Friday with Friends: Your Story Will Never Give Up On You – Michelle Dalton

An Award Winning Bestselling Dyslexic

First, I’d like you to understand something very fundamental and important about me; unless it’s a box with a new pair of shoes (preferably swanky boots or trainers), chocolate, or better still, some bling, I hate boxes! Metaphoric boxes that is. I hate the labels, but more than that I despair that mankind still believes in categorising people into them.

I am many things these days: a mother, a nurse, a writer, a publisher, and a wife. But this is not the entirety of my identity and neither is the fact that I am dyslexic. It pains me that people believe a diagnosis, skin colour, the language you speak or your country of birth is reason to single another person out, whether to degrade or uplift.

I was diagnosed fairly early in life thanks to my awesome mom. Kindergarten was spent with other kids who had learning disabilities. Missus Zenolli, was my teacher and I will never forget her. Much taller than my five year old self, grey soft short curly hair and round framed glasses with a smile that lit up the darkest room, and life. I clearly remember those years because she filled them with so much fun. Learning was fun!

But as we all know, life is not filled entirely of fun and games, and soon I was old enough to go to Grade 1. My first year of primary school was spent with a teacher whose name escapes me but the memory of her long blond hair and scrutinising brown eyes does not. Grade 1 would be the first year of many where life taught me the gift of adversity. PS adversity is not a bad thing–okay!

Grade two and standard one (or 3rd grade) was spent in a ‘special class’ called the A-Class. We were essentially a part of the school, but separate too, and because of this separation the other kids looked down on us. It wasn’t their fault, nor the fault of the well-meaning teachers who wanted to give kids like myself a better chance at learning and practicing our brains to think, take in, and digest information like everyone elses. It’s human nature, although it did take me a few years to understand this.

Standard five (7th grade) handed me one of the greatest life lessons ever. A teacher, I’ll call her Miss Owl for the purpose of the story, took an immediate dislike to me from the first day I entered her class. Without a “how’s your mother”, she put me in the corner of her classroom and told me I was unteachable, that I should make peace with the fact that I’d end up no better than a street sweep. (PS. Street sweeps are awesome–I once met a lady who drove those machines and loved Tolstoy!). At the time, her words and disdain for my inability to learn conventionally almost broke me. She refused to teach me English, sighed whenever she marked my work, handing it back with huge fat F’s scrawled across the pages and pretty much protected any child who decided to pick on me for being, ‘dumb,’ or ‘stupid’, the list goes on.

Buoyed by the determination to prove Miss Owl wrong, I started writing and printing my own books in primary school. I even wrote a short play based on ‘the washer woman’ from Enid Blyton’s, Far Away Tree, and performed it to my class. My dad’s office Xerox was the most amazing thing since sliced bread, and my friends loved their weekly photocopied and stapled together books of stories and my awesome (not really) graphics. They were always about a little girl and her weekend adventures – no guessing who the lass was, eh?

Miss Owl and her hatred for my dyslexia, I soon realised, stemmed from a lack of education. A fear of, If I can’t teach this child it will reflect badly on me. It took time to realise, it wasn’t me – it was never me! It was her, and the moment I realised this, my world began to change, evolve, and take shape for the better.

Highschool was a blur of hormones, rock bands, boys, and trying to pass math and science. I scrapped by on my bum. Back in the day you did as your folks said. Mine told me I’d take math and science till matric (year12/12th grade). Don’t gasp, they weren’t bullies, they were my parents, and as we all know (and by we I mean parents) it’s not the easiest thing to know what’s good for your kid – now is it? In saying this, if it weren’t for their persistence I’d never have been allowed entry in to Nursing.

Nursing had been one of my passions growing up. To heal the sick and love those who were unloved. I used to perform endless surgeries on my poor Oupa (grandfathers) banana trees and use all my mom’s band aids and bandages on her aloe’s and my tree in the back yard. Even our poor dog got bathed in mercurochrome and bandaged up like a mummy. I wrote quite a few manuals on how to heal a dying banana tree and how to ease an old dogs arthritis – poor things.

After being unceremoniously kicked out of beauty school (my dad’s idea cause I was too much of a tom boy), then travelling Europe and Israel, I decided it was time to begin studying. By this time, I was already at least 4 years older than all the other students and thoroughly afraid of failing but what I lacked in the ability to take in information on the same level as my peers, I made up for in gusto. Also, I was blessed with the most amazing lecturers. But I did fail my first year. I simply couldn’t grasp the complex terms and equations, (pharmacology has equations people) staring back at me from the textbooks and I was sure as hell not going to let anyone in on my secret either. I wish I could explain what it feels like to look at really long words. If you’ve ever watched the first Percy Jackson movie or read the book, it looks like that – where all letters looked jumbled and upside down – and unfortunately I’m no daughter of a god or goddess (though Mom is an absolute angel – which is better). Well that’s what all the medical terms did to me. They jumped and turned inside out. Add math to it and well…

It still happens on days when I am too tired to get my brain in to gear. There’s the odd occasion when I really am exhausted, I battle to make sense of what someone is saying, and I have even been known to talk funny and write upside down – literally.

