E. L. Schoeman is an indie author, poet, freelance writer, and crazy cat lady.
Welcome to my little author corner of the world!
This might be the last thing you’d expect to hear from an author.
But me and books— we didn’t always get along.
I hated books.
But I was always obsessed with them.
The written word seemed to be against me.
I remember sneaking into my eldest sister’s room and holding her beautiful hardcover books. I would smooth my hands over their covers and their pages and see a jumbled maze I couldn’t find my way through. I would think, “There must be amazing things inside these books, since I cannot read them.” They must have wonderous, valuable, forbidden, dangerous, wild things inside.
Because I couldn’t read them. They’d chosen to reject me and seemingly no one else.
I would stand at their fantastical caves like Aladdin before The Caves of Wonders, desperate for the Diamond in the Rough.
Books had obviously singled me out, banishing me from all their hidden treasures. Although I couldn’t read them, I knew they were special. And I remember being moved by words at the young age of eight when my teacher read, Homework! Oh, Homework! by Jack Prelutsky.
Homework! Oh, Homework!
I hate you, you stink!
As you might imagine, my school life wasn’t an easy one. Although I didn’t have problems with students (in fact, we were all a great bunch of kids in my bias opinion), I had a hell of a lot of problems with teachers. My mother fought to keep me with the other children, being harassed by intimidating meetings, filled with angry, vampiric teachers, demanding I be taken to another school. And they possibly told her to put me on drugs (I don’t know if this is true, but drugs seem like a reasonable suggestion in the age of Ritalin).
She must have had a bad day that day because she told them she would do no such thing and for them to kindly do their jobs (or something like that— you know, if was an awfully long time ago and she probably wasn’t all that nice about it).
After that, my school life was pretty darn horrible. Because teachers were out to get me mega-time.
Although books and I weren’t good friends yet, I now had a habit of stealing (yep, full out sisterly theft!) my sister’s beautiful hardcover books and taking them to school with me. One at a time, I was a generous Dodger (and I always put them back– I think). And I would place that day’s stolen book on my desk and stare at it. Waiting, I guess, for it to finally unlock its’ mysteries. I had a particular obsession with her hardcover copy of White Fang.
Instead of being charmed by my absurd bookish behavior, that year’s teacher scorned Severus-Snape-like at me (back when we all hated him— don’t give me that! You hated him, too), and said to me, “Why do you keep doing that? When you know you’ll never be able to read them?”
As it turns out, White Fang was not actually the first Jack London novel I read. The Call of the Wild was.
That same teacher would go on to tell me to kill myself. That I should ‘put my head under water and just end it now.’
I was still very young at this point, and I was sent into the worst depressive state so far in my lifetime. Tortured and belittled by teachers, they had now taken things one step further. Why? Because my mother told them to do their jobs? That she wouldn’t put me on pills (if that even happened)? Because I am dyslexic? Does that give a teacher the right to tell a student to kill themselves?
Because of this, I did have more than one occasion of suicidal determination.
This is my sad story. But as you know, I’ve written a few books, so it does get better.
So if you’re like, “Lame. This bitch be dark. Goodbye.” Don’t leave yet! I promise things get better.
Things did get somewhat better. As I got older, so did the teachers and some were replaced by new teachers (who, by the way, got the same horrible, ostracizing treatment by the old teachers who stayed— they really were seriously ugly people). And the new teachers didn’t hate me. One even introduced me to my love of writing poetry, and I even got okay marks on poetry assignments in that class.
Everyone, including me, was shocked.
Then came high school (yeah, we haven’t even made it to high school yet!) But don’t worry. High school wasn’t so bad. After the first year. The first year was bad. We’ll skip that and we’ll move to the second year of high school. And this is the year one single teacher changed my life and stopped me from dropping out of school.
I worked with my guidance counsellor to base my entire high school year around this one teacher. I was taking his class or I was dropping out. And when he continually handed me top marks in his English class and I told him that, before his class, I’d never received As in my entire life, he thought I was kidding.
“What? A perfect student like you? I can’t believe that!”
Perfect student! What a lark! But he was serious. And I loved that he saw something different than everyone else saw in me, allowing me to see something different within myself. Because of him I fell in love with books, with learning, with writing, and he even fueled my love for Shakespeare.
He gave me the confidence to go on.
He gave me my first permission slip to think about writing seriously.
And I had university in mind.
But then I got so sick that I had to home school myself the last half of my final year.
Yeah, things get bad again.
I was in utter agony, and no one seemed to know why.
I missed out on a lot. It took years to get my body back under control from whatever was trying to take my life away from me (and that’s what it felt like). And although I graduated high school just fine, I felt like I lost my chance to go to University or College. But I had long started writing, starting my first novel, Isabel, when I was sixteen. I also outlined my next two novels at the same time (those ones actually aren’t even published yet), and I finished writing Isabel when I was seventeen. Once I finally sat down to start writing it, it took eight months to write.
There’s a lot of heartache in Isabel. I was a lonely and frightened young person, and I can see all the hurt pieces of myself when I go back over my debut novel.
Books saved me. I can’t count how many times I’d run to my journal or opened a book and cried, “Take me away! Please! Take me away from here!”
These were the worst of times. But now, I do live happily. Not perfectly. (Silly Goose, there’s no such thing as perfectly!)
Now I live surrounded by books and rescue cats and the love of my very own prince charming.
There’s so much more to every story, of course, but this is the shortened version of how books and I fell in love. And we’ll be together forever regardless of dyslexia and all the trouble it has caused me throughout my life.
What am I working on right now?
Right now I am working on getting my next Young Adult Novel ready for publication, while also writing the fourth book to my currently unpublished young adult fantasy series of seven.