Friday, September 16, 2022

Straight Out Of A Dyslexic Brain By Josh Stallings

Warning, this post is unedited. Yep for circumstances beyond our control Erika didn’t see read or edit this before it went up. 

That’s not entirely true we had control we just chose to be present for our sons instead. This last week has been chocked full of minor and not so minor health events and road trips to LA and staying up all night to help a vile sick stomach work itself out. We choose to be present for our loved ones even if we have a deadlines looming.

It takes guts for dyslexic to fly without an editorial net. Here are a few times I f’d things up because I can’t frickin spell.

Once Bee Arthur was shooting a film, something about AA I think. The producers wanted to film in my Great Grandmothers house. My grandfather agreed, if the writers would read a screenplay I’d written. They did. And I sent them a script about a Undercover cop going into a San Francisco Punk Band to arrest a heroin dealer. This was before we typed on computers. No spell checkers, but I did go over it, and Erika went over it, and with 9-billon errors we missed more than a few. The Hollywood writers big comment was, “Before you write about San Francisco, learn to spell it.”

I was gutted.

When twitter came along I was blasted by fellow writers for not spelling words correctly. (Oddly they knew what I meant, I know this because in their attacks the told me the correct spelling.)

When Tricky was published, some how the non-edited version was sent to the printer. Erika was busy caring for her father whoes health was failing. I didn’t notice until I started getting complaints sent by readers. 

I was double gutted. It was fixed quickly and after screaming into a pillow I let it go.

A book about neurodiversity miss spelled by a  dyslexic author. The gods sure love their irony.

You’d think after a lifetime of humiliation over spelling mistakes I’d learn. But I am stubborn as hell, so here I am again hanging my ass out in the wind… Ok, so this weeks question was…

Tell us the things you hate/find frustrating about the publishing industry; and finish by telling us one thing you love about it.

My first books  (Moses McGuire trilogy) were published by Heist Publishing. A company that consisted of Me, Erika, an editor for hire, and a ebook formatter. They sold well.

My Anthony nominated memoir was published by a micro mini tiny press. It went quickly out of print. 

My Anthony and West Coast Crime nominated, Young Americans was put out by Heist again.

Tricky was published by Polis/Agora. They are a small press doing big work. It is the first of my books to get national notice. And even though it was my best selling book, in the mainstream pub world it’s numbers were underwhelming. This is not a complaint, I love the hell out of Tricky and all they did for it.

As you can see I’ve never been published by a legacy or mainstream publisher, or even a small press supported by the above. I’ve had acquiring editors like my work well enough to take it to the big meeting. None have yet been able to sell the company on me. I don’t blame them, quiet the opposite. These editors give me hope, and bolster my belief in the work. 

Here’s what I wish I knew when I was starting out, without a major publisher backing your book, it’s hard to place it in the stores that will post number that will impress major publishing companies. 

Right now I am writing at the top of my game. A lifetime of practice and six published books have given me a command of words if not their spelling. And I would have a much easier time selling a book if I had never published a book before.

I witnessed this in the movie business, unknown potential is easier to support than a a creative who has had a flop. (Flop = film that underperformed the studios expectations.) It seems to me the reason for this is two fold. One, as William Goldman said “Nobody knows nothing.” And two, it is easier in a corporate meeting to defend a new comer’s hot music video reel, than a seasoned filmmaker who already proved they know how to fail.

I’m scrawling this with pen and paper in the ER, waiting with my son to see a doctor. 

I am reminded what really matter.

As for publishing world, every thing I said is true and it’s not. Their are tons of stories of writers who wrote a book so damn compelling it got publisher regardless of the writer’s track record.

So my fellow dreamers, readers, writers, film makers, we all just need to keep fighting to create the best work we can. 

After all worst case for me would be to spend time away from those I love writing a book I didn’t like.


James W. Ziskin said...

Powerful post, Josh. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to do what comes much more easily to others. But you do it so well.


Gabriel Valjan said...

A moving post and a reminder of the lack of compassion in this world. People make assumptions. I'm hard of hearing, so if I don't hear someone and I am quiet, I would get accused of being arrogant. I double and triple check everything because I hear language differently than most people. But you know what? It doesn't stop me, nor should it stop you, Josh. Everything you write gives voice to being different, and having a unique perception, and it throws a little light against the darkness in this world.

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks for this, Josh. I hope your son's okay, and thanks for taking the time to write this while - yes - more more important things were needing your attention. As always, thoughtful, and inspiring.

Susan C Shea said...

Hey, Josh, sending positive thoughts for your son...

Josh Stallings said...

Jim, thank you, and I think we all struggle with different dragons but dragons none the less, it is our struggling that makes the work good.

Gabriel, thank you for reminding me not to judge that aloof jerk at the bar, maybe he just couldn’t hear me. Growing up in the counter culture and being me I always felt like an outsider, and yes I write for my fellow outsiders. Of late it became clear most of us humans feel like outsiders of one kind or another. There may be no inside at all.

Cathy, he’s doing much better. Sleeping peacefully. You set a high bar with “Of endings, and beginnings.” for using our craft to share real honest life.

Susan, thank you. And he’s doing well. We’ll take any and all good vibes.

Brenda Chapman said...

Josh - You prove what I always told my students who struggled - having a learning disability has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence. Teachers need to figure out how a kid learns and adapt ... I could go on:-) Thanks for being so open about real life stuff. I hope your family is all doing well.

Josh Stallings said...

Brenda, we’re doing well. Life with family gets hectic but, but the clouds of I’ll health are parting. I like to tell young people, I don’t think there is such a thing as normal brains, and if there is, it doesn’t sound very interesting.

Catriona McPherson said...

A beautiful post, Josh. You are so right about the typo gripers. They understood!! I never thought about it that way before. And it might be my eyes but your post looks pretty polished IMHO. Love to the boy (I know he's a man!)

Dietrich Kalteis said...

A few people may nitpick about spelling, Josh, but not many can write with a cadence to their words, and you have that in spades.