When Debbie Macomber was in grade school, she struggled to learn how to read, and never went to college. In the 1980s, she began to write fiction on a rented typewriter. After five years of rejection, she made her first sale. Now, she has more than 60 million books in print.
In an interview with Leena Hyat:
Hyat: I understand that the International Dyslexia Association honored you by featuring you in their 2001 Calendar of Outstanding Dyslexics. What challenges has being dyslexic posed for you as an author, and what advice do you have for others who are diagnosed with dyslexia or with other learning disabilities?
Macomber: Yes, I am dyslexic, but each one of us is challenged in one way or another. I chose to view my handicap as a matter of attitude. I'll always be a creative speller and struggle with certain words, but my affliction is minor compared to the challenges of others. When I was a youngster, it was difficult because I didn't understand what was wrong. In those days the teacher called it "word blindness." I had a hard time in school, but by the time I was in 5th grade I was reading at grade level. My love of words and stories helped me to find creative ways around my problem.
Macomber's success didn't happen suddenly, of course. She was a dyslexic mother of four with no education beyond high school, but she had the determination to break into print. ("It was more like stubbornness.") For five years, before her first sale, she wrote on a rented typewriter at the kitchen table in her home in Kent, Wash., while her husband, Wayne, supported the household as a construction electrician.
"When I think back to all those years of rejection ... it was so hard to hold on," she said.
Then she told this story: "After 2 1/2 years of writing, I was taking $100 a month out of our family budget (for supplies). I felt so guilty. Wayne came to me and said, 'Honey, I'm really sorry, but we're just not making it. I know you love this, but we can't afford to do it anymore.'
"I was going to have to get a job, and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with the kids and work 40 hours a week and write too. So I was going to have to give it up. My heart was so aching.
"I went to bed that night and was determined to go out the next day and apply for three jobs. None of them I wanted to do, but I had to contribute something. Wayne woke up in the middle of the night and asked, 'Are you awake?' I said, 'I haven't been to sleep yet. You know, I really think I could have made it as a writer.'
"He didn't say anything for a long time, and then he finally said, 'You know what, honey? Go for it. We'll just do what we have to do.' My husband is my hero.
"(In retrospect) we taught our kids some of the most valuable lessons of their lives. In going after what seemed impossible, I gave them permission to go after their own dreams. And their father taught them such valuable lessons about how to be a good spouse and supportive husband."