Thank you Blake Charlton

‘The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.’  (Spellwright by Blake Charlton 2010)

senior hands on a bible

 Blake Charlton has become ‘The Man’ for moi this month.  Maybe you don’t know who he is.  Why should this old lady have elected him, her man of not just this month- but every month for all my time?  He wrote a book just for me! Well, no, maybe not just for me – I do know for a fact he has never in his life heard of me, and probably never will. Stop wittering you old fool, maybe you are saying now – I will explain.

 When I was young, back in the 40s, I was told I was stupid. Stupid? Well I took their word for it although frustratingly I couldn’t see why I was.  We are talking about a dim distant past when the nearest the school got to my problems was to say I had clumsy child syndrome, and was backward and naughty.  Other fancy labels were not there.  No-one’s fault.  Just was.

 I couldn’t spell, forgot the rules of grammar and don’t even mention punctuation.  Some days I could, the next I couldn’t – not just stupid but wilful as well! It wasn’t from lack of trying, endless lists of words at school and at home.  To no avail.  You, to whom spelling and grammar are like breathing and movement, I have no way to explain what it is like not to posses the knowledge, the skill.  No way to explain the depressing frustration of yet again getting it wrong.  The humiliation attendant on not being able to control my own language.  I write too often these days to ask my friend from forever/editor to check everything I write, only my books.  I have to chance it elsewhere.  The words need to come.

 I have always been able to read well and understand what I read.  With thoughts of dazzlingly clarity and sparkle up there in my head.  Words, I loved them.  Somewhere between thought and mouth there appeared to be a marshland of sudden potholes, rank undergrowth and small slippery word eating monsters.  What was in my head didn’t necessarily come out of my mouth.  Words would twist and jump into the wrong order, random thoughts unrelated to the matter in hand could unexpectedly intervene and worst of all the clarity became turgid and cloudy.  I could never explain to people what I knew. The insults were just words twisted in the journey, as too was the apparent rudeness.  I was only  asked once to give the vote of thanks to a visiting judge at our photographic club – never again, as somehow(still don’t know what I said) I managed to say he was rubbish!!!

 I was socially inept. I withdrew – I was stupid. I had the books.  They gave me my dreams.

 Years later – and I do mean years – around about the time I began to harbour the most ridiculous thought that I would like to go to university – a menopausal hiccup if ever there was:) I read an interesting article about a strange sounding disorder called Dyspraxia.  He!  All those symptoms sounded familiar.  Maybe.  Maybe. I tucked the thought into my mind and carried on with my ridiculous idea.  I gained a BSc Hons and an MA.  I wasn’t stupid!! Did this mean everything changed – not really I was still socially inept and linguistically unreliable.

 In the intervening years personally computers had thrived – the internet was up and buzzing and information was there for the plucking.  I grew more intrigued with dyspraxia and finally when I was 60+ asked the doctor, who confirmed it. A young friend of mine who also keeps my eyes in good order suggested that I was slightly dyslexic as well – I argued over this for a long time – I could read well and swiftly, what on earth was she on about?  We have proved her diagnosis between us.

 So now we come to Blake Charlton – a dyslexic – an author.  I didn’t know the first when I idly picked a book up from the village library the other day.  I am this year renewing my acquaintance with ‘fantasy’ after years away and I have joined a challenge to read new authors.  There was Spellwright shouting at me from the shelves.  The title alone would have drawn me – the blurb hooked me instantly.

 Nicodemus Weal cannot spell! In a world where magic spells are written in your muscles.  In a world where words have a concrete form, where they can literally choke you, can form tumours, shred your insides where they can form ropes and strangle and trip you.  Nicodemus wants to be a magician but his bad spelling can twist a spell into something else. Ah please, it was my book, mine.

  I had that book home so fast you couldn’t see me for churned up snow:)  Nothing got done as I read.  Nicodemus, a new hero of my life.  But the real hero of my life is his creator Blake Charlton. Not just a dyslexic author but a young man who has conquered his disability, one who has graduated from Yale, has taught English, gone through medical school and still remembers when words could choke you.  Remembered when words had a reality only those who cannot manage them appreciate.  A young man who could write a magic system to explain all this, and base it on science,  DNA and other stuff I love.

 Spellwright borrowed from the village library, now winging its way from Amazon to me.  Spellwright which was written for me and for anyone else who knew they could ‘do wondrous things’ if only they could corral those words.  Spellwright with the most imaginative magic system I have come across.  Smashing.

 Thank you Blake Charlton. You will never know the pleasure it has given me, because even if we met the words to explain would never behave:)

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12 thoughts on “Thank you Blake Charlton

  1. Eden says:

    While I do not have dyspraxia, I do understand how you must have felt, Alberta. I still stumble into things, have a constant struggle to get the words in my head to a page… In school, I was “never going to be good at English or Liberal Arts”. Sciences, everyone told me, were what I should do. I do love sciences, but I loved to read, I loved to create stories and write them down, even when they looked like gibberish.

    It must have been heartbreaking on so many levels. I say this, because the little I went through in a far gentler and more understanding time because of my autism spectrum disorder was heartbreaking enough. You can probably imagine how wonderful it is to see a post like this and find out about books like Spellwright. That it makes someone whose writing and way with words happy… well, that is just a bonus. (that would be you, Alberta–perhaps your journey to this point was a rough one, but you found a way your way through beautifully)

    • alberta says:

      I have noticed that on USA sites Dyspraxia is often included on the autism spectrum – but not here in UK. that inabilty to get words from brain is horrendous isn’t it- so pleased your’e doing what you want. – maybe the climate for disabilties is kinder now – it wasn’t cruel then, it was how it was, due to lack of knowledge – society despite it’s obvious flaws is improving as the decades pass.

