Never Take Your Gifts for Granted and Always Grant Your Friends Gifts #MNM2015

#MNM2015 – It’s here in one more sleep. This is the night before Christmas. All through the house, everyone is stirring and all writers are up. Visions of characters swim in our heads, in the hopes that St. Francis soon would be there. One more sleep and I am humming one more colour. I have my playlist chosen for this year’s manuscript. It’s a doozy. I seriously cannot wait to begin writing this manuscript. It’s been too long since I felt this way.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon organizers periodically send out letters of encouragement and hope from marathoners…to the rest of the marathoners…in the days and weeks leading up to the marathon. And while the marathon takes place.

Today, they sent out a letter I penned last year. I include it here…because I think it might actually capture the essence of what we do and why we do it…and how we love. As humans, as writers, as friends.

At the Muskoka Novel Marathon, all are welcome and all are welcomed. We are writers helping readers…and writers helping each other.

Here is today’s #MNM2015 Letter to the participants:

When I walked into my first Muskoka Novel Marathon, I entered on my tippy tippy toes in anticipation. But I was also terrified out of my ever-loving mind. I’m a manic-edge-of-the-seat writer, so the Muskoka Novel Marathon spoke to me. Actually, it screamed at me. BE HERE NOW! So I threw caution to the wind and signed up.

It’s hard to find the perfect writing practice for yourself. But from the first hours of my very first marathon, I knew I had discovered my practice. Write a novel in one sitting! Before I arrived, I thought the feat impossible. Once there, I knew I had found my WAY. What was terrifying as a concept, became the most comforting/comfortable thing I could imagine for my writing life. It’s the only way I want to write. And I get to do it in communion with other writers. At the marathon, you will meet writers at their very best…skating the edge of wonder and giddy with excitement. We arrive on our first year as strangers, but we go home with a new family…alumni of a wonderful—and wonderfully nurturing—society.

If you haven’t been yet, you may be a bit terrified by my words. You may be asking yourself, “Do I really want to drink this Kool-Aid?” But once you arrive—once you’re in your seat writing, talking to your neighbours, breaking bread with your fellow writers—you’ll get it. You will be a member of an elite society…a society that is inclusive of all those who find the courage to enter.

I have been fortunate enough to have won the Best Novel Award four times. I don’t know how it happened. I only know that once I enter that building and sit down and start writing, I’m there. I can clear the clouds of my workaday life and drop myself so deeply into story that I live the novel I’m writing.

ONE SITTING! How generous of a thing is that to do for oneself?! Live inside your own imaginary world without leaving it for an entire three days. Nothing distracts you. Not even the often boisterous camaraderie of your fellow writers. You just sit, you just write…and you enjoy the ride. You will find that your characters will like it this way. They don’t pout in a corner because you abandoned them for a week as you found yourself too busy to attend to them. They will be happy to live their lives non-stop. They will reveal untold gifts to you over your weekend writing extravaganza. All you have to do is keep your fingers moving at the right clip to keep up with the story! The novel marathon writing experience is one you will not soon forget. For it truly does feel like the novel is writing itself.

And if you have blocks or plot problems or difficult corners to walk yourself out of…you are in the company of forty other writers. You will find that their generosity of spirit is never-ending. At the Muskoka Novel Marathon no writer gets left behind! There is always someone there to take your hand. Encouragement is bountiful!

So whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, or this is your first year…have no fear! You’re not in this alone. Just as we rally around the cause for literacy, we rally around each other. To this year’s newbies, I say this: WELCOME TO THE FAMILY! May your experience be filled with magic and light!

 I love this gift I’ve been given…the gift to form words into thoughts, into sentences, into paragraphs, into stories, into worlds. I never take it for granted. I’m extremely grateful for the Muskoka Novel Marathon for granting us writers the beauty of 72 hours with our own thoughts. We are blessed. Blessed that we have found our bliss in creative writing…and blessed that we have found each other.

Goodreads Giveaway for BURN BABY BURN BABY, and MNM Stuff!

Before I give you the information for the Burn Baby Burn Baby paperback giveaway…MNM2015! Yes! It’s almost here, and I cannot wait!

I will never forget my first Muskoka Novel Marathon back in 2007. It seriously sealed my fate as a one-sitting writer. And not just for novels. It’s also how I’ve come to write my plays, and I suppose everything else I pen. Come to think of it, it’s kind of how I live my life.

And before you get on a high horse and begin to tell me nothing that takes a megalithic effort, such as a novel, should be written in one sitting…hear me out. YES…I do make mistakes writing this way. I make huge ugly stupid mistakes. I make mistakes writing a novel in one sitting and I make mistakes running through life at top speed in my live-life-in-one-sitting method too. With life, maybe it’s not so easy to correct the mistakes. Let’s face it, when all is said and done and you’re gasping for your last breath…you probably don’t get to do it all over again and correct the imbalances. BUT…with writing a novel in one sitting YOU DO…YOU DO GET TO FIX IT.

That’s what the rest of the year is for. For anyone who thinks we Muskoka Novel Marathoners write our novels in one weekend and raise to get them up on Amazon, Kobo, and all the other insta-book selling sites, you’re wrong. I spend at least a year kneading the dough of the novel I write during this marathon weekend. I nurture it into shape through careful reading and re-reading. I remove the string of LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLs that accidentally appear on page 182 because it was 3am on Sunday night of the marathon and I fell asleep at the keyboard. I remove the random words that my sleep addled brain accidentally dumped into my manuscript with no rhyme or reason. I edit. I edit. I edit.

