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Rough Draft of Chapter One

I’ve been a little absent partly because our summer is crazy and partly because I’m writing a Princess story…the main character being a girl adopted from Foster Care. Posting the first chapter since some of you indicated “more fiction!” in a way-back-when poll. Like it? Let me know. Hate it? Well…be nice, but feedback is feedback. 🙂

Wish I’d just go back to researching issues like Preventing Disruption and RAD? Feel free to let me know that, too!


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Photo Credit: kermitlab

(Abbreviated) Prologue

Everybody wants to be a princess.

Well, everyone who isn’t already a princess wants to be one.

It’s no picnic, let me tell you. Except for when guards shoo the villagers away and you see thirty beautiful people carrying baskets and blankets into the meadow circle…then, right, it’s a picnic.


Everybody thinks they want to be a princess, and I’ll admit there are many excellent reasons to enjoy princessdom. Princessing? Princesshood? Perks include having people sit and listen to you even when you get off track. Like now. My apologies.

But there are two sides to every coin, and consequences to every wish fulfilled.

Everyone wants to be a princess, and it seems logical, until you understand the Princess Problem.

And here it is: Someone always wants to kill you.

I should have listened to my grandfather.

Chapter One

I am so tired of that woman. She will not leave me alone.

I just want to have peace and quiet, but no. It’s bad enough that Mom puts her nose in my school business, calling my teachers, showing up for lunch without warning, bribing my friends with cookies so they’ll like her. But that’s not enough meddling in my life. Nope. She also makes me do work. Like I’m her slave or something. If I forget, she follows me around and nags..


“Chores are your duty as a citizen of this great land we call our household,” she tells me.


Chores. Ha. More like doing her job for her. Parents are supposed to take care of the house. Moms do the inside, dads take care of the lawn and the cars and all that. Or they hire someone. None of my friends have “chores.” So much for my childhood.


“You’re lucky, Colleen,” mom says. “Not every kid learns life skills. When you graduate, you’ll be able to survive on your own. I know you don’t appreciate it all, but chores are good for your character. Be thankful. Your life, even when you think it’s horrible, is someone else’s fairytale.”


“Fairytale, ha. Emily and Madison don’t have to learn life skills,” I complain.


She laughs. Laughs. Like it’s no big deal.


“Well, when they pull their first all-pink load of laundry out of the dryer in college, they’ll wish they did. In the meantime, you still need to clean the downstairs bathroom. People are coming over in three days, and you’ve left it a mess. And then sort your laundry so we can start a load for you. I’m asking you to clean up after yourself. It’s not like you’re Cinderella.”


Pink clothes? What does that even mean? And no, I’m not Cinderella. If only. I’d ride off with that prince and live in style.


My thirteenth birthday party is Saturday. I will be a TEENager. Almost eighteen. In just five more summers, I can be outta here. A few weeks ago, I said this out loud. Stupid me. She laughed then, too.  


“Wait,” she said, doubled over and gasping for air, “you’re killing me. Do you remember how long it’s been since you were eight years old?”


I sniffed. “That’s forever ago.”


“Exactly,” she said. By this time she was cackling, that annoying snorty laugh she does when she thinks something is really, really funny. “You are not almost eighteen. Trust me, five years is a long time. By the time you hit eighteen, thirteen will feel like ‘forever ago,’ too.”

I’m counting the days, believe me. One thousand, eight hundred twenty-nine, to be exact. In case you’re checking my math, don’t forget leap year.


I head downstairs to my bathroom. It’s actually the guest bathroom, but last year I sort of claimed it. Mom said it was fine as long as I clean it. And I do. Most of the time.


My twin brother Kevin and I used to share a bathroom. He’s completely gross. Leaving him in his filth was one of the best hygiene decisions I’ve ever made, right up there with deciding to wear deodorant. So he has to clean the upstairs bathroom himself. Now, if we could just get him to shower. With soap. Mom said he’ll start when he finally discovers girls. Like that will happen. He’s got his head so far inside his science books, he’s lucky he remembers to eat.
I wipe the toothpaste dots off the mirror. Mom always checks. She says “no one wants to see that.” I rub the chrome until it sparkles, then flick the rag across the counter. If the chrome is shiny, no one notices the rest. After I pour blue stuff in the toilet bowl, I figure the bathroom is good enough. It’s not like party guests are going to use the tub.

