Muskoka Novel Marathon Registration Frenzy! (40 Glass Slippers!)

Today is the day. At 7pm this evening the registration button for the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon Registration will go live!

The organizers think they’re extremely clever. This is what appears on the registration page at this very moment

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Yep. That’s where the magic button will appear at precisely 7pm. And if writers aren’t fast enough in clicking it and getting through the registration process, it’ll be the equivalent of having elephantine feet when the prince comes to your door to get you to try on the petite glass slipper. You see… the Muskoka Novel Marathon is an AMAZING opportunity for writers. They get to check out of the rat race for 72hrs and do nothing but write. BUT—-there’s only room for 40 writers. THAT’S ONLY 40 GLASS SLIPPERS! Everyone wants to be there. Or, at least anyone who’s already experienced the opportunity or anyone who can imagine getting that much writing time in one solid block.

Yes, the MNM is also a crucial fundraiser for area literacy programs in Muskoka and Simcoe County in Ontario, Canada…but at a time like this when the starting pistol on registration is about to go off, it’s easy to forget that part. Once all the writers have their spots nailed down, though…you can bet each and every one of them do their level best to collect the much needed funds to keep the literacy programs going. In the history of the marathon, we’ve managed to raise over $200,000.00 thus far. No small potatoes!

But today? The focus is on getting one of those coveted spots!

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The room where the yearly magic happens!

I’m not even certain I’m going to attempt to register this year. But… last year I was certain I was NOT going to go. And when 8pm came around on the registration day and I noticed that my ‘usual’ spot in the writing room was still available…I took it as a sign. I registered and I went to the marathon and I wrote. Whenever I think of NOT going, I get this feeling in my stomach. It’s a feeling of deep regret, that I am not giving my writing self this humongous gift. And then I panic and think, ‘HOW CAN I NOT GO!?’

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One of the alternative writing spaces one can use at the marathon!

We’ll see.

If you’re a writer in Ontario (or willing to travel to Ontario for a long weekend in July) you really should do yourself the great service of securing a seat for the marathon. It’s definitely changed my life getting these amazing weekends of non-stop writing in. It changed the way I approach the novel, really. I probably write more at the Muskoka Novel Marathon than I write during the other 362 days of the year. Let’s just keep that part between you and I, though… I wouldn’t want that to get out!

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Every September there’s an after-marathon wrap party where there are awards handed out for Best Novel in different categories, as well as a slew of awards that are peer nominated.

One thing is certain… if I do register and attend the marathon this year, it’ll be another year where I will be unable to attend the wrap party in September. Michael and I will be busy making our way to Santiago de Compostela in September. We’ll be walking the Camino during the wrap party. This has never stopped me from attending the marathon in the past, though. Hmmmmmm?

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR

 

Thoughts on the End of a Year

As 2018 draws to an end, I suppose it’s time for another one of those all-encompassing posts of reflection and upcoming things. It’s been an exciting year in several ways. Not the least of which was our trip to India and Nepal this past September. Hard to believe it was so long ago, but it’s been my experience that the BER months come in and out of existence in the blink of an eye. Just as they are the most dreaded months on the calendar for me, they are also the ones that race by the quickest. I suppose it’s the old tired year making that last ditch sprint to the finish line, eager to be done with itself. Maybe the year itself doesn’t even like its last few months.

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I sometimes forget that we have beauty right here at home, in our own backyard. Though I found myself on the other side of the planet this year, I also discovered beauty here in Ontario. If we close our eyes to our own beauty, we miss so much. Don’t forget that you can TRAVEL at home. All you need is time and a sense of adventure. Discover the world, yes…but don’t close your eyes to the world around you because it’s too near. Wanderlust begins at your front door…not necessarily at the airport. (Waterfront Trail – Ajax, Ontario. October, 2018)

2018 has been a year filled with writerly stuff, even though I feel I did so very little actual writing. I don’t know how that keeps happening, but it does. I think it’s the mark of a true charlatan to pull off something like this…to appear to be something you wouldn’t really be under close scrutiny. Does one have to constantly practice the art of the thing they brazenly call themselves to actually be that thing? Does writing need to take place before one can call themselves a writer? Who polices these things anyway?

