Tracy Traynor has dyslexia, but when she was at school it was never diagnosed. She was stuck in the class with the “dunces” and made to feel that she would never amount to anything. The stigma left her with little confidence and meant she ended up doing a series of low paid jobs in the catering industry.
But when her husband left her to bring up their four sons alone, it gave her the impetus to change her life. Now a finance manager in Merseyside, she has published the first in a series of fantasy fiction books for teenagers which deliver a positive message to children growing up today who are made to feel stupid or like outcasts.
It was very different when Tracy left school. She only had low grade CSEs and lacked self-confidence. Her mum persuaded her to do a typing course and she found she excelled at it and was way ahead of the rest of the class. “For the first time in my life I felt I wasn’t stupid,” she says. Then she went for an interview for a job and froze. A friend who was not as good at typing or shorthand got the job. “It was a confirmation for me that I was useless,” says Tracy. Her first job was washing up dishes in a restaurant and she stayed in low paid jobs in the hotel and catering industry until she got married. “I didn’t think I was mentally able to do anything else,” she says.
Her husband was not very supportive either, which further dented her self confidence. When he left her, he didn’t pay any maintenance money for their four children. Tracy had a part-time job making sandwiches, but it wasn’t going to pay the mortgage. “I had to learn a trade. I had no choice,” she says. She went to a careers adviser at the age of 40 and she recommended Tracy go to college to learn the Sage accounting system. She did so, but wanted to do more than data inputting all day. She got a job in a small business, helping the lady who did accounts. When her Sage course finished she applied to the Association of Accounting Technicians to learn how to do accounts. “From the first lesson I loved it,” says Tracy, who has been working for luxury bath and body company Grace Cole for the last nine years and is now Finance Manager.
It was hard work, combining working 30 hours a week, studying and bringing up four kids on her own, one of whom is also dyslexic. She is still very close to her sons now, though they are now aged 32, 29, 25 and 22 and only one is living with her. One of her sons told her recently that he remembered her studying into the night when he was younger and told her how much he admired her. “It made me cry,” she says.
Tracy started writing her first fantasy novel 24 years ago when the family were living in Kenya where her husband was working as a chef.
The book, Idi and the Oracle’s Quest, is aimed at older children and teenagers. The main character is a young boy called Idi (short for idiot). He is an outcast who is devalued by society, but through his adventures he learns that he has far more promise than he ever thought he had. Just as Tracy did.
At the time she wrote the book in long hand and her writing was full of grammar errors due to her dyslexia. She typed it up later, but it was only when her sons needed a computer for school work that she typed up the manuscript and was able to use spell check. She mentioned the book on a Facebook writing forum and one of the people on the forum, David, asked to see it. After reading it he urged her to send it to a publisher, but she thought he was just being nice.
Then one day he contacted her and said he had a terminal illness and wanted to see the book published before he died. Tracy published it on Amazon. In one of the last conversations she had with David she asked him if he had actually read the book. She still felt he was being nice. He told her he had read it three times. Since then she has paid for someone to edit it professionally and it has sold 130 copies on Amazon. She’s had lots of positive feedback.
All her sons have read it and love it. Her oldest son wants to read it to his daughter. “That’s the biggest compliment,” says Tracy. He himself suffered at school from bullying and had low self confidence as a result. She hopes the book will help him and other young people whose self esteem is knocked by their experiences growing up.
Tracy, who has remarried, has recently reduced to four days a week so she can focus on finishing the next two books in the trilogy. She hopes the second book will be finished by Christmas.
Tracy says she has changed such a lot since she went to college aged 40. She met her best friend Vicky there and she has been a great support. Tracy has become much more confident. “I have become a different woman through the AAT. I walk with my head up which I didn’t do before. I will talk to anyone,” she says.
She adds that she would not have been able to rise up the career ladder without tax credits. “They allowed me to go back to work,” she says. They topped up my wages and as I progressed they dwindled. Without that assistance as a single mum I never would have got where I am now.”
*Idi & the Oracle’s Quest is available in ebook and paperback original. RRP £6.99 paperback. Available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.