In practice I was a goddess (still am), it was always the theory which hindered me. But I found ways around this. And yes, I had another Miss Owl. Funny how these super intellectuals sniff a weakness a mile away. I’d barely walked into her lecture hall and she’d sussed me out. She taught nursing Ethics and Research, no images and stories to be had here. Like my primary school Miss Owl, Lecturer Miss Owl went out of her way to try and fail me. I didn’t get flying colours in her subjects but thankfully with Ethics it’s like parrot work – there is only one answer. As for research… got there by the skin of my teeth.

Fortunately, our head of Faculty was an old nurse with the spirit and mind of a twenty year old go getter. It was because of her and her amazing staff that I passed. She recognised the problem—and the solution. The lecturers gleefully accepted their challenge. I was allowed to rewrite my exams after they gave more of their time to paint me pictures. No, art wasn’t involved. We discovered that my brain loves anatomical images and the stories which go with them. By studying the images as my lecturer spoke my brain automatically memorised them. Pharms was as easy. Spending the day with a GP in the community I walked out understanding what was in our textbooks and much more. What was even more amazing is some of the girls would come to me to explain complex case studies. The way my brain digested and regurgitated information, it turned out, was what helped so many of my peers understand their work. I even ended up giving some lectures which in turn taught me more. Cool how a bad thing can be swung round in to absolute awesome!

All this adversity added to my prickliness about being singled out, misrepresented, misinterpreted and mistreated. I got called into more than one disciplinary hearing for speaking down to a superior. Even though I was in the right, I’d had to learn that there was this thing called diplomacy. This was harder to learn than math by the way. I’ve always made a point of advocating for my patients, especially when they could not do so for themselves. I formed bonds others could not, simply because I saw life differently. I was, and still am, focused on uplifting not judging.

If you’re wondering how dyslexia affects me as a nurse these days, please know that just because I am dyslexic does not mean I can’t read and write (you do know I am an award winning author?). But it does cause frustration particularly as everything is computerized and programmed these days. My eyes and my brain take longer to adjust when I am booking in a patient or adding notes to a file.

The fear of failing returned when I decided to write my first book. Fortunately, and unfortunately, in the beginning I ran in to a plethora of Mr. and Ms Owls – at first it hurt and I almost gave up. But as any writer will tell you – your story will never give up on you. Every moment I could spare I used to practice my craft. I joined a thriving online writing community filled with people from all walks of life, many who didn’t care that I was dyslexic, and showed me that really it doesn’t affect my writing abilities one little bit. I’ve come a long way since, and know I have a longer way ahead – but I do look forward to it.

So, through all of these difficulties and the heartbreaking approach of the Mr and Ms Owls of the world, what is the lesson you learned? I hear you ask. Well the lesson was that others do not determine my fate, my destiny, or my future, and nobody will ever tell me I can’t do something.

As you can see. I’m no street sweep, but sure as the sky is blue I am a Nurse, a mother of triplets, and an Award Winning Bestselling Author! (Capital letters are there for a reason.) These days, I am writing stories left right and centre baby! Did I get any special treatment along the way because I am dyslexic? Hell no! Did I want any? Double hell no! And why? Because I have learnt that nothing except yourself stands in the way of you succeeding. I’ve never allowed dyslexia to be my undoing, in fact I call it my super power. I get to see the world from a different perspective. It’s like standing upside down – how does everything look now? Pretty awesome huh?

At the end of the day, if you want to tell the world a story using pictures, or words on paper, or videos, nothing and nobody should stop you – well maybe there are a few rules to be taken into consideration (because ain’t nobody want you spewing drivel and hate), so hey, go for it!

Be kind, be true, be loving to yourself and when you are you will see how easily it flows out of you and into others.

Thank you so very much for this inspiring and uplifting share, Michelle. Wishing you all the best with your latest book, and all future books! – Camilla

To see Michelle’s ‘Meet the Author’ interview previously published on MTA, go here …

Meet the Author: Epona by Michelle Dalton

Michelle Dalton is the bestselling and award-winning author of three women’s fiction novels. Michelle juggles married life with triplet sons with the demands of a busy nursing career, her passion for writing, and her publishing house, 3 Umfana Publishers. Michelle speaks openly and passionately about the challenges and rewards of dyslexia.

Book blurb:

Can Calla acknowledge the truth of her past, accept her gift, and embrace an open invitation to love?

On the anniversary of her father’s untimely death, forensic anthropologist, Doctor Calla Conroy, is thrown in the deep end of a murder investigation.

To complicate the situation, the voice in her head has returned.

