Tracy Jones, a finalist in the creative non-fiction section of our ‘WAWA Love’ competition with her touching story entitled ‘Foster Carer’s Log’ based on an actual experience, has a flair for adventure - she spent nine years living in Azerbaijan.
Growing up in Kent and spending most of her adult life in south-east London, Tracy, 56, who studied for an MA in Creative Writing MA with the Open University, is a full-time foster carer, part-time book-keeper and enthusiastic writer who likes to focus on children’s stories.
“I’ve won a few competitions and had educational readers published for the Champion Reading Scheme,” she said proudly. “I love reading and in the days before Covid restrictions I enjoyed the odd trip to the theatre. And I never say no to a walk or a swim.”
Here is a Q&A we hosted with Tracy recently on her writing process.
Q: How did you learn about our writing competition and what made you enter it?
A: I’m pretty sure it was through ‘Writing Magazine.’ I try and enter competitions when I have the time and always take a look at the ones WM advertises. It's fun to work on short stories and there's something very welcoming about the ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ website, which is why I'm happily on your mailing list. I’ve entered the WAWA fiction and non-fiction competitions once before. I haven't been shortlisted before but I like to try and try again.
Q: How did the idea for your story emerge?
A: My husband Iain and I been fostering children for six years and my story is quite a mild example of what we actually experience. The story pretty much occurred as I've written it. My boy followed me upstairs and I just sat on the bed and just started to write the story as it unfolded. I wanted to appear disinterested by his antics, while really, I was watching him carefully. By the time he'd calmed down I'd written something between a log and a creative non-fiction piece.
You can now enter the fifth ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) competition on the theme of TIME.
As with all our competitions, there will be two separate categories: flash fiction and creative nonfiction.
Deadline for submissions: Thursday, March 31st, 2022.
Q: How many revisions did your story undergo before you were satisfied and over what period of time?
A: I wrote it in May 2019 and it was originally 1,400 words. When the WAWA competition came up about Love, I thought it could work. My only revision was a stringent editing process to reduce it to 500 words. My writing motto is to 'recycle/upcycle' work. Studying for an MA has helped me develop my editing skills and I know that generally cutting work down improves it, so I was happy when I had it ready to send off.
Q: What was the most difficult challenge for you in writing your story?
A: Funnily enough, the most challenging bit was writing about the 'emotions book.' I was about to submit it and realised I'd lifted sentences straight from the book. It was my favourite bit of the piece, but I had to find a way to convey what we were seeing and reading without quoting directly. Also, I find it hard to write about me and/or my husband. I wonder if people will criticise our parenting. But in this case, I tried not to overthink it.
Q: Did you have several titles for your story before you decided on the final one?
A: It was called ‘Foster Carer's Log’ from the very start. It's the name of the official document foster-carers have to write every day. It also reminds me of 'Captain's Log' from Star Trek, which makes me smile.
Q: How do you feel about being named a finalist out of hundreds of entries?
A: Thank you so much for choosing ‘Foster Carer's Log’ as one of the finalists. It's lovely to make the list and it feels special to have my story published on the WAWA website. It also gives me the confidence to write more about fostering, which is very important to me.
Foster Carer’s Log
by Tracy Jones
The high-pitched whine of our car reversing into the drive stops me typing mid-sentence. I store my laptop away before I go to the hallway. There are heavy thuds against the front door.
'Don't kick that please, Jack,' Dan says from outside. The thudding continues. I open the door and Jack, mid-kick, stumbles into the hall.
'Hello, sweetheart,' I say. Perhaps a little sentimental to a ten-year-old?
Jack’s fists are clenched, and he's puffing through tight lips. Behind him, Dan lifts up his broken glasses, another regular casualty of these rages. Jack stomps upstairs.
'I hate my fucking life.' He slams his bedroom door.
Dan and I talk in whispers. The playdate was going well until Jack lost it; dysregulated, the social workers like to say. Whatever, that's another friend off the dwindling list. Later I knock on Jack’s door. It opens a few inches. He's barricaded himself in, but he's calmer now and ready to come down for tea.
For a little while, we're like any other family sitting around the dinner table. Then the shame flicks on again. Without warning, Jack goes to the television and pulls it to the edge of the shelf.
'I'm going to smash it.’
We pretend to ignore him, and seconds later, he pushes it back in place. When we clear the table, Jack follows us into the kitchen. He's hovering around, opening cupboards and drawers, threatening to break things. I remove plates, glasses, anything sharp. I have to find some way to diffuse the situation, so I leave the kitchen.
He follows me upstairs, into my bedroom. I sit on the bed, pick up a book, and wait for his next move. He eyes the wardrobe.
'I can pull it down, you know?'
'Yes, you're very strong, Jack,' I say. My affirmation works, and his shoulders drop.
'It's God's fault. He made me like this.'
I blink back tears. Where does he even get that idea?
'Well, it's like you tell me, Jack, no one can make you do anything.' He flops onto the floor. He looks so vulnerable and lost. 'How about you get ready for bed and I read you a story?'
Later, he leans his head on my shoulder, and I open a large, hard-back book about emotions. Abstract, vibrant images swirl off the pages.
'Let's start with Anger,' I say. A fiery red image sparks and fizzes on the page.
'That's like me.’
His self-awareness disarms me. A few pages on, we come to the starry night sky of Acceptance.
‘Do you feel accepted Jack?'
He rolls his eyes. 'Yes, because you tell me you care all the time.'
Afterwards, I tuck him into bed, pick up his teddy bear, Cuddles, and make it dance like a marionette while I sing…badly. He snuggles under the quilt and closes his eyes. I kiss the top of his head and switch off the light. I know we need to talk about what happened today.
But it can wait until tomorrow.