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Nepal. After visiting the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini (Once in India, but now in Nepal), we stayed at Barauli Community Homestay. A bike-ride through the village was the most delightful thing you could imagine. I have no idea why I’m not smiling in this picture. I felt euphoric the whole time I was on that bike.

But not everything is about writing. Sometimes a writer is merely a collector of memories. We meticulously store and catalogue the world in our unreliable memory banks so that we can access the information at a later date and spew it out inaccurately through our own renditions of truth and memory. We bury memories and unearth them later, tarnished and dented, and pound them into a slightly accurate rendition of what they really were when we lived them. Is that a close description of fiction? Truth in the lies…a crooked lens portraying something that could pass as plausible if we manage to suspend our disbelief and mis-remember just enough to cloud it all over in a whimsical world that wouldn’t accurately sit atop the one in which we actually live? Anyway…I lived some in 2018 so that I may write about it later…

I believe we fell in love with Nepal in 2018. It was a little unexpected, but not a surprise. First it was Pokhara, with its simple orderly streets calming our hearts after the whirlwind insanity of the heart-breakingly beautifully chaotic streets of India. Don’t get me wrong, I could LIVE in the streets of India. The beauty stole my breath on countless occasions. But getting out of the bus in Pokhara was like releasing a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. It was a relatively calm environment juxtaposed against India. There was a new order we somehow didn’t realize we didn’t have up to that point in our journey. In Pokhara, we exhaled. The pictures above are mostly of Kathmandu, but the one with us in a boat was taken in Pokhara on a magical day when we climbed a mountain to see a gorgeous stupa majestically claiming the peak as its forever home.

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The Shanti Stupa at the top of the world, overlooking the peaceful beauty of Phewa Lake and the wonder that is the city of Pokhara, Nepal, just beyond its idyllic waters.

Before Nepal, came INDIA. It was a lifelong dream of mine to visit India. I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to go there. I hoped I would eventually get there, but with most big ticket bucket-list items…one sometimes worries they won’t ever check it off. It being at the top of my list, I’m so happy to have fulfilled the lifelong dream. And we saw so much of it. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi…it was all beautiful, all breathtaking, all heartwarming. But the jewel, for me, was a place that had never made it to that childhood wish and hope and dream place of stepping foot in India. The jewel, for me, was ORCHHA. What a wonder. You can read about our time in ORCHHA HERE.

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My feet failed to touch the ground in mesmerizingly beautiful and magical ORCHHA. I’ll never forget this city.  One gets to discover only a few heart homes in their lifetime, if they’re lucky. This was definitely one of mine.

Yes, 2018 was a fantastic year for world travel. We had a blast. Even our own Ottawa, Ontario was a highlight for me. I had never been there, though it is only a few hundred kilometres away. Travel your doorstep…if you don’t, you’re missing out on some fantastic stuff.

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MY first trip to Ottawa was this past summer. We did the Hop On Hop Off. I LOVE Ottawa! Especially the market!
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Did I mention I walked in my first Pride Parade this summer? Toronto. Amazing experience!

Now, on to my WRITER life in 2018. I stepped up to the WCDR Board of Directors this year, as well…part of my writerly-stuff immersion. I am currently the Membership Coordinator for the writing organization. I recently sat on a panel at a WCDR Monthly Network Meeting, too. As an industry professional, if you can dig it. 2018 also saw the birth of NOVEL #6 for me! Though I signed the contract for PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE in the closing month of 2017, it hit the world in February of this past year. I also sold NOVEL #7 I WILL TELL THE NIGHT in 2018. It will see birth into the world in the opening months of 2019.

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Book Baby #6 PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE! February 6, 2018.

It wasn’t an entirely unproductive year for me. Two books placed and one looking for a home. I’m extremely hopeful of the one on submission. It was such a thrill to write…my baby. Oh, and I also began another novel…at the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. I swear, if I didn’t do this once-a-year 72 hr novel writing marathon I probably couldn’t call myself a writer at all. It’s where I do the lion’s share of my yearly writing. That’s bad, isn’t it? That I could distill my entire writing year into 3 days? Ugh. I need more discipline. I need a more solid writing schedule. Do we still make goals for ourselves in JANUARY? Maybe my resolution should be to WRITE MORE.