I also–truth be told–become acquainted with my manuscript. THIS is the most exciting part. When I do my first read-through of my Muskoka Novel Marathon manuscript, I feel like I’m reading my story for the first time. No…like I’m reading someone else’s words. That’s both a great thing and a bad thing. It’s actually the thing I struggle with the most with this method of novel writing. I don’t feel connected to my work. Not at first. I read it and I keep reading to find out what happens next. Somewhere along the 72 hours that it took me to write it, WILD MIND took over. We do become machines of sorts at the MNM. It’s inevitable. It’s magical, it’s great and it’s disconcerting. We become automatons.

plural noun: automatons
  1. a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

Yep. That’s what happens. It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. And when you come back in, after typing all those words on autopilot, you need to reacquaint yourself with the work you created. Or, rather, acquaint yourself.

You could see why this would be both a good and a bad thing. The author needs to be the orchestrator of the story. But you also need to trust your instincts and leave yourself at the starting line. Once story takes over, you should allow it to do so. This is never truer than when you’re writing a novel in a marathon. Instinct is king. Thinking too much is the killer of this method of novel writing. Thankfully, I am a master at the art of disconnection (<< also not entirely a good thing).

Anyway, I just wanted to write a bit on the Muskoka Novel Marathon and the process involved in writing during this monolithic writing weekend in Huntsville, Ontario. I’m getting excited. The mayhem begins in three days!

Again, I will remind my readers that this is in fact a fundraising event. As epic as it is as a retreat for writers, we do actually do this for a worthy cause. 40 writers. 72 hours. 40 novels. Bam! And each of those 40 writers collects donations for the YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka literacy programs. We have collected over $100,000.00 thus far for the literacy cause. No small feat. But the funds are sorely needed…as literacy programs, sadly, are underfunded. So, if you are feeling charitable…and you would like to help writers help readers, please feel free to click on the pic below and jump over to my Canada Helps Giving Page and make a donation. Any amount helps. Together, we can make a difference in the life of a reader:

Click this pic to be taken to my Giving Page to make your donation. Thank you in advance!


The Giveaway!

Burn Baby Burn Baby has been getting amazing reviews. Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.

Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.

The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.

If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.

Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.

Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

And some praise for Burn Baby Burn Baby:

I’m putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Anderson’s, TWISTED, and John Green’s, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!

I could not put it down. I loved everything about it.

Nice way to start the 2015 reading year 🙂

What an emotional book. When you read a book like Burn Baby,Burn you can’t help but cry and be grateful if you have never been in that situation. I loved this book…

Burn Baby Burn Baby is a great story about bullying, love and friendship. Definitely one to add to your wishlist.

BURN BABY, BURN BABY pulls you in from the opening pages and doesn’t let go.

This book blew me away. Blew. Me. Away.

Kevin Craig knows how to write teenage boys.

This book is such a gem that I think adults and teens will both love it.

I am so surprised that this book isn’t getting more attention… It is definitely along the lines of The Fault in Our Stars and those other YA books we all love.

To enter to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY, click on the pic below and jump over to GOODREADS and click the ENTER GIVEAWAY BUTTON!

goodreadsGood luck! Contest open to USA and CANADIAN residents. Burn Baby Burn Baby is available wherever books are sold. (-:

8 Days – Muskoka Novel Marathon Approaches. Have Idea, Will Travel!

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the last Muskoka Novel Marathon, but it has. The time just keeps flying by. How do I measure the year that just flew by? Well, I’m definitely getting older. I think now is the time in my life when I’m going to NOTICE that part. I turn 49 in two months. My hips often hurt, as does my lower back. But I don’t know if this is because I’m aging, or because I’m walking too much. See, I think I’m addicted to walking. It started when I was ‘training’ to walk the Camino during the winter of ’13/’14. By early spring of last year, I was up to about 10K a day…and I was on my way to Spain. Turns out the Camino was a stroll. By the time I got back home, I knew the walking had only just begun. SO I turned around and went back to Europe and walked the streets of Paris with the same intensity that I had walked the Camino. And then I came home and continued to walk. One day last month I actually hit 30K. In one day…just out for a stroll. I continue to walk the Camino every day…with my feet in Ontario and my heart in Spain.

I guess I measure the last year in footsteps. It only makes sense. In inches and miles walked. And also, I suppose, in laughter…as there has been an abundance of that. You see, I became a member of a start-up group that just sort of burst into existence. We are THE BAD TABLE. We’re a group of writers who hang together at the WCDR Roundtable Meetings. We perceive ourselves as the baddies of our writing group, but we don’t blow up gas stations or rob banks. We don’t even trip old ladies trying to cross the street. Our modus operandi appears to be the creation of long strings of puns, accompanied by 12-year-old-boy-washroom-humour, near as I can tell.

We do kind of rock, though, in a superhero kind of way. In my own mind.

There will be a few of us in attendance at the Muskoka Novel Marathon next Friday through to the following Monday. We will do foolish things. We will laugh and giggle and be inappropriate. You can count on it. But we will all also put our heads down and get some writing done. For ourselves AND for those who might possibly not even be able to read the words we write. When it comes to illiteracy, there is no laughter. We are a united front against it…the Bad Table Alliance Against Illiteracy. Hey, that kind of sort of acronyms to BATTLE, at first glance. BTAAI. But not really. But it IS a battle we are waging.

We can only win that battle with your help. Each of us are charged with bringing in sponsorship donations for the Simcoe Muskoka YMCA literacy programs. You can donate online by clicking on the pic below and going to the link set up for my donation page for the event. ANY amount would be appreciated! We start writing Friday July 10th at 8pm. And we don’t stop until Monday July 13th at 8pm. Our part in this is to write…for 72 hours. You are the important much needed element in the equation. Your donations will help us writers help readers. Thank you in advance for your generosity. It is greatly appreciated!