Being a Dyslexic Writer

Hi guys! So today i’ll be talking about Dyslexia. It’s something I remember struggling with all my life. It impacted the way i read, wrote and processed most things and I didn’t get a formal diagnosis until my first year of University.

A quick personal history

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So the story of my dyslexia first and foremost. I have always been at the top of my class - in terms of academics. I loved school, it was the only place I was happy. At home a lot was going on and so school was my escape from that and being good at it was everything to me.

I first realised something was up when I realised I couldn’t really read as well as everyone else. My mum told me millions of stories when I was younger, it was where my love of fiction comes from, and she would always read to me. In class when you’re very young too, teachers read to you. It’s not something that you do until a certain age. I think I was in year 1 (about 5 or 6 years old) when I realised I couldn’t read. We were given reading journals in class for the first time. We had to read at home ad show that we were making progress. We also had to read out loud in class. I remember this year so vividly because it was the first time I had ever been yelled at by a teacher. We’d go and take turns reading in class, and when it got to me, I’d struggle so much. My mum told me that I used to read in a robot voice, she said I was so focused on trying to figure out what words meant that it just came out so monotonously. During this time, I started to feel anxiety about reading time at school which lead to me hating books but loving stories which lead to me dreading school - my safe haven.

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My mum would be told over and over again that I was being lazy, not trying hard enough. Which confused my mum greatly, because all I did as a kid was homework and then extra work on top of that. My mum would buy those exercise books, the ones with the questions for the different level kids as a treat for me, and i’d finish it in one sitting. I wouldn’t sleep until I had done all the questions. School and work was all I did at home. It was the thing I enjoyed doing the most. So for the teacher to call me lazy my mum was really concerned. I eventually started forcing myself to read, trying to crack this magic code that wouldn’t click with me. I felt horrible, like my brain was broken. The words just didn’t make sense. I resorted to hiding my reading journal and saying I couldn’t find it, because the progress I kept making was never good enough and I’d get yelled at.

As I grew I stopped reading books, they stressed me out. I didn’t start reading again properly until I was 12, but I never stopped writing my own stories. Once when I was in year 5 (aged 9/10) I wrote my first book and gave it to my year 5 teacher - my favourite teacher I have ever had who I even went to do 2 weeks of work experience with when I was 15. She read it and wouldn’t stop laughing, flipping the pages and told me how great I was. She said she couldn’t wait for me to be a published writer and that I shouldn’t stop writing. She honestly probably changed the course of my life.

I decided to get the dyslexia test after having a hunch for a few years. One of my best friends, Drew, is dyslexic and she’s known for years and got tested early on. She is also a top student, in fact, she does Law right now at the hardest school to get into in the country. So dyslexia doesn’t mean you’re useless like teachers and people try and make you think.

The Test

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I first had to do a preliminary test to see if I had any of the usual signs of dyslexia. I pretty much aced that preliminary test - I definitely needed to see an educational psychiatrist. They set up a three hour examination with him and we did a bunch of tests and he timed me writing and we talked.

He told me one of the biggest issues with diagnosing dyslexia are teachers and the lack of education there. A lot of teachers assume you will find the dyslexic students at the bottom of the class and so they don’t even consider their top students struggling because of a learning disability. He said he reckons that it must have been so clear that I was dyslexic but it didn’t match their preconceived notions of what a dyslexic child should look like and so they ignored it until i was 18.

I was diagnosed with both Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is specifically a form of dyslexia where you struggle with expression, spelling, penmanship among other things.

Life suddenly started to make sense.

Being a writer with dyslexia

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Being a writer with dyslexia and dysgraphia is very possible. I love stories, always have and I love telling them. I just have a little difficulty getting it right the first few times - making the sentences make sense.

It doesn’t mean i’m useless or can’t write, it just means I have slightly different barriers when doing so.

I wish more dyslexic kids knew that they weren’t broken and that they can still achieve their wildest dreams. But so many people make them feel that they are and that isn’t right.

I hope to write books with dyslexic characters, go to schools and raise awareness on the issue.

Thank you for reading this post! I think it’s so important to raise awareness and be clued into what it’s like for people with dyslexia. But also recognise that my brain working this way doesn’t make me any less of a person and that I can still do all the things I set out to do.





Avengers of Colour 2019 Mentees!

I am so pleased to announce the 2019 mentee selections! We received so many applications and it was so hard to narrow them down - as you will see, many of us had to choose more than one mentee. Now the time has come to reveal who those writers are.

