French author overcomes dyslexia to publish novelby Annalisa Lista - 2016.03.08
Phany Barrailler, a French woman in her forties, has written since she was teenager, but she always kept her short stories to herself. They were full of mistakes because of her dyslexia. Then she decided to overcome her insecurity and showed her stories to a trusted professor. She hasn’t stopped since, first obtaining a degree in pharmacy and then getting her first successful novel published – Rêve No.1: Djohar . It tells the story of a Pakistani journalist’s adventures, inspired by a true story. It was a challenge to write but the author achieved it and spoke to West about her experiences.
Mme Barrailler, what were the challenges you faced in preparing the book for publishing?
Correcting my mistakes. When I wrote for myself, I didn’t mind too much about making mistakes. But writing a book for the general public means that a lot of people will judge you. So I used automatic correction in modern Word programmes for PC. However, they don’t always recognise the typical mistakes that dyslexics make, such as inverting letters. So I asked my friends and family for help but even so, some errors got through. I decided to leave the mistakes here and there in the final version of the book, just to show that you can be a writer and be understood despite being dyslexic.
When did you find out you were dyslexic? What problems has it given you?
It was my mother who noticed mistakes in my reading and writing. So she took me to see a speech therapist for five years. At school I really had difficulties, especially in middle school, where I was very slow at taking notes in class. Also, I froze when it was my turn to read out loud in class and everyone laughed at me. At work, despite some minor improvements, I continued to have problems. Even today, I can’t pronounce, write or read some words correctly. That means I have to explain to my bosses about my problem every time.
What does dyslexia mean to you?
It makes me feel different, but in a less negative way than when I was little. I arrived at this conclusion after a lot of suffering. As a child, I saw things very differently and considered my disorder to be a real problem. With this book, I wanted to show that this is not the case. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you are highly motivated and you have the tools, you can achieve goals despite difficulties. Also, after watching a documentary recently about a man born without arms or legs, who is happy to be alive, I am even more convinced that dyslexia is not such a serious problem.
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