Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sally Gardener: The dyslexic novelist

Sally Gardner was originally called Sarah, but as a child she couldn't spell her name. She knew that it started with an s, but the minute that was on the page the h would start to bug her.

Did it go before or after the r? "I know people say 'at the end' but I couldn't make it stay where it was supposed to go. I never got it.

My mother had a friend who was an actress called Sally who said, 'Look, darling, the best thing to do is Sally because the s is like a snake, you have a little a and two long lines and a y to catch it all.' And I thought, I can do that." She changed her name.

Gardner acts out the spelling of her chosen name: a snake action, the loops of the ls and the y rounding it all up, and you can see why it makes sense.

The word is almost a dance. The reason why words didn't normally make sense when she was a child, and can still completely fox her now, is that, like 10% of the population, Gardner is dyslexic.

In fact, Gardner, 51, falls into a smaller group, of about 4% of the population, who are severely dyslexic. As a child she says she was labelled unteachable, her reports called her lazy, and she spent time in a school for "maladjusted" children. She was bumped from school to school and hated every minute of it.

Her parents, both lawyers, were mystified. An educational psychologist told her that she was word blind; which she quite liked, as it made sense. Then they diagnosed her as dyslexic. "I remember thinking it so extraordinary for it to be called a word that I couldn't say or spell. Still can't."

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty, biological in origin, which often runs in families. It causes varying levels of difficulties in learning to read, write and spell. Short-term memory, mathematics, concentration, personal organisation and sequencing may be affected.

But Gardner is now a novelist. Her novel, I, Coriander, is published on Thursday and she's off to tour America.

She went from art school to a successful career in the theatre doing set design and then costumes, to illustration and writing children's books.

I, Coriander, her first full-length book, weaves between 17th-century London and a magical fairy world linked by a child named Coriander.

Read the full article here: The dyslexic novelist | Books | The Guardian

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