Rhodes Review: How has the reception been to Foster Girl?
George Todd: Mixed, which is to be expected. My book is not an easy read and I hold nothing back. I don’t sugarcoat or imply – I grab readers by the jugular and walk them through the darkest recesses of human behavior. That said, from child abuse survivors and former foster youth, I’ve been touched by their support and validation of how accurate I nailed the youth perspective. They also all thought I was funny, and there is quite a bit of humor amongst the darkness. As for others, I’ve been told my book is too graphic and just too much. Different people have different curiosity levels and sensibilities. Above all however, just about everyone who has responded to me all wonder how I get out of bed in the morning given all that I have been through.
Rhodes Review: What was your writing process like when writing Foster Girl?
George Todd: Time really does fly when you’re enjoying what you’re doing. I would happily spend 12-14 hour days doing nothing but writing, reading what I wrote, editing and rewriting – and I loved every minute of it. When you’re immersed, there’s a possession that takes over and nothing exists but your memories, emotions, and a strong desire to tell the best story you possibly can. I enjoyed the process even more as I got closer to finishing. Interestingly, I did experience psychosomatic responses during certain passages. Some scenes, which could be as little as three paragraphs, took so much out of me that I would immediately take a nap. I noticed I gained weight while writing and rewriting certain chapters as well. Strange.
Rhodes Review: What did your family think about you writing Foster Girl?
George Todd: I don’t really have that many family members, and the ones who I have reconnected with have all died. The very few left were all pretty much dead set against it. I think they were afraid of what I would write about them, which I really didn’t. I didn’t go into depth about the others because, well, this is not their story – it’s mine.
Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
George Todd: Read or move. I’m reading some science fiction right now. When not reading or writing, I need to move my body by hiking or walking for miles, lifting weights or kickboxing. Also, spending time with my close loved ones brings me a lot of joy, especially with my fiancé or little niece.
Rhodes Review: What would you tell people who are going through or been through the foster care system?
George Todd: For those in foster care, I’d tell them to stay out of trouble. Don’t make things worse for you than they already are. I know it’s rough but this time will pass and there are people who can help you. You have to be willing to show that you want to help yourself however. Also, find a safe and harmless way to release all your justifiable anger, depression and upset. For those who have been through foster care, I would stress that they take care of themselves first and foremost. Be selfish and care for you in a way a parent should have done. I’ve noticed some former foster youth – myself included at one point – wants to help other youth…but that kind of work can lead to being re-traumatized and burn out. I had a nervous breakdown after years of working around the clock and being So, I’d tell them to take care of yourself first and I’d encourage them to seek a career outside of foster care. I get the
Rhodes Review: Do you ever run into any of the people you were in homes with?
George Todd: Only online thank God! People from my past in foster care have tracked me down, which I have mixed feelings about. I do however, still talk to one girl I lived with in a group home. My greatest fear though is for both my dad and stepdad to contact me. I hope that never happens.
Rhodes Review: What are some areas/problems you see with the Foster Care system and how do you think they should be addressed?
George Todd: I think the main problem outside of foster care is the lack of awareness of what goes on and how the system operates and how people can help. Inside the system, there should be more emphasis on family finding earlier on.
Rhodes Review: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
George Todd: To write novels and stories. Now I want to go back into journalism and write screenplays.
Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Foster Girl?
George Todd: The fact that I wanted to read stories like the one I lived and I could not find any. So, the absence of my type of stories on the bookshelves was what initially inspired me.
Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?
George Todd: I wrote the first draft as a teenager, 19, when the memories were fresh. Then I learned how to write. When I was in graduate school, I got a copy of my case file (300 pages) for research. It took me a couple years to piece out and decide which court report, letter or psychological assessment to include in the book, where to them and why in the story.
Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Foster Girl?
George Todd: Completing it, to be honest. How does one write the worst experiences in one’s life in a coherent, linear way? I was able to accomplish that and I’m proud of the result.
Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Foster Girl?
George Todd: The abuse scenes narrated from the child’s perspective. I had to regress and relive the most traumatic moments of my life over and over in order
Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about Foster Girl?
George Todd: I wish I didn’t have to write it. I wish I had a normal, healthy upbringing that resulted in me being completely well adjusted. But that didn’t happen, and as a result, I felt compelled to say what was unsaid, write about an experience most people don’t have.
Rhodes Review: I know you went on to become an advocate, what is involved in that job, and what do you like about it?
George Todd: I used to work in child welfare and to be honest, it gave me a completely new perspective as a professional. I was burnt out, frustrated and ultimately, discovered that no matter how hard or long I worked, it was never enough. I salute those who continue to work in the field. As for what I liked about it – I liked the purity of intentions in the beginning, and finding people who genuinely shared my passion in making lives better. But I was shocked and disappointed to see so much politics involved in child welfare.
Rhodes Review: What are your current writing projects?
George Todd: I write a weekly column for the Chronicles of Social Change at https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/ I just wrote about the Dylan Farrow/ Woody Allen sexual abuse allegations, titled: “No One Wants to Be the Poster Child for Abuse” I’m also working on a screenplay that is a family drama and magazine articles. It may be awhile for me to write a whole book again. It just takes so much out of you.