At this moment, the document I should be attending to is titled “Draft 7 — Maria Memoir.” Why do I call it “Maria memoir” when my name is Laura?
In 2015, I became a de facto “foster mom” to a teenage asylum seeker from Guatemala. Maria, a resilient, tender, and whip-smart young woman, came to the U.S. in 2014, one child among the thousands who were collectively referred to as “a surge of unaccompanied minors.” She crossed the border — without papers — to escape violent gangs who had already targeted her. By 2018, with the scaffolding of a caring and talented pro bono legal team, therapist, teachers, community, our extended family, and a heaping portion of self-determination, she had become a Pre-school teacher on her way to earning a Bachelor’s Degree, and a Legal Permanent Resident on her way to becoming a citizen.
Who would not want her here? To know her is to love her. If I could share her story, I thought I might help temper the vitriol and humanize “a surge of immigrants” into individual, scared teenagers. I felt the storyteller’s urge — If only the world could know this one person, minds could change. Hearts could open.
So how best to tell the story? At first I thought a movie would work best, never mind that I had no idea how to write a screenplay. I bought books, read blogs, and wrote an outline. Into this mix, my longtime friend (and super author) said, “Movies are pretty hard to get made. You should write it as a YA book,” referring me to the powerful, #1 New York Times bestselling YA novel, Refugee. Right, okay, good idea. So I spent a year (maybe two?) writing an entire (shitty) first draft from the teenager’s point of view and discovered that I could not capture her voice. That drove home the point: that was her story to tell, not mine.
So where did that leave me? I still had something to say. I still wanted to tell the world about this remarkable young woman. What if I wrote our story, the story of how she came to live with our family, and the ways we changed each other? I could write from my perspective.
In other words, I had to write a memoir.
Which meant I had to learn how to write one.
I am still writing and revising and learning as I go. With six drafts under my belt, now well into the seventh, I feel ready to start sharing what I have learned with you — readers of memoir, fellow writers on the memoir path, and those who someday may embark on that journey.
With a lot of hard work and luck, we may just watch a book be born. Or we may watch me shove it into the fireplace and cringe at my hubris to even try. At this point, you know as much as I do about where this project will lead.
Draft 7 awaits. Time to dive in.
Laura Nicole Diamond is an author, attorney, and accidental foster mom. She is the award-winning author of the bestselling Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is at work on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. For more, subscribe to Laura’s blog at LauraNicoleDiamond.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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