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!

 

 

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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Fundraiser for Literacy – Muskoka Novel Marathon

It’s that time of year again…when I ask for sponsorship funds for the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s fundraiser for literacy. My funding page has been created and I am now able to collect donations online.

100% of the funds raised by the 40 writers taking part in the 72 hour novel writing marathon goes towards running the literacy programs of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. We raise over $30,000.00 a year during this marathon…and these are well needed funds that keep all the current literacy programs alive, as well as help the YMCA create new programs.

With your help, we can make a difference for so many people.

Watch FLIPBOOK, the short movie set at the Marathon:

 

Here’s a news segment from the 2017 marathon:

I hope you consider sponsoring me for this worthy cause. Please click on the link below to contribute online. No donation is too small!

MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON – KEVIN CRAIG DONATION LINK

Novel Marathon Preparation Tips

After chatting with a fellow Muskoka Novel Marathon marathoner last night, I decided to write a quick post about preparing to undergo a novel writing marathon. This is for both my fellow MNM marathoners, and, for anyone who is thinking of doing a novel writing marathon on their own.

Our yearly marathon takes place in July, so we currently have just shy of three months to prepare. As it is a competition and the novels submitted at the end of the 72 hour marathon get sent to judges for individual critique and consideration in the BEST NOVEL AWARD for their categories, we are only allowed to submit what we write AT the marathon. The writers are, however, allowed to bring a one-page outline of the novel they wish to write while at the marathon. So we don’t have to come into it completely unprepared. For those who write based on an outline, there’s a lot you can fit onto one page. An entire novel, if you’re careful with your bullet pointing. (-:

After chatting with Jennifer Turney last night, I’ve decided to approach this year’s marathon a little differently. We’ll see how it goes. You might recall from my recent Oops, I did it again post that Jennifer is to blame for me participating in the novel marathon this year. She ignited the spark that led to my eventual registration.

In prior years I never really prepared so much as I worried myself into an anxious state of catatonia as the weekend approached. The only thing I really made sure to have going into the marathon was a title for the novel I would write. The ideas themselves? I just allowed those to fly about in my mind untethered. I neither pinned them down, nor thought them out. I just hoped something would stick when I sat down to write.

This was okay for several years. And then the 2016 novel marathon came and I sat down and had approximately ZERO idea what it was I was going to write. I didn’t even have a title that year. In fact, for the first 24 hours of the 72 hour novel writing marathon I basically wrote nothing. I hemmed and hawed, I floated from one WIP to another…deciding not to enter the competition but to work on something I had already began elsewhere. But nothing was motivating me, nothing spoke to me. After having a short conversation with fellow marathoner Dale Long, after 24 hours of wasted marathoning,

From that point onward, I had a plan. Dale suggested I write MY STORY, only change it. Not a great epiphany in its own right, but man…it hit me like a rock on the side of the head. It was almost as though his suggestion gave me a permission of sorts. I’m sure a lot of writers do this, but it was almost as though it had never occurred to me until Dale mentioned it. I was desperate. I wanted to write something, to have something useful when my 72hrs were up. So I took Dale’s advise and began to tell something resembling my own story with an unfathomable amount of lies sprinkled throughout to make it nothing like my story. Once I began, I just kept trucking right on through to the end of the marathon.

I wrote I WILL TELL THE NIGHT in the last 48 hours of the marathon. And much to my surprise, it went on to win the 2016 Best Adult Novel Award.

So much for a quick post. I have done what I usually do. I have digressed.

Maybe bullet points will help shorten this post.

NOVEL MARATHON PREPARATION TIPS:

