Writer's Commentary- Woodburning

On Post: WoodburningDate: January 10

Find it here

This is a subject that runs very close to my heart, having worked in a group home for a few years. I think I worked for one of the “good” ones but our clients’ files were rife with things like being removed from other group homes just as they seemed to find their groove, multiple foster families, and other wildly disruptive change of locations. In Connecticut, in fact, when I first started at the group home, the state decided to “bring back” as many kids under Department of Children and Family (DCF) care from out of state locations as possible. So, over the course of several months, these children were pulled back into state regardless of how their current placements were working out. In some ways, this was good as it often put them closer to what little family contacts they had.

Similarly, it is often important to “upgrade” kids from one type of group home to another as they grow, physically, emotionally, and cognitively, to prevent stagnation and make them as ready to face the outside world as possible. It is still hard as can be though and often brutal for them.
I inverted gender here—the group home I served at was for trauma reactive adolescent girls, not boys—to just keep myself ethically sound. I don’t plan to violate anyone’s confidentiality, ever, by using their stories in my work, but changing the gender provides an extra barrier to keep my subconscious honest too.
It was also personal for me because I thought Wallace did a nice job of representing what is the kind of dual nature of those who have been offended against who go on to offend. What they’ve had done to them is so monstrous it literally changes the way they process information, view the world, etc. And, what they’ve done is also fairly awful. So how do you reconcile the reality that their brains are different than others with the fact that we simply cannot ignore their crimes? It’s no easy task, but I think it’s important to consider it in those terms as it is far too easy to just “choose” one side or another—he’s a victim! she’s a criminal!—and ultimately harm them further for not addressing both aspects of who they are.
Ok, off my soapbox I go.
Oh, wait…why the story inspired this. Right…sorry. I get wrapped up in the other stuff first.
The song just had that tone to me: the “do whatever you want to me, I don’t give a damn/wait, please help me, I hurt so bad,” that kids in the “system” often exhibit. That mix of hardened outer shell and bleeding vulnerability is another reason they can be very difficult to treat as, once more, you can get lost on either side of the equation.
Seriously, off the soapbox.
Anyway, once I “heard” that tone, that was immediately where my mind went and I though the monologue format was the strongest way to deliver the character to the readers.
My explanation not ring true? Do you have questions that this piece left unanswered? Reach out and touch me at tim.g.stevens@gmail.com or @ungajje on the Twitter. And, as always, spread the word.