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Faded Rooftops: Overcoming Dysgraphia in the Workplace

  • Nicolas Anstett '16  2015 Literary House Press Intern
    Nicolas Anstett '16 2015 Literary House Press Intern

Location: Rose O’Neill Literary House

March 30, 2015
2015 Literary House Press Intern Nicolas Anstett describes his struggle as a writer with dysgraphia and how that struggle came to a head in his work with the Literary House Press.

I think there is a point in almost every young writer’s life where they attempt some form of transcendentalism. They trudge into the local woods, bushwhacking their way through low hanging branches and curling vines, and plop themselves down beneath an aging oak or elm with a pad of paper and a pen. There’s an inner romantic within most emerging poets or writers and what better way to find it? I was no different. I made several attempts to live this adolescent creative fantasy, but instead often trudged back with a notebook filled with unintelligible scribbles.

I was diagnosed with dysgraphia in second grade. At the time the learning disorder, which affects fine motor skills (handwriting in particular), did not seem to be a huge encroachment upon my life. In hindsight, I have the utmost respect for my elementary school teachers who likely had to decipher what was the equivalent of foreign calligraphy.  Now as a student actively pursuing a future in the creative written word, dysgraphia looms over me like an annoying pet monkey. The onset of digital typing software has softened the blow, but my hopes of achieving true transcendentalism may have to wait.

With my experience at the Literary House Press intern, I try to remain in high spirits and approach things with a sense of humor. I recognize that my clumsy attempts to apply packing tape and wrapping paper to outgoing books often seems like it’s been applied by a hyperactive five year old. It’s good to laugh at yourself especially if you accidentally cover your own hands in packing tape. However, nothing could have described my abject horror to discovering that I would have to spend a full week of my time here applying water colors to the upcoming letterpress book Worth Our Breath. Worth Our Breath, due out for release this October, features an original short story by fiction writer, playwright, and translator James Magruder and original pen-and-ink illustrations by Stuart Cawley.  Like all of the Press’s original letterpress books, this book is a gorgeous work of handcrafted book making. The thought of my lending watercolors to these works of art triggered memories of soaked and paint blended grade school art class projects.

However, as I sat down and began to apply strokes of muted brown to the tops of urban Baltimore rooftops, hair bands, and stained mattresses everything soon melted away. While I won’t say that my work was immaculate, I found the repetition of minimalistic art oddly soothing and even entrancing. Despite my fears, I was able to add a tangible contribution each book. It’s the handcrafted randomness that ultimately makes Worth Our Breath and the rest of the Press’s letterpress books and broadsides such valuable productions. Every volume is unique in its own way. In one I mixed the brown too softly and it’s a barely visible transition from color into its absence. In another the contrast is clear and dynamic, and I may have even over done it. What began as a task that frightened evolved into an inner dialogue of self-competition to try and find that “Goldilocks zone” of color and art.

Sometimes we forget that there is more to transcendental theory than sitting beneath an aging tree with a notebook and a fountain pen. In it’s most basic sense it’s an embracing of the sensations in simple human experience. It’s the moment of quiet tranquility in bypassing the mental roadblocks between thought and hand to help create something beautiful. Even if that something is applying dabs of brown water color to a stained mattress somewhere in a forgotten apartment in the streets of Baltimore. 

Last modified on May. 11th, 2015 at 10:55am by Nina Fleegle.