by Diane Christiansen
I was never a good reader. Growing up with dyslexia made reading close to impossible. I still marvel that I made it through the school system and into college without ever opening up a book. I discovered later, that I am an auditory leaner, like many dyslexics. With age, I discovered books for the first time. Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Harding, anything from the period was good. Actually reading for the pure joy if the story made me want to write.
When my son, Jackie, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder I found a mission. Along with dyslexia, ASD and ADHD became a part of me and I wanted to share it. The characters that I write about are kids that I know, kids with real issues that can make stand apart from typical kids. The real story is not that they have these differences, but how they celebrate their strengths, it’s a lesson for all of us. I want the reader to get a glimpse into ASD and ADHD but also find the characters relatable. After all, Jackie may miss social cues and have terrible sensory issues, but deep down he’s just a kid.
Writing is something that seems to come naturally to me. The process is all consuming. When I’m writing a new story, I can live in it. My mind is always exploring it, even when I’m not sitting in front of my computer. I can usually crank out a rough draft in six months and then the editing comes. That’s tedious work, especially for someone who can easily mix up sight words. Then there’s character development and checks for drag within chapters. I have two editors of my own and then one through the publisher. My first novel was complete for two years when it was taken by a smaller publishing house. The submission process is brutal and time consuming. The writing is the fun stuff, it’s all the work after that’s tough.
I think the key to being a successful writer is to write about what you know and when you’re done with one manuscript, write something else. I write because I have to and I have a million ideas in my head jockeying for the next project. Write for the love of it and you’re a winner.
Diane Mayer Christiansen graduated with a biology degree despite her struggles with dyslexia. She worked at both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University doing genetic research. Christiansen is now a published author writing young adult fantasy and middle school chapter books. Her characters are based around children with special needs such as dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She speaks to parents and teachers about learning to celebrate those things that make our children different and her journey with her son and his ASD.
For more information please visit www.jackiejournal.com
SNUB CLUB: Elementary fiction chapter book. Two boys with ASD use their super hero abilities to solve the mystery of the disappearing donuts.
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