By Ann Minnett
I’m a CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/guardian ad litem).
Background about CASA:
- Nearly 700,00 children experience abuse every year.
- Over 1,000 CASA programs train and support 76,756 CASA volunteers. Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
- 250,323 abused and neglected children had a CASA volunteer speaking up for their interests in the last year. (452,000 are waiting for a volunteer empowered to find them a safe, permanent home)
- Go to casaforchildren.org/ for information about how you could make a difference in children’s lives.
What does this have to do with writing?
Fellow CASA volunteers read my first book, Burden of Breath, because it deals with the long-lasting effects of childhood abuse. Our local executive director’s reaction to my writing surprised me. She said, “Lucky you, you can make up a happy ending.” She meant that my writing might ease my own concerns because child abuse cases, the courts, the foster care system, all of it, are often messy and sometimes end with us wondering… Were the children’s best interests served?
I set out to do just that—bend events into a happy resolution–in my manuscript inspired by the question, What if the estranged parent comes back? I concocted a gripping story with an end in mind. My critique group read the final twenty pages last week, and they would have none of it (the ending, that is). My main character behaved one way, but the all the secondary characters and my wise critique pals believed the main character would behave very differently.
I will change it.
The truth is that I can’t make a happy ending or a la-la-la outcome when the story doesn’t lead me there. This strange writing process is not to be controlled. Rather, I start by asking a question, apply my experiences, and hang on in amazement at what happens on the page.