- What’s on
When Lúcia Allamandi Schwenker had freshly turned sixteen, her parents brought her and her younger sister to (the ever so alluring, safe and full of gringo opportunities) Adelaide from Vinhedo, in the countryside of São Paulo, Brasil.
Fast forward a decade and a half of mental health and identity issues, and Lúcia is a loud Italo Brazilian feminist and cats and crafts enthusiast living on Kaurna Country.
Lúcia is the winner of the 2022 mindshare Creative Writing Unpublished Writing award for ‘The Face Of Stillbirth’. *Trigger Warning: This piece of writing contains descriptive content regarding stillbirth*
What does this win for your writing mean to you?
It means being heard, it means validation.
It means that my voice as a Latina woman matters, as Brazilian, as mixed race, my voice as an immigrant matters.
My voice as an indigenous ally matters.
My voice as a twice over childless mother matters.
What inspired your winning work?
My darling sons, the boys I won’t get to see grow up.
My winning story is about Paçoca, the baby nature took from me on his fifth month gestation but unfortunately this was only the tip of my tragedy (and inspiration): the month before I lost Paçoca, my Foster son, a wonderfully perfect Bundjalung baby boy I cared for from his birth, had left my care in most traumatic of circumstances.
My writing is for them.
What drives you to write?
My drive is that of change: I first started writing as a letter to my Members of Parliament about the horrors I was seeing as a Foster mother, about the nightmare that is the Department of Child Protection and the Fostering System in Australia, begging them for change.
I received no useful responses, but I kept writing.
How do you incorporate writing into the rest of your life?
Today, writing is how I grieve. I write when sadness and anger and hopelessness are so much they incapacitate me.
Through my writing I cry words.
I’m no longer in contact with the Foster son I raised from birth until his first birthday, so I write to him letters he’ll likely never read.
I tell him memories of our family then, how much happiness he brought us, how much love we have and will always have for him.
Which other writers have inspired or influenced your work?
I grew up with Brazilian greats: Jorge Amado, José Saramago, Machado de Assis.
Lately I’ve been reading authors with the same hunger for change I see in myself: Clementine Ford, Neela Janakiramanan and most recently the beautifully crafted, anger inducing picture of the Australian Foster system painted by the talented Jennifer Down in ‘Bodies of Light’.
Have you faced any barriers establishing yourself as a writer, and if yes, how have you overcome them?
Yes, Language… I’ve always loved writing in my native Portuguese, but only started writing in English last year.
My most patient, loving husband read distressing paragraphs again and again to help me, reliving the trauma we faced together over and over.
His parents, my dear sogros (Portuguese for in-laws) went to great length to encourage me, providing feedback, correcting my grammar and those damn phrasal verbs I never seem to get right.
What are you hoping to achieve with your writing?
I want my writing to lead to change.
Better care and choice for mothers who birth their babies sleeping, better follow up assistance. I want to be a voice for the sorrow no mother should have to live through.
I have finalised a book proposal about my experience with the Department for Child Protection, how they have failed me as a carer, failed my Foster son in their care, failed his biological parents. The lack of respect and empathy I witnessed the Department treat all of us with. I want my writing to be one drop in an ocean that it will take for the Fostering System to be completely re written.
What advice would you give other writers who are just starting out?
You need to believe in yourself because no one else will.
Read our interview with another mindshare Creative Writing 2022 award winner Isaac here.