I already know what’s in store for me in January, though. EDITING! I begin the editing process of bringing I WILL TELL THE NIGHT to the stage. I adore the book, actually…and I’m looking forward to working with my editor on it. It’s a shift from my recent spat of YOUNG ADULT novels…as it’s an adult contemporary. We shall see how this goes. I’m told it will be releasing sometime in the new year. I look forward to the arduous editing stage AND, even more so, to finding out how the publisher interprets the story into a COVER! Muse did a lovely job with my PRIDE cover.

Any more writerly things in 2018? Let’s see. I DID work on several short stories. One of which I published on Amazon and Kobo. LIGHT NEAR THE END OF THE WORLD is available to read. It’s a short story I set on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The Camino is a passion and an obsession for me. I wrote several stories set on its sacred pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

I believe that rounds out the year for writing. In the new year, I hope to complete my 2018 MNM novel…though I’m not sure what I will do with it. It’s a middle grade novel and I’m not quite sure the world is ready for it. We shall see. (-;

Here’s to a wonderful 2019. May you reach your goals and set new and exciting ones. May you have some dreams come true and nightmares end. Whatever you seek, my hope is that you find it. Open yourself to possibility and wonder. I find it helps you to discover it. HAPPY END OF 2018!

Now go forth and pick up a copy of my 2018 novel PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, if you haven’t yet done so. Really, it’s on sale at Amazon at less than the price of a latte. Also, you might actually enjoy it more…just click on the cover below…

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PICK IT UP AT AMAZON TODAY!

 

 

My 7th novel to be Published in Early 2019! I Will Tell The Night

 

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It’s been a while since I have had this kind of news. My last book, the young adult title PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, came out in February of 2018. Now, I’m excited to announce that I have accepted a contract with the same publisher to publish my 7th novel, the adult contemporary title I WILL TELL THE NIGHT.

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In September of 2016, I discovered that I had won the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Adult Novel Award for the 5th time for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT  (<-read about that in this post right here). The true story behind the writing of this novel is that it almost did NOT get written.

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The plaque on the coveted BEST NOVEL AWARD trophy for 2016.

The novel marathon takes place over the course of 72hrs, every July, in Huntsville, Ontario. The literary event that is also a huge fund-raiser to help the YMCA of Muskoka and Simcoe County with the funding of their literacy programs is a must-attend event for me. I love the adrenaline rush it gives me to attempt to write an entire novel in the space of one long weekend. Especially when it involves being in a room with 39 other writers typing away at their own attempt to pull off the exact same feat. It’s a magical time every year.

Continue reading “My 7th novel to be Published in Early 2019! I Will Tell The Night”

First Draft in One Weekend – Part 10!

Here we go again! I am now only 4 days out from the 2018 (MNM) Muskoka Novel Marathon (<<<—VISIT the link to learn all about the marathon!)(It begins at 8pm on Friday July 13th, 2018 and runs for 72 hours straight. Sleeping is an option, but not mandatory.)! I love this event so much. The camaraderie of my fellow writers, the fact that we raise so much money every year for literacy programs, the fact that I get so much writing done in 72 hours, the fact that the venue is nestled inside one of the most beautiful towns in our fair country. So many reasons for me to love the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

This time next week, I will be wrapping up my novel writing marathon weekend. I’ll be exhausted, struggling to get to the end of the last day, looking forward to getting home and shocked that it will all soon be over for another year.

When one is a writer on the side, one appreciates downtime from life in order to JUST WRITE. It’s such a miraculous thing to just spirit yourself away and write. I am sitting here with all these ideas in my head, wondering if any of them are going to land long enough for me to hit the ground running come Friday. Or maybe, like with some of my marathons, I won’t hit on the right idea until the starting bell goes off at Friday at 8pm. Or, like my last marathon in 2016…I’ll hit on the idea that catches and becomes something some twenty-four hours into the marathon. I never know until I sit down. That’s the fear, that’s the excitement, that’s the thrill.