      The book certainly made me happy- excited and full of yays ‘that shows them’ moments:) I am just a human being after all:) I have been looking on his blog and facebook page and he appears to be such a nice person- with a smile in his eyes – go look see:)

      • Eden says:

        I will. I’ve also put his books on my wishlist (I promised the Leader of the Opposition Party a.k.a. my husband that I would not buy any new books for at least a month–however, I’m surviving well enough to some trading libraries I’ve discovered nearby).

        And you’re right–here, dyspraxia is on the ASD “list” so to speak. Personally, I think they’re putting too many eggs in one basket, but that’s a discussion for another day.

        As for cruelty, I didn’t mean that it was done to be cruel. But it was harsher. And tolerance among age peers (especially in schools) can be challenging to come by, particularly when the world itself seems to be so much a harder place and children are going home to places where their own families have problems or they might be being picked on by older siblings, etc.

        Now I’m off to check his page.

      • alberta says:

        that’s a difficult one – no new books for a month! I keep making that stipulation to myself but soooo difficult to keep too:( I think it is too broad an umbrella myself which could well confuse and maybe distill from the seperate disorders however I dont know your system well enough to be sure. After all I dont know us that well having not truely become aware of the disorder until I retired! I was lucky in my home life – my parents didn’t know what was wrong but they never gave up on me. One way it seems of helping children is by repeating constantly and as my father ‘s great love was words,he was consntantly reading to us, talking to us (we had very few distractions such as T.V. or mobiles!) having conversations, he was always willing to put aside his writing time to help. My mother spent endless hours encouraging independence with me and my sister incurring the wrath of relatives in my sister’s case as they thought cotton wool would suit her better than the real world.

        Childhood is short but it’s when the real difference can be made.

      • Eden says:

        What lovely images you paint about your family history, Alberta. I’m very, very glad I joined the ROW80, since it allowed me this chance to meet you and learn. Much joy and love.

  2. Great post, and I am so glad that you have risen above those limitations. I, too, have a mild dyslexia. It can be so frustrating when it rears its ugly head. Between that and vision problems, I am amazed when I can type a whole sentence and not have a spelling or typing error. LOL I agree with you that working through these challenges does help us build determination, and determination can take us a long way.

    • alberta says:

      Thank you Maryann – do you have days worse than others? when I go back over my comments sometimes I wonder whether I had been on the bottle when I typed the letters are so mangled:) I haven’t I hasten to add medication won’t allow it:( with vision problems as well not sure I would have coped with that.

  3. Malruhn says:

    I bought the book because it was cheap and I needed a “crap” book to keep me entertained while flying around the country. Within a couple of pages, I bonded with the characters – and, even more astounding to me, I UNDERSTOOD what it must be like to have dyslexia! It was clear – it was there – and now I understood what my friends that were/are dyslexic suffered when they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.

    The fact that it is a FIRST book for an author simply blew me away as well, but I think what really made me fall in love with the book was the “dyslexic” manner in which the storyline ran.

    I’m a voracious reader – and I immediately start plotting the next steps in the storyline as I read… and usually have the end figured out by the time I start Chapter Three. True to form, I had this book pegged early on.

    Then the horror set in. I suddenly realized that the plot I had created in my head did NOT match the plot on the pages… so I readjusted and continued… and it happened again and again. The climax of the book was as much of a surprise and thrill to me as I could only imagine.

    Oh, and for those that are interested… Book 2 is out in paperback now (Spellbound) – and it’s as good, if not better than the first.

    Bravo!

    • alberta says:

      It is an amazing book isn’t it:) yes he does explain the trouble with words many of us have – but in such an entertaining way – no prosy bore – and to dream up such a system! I just received the 2nd book yesterday, cannot wait to curl up with it – and there is to be a third as well – happy days (I didn’t mention the end as I didn’t want to put spoilers in but the revelation of the early language was the best bit for me:)

      Thanks for your comment – keep an eye open for the 3rd:)

  4. violafury says:

    From one of his older collections; not “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” An older anthology. My memory faileth.

  5. violafury says:

    Wow! A hell of a post and many things flew through my mind as I read this. Your writing style is superb. It has been many a year since I’ve read such mannered, yet fluid and rich language. That musical ear thing, ya know. Interestingly enough, I was very much like you, although with me, during the 60s, it was called “citizenship,” which I recieved a consistent string of Us for Unsatisfactory, or “Does Not Play Well With Others” in the comments, as if my mother couldn’t tell by the black eyes and fat lips I was coming home sporting. I blame her, as she was sending me to school wearing poofy dresses and bows in my hair. My father and I had the outlook that this was a form of camouflage. So, I do understand the “otherness.”

    Your Blake Carlton reminds me of Harlan Ellison, who is more of a short story writer. One of his short stories from the 60s has a character, a leprechaun, I believe, who couldn’t ‘spell’ too well. I must look it up. But, this looks to be awesome. What a great post! Thank you!

    • alberta says:

      It is difficult to be different but I am convinced it gave me an advantage in life – gave me the backbone to do what I wanted and not to be’like everyone else’ not to follow the herd. I’ll look Harlan Ellison up – a leprechaun you say:)

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