"I'm going to write a book" I said.
Updated: Jun 23
After I wrote 'Free Drinks On Haymarket (which you can read here), I thought why not write a book about the rest of my childhood memoirs about living on the streets of London.
I knew I'd slept rough, begged and lived in some quite famous and scenic places such as Piccadilly Circus, and Green Park near the Ritz and Buckingham Palace and I couldn't help but think of an old A.A.Milne book I once picked up as a very young kid - which featured poems about homeless people sleeping on park benches and stuff.
After hearing some of my childhood story, a few of my friends mentioned that I should write a book and I did try a few times. But writing my book through poetry and featuring some of the more lighthearted and comedic moments helps not only give the book some balance, but as a care-leaver largely on my own in this world - it enabled me to actually finish the project with no breakdown midway. See, I know from past experience that I can effortless reel off a story to my mates about the time I was held up with a machete and locked in a flat, and the times I hadn't eaten or slept for many weeks at thirteen years old and was ignored by every single person that had passed me in London. But after thirty-three years on this planet, I've come to learn that a few days after reeling off one of these stories - I'll often mysteriously malfunction.
Sometimes it takes a while for me to realise I'd been talking about these things, but I'm more wise to it these days. I'd moved out of where I was living then with a handful of poems that I'd written on bits of paper, and had some peace and space to finish writing the book for a while. When it came to writing the poem about being kidnapped I had a back up plan to allow myself a few weeks off if I did malfunction.
But luckily I didn't malfunction and I carried on spending every spare moment writing Poems From a Runaway and speaking it to make sure that I thought it all flowed ok.
After telling my friends on Facebook about my book project, I was amazed at the fantastic support I received, especially within some of the people in my local community.
I'd managed to sell around thirty pre-orders of the first edition book which I self-published in two different ways. One version was published on Amazon and is print-on-demand so will always be in stock, and I also self-published colour versions of the book which I do at the printers and sell from the 'My Book' tab on this website.
Massive thanks to everyone in the community for helping with my camera so I could take some decent quality photos for the book and helping with my trip to London.
A few things went wrong along the way, and if it wasn't for the folk at Caffe Del Nino's in Cannock then my Poems From A Runaway signed pre-orders wouldn't have even been fulfilled. They really saved my skin at the last minute and anyhow are just fantastic people creating a real cool place to go in Staffordshire.
Whilst writing my book I'd tried to contact numerous publishers and literary agents book all I got back was "Oh we don't deal in poetry" and the poetry publishers weren't having it either. I knew I'd taken the risk of making my book too unique to fit neatly into any genre, but that's me, breaking the mold and paying the price lol.
I could try and write it all normally, but the truth is I'd probably never finish it. And plus, perhaps telling you my darker and harder-hitting stories really is better in light and poetic doses?
Before the book was fully written, I'd also emailed radio stations and TV news shows about a family I had met once whilst living on the streets. They were on holiday/vacation in London and had come from Plantation in Florida (I think maybe the husband was on a business trip and had taken the family along) but even though I can't remember exactly what the look like, I'll never forget this amazing family. WSVN 7 news in the United States got back in touch and did this great piece to help me find them. Thanks for sharing this video or my story to help find them (U never know) I would love to give them a copy of my book and a thank you note from me. You can read the full article from the WSVN page on the following link - https://wsvn.com/news/special-reports/runaway-reunion/
Or if you're not in the mood for reading, here's a video.
It was also with massive thanks to my friend Neil Paterson for the Poems From a Runaway book cover in which he did for me on really short notice. Neil Paterson is a talented musician and artist, his wife Lynn is also a talented artist - check out their website at lynniel.com
I had a lovely night at Nino's launching my book for the fist time ever, it was great to catch up with some friends as well as meet new people and hear some other talented creatives perform.
If you're in the Staffordshire area and looking for a pleasant place for an open-mic music or poetry evening or like to rock your socks off to an in-house DJ then definitely check out Caffe Del Nino's in Cannock. It really is lovely place.
So a book was born - and I actually sold about thirty copies. I'd found a few typos but it wasn't bad at all for a first edition. (The books I sell now are second editions)
My friends were loving it.
"This is gonna be great!" they said, "seriously you gotta write to some more publishers and literary agents" they said.
And so I continued, but still all I got was rejection letters. So I knew it was down to me.
I'm used to it, I've always felt a little outside of the click of things anyway - but after over a year of writing I wasn't going to let anything put me down.
If I was to have anyone read my book, then I knew that I was going to have to fight for it. So I researched on youtube what I should do, and it seemed I should get a twitter. So I signed up for that. More of my journey from this book -including my trip to European Parliament with Missing Children Europe and more - to come soon.
You can buy Poems From a Runaway on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poems-runaway-story-Ben-Westwood/dp/1981314350
Personally-signed, colour photo versions available on the 'My book' page of this site.
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