Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, May 10, 2021

Remembering Sunny: A Short Story Highlighting an Ongoing Tragedy Among Children


My latest release, Remembering Sunny, is now available. Published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, it is a short work of fiction just over 10,000 words. It is available as an electronic download through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.


I'd originally written this story in 2016. It was part of my writing challenge to write a short story for every week of the year. This one was written in Week 25 (I checked!) and it was originally titled "Losing Sunny." I had submitted this story to two short story markets but it was rejected by both. Then I put it away for a while and moved on to other things. Then, earlier this year, it popped into my head again. I felt compelled to send it out again but I didn't know where. I remembered that my publisher, Gypsy Shadow Publishing, published short fiction. They had also published my other short piece, A Perfect Christmas. So I asked about it and they said they were currently accepting those kinds of submissions. I went over the guidelines, however, and realized that my story did not yet meet their word count minimum. It was just a little over 8,000 words but I knew it needed lots of revision. I was determined to meet that word count minimum! So I worked on it and sent it off. I was thrilled to learn that they accepted it. After being out of the writing game for so long and getting nothing but rejections on other short stories, this acceptance was definitely an awesome thing.


The story came to me in a dream. Yes, I dreamed the whole thing. I have other stories based on dreams, so turning this one into a story was not new. My character, Jeanie, was named in the dream. There was no city or state identified in the dream, but I have an Aunt Jeanie who lived in Illinois at that time and Jeanie's voice reminded me of my cousin, Tammy, who also lived in Illinois (her daughter), so I set the story in Illinois. Tammy has a sister named Kelly, so when I needed a name for a female character, I used her name too.


Even though I felt compelled to get this story out there and into print, I had some strong reservations. I knew that this story was going to stir up some trouble among the guns rights activists. I know a lot of people who feel very strongly about their right to bear arms. I got nothing against that at all. What my concern was about is how so many children were finding loaded guns and accidentally discharging the weapon, sometimes with fatal results. I have come across so many stories about children accidentally shooting themselves or another person after finding a loaded firearm. The level of neglect these gun owners were showing was just too dangerously high. Also, in my family, we have taught our kids that if they find a gun, do not touch it. Unfortunately, it seems like no matter what we do, this situation is out of our control, so preventive measures need to be enforced to avoid another tragedy. I discussed this issue with my publisher. I wanted this story to be published, yes, but I was concerned about the backlash it might invite. While we were having this conversation, I learned that June was National Gun Safety Awareness Month, and June was right around the corner. I thought maybe I could turn this story into a good opportunity to highlight the neglect some gun owners have shown in leaving a loaded firearm where a child as young as 2 was able to get to it. I mentioned this to them and they agreed it was a good idea. If anything, it might stave off some negative feedback the story might get. So when I revised the story, I was sure to make this particular angle the focus. Interestingly, while I was working on the revisions for this story, I came across two news articles of children being shot and killed at the hands of a mentally ill person. These articles were heartbreaking to read but they only strengthened my resolve to get this story out there. The safety of our children is so important!


This story was originally called "Losing Sunny." When I sat down and took a really good look at it years later, I decided that I couldn't start the story with that kind of title. I didn't want the reader going into the story knowing that the precious baby featured on the cover meets a fatal end. The whole story is about a mother's way of honoring the child that she lost. This story was the tribute to her daughter and how she turned her daughter's death into something good for other children. So I changed the title to "Remembering Sunny" because this was ultimately her way of remembering her daughter and having a renewed sense of hope in turning tragedy into something important and lifesaving for other children was a good way of remembering her. The story is told from the point-of-view of the mother's cousin, but I tried to make the mother's grief and determination as strong as possible in the story so readers could know just how much Sunny meant to her.


In the original story, it began with Jeanie visiting Sunny's grave. I thought that was a huge downer! Not a good way to start a story. Again, I didn't want readers going into the story knowing that Sunny dies. It's like, "Okay, thanks for the spoiler! I'm done reading, I guess." I wanted the reader to KNOW Sunny's story. I want the reader to delve into what this child's short life was like in order to understand how she met her untimely end. Also, this is ultimately Mara's story of how she copes with the death of her daughter and what she does in her lost child's memory. The story originally ended with Jeanie going back to college and Mara going back to seeing a therapist. The two of them are giving each other their own personal sign that says "we're fighters!" and that resonated with me. Mara is a fighter. She is not going to take the death of her daughter lying down. She is ultimately going to DO something to make sure what happened to her daughter does not happen to other children. Well, it is all she feels she can do. Unfortunately, something like what happened with Sunny can be out of our control because, well, humans are fallible and not always responsible with their loaded firearms. So I think this made the story even more important because it puts a face on the issue, it puts a mother's grief on the issue, and it is screaming loud and clear, "We need to do better to protect our children!"


Aside from changing the story’s ending, there were two scenes that were very difficult for me to write. The first one was when Sunny died. I was very much in the story and I was right there in the room with that little girl. It was very real for me and after it was over, I just cried and cried. It was so hard. The second difficult scene to write was when Mara is telling Jeanie what happened to her daughter. I knew that I was at a point in the story where I had to show just how strongly a mother's grief over the loss of her child was and how difficult it was for them to manage. I know people who have lost their children and no matter how old your child is when they die, it hurts like no other pain. They are your baby no matter what. The pain a grieving mother feels is a very real, very strong pain. The bereaved mothers that I know have shared their pain and their grieving process openly and I was very aware of the struggles a grieving mother endures. So many lost milestones, so many lost birthdays and always wondering what kind of life their child would have had. The kind of person they would have grown up to be. At that point in the story, Mara was still in the throes of her grief, and I needed that to be as real for the reader as it was for her. I only hope I was able to capture the depths of her grief in that scene.


The most important thing I want readers to take away from this story is the importance of keeping children safe in a home that has firearms. If anything, this story is meant to raise awareness on how we are really failing our children in leaving loaded guns where they can easily get to them or not storing them in a safe place. I am definitely not anti-gun, but I am pro-safety. I believe it’s important to be careful about just where we keep a loaded gun (out of a child’s hands!) and to keep in mind that guns should be safely and securely locked away when not in use.



Remembering Sunny is available from online retailers:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Sunny-Dawn-Colclasure-ebook/dp/B0947J5WRB

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/remembering-sunny-dawn-colclasure/1139414840

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1082895

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