Rebelling Against Spelling Press (RASP): The ethos behind the organisation centres on the idea that dyslexics do not need to overcome their perceived literary weaknesses to be authors, but that dyslexia is a difference which matters. The ambition of the project is to explore dyslexia, from the view point of those who are dyslexic. RASP is the brainchild of Nim Folb, a PhD student in the department of education studies at Goldsmiths, who suggests that being dyslexic grants the writer new ways of understanding difference: “RASP came about through my own experiences of being a dyslexic writer and wanting to read books by other dyslexics, to learn more about the way that dyslexics see and interpret the world. I began by seeking out dyslexic writers and asking myself the questions, what is a dyslexic writer? How you recognise dyslexic writing? How do you distinguish, through writing, between someone who is, and who is not a dyslexic?. A second purpose of RASP is to find dyslexics who will speak and tell me what they think dyslexia is, and the way that they imagine dyslexia influences the way they write.”
Since its publication, RASP has continued to support and promote dyslexic writers throughout. Recent publications include Tal and ABC by Michael Alcock. The book tells the story of a young woman who does not learn to read or write until adulthood. While the story contains many literary familiarities, focusing on character development and the protagonist’s struggle to overcome difficulty, there is one glaring difference in the book; it is written backwards. While this may at first appears to be a gimmick, the truth is revealed throughout the story. Michael Alcock is dyslexic, and like Tal, he finds it much faster and more comfortable to write in mirror writing. This November, to coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week, RASP will be releasing Forgotten Letters: A Literary Anthology of Dyslexic Writers, which brings together contemporary dyslexic writers, both renowned and emerging. It includes pieces by Philip Schultz, Jeanne Betancourt, Billy Childish, Sally Gardener, Benjamin Zephaniah, and Thomas West. Some of whom have chosen to explore the concept of dyslexia through orthographic aberrations; others capture lone figures, determination, persistence, dreams and discovery. What runs throughout is an authors’ fascination and praise of words, and the way in which they are framed as an obstacle to truth. Thomas West describes in the Foreword to the anthology, that dyslexia yields interesting ways of connecting words and ideas. Only sometimes, words, letters and punctuation are missing, they appear to be forgotten. As if in writing, the author had become swept up by other thoughts, distracted by something outside of the text. However, the anthology is about more than forgetting letters. It is a testimony to the value of writing to dyslexics. The anthology brings to the forefront notions of authorship, and authority. It asks: who gets to be an author? Who authorises it? and how they get to have that authority? It is not about literacy, but about the telling of stories and having a ‘voice’.
Writers established and emerging sit together to triumph that the enigma of dyslexia is a fantasy. These works show that there is no key answer or solution to dyslexia. It is not a disorder, but a way of thinking characterised by a constant jabbing in mind of new ideas, possible connections, interpretations and interplay. Words enable that otherness to be part of the text, to give it a voice. To accept that Otherness is not Otherness at all, but part of ‘we’.