  • Once you decide to take part in a novel writing marathon, make a commitment to always have a journal on your person. You never know when inspiration will hit. Jot down any and all ideas you may have. Don’t trust that you will remember them.
  • This sounds unimportant but if you listen to music while writing, make a playlist. Pick only songs you know you won’t SKIP when listening to it. All favourites that you won’t get sick of. And enough songs to have a variety. 72hrs is a long time.
  • If you come up with a novel idea that sticks, think about how you’re going to write your outline. Point-form. Chapter Titles. First sentences. Character descriptions. Last sentence. Outcome. Plot points. You get one page. Make it work for you.
  • For Muskoka Novel Marathon writers, all of our meals are prepared. You will want to bring snacks. This means something different to each writer. Some need a lifetime supply of Twizzlers to see them through a writing session, others need sunflower seeds and still others need cake. Bring what you think you’ll crave at 3:00am on a Saturday morning. If that’s sugar, so be it. It’s only one weekend…not a new habit. Bring some happy-food for yourself.
  • Gadgets, widgets, fidgets and balls. Bring something to play with and keep your hands busy while you’re musing. If you have a Rubik’s Cube or a skipping rope or something else that makes you happy while whiling away some non-writing time, BRING IT.
  • Pillows, blankets, water-bottle—these are essential for the Muskoka Novel Marathoner. As are changes of clothes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a towel, comfortable shoes, and a book. Yes, a book.
  • At the Muskoka marathon, writers typically make one or more trips down the hill to downtown Huntsville. Bring an umbrella (just in case), and money (or, for most of us, a debit card). We will often stop at a restaurant/bar for a drink—which is more about the bonding time and writerly talk than it is about drinking. This is quality getting-to-know-you time. Sometimes the bonding involves getting arrested together or experiencing a lively brawl, but often it’s good clean fun.
  • Bring a sense of adventure that’s literally too large to fit in the car or on the horse you ride in on. This is a tremendous experience. You’re bound to pack fear—everyone is. It’s a daunting challenge to write a novel in 72 hours. FEAR will be in your suitcase, guaranteed. But make room also for your sense of adventure. It’s a fun journey, kind of like a rollercoaster—it’s filled with ups, downs and in-betweens. Be ready for anything, be open to everything.
  • Bring SPIRIT. Cheer on others and allow others to cheer you on. If you’re having difficulty with a plot twist or an irrational (or rational) character, you’re surrounded by 40 other writers who know what you’re going through. Talk it out. Let out your frustrations at the dinner table. Admonish your characters over breakfast. We’re a community when we’re there. We live together for 72 hours. You’ll find the other writers HAVE YOUR BACK. Let them help you and be helped by you. This was one of the greatest gifts Sue Blakeney gave us at the marathon. Her time and unstoppable wisdom. She sat with me for almost an hour one day listening to me rant about a character and the direction I was going to take my novel in. She changed the trajectory of the story by calming me down and talking me through all the possibilities. Let’s all be Sue Blakeneys this marathon. It would be a great way to honor her MNM legacy.
  • Bring WILLINGNESS.
  • Take a page from Alanis Morissette’s playbook…THANK U, to be exact.

Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once

How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out

I think that song actually carries in it a great piece of wisdom about the Muskoka Novel Marathon. The moment you release your fear at how overwhelming a task it is that you set yourself is the moment you receive the gift of how wonderful the experience is.

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

  • BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
  • Bring TOLERANCE. Bring HOPE. Bring CREATIVITY.

See you at the marathon.

 

 

Oops, I did it again…The Muskoka Novel Marathon Song

Last night, after believing for the entire spring that I wouldn’t, I registered for the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was a harried chain of events that brought me to getting a coveted spot at this year’s novel writing marathon for literacy.

Step 1: Get a DM from Jennifer Turney at around 7:30 last night. “Did you get in?” Wrack my brain for five minutes…did I get in where? Where was I trying to get into? Was this message meant for me?

Step 2: Realize what Jennifer is talking about and DM her back to tell her I’m not doing MNM this year.

Step 3: Spend an hour on the subway thinking, “I really should,” while listening to 80s new wave and getting strange looks.

Step 4: Get home, hear from Michael that there’s still spots left for the marathon. Look at the site map for the seating arrangements and notice MY seat spot is still open. It’s LITERALLY the best seat in the house. This can’t be?!?!

Step 5: Just before bed, Facebook Colum about NOT registering. Hem and Haw.

Step 6: Look at seating map again. MY seat is STILL available. Usually the marathon spots sell out within minutes. The universe is calling. Answer the phone.

Step 7: REGISTER.

So, I will be writing a novel in 72hrs once again.

Details will follow, but suffice it to say…I’m excited, scared, nervous, freaking.

