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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Why don’t dyslexic writers untie?

Quite by accident I recently come across a news story about a dyslexic boy winning a national writing contest, but the fact that this was seen, and reported, as almost miraculous news made me think about people’s perceptions about dyslexics and writing in general... Not that I’m belittling or taking away from this boy’s achievement in any shape or form, he’s obviously much better than I was at that age (and probably still am) and has a great deal of potential to become a good writer. But it’s not ‘in spite of his dyslexia’ it’s because he inherently shows promise as a writer.

I really got strong undertones of the normal ‘Aww, didn’t he do well’ arrogance, accompanied by a metaphorical, if not possibly even physical, head-pat. Well, yes, he did do well. He did well because he’s probably already a better writer than most of the cooing condescending onlookers can or will ever be. So why don’t they have that attitude with non-dyslexics? I even read one report that talked about him ‘overcoming his learning-disability’ with the inference being that he was able to compete with ‘normal’ students... Aww, didn’t he do well.  
A little further digging showed that this instance was far from an isolated case. Someone with dyslexia winning writing or literary awards isn’t that an unusual occurrence. It seems to be far more common than you may expect, but still, on each occasion the story is based on the fact that they are dyslexic, not on their achievement. It saddens me to think that we may not have moved the public perception on much since my terrible time at school. It’s attitudes like this that put me in remedial classes from primary school. I was eventually able to educate myself to post-grad level after leaving school, by being able to do things my own way. I don’t personally see this as exceptional, although I also got the 'didn’t he do well' attitude. I think it’s simply something they should have helped me with at school, although there obviously are truly exceptional dyslexics out there, Richard Branson to name but one.

Monday, 19 November 2012

It’s almost Christmas again, and I’ve hardly wrote a thing this year...

Other things seem to have taken over my life a bit lately; pushing my writing into a very poor second, or sometimes a sad third; still, at least I know what my new-year’s resolution will be. I’ve been thinking of ways to get myself ‘back on the horse’ lately as I think a bit of a metaphorical, or possibly physical, kick would get me up to speed again.

With this in mind I’ve discovered a few writers groups that aren’t too far way. I’m just not sure about approaching them. Is there an entrance requirement? Do I have to saunter up cap-in-hand and say “Hello, my name’s Garry and I’m a writer?” Would my cap-full of short-story publications and extensive collection of rejection letters be enough to prove this?
Seriously though, writers groups and writing courses have always held a bit of a fascination and more than a touch of mystery to me. Although I have had 'professional' writing experience as part of my work, you could say I’m pretty much self-taught as far as fiction writing is concerned, having never had any formal fiction writing education or tuition. I wouldn’t want to find myself in the middle of a classically educated ‘literary’ crowd, where I’d probably feel like I was trying to write ‘Janet and John’ books to their ‘War and Peace.’

I’d be interested in people’s experiences or perceptions of writing groups and of formal writing courses, whether they are distance-learning or college based.
Do all on-line or mail-based courses fall into the ‘We can make you into a PUBLISHED writer in 60 days!!!!!’ category or are there genuine legitimate ones that are worthwhile?
What’s your experience with college/university based courses, whether they lead to a qualification or not, are they more or less worthwhile?
And not to forget those writers groups and workshops, are they helpful, and who is likely to attend?