When I decided to put Diary of a Misfit together, I earmarked the article on Amanda Cummings for inclusion to the collection. It initially caught my attention because the family believed repetitive bullying had been responsible for her decision to kill herself. I was deep in the middle of edits for a Middle Grade novel at the time, so I saved the link and moved on. In June, I had finished the edits, written the beginning of another novel on spec, and had changed my focus to One Way Ticket Home, which will be the next book in the Misfit McCabe series, when I hit a road block with the book. I knew I needed to let it simmer, so pulled up Diary of a Misfit and began working on the stories for it.
I had started working on Current Event when Tina Hoggatt contacted me about being involved in the Story Chairs project. The want to participate in the project was strong, but I am NOT a short story writer, which is what I told Tina initially, but then I realized I was actually working on a short collection of shorts, so I asked her to let me think about it. Then I asked for the maximum word count for the story and her answer of 500 words shook me. I gulped, and told her I’d give it a try, my brain screaming, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!” the whole time. But I did it … sorta.
My draft to Tina for the Story Chairs came in at 605 words, but I sent it off telling her I’d come in a little over maximum, and to let me know if it was a problem and I’d see how I could trim it. She loved it as it was and said she’d let me know once they got it recorded. Then came October and the news that they were having a problem with the story length and trying to get it into the chair, could I please trim it down. I asked how far, thinking the answer would be the original 500 limit and wondering whether I could cut that deep. The answer removed my ability to breathe … 300 words at the most. I had to cut the story by 50%—a task I thought impossible.
But my brain piped up with “are you a writer or a mouse?” and since I don’t have a long stringy tail, I decided as a writer, I’d have to view this as a challenge to prove my abilities. I opened the document and trimmed here, cut chunks there, and at the end had a story, which still made sense, and it came in at 300 words on the nose. I felt like running a victory lap around the house after that—which probably would have scared the dogs, so I contented myself with a few fist pumps.
Current Event in Diary of a Misfit is the full-length story of the Story Chairs version. Then a crime fiction author friend, Peg Brantley, asked whether I would like to participate in a fund raising auction for the Shaka Franklin Foundation for Youth and when I realized the Shaka Foundation has a special emphasis on teen suicide prevention, I knew I needed to do more. Current Event is the reason I am donating a portion of the proceeds to the Shaka Franklin Foundation for Youth, we lose too many young people too soon. Anything we can do to break the cycle is worth it.
Teaser: A homework assignment cuts a little close to home and Katie McCabe sees the dark underside of online activity for the first time.