Should I post more, or are you bored? 😉

Feel free to provide editing notes. I can take it. 


Your Turn. Don’t be shy!


Photo Credit: Michael Brace


At dinner with an elderly friend, I asked, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” 

“Well,” she said, “my mother used to tell my brother, 

Want a good life? Keep your mouth shut and your pants zipped. 

and that’s probably the best advice I’ve ever heard from anyone.” 


I’m working hard on a writing project along with Lynn Love (check out her blog; it’s super) and some other fabulous writers through NaNoWriMo’s April “Camp.” I’d like to open this blog space to YOU today.

We have a bunch of new readers here, and all of you (long-time readers and new) have such great experience.

Please share below one of the following:

  • The best advice you’ve ever received.
  • The biggest thing you’ve learned on your own.
  • If you could have a do-over, what would happen?

And hey, if you want to share a link to your blog, please do.


P.S. Here’s the best advice I’ve heard in a while (look twice if you don’t see it right away):


A sign in the Insect Village at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Photo Credit: sea turtle


Camp NaNoWriMo

Who’s with me?? 🙂

Don’t forget to pack your flashlight and toilet paper*.

*Not for the outhouse. I plan on TP-ing at least 5 other cabins. You know you wanna do it, too.

P.S., I didn’t write the below–it’s the email they sent me, so you can sign up, too!


Camp NaNoWriMo Logo

This July, grab your gear, kick your inner-editor to the curb, and venture out into the wilds of your imagination. It’s time to track down your wandering muse.

Whether you’re a seasoned Camper here to take on another challenge, or a tentative first-timer looking for a place to pitch your tent, Camp NaNoWriMo is the perfect chance to see what you’re capable of when you have the time and space to create. Ready to go? Sign in right now (you can use your NaNoWriMo username and password!).


If you’re worried the trail has gone cold, here are a few reasons to seek out your writing project with Camp this July:

Tracking the muse is always safer in a group.

Camp NaNoWriMo offers 12-person online writing groups, which we call cabins. Meet other writers by being sorted into a cabin based on your age, genre, or goals.


Already have a cadre of fellow explorers? We’ve introduced private cabins.

Lure your muse with writing projects of any stripe (or spots).

Camp NaNoWriMo is open to all writing projects. Whether you’re editing a draft or tackling a script, poetry, or novel, Camp NaNoWriMo is the place to seek out those wily words. (We hear rhyming words are best lured with Sweethearts.)

Follow your muse at your own pace.

Camp NaNoWriMo lets you set your own word-count goal, from 10,000 words up to a million. Discover your creative habitat at a pace that works for you: sensing when the winds change, when night falls, and which watering holes your inspiration tends to frequent.

Step into your creative wilds with Camp NaNoWriMo this July. Find your muse. Sign up today.

NaNoWriMo is a year-round challenge to face that blank page and find the words that belong on it. Your story is out there. Let’s find it together.


Rebecca Stern

Director of Programs

Guess I’ll plan better next year…

So, I made it to 36,279. Not quite 50,000…but I somehow forgot to account for things like the kids getting croup, having a wolf chew on my shoulder and oh, right, Thanksgiving. I probably could have finished by sequestering myself through the last five days, but I only get to see my siblings and niece a couple times a year, so put the computer away in favor of family time.

Hubby announced this morning that today could be “Casey’s Day to be Depressed About Not Finishing NaNoWriMo” but tomorrow I have to get off my butt and keep writing.

Please excuse me; I have only two more hours to wallow in self-pity.

(Actually, I’ll be eating ice cream. Wallowing gets really boring after the first three minutes…)

Adoption = Reading

This is a reply I posted to an adoptive parent on Reddit whose child is having reading struggles. I realized it might be helpful to some of my WP readers. I apologize…I didn’t make it pretty (spare time is all going to NaNoWriMo this month). 

Our guy was reading at a pre-k level going into 2nd and at a K level at end of 2nd. Our girl was reading around 1st grade level in 2nd.

