Here's why Poems From a Runaway is more than just a poetry book



Why Poems From a Runaway  is more than just a poetry book.



By Ben Westwood
Former Runaway and London street-kid.



So in 2016, at the age of 32, I started writing Poems From a Runaway, which is my childhood story of being a runaway from 10 years old.
In it I share 60 stories, some quite long, of how I went missing for weeks on end as a ten year old boy before going into the care system.

It’s written in timeline form in an attempt to grip the reader, and although it hasn’t been read by a lot of people yet, I’ve been told it works, with most saying they have found the book very easy to read, and even harder to put down!


A (very) brief breakdown of the younger me.

Just before I turned 12 years old, whilst living in my third foster home, I boarded a train and travelled 125 miles into London.

From there I lived in London’s East End, being taken under the wing of a 13 year old runaway called Joanne that had got into hard drugs and prostitution.
I was befriended by a lot of the homeless street characters whom I write about in my book.

Just before I turned 13 I was befriended by a guy in a homeless day centre, before being held up with a machete and locked in a flat before managing to escape.
I then went on to sleep rough in central London whilst constantly being caught and then running back off to London.
I write in my book how for six months I stayed undetected in an area I was known to be in by using a fake name and fake cockney (east London) accent.

By the age of 13 and a half, I was living as if I was a homeless adult, and knew how to pass the police radio checks. I was getting served for cigarettes and alcohol easily because I looked homeless, often with a rucksack and a sleeping bag poking out.
I also made a few friends and acquaintances that I also write about in my book, as well as those that didn’t have the best intentions for me.

In my book, I explain how I survived on the streets, and what it was like during the hard times when luck didn’t go my way and I hadn’t eaten or slept for weeks on end.
As well as my journey through the care system after living in numerous foster placements and children’s homes (most I write about in the book) , I explain why I was always getting arrested whilst living at home but never whilst I was away missing and how this led to me having a short spell in young offenders institute at the age of 16.


Poems From a Runaway – The journey so far.


Having no experience with book writing or publishing before, I set out to write my childhood story in 2016 after writing my first poem ‘Free Drinks On Haymarket’ which is a memoir from when I was 13 years old after walking into a sports bar and getting free drinks after telling the barman I was a professional footballer, or soccer player to those over the other side of the pond.

After several crazy house shares and other life events, I was able to complete the book after dedicating almost every moment I had to it.
And of course there came a point where I had done so much, that it was near impossible to want to turn back.
So after around a year writing the book, at the end of 2017 Poems From a Runaway was born.

I was thankful that I’d share a few of the stories with my friends both online and offline, and to get the photography for the book done I was able to raise some funds through a crowdfunder.
I’d tried going the traditional publishing route, but I was finding it near impossible to find an agent - despite my friends telling me I had a great story that people would really want to read about. So I decided that I’d worked on it so hard that nothing was going to stop me getting it out there, so I decided to self-publish the book.

I was fortunate to have the owner of a lovely little cafĂ©/wine bar that play songs at the open-mic night at – to sponsor me in order to get my first load of books, which were 40 copies of Poems From a Runaway handed out locally. I’d then lent some money from a friend to get another 40 more at some point, as well as releasing the book on Amazon.


After sending literally thousands of emails, press releases and newsletter notices since then, I’m pleased to say some great stuff has come of it.

One of my poems is about a family from Plantation in Florida that took me in off the street whilst they were on holiday, and I was fortunate enough to have WSVN News attempt to find them via a news piece.
I am still trying to find the family to say thank you.

I was able to share my experiences on a blog post with the charity Missing People as well as being featured in Become magazine, a quarterly magazine for children in care.

On 8th may I shared some of my experiences with Radio 5 as well as a fundraising appeal for Missing People on Radio 4 – presented by actor Jason Watkins


In June it was an absolute pleasure and honour to be invited to speak about my experiences at a conference on runaways alongside the Children’s Rights Parliamentary intergroup and Missing Children Europe.

I then went on to do one of my favourite radio interviews to-date with Suzie Thorpe from Cambridge radio 105 where I was talking about my childhood as well as my upcoming talk and book reading event with social work students, lecturers and foster parents at Anglia Ruskin University in collaboration with To The Moon And Back Fostering.

The event went on to be a great success with social workers talking about it for some time after, as well as commenting on the day how they found my experiences and insights somewhat valuable to their roles working with young people from similar backgrounds as myself.

I then managed to raise enough money through a crowdfunding campaign to get more copies of the book printed and to supply some free for support services which can also be purchased from my blog.
However you can get print-on-demand version of the book much cheaper and faster from Amazon in paperback and ebook format.



So how many people have actually read Poems From a Runaway?

Less than 250 still by the time you're reading, and that's including free promotions and giveaways. I'd really like more people to discover it. 

It really is more than a poetry book, it’s a novel in poetry which guides the reader through all sorts of scenarios and emotions, from the shocking to the comedic, which makes it a really easy and gripping read.

I’m using all the sales patter now aren’t I, I know, I know.

Agents and bookshops alike have often snubbed me off…. “sorry we don’t deal with poetry or independently published books” they say.
I knew I had to do this myself.
And so I have.

But I need some help, because I know what my friends will tell you… that these agents and bookshops don’t know what they’re missing.
I know I could possibly sound a little deluded saying that, but I’ve confidence in this book enough to take that risk.






With not many people having yet read Poems From a Runaway,
is there anything people can do to help?


Yes please!

Here’s a few ideas, and if there’s one or two you’d like to help with, it would be a massive help to my project.


If you can afford it grab a copy and leave us a review.
Although I don't recommend this book for young children. I think it would make a great resource for young people in the care system from the ages of around 13 upwards, depending on the young persons exposure to life.
You can also read the book in digital format completely free between 11th-15th October by downloading the ebook from the amazon page.  

You can like my Facebook page, and for those with a few more spare moments – invite your friends to it.

For those on Twitter, you can start a conversation with me at @PoemsFaRunaway

Sharing any of my stuff on social media is always a massive help, so if there has been anything that particularly has taken your interest, please feel free to share it if you feel to as it really helps get the word out for me.

Feel free to contact me at BenWestwooduk@gmail.com if you have any questions or queries, or would like to discuss about collaborating on a project such as talks/events with those working with young people.



That’s it from me, I can’t spam the world forever.
Thanks ever so much for reading.


All the very best.

Ben Westwood.

(The underdog)



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