I wrote “Pretend Family” thinking about a math project my students did this year. The class constructed a cardboard arcade for parents to play. It was a frenetic few weeks of blueprints, exacto blades, and glue gun burns. I remember one student becoming so frustrated that she rolled her eyes back in her head. That image stayed with me and became the seed of this story. Next came the narrator’s voice, which was both blunt and vulnerable, a child whose sense of self could swing from strong to fragile in moments. Her daily routine was filled with landmines, like the school bus, the recess yard, the classroom, home. Each place governed by a different set of rules and norms with which to struggle. I went through many drafts that tried to fill in her backstory, but ultimately, I realized that what I was really after were her thoughts and observations. Over time, a story finally emerged and became this one.