Anne van Gessel and I sat down to chat about her upcoming children's book on dyslexia, "Cruz Finds His Way", which hit the shelves of amazon last month. Anne also has other projects in the works, including a memoir entitled, "My Friend Dyslexia, From Self-Loathing to Self-Acceptance" where she speaks on her journey with dyslexia and provides resources for employers and employees on navigating the workspace with neurodiversity in mind. Anne is also working on an inspirational card deck titled, "On The Path."
Hazel Dains: Let's start off by getting to know more about you. Could you give us five weird and quirky facts about yourself?
Anne:"Sure, First, a hobby of mine is to try out new superfoods, health food, supplements, and snacks. For example mushroom/ kelp jerky, cricket protein bars, mushroom coffee, etc. I enjoy trying the specialty or interesting dishes of the regions that I travel to. For instance, while visiting the Philippines, I ate a balut (a fertilized bird egg, usually a duck) which is incubated for a period of 14 to 21 days. And I ate a whale while in Iceland.
Second, my favorite go-to quick meal is sardines on rice.
Third, I had braces from 5th grade until 11th grade. And that wasn't because I actually needed it for that long, but because I was waiting for all my adult teeth to come in.
Fourth, I studied abroad in China for a semester in college, where I blended, mostly because people thought I was half-Chinese and half-Russian.
And lastly, when I'm hungry and eating, I only want to focus on the meal, so don't expect me to have a conversation at mealtime! If it's any kind of event that is around mealtime, I will eat beforehand so that I'm not hangry."
Hazel Dains: Those are great and hilarious. Thank you, Anne. So next, could you give us a quick summary of the book, "Cruz Finds His Way" for interested parents and teachers?
Anne:"Sure, Cruz the crow experiences dyslexia and is preparing to go on his first solo flight, where he will have to read signs in order to find his way back home before sundown. He starts off his journey feeling a ton of self-doubt, and along the way, he experiences some setbacks that confirm his lack of confidence. Later on, he meets two characters, who encourage him to tap into the wisdom he has within him. With this newfound courage and confidence, he finds his way back home."
Hazel Dains: Why did you write this book?
Anne: "I wrote this because I’ve had the urge for several months to write a book showcasing dyslexia as a superpower as opposed to the disadvantage it is painted to be."
Hazel Dains: What was the process of writing it (from the standpoint of someone who has dyslexia)?
Anne: "My first thought was a children’s book, and that was because I naively thought that a children’s book would be easier to write, given its length and elementary language level. I remember that writing papers in college were very tough.
But at the same time, I started to write my memoir about my experiences with dyslexia and oddly enough I found that inspiration came much easier than the children’s book. However, it was after getting my thoughts on paper with the memoir that the ideas for the children’s book came out. I think the memoir-writing process was essentially a brain dump activity—where the practice of consistently writing, then processing what I wrote, and having conversations with friends about it—allowed ideas to appear for the children’s book."
Hazel Dains: Where did your inspiration come from?
Anne: "The inspiration came from the magnificent crows that continue to appear in my life. I think crows are underappreciated and overlooked. They are intelligent, adaptable, magnificently beautiful birds that have continued to figure out how to co-exist with humans while many other animals have continued to keep their distance from us."
Interviewer: How can adults use your book as a tool to teach their children?
Anne: "I think adults can use this book as a tool with their children by helping them realize that experiencing dyslexia isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Adults can help normalize this for children, equip them with awareness of what to expect, encourage them to identify and use their strengths, as well as learn tools on how to navigate conversations around this topic. At the back of the book is a special guide for parents or teachings to use when having conversations with their children/students that will hopefully help them to understand the journey that the children are going through. "
Hazel Dains: What will the children learn from reading it?
Anne: "Similar to my last answer, I would like children to learn that experiencing dyslexia is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It doesn’t make them less smart, or dumb, it just means they have different strengths and weaknesses from most of their classmates. Also, they are not the only ones to have this experience."
Hazel Dains: What was your intention while writing it?
Anne: "To normalize the dyslexia experience for both adults and children through a fun, action-packed book with beautiful comical illustrations. To make the point that experiencing dyslexia isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about."
Hazel Dains: How should adults use this book to spark conversation?
Anne: "Adults can use the book by asking their children if they have had similar experiences as Cruz the crow, and walking through the conversation section of the book in the back to further the dialogue. I believe having awareness and normalizing these types of conversations is an important first step."
Well, thank you again, Anne. And we are so excited to purchase our own copies of "Cruz Finds His Way"! Click on the link to get your own copy from Amazon!
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About the Interviewer:
Hazel is a Canadian-published author of sci-fi novels. You can connect with her on Twitter @HazelDains or visit her website at www.hazeldains.com
About the Interviewee-
Anne van Gessel
As a successful lifestyle blogger, and published author of children's fiction and several informative non-fiction pieces, and as an adult with dyslexia, Anne has taken it on as her life mission to encourage and empower others who have neurodiversity, to not allow their so-called weaknesses to get in the way of their dreams.
In her writing, Anne strives to help others recognize the gold that is a part of every single person's essence; something precious that should be shown off authentically.
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