When WordPress fixed Art by Rob Goldstein and restored the ‘re-blog’ button, I lost a month’s worth of posts.
This is a re-post of June’s feature of blogger and author, Hugh Roberts.
When were you diagnosed with dyslexia, how was it affecting your life?
It was affecting my daily reading and writing and, at the time, was an embarrassment to me. I was (and still am) having terrible problems with reading. From menus to greeting cards, magazines and books, my brain stills jumble up individual letters and words which sometimes make it impossible for me to know what those words mean.
Although I do read, I don’t read as many books as I’d like to. I’ve come across too many books where I find myself totally lost as to what is going on. If there are words, I don’t know the meaning of, then I will soon give up.
It’s not all bad news, though. I occasionally come across a book that I find easy to follow and understand. It may be because of the writing style of the author. I always see it as a great achievement when I come to the page that says, ‘The End’, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the read.
As for writing, before the age of spell check and other software that helps correct grammar and punctuation, I often found myself getting letters or words mixed up. I couldn’t help but wonder about those who would shake their heads when reading what I had written or those who would have laughed at all the mistakes I’d made. However, I no longer concern myself about those people.
What did you have in mind when you started Hugh’s Views and News?
I saw blogging as the perfect way to get my writing in front of an audience. For far too long, because of dyslexia, I’d hidden all the writing I had done. Nobody, apart from me, had read it. Although my passion for writing stayed with me, I seldom gave in to it. Then I discovered blogging.
My first published post was about lists and how they helped organise my life. Only a few family members read the post, and their encouragement gave me the confidence to write my next post.
The game-changer for me was the chance to participate in an online course that WordPress ran for new bloggers. Back then, the course was run one day a week over three months. You had to attend online to finish the whole class. I made a lot of new blogging friends through that course, some of whom are still blogging. Once I finished the course, blogging became the ‘skies the limit’ for me.
I also started participating in photo and writing challenges, and soon built up a following, all of whom encouraged and supported me and my writing. When I announced on a blog post that I was dyslexic, I was overwhelmed with kindness, offers of help, and a sense of being told to be proud of myself for what I was doing. I’ve always believed the blogging community to be one of the best parts of blogging.
How did you make the decision to publish?
It was my readers that persuaded me to publish my short stories. When I started to write and publish them on my blog, the stories began to receive a lot of attention and comments. It was probably the unexpected twists I gave most of the stories, but readers asked me to put all the stories into a book and publish it. Shortly after, one of my stories went viral, and I saw it as a sign to go ahead and publish. ‘Glimpses’ was released in December 2016 and it was not long before readers started asking me if there would be a follow-up.
What kind of fiction did you read as a boy?
The only fiction I read was Enid Blyton’s ‘Secret Seven.’ The books were about a group of children who would solve mysteries and crimes. I found the books easy to read, and the plots were of no trouble to me. I tried reading other books by Enid Blyton but had difficulty in reading them. I also read comics like ‘The Beano’, but even found some of them difficult to read.
How long have you been with your partner John, and how did you meet?
This September, we will be celebrating our 26th anniversary. When we first met, I was working and living in London, and John lived in Brighton on the south coast of the UK.
I’d been going through a tough time in both my work and love life, so a friend suggested we go to Brighton for the weekend. I wasn’t really interested in going but was persuaded to go. On the afternoon of the second day, I went and had my fortune told on Brighton Pier.
Amongst other stuff, the fortune-teller said to me that I was on the cusp of a life-changing event connected to the past.
That evening, while having a few drinks, John walked into the bar. We got chatting and, by the end of the evening, we discovered that as children, we had lived in the same town. However, that was not the end of the connection. Several months later, when I introduced John to my mother, she informed us that she used to shop at the butcher’s shop John’s father owned and worked in. She told us that she used to take me in the pram to the shop and that the shop’s owner young son used to look into the pram at me. That was during the first three months of my life before my family moved away because of a new job my father had got.
What do you consider the UK’s ‘Stonewall Moment?’
There are several, but the one that stands out for me is when a piece of legislation called Section 28 was passed by our then Government in 1989. It effectively banned conversations about same-sex relationships in school, forcing LGBT teachers into the closet or out of a job and scarring a generation of young LGBT people.
Stonewall was created to fight this discrimination, and I remember going on many peaceful marches to try and get the already outdated law overturned. Section 28 made me think about the times I was terrified to tell anyone that I was gay because of the discrimination or threats of violence we were hearing gay people were facing every day. I didn’t want anyone going through what I had gone through because of who I was and the way I lived my life.
It took 14 years to get the law revoked, much of which because of the involvement of the Stonewall Movement in the UK.
When I read your memoir of the 1980’s I get a sense of chaos and excitement, with the politics as a subtext. What are your thoughts on the challenges the gay community took on and survived after the onset of the AIDS epidemic?
As a gay man in the1980s, I saw London as the place to go to live and work. The city acted as some kind of a protective blanket for gay people. However, we weren’t always safe in the city with homophobia never far away. I remember bricks being thrown through the windows of gay bars, police taking the details of the number plates on cars parked outside gay bars and nightclubs, and the constant threat of being arrested for being who we were.
