John Clark at the end of a literary journey. Some ten years ago, I began putting together short stories about Maine kids who struggled with seemingly impossible situations. Some of the inspiration came from my own growing up experiences, some from my 27 years working in mental health, others from my library experiences, still others from suggestions by other Maine librarians.
My sweepstaking friend out in Oklahoma, Judy McCurdy gave me an idea based on a Revolutionary War soldier named Joe Kerr. She told me I needed to tell his story. She was right, but it took a lot longer than anyone, especially me, ever imagined.
What got in the way? Life, insecurity, losing half of Joe’s story, laziness, and more life. In fact, aside from my annual effort to get a short story into the New England crime anthologies, I barely attempted to write or publish for longer than I care to admit. It was easier to sell other people’s books online or win sweepstakes prizes.
That all changed a year ago. First came my discovery that the heated swimming pool at the Alfond Center was perfect for coming up with ideas, then I bought the creativity candle that seems to be eerily effective. Between February and June, I wrote Don’t Say It, a historical YA book set in 1969. In March of this year, I took one of the story prompts I shared in a MCW post and by June, that was another YA book, Over The Edge, this one about an alternate universe. Both manuscripts are on my revision radar.
Three months ago, I decided it was time to get serious about the teen anthology. It’s called Hardscrabble Kids: Semi-magical tales of Maine. There are sixteen short stories, plus Statue of Limitations, which is Joe’s story. Others feature two girls who find a way to exact revenge on a high school bully without ever laying a hand on him, a girl who has trouble explaining to a Jewish genie what will make her happy, back-to-back stories by different teens as they meet and find hope from Berek Metcalf, protagonist in my book The Wizard of Simonton Pond.
Other tales feature a homeless boy who has schizophrenia and is befriended by an alien masquerading as a dime in a mall parking lot, a girl who uses her most precious gift to save her friend and a teacher from a demon, a kind hearted high school basketball player who’s in danger of getting kicked off the team until a most unusual group helps tutor him, a girl who discovers a secret group that helps her achieve her dream of going to college, a girl living on the Maine coast who has a bittersweet summer romance, and a moderately retarded boy who can fix anything mechanical and uses that skill to rescue other teens who have been kidnapped. Add in a magical deer, a supernatural fish, A girl who survives the despicable family of welfare sucking drug addicts to become a star in a profession girls don’t often consider, a brother and sister who end up being loved when their hope is almost extinguished, and a boy who turns the tables on creatures who try to take him hostage.
Is it perfect? No, but Beth and I have gone over the printed proofs with a fine tooth comb and we believe it’s good to go. Clif Graves of Hinterlands Press has been terrific to work with and I’m already looking forward to creating an adult short story anthology with his help. I’ve added the cover below. I expect the book will be ready in a week, so stay tuned for more.