Here’s the nutshell of what worked for us: Everyone says to let your kids see you read, but I just don’t have time to sit down. Instead, I talk all the time about reading. “Books are awesome; you can find anything you want to know…” “Do you know what I read the other day?” They don’t see me reading, generally, but they know I do it. They also know that when I have my earbuds in, I’m listening to ‘one of Mama’s stories.'” Sometimes I download books (Bunnicula is a favorite, even for the adults) and we listen in the car.

Over the summer, we checked out books at the library. I let them pick whatever they wanted, five books each per week. She mostly got pink story books; he chose information (SHARKS!) books. They read out loud to me in the car anytime we went anywhere, at least one book per day–in the case of the info books, he had to read for 15 minutes, since some of those are loooooooong. They didn’t like it at first and said they were carsick, etc. (to which I said, “prove it and barf” and they said never mind…thank goodness…). After a while, they got used to it.

Our rules: When they come to a word they don’t know, they need to try it first, then they can spell it to me (since I’m driving). I then help them break up the word by 2-3-or 4-letter chunks. They still have to figure it out, but I help with weird words (“that ‘c’ says ‘ess'” or “that ‘K’ is silent”).

They gave me a LOT of pushback, crying, complaining, etc. for the first month. Finally it subsided, and now they (mostly) just do it. It took 8 months, I won’t lie…it’s not a quick process.

I was concerned that he would have trouble with the info books because the words were bigger (true) but because he picked topics HE cared about, there was motivation.

Getting them to read is all about letting them read what interests them, and reading out loud (in my opinion) is key. Otherwise, you don’t really know that a) they’re actually reading and b) they’re reading correctly. Captain Underpants is not my idea of a great role model, but our guy loves the books, so I allow them. (Of course, there’s a common sense piece, here…I probably should not have been allowed to read Flowers in the Attic when I was ten, but no one really regulated my reading.)

Consider getting audiobooks (along with the written books) and having him listen/read. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t perk up at hearing, “let me tell you a story. Long ago and far away…” Read to the whole family at dinner. I understand that mine are younger, but they still rolled their eyes when I pulled out my ancient copy of Little House on the Prairie. Three months in (I read maybe three pages on sporadic days), they say, “can you read tonight?”

After much struggle and continued practice, our guy returned to school this fall reading AT THIRD GRADE LEVEL. I have never been prouder, truly. (I’m not sure about our girl’s level because they didn’t give her the same test, but she definitely improved also).

I hope some of this works for you. I imagine it’s even harder when they’re older. I can tell you though, the “find their interest” thing works. Good luck!!!

NaNoWriMo Excerpt (fiction)

I’m a little behind, at 10,000 words. Here’s an excerpt from my work-in-progress. This is first-draft; I haven’t done any proofreading yet (just trying to beat the clock and hit 50.000). 

She rolls over to stare at the clock. She stares at bright red numbers, convinced the traitorous clock takes more than sixty seconds between minutes. Tomorrow she will move again. She saw the paperwork. No one thinks she can read, which is handy. “Mouthy, belligerent, oppositional.” She will look up the other two words in the dictionary when she can get to one. She knows what “mouthy” means. Probably the others mean she doesn’t “get on well with others,” which is what the last Foster Ma’am said. A lot of them like to be called Foster Mom, but she had a mom, and that didn’t turn out well. Foster Ma’am works best because most of the time they just think she’s being polite. Only one was smart enough to notice the derision in the word. She got slapped by that one. Fosters aren’t supposed to hit you, but if there’s no bruise and the adult denies it, no one believes a kid. “Everyone knows foster kids are liars and thieves. Why do you think you get moved so much?” She knows why she gets moved so much, and it’s not because she lies or steals. No one wants her because of her behavior. Fine with her. She’d rather kick and scream and find out they don’t want her right away. Better than getting attached, like her first house, and then being kicked out. She thought they were going to adopt her. They already had one adopted kid, and they kept her for a year and a half. Things weren’t perfect, and the boy was downright creepy, but things seemed fine with the parents.

