To celebrate the publication of Tinder, I am so pleased to welcome one of my favourite authors Sally Gardner, back on to the blog, with an open letter to her younger self.
You are fourteen years old and still battling to read and write. You can’t even spell your name. Sarah. It has an irritating H in it, one with big boots. It marches to the front of the word. Or to the back. You are never quite sure where it will be so soon after you decided to change it altogether to Sally.
Last year, after you were expelled from that nice school in Kensington, a word was given to your parents by way of an explanation as to what was wrong with you. The word was dyslexia. Hopeless, really, because you can’t even say it, let alone spell it. So if anyone asks – which they rarely do – you say, ‘I am word blind.’
I see you sitting on that hard, small and uncomfortable bed in that narrow dormitory, amazed to find you are able to read the book you are holding. Although it is with very great difficulty and a lot of words are missing, this is a beginning. You’re waiting to see the headmistress to read to her from The Times, to prove you have managed the impossible. No one believes you will ever catch up, let alone pass an exam or go to art school. I have known you through all this and you have survived by living mostly in your head, in a world full of stories which have helped to make sense of the unexplainable. It is your imagination which has spent fourteen years foraging for stories as others forage for food that has kept you going. It is the reason that you search out solitude so that you can tell yourself your story again and again, find the moment when it makes your heart beat faster, when the world you live in fades away.
What advice shall I give you? Have more confidence. That quiet little belief you have in yourself – make it bolder. Don’t take everything so seriously, laugh more and don’t be shy. Never start smoking. Life isn’t as long as people say.
You will always have trouble with spelling, some days the words will flow, other days they will run away from you. Dyslexia will never run away, it’s a part of who you are. I have news for you, my fourteen-year-old self: one day you will love language, love the sounds it makes, you will realise you can paint with words. All those stories will have an outlet and – here’s the surprising bit – people will want to read them. For all the wrong turns you think you’ve made – and will make – the path you are on is the right one and it will lead you here.
Tinder is available to buy now. To read our review, please click here.
To find out more about Sally Gardner: