Driven To Distraction: Writing And Publishing A Book

Posted at 12:56pm on 7th June 2012

Another guest blog, this time from a second Facebook friend and ACW member, Claire Dunn.   And yet again, this is a story of grit and determination: an inspiration to any aspiring author.   Dogged with dyslexia, Claire might well have given up on her dream of writing and publishing a book.  Yet as she shows here, creative writing can, of itself, be instrumental in conflict resolution.  Over to Claire to tell the story of how she pursued - and defeated - the words that threatened to elude her.


It pursues me wherever I go. It follows me to sleep each night; it’s there when I wake. I’ve carried it around in my head from the moment I became conscious of its existence. It will witness my last breath when I die - this other world; this dream-like state. A boiling pot of thoughts, images and emotions which coalesce into an idea, make a story, which might – one day – become a book
So it might have been thought inevitable that I would write, pursued as I am by words. But as much as I love language and relish the use of it, it doesn’t love me. Or at least, it might do, but in the complex processes and neural pathways of my brain down which words travel, they trip, they stumble, landing in a disorganised heap on the page.


Born with it; haunted me all my life; will die with it. It took years to be diagnosed. By then I had survived school – deeply bruised by the experience - but determined nonetheless to forge a career in the twin subjects of my desire: history and writing. The English department of the university, in their sagacity, frowned at my application form and suggested I reconsider the wisdom of taking a joint degree in English. I agreed – not because I believed them to be right, but because they had already drawn a conclusion based on a diagnosis rather than potential, and marked my card.
The next three years of my history degree became a turning-point. In the early ‘eighties - without the help of a computer - the organisation of ideas and the language to express them highlighted the difficulties faced by many of the dyslexics I met at university, who – like me – bore the scars of an education system not yet tuned in to this facet of society. What had dogged me now became an interest, the interest an obsession and, by the time I graduated, the disability I once considered a burden, became my vocation.
Now driven to help others with the same condition, and with the support of my husband, I set up a school specifically for children with dyslexia and related language difficulties in an attempt to provide not only education, but a nurturing environment in which they could learn and thrive, and be accepted for the people they were – not what they were expected to be.


Years later, a series of minor events – no one in itself of very great importance but all leading in the same direction - led me to begin to write, to do the one thing I thought I would never achieve, to pursue those words which eluded me, and pin them down. Using modern technology to organise my thoughts, the stories that once spun - trapped within the confines of my head like assorted socks in a washing machine - now took shape on the page. Three years later, my debut novel - Mortal Fire - the first book in a series of romantic thrillers with a historical twist, has just been published by Monarch Books. I found the process of writing a complete novel exhilarating and liberating. Ideas poured onto the pages to be corralled and coaxed into order. I wrote reams and then spent as much time in editing as I did in producing  them in the first place.


One of the best things I discovered about writing a book is the support from a wide range of people whose enthusiasm carried me along on the inevitable dark days: the encouragement of family, curiosity of strangers and the wisdom of editors whose guidance and knowledge of the industry you ignore at your peril. Writing isn’t easy; it is sometimes a gut-grindingly hard graft and downright frustrating because getting it right takes an immense amount of effort, time and - in my case - coffee. Chocolate is good too but, truth to tell, I forget about eating when in the middle of a long writing session. I forget just about everything and I am thankful that breathing is automatic, because the fictional world I create can be so absorbing, that sometimes it is easier to be there than face the washing up, the weeding, or the bills. Yes – writing is hard, but I love every spell-binding moment spent in the pursuit of conjuring stories other people will want to read.


After decades of self-doubt, if anyone asked me whether I view my dyslexia as a problem, I would undoubtedly answer ‘yes’; but if they should follow it with ‘and do you resent it?’ I would have to say ‘not at all’, because without it I might have taken a completely different route, and one less fulfilling than the one I am now on. From this standpoint, it feels as if my life has taken a circuitous path back to where I wanted to be in the first place. The question for me now is where am I off to next? God, in His wisdom, knows and that, as they say, will be another story.
Mortal Fire is available from Monarch Books and Amazon

"Where did I go wrong?" A Mother's lament.  A Father's response.

Your Comments:

8th June 2012
at 4:38am
Thank you for such an inspiring post - its shows that despite our own limitations, He knows how best to use our gifts.
8th June 2012
at 4:58am
Hi "other Claire"
I loved reading about how you beat dyslexia, including how beastly hard it is for dyslexic kids through school, and how long diagnosis takes. We have dyslexia in our family - on both me and my husband's sides - but never realised our daughter's school probs were that until she had it pinned down at Uni like you! It can hide! So a real accolade to get through the education system with undiagnosed dyslexia. My (women) cousins have it, and my cousin's daughter - and I'm not totally without it (can't spell or see spelling mistakes!) Encourage, encourage,encourage kids who have this that they don't get downhearted. Am so happy for you with the published novel, and wish you success.
From another ACW writer!
Martin Willoughby
8th June 2012
at 7:31am
While schools may be better with Dyslexics, they were awful back then, even if it was diagnosed.

You have done a very good job keeping going despite everything and will no doubt acheive even more as the years go by.
8th June 2012
at 7:43am
Congratulations on a great book, with, I hope, many more to come - SOON. Thank you for this post which should be encouraging to many.
Mel Menzies
8th June 2012
at 2:11pm
Thank you, Sue, Martin, Clare and Christine. I'm sure that Claire will be hugely encouraged by your comments.
8th June 2012
at 2:26pm
An inspiring and encouraging post, Claire. Thank you!
9th June 2012
at 11:01am
Thanks to Mel for giving me the opportunity to bring together two subjects about which I feel so strongly: writing and dyslexia - and to everyone here for their support.

While a great deal of progress has been made in terms of raising awareness of dyslexia and related language and communication difficulties, a significant number of people go undiagnosed.

Irrespective of the severity of the condition, the impact on the individual can have repercussions well into adulthood and beyond. It is the unconditional understanding and support of those who matter - be they teachers, family or friends - that can make all the difference to someone’s wellbeing and, in turn, their ability to make a valid contribution to the society in which they live.
25th June 2012
at 10:06am
An amazing post, Claire! Thank you somuch for sharing--and expressing the journey so beautifully. I can't wait to read your book!

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