Maddie Ostrowski has found her personal power in transcribing her imagination onto the page

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Senior Maddie Ostrowski was once a little girl who placed sticky notes next to the passages she admired in her copy of Harry Potter, bookmarking those places where the words had been weaved together wonderfully. But now in her final year of high school, just mere months away from the fundamental step into the world that the end of high school brings, Maddie Ostrowski has come so far from those early days.

With a novel, The Manning Twins, under her name—one she wrote herself—she can’t help but pin a portion of the credit for where she is now to the influence of those books during her childhood. Personal opinions about J.K. Rowling aside, Maddie discovered inspiration in Rowling’s works of fiction that has stuck with her since. 

This inspiration continues to surround Maddie, so much so that she can’t exactly pinpoint each influence in her novel. However, she recalls one outstanding interaction that has served as the basis for The Manning Twins

“I was in the car with my mom,” Maddie said, “and she was like, ‘It’d be so cool to open up an orphanage and help kids and stuff.’ And then I was like, ‘That would be really cool.’ So then I started writing about it, and I haven’t stopped writing since.”

For six years of her life, she’s poured herself into this project. Set in an orphanage in the 1800s and revolving around a set of twins, the catalyst of the novel is a nighttime break-in at the orphanage. What transpires next is only to be discovered between the pages of her book.

Through Lulu, an online self-publishing company, Maddie has already acquired a hard-copy of her book, and once she finishes her final round of editing—a commitment she’s holding herself to—she plans to publish the novel through Lulu. 

Once Maddie publishes The Manning Twins, Lulu can put her book on the site to be sold and distributed, and 70% of the profits will go to Maddie. Readers can then leave reviews of her novel once they’ve finished, a prospect that can’t help but be nerve-wracking for Maddie. 

Despite the potential outcomes, Maddie is ready to move on to the next phase of this project. She deeply loves her characters as she’s come to know them on a personal level—she’s infused into each of them a piece of herself—but she’s ready to move on to something new.

“It’s hard to explain because your characters—you know them the most because you made them,” Maddie said, “and sometimes they do things that just really make you mad, which is weird to talk about. Sometimes [I’m] just re-editing what they’re saying and doing it over and over and over again. And [I’m] like, ‘Oh my God, I get it. I understand what you’re trying to say, and I’m trying to help you say those words, but I can’t,’ because author’s block is a thing where I know what I’m going to say, but I don’t know how to say it. And I want to change it up with new characters because I’ve been building these characters for so long.”

I was like, ‘That would be really cool.’ So then I started writing about it, and I haven’t stopped writing since.”

In some ways, Maddie’s characters have morphed into their own entities, each holding characteristics from her but yet are entirely themselves. But she doesn’t anticipate a sequel to The Manning Twins, at least for now. She plans to let that story and those characters rest while she moves onto new projects.  

One such project connects her with her great-grandmother.

“[My great-grandma Jo] passed away when I was younger,” Maddie said, “but I found some letters from her brother, and I’ve been reading those. They’re really interesting. I’ve been thinking about writing a story about her and her brother because they used to be super close. So [that’s] for my grandma, just as a little gift for her.”

This desire to delve deep into her family’s history is deeply rooted within Maddie. She’s always felt a strong connection with her family, past and current. She feels like they have created a culture of learning—learning from each other and helping each other find their passions and pursue them.

“I guess [my family] is just educating each other as we go on through life and we learn new things,” Maddie said. “They taught me a lot that I know, and some of the stuff that I’m learning I teach them about. And they support me, which I’m really blessed to have them as parents and sister. And I support them fully, whatever they plan to do.”

It’s this strong connection that propelled her into another one of her passions: American Sign Language.

Maddie’s uncle has a disability that has rendered him unable to speak. Although he “dabbled a little bit in sign language,” communication is an unsolved problem in his world. So, Maddie enrolled in ASL teacher Kimberly Anderson’s class, hoping to learn so she could then teach him. 

So far, it’s been an outstandingly positive experience. Not only has Maddie’s bond with her uncle strengthened, but she’s developed a much more complex understanding of the Deaf community and the struggles they face. In the last 3 years, she’s been blown away by the capabilities ASL possesses. 

“I didn’t realize how crazy and powerful sign language can be,” Maddie said, “because without sign [language, my uncle] would just be sitting there, and he’d be gesturing to things. By signing, it’s way easier for him to communicate. It opens him up to being able to say what he wants to say and how he wants to say it.”

As she plans for her imminent future, Maddie sees ASL as an integral part of that future. She’s continuing to follow in the footsteps of her family; her mom, sister, and her dad, she believes, have all gone to GVSU, and she envisions a home for herself there as well. 

At GVSU, Maddie plans to major in education for younger students, yet another step down a path her family members have trodden before her. Both her mom and her sister are teachers, so Maddie has grown up around them, yet it wasn’t always her plan. 

There was a time when she wanted to be a full-time author, but the unfortunate practicalities of the real world forced her to reconsider. But being a teacher doesn’t feel like a back-up plan to her; it’s what she wants to do now. 

“I never thought that Megan, my sister, was going to be a teacher because I thought she was going to do something else,” Maddie said, “but it’s really awesome that she is a teacher. I think I really knew when I walked into her classroom and just saw it. We were getting ready, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be a teacher when I’m older.’ I’m excited.”

But she plans to keep her passion and talent for writing by her side through everything. The people around her have inspired her to pursue success through their own achievements in writing and publishing. 

Because of this, Maddie is well-versed in the power of the page. When it comes down to some of her most significant values, those of equality and fighting for the people who can’t always fight for themselves, her weapon is her stories. 

As her own story plays out in front of her, she can’t foresee a version where writing isn’t a key theme. The capacity she holds to influence others and share the way she sees the world is not something she can imagine leaving behind. 

“You can do whatever you want in your book,” Maddie said, “like anything. And I think that’s so cool—creating something and putting it out into the world for others to enjoy. I really like that idea.”