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HomeBeef‘Dyslexia should not stop people from becoming authors’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘Dyslexia should not stop people from becoming authors’

Interview: Tom Pemberton 

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, catches up with 29-year-old Tom Pemberton, Lytham, Lancashire. They discuss writing his first book and how dyslexia should not be a barrier to a career in books.

CC: Since our last interview, what has been happening?

TP: So much has changed. I was incredibly excited when I was approached to host a TV show – The Fast and The Farmer-ish. It is a game show on BBC 3 which involves teams going head-to-head in tractor challenges. Everyone is so fun to work with – I love it!

As you can imagine, life on the farm is always evolving, so – as cheeky as it is to say – if you want to find out exactly what has happened, you will have to pick up a copy of my book…MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES: A YEAR ON THE FARM.

I was approached about the possibility of writing a book just over a year ago and thought – why not? Coming up with ideas was the fun part!

CC: What is the book about?

TP: Make Hay While the Sun Shines follows a year on our farm: I cover lambing, machinery, mucking out, planning, and building a brand-new cow shed, stories about my family, the animals – everything!

All the highs, lows, and hard graft of working on a busy dairy farm and all the forward planning that goes into ensuring our animals are as well looked after as they can possibly be.

My book, which Radar, an imprint of Octopus Books, published, is inspirational, honest, educational, optimistic, and joyful.

CC: Who are you aiming your book at? 

TP: Anyone with an interest in farming. It was surreal when I was tagged in some photos of school children dressed up as me for World Book Day this year, so I would love for young people and their parents to enjoy my book together.

I am also amazed at the thought of people around the world getting hold of a copy – on a recent YouTube video, people from North Carolina, Montreal, Ireland, and Tennessee had all commented to say they had pre-ordered.

That is pretty special. Overall, my aim is to celebrate British farming, and the thought of anyone connecting with what I do feels amazing.

CC: You have previously spoken about dyslexia – did this pose a challenge for you when writing the book?  

TP: Yes, as someone who struggles with reading and writing, the process did present as a challenge at times, but I was always keen to frame the challenge positively.

It was important that I could work with a ghost-writer who could adapt to my strengths – verbal communication and modern technology.

Nathan was amazing. We shared thousands of voice notes and did nearly all of the editing whilst on FaceTime. The process was hard but incredibly rewarding. I am really proud to say I have created a book.

My editor, Briony, and ghost-writer, Nathan, really helped shepherd the book through to publication. They have both been amazing to work with.

I was guided really well by my editor, so perhaps the only thing I would change would be fewer late nights, but perhaps it just comes with the territory!

My family have also been incredibly supportive – especially my dad, who has covered me multiple times when I need to take time away from the farm to focus on writing, editing, book signing, or taking part in events.

Without a doubt, dyslexia should not stop people from becoming authors. I was always in the bottom set in my English classes at secondary school. There were only ten of us, and I really struggled.

In writing this book, I hope to prove that it does not matter what set you are in at school.

It is about accepting the challenge, recognising your strengths, and rejecting the view that dyslexia should be a barrier to a career in books. As cheesy as it sounds, I do believe that if I can do it, anyone can.

CC: What would you say to people who feel that it can and it is preventing them from writing their own book?

TP: I believe it is all about how you frame things: if you approach a challenge like something that can be worked on and worked through, the process will open up to you in an exciting way.

To provide an example, I did not know much about social media before I started making a few videos, but I was open to trying, failing, and learning about it over time.

My channel grew, and I found myself loving it. This experience built me into the sort of person who likes to try new things. I would encourage anyone with dyslexia to try writing a book if they want to!

CC: What surprised you most about book-writing?

TP: I was surprised by how hard and time-consuming it really is to write a book. As a farmer, my days are very industrious, so it was a challenge to spend evenings working on the book after a long day.

But I kept telling myself that anything worth doing is not easy, which helped me focus.

CC: How many social media followers have you now?

TP: We have got over 400,000 followers on YouTube and over 100,000 followers on Instagram, which still feels crazy.

We have supportive viewers from all over America – Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota – the British Isles, Canada, and Ireland.

CC: Do you plan to visit Ireland anytime soon?

TP: Yes – filming for Season 2 of The Fast and The Farmer-ish is coming up soon, so I am excited to be back in Port Rush. I love Ireland. Everyone is always very welcoming, and it is a massive farming country, so there is always lots to talk about.

CC: What other plans have you in the pipeline for the months ahead?

TP: The cows are going out too tomorrow! Lots of farming, some more filming and getting ready for silage season. And we have our honeymoon to Mykonos booked for June.

Read some more Farmer Focus profiles.

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