amazing,” Elaine says, to see Hayden use her voice to help other kids, it was also encouraging to know Hayden was also helping to dispel misconceptions about what kids with dyslexia are capable of.

“With dyslexia, we assume they’re not strong readers or don’t like to write,” Elaine says. “None of that is necessarily true, it’s just more challenging for them. They just have to work much harder to accomplish things that maybe some other learners take for granted.”

These days, Hayden loves spending her spare time devouring stories by authors like Ellen Hopkins, Sharon Draper and Lynda Mullaly Hunt, whose book about a girl with dyslexia provided some extra inspiration to Hayden. Hayden also hopes to work on some new pieces of her own soon, though she’s not sure what shape they might take: She loves “argument writing,” but she also dabbles in historical fiction. No matter what format, she’s excited to keep reading — and writing — lots more stories from here.

Categories: People