Chapter 8 of THE GREAT CONNECTICUT CAPER is here! The adventure is really shaking and moving, and with only four chapters left, I can’t wait to see what happens next. While we all wait for find out what exactly is going on with Gillette Castle, let’s give a big welcome to chapter 8 author Jessica McCadden!
by Jessica McCadden
From the moment my wonderful mentor, Sarah Darer Littman, brought this project to my attention I wanted to be a part of it.
As a graduate student pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing, I spend a lot of time reading, writing papers, and working on my young adult novel and though I work with wonderful writers and teachers, I’m always the sole author of my projects. One of the reasons the CT Caper was so intriguing to me was because I was excited about the prospect of creating a story that would be part of a larger work. The really cool thing was that the story would be a mystery not only to the readers, but to me—one of the authors! Participating in this process meant relinquishing some creative control, but was also freeing. I didn’t have to come up with a beginning or end—I just got to focus on my one small part of the story.
Since I was writing Chapter 8, I received the first seven chapters before writing my section. The main characters had been fleshed out, and the basic themes and plot already constructed. I will admit, before even starting to think about my chapter I had to map out what was going on. There were a lot of little details to keep track of, and the most important thing was to make sure I knew where each character was at the end of chapter 7 so that my chapter would be consistent with the events that took place before. This was very different from my solo projects because instead of planning the story from beginning to end, I was playing catch up. Once I was clear on what was going on, I wrote an outline for my chapter and figured out what Connecticut landmark I wanted to include, as well as which facts about William Gillette and Gillette Castle would fit into my story.
I was happy that I could include magic into my chapter because this fantasy world had already been established. My own novel and short stories are usually in the dystopian, science fiction, or fantasy genres, so it was fun to incorporate some of the elements I love to write in Chapter 8. I also wanted to add a landmark from the part of the state where I’ve spent most of my life (southwestern CT), so I did some research and found a historical mansion just a few miles from my old home that I included in the story.
As some of the other writers have mentioned, it was really difficult to stick to the word count! I think my first draft was over 900 words long, and I’d thought I was being frugal! Cutting the chapter down to 650 words took longer than writing the original draft. After some help from the project’s wonderful editor I made revisions and was very happy with the final draft—especially the cliffhanger at the end of my chapter!
Now that my part is finished I’m concentrating on school (pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University) and finishing my young adult novel. My goal is to finish the final draft by early next year and after that I will be seeking representation. In the meantime, I teach college English courses and lead creative writing workshops at Writopia Lab, which gives me the opportunity to help amazing and talented kids write their own stories.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a part of a unique, history-mystery for children that is educational and fun to read. I’m ready to write another chapter… sequel anyone?
Jessica McCadden is a freelance writer who received her B.S. from Boston University and has worked as a writer and producer at NBC, Nickelodeon, and TV Land. In addition, Jessica is in the process of earning her MFA in Creative & Professional Writing with an emphasis on Young Adult fiction from Western Connecticut State University.
Jessica teaches English Literature as a graduate assistant, has led creative writing workshops for kids at Writopia Lab, worked as an editorial intern at Talcott Notch Literary Services, and is one of the authors of The Great CT Caper, a serialized mystery story for young people.
One of her goals as a writer is to increase diversity in children’s literature. She currently resides in Connecticut and is writing her first YA novel.