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September 2013 will see the publication of JUST GONE, my fourth Rapid Reads book to be published by Orca Books’ Raven imprint. Rapid Reads are books written for adult hi-lo readers (that’s high interest, low ability) but are also meant to be engaging enough for strong readers as well. From the point of view of a writer, there is no better exercise than this. Rapid Reads have to be under 20,000 words, and they must use simple vocabulary to tell a story meant to hold the attention of an adult. Think it sounds easy? Aspiring writers especially should try this as an exercise sometime. Anyone can write to sound smart. It takes great effort to write to reach people.

There’s a large demand for books like this. Too often, adult literacy material is written as if the people reading it were somehow mentally deficient. As I like to tell everyone in my slightly non-PC way, these people aren’t stupid. They just can’t read. There’s a big difference.

What is the difference? Stupid people have no interest in the world around them, nor in anyone other than themselves. They don’t apply themselves to anything and they whine about everything. Non-reading adults, on the other hand, are among the smartest people I know. Many of them have developed elaborate coping mechanisms to both deal with and conceal the fact that they can’t read. Most of these coping mechanisms are more complicated than actual reading. And they want to learn to read more than anything.

So why didn’t they just learn, then? It depends greatly on the individual, but in most cases, I’ve found people can’t read because of a few simple reasons:

  • They left school at a very early age to go to work
  • They had an undiagnosed learning issue
  • They grew up in highly dysfunctional households where abuse was common
  • They had bad teachers
  • The people who raised them did not value education

By the time these folks are adults, they’re caught up in all the normal adult things–working, raising children, etc.–with no time for further schooling. At this point, they usually feel like they’re into the lie so deep that nothing will help them. They’re too embarrassed to admit to any but their most trusted friends and family members that words make no sense to them. It takes a huge amount of courage for someone like this to finally confess that they can’t read.

Like all problems, of course, once they do admit it, they feel a huge weight taken off their shoulders, and they can begin to make progress. One of the ways they make progress is by learning to read my books.

Which is, naturally, a huge honor.

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