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Team Okoye - Adiba’s Mentee’s

Juliet Lubwama and Maha Hussain

Team Black Panther - Faridah’s Mentee’s

Gail Upchurch, NJ Mvondo and Jennifer Chukwu

Team Spiderman - Kess’s Mentee’s

Michelle Cao, Micaela Clark and Alethea Sung-Miller

Team Valkyrie - Louisa’s Mentee’s

Gretchen Potter and DeMisty D. Bellinger

Team Marvel - Lyla’s Mentee

Maya Kaddah

Team Thor - Molly’s Mentee’s

Samara Lo and Solin Hanna

Team Hulk - Chloe’s Mentee’s

Meriam Metoui, Sophia Grace Duong and Allegra Martschenko

Team Shuri - Liselle’s Mentee’s

Corinne Jean-Jacques and Farhiya Samatar

These are the mentee’s of Avengers of Colour 2019!!! We are so excited to welcome you guys into our avengers family, and for those of you that weren’t successful this time, click here for some advice moving forward. This isn’t the end of your journey. Some of the mentors will be providing feedback so check out the different mentor twitters for more information on that.

As always, we love you 3000 :-)

Avengers of Colour: Rejection

Hi guys! So, it’s about three weeks since we announced the mentor-ship and we are so happy with the response. Thank you to everyone who retweeted and offered their support, it means so much to us.

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This post is about rejection, which is an inevitable part of the publishing process. Everyone gets rejected, all the mentors have been rejected, some of us hundreds of times, so this post is about how to deal with it and just some advice moving forward.

Advice from Faridah

Before I got an agent and a book deal I wrote three books and queried them all. During the process of querying all three I got…I want to say over 200 rejections total. I also applied to mentorship schemes, never got in to a single one. I felt like I was so unlucky and that this publishing dream would never happen for me, but then I queried Ace of Spades and I got an agent - as well as so much good feedback from other agents - then I got a book deal from a major UK publisher. Not being selected for a mentorship scheme is not the end of your journey, I never was and I made it out of the query trenches.

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Advice from Liselle

It can be crushing to build up the sort of hope that you do when entering pitch and mentorship contests. The first time I failed to get into Pitch Wars I cried, like, legit sobbed because I thought not getting in meant that somehow I would never be good enough for any facet of publishing, which isn’t true. They are SO many different routes to an agent and publication.

Mentorships and pitch contests are tools to help you be more visible, but at the end of the day, if you can get a solid manuscipt and query together, you can succeed without them. I’m so grateful for all the help I recieved in #RevPit from my editor and think it helped me a lot, but I would say my CPs and betas played as much of a role in my success. If you don’t get into a mentorship or don’t get a viral pitch, work on your relationships. Find your people and exchange manuscripts, work together as peers to create your own mentorship and get that manuscript into query-ready shape. That’s the best advice I can give. Sure, give yourself time to mope, but also make actionable plans to get the help that you need to succeed.

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Advice from Chloe Gong

The industry is extremely subjective, so being chosen as part of a mentorship isn’t JUST dependent on fulfilling a certain level of craft, but also slotting into a writing style that a mentor happens to perfectly connect with. My best advice: go on Goodreads and find your favourite book in the whole world. It’s going to have 5 star reviews and 1 star reviews, no matter how good you think it is, because people’s reading experiences are so, so different! While mentorship is an excellent opportunity for industry members to connect and learn, do keep in mind that sometimes, it’s just a matter of personal connection. I read a LOT of applications in this mentorship opportunity where the writing and pitch were AMAZING, I just didn’t think I could help it on a worthy level. The only thing to do in the face of rejection is to keep forging onward, and keep going until you find that perfect mentor, perfect agent, perfect editor, and so on.

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Advice from Kess

My advice for mentees is to trust your gut and surround yourself with people who support you, but aren’t afraid to call you out when you’re not doing the best you can do.

It’s a very broad thing to say. I didn’t get into any mentorships myself and I was even too afraid to submit to any after getting rejected. There are so many other people that apply to various mentorships that more established authors offer to unagented authors. They always made me feel inadequate and made me doubt my writing skills. Though it did push me to work on my writing, it was a stressor I didn’t need.

What matters most aside from the constant upward movement of your writing and the continuing improvement is positive relationships and support. You should have people in your life who encourage you to write and achieve your dreams with your ideas and stories, including people who are in or want to be publishing and those who aren’t and don’t. It helps to have both those perspectives to keep you realistic, yet hopeful.

There are still tons of resources to improve as a writer. You can find them so many places online, as one example, with various authors talking about their own techniques. If you want to look at queries, you can find them. Even I had a couple of posts with examples of my own queries. If you’re concerned about first pages, look at posts—or even at other books. Learn by example, by practice, and with others.

Writing can be very solitary and finding your people can be difficult. Once you find them, it’s always worth it.

Be humble. Be willing to grow. Be willing to open yourself to others.

You’re going to get a lot of No’s. It’s inevitable in publishing. What matters is being able to keep going. If you’re struggling, look for support. Ask for it. It’s not an easy thing to do to seek out validation and encouragement, but it truly makes all the difference. It’s not the end of your journey until you decide it is. Keep writing. Keep trying. Sometimes it’s not about you. It could be the other person.

