The following blog post is an essay by C.J. Edwards about his struggle with dyslexia. C.J.’s story, “2150: Leave Up Out” is featured in Columbus: Past, Present and Future, and the following essay is presented unedited.
When I was in elementary school my ability to read and spell was far behind my
classmates. I thought I would never read, it was too hard. It caused me too much frustration and anxiety. In third grade I was diagnosed with dyslexia and then given absolutely no help by a school system which refused to treat me for the diagnosis in any official capacity. Today I am a published author.
There were people who inspired me along the way and gave me tools that helped me to get
around the difficulties many dyslexics face. In an unofficial capacity my fifth grade teacher
Connie Ball took me to a book fair when I was supposed to be in detention for not doing my school work. She showed me a book called My Teacher Is An Alien by Bruce Coville. There was a picture of a green skinned monster pulling off a human mask in a classroom while two kids watched from the window. I was barely literate and the book was far beyond my reading level but the title was so intriguing to a kid who was already disillusioned with the system I couldn’t resist. I had to know what secrets the book would reveal. I took it home and started trying to read my first book.
I read for hours at a time, slowly, painfully slowly, using a note card to keep track of what line I was on as I picked my way from word to word. I asked my mother to pronounce the words I couldn’t read and would then memorize each new word, staring at it and repeating it as I sounded out the letters. When I finished the book I flipped it over and read it again.
Then I had to get the rest of the series.
I started writing on my sister’s electronic word processor a few months later. Then I’d hand off my half finished stories to anyone who would try to read them. Inevitably they would laugh at my misspelling despite not wanting to hurt my feelings. My grasp on spelling was comical but my mother encouraged me to keep at it.
In eighth grade I went to a private school for kids with learning differences. Unfortunately I was not in a place to be receptive to most of what they taught. I did however come away with the idea that I was not learning disabled, I had a learning difference and I could in fact overcome any obstacle to learning with perseverance and trying new ways to get around the things that didn’t work.
Having a computer that highlights misspelled words as I write them helps me to continue to improve my spelling to this day, I can try variations of the word till I get it right and then remember (after several repetitions) how to spell the new word.
I’ll never be ‘cured’ of dyslexia but if publication is a mark of success then I have managed to not let a difference in learning keep me from that success. My story, “2150: Leave Up Out,” which appears in Columbus Creative Cooperative’s anthology Columbus: Past, Present and Future is my first work to see print. I feel like I’ve won a marathon. The words of other writers have made me want to build new worlds in my head and on paper. My desire to conquer that part of me that used to sit in tears, because I couldn’t do something as simple as read the instructions on a homework assignment, lives on and compels me to continue to improve. Now that I can read and spell I turn my attentions to improving the voice, the structure and the development of my stories. This is my first published piece and gods willing it is not going to be my last.
No man is an island. I must say thank you to Connie Ball and Bruce Coville. Thank you to the teachers whose creative writing classes taught me plot points and story development. Thank you Mom for the encouragement. Thank you Jenny, my wife, for being my constant editor and checker of homophones. Thank you to all those who have written books that inspire me to think and wonder and dream. Thank you members of the Columbus Creative Cooperative for the sound advice and brutal honesty at the workshops. My stories are better because of all of you. They are possible because of all of you, thank you.
My favorite quote from one of my favorite movies I saw as a kid is in Rocky 2 where the
character Micky tells Rocky, “What’s can’t? There ain’t no can’t!” And there ain’t. Cue cheesy music…
There are no free rides at CCC. We don’t publish the authors with the most spirit, or the ones who tried the hardest, or the ones who overcame obstacles. We publish the best stories. C.J. Edward’s story is printed in Columbus because he submitted the best story.
To support C.J. Edwards and other Ohio authors (some who have overcome much, and others who have overcome little), please purchase a copy of Columbus: Past, Present and Future. Every book sold helps CCC to continue our mission of producing fantastic local literature and helping authors on their journey.