On 24th May I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on our local Cheshire radio station, Silk 106.9. This was not only to promote my book, but more importantly to highlight “Foster care fortnight” which takes place during the last 2 weeks in May.
These two weeks are designed to showcase fostering and to recruit new foster carers, because we need 10,000 more places in this country, in order to give a home to each of our vulnerable children.
In the interview I talked about how I became involved in fostering, how it had enriched my life, and some of the pitfalls. I speak of the rewarding experience and how the book takes you on a journey through sadness, joy, anger and frustration at a system which is overstretched.
Here is a link to the interview
I am delighted to announce that I have had my first book review of “Part of the Family”.
John has spent many years teaching special needs children, and therefore has a natural interest in the subject matter. He says:-
“I’m finding Jan Garsden’s book very moving. As someone who hasn’t fostered but through my special education career and subsequent volunteering with families on the cusp of children being removed I have some understanding of the fostering world.
I finished the book last night. I found it captivating. To have a book containing sadness and joy in equal measure makes it very special. Good on you both for your compassion towards those vulnerable youngsters.”
Thank you John very much for your review. I am keen for anyone who has read the book to review it, as I welcome other people’s views.
Jan and I are delighted to announce not only our first book sale (even before publication date) but also that a local independent book shop are willing to be an outlet for sales. They are called the High Peak Bookstore. They are an excellent stockist and have won awards. They also have a cafe – so it is a lovely place to visit close to Buxton on the Ashbourne Road.
I just spoke to Louisa who supports local authors. She explained that there are hundreds of locals who publish books (I had no idea) but that if we delivered some stock she would put the book in her “local authors” section.
As we are from Macclesfield we count as local even though we are just over the hill in a different county.
Louisa was so helpful on the phone and very open to any sort of promotion we wanted to do. Such a helpful attitude from an independent retailer. I am sure that we wouldn’t have got the same reception from a large multiple, but there again, I could be wrong.
I did tell her, however, that we knew all about her bookshop and had visited it before. In fact my wife liked it so much that she pointed it out to me once, on the way past.
Even better news – they are planning a local author’s Spring Fair next year, which we are invited to. I am sure we will take part.
Let’s hope that we sell our 2nd copy soon!
We are incredibly excited that my wife’s new book, “Part of the Family” is due to be published in 5 days. I can do no better than use the summary drafted by our erstwhile publisher Austin MaCauley
An inspiring story of one family’s journey through the British care system, from the point of view of a foster carer. It tells of the funny, challenging, and often harrowing times of living life in an ever-changing household of temporary children.
Steering a course through the muddy waters of the care system has provided many obstacles but has overall proved to be a rewarding and heart-warming experience for the author.
Children who find themselves removed from their birth families are thrust into a system which, although trying its best, is so often lacking in the love and good quality nurturing they deserve.
As a society, we need to look at the way we deal with vulnerable children.Austin MaCauley Website
Our publishers have also summarised very well my wife, the author:-
Although this is Jan’s first book, her story is both powerful and moving. She was first a model and a beauty queen, then an air hostess, and finally an interior designer. She and her family decided to “give something back” and began fostering in 2007. The following 10 years were a rollercoaster of emotions, including anger, frustration, sadness, joy, elation, and humour, but the idea of helping children was at the core of their beliefs. Jan made notes throughout her fostering career in order to remember the individuals who touched her life.
Jan lives on a farm in the beautiful Cheshire countryside.
I’ve spent a wonderful day today looking out onto a beautiful Welsh coastline, and I wonder again why any of us bother to travel the world in search of a perfect holiday location.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit beaches in Florida and the Caribbean, Thailand, Bali, Mauritius, Vietnam, The Greek islands, the Middle East and much of the Mediterranean coastline. All of these places are wonderful, often with exquisite beaches of soft, white, sugar-like sand. They also boast azure blue waters, which are clear, warm and calm, and perfect for swimming and diving. Unfortunately they are all quite far away and require much planning in order to visit them.
Yet there is something wholesome about a British beach, with it’s traditions and familiarities that I find alluring, especially on a sunny day, like today. Looking out from the deck of our static caravan in Anglesey, North Wales, I see children digging in the sand, dogs chasing the surf and teenagers riding body boards. There are a variety of boats too, from tiny 2- man dinghys to large RIBs, fishing boats and small sailing boats. Everyone is enjoying the day and I can hear laughter and children shrieking with delight, whilst ice creams are melting, sandwiches are wilting, and dads are banging the posts of reluctant windbreaks into the soft sand.
What is absent however, are the endless lines of sun loungers, regimented and perfectly aligned with the shore. There are often multiple vendors selling all manner of products from fake designer watches to colourful sarongs and jewellery made of shells. Whilst I enjoy buying some of these souvenirs, in the hope of supplementing the local economy, I soon tire of the endless sales patter and intrusions into my relaxation.
