Tuesday, September 29, 2009

my motivation? put it down, so I can let it go

This essay is called Form 4885, which I wrote while filling out forms to request my case records from my time in foster care. A version of this will soon be published in Flux: Life after Foster Care.


Form 4885. Submit to Family and Protective Services, Legal Unit, Austin, Texas. Note, the one-page, request for records reads, Videotapes of abuse victims cannot be released.

Unless a clacking, grinding Polaroid counts, I don't recall any videotaping. What I do recall is sitting with a social worker in her crowded mess of an office, and on the round Formica table, squeezed in beside her desk, I saw the edge of a picture peeking out of a folder. A mostly naked picture of me.

Form 4885 doesn't mention pictures, but I want copies of those too. My record dates back 29 years, and I'm told that such an old record, if it still exists, will be in micro-fiche form. So pictures, if they exist, will be grainy black and white reproductions. Bruises in shades of gray, instead of deep purples fading into blue, green and iridescent yellow.

Form 4885 requires the Approximate time period for events- and I want the entire record. 1980 through 1990 is what I write on the form. When I think about Form 4885, the form which will result in records, the records that will surely arrive in a file box or possibly three, my throat tightens. Sometimes it threatens to close. I want the records, but I don't want the records. I want the answers, but the answers will result in more questions. More questions and more anger.

One question hovers, the badge-of-honor question. How many placements did I have? Or is it, how many times did I move? One foster mother told me that she counted 21. OK. But 21 what? I know that the foster homes, emergency shelters, adoptive homes, kinship care, respite care, hospital stay, residential treatment center and the group home all count. But somehow I lost count.

Questions aside, I want a chronology of my life. I want to put it down so I can let it go. I'm driven to share it, the all of it, just as I'm driven towards Form 4885. The form which will render a box, a box full of what many other people have written. The box of the gospel according to Patricia, or Karen or the blond woman whose husband died of brain cancer, or Ernestine the Catholic, or the quiet, dark-haired guy that took me out for ice cream in his brown, beat-up, two-door truck, or Judy - who I still know to this day. I remember the names of four social workers. I remember the actions of more. Their notes add up to their truth. I have the gospel of me.

Leigh Ecke, alumna, age 36, CO, 9 years in care

Monday, September 28, 2009

my goal? a shitty first draft

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft."
-Anne Lamott

It's that simple. My goal is a shitty first draft. One year from now, a shitty first draft.

what I have so far:
1. a title- Foster Princess
2. a solid outline
3. old material-scenes and some exposition, spanning all time periods and placements in my life; I'm now organizing this material into the new structure.
4. concepts and beginnings of two parallel art projects to help understand and organize the chaos- as I go.
5. external structure- a writing class starting in two weeks: which means deadlines (https://lighthousewriters.org/workshop/detail/id/251/), and this blog
6. two short term goals- draft one chapter by Oct 13th, the first day of my upcoming class and blog twice a week.
7. a mid-range project goal- one year from now (September 29, 2010) a shitty first draft of Foster Princess.

There are plenty of things I don't have (like my case records, requested from two entities almost three years ago). But I don't want to focus on that yet.

This blog is the making of Foster Princess from the inside out.
This blog is my boss, insofar as goals made public.
This blog is my antidote to perfectionism, just one of the obstacles between me and my shitty first draft.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

to write, one must read

so what am I reading? heh.

in the midst of:
1. Wonder Boys / Michael Chabon
2. Thing's I've Been Silent About/ Asar Nafisi
3. Don't Sleep, There are Snakes- Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle/ Daniel L. Everett
4. The Writer's Journey/ Christopher Vogler
5. Misty of Chincoteague/ Marguerite Henry (childhood favorite)

Last night I finished:
6. A Little Princess/Frances Hodgson Burnett (childhood favorite)

In the queue:
7. Living to Tell the Tale/Jane Taylor McDonnell
8. Angela's Ashes/ Frank McCourt (time for a reread)
9. Waiting for Snow in Havana/ Carlos Eire
10. The Boxcar Children/Gertrude Chandler Warner (a weird graphic version)
11. The Secret Garden /Frances Hodgson Burnett

What are you reading?

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