I've written a book!
Actually, to be honest, I’ve written another book. Because I am already a published author. In 2015, I wrote The Well, a dystopian story which became a Richard and Judy Pick and was translated into twelve languages. Then three years later, I wrote The Half Sister, another novel, this time a psychological thriller. But this book is different. This, if you like, is THE book because it’s the book I’ve been wanting to write for years and been avoiding writing for just as long. Now, for better for worse, I’ve gone and done it and on 14th June, 2022 it will be out there in the world for anyone to pick up and read.
But I can see now, the process has been just as important as the product. Maybe you also write from time to time? Bits of poetry. entries in journals, tweets...... If so, read on.
Although it might sound as though I just sat down and wrote a book, the truth is this book has been writing itself for a long time and in many different formats. It includes extracts from diaries and journals I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. Then there’s the poetry I wrote on the train, commuting in and out of London, recording all the fantasies and realities of the search for my birth mother; when I found her, I discovered she was a poet too, so some of her work is included as well. Our letters and emails to each other are reproduced, with no edits: authenticity, I began to realise, meant everything. Then there are the bleak, historical documents I found in my own records alongside the case notes I have written up for other children’s files.
Whether we are adopters, adoptees or birth family, parts of our story will have already been written by a dozen professionals, relatives, friends and strangers, in files, emails, on twitter or wherever we put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. So why shouldn't you create your own record and use writing as a way of understanding all that has gone on for you in the past and exploring how you are, right now?
A Child in the Middle tells the story of my search for my birth parents. It takes me, my adoptive family and my birth family and bashes them out in print over two hundred pages with a level of honesty, detail and examination which I would never even normally risk even in a heart to heart with my best friend, over a drink, well past midnight.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, it also takes reflections and experiences from my professional life and puts them under the microscope as well. They are all there – anonymised, of course – the stories of the vulnerable children and care experienced teenagers who I have supported during my thirty odd years working in PRUs, schools, social care, and units within the NHS for young people with significant mental health problems. Not to forget the time I spend sitting on Adoption Panel. That’s in there too.
It’s as though I needed to grab adoption by the scruff of the neck and shake it. Demand to know what it is, where it came from, what exactly it what it’s hoping to achieve and how. And why me.
The plot is pretty good, although I say it myself. Obviously, I’m big on storytelling, although it wasn’t long before I realised that fiction is easy because when the going gets tough, you can just make it up. You can pick and choose the characters, as well as choreographing the happy ending. Those of us who are adopted know that real life is not so obliging.
It's one thing to have written the book, quite another to publish it. I’ve never found it easy putting my work out there in the world for other people to analyse or criticise, so why I’ve taken this risk is beyond me. All I know is that I felt compelled to do it. Perhaps it is a way of saying, this is me, this is who I am. But the value of writing does not just lie in being published - or even read by others.
This whole process has got me thinking about how writing can help and how different sorts of writing help different people in different ways. Later in the year, in the Autumn, we hope Adoption Arena will be able to support those of you who want to write. We can support each other. No red ink, no circles round the missing full stops or spelling mistakes. Just a non-judgemental acceptance of every valuable attempt to put language around experiences which often feel beyond words - and through that, make sense of our world. Own it. Celebrate it, even with all its imperfections.
In the meantime, over the summer, I'll post again and give a bit of time to some questions. Like, when we write, who we are writing for? And why? What are the benefits? And what are the tripwires which can catch us unawares and bring us down? Just to get things started.
It’s not for everyone, this writing business, and I don’t mean publishing. When it comes to expressing ourselves or making sense of the world of adoption, some of us are good with weaving, music, dance, photography, art, sculpture – or in my case, playdough. But if you’re someone who feels the urge to write, then I hope these blog entries will interest you.
A Child in the Middle will be out in the world soon, so I may have a bit of advice on the pros and cons of publishing your life story. Because for better for worse, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve written my story.
www.linen-press.com/shop/a-child-in-the-middle/ Fine writing for women, by women