WMW Patrice Lawrence
You're listening to women. Making Waves Patrice Lawrence fuels. Were living in a world where writers of color are still represented. Patrice writes stories that reflect families. Who Don't have a voice or face in the world of books initially Patrice. Its debut book. Orange boy faced resistance for publishers. Never reluctance to present this new and different story. It was later shortlisted for the cost of Children's Book Award and won the Bookseller Waie Prize and waterstones prize. For older children's fiction but chase lawrence speaks to susie Thorp award-winning writer of stories for children and Young People Patrice Lawrence is charmed by London music. And Saifi she loves reading stories that confound stereotypes and feels very strongly about the need to mirror the diverse range of lives and experiences. She sees around every day in her own. Writing Hallo Patrice when did you discover Patrice? There were not enough representations of you in stories and to be honest. I never ever expected that I be in a story so I think for me to say you know. Did I ever expect to see myself represented like I dunno saying Patrice? You want to be a strawberry. Because if it just so random and Seville I should be there was born in the UK. And I grew up in the seventies and eighties in Sussex. Lot Books I read were as opposed to classic Books Secret Garden. Heidi wind in the willows Little women on those type of books and there were never any body that looked like me and also grew up in a family where my Stepdad's Italian? My Mum's Trinidadian were married. Everything about ourselves different so for me. It's an absolute impossibility serving the thing. The first time I thought that we could actually be burks as in UK. People of Color supposed to American. When I was thirty two and just had a baby is two weeks old. And it was December and I turned the Latifi and it was the BBC adaptation of Marie Blattman Picart boy and I've been writing for a long time but never put people in stories because I just saw which is in stories in on writing not not not on a page and suddenly Oh my goodness we could be an store opened for me. Yeah the idea that you discover something like this at the age of thirty two patrice. It's absolutely heartbreaking. Because you me we should all be reading books reflecting all of society. It's a loss to all of us really absolutely. I think we can find our world food books. 'cause we can find ourselves but also and it helps us develop our empathy knowledge or care in our kindness and one of the things. I grew up in a Sussex and the secondary school I went to. There's probably less than ten of us out of sixteen seventeen hundred who weren't white And I had a good time at school have good friends quack democratic but remember in the only thing we learned about People of African descent was that we were enslaved so nothing about how we fool not all and remember headmaster during an assembly about just Jones. The sprinter and it's a I almost hold of him and I just sat there in the middle of this assembly with all these little white students around may feeling so proud thinking that actually we do things we did achieve. So it's how you see. Your identity is seen to be powerful to others is important and I think we can do in books by making Audit People. Heroes and heroines. You brought up in a mixed race family. How important is it to recognize families? I mean all family news when trying to connect people to read for me that essential and when I do school talk talk about the fact that are all things that made me feel different and to subjugate made me feel lesser of all the things that made me a better writer so I've never lived in a family where we're all the same color so the first family. I lived in a foster family because my mom was the only one of her siblings family who came to England so she was the second youngest of twelve and she came from Trinidad to be a nurse and I met my biological father. Who'd come from Guyana with the ball up in Barbados and chance to be a nurse? And they were both sort of early twenties plight and sixties parties and suddenly. My mom is and it was just also just pre the Abortion Act surfing. My Dad wanted her to terminate the and she didn't want to so choices. Were really for me to be adopted as obsolete quite people my age were if that patients who are married but I was play if oster from the age of four months two full years with family employed who absolutely lovely sort of white working class firm. You really cared from Chile and then it went back to my mom who had wet my Italian Stepdad's and so then looked to plumbers from there and when I write my stories I always write about families often well it might be a family whether might be bereavement single-parent family or families of the new book where one characters the characters died and talking schools. It's so relatable to young people absolutely and to see that families are all shapes low colors and hope that place in Berks you're brilliant writing from different perspectives portrays. Do you think men have this ability to. I don't know I think it's interesting with orange. Boy I've got a really brutal writing and in first few drastic. Say Like no. Marlin is not a boy betrayed. The boy's name won't showers you know and it's like no just sounds like you. I actually had to do a lot of research and two things actually worked for me was just the basic thing of asking particularly my rightist grape who had teenage sons and offended teenage sons. We observed them think of it sounded royal and secondly was changed the story from third person to first person because originally it was a really close in a close point of view third person but by actually changing the first person. I could see through. Marlins is a sink how he