About James Howden

WriterDad, coach, longtime high school creature, onetime speechwriter to an Excellent woman, world citizen-in-training…

@JamesHowdenIII on Twitter

Two of my guys. Wonder where the game will take them?

I coach basketball mainly, but I’m predisposed to coach anything that moves (or doesn’t move fast enough!) I have never been smart enough or sufficiently systematic to make any money as a coach, but I’m a professional educator, and I’ve also made money writing. I am a painstaking and graceful editor of English text. I wrote speeches for Canada’s Governor General. I can write about anything as long as there are humans involved. I am learning to write fiction, and how to finish The Book.

Feel free to hire me, publish me, or otherwise discover my long-hidden brilliance. Or maybe you’d just like to chat without commenting on a particular posting here on In either case, dropping me an electronic line is your best bet:

The Site

Welcome! I am a writer, and this is my on-line portfolio. I wonder in public, keep my textual production line lubricated, and expose my writing to hypothetical audiences. AND bring transformation into being and challenge the universe. (In between loads of laundry.)

These are my takes on nearly everything. “At First Glance” is a general-ideas web log, briefs (and boxers) on things that interest me. (The range is wide, but I rarely pay much attention to politics, economics, organic chem or astrophysics.) “It’s All About Sports!” is a second ‘blog with a focus on why sports matter, and what we should do about ’em; I promise not to bore you with standings or last night’s numbers. “On Second Thought”, meanwhile, is a odder, perhaps slightly more literary collection. There are some longer non-fiction pieces, including my extended blogatory enthusiasm, ODY (Old Dog Year). ODY was and remains my on-line diary of a mid-life guitar quest: from nowhere to six-string-somewhere in 365 days. Old dog, new licks. There is also, recently, a whisper of fiction, bits of poetry, and the rest is a miscellany of more considered and (sometimes) more polished pieces. Irregularly, “He Said/She Said…” offers you a tasty quotable bit from minds other than mine.

All this may make you wonder: Who does he think he is? What does he think he’s doing? What happens next? Who’s on first?

Perfect. I ask myself the same things. It’s existential accounting, and we should do it every day.

The Writer

I’ve been son, brother, husband, team-mate, Dad. I’ve taught reading and writing, hopefulness and jumpshots. I used to help a Right Honourable Person say things my country needed to hear. (The earth is one country, but my postal code is Canadian again, after five years in Dalian, China.)

I grew up in a Canadian hockey town where the arts were more of a rumour than a reality, but there were always books. My love for reading was matched only by my hunger for sport. I slept with footballs, dreamed of spectacular saves and line drive hits, and by high school was shovelling snow to play frozen-fingered basketball. Somehow (okay, it was a blonde), I stumbled upon an unusual but deeply satisfying spiritual path, and have been trying to know and live the Bahá’í teachings since age 16. (Every once in a while a light goes on.)

I spent years as a high school readin’ ‘n’ writin’ teacher. I was also (and am again)  an avid basketball coach, a community activist and the father of four mighty sons. I saw and loved the art in all of that and all of them. In 2002 I escaped a life sentence in southern Ontario, and headed to Ottawa to stretch and scribble. I have been an awkwardly striving wordsmith, sometime teacher and nearly adequate homemaker since. For nearly two years, I was the editorial adviser to Canada’s Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, collaborating with her in the preparation of speeches and other texts.

I’m the old guy. “Big Sam” visits Rideau Hall.

My wife and I and Son the Fourth lived in Dalian, China from 2009-2014, where I taught at two universities, wrote most of the book the world is still waiting for, missed coaching and tried to fathom that deep and rapidly swirling culture. (I drowned, repeatedly.) I am learning. I love to think about how we learn, how communities change, and how the hell we got into this mess. I am a word-watcher, a people-watcher and a senescent athlete. I love all the meeting-places:

Where youth greets maturity.
Where sport becomes art and jocks have brains.
Where reading is doing.
Where men really love women (and their equality).
Where the spirit has its reasons.
Where the planet is home.

(Is there anything else you’d like to know?)

Comments (11)

  1. Denis Carnochan

    Hello, James.
    I am a friend of Jackie in Ottawa. She attends a discussion group with you and thought I might enjoy your blog. I am a retired teacher who lives in a Northern Alberta Native community with no other Baha’is around. She thought I might enjoy the stimulus and I have so far. I’m not a ‘jock’ but more inclined to organic chemistry and astrophysics, but look forward to many enjoyable times listening to your thoughts.

    • Thanks, Denis. I keep those ‘jock thoughts’ mainly off in their own ‘All About Sports’ category, so they’re easily avoided.
      Chemistry and astrophysics, however, go WAY over the head of this space! (And your space cadet host.) Welcome.

  2. Maury

    I am a failed friend-to-you. I do like your writing, though I don’t read it all or even much. But when I do, I invariably enjoy the ramble and feel full of admiration for your grit and pluck, not to mention your wit, the many parts moving inside your brain, what you do and how you think and talk about it.

    However, I can’t find your Vipassana article duly promised in your lost in Cambodia article.

    Dear Editor,
    Please help!

    Your loyal bondsman,
    Franky Freeloader

  3. yangyang

    It’s become difficult for me to read English.But I like your words.

  4. I had the unique privilege of studying under James when he was teaching in Ottawa, Canada. The course was French as a second Language. Though the curriculum was quite basic seeing as it was a Core level second language class, I learned far more during that term than one would have indicated in the curriculum documentation. James taught me many life lessons that still continue to aid me as I progress further through life. James Howden definitely has had an amazing set of accomplishments, each of which he utilized to teach my fellow classmates and I several ways to succeed. Many elements of both linguistics and philosophy found their way into his lectures and I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from him in that class.

  5. April Ding

    You really amaze me: activist? Life sentence?! Advisor to the Governor General?!! And now you are in CHINA! I read this 3 times to make sure I didn’t misread. China is not likely the right place for a community activist, so why did you come here? And HOW did you escape that Sentence (you are not kidding, are you?). That’s all what comes to my mind at the moment…

    • Ms. Ding, you may be thinking of a different sort of activism than what I had in mind. I’m interested in building communities, people projects that can grow, and not just living passively and excusing myself from action by saying, “Well, that’s just how it is”. My reference to a “life sentence” had nothing to do with being a criminal; I’m shockingly inoffensive. That “sentence” was a restricted, geographically narrow kind of life that I had built for myself. I meant only that I had freed myself in order to see more of the world and think in wider ways. The prisons we construct in our mind, the prison of being self-absorbed — these are the worst (and the most common). Thanks for your interest.

  6. Xiaonan

    This is a great place, I should visit often.

  7. Yuanyuan

    I like the cartoon! lol. Your website seems so fashion now. I will search more after the exams…….waiting for more your works and great minds.

  8. Barbra Levine Pakravan

    You are wired with energy and wit and I very much like your writing. One of my loves is to observe (and draw out) people’s natural gifts, talents or abilities, and loves, so it’s especially nice to meet you – a fellow soldier in His Army in the country of the future! – who is doing what he naturally loves and is good at!

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