Friday, February 11, 2011

What I'm Writing

I’ve been meeting several other aspiring writers lately, usually though my other correctly spelled blog where nobody knows I’m lysdexic. I’ve been talking to one of my new writing buddies quite a bit about my current project (The latest attempt at a YA novel with a dyslexic main character). In a recent email, she said, “You seem really knowledgeable about the issue, and very sensitive about it. Are you a special ed teacher yourself?”

Instead of emailing her back with a simple NO, I’ve decided to post my full response here.

I'm not a special ed teacher, I'm dyslexic. I had a lot of suport as a kid, several hundred hours of tutoring and an endless stream of audio books, but I didn't really get to the point where I could read actual books until I was in my 20's. I still listen to ten audio books for every one book I read. I think my inability to read as a kid drove me to invent stories of my own. Even though there were years when I never really expected to ever learn how to read, I've always wanted to be a writer.

Learning disabilities never really go away. That's the main thing I want to convey in this book. Stories about dyslexia all go the same way: kid can't read, kid is diagnosed with dyslexia, everyone lives happily ever after, the end. But that's not true. I've known for a long time that I needed to write an honest story about dyslexia, but it's a hard story to tell. This book is actually my third serious attempt.

A couple years ago, I gave up and started writing other contemperary YA stories about literate characters. I learned a lot about writing and story structure in the process. Some of the stuff I wrote was crap, but the story I'd been working on up until a month ago had a lot of promise.

Then three weeks ago, it just hit me. I figured out how to tell this story in a way that will work. So I tabled my old project and have been writing like a mad woman ever since. This project is far less autobiagraphical than my earlier attempts, which works better for the overall story arch, but also makes me kind of nervious. I want to be honest and accurate, even though I'm totally making stuff up.

Dyslexia is genetic, so I have a ton of dyslexic relatives. They were pretty much my only beta readers on my earlier attempts, which is good and bad. I definately want other dyslexics to look at it and say, "yes, that's accurate." But the functionally illiterate aren't generally the best judges of effective story structure. I'm sure I'll attempt to con one or two of my relatives into looking this book over, but I'm not writing it for them. I want people that don't know anything about dyslexia to read this story and relate to the characters. Thus, I need you.

Aren't you excited. You now have a critique partner who can't spell.

Joke of the Day

Dyslexics of the world UNTIE.


BookBlogFun said...

Hi Kate,
I really enjoy this post for a few reasons. My older son has several learning disabilities (but not dyslexia). So I can relate somewhat but not totally. I like reading YA literature and look forward to yours. As I was reading your thoughts it reminded me of a book I read about 10 years ago. I believe it was called Sparks and it was on Oprah's Book Club list at the time. Anyway, the main character had turrets (spelling???). A fascinating read. I am imagining your story to be similar.

Another reason that I wanted to write is regarding all of the audio books you listen to. Last year I dedicated a month to listening to audio books while running/walking and I called it Jog and Blog. I am getting ready to kick it off again in March. Would love to hear about your audio book adventures at Jog and Blog 2011.

My son does have attention deficit disorder so I feel I can add a joke regarding ADD.

person #1: How many ADD kids does it take to change a light bulb?

person #2: I don't know, how many?

person #1: Let's go ride bikes!!

Thanks ~ Lauri Chandler

Meriwether Falk said...

Hey Kate. Did you sympathize at all with the illiterate nazi in The Reader? Just wondering. Maybe she was dyslexic too? I don't know. BTW, the audiobook "I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President" is hilarious!