Catherine Brown has overcome a great deal to achieve her dream of publishing a children’s book. A Police sergeant for 25 years, she was forced to retire following an injury aquired in the line of duty, and left permentantly disabled and with a chronic pain condition.

Defying her lifelong Dyslexia, Catherine employed her childhood love of at to write and illustrate The Adventures of Roobie and Radley, a dyslexia-friendly book for children, which has sold over 500 copies to date.

We hear from Catherine as she tells us her journey into publishing.

I chose to have blue pages in my book as white paper is a problem for most dyslexics. I also chose a dyslexia-friendly font, making my book accessible to all.

Catherine Brown

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?

With no extra time available during exams, I would enter blind panic with a fear of not being able to read all the questions. I often guessed or mis-read things just to get to the end. My teachers called these my ‘careless mistakes’. If they had only realised just how much effort it had taken me in the making of these!

I gained a strong comprehension of words and in doing this, I believed that others would not doubt my intelligence, and this would counter balance my inability to get what I wanted to say down onto paper. My written work was simplistic as I could only rely on using the words that I could spell. There were no computers to rely on, or spell check.

When I started school, it was identified that I was Dyslexic. This condition was poorly understood and left me struggling to keep up.

All of this led to a massive lack of self-confidence, a dislike of school and an ambition to leave as soon as I could. I left school at sixteen gaining only a handful of qualifications.

On leaving school I became a hairdresser, but due to the recession of the eighties this was short lived, leaving me drifting between jobs as a shop assistant. An opportunity arose to become a Special Police Constable which led me to taking the entrance exam, to join the Regular Police. I was told at my acceptance interview that due to my academic qualifications I would never pass the required six-hour Sergeants exam. My proudest moment was proving them wrong and passing this and becoming a Sergeant for over two decades of my career. How did I do this? With a lot of determination.

What has been your proudest moment so far?

Also, in November 2018 I published my first book which I wrote and illustrated. ‘The Adventures of Roobie & Radley and The Christmas Campervan Rescue’.

Despite my creativity and love of art my teachers said academically I would not be able to attain the qualifications to go to art school. My careers advice was something along the lines that they saw me at best as a checkout operator.

 The Adventures of Roobie and Radley
Catherine overcame Dyslexia to sell over 500 copies of The Adventures of Roobie and Radley

What skills do you think have helped you succeed the most?

A determination to succeed attitude and to do what I wanted to do. and not what others thought I should do, has given me the confidence to keep trying at what I wanted to achieve. A refusal to give up and avoidance of the words, you can’t or won’t.

Do you have any strategies for keeping motivated?

Be your own person for we are all unique in our own way. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a favourite expression of mine. My mum sadly no longer here would tell me both as a child and an adult when I became despondent; don’t think how far you must climb, look at where and what you have achieved so far. I often think of her words.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned and what impact has it had on what you do going forward?

I am sure that those that told me, that I could not or would not achieve something in my life believed that they were giving me their best advice at the time. Act in your own interests and if you believe in something follow your dreams.

Seek help and assistance whenever possible. Develop your own coping strategies.

Who is your greatest influence or role model?

Growing up this had to be by mother who was my greatest fan. She always allowed me to be exactly who I was. Her love and support championed my creativity, and this saw me win art competitions at a young age. Being a wordsmith herself, she initially was frustrated at my inability to see words in my head as she did, or for me to build a word up and sound it out to spell it. She allowed me to learn in my own way. In later years I was assessed as having a phonological processing deficit, an inability to see or hear phonics. I use assistive technology on my own computer.

I also admire Beatrix Potter. An amazing woman of her times, both as a writer and illustrator who in the face of adversity refused to give up on her dreams of publishing a book. One hundred years on her books are still loved today.

Is there any advice can you give other women looking to follow this route?

People often tell me that I am inspirational to them. This was not something I ever set out to do. My journey has often thrown obstacles in my pathway and these have been when and where the greatest learning has come from for me. When writing my book, I did not take that journey alone I did all the writing and illustrations, but I sought a professional publisher to ensure essential proof reading and achieving the finished result I wanted. I am currently working on my second book.

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