Zoe says, "I want it to be about my birthparents, but I don't know what to write since I don't know their names or where they live or what they look like. So that makes it hard to write non-fiction." "I can see how that makes it hard. How does that make you feel?" "FRUSTRATED!"
(I almost expected to hear a "damnit!" after that word -- a close family member who will remain nameless has a tendency to say "damnit," and Zoe picked up on it when she was around 3, and I'm trying to explain to her why she can't say it without saying this beloved family member was saying a bad word. At one point I say, " So-and-So says this word when she's frustrated." Zoe looks me dead in the eye, and says completely dead-pan, "I'm frustrated. Damnit." So much for explanations! Next I said flatly, "It's a bad word -- you can't say it EVER!" But I digress . . .)
She doesn't want to talk any more about her feelings. She's hunched over, the perfect posture of cold shoulder. I suggest, "We could make a list of what we do know about your birthparents. We know they lived in China, for example." "That won't work," Zoe says in disgust, "the list will be too short." She doesn't even want to try. She doesn't like my suggestion that she could write a fiction story, using her imagination to write about her birthparents.
Finally, she decides the story will be titled, "The Year I Was Born," and she's going to tell it in pictures instead of words. She draws a baby and a dragon -- "I was born in the year of the Dragon." She says she doesn't know how to draw a person holding a baby "like this," with her arms in an oval in front of her -- her birthmother carrying her. She's definitely losing interest in this topic.
She's off to other things, and the story goes unfinished. . . .
UPDATE: In the comments, Sue suggests an approach I like a lot:
Well,maybe it's too subtle for a 7-year-old, but there is something
in-between fiction and non-fiction that could be the basis for a story someday.
You could start out making a list of things you know, some things that could be
true (birth family members probably have similar appearance, abilities, etc.),
and then some things you wish were true that could become the fictional part of
the story. It might show that there is more known than you think. For example,
both my kinds can curl their tongues, so we know that someone in their
birthfamily must be able to do that too (as I think that is inherited). Trivial
detail, but it is something we know to be true, even though we don't know their