Back then, AIDS was known as the ‘gay disease’, and many people thought all gay men carried the virus. Some people wouldn’t even shake hands with me for fear of catching it. All aspects of life could be very challenging, but because I was living in a city with a large gay population, we helped and supported each other with the events that AIDS bought with it.
I did lose a few friends, both male and female, to the virus, and shed many tears to their departure from our world. However, life went on, and I continued to face the challenges of being a gay man bought with it.
Hugh writes: “I’m attaching a photo of me taken during the 1980s. At the time, I had a job as a part-time barman in a Gay bar that became very popular for many years. It was always fun working there. And the best thing about being a barman was that you became everyone’s best friend. The photo was taken during the age of the ‘clone’, where just about all gay men of the time, living in London, had a moustache.”
Were you aware of the 1984 Miner’s Strike and the support provided by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners? What are your memories of the strike?
I was certainly aware of the Miner’s Strike, but until I watched the movie ‘Pride’, I had no idea about the support the Gay community had given to the miners. It’s a beautiful movie that I’d recommend everyone watch. For me, the movie highlighted how communities’ poles apart can be bought together regardless of the misunderstandings of each other. It clearly demonstrates the kindness and love that humans have of each other, much of which we often fail to reveal.
What advice do you have for bloggers with dyslexia?
Don’t allow it to stand in your way of writing and publishing your work, and never be afraid to tell your readers that you are dyslexic.
Since I started blogging and revealed that I’m dyslexic, I’ve had some beautiful emails and comments from people who have told me that they have gone on to fulfill their writing dreams because of what I have done. It seems I was their inspiration. That not only makes me proud of what I have done, but proud of who I am.
Tell us about the pending bloggers bash: what events do you have planned? Are there any new awards categories?
The Bloggers Bash was the brainchild of author, writer and blogger, Sacha Black. Sacha formed a small committee of four bloggers (including me) who organised a get together in London for bloggers. We saw it as a place where you could meet people with the same interest in writing and blogging and meet them in person.
Over the five years, the event has been running, we have grown a lot. This year we have two guest speakers. First, Gemma Todd, a traditionally-published author of Defender and Hunted, represented by the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Gemma will be talking about becoming an author and her journey to publication.
Our second speaker is the award-winning blogger Laura Creaven, who will be discussing her blogging journey and how she built up a huge following.
We also have a Photography Booth, where talented photographer Duncan Walker will be setting up a mobile studio where you can practice your best Blue Steel, strike a pose or simply have your photo taken which can be used on author bios, books, your social media accounts, and on your blog.
We will also be running a class to learn the art of the flatlay, where attendees will learn how to use items, they have at home to create beautiful flatlay images, perfect for creating interest on your blog and social media.
We changed some of the categories for this year’s ‘Annual Bloggers Bash Awards’ which now include categories such as best Personal Development blog, best Food blog, best Photography blog, best Travel blog, best Writing/Blogging blog, etc.
Unfortunately, voting has closed for this year’s awards. We’ll be announcing all the winners on June 15th, 2019.
Will you share an excerpt from ‘More Glimpses’?
I’d be delighted to.
This is an extract from the story ‘When The Tide Turns’, a story about three young men who discover a beautiful, deserted beach and who decide to explore it, regardless of the warnings not to venture onto the sand.
“Did you see that?”
“See what?” asked Alan, looking over his shoulder. “Something over there; moving in the sand.”
“Get out of here, dude, you’re just trying to scare us,” laughed Alan, as Ben joined them.
“Seriously, something is moving in the sand,” said Carl, pointing to the area just in front of where they had undressed and left their clothes.
Looking back over his shoulder, Alan couldn’t see anything. “You’re playing games, dude.”
“No, seriously, take a look,” said Carl, as Ben flicked water droplets at him.
“Look at what?” asked Ben.
“Over there. Something is moving in the sand,” replied Carl as he pointed towards the piles of clothes.
“I don’t see anything, apart from sand and three piles of clothes,” laughed Ben. “Stop messing with us, dude. I didn’t see anything as I came out of the sea. Why’re you letting that weirdo of an old man get to you? Come on, I’ll race you both. Last one back to the clothes has to date and bed the Swanson twins.”
Before they knew it, Alan and Carl watched as Ben started to run towards the three piles of clothes, which were halfway up the beach.
“NO! COME BACK, THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE SAND,” screamed out Carl. However, Ben continued to run towards the piles of clothes, laughing, while calling the other two boys by rude names.
A sudden scream from Ben filled the air when he finally reached the clothes. Alan and Carl watched in horror as Ben was pulled into the sand.
“HELP ME, GUYS, SOMETHING’S GOT MY LEGS!’ screamed Ben, before quickly disappearing.
Contact Hugh W. Roberts
Blog: Hugh’s Views and News
(c) Rob Goldstein and Hugh W. Roberts 2019