For a lot of things I said no to, it wasn’t because I thought it was bad. Most of the time, it wasn’t for me. When you think of things that way, it might get a little easier to bear.

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The mentors had such a difficult time selecting mentees, you are all so talented and we hope this advice encourages you to keep going!

We love you 3000

#DVPit Quick Tips + My past pitches

Hey! Today I will be talking about DVPit, how I wrote my three successful pitches and ways you can grab an agents attention.

I’m assuming that in reading this post, you’re already considering entering DVPit, but for those of you that stumbled across this website and are interested in what DVPit is exactly, it is essentially a twitter pitch contest (for marginalised writers) where you pitch your book in 280-characters or less. The contest takes place twice a year, once in Autumn and once in Spring (usually April and October) I entered in October 2017 with one manuscript, then entered again in April 2018 with what is now my debut novel.

So, with the spring DVPit coming up this week (Tuesday for YA/MG, Wednesday for Adult), i thought I’d give some advice on how to write a killer pitch and get the attention of agents (and even editors - i’ll discuss the latter more later in the post)

I wanted to say before I get into all of this that DVPit is not the be all end all. It is amazing, and gives opportunities to writers from marginalised backgrounds that we are not normally afforded. BUT it is not the end of the world if your tweet isn’t as popular as you hoped or if you get no where afterwards. I didn’t get my agent through DVPit, but I gained experience in how to pitch stories and entice readers.

So, here are my three pitches with some quick tips to make sure you stand out! (These will be tips that you can even apply last minute if you see something helpful that you haven’t yet done)

My pitch from the #DVpit October 2017

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My first pitch from the #DVpit April 2018

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My second pitch from the #DVpit April 2018

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So! As you can see I did well on each occasion I entered. This was due to a few methods I used each time. But before I dive into the quick tips, I wanted to let you know how influential DVPit really is. So, my editor - Becky Walker - happened to hear about my book before we’d even gone on submission. The stars aligned in many ways here! Anyway, DVpit is not only great for getting an agent but your future editor might see your story too which is so cool!

Quick Tips

  1. Use comp. titles BUT…not just any comp. titles

    You’ve probably heard this one million times, use comp. titles! Of course tweets can do well without them but in my experience and my friends experiences comp. titles are a quick way to catch an agents/editors attention. But in case you’re new here, and are wondering what comp. titles are…well they are essentially titles of books, movies or TV shows - to be honest any form of consumer-able media - and they tell the person reading it the tone of your story. In my first DVPit pitch I used MOONLIGHT x ARI AND DANTE because they are both stories about queer people of colour going through an emotional journey. While that book didn’t get anywhere, the tweet was very successful and garnered a lot of attention from agents and editors alike. However, the mistake I see made again and again with DVPit pitches are using comp. titles that are predictable/ popular. Sometimes the most popular comp. titles you feel are the only ones that would summarise your book - fair enough - however, it makes your pitch stand out a lot less. I realised that Moonlight wasn’t a popular comp. title despite being a very popular movie and used that to my advantage. With my second round at DVPit, I used GET OUT x GOSSIP GIRL and GET OUT x ONE OF US IS LYING…all things that at the time were very popular but not used in pitching contests as much, which is why I think my pitch was also successful that time round too.

  2. Timing!

    So, I live in Scotland and had to time this really well. I think that timing is not a be all or end all but it definitely can help. I sent out my tweets at 10am and 11am New York time, because for some reason, that time seemed to be the time agents were most online. But, again, i’ve seen tweets be sent out earlier and be successful or later and have a similar outcome. This is just my experience.

  3. Keep it uncomplicated, work with what makes your book unique

    I sometimes see pitches for stories that sound amazing, however the pitch is rambly, and i only get snippets of what could be a fantastic story. I think keeping to themes in the book that make it really interesting is the best way to go about it. For example, my book covers what many social thrillers/mystery’s do. There is an anonymous bully. Why should the agent care? The stakes - there is a lot at stake here. The agent needs to gather the stakes from your tweet.

  4. It’s more than just the pitch

    Make sure you query and pages are just as good - if not better. I wrote a blogpost on query letters which you can check out here. Here is a snippet of the first line of my query letter.

    “From sex-tapes to covered up murders, Devon and Chiamaka have a lot at stake if their secrets ever get out.”

  5. Take a few days before sending out your query’s

    So, those are my quick tips! I hope tomorrow goes well for you YA/MG writers, if it doesn’t go as planned, don’t give up. Sometimes the quiet amazing stories are hard to pitch, cold querying (querying without the pitch contest, just normal querying) is very effective. Like I said, I got my agent through the old fashioned cold-querying route.

    Good luck!

    XOXO

    Faridah