FORGOTTEN Letters is an anthology of poems, letters and essays by popular and critically acclaimed dyslexic writers. It is collected and produced by RASP Books (www.r-a-s-p.co.uk), an independent publishing initiative that specialises in promoting and publishing dyslexic writers and aims to “to (re)discover and promote writers who write differently”, “raise awareness of dyslexia” and explore dyslexia as a difference, not as a problem.
In an interview conducted via Gtalk, anthology editor Naomi Folb said, “I think that people assume you have a really hard time and that you find everything very difficult, whereas I don't see dyslexia in this way. For me it is just a way of thinking.”
Folb, 32, herself dyslexic, is currently based in Århus, Denmark, where she is a PhD student, researching dyslexia.
“For my degree, I have interviewed writers and journalists, and also mathematicians and engineers because I want to know how dyslexia is ‘used’ in different professions and how dyslexics perceive dyslexia, in different contexts,” she said, adding that she notices that what dyslexics have in common is the ability to “generate ideas quickly” and “not follow conventions”.
Folb said the work that will be published in Forgotten Letters reflects the way dyslexics communicate ideas and emotions through words. She said, “It is the book I always wished I could have had. It was the book that didn't exist and because of that, I didn't know I was not ‘less’.”
Folb is not worried about not reaching the goal, “If people who have promised to give do it, we will be fine,” she said. However, the book will be published regardless. “If we do not raise the money we will make less books, which is a shame, because it is amazing (even if I say so myself!). I would like to make 1000 books but I would also like each book to be beautifully made. The design is really important. I feel that dyslexics are normally designed things which are patronising and childish. There is a lot of “kiddie” stuff and people forget that there are dyslexic adults who don't want cartoon lions on their books. A child dyslexic will become an adult dyslexic. This book is for the dyslexic adult.”
Forgotten Letters grew out of Folb’s desire to “make dyslexic books”. She said, “I'd been doing this in different ways on small publications for different events. So then I thought that I wanted to create a “proper” book – one with an ISBN, and is printed rather than photocopied, or made with tracing paper, or run off an office printer. I started asking people for poems, using the Internet, and also through a friend who runs an event for dyslexic playwrights. She asked her poets who are dyslexic and I decided to contact published authors, who have dyslexia, to find out if they would be interested and that is how it started really.”
The authors who have contributed to the anthology include award-winning poet and novelist Benjamin Zephaniah; Billy Childish, co-founder of the Stuckism Art Movement; children’s writer and illustrator Sally Gardner; National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon; and Philip Schultz, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.
Folb said that it was amazing experience connecting with these writers. “These are people whose stories you read and whose sentiments stay with you and become part of your philosophy, part of the fabric of your world. When I got to tell these writers why I wanted their work and when they said it meant something to them to participate in a project that raised awareness about dyslexia, it brought me back to the meaning of the project – it’s about connecting with people.”
From Star2, 7th August 2011.