Thank you so much to all the people who have pledged donations to the cause. Your funds are 100% used for the literacy programs run by the YMCA Muskoka Literacy Services. Sadly, these are underfunded programs and the monies raised at the MNM are crucial and needed funds. Your money will go a long way. My gratitude is endless. ❤

I’ve lost track of how many marathons there have been so far. I know only that every year I miss the marathon I regret it for the rest of the year and promise myself I will never miss another. Last year, which I missed, they raised $33,264. Over the course of the Marathon’s life, we have raised over $170,000.00 for the programs. Imagine that hole, had the marathon not been around to fill it! It’s staggering. So, yes, again…THANK YOU.

Now is when my focus begins to swing from collecting pledges to WHAT AM I GOING TO WRITE? I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE MY MARATHON BROTHERS & SISTERS! I MUST BE CRAZY?! THANK GOODNESS FOR THE VOLUNTEERS WHO MAKE SURE WE ALWAYS HAVE MEALS TO EAT AND COFFEE TO DRINK AND ENSURE THAT ALL WE HAVE TO DO FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND IS WRITE!! THANK GOODNESS FOR THE BADDIES WHO ALLOW THEMSELVES AN HOUR OR TWO TO ESCAPE AND WALK DOWNTOWN FOR SOME DOWN TIME AND SOCIALIZING AND WRITERLY TALK! It’s just all so crucial and important and lovely and irrelevant and necessary to who I am as a writer.

When I first attempted the Muskoka Novel Marathon I was almost crying going in, I was that scared. How is this thing EVEN POSSIBLE! During that marathon in 2007 I wrote SEBASTIAN’S POET in 48hrs (I chose the 48hr option that year over the 72hr option because I couldn’t imagine pulling off the whole thing!) You know, I listened to Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM on repeat for that entire novel. I had transcended space and time while writing Sebastian’s story, had modeled the ‘poet’–who is actually a folksinger–after Cohen himself. I went to a place far away in my head and the story revealed itself like stars in a night sky. What I thought would be a struggle became a struggle after-all. Although I believed the struggle would be in finding something to write about, the actual struggle became making my fingers move as fast as my mind was delivering the story to me. I WAS HOOKED. It turns out the best way I write novels is in one sitting.

And THAT is why I am SO SUPER EXCITED FOR FRIDAY TO COME! Here I go again. My 10th MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON!!! Wish me luck, wish the fundraising efforts luck, wish the newbie marathoners luck…at 8pm on Friday night a bell will toll. We will not ask for whom it tolls…it will toll for 40 of the luckiest writers in the world. We are lucky because we have each other, we have time, we have place, we have words, and we have coffee. Let the wording begin!

I would not refuse any further donations and I would be forever in your debt. I still believe that as a community, we can help to eliminate illiteracy. KEVIN CRAIG SPONSOR LINK

My latest novel PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE was also written at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. (-:

First Chapter Feedback! One Last Push – Muskoka Novel Marathon…

Hello Readers! Isn’t it nice to read? I mean, seriously. We are SO lucky! Not everybody shares in our abundant gift. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. In fact, two out of every five Canadians struggles with basic reading and writing. It affects their jobs, their health and their family. The 40 writers who take part in the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON every year collect sponsorship funds much like those who take part in foot marathons for cancer and the like, such as the Terry Fox Run. Our sponsorship money goes directly to YMCA Muskoka Literacy Services (part of YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka) and help keep the doors open to those in the community that want to overcome literacy challenges for a better life. 100% of what we collect goes to the organization. To find out how they use the funds, you can read about it HERE ON THE MNM website.

Now, let’s get to that FIRST CHAPTER FEEDBACK I mentioned in the title. This is what I will be offering to anyone who sponsors me $20 or more for the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And as previously mentioned, any donations of $50 or more gives you the gift of a free copy of my latest novel PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE (which, incidentally, was written at an MNM marathon!). For FCF, I will read your first chapter and offer feedback and editorial suggestions.

