Monday, March 19, 2018

Dyslexia: Guest Post by J.D. Allen

J.D. Allen:

I get asked about my dyslexia often as I travel to book signings and conferences and do guest blogs. As a student, I struggled in grade school, and I even dropped out of North Texas State University after an English professor denigrated my work in front of the entire class.

Five years later, more mature and more determined, I returned to college, and at Ohio State University, I learned from a teaching assistant that I was not a slow learner who had abysmal spelling, but that I was dyslexic. He had a sibling who was profoundly affected by Dyslexia and spotted it in a shot from my answers on an archaeology test.

That diagnosis and the tools the resource center taught me changed my life. In hindsight, I feel my learning disability turned out to be a beautiful gift, requiring me to work harder to achieve and gain a focus others may have lacked.

I believe that the drive to work hard through adversity may be one of the reasons we see learning disabilities in many high achieving people, including Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Although those with learning disabilities typically have trouble with written communication, many authors are also members of the high achieving, learning disabled club:

Agatha Christie
Stephen J. Cannell
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Adams
J.F. Lawton
Dav Pilkey
George Bernard Shaw
Jules Verne
Sherrilyn Kenyan
Jeanne Betancourt

I hid my struggles as a youngster, compensating in ways that have become talents or assets to me as an adult. I would memorize instead of reading from the page. I volunteered oral reports versus written ones. I enrolled in lots of debate classes and competed in theatre. Today, I enjoy public speaking and even like helping others get better at the skill. My love of story came from television, movies, and plays. I learned to think in big concepts and lateral positions.

I was in my 30s before I cultivated a love for reading and realized that being an author was possible for me. Technology has made that muse easier. Writing software, a unique font called Dyslexie that helps me read more smoothly, and programs such as Grammarly assist me with the minutia of getting words on paper in the grammatically correct order.

I have a couple of very good proofers who aid me in getting my publisher the cleanest draft I can. A few extra eyes on the page get rid of the challenges dyslexia gives me and lets me worry about the tale.

Because, in the end, books are story and character. Narrative is about expressing complicated emotions and actions and reactions. The intangible. Not the grammatic.

I think we all may have a little something that others might see as a dis-. Disability. Disfunction. Disadvantage. Disease. But the trick is to make that dis into a pro. Productivity. Profit. Profession. Progress.

Stephen J. Cannell, award-winning TV writer and novelist was also dyslexic. He penned more than a dozen TV shows including The Rockford Files and the A-Team. He also wrote more than a dozen novels. He died from complications of melanoma in 2010. Stephen was a spokesperson and advocate for children and adults with learning differences. His family maintains his website and it’s full of information and tools for the dyslexic: He was a fantastic storyteller and an even better person. I recommend the videos.


J.D. Allen is a Mystery Writers of America Freddie Award-winner. Her Sin City Investigations series launched with 19 SOULS earlier this year. She has a short story, in the ANTHONY AWARD WINNING anthology, Murder under the Oaks, as well as Carolina Crimes. She’s the chair of the Bouchercon National Board, a member of MWA, PI Writers of America, and president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She’s an Ohio State Univ. Alum with a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor.


H. S. Stavropoulos said...

I'm dyslexic and a writer too. Glad I'm in good company.

Pat Marinelli said...

I'm dyslexic and a writer also. I've enjoyed a full life of many diversified jobs which give me fodder for writing.

I met Stephen J. Cannell twice in the late '90s. He was so encouraging for my writing and yes, his website has great information.

Rebecca said...

Another dyslexic, and a great one: Winston Churchill.