would sit on the bus. I think how he would see how people project things onto him. I could really visualize and gets under his skin of research because I'm still writing not just a different gender but from a different age and you have grown up in London so did take a lot of research and I'm just lucky that I know people are willing to ask quite intimate questioned. What is so modern? It's also because I'm writing about a young black boy who gets involved in crime. The temptation is to people read stereotypes to read an archetype and so it was really important for me to make very much individual individual. So that's Geeky and Saifi. And he's clings to music is inherited from his dad was barely an indigo donor. I really wanted a really kind boy. Who's really comfortable with his kindness? Think so I think it was right in a bit of an archetype there. But you know besides reading your books other ways. Are you trying to reach people? Find Your books I think. That's one of the joys of the school visits and going into secondary schools which I do quite quite a lot. I was lucky enough this year to be part of the Hay Festival's scrupulous tour. So it's they work with five universities in Wales and schools. Kind calm when usually year eight nine or ten students the ones who wouldn't normally go to university and a that used to four to middle grade mixture to next week to young adult writers. So they see me. I'm blind can hamper through grew up working class environments so we could talk about our journey about how you know someone like me. You would never ever dream that mom would go into waterstone's insane it. That's my daughter and about everything that told me that I could be a writer. Made me a writer. I also secret weapon. Which is my teenage diary from. When I was thirteen is incredibly relatable even they cringe on my behalf and also talk another. Another sort of workshops took about different types of stories for instance. How Pixar uses favor and things like Toy Story and up to create in our sympathy for characters talk about Korean dramas which have fantastic in there. In episodes spoken word poetry how to some brilliant young spoken word poets who caught on video and took about things relatable to lots of young people that are kind of different ways that we can think about how words and stories can be used. You said that music is really important in your books and Saifi as well. How do you use it in? Your Books Patrice Fifi with more in in The the first Book in orange boy mainly because it was sort of an accident in that wrote the original power that might in course just from a variety informed and have no idea that was going to be a burke and are chosen models named simply because that was the name of boy my oldest class at school and then whatever it started lighting the burke thinking. Oh my gosh I am writing a black boy. That's getting involved crime. I want to explore that because there not a lot of knife crime in in can you live comic. This boy and a stereotype. Solar thought was like how would he get his name? Wow Marlon Brando. Superman died in a films. So if his dad was really into Saifi and my biological data's really inter- Isaac Asimov and Star Trek so kind of bought that over and the Matrix when I won the other two of it. So all of these things and music. I think is something that really combined us that sense of when you go to sort of live music everybody singing the same chorus so think music music from his mood as well so he has a lot of that shape mood and bring people together. All of what you've written safer really really Madison. It's not just becoming an author but it's all about changing perceptions as well. What do you can really see the difference. It makes when affect young people and sometimes adults who have experienced some of the issues that I talk about in the books and I think one of the things that took about when I do school visits is in my biological father who died when I was in mind when I was in my twenties. And he was in his forties and he'd have to a breakdown hit Been imprisoned for a month for just for forging a check but because these are nurse obviously can work and then he couldn't meant his petit and became sort of street homeless in Brighton and he died in a house. Five Squat and talk about this and I talk about it because I say that there's quite a lot vivement and lost in the books as well but I know that sometimes when you're holding things inside it's really hard to talk about bereavements and lost to other people because you're dealing with your own feelings in any have to deal with somebody else's reactions but actually you can find yourselves in berks symphony. It feels really big responsibility. About what books? And what young people see there and how they see themselves because even at a contemporary books and issues I deal with quite tough. I also want that to be hope because I just think. Young people are incredibly strong. Resilient as well. It's really interesting. What you say about responsibility and I suppose in light of what? We're going through right now with lockdown and reading about fake news to you. Try to focus your novels on true representation of society as opposed. Both books can be in a sense. I suppose it don't set out that way I start off with characters by also sat. Young People. I'm a bit that hope that important ingredient into go donuts. I had no idea what was going to light because at the to Brookdale but it was also a time when Foster children if they were living with foster care were supposed to leave the family when they were eighteen. And remember thinking is that my daughter's like fifteen sixteen really responsible when she's eighteen a time for celebration not saying now leaves the House and I think that made me incredibly angry so when