Imagine dropping out of school in 11th grade unable to read, but with the dream of becoming a writer. That’s only a small portion of Victor Villasenor’s story. Growing up in a household that only spoke Spanish, but attending a school that would only allow English, Villasenor learned early on what failure felt like. He was constantly picked on by students for his failing grades and reprimanded by his teachers for his “poor” work ethic. He even failed third grade twice. Unknown to both himself and others until well into his adult life, Victor Villasenor was dyslexic- a disability he later called his gift which allowed him to “see patterns that other people couldn’t see”.

Despite his difficulties with language and reading, he excelled in other activities which utilized the pattern-seeking way his brain worked. He was very skilled at music, math, and chess- even beating faculty at his high school in chess on numerous occasions. After he dropped out of school and completed a tour with the army, Villasenor set out to accomplish his dream of becoming a writer. He worked with an old high school teacher to drastically improve his reading, meticulously circling every word he didn’t know and printing it on paper nine times. He eventually built up a collection of manuscripts which impressed a creative writing professor at UCLA who advised him towards taking a few classes at the university.

Villasenor wasn’t through with facing failure though. Upon completing his first novel, M​acho, h​e was rejected 265 times by publishing companies before one finally agreed to work with Villasenor. Nine novels, his most famous being R​ain of Gold,​65 stories, and a memoir later Villasenor is an accomplished author as well as a vocal advocate for encouraging schools to “bring out the genius in themselves [teachers] and their students”. In his memoir, Burro Genius, Villasenor openly discusses his dyslexia, referring to it as his gift. Even though it was the root of many academic failures and  hardships, Villasenor still thinks of his dyslexia as an advantage that helped him in his successful career as an author.

Read more about Victor Villasenor and his dyslexia h​ere.​