Sally Gardner

“For years I was called the dyslexic writer and dreamed of the day that would stop and now it has. I’m a writer who happens to be dyslexic. So to dyslexic children reading this I say, stand up, stick your head up. It’s taken me years to be proud of having dyslexia. So if you have it, be brave. With dyslexia there is a gift.” – Sally Gardner, author


There’s a wonderful post in the Guardian by author, illustrator, and dyslexia advocate Sally Gardner – read it in its entirety HERE.

Sally Gardner, if you don’t already know, is a Carnegie medalist and children’s book author who has a rich collection of works that often interweave historical fiction and fairy tales. Sally has thoughtfully written Early reader books like the Princesses collection (The Frog Prince) as well as books about her fairy detections (Operation Bunny) or young adult fantasy-historical fiction novels like Tinder.

We love Sally’s description of her journey from art school to becoming an author:

“I did go to art school and from almost the first day there I went from being a strange little girl with special needs and strange little girl to exceptional – and I rose once I was out of that awful system.

After art school I used to illustrate lots of books but now I paint with words – and I love my paintbox. I always write on a laptop and always visualise everything in my head first. If I can’t see the scene, go into the room, move the cups around, change the clothes, change the lighting. If I can’t do that I know I haven’t written it well and start all over again. To this day I’m embarrassed about someone seeing the level of my dyslexia so I don’t do writing workshops. I have days when I can read it but noone else can. And I have very good days when I show barely any sign of dyslexia at all.”

It’s also wonderful to hear Sally’s historical perspective on being dyslexic: “… before the first dictionary was written by Mr Samuel Johnson, we spelt rather imaginatively. Nobody was dyslexic, there wasn’t such a word. Some really famous writers from the past such as Chauncer and Shakespeare would have been in a special reading scheme as they hardly spelt the same word the same twice. A lot of Shakespeare’s work was written down for him…”


Sally’s poem:
Disobey Me, a poem by by Sally Gardner

They told me I was dyslexic
it didn’t describe me
belonged in the library
of words I can’t spell
no matter how many times they tell
you just try harder sound it out
simple when you think about
it. Stop giving me the third degree
don’t put me down
don’t make me fret
I can’t learn my alphabet
it doesn’t go in any logical order
the stress gives me attention deficit disorder
at school I wanted to go it alone
they told me that’s unwise
they called me unteacheable
I was unreachable
stuck in the classroom, broken by rules, by buttons and ties.
But I don’t like the little words they always disobey me
the does doses up and is higher than a dude should be
So they tested me
they corrected me
and found my results poor
and told me I wasn’t concentrating
they expected more.
I tried to get along
I never made the score
And I think about Chaucer in those freedom days
when no one found your spelling faulty for the extra Es and As
Mr Shakespeare I wonder would they let him write his plays?
Oh woe is me
might just be
graffti in a bog
And Hamlet the name
he called his prize-fighter dog
But I don’t like the little words they always disobey me
the doe doses dope and is higher than a do should be
You say that you’re a writer
but that’s absurd
how do you write
if you cannot spell the words?
listen, it’s not the way I spell
that makes me want to write
It’s the way I see the world
That makes me want to fight
I challenge you – see the words as I do
feel them sting your skin
the meaning often shocking
the way the nib goes in
to relish discombobulate not to moderate your passion
not to murder language in an artificial fashion
words are our servants
we are not their slaves
it matters not if we spell them wrong it matters what they say
But I don’t like the little words they always disobey me
the does doses dope and is higher than a dough should be.

(Published in Everything is Spherical, an Anthology of Dyslexic Writers – by RASP).
Sally Gardner’s website