I was writing about. Somebody's in foster care. I felt it really important for me to let what her truth. Were both feeding some message about what it's like to be in. That situation and I have had really good responses for young people care experienced who have actually seen themselves in a book version of themselves so I think as something that is incredible great responsibility. I mean the other thing I remember is when I saw as before the Internet at school. Weasley Book Club so leads to give looper bushes with books in there. And you'LL CIRCLE. Take it back to you. Your family and the two pound. Ninety-nine and by the book and one of the books we had was Gotten typically which was the book that BBC TV series Kizzie was based on and it was about a young Gypsy heritage woman who left the community went to mange mainstream school where she got bullied and it was the first book that was about racism and the First Book. I think worth are these things happen to other people. There's a word for it and you can put these things in Berks so hopefully you. So you know these books an inspiration for people who feel that. They don't see themselves but they can put themselves in books as well. How do you re-address realism and portray both real endings with real happy endings? As well as I said I do think hope so at the end I think it would be false to give marlins instance and automatic happy ending in Orangeburg. See the consequences. Nothing that's another thing. For a young adult there are consequences but also let be moments of in families come together. Friendships strengthen relationships are strengthened as well so I do want those who some hope and happiness there but actually there are consequences and quite often for characters. My books that consequences of older generations of Dan as well. Because I think there's a lot of blaming young people for thing virtually without the Internet and Dotty porn on the Internet. Like all your books. Orange boy has had fabulous reviews including comments like wonderful believable characters. It's gripping what has the response been from your the generation. I think what was interesting. Is I mean I had no idea? Public works accessories working full-time so for me. It was kind of on a side was writing and being up my daughter so I didn't focus on as much as I could have. So what was interesting was going to festivals. People saying that you know quite often boys don't read voiced by an orange buoy and signing until about their own writing. Am I did a tour in Italy in November for my Italian publishes and they had given copies of the Brooklyn Italian to school so we have lots of conversations about wherever London is really that dangerous about why Marlon does what he does and also conversations about what the differences around as your boy a white boy. You've engagement with the police even if you're not a criminal so that's has really sort of interesting conversations and my as my fear was that has been described occasionally as a book about gangs which really is not quite quite lazy. It's a book about families and Family Drama and a boy who's one of life's lovely people who gets drawn into something that he doesn't want to but actually southern find himself before Muniz other type of masculinity that actually feels quite liberating and powerful. Lots of so you know lots of themes to talk about. What obviously the Matrix and Star Trek? You begin to realize that h thirty two bringing up a young child that you couldn't see yourself being represented novels. Tv's and films. What was it like writing with a young baby at the start of your career? Starting that was actually the fundamental difference really. It's I never expected to see me. grew up in really whitear via so it was just kind of my norm. London. My daughter is isn't as a proper Londoner. I presume that libby. Lots of books picture. Books especially have mixed-race families because we're not that rare. I look at look and there'd be nothing and I was walking down. The southbound wants book by Ellen Stevens called. What about me picture cutlass cutlass on the cover of a drawing of is kind of big brown face curly hair and my nine month old baby coosa picture because she thought it was me and it just made me think that if even a baby see representation what how am. I doing to Mike Characters. But he's told me really long time to do it and I think that's really part of it also is I think the first of my generation to be born in the UK. I grew up in in West Sussex and I had no idea how to represent me because I think a lot of the other black characters I saw were often in areas that were predominately black. So beat up the soap opera thing empire. Oh that came on I think in the seventies and eighties and kind of didn't grow up those community so it was trying to work how who am I. What do I write about? That didn't seem such stereotype. So perhaps it's not coincidence. That had to live in London for many many years before those books got published in publish apart from starting to become an author at this stage. What were you working on as well? Besides this? I mean when I came to London and came as a mature student to gold from senator. Eight Green English and his Javert twenty seven and I thought. Listen to hemmer about to you. So how says which eventually sold and It was a time when you it was easy to get. Jobs started working in a voluntary sector which I didn't even know existed. So one of the first jobs was working as an advocate for new project in new that was supporting African and Asian parents. That's good through child protection. So it's done quite a lot of work with organizations to social justice and equality so worked with ortganizations that work with prisoners and families of places. And we've young people in care serve