A large part of my childhood was spent in children’s homes and foster care. Thinking back, the adults I remember most were the ones who offered me consistency, gentle guidance and a chance to express myself creatively. Self-expression is so important because care institutions – however well-meaning – can at times be soulless rule-driven places. Some days I felt the walls close in so I withdrew into my imagination or took comfort in children’s stories. Books were always a reliable refuge; small doors into big worlds full of comforting themes and nurturing narratives.
Children, regardless of circumstance, often look for stability. They value love and caring support. I remember being driven in a minibus away from my primary school and watching my pals with their parents. Holding hands. Happy. Carefree. Parenthood, to me, is a wonderful life-affirming opportunity. A privilege too. I always wanted a family of my own. Becoming a father gave me a real purpose in life. Hopefully, I will inspire my child to find her feet in the world. To then take a big run up – and fly. As high and as far as she wants to go.
GetWriteIn! (2017) had high hopes too. It was an inspirational creative writing competition that sought to inspire looked after or care experienced children to write. It hoped to bring out their creative voice, and get them writing from their imagination or personal experience [on the theme of ‘Random Moments’].
An online post by Raymond Soltysek brought the competition to my attention. As soon as I read about its child-centred intentions I was motivated to write the organisers at CELCIS a note of support. I was delighted that such a valuable initiative was available. I loved writing as a child – still do – and it would have been a dream to enter something specifically tailored for someone like me.
Before long, the team at CELCIS invited me to attend the Get Write In! Winners’ Event. The stories presented that day were poignant, funny and thought provoking. As I read through an accompanying booklet, I was moved to tears by the power and honesty of each child’s story. These were truly unique voices – freed from labels – speaking passionately about random moments from their lives and imaginations. I sat alongside my wife and daughter and thought about my journey. My family. A wave of happiness flowed over me. Lucky man.
A short while after the Winners’ Event, I was invited by CELCIS, to run a creative writing session for some of the competition finalists. Supported by NATE & SATE, it was full of upbeat practical activities based on my zany Porridge the Tartan Cat books. The children who took part were quiet at first, but soon began to express themselves creatively. There was a lot of joining in, shouting out, silly wordplay and quirky problem solving. The bright, colourful location in Glasgow’s city centre really added to the upbeat atmosphere. The young writers who took part left with big smiles, happy to be valued for their considerable writing talents.
Looking back, I believe the GetWriteIn! (2017) competition was successful because it bypassed stereotypes, and reached out to a section of society that isn’t often heard. It offered care experienced children an opportunity to say something personal. I have a deep admiration for every young writer who took part. It takes courage to say something from the heart, in public.
I hope the prize winners will continue to write. Writing for pleasure is an important thing. Writing for other people can be a challenge. And I’m so glad the children were up for it, because what they wrote was inspiring.
About the ‘Porridge the Tartan Cat’ series:
In this funny, furry new series for young readers, Porridge PURRfectly CAT-a-logs the family’s hilarious adventures from a cat’s-eye perspective.
With wacky twists, zany wordplay and MOGnificent illustrations in every chapter, readers won’t even want to paws for breath.
Book Summary of my latest book: Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Unfair Funfair
In Unfair Funfair, sneaky Fangfair owner Fangus McFungus turns Roaring Ross into a Scarewolf to help him stink out Tattiebogle town & steal stuff while everyone is asleep. But Porridge has plans to save the day and turn Fangus into a silly Scaredy-Cat! Me-howl!
Reviewers have picked up on the engaging wordplay, positive energy and zany humour (see reviews below).
AUTHOR & BOOK INFO:
Here are some links to my www.alandapre.com website: bio, news, reviews, interviews). Also my Live Lit profile which sets out my published books, writing background & experience to date.