Writing against the odds – Victoria Browne
In the first post of our Writing Against the Odds series, author Victoria Browne discusses the effect dyslexia has had on her life and her determination to overcome it. ♥
As a young girl I remember my mum reading to me The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. As I listened to my mum read, her words would capture my entire imagination as if I was one of the characters in the book. My love for books grew with each story my mum read to me, along with a quiet desire to be able to read the words for myself. My first attempt at writing a story was age ten. I somehow managed to scribble a few pages into one of my brother’s old school exercise books, before giving up frustrated that I could not spell the words I had in my head. It was a horror story! I stayed struggling with this genre throughout my childhood and into my teens. A few short stories or scenes from my imagination made their way onto paper if they were lucky. At this point I had no idea that I had a talent that needed to be nurtured. I used to think, how can someone who can’t spell be a writer? So I never told the adults in my life how I felt about reading and writing. My brother had a talent for art, you name it and he could make it or draw it. So I put down my pen and picked up a pencil. Let’s just say I did not have the same talents as my brother. I would not write again until I was about thirteen where the horror genre continued along with a fantasy.
During my time at high school I became unruly and despondent. I had an attention span of about six minutes and a sharp tongue. From my teacher’s eyes I was a naughty child with no intention of learning, from my eyes I was surviving the best way I knew possible without being called stupid. I was quick to learn that if I was loud and aggressive then people would not pick on me. I left school with bad grades and no career prospects but a wild imagination.
I fell into my first real job at seventeen within the dental industry. I studied to pass my dental nurse qualification. As an adult I would still write short stories and scenes from my imagination however my genre was not horror or fantasy but erotica and romance. I managed to struggle though every page of Riders by Jilly Cooper and had fallen in love with the Mills & Boon section at Waterstones in Oxford Street. I would show my writing to the other nurses who thought it was outrageous but loved everything I wrote. This gave me the confidence to keep writing. At aged twenty I was writing erotica poetry and also some general philosophy. Looking back I can see the natural creative path I was taking myself on. Just like an artist I was trying different genres and writing styles.
Dyslexia for a creative writer is a cruel disability. I carried a vocabulary in my head that did not match my spelling ability. Spell check and computers were not around when I was younger, so I would find myself substituting words on paper in order to make my writing legible, unaware that this only detracted from my writing and the impact it had on the reader. Aged twenty-four I sought help, determined to learn to spell, I found out that I had a weak short-term memory. In short, it went in one ear and out the other! So now all I needed to do was get the information to go in one ear and stay there. I worked on developing my memory with a therapist called Margaret Chalk, which helped me go back to basics and teach myself to spell. Towards the end of my program Margaret asked me to write a diary to help develop my reading and writing skills. I explained that I did not like writing diaries but I did write erotic and romantic scenarios. Margaret suggested building a beginning and an end to one of my erotic or romantic scenarios. This was the birth of my first book Gut Feeling and the final step in finding my genre, chick lit. I put a beginning to one of my romantic scenarios and then carried on writing an ending. This ending came 165 pages later in 2010. It took me another two years to believe in myself enough to publish in 2012. I then went on to publish the first book in a two part series “Third Time Lucky – The Honey Trap” in June 2014 and I’m intent on writing forever.
Spelling is only one part of dyslexia for many and low self-esteem is a sad consequence. As an adult it still brings a tear to my eye when I think back. For many years “the if only(s)” would play on endless loop in my mind. If only I had not been so naughty at school, if only I had tried harder, if only I had wanted to learn. I blamed myself for many years. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties I realised that I had been shouldering all the blame. I was a child. How could it be my entire fault? Throughout the years this regret had silently suffocated me. I had allowed dyslexia to become larger than me. I had let dyslexia define who I was and in turn it had crushed my self-esteem. It was time to let go of “the if only(s)”. It was time to be happy that I can now read and write, and content that I can also use my journey to help other young people with their journeys.
Victoria Browne sold her real estate company to continue her writing career. She lives in South London with her partner Jon and their two cats. Victoria