University of South Florida

USF Health’s Michele Houston Hicks publishes a children’s story that comes from her heart

The lives of two little girls born prematurely and the experiences and adventures they have as they grow up together are being chronicled in a series of children’s books written by Michele  Houston Hicks, front desk coordinator for the USF Health Physical Therapy Center.

The story comes from her heart.

Michele Hicks with her book

Hicks said she is writing the books to share her own family’s experiences with raising premature babies – two of her seven grandchildren were born prematurely. She also aims to tell the world about the strength and determination her two granddaughters had as they struggled so hard to survive.

The first in the series, titled Princess Pie, was published earlier this year and the second is due out next spring.

“The storyline of Princess Pie is based on a poem I wrote a year after my granddaughter Aniya was born celebrating her fight for life in the NICU as one of ‘God’s Miracle Children’ which is what she was called in the hospital,” Hicks said. “And the idea for a series came later after Aunika, another granddaughter, was born.”

The first book introduces us to Princess Pie (Aniya) and is in her voice and illustrated with large, bold pictures from Princess Pie’s perspective. In the second book, Hicks said we will be introduced to Szeja (Aunika), who acts as a protector and a liaison for Princess Pie, who has severe cerebral palsy.

As Princess Pie grows, she goes to therapy, where she meets Szeja.

“And their antics begin,” Hicks said.

Later stories in the series will build on their time together playing, going to doctor appointments and starting school.

Hicks said she hopes the series will help other families, especially children, see that preemies will have most of the same experiences as anyone else as they grow up but might have struggles along the way. The series is ideal not only for families of preemies but also for educators and clinicians who can offer the readings to other children and families, she said.

A long-time writer, Hicks said Princess Pie is her first story to be published.

“I’ve been writing since the late 1990s and have several manuscripts in the works just waiting for me to find the time to finish and the publication of Princess Pie has spurred my passion to get them finished,” she said. “New story ideas come fairly easy for me but seem to interrupt me finishing earlier ideas.”

Hicks, who has worked in several departments at USF Health across 18 years, said publishing Princess Pie helped her realize her dream of writing. Her advice to others looking to write and publish: Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. You and your dreams are worth it!

“Don’t let anyone dissuade you from fulfilling your dreams,” she said. “No matter what.”

Michele Hicks the book 600x600

To learn more about Princess Pie visit The book is also available on 


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