I’m also thankful that today I did not need to arrive at an airport at 5 am, stand in long queues of tired and bewildered passengers, haul luggage across vast expanses of tiled flooring and then face the dreaded security line. I never understand why sometimes I’m asked to remove my shoes, belt, sunglasses, coat, cardigan, phone, watch and kindle, and other times I’m not. We stand in the queue, watching the passengers ahead of us and passing on tips to our friends that it’s “shoes and watches off’, or “jackets on”. There seems to be no standard protocol for this area of the airport, it’s feels like a bit of a lottery. Then when I’m finally squashed into a seat fit for a pigmy I have to hope that by the time the food trolley reaches me they still have a vegetarian option to offer. The plane which we were so eager to board earlier has lost it’s shine now and we are desperate to get off. We can’t wait to retrieve our squashed hand luggage and push our way to the luggage carousel and play Russian roulette with our ankles, or someone else’s.
I really do understand that for many of us it’s all about the weather, and I tend to agree. Sunshine is often in short supply and many a British holiday has been ruined by heavy rains and manic winds. I get that, and I’m no stranger to a tropical beach and a strange looking cocktail myself, but some of the time It’s just too much hassle. I like the fact also that everyone speaks to me in English, I’m not likely to catch rabies and I don’t need to re-set my watch, twice. The ice is safe to consume and It’s improbable that I’ll get a dicky tummy, or an ear infection from a dodgy pool.
Having said all of the above my next holiday, booked for next January, is to Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Hong Kong. I do have a bucket list to get through and I want to see the world, however difficult that may be. The first destination on my list however is Belfast, a city which houses the “Titanic museum” and is travelling distance to the “Giant’s Causeway”, two of my must-do places to see before I die. For the rest of this summer though I intend to spend as much time as possible on “Sandy beach” in Anglesey, enjoying the company of my family.
The idea of writing a book has always being there on a kind of dynamic bucket list. It has sat alongside many other silly ideas such as learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument and walking the great wall of china. I doubt that most of the list will become a reality, but the idea of actually writing a book began to take shape when I stopped fostering and went through my old notes.
Whilst fostering for the local authority we were encouraged to keep diaries, make notes in the “blue books” [ a record of daily events which travelled from place to place with the child] and fill in numerous forms during each child’s stay. I also came across all the payslips, in a neat ordered bundle, so that I had the names and dates of each child we had cared for.
I also kept various notebooks about the funny things the children said. I’d always intended to do this with my own girls, but never quite found the time to do so. It was these notebooks which drew my attention, 5 years ago, and I decided to reproduce the notes so that I had a record of all the times that we had laughed at the funny incidents. I wanted to preserve the memories for myself and also for my daughters who may ask about the many fostered children later on in life.
I began to write about our first foster child and weave the story together to make it more interesting. Soon after I forgot all about the notes because our older daughter, Lexi, became pregnant and subsequently we had 2 beautiful grand-daughters and a big wedding, all in the space of 3 years. I settled into the life of being a grandma, which I loved, and the notes were forgotten.
Last summer however in May 2018, I fled to our caravan in Anglesey, following a big row with Peter, my husband. I was upset and wanted to be alone to lick my wounds. I took with me my notebooks, thinking that I might take the time to look through them again.
As you may remember it was a hot and sunny summer and I spent lazy days gazing out at the sea and sand and clearing my mind. It’s amazing how the changing conditions can change your mood. On days when the sea was calm it looked turquoise and tranquil, and the sand was golden and smooth. I imagined a quiet orchestra playing gentle music in the background, enabling gentle thoughts and feelings to flow from my mind and onto the page.
On the days when the sea was rough and the waves were crashing and boiling I felt more anger and the desperate need to right the many wrongs that I had encountered. The sound track in my mind was crashing cymbals and percussion instruments. I began to write furiously as the different moods affected me. There are few distractions at the caravan, there is no dishwasher or washing machine to beep and announce that it’s finished it’s programme, no landline to ring incessantly with people selling me PPI or double glazing, and no one knocking at the front door to ask for directions or convert me to their religion. I am sitting here again today, glancing at the tide making its journey towards the shore, slowly concealing the rocks in the middle of the bay, which we call “crab and lobster”.
The stories began to take shape as I remembered the children and the various incidents of the previous 10 years. There was no coherent structure, I simply wrote thoughts as they came to me, and sorted them into sections, or chapters, later on.
In all I probably spent 5 months putting my thoughts together, but didn’t know what to do next, so the stories sat on my laptop, recorded but homeless. It was Christmas last year when my daughter’s boyfriend’s mum asked about the fostering we’d done and I mentioned my “stories”. She said that she knew a publisher who might look at it for me, I took his details and many weeks went by before I summoned the courage to contact him.
I finally sent Gareth some of the stories and he said that he was impressed and thought that people would be interested in reading them. I went across the country to meet with him and the idea of publishing a book became tangible. I feel like a bit of a cheat because I’m not a “real” author. My studies of ‘A’ level English were well over forty years ago, and I don’t know how I got to the threshold of publishing a real book. Let’s see what happens.