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I will be asking for donations soon. We collect about $30,000 a year and all monies collected go directly to the LITERACY PROGRAMS at YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka. We are WRITERS HELPING READERS. I hope you will consider helping! Look for my personal fundraising link soon! Or hit me up this coming SATURDAY at the WCDR meeting! Any amount helps!

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One of the many views at the 72hr Muskoka Novel Marathon. This dock is just outside the facility where the writers stay in Huntsville, Ontario!
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CLICK THE HEART TO VISIT THE MNM SITE!

40 writers + 72 hours = 40 novels and lots of laughs and tears and lots of money for literacy programs!

Postcards from the End – MNM2016

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the last day of the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was a great marathon for me…after the first 24 hours of non-productivity fog melted off the lake of the weekend and the sun came out to burn off the dense terrifying nothingness that clung to my creativity like a golem made to keep me down. I’m not being over-dramatic. Really, I’m not.

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I went from having nothing to write that weekend to scrambling to keep up with the story that eventually took over my every thought. I eventually chased it down and wrote it out and got a lion’s share of it on paper. By the end of the weekend, I had perhaps 3/4 of a novel completed. I handed it in for consideration in the Best Novel Award contest and it actually went on to win BEST ADULT NOVEL OF 2016. What happened after the marathon is another story…best to be saved for a fireside horror-show retelling.

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Moving along…

If you would like to sponsor a writer for the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon, it’s not too late to do so. Each writer has two goals for this novel writing marathon. GOAL #1 is to raise money and awareness for the Simcoe Muskoka YMCA literacy programs. Writing a novel in 72 hours is just the secondary more selfish goal…money for literacy, that’s the true aim. You can make a difference with your donation. AND no amount is too small. Here’s a link to the Muskoka Novel Marathon 2017 Writers Page—with links to sponsor the writer of your choice.

As the marathon winds down, participants often write letters of encouragement to one another via blog posts, tweets, Facebook status updates, paper airplanes, toilet paper missives, etc.

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One of the many beautiful places writers can choose to write in at the Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario.

Here’s a Facebook status update I wrote as the 2016 marathon drew to a close. I won’t be taking part in the 2017 marathon that begins this Friday evening at 8pm and lasts for 72 hours…but I wish all those writers taking part a wonderful writing journey. May they write words, eat well, and be merry. And maybe when the marathon is coming to an end, they can find this postcard from the past and take comfort in it this year…as the message is fitting for any marathoner approaching the ending of the marathon on any given year.

 

Take a deep breath. This is it. The last day of the marathon. We have walked thousands upon thousands of words, taken strangers to places near and far with the sheer power of our own gossamer imaginations. Be well pleased in yourself and in your courage. It’s time to write the eulogy, celebrate the fact that you made it to the end. The power of words, so thick and meaty…they can change the world with a stroke. You’ve put them together one upon another, forced logic and il-logic to intertwine in whatever world you created in your mind for this long journey. Take a bow, for you all know the power now of longing to reach into your imaginations and pull out that which cannot be touched but allows itself to be embraced nonetheless. You were either absent or present during the creation of your words…there, not there. You were, however, at the helm…even in those periods when you completely disappeared, became not a writer but writing itself. We draw now to a close, on this, our last day…draw our imaginations back to a simmer—to something we can more tolerate back in the real world where words are not as powerful and all-encompassing as they are here, in this sacred place. Breathe. You did it. You have entrusted yourself to take the journey. You stepped forward one word at a time and you didn’t die. No one got left behind. The words piled up and gave you strength, even as they took it clean away. Write. Write. Write. But in doing so, don’t forget to breathe. You’re almost home.

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Yours truly taking a time out at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon. THIS is the beauty that surrounds us at the marathon. It’s everywhere. Our job is to keep writing without falling victim to the distractions. But we also need breaks…creativity walks. To the 2017 Marathoners…DON’T FORGET TO STEAL SOME ‘ME’ TIME FOR YOURSELF. Go to the Volcano!

I’ll leave you with Medicine for the People…

 

Everyday Camino, Everyday MNM…

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“Once, there was a way to get back home…” ~ The Beatles  ETA: The rock pictured above is the handy-work of poet/writer Paula Boon. It was a little offering to a fellow MNM writer at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon. I fell instantly in love with the ROCKPOEM. It encapsulated the theme of