Then the Ms. from Social Services showed up in that silver van and started packing her things into cardboard boxes. The Foster Ma’am helped, and even packed some pictures of their “family” so she could “remember” them. She turned in the van, holding onto the spongy top of the back seat. They smiled, waving as the Ms. drove her away. Were they happy to get rid of her? She thought they would be sad she was leaving, but they smiled. First her real mom, now these people. She would never get attached again. People just leave you.

She thinks of the girl at the playground. Laughing on the swings. Climbing on the monkey bars. Inviting her to play. She wonders if she will be there again. She would like a friend. She looks at the clock again. Three fours. She knows that each hour has triple numbers until the clock gets to six. For some reason, it never changes to three sixes, sevens, eights or nines. She will have to ask about that. She should probably know about time, but moving constantly makes it hard to learn. She stares at the ceiling and waits for the sun.


The girl is back. She feels a little thrill of excitement as she bounds across the playground. “Hi! I’m Megan. Do you want to play with me?” the girl asks. “Yes,” she says. “Want to go on the monkey bars?” The other girl—Megan—glances back at a tall man by the fence. He makes an encouraging motion, universally understood: go play. “Sure! And then maybe we can climb that tree over there. I’ve always wanted to climb a tree. There aren’t many trees where I came from.” “Where did you come from?” Megan tilts her head. “From South Dakota. I had a foster family that didn’t like me, but Roger does. I like Roger. He sorta rescued me.” She looks over at Roger. He looks nice enough. “Is he a foster parent?” Megan shrugs. “Something like that. Anyway he’s nice, so that’s all that matters. And the food is good. We always have great snacks, and sometimes we have ice cream. You should come visit sometime.” She looks at the Megan in awe. ”Like, come to your house to play?” The girl giggles. “Yeah. You can come play anytime. Roger can give you a ride.” She frowns. “I don’t think my Foster Ma’am will let me. She only brings me to the park because all her friends bring their kids here. She says I’m a ‘problem kid’ to her friends and they all feel sorry for her. I don’t think she’d even notice if I fell off the monkey bars.” Megan looks around. “Which one is yours?” “The one walking to the bathrooms. Over there.” Megan says, “Let’s go, then!”  “What, now? She’d kill me!” She backs up a step, tripping and landing in the warm brown mulch. “Look,” says Megan, “she didn’t even see you fall. She doesn’t care. Come with me.” Megan reaches down, pulling her up. “Let’s go.” She looks back and sees the truth. The foster lady isn’t watching her at all; the woman has her back to the playground and is laughing with some friends. Probably about me. She decides. “Okay.” She follows Megan out of the playground and through the trees.


NaNoWriMo…just a bit

Lindsey slipped an arm through Kate’s, then said with a huge smile, “I have something in my van that you need to see.”  Kate walked beside her, trying to guess whether they had acquired a new pup. Knowing Lindsey’s penchant for taking in strays, it could any number of other animals, and being June…it might be a fawn. A fawn would be phenomenal. Kate turned her head. “Is it,” she began, as Lindsey threw the doors open. “Look,” said Lindsey.

The fifteen passenger van was dark and cool. As her eyes adjusted, Kate saw. No pup. No fawn. Two very small children, undernourished and frightened. “Hi,” Kate waved quietly. The girl waved back, but the boy was very still. Kate heard a man’s deep voice behind her. “That’s your daughter.” She whirled around. No one was there.


So, I’m taking the NaNoWriMo challenge…I feel sort of weird about it, because this idea has been in my head for three years. Putting it on a page is like having a baby. I think. Since we adopted, it’s hard to make a definite comparison.  I’ll be attempting to write 50,000 words in a month, so my Adoption = posts might be fewer than usual. Here’s a snippet, in case you’re interested. (Ha, snippet. I’ve always wanted to say that.)

Detective Bo Franklin kicked a clod of loose dirt away from the edge of the site in frustration. It skittered across the frozen ground. They weren’t going to get anywhere in this weather. It hadn’t dropped below fifty degrees all winter, but now, in February, the temperature had plummeted and everything was frozen solid. Just when he had his first lead. Thank you, Virginia, for officially having the weirdest weather on the east coast.  He headed back to his truck, still trying to make sense of what the kid had said. Was this even a lead, or just an attention-starved child? How could a five-year-old boy possibly have information about missing kids?

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