The story starts now and is written in chalk not ink. We’re changing the narrative.
There is a mountain of research on the healing power of reading and writing. Social Sciences have established that writing about what we are experiencing can reduce physical pain, decrease anxiety and depression and positively addresses a whole heap of PTSD symptoms. It’s a bit like mining for gold – what one person at YLYS called, the Brain dump – you write and re-write sifting the stones and sand from the river bed and keeping your eyes out for those pieces of gold.
There are many ways to write your story or a narrative. It doesn’t have to be memoir, autobiography or even a novel. It could be a comic novel, a series of short stories or poetry. I ran a workshop that looked at writing a letter and how authors had used this literary device to record and tell their stories. What we tried to do with this mini literary celebration was to give tasters of how people could write their story or a story.
Organised by Amanda Knowles, Trustee and Director of The Consortium for Therapeutic Communities. Amanda, was the child of a care experienced person. She was recently awarded the MBE for services to children. Having met this inspirational woman a few years ago and co-organised this and last year’s event; I fully understand why. Since she was 18, Amanda has given her working life to supporting young people in the care system. She continues to find ways to support those who are care experienced. And especially the forgotten generations, those older #CEP’s, some of whom are struggling to this day with the unwanted inheritance of the system.
“The first Your Life Your Story writing event took place during Care Leavers Week October 2017, it was attended by 14 care-experienced adults with an age range from 18-59. Pens were poised, stories told, tears and laughter shared, and songs were written but above all, it was the sense of acceptance and belonging that emerged through relationships that lived on after the event that nurtured the will for the event to live on and grow. Your Life Your Story is now a three-day literary festival bringing care experienced adults and caregivers together with published authors, poets and artists to find their voice through the techniques of story-telling. Whether writing for cathartic reasons, for the record or to become published Your Life Your Story is a living learning experience that unleashes the power of relationships and the untold story. As we gathered for Your Life Year Story 2018 the sight of old faces felt reassuringly comforting, like a family reunion anticipating the arrival of new relatives, a new chapter to be written for the next generation.” – Amanda Knowles
This year we felt that YLYS had transmogrified into itself. We had amazing workshops from amazing creatives:
Louise Walwein, Care Experienced Poet ran a fabulous poetry workshop.
Una, Graphic Novelist set us up to draw our stories and create some zines.
Clare Fisher, author of All the Good Things spoke creating convincing characters and how she wrote about the care experienced character in her novel.
Dr Josie Pearse, Care Experienced Writer, questioned whose story was it anyway and invited us to create an environment and invite those who help us with our writing.
“As a workshop leader for YLYS, I was so moved by the open hearted sharing of stories that I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep a clear head. But I learned that when my heart is engaged, my head works fine thank you! I had a feeling of real inclusion within the group.” – Dr Josie Pearse
And not forgetting the lovely Kit de Waal, who donated copies of My Name is Leon.
It’s not just that the YLYS event teaches creative writing skills, it is much more than that. I’ll let some of the attendees tell you themselves:
Saira, one of this year’s attendees, recently had a 75 word story published on Paragraph Planet.
“I have always felt that I’m living at the edge of my comfort zone…that I don’t belong, that I somehow never quite fit; the awkward jigsaw piece you have to force into position. YLYS was a personal challenge to me but one I thoroughly enjoyed…I felt like I could just be me… no mask or self censorship…instant connections were made with amazing people….I think I’ve found my tribe.” Saira-Jayne Jones
Dave, who attended last year and returned to give a talk about his journey, has just published his auto-fiction, Oi You F*cker which is now available on Amazon.
“An emotional and supportive meeting of minds, where the intrinsic value of shared experiences became a focal point around which we could all rally.” David L. Jackson
Tamsin, had two of her poems, I AM and Medicine Man, published by Joelle Taylor on The Night Alphabet.
“Your Life Your Story, has been an absolute God send for me. I have always spent my adult life trying to empower younger care leavers to get their voices heard. I didn’t realise I had forgotten my own voice needed to be heard. This has given me an amazing opportunity to do just that tell MY story and be heard. Fabulous.” Tasmin Trevorrow
Yusuf, has been touring with his exhibition ‘No Colours for my Coat’, that shows his poetry and artwork – hidden – until he was encouraged by the #CEP community attending the event, to show his stuff.
“Homely, a warm blanket wrapped around you, a safe place…That’s how it feels when you’re surrounded with people who ‘get you’ or have similar life experiences. Knowing you’re not being judged allows time to be used creatively and it poured out in abundance. All contributions and those who joined our group gifted their experiences, knowledge, their hints, tips and we as a group and individually discovered abilities that may have lay dormant. With confidence comes belief and there was a sense of this by the end of the workshop cumulating with a wonderful presentation to a wider audience. Me, I walked away rejuvenated and even more convinced that opening the door to the creative world was the right choice for me.“ Yusuf Paul
It was Mel’s first time at YLYS and naturally she was apprehensive about attending:
‘This course was invaluable. Not only did I learn some great writing techniques in the workshops, I got to connect with a lovely group of people who I felt completely at ease with and who really felt like kindred spirits. It was so thoughtfully put together. I also don’t think I’ve laughed and cried so much in one week, ever. Mel Fraser
David is a practising poet, and spends his life looking after those less fortunate than himself and doing a breakfast club for anyone who needs it:
‘An experience of meeting people of such resilience….defenders of oppressed…my heart broke and mended in many waves . eyes opened ..it was humbling….and uplifting ..an emotional explosion.’ David Derbyshire
We’re fundraising for 2019, part of #CareExpWeek #NCLW. If you’d like to help fund this event donate here, or if you are care experienced or a care giver and want to attend in 2019, contact Amanda: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the books/references I used in no particular order:
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
The Mountain in My Shoe by Louise Beech (2016
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (2017)
The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (1873)
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (1912)
Anne Frank’s Diary (1947)
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (1983)
“Girl” a short story written by Jamaica Kincaid, from Bottom of the River (1983).
Flash Dogs – Each day they post a prompt on Twitter. Respond to the prompt with a story, the prompt name and #VSS365