THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to be the first to know. x Louise

Without further ado, today for Writers in the Attic I want to introduce you to Robin Riedstra:

Robin is an Australian writer, ranter, reviewer, dyslexic, twitter addict, and definitely a mad mumma. Robin’s memoir, ‘Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks‘, was released last year, and is the story of her experience with post-natal depression following the birth of her twins.

You can find Robin on her blog where she writes about her love of Australian literature, depression, and whatever tickles her fancy bone. (For those of you haven’t visited Robin’s blog already, you’ll find witty recaps of the ABC Book Club episodes on her blog.)

You’ll most likely find Robin procrastinating away onTwitter, so feel free to tweet her that she should be writing. Because she should be, she really should.

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Confessions of a Dyslexic Writer

I’m dyslexic! I know blurting that out seems like an odd way to begin a blog entry about writing but a) you’re probably going to notice that fact as you continue reading, and b) I’m fairly confident that it’s actually an integral part of how I approach writing. You see, I’ve heard many writers wax lyrical about their love of words; how their love of words and how they could be juggled and shuffled to create exquisite prose inspired them to become writers. That’s just not me. Sure I’ve got a few words that I’m quite fond of, from the age of three on my mother couldn’t get me to stop saying the word bum, but I love stories more so than words.

I think in the old days I would have been one of those travelling bards. Happily roaming from town to town and telling my stories in pubs in exchange for beer and accommodation.* I love a good yarn. I love the whole narrative arc. I like hearing about people doing things. Consequently, my own stories tend to come to me pretty much fully formed. I know the beginning, the middle, and the end. It’s as if I daydream a mini movie. Yes someone might say a phrase that triggers my imagination, but the plot, setting, and characters all come rushing to me at once. I’ve never had a character show up and be just so fascinating that I’ve had to write about him. I’ve never seen a setting and known I must set something there and then had to go searching for characters and a plot to put in there. Concepts come to me pretty much whole; characters are doing interesting things somewhere.

I almost came to hate individual words because they got me into so much trouble.

I think this conceptual thought process is, in part, because of my dyslexia. When I read stories as a child I couldn’t linger over exciting words—I had to get the general gist of things. And I loved stories so much that I was constantly reading. We’d go to family functions and I’d be hiding under a table reading some epic fantasy. Vibrant stories full of action and exciting characters. Places and people that I could visualise rather than extol over the perfect ordering of the words. I simply was not that kid. I was the kid who would be on detention every time we had a spelling test because I ALWAYS failed them. I almost came to hate individual words because they got me into so much trouble. And if they weren’t getting me into trouble they were getting me made fun of. But I loved to escape into stories so much that I could never abandon words entirely. Because once I got a whole bunch of them together I could go on amazing adventures.

I used to think of my dyslexia as a curse, and I still have my days when I curse it, but I have now come to see that it brings me some advantages along with its disadvantages. It has gifted me with a great ability to think big picture, consequently I rarely have to make structural changes to my narratives. I can create sights and sounds well. I can do all these broader things almost without thinking because they are so ingrained into how I think and who I am. But it has also given me another great gift. I am truly shit at fine details. Yes, that’s actually a bit of a blessing. I know it seems weird but it truly is.

I can never guarantee that my work is free of typos, spellos, grammos, and just plain wrongos.

I can never guarantee that my work is free of typos, spellos, grammos, and just plain wrongos. This means that when it comes to self-publishing I could never even consider cutting corners and not hiring an editor. I have published three e-novellas as well as my memoir in both print and electronic format. Each work has a minimum of two paid editors on it. Two editors is my version of cost cutting. So I’ve never been able to pop out a book with my name on it that has been totally unvetted. Even just the idea of it gives me the chills. I’m happy to blog away like a dyslexic in the wild, but charge people for it? Heck no. So oddly enough, this disadvantage of being dyslexic means that I haven’t fallen into any of those traps that some new self-publishing authors have, of thinking that they can just pop out a couple of things without hiring an editor, just to get a feel for it.

Who would have thought that dyslexia could actually benefit you as a writer? Strangely, for me it has. I think the next time someone asks me how I can be a writer if I’m dyslexic (which happens so often it’ll probably be tomorrow), I’ll just link them to this article. Sure it can suck. Constant detentions throughout primary school were not the funnest thing ever. Yes, I occasionally go cross-eyed and start crying because I can’t tell the difference between b, d, p and q. And sometimes I feel like I can’t trust my hands because at any given moment they might write some embarrassing mistake, and worst of all, my eyes won’t notice. But, there are some benefits too. And I think that’s actually pretty cool.

*Please note that I am still happy to tell stories in exchange for food and accommodation.

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Please contact me here if you’d like to write an essay for Writers in the Attic. The topic is fairly loose—about your writing life or what writing means to you or anything to do with writing—and 600-1000 words is a good length.

I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.

I love reading every essay I receive, so please don’t be frightened to take the plunge!

 

'The Sisters' Song' is coming in January 2018.


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