With everything to lose and no time for a psychotic break, Calla ends up in the small highland’s village of Lairg. Here she meets the handsome Detective Hamish Bell, who elicits powerful emotions that frighten her.

Can Calla make peace with her traumatic past and the reality of her gift? Or is she simply losing her mind, her heart, and possibly her career?

Where to find the book:

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Meet the Author: Epona by Michelle Dalton

Today we welcome Michelle Dalton as we travel to Brisbane Australia and learn how horses, trolls, being dyslexic, and She-Ra come together to form the romantic herd of Michelle’s life. Grab your saddle ….

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am originally from Pretoria, South Africa. My family and I fled the rising violence taking over my beloved country and I now live near Brisbane, Australia with my husband and triplet sons. While also juggling a nursing career and teenage sons, I love to escape into my fictional world.

I have a deep love of horses and enjoy weaving them into dramatic stories with honourable men and strong women.  My other hobbies are gardening (usually trying to save my precious herbs and bulbs from an overactive miniature Jack Russell), painting, and reading.  I’m also a huge Star Trek and Marvel Comics fan, and as of recently a wee fan of DC too.

In which genre do you write?

Hmmm… *sigh* Not sure, well there’s always romance involved but I tend to dabble in a little paranormal/fantasy and probs a lot more women’s fiction and always African, no matter where the book plays out, there is a lot of South Africa involved. And Steampunk!

How many published books do you have?

As of today one – Epona. But there’ll be a second coming out in August this year – Simple Truths, oh yes and then a third under another pen name in November.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I didn’t realize it. I’ve always loved story telling – it’s in my blood but after I read Fifty Shades (Yes yes I did and I loved it, okay! You know these days confessing to having read Fifty Shades is like confessing to having had sex before marriage twenty years ago) I sat back and thought to myself. I can do better than this – and so I did. ?

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I’m boring love. I save all the interesting for my books. ?

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

A horse – read Epona. ?

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A bloody mess! Nothing like all those awesome bookstagram posts on Insta – gosh I wish! See I live with four philistines – that’s my triplet teenage boys and the hubster. Nothing is ever in it’s place! Drives me nuts but I love them so I just go with the smelly boy flow.

What are you currently reading?

The Three Musketeers – an old fave, and, Jasmine Sea by Phillipa Nefri Clark.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Picking up after teenagers and threatening them with the apocalypse if they don’t start acting like human beings instead of trolls. I paint/draw. Play with my mini Jack Russell chat with the hubster, and garden and do the washing and remind the hubster that he’ll have no clean clothes if he doesn’t hang it up and the usual suburban bliss kinda stuff… oh I also nurse. ?

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Diana Gabaldon. I’ve already sat down with T M Clark. ?

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can. I’m dyslexic and was always told by teachers I’d never amount to much – showed them eh!

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

Nup and Nup. I don’t like the idea of my thoughts being in a place where people can easily access them. I’m cheeky enough in my writing. ?

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

I had triplet boys – nuff said. ?

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Drink wine. The soundtrack from my book trailer or Linkinpark. Drink Wine.

What do you miss about being a kid?

The freedom to simply be……..

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?


If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? 

I can’t choose one. Basically it would be a mish mash of Sadie Munro (Epona) and Rochelle Le Roux (Simple Truths due for pub in August) Both these chicks rock. They are trend setters with balls of vibranium. They have seen the worst the world has to offer but still manage to beat the odds.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Shazaam (DC) and End Game (Marvel) – love me my comics and DC is getting better at it wouldn’t you say?

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

Trying to take over the world – “Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Yes! Epona got shot down by 3 big publishers. I was heartbroken until I got picked up by a friend who self pubs. I have loads of success and 2 of the 3 trad publishers who shot me down came back and made an offer – was SO fudging cool to say “No thank you!”

PS Epona has hit the bestseller list on Zon.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

Why my shoes? Why the socks? Why the undies?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My internal BS detector. Need I say more???

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

The beach! It’s Oz, no explanation needed.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

Backyard. Sunset. Kids and hubster away. Bottle of wine. Dark chocolate. Bliss ?

Thank you Michelle for stopping by Meeting the Authors. It was incredibly interesting (and cheeky fun … heehee) chatting with you about the things that come together to create your life. – Camilla


After a horrendous attack on her family farm in South Africa takes the lives of her loved ones and leaves her wounded, her only escape is to leave the country of her birth for the highlands of Scotland and her last living relatives.

But Sadie’s life may still be in danger.

Blane Buchan is an Englishmen living in the small highland town of Lairg, seeking a life away from the emptiness of London society and a past he’d rather forget.

When Sadie finds a mysterious blue roan mare, she must use the gift given to her from Epona; Protector of horses. But the mare just might be the one who saves her.

From the mountains of South Africa to the wintry Highland Moors this is a story of redemption, love and the powerful connection between humans and horses.

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