Photo: peshkova/Adobe Stock
by Lauren Parker
I always loved writing stories when I was a child. It took me away from real life. In my stories I could be wherever I wanted, doing whatever made me happy.
I enjoyed it so much that I used to get in trouble for either writing over the word count assigned or writing rather than doing my schoolwork. I didn’t let this deter me though and the longer I wrote, the more my work improved.
But when I was taken into care aged 15, my writing became less frequent – and within a few months I’d stopped completely and lost interest in most of my hobbies. My mood had dropped and since I was no longer attending school, there was no one around who wanted to read my work. I did continue to read though – that kept me sane.
At the age of 21 though, five years after I left care, I rediscovered my love of writing. It happened when I read my foster care files and a fleeting thought told me my ‘life’ on paper sounded like a story.
That’s when I realised that my experience in foster care and everything that came with it could be useful, insightful, and helpful to children who had experience of foster care or professionals within the care system.
‘An outlet for me and a way of taking my power back’
In 2019, I decided I wanted to write a fiction book, so I wrote every day for six months and edited my manuscript until I felt it was perfect. I began following literary agents on Twitter to find out what types of books they were looking for and through an agent, I heard about Coram Voice, an organisation championing the rights of children in care and care leavers.
The tweet was about Voices, the annual national creative writing competition for children and young people in care and care leavers run by Coram Voice. I’d always been pushed aside and left out because of my care status – now it felt like I could use it as an opportunity.
For my competition entry, I decided to write a poem, something I’d never done before. I also chose to write about my experiences in a very raw and honest way as I knew there would be no judgement. Everyone entering the competition was either in or had been through the foster care system.
I submitted my poem and two months later, I received an email from Coram Voice. “Congratulations”, it read, “you have been shortlisted.” I couldn’t believe I had been selected as a finalist. Just like that, my confidence started to return. Writing about my life and its complexities felt more natural but most importantly, more rewarding.
I loved writing about my life because I could just write. I didn’t have to think of plot twists or ‘what happens next.’ I already knew. It was also an outlet for me and a way of taking my power back.
For years I had been ashamed of growing up in care and would try to protect myself by keeping it a secret. While hiding provided …….