This article was written for IMO by foster carer and best-selling author Cathy Glass. She is happy to answer any questions you may have on writing – just drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a story you want to tell? If so, start writing. Begin with what is in your head and simply write. You can worry about grammar and spelling later, when you edit. Get down that first draft, which will be immediate, passionate, but very rough. Then polish and shine. Listen carefully to advice but don’t feel obliged to always take it. If you have the courage of your convictions others will too.
When I first started writing my fostering memoirs in 2007 it broke new ground. No one before had written about the often hidden and sometimes secretive world of fostering and the social services. My reason for writing was partly therapeutic, and also I wanted to raise awareness.
I’d previously written articles and short stories on issues that had moved me or about which I felt passionately. This was taken to a new level in Damaged, where I told the shocking story of Jodie, 8, the most abused and disturbed child I had ever looked after.
Because of Jodie’s behaviour, her high level of needs, and the dreadful things she disclosed, I lived and breathed Jodie for the year she was with me and for some years after. I couldn’t get Jodie or what she had been through out of my mind. I was not only overwhelmed by the appalling abuse she’d suffered at the hands of the very people who should have protected her, but I was also incensed by the system that had let her down and had allowed the abuse to go undetected for so long.
Now many people are writing their memoirs, including some working in child protection and survivors of abuse. But what makes these true-life stories of interest to so many? The answers can be found in the thousands of often very emotional comments posted on my website.
The public want to know what is going on in our society, and want something done to right the wrong:
Thank you for opening my eyes to all the bad things that go on behind closed doors.
I haven’t spoken out before, but after reading your book, I intend to.
One social worker wrote:
I am aware the system does not always look after all the children in the way that it should. I am returning to my fostering team on Monday and will be recommending your books to all of them.
Books are therapeutic:
Your books have me realise I am not a failure or a bad person.
True life stories help survivors of abuse:
I was abused by my father, however he managed to fool social services. Now I can finally put that to rest and speak out.
Your books gave me permission to allow the child in me to voice her sadness and I am now seeing a therapist. Thank you for the gift of words.