This week at the Tyndale Blog we have a guest post by Jayce O’Neal. Jayce is the author of the newly released No Girls Allowed, he’s also a speaker, actor, who lives in the Los Angeles area.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. Okay, maybe you can tell someone, but don’t post it to Facebook or anything. Fine. I’ll share it, and you can do whatever you want with it…
The fact that I am writing this blog is a testament to the miracles of God, and the defiance of a mom. Why? Because this author could not read as a kid. This avid blogger was so far behind in his reading level that he had to walk to the kindergarten class for his reading group. So what’s the big deal about that you might ask? I was in second grade, a full two years above the lowly kindergarteners. The truth was that I still was way behind even the kiddos. The following year, in third grade, I still remained years behind my classmates. The start of fourth grade brought no changes. It was humiliating walking the halls to the “little kids” classroom and sitting in the super tiny chairs that made me feel more like a popsicle than a student. I never thought I would amount to much and my teachers did little to change that. One teacher even went as far as to tell my mom I was a lost cause. This motivated my mom, so we spent the summer reading. I made a little progress, but after moving to the third state, and third school in nine months, I found myself again lost in the midst of faces and uncertainties.
I had accepted the fact that I would simply be average, but then something happened. I overheard my mom in one of those adult conversations that kids aren’t supposed to hear. I heard how my former teacher thought I was a lost cause. I didn’t consider myself smart, but one thing I did know was that I was stubborn. Even though I didn’t think I’d ever be smart, I was not going to let someone else say that about me. At the end of fourth grade I was determined to work hard, and I refused to give up. I started to love reading. Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends struck my imagination and allowed me to grow my deep desire to read, learn, and be creative. To this day that book can be seen prominently displayed on my bookshelf. From that point on I got stronger and stronger in reading. My grades went from beyond putrid, to solid A’s & B’s. By high school, wouldn’t you know it…this lost cause went on to be Valedictorian, Summa Cum Laude, and got a few Masters degrees and a Doctorate.
However, that’s not the end of the story. While in college I excelled academically, but after a few ER visits, it was clear that I had a serious physical condition. I don’t want to bore you with all of the gritty details, but needless to say the doctors were concerned that I might die. We went through an array of treatments, but none of them really helped that much. The emergency room became a regular visiting spot, and my friends and family began to worry. Again the naysayers were many, and the hopeful were few, but I was determined not to give up. I refused to succumb to the dark prognosis of the doctors, but determination was not enough to prevent the hospital visits. My condition began to worsen and the only thing I could do was lean on God. It was this dark time in undergrad that I began to jot my heart to God. It was this tough time that I became a writer. I had no other way to express what I was feeling. I started to realize that many of my writings were a bit gloomy. I began to write goofy stories and songs like, Where the Sidewalk Ends, the book that helped me learn to read years before. Before I knew it, I started to love writing as much as reading. I dreamed of writing books that would touch kids like Silverstein’s crazy books spoke to me.
Soon after, God restored my health. A few years later I started to look into getting my writing published. My first time out I got a major publisher interested in one of my books. They had a cover made, a contract ready, and then at the last minute they pulled the plug. For nearly four years I didn’t even get close to another book deal. It was one “no” after another. Time went by, and right when I was about to give up the doors opened. One thing led to another and the opportunity to write No Girls Allowed came about, and the rest is history. This book was truly a joy to work on. I hope the parents and boys have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. It is funny that I am a writer. I still don’t always know where to put the comma sometimes, and I have an affinity for run on sentences, but I don’t let that stop me from sharing my heart. I have still yet to publish my Shel Silverstein like book, but I’ll keep trying and I promise I won’t give up. In life, I think faith in God and a strong will to not give up outdoes talent and charisma in the long run. From a former lost cause I encourage you to keep fighting too and always lean on God.
If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of No Girls Allowed, leave a comment. We’ll randomly pick one lucky commenter to win.