Alexia Casales tells us about her book The Bone Dragon and having dyslexia
Have you read The Bone Dragon? For a young woman with dyslexia and dyspraxia who only learnt to read when she was 10 years old, the author Alexia Casale is an amazing example of how, with the right support, all things are possible.
We met up with Alexia when she was in town for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. We found out that she’s got two psychology degrees from Cambridge University, she has helped organise a music festival, she has been editor for a human rights journal. She’s even worked on a Broadway show in New York!
We asked Alexia about what school was like for her, and the support that helped her make true her dreams of becoming a writer. “It was really hard… I was having such trouble fitting in to the structures that are in play at school that I basically needed to be out of that so that I could learn in a way that suited my brain. But in terms of help, I had an amazing dyslexic tutor. I worked with her several times a week after school. She taught me all the rules that other people know, that for dyslexics like me, well I just don’t see them. Other people just know them – somehow their brains just know these things – but mine never did. And I just learnt them. And it was an awful lot of hard work but I am glad I did it while I was at school.”
A career in writing and editing might sound unlikely for someone who finds reading and writing so hard, but Alexia is unstoppable. “One of my very first memories is knowing I wanted to be a writer. It took me a very long time to read, let alone write, but once I did, it really opened up a world for me. And I think the reason I am a really good editor is… well, it wasn’t instinctive for me. I was slow and it was such hard work, I thought I would never get there. But after all that trouble you are usually in a slightly better position because you really understand what’s behind the language. So if you’re interested in anything to do with language, anything where you need the written word, then it’s absolutely do-able. And when you get over that hurdle you will have a richer understanding than everyone else.”
If you’ve got dyslexia, Alexia has got some fab advice for you: “if you know what’s important to you and the types of things which can help you then that’s truly valuable. Because you are the expert on you. And then, if your teacher doesn’t know, then tell your teacher. Just be assertive – it’s really hard to be assertive, but as you get going it gets easier and mostly teachers are really responsive”.
Alexia’s book The Bone Dragon is about a girl called Evie who is adopted and who has been in hospital with a broken rib. Evie leaves hospital with an unusual souvenir– a piece of rib bone that she carves into a dragon. This ‘bone dragon’ comes to life at night in her dreams, helping Evie to come to terms with difficult stuff from her past so she can look forward to her future. Having been off school sick as a child herself, Alexia knows how hard it can be.