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.