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The genesis of this YA Contemporary story came from my mentoring work with foster teens. I’m the proud multi-year recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Texas Champion of Children Award for my work with foster youth.
I wanted to write about the challenges a teenager faces in Child Protective Services. I also wanted to write about a segment of potential adoptive parents - single fathers - who are rarely discussed. And I always loved the "stranger in a stranger land" culture clash, dark comedy of manners - in this case: dealing with transracial adoption, homicidal neighbors, and a strange world called Texas.:)
If you’re familiar with the TV shows, THE FOSTERS and FRESH OFF THE BOAT, and enjoy books like CRAZY RICH ASIANS, ABOUT A BOY and authors like David Sedaris, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Nick Hornby, then I hope you’ll like WEST OF WEIRD.
*** PROMOTION: For every 50 pre-orders, we’re giving away a copy of my award-winning biography, "Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman." Details on facebook.com/christianbalebook
“Are you still having bad dreams, Charlie?”
Today I’m playing a new game with my therapist, Ms. Wendy. I’m wearing shorts even though it’s cool out for March. Even for L.A. But I’m freeballing because my foster mom didn’t have time to finish the laundry over the weekend, so I’m sitting, bouncing my knees and crossing my legs to see if Ms. Wendy will notice. It’s not that anything is showing – these are, like, board shorts – but I want to see if she’s pervy enough to look.
Ms. Wendy never asks me how I feel. She just wants to know, yes or no, am I still having bad dreams, what are they about, and then she’ll make notes in her notebook. One time when she got up to refill her blue mug (“Therapists Do It Thoughtfully”) from the water cooler down the hall, I snuck a look at her notebook and all she wrote was “persistent nightmares” and “uncommunicative.” She had underlined “uncommunicative.” I know I don’t talk much; I don’t have much to say to her.
“Charlie? Bad dreams?” She’s so annoying.
“I guess so.” I cross my arms so I can scratch my elbows, and look around her drab office.
I see Ms. Wendy once a week which is fine with me. It gets me out of school for an afternoon. I wish she had one of those psychiatrist couches you can lie down on like you see on TV, but instead I’m fidgeting in this large wooden chair with a footrest across from her desk in her dimly lit room while she sits facing her laptop which has her calendar and emails up. I feel like I’m an interruption in her busy and very important day. Her eyes are always focused on her laptop. The computer’s reflection on her glasses sort of makes her face look like a weird Halloween mask with glowing eyes. She occasionally scribbles down notes in her yellow paper pad that I just know will get me in trouble with my caseworker.
I know how things work. I just turned fifteen but I know if I say too much to Ms. Wendy, her notes will screw up my future. And the more notes she makes means the more she’ll be blabbing to my caseworker, and the fewer chances I’ll have to get adopted.
Ms. Wendy’s desk is surrounded by tall wooden bookshelves and her wall of degrees and certificates. It’s stuffy in here. Her office has this stupid brown ceiling fan, which turns very slowly like the second-hand on her wall clock. What good is a ceiling fan that doesn’t go faster?
Ms. Wendy has drawn-in eyebrows that make her face look not quite real, like a Chucky doll. She always wears black to camouflage her fatitude but it only makes her resemble a big black bear balancing on a stool. She ends our sessions exactly after forty-five boring minutes, even if I’m in the middle of trying to tell her something important. I’m just a checkmark in her calendar: “Appointment with Charlie Kenter.” So we both are clock watchers.
I hate Ms. Wendy. I know it’s not good to hate people, but she represents the System, and I don’t have a problem hating the System.
My old therapist, Ms. Beverly, was always so...