always been those type of jobs. I think what does to me is that was so many stories out there and that the stories and the rhetoric when we go back to fake news you know the idea that prisons are holiday Cambodia. So not and older alternative stories and boys. Don't get hurt on stories that don't get hurt a still swirling around us and I think a lot of those that ended up in in my books. What would you advise to a younger generation? If they are interested in writing right now I think I always thought of fame something really basic? They're actually to be writer. You don't need to spell. That's what technology is. There is therefore to be a writer. You don't have to put four hundred adjectives before now because that's not your voice that you can tell stories in so many different ways you can make lists. You can do mind maps. You can draw. You can do to highways you can record audio. I might get them the list of name. Some poets that they could look up on youtube or just to the most about just look at the stories and films look at how. Black Panther is like your perfect three extra show you know. Look at this series that you watch. How do they tell stories? Stories emerge in lots of different ways. Try a might something. It doesn't matter it doesn't have to be every day you don't have to finish it but just finally think of your own voice the writing that you have to do to pass. Nick isn't necessarily your voice. You have your own unique voice of think about how you can use that tell stories. I suppose to talk about criticism where they how would you teach young writers to take criticism when beginning to write without putting them off? I suppose I think for me is the slight APAs. They're saying what was interesting. Was that last year a judge the BBC alighted award. So it's one that's sort of the five hundred words so it's from. I think fourteen to eighteen the age category and as a judge Ruth you sent I think it's fifty pieces that were up to one thousand words and you had to choose your top fifteen or something like that. And what was I supposed about starting with some of them much older than me really really similar because of the way creative writing is taught in schools so to perfect. You know you have to have you adjective preferably some of them take from the source. It's all interchangeable and I think ones that will be like particularly were at young people did use their own voice and didn't necessarily but told a story that sounded like them and something that they really cared about. So I think is actually the way that we can enable young people. Say This is how you write to pass an exam but this is how you tell a story that's here and I think from primary school where they've been told you know this is. These are elements of a sentence to try and get people out. That is really hard. Okay Patrice so what is it like when you switch off? How do you switch off? Is there something really gives you a chance to remove yourself from the world of writing less the issue though? Come no honestly. It's not even a writing a minor. Things I talk about young people say why do right away writer. It's like those so many stories in my head all the time and every time I go out and you hear snippets of conversation. That's like another story. Saas kind of saying to an that once on a train quite early in the morning. That's going at Gibson. Let something like seven twenty four am trains to Sheffield. So it's getting the local overground standing. There could still looming crowded and this argument broke out between this woman who was sitting down on a sky who standing up and I think the guy son at a crisp packet on a on a chair or something the woman to come quite lightly but they were just behaving like toddlers shouting abuse to each other like ugly. You're old and I mean I'm just thinking. How much sugar did you have on your way? Take this time of morning. Let an argument. But secondly I'm just thinking hey what they know each other you know what if why we distracted looking at them like searching through our bags didn't technology everything is always a story so it's really hard to switch off so my my my thing at the moment. I'm always way behind the curve. So just watched all killing me but killed me for a moment. I just need to find ore includes the compulsive things to watch. That will help. We switch off for a while because other than that. It's like oh my gosh. That's another story that was susie talking to Patrice lawns. Do that was a really interesting interview. It must be really really good speaking to her. Yeah you're right. It was. It was really good to be able to talk with Patrice because she was very honest. A lot of the time in that interview as you would have heard. She said she's angry angry. That she doesn't see a lot of representation of people of Color in books and children's books and younger books so she it's it's her mission. It's her life to be able to do this. And I also obscene in in two years. Where if she has time to switch off from you just heard this. She said no she never switches off. This is this is what she loves doing. So it's an incredible thing really to have that focus. Just by saying there was not a lot of representation of herself in stories and films and TV that she felt she had to do for the sake of her daughter and for people as well just representing them. I do think susie that things are getting a lot better because you only have to look at television adverts to notice that the representation of different races it's much much better than it used to be absolutely it is. I think it's got a bit together. Lente Europe's right has it diggle but yeah. I think it's getting there. It is contract and it was great to have her talking with us on this lovely ice. You're listening to women making waves.