Allison's Book Bag

Safe Haven & Dumpster Babies

Posted on: October 16, 2013

One winter morning the big news story in Philadelphia was about police officer and his pit bull who found a newborn baby in a discarded garbage bag. A couple of years later, author Amy Efaw’s prosecutor husband got his own “dumpster baby” case to try. At that point, Efaw knew that she had to write a novel about the issue. The novel she wrote is called After and I’ll review it here tomorrow.

AUTHOR

amy_efawLike most students, Efaw started writing when her English teacher assigned a writing project. In contrast to many students, Efaw discovered that it was easy to earn an A when she wrote something. But the decision to become an author didn’t immediately come. First, she graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, next she married, and then she became a mom. At this point, Efaw started to write for publication.

Initially, Efaw wrote three picture books and sent them off to publishers. After collecting nothing but rejection letters, she wrote a novel (Battle Dress) based on her experiences at West Point, and sold it before she had even finished writing it.

What made Efaw decide to write for teens? At Enchanting Young Adult, Efaw jokes that a big part of her is still stuck in “Planet Teenager”. On a more serious note, she explains that writing for teens pushes her to become a better writer. One way is that young adult authors have so much competition for attention (cell phones, text messages, music, video games, and online social sites) that they need to write stories which quickly pull in their teen readers. Otherwise, they risk their books being “tossed under the bed with the random dirty clothes and gum wrappers”. Another way is that teens are also open to new ideas. “I think it’s an awesome thing to possibly affect the way people look at a particular issue or expose them to a new concept.”

How does Efaw find time to write with five children? Efaw admits that she often doesn’t, which is why it took her  over seven years to write After. In fact, her original publisher even terminated their contract, requiring Efaw to search for a new home for her novel. However, Efaw also shared that she’s getting better at prioritizing her writing time. Actually, her best time to write is between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM, but she can only do that for a couple of days at a stretch. The luxury of sleeping isn’t normally an option, because she needs to get the kids out the door and to their schools.

Ms. Efaw now lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, children, redbone coonhound, and Bengal cat. She also describes herself as a “soccer mom extraordinaire”. After is Efaw’s second novel and she hopes to write many more. Maybe one day, she’ll also try her hand again at picture books. 🙂 If her life were a book, the title would be (from a novel by Sharon Creech) ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS.

BOOK

The majority of interviews which I found with Amy Efaw focused on how she wrote After. For that reason, I’m including a brief Frequently Asked Questions from the book site and a YouTube interview.

  1. Is this story based on a real case? Is Devon a real person?
    After spending many hours researching the issue and reading hundreds of newspaper accounts, I found that most “dumpster baby” stories shared some basic characteristics. Out of those characteristics, I was able to compile a profile of the type of teenage girl who might conceal her pregnancy and then throw her baby into the trash. That profiled character became the main character, Devon Sky Davenport.
  2. How did your own experiences—personal, professional, or both—impact the writing of this book?
    I’ve picked up a lot of important tools that came together for After—soccer knowledge from hours spent on the sidelines as a soccer mom, details of pregnancy from my own five pregnancies, access to my own legal expert (my husband), the ability to track down details from my reporter days, a strong work ethic from my West Point and athletic training, and a pretty good imagination.
  3. In After, Devon does a horrible thing—why did you want to tell her side of the story?
    One afternoon many years ago while I was listening to public radio, Amy Goodman (a foreign news correspondent) said something that has stuck with me. She said, “Go to where the silence is and say something.” At that moment I felt as if I had received a sort of mission statement. As a writer, “going to where the silence is” means to me that I should try to write about the things that haven’t yet been explored. Telling the story of a young girl who had thrown her baby into a trash can definitely fit that category!
  4. What would you like readers to take away from After?
    I definitely would like to bring more awareness to the “dumpster baby” phenomenon. But even more than that, I would like readers to realize how important it is to get involved in other people’s lives. Take a risk and reach out to others even if a mere gut feeling tells you that something is wrong. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. More often than not—whether you offered help or asked for it—you will be happy that you did.

The intent of safe haven laws is to save the lives of newborns whose mothers had concealed their pregnancies and given birth alone. To find out more, check out Extra on Amy Efaw’s site.

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