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One of the many beautiful corners one can seek out for some quiet writing time at the Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario.

The marathon is in less than a month now. It begins Friday July 13th at 8:00pm and lasts for 72 hours. That’s 40 writers in one room, each attempting to write a complete novel before 8:00pm Monday July 16th. This experience is an extremely beautiful thing for writers. It doesn’t hurt that we raise over $30,000.00 a year to keep those wonderful literacy programs in the community running. With your generous help, we are fortunate enough to call ourselves WRITERS HELPING READERS. You’re the key factor to making that statement real. Any amount helps. ANY AMOUNT. Please consider donating to the cause. It’s an important one to us.

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This will be my 10th novel writing marathon. I look forward to the magical writerly event every year! Wish me luck. (-:

Here is my personal DONATION PAGE where you can send sponsorship online.

Thank you!

 

Walk it, Write it, Walk it, Write it

I’m famous for insisting I’m a pantser, but is that really true? How honest are any of us being when we say we fly by the seat of our pants rather than plot our stories?

I guess it depends on your definition of plotting. Does pen need to touch paper for it to be considered plotting? Do your fingers have to tap away at a keyboard for it to be considered plotting? If you need to see physical results of plotting before you call it plotting, then I am indeed a pantser.

But the things that go through my head when I’m hiking, or walking down the street, or walking the treadmill like an automaton! This is where I build my story. Like Kris Kringle in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, I put one foot in front of the other. Unlike Kris Kringle, I’m not only getting myself across the floor and out the door…I’m also moving forward in story, plotting where I’m going to take my characters, what big and little things are going to come to them.

“Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the flo-or-or. Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door…” ~ Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle – Santa Claus is Coming to Town, 1970 Rankin/Bass Productions.

I may not call it plotting, and I may insist I don’t plot…but I do. I work it out in my head. I come up with plans and conjure scenes. It’s true that I don’t always stick to what I come up with. Since I don’t write them down, I don’t remain rigid to my ideas. They’re more watercolor possibilities of what the final draft may eventually look like. Sometimes the ideas I have in this non-plotting plotting stage are nothing like what comes to pass, but bandying around the ideas and seeing my characters in all these different scenarios in my head help me to figure out who they are and what they want. Yeah, what finally makes it to the page is not plotted out…but it’s definitely lived in. I endlessly go through the neighborhoods of my stories and move the furniture and the houses and the cars and the people around. Eventually, the story comes out the way it wants to come out. It certainly resembles the musings I had while walking…but it’s still a distant cousin. That’s why I still insist to being a pantser. I didn’t write it down.

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Dale & Sue Long’s Happy Place, where some of the Muskoka Novel Marathoners stayed in September 2016 for the MNM Wrap Party.

I’ve been walking a lot lately, and chewing on the story ideas I have for my 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. It’s fast approaching. I’m preparing to once again spend 72 hours at the laptop pounding out an entire novel in one sitting. It never gets less scary. It never feels like something I’m capable of. It never stops being completely and unspeakably exciting and terrifying. And even though I’m living inside multiple story possibilities in my head in these weeks leading up to the marathon, because I haven’t committed anything to paper or screen…I can go in there and say, “I have NOTHING prepared!” But as I walk, I write. And as I write, I walk. Every step is another possibility. Every footfall is a plot hole or a character flaw. I have never felt the connection between walking and writing more than I feel it in the days leading up to this yearly marathon. Ironically, it’s a marathon where feet are not needed. But it’s a long grueling ‘run’ to the finish line, all the same!

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With Lori Manson at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon wrap-up party. Lori won Best Young Adult Novel and I won for Best Adult Novel.

Check out what the marathon is all about HERE

If you feel inspired, I’m always happy to accept donations. Each of the 40 writers collect sponsorships for the marathon. Here’s my writer bio page on the MNM site–it contains a link to my donation page.

While you’re here, HAPPY PRIDE…however you celebrate!

You can pick up my 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE where books are sold. Here’s the link to PRIDE on AMAZON.

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