Today I’m hosting something a little different on my blog. A project that aims to help adults with dyslexia access fiction. This was important to me, not because I am diagnosed with dyslexia, but my MS means I experience cognitive and physical symptoms that make it difficult for me to read. To have the hobby you love more than anything affected like this is so frustrating and makes me anxious that one day I will lose the ability to enjoy a book altogether. I combat this with: assistive technology; reading real print books instead of e-books; larger print and reading on a bigger screen help too. I think because of my own difficulties, I really appreciate any project that opens up great books to all. So, when Anne at Random Things Tours asked, I jumped at the chance to publicise Books on the Hill’s new diversity project: ‘Open Dyslexic.’
It’s aim is to publish good quality fiction, for a minority group not provided for by the U.K’s traditional mass book market. It also provides booksellers with a new tool in their drive to increase diversity and inclusion. We have created a new publisher BOTH Press to do this.
Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with Dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing. Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected.
Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many individuals who are successful and are dyslexic. Famous actors, such as Orlando Bloom; Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many, many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, though, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it, and so we are acknowledging that and trying to without being patronising, create a selection of books that will be friendly to people who deal with dyslexia every day.
Since we started the project in 2019, Books on the Hill have had many adults customers with dyslexia come in shop the asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stocked well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied:
“I have been reading [children dyslexic] books but they are a bit childish so am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand – it means a lot.”
This response is not isolated. We have had many adults come in to the shop with dyslexia, who do not read or struggle to read and they they believe dyslexic friendly books would have real impact on their reading for pleasure.
Books on the Hill is Alistair Sims. He is the manager and commander-in-chief of the bookshop (though his partner, Chloe and his mother, Joanne, who set up the bookshop with him, may disagree with this description ). Alistair is dyslexic and has a PhD in history and archaeology. Alistair could not read until he was 13 and is passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading. He is the driving force behind BOTH Press and has been involved in every step in this project, from finding award winning authors to contribute, the cover design, and the road to publication, including setting up for distribution.
Books on the Hill are collaborating with Chrissey Harrison, who is also an local author and member of North Bristol Writers Group. Chressey and Alistair have designed the book-covers together, with Chrissey creating the finished product we now look on at awe with. Nearly all the design work has been done by Chrissey, and she is also in charge of the printing process, typesetting. We are so proud and appreciative to be working with her. Special mention must go to Harrison Gates, who runs Nine Worthy, and who has dedicated his time and expertise to produce our print catalogue for us free of cost. Joanne Hall is an author, editor and formerly the Chair of BristolCon, Bristol’s premier (and only) science fiction and fantasy convention. We must give a huge thank you to Jo for proof reading the stories free of cost. Vicky Brewster has edited all the new stories by the authors. She specialises in editing and beta reading long-form fiction. Vicky is a great professional editor.
We have been so fortunate that many great authors have agreed to contribute to this project. All are brilliant authors and are names I am sure you will recognise.
Stan Nicholls, who has been a great support to Alistair Sim, particularly with my PhD. He is the author of many novels and short stories but is best known for the internationally acclaimed Orcs: First Blood series.
Steven Savile, the fantasy, horror and thriller writer, now lives in Stockholm whose father is a customer of the BOTH bookshop.
The horror duo that is Thana Niveau and John Llewellyn Probert, both well established and engaging authors and also residents of Clevedon.
Adrian Tchaikovsky is an Arthur Clark Award winner and best known for his series Shadows of the Apt, and for his novel Children of Time.
Steven Poore is the highly acclaimed fantasy writer who Alistair met at his first fantasy convention in Scarborough.
We finish the Magnificent Seven with Joel Cornah, who also has dyslexia, and with whom Alistair participated in a podcast on dyslexia for the Clevedon Literature 2020 ‘Festival in the Clouds’.
How Can You Help?
We are launching a Kickstarter beginning in April 2nd 2021 for 30 days, with the focus on paying for the printing of our books and giving us starting capital to continue to print more titles. There will be many ways you can be involved in this. You can contribute on the Kickstarter website itself. There will be a number of different options of donating money, in which you will receive rewards, such as ebooks of a title or a paperback of one or more of the titles to be published. In addition a unique reward from authors who are contributing to the project.
You can still contribute outside the kickstarter. We are happy to receive your help in the shop, where we will have a donation box available.
For more information and to contribute to the Kickstarter please follow this link:
Or visit the BOTH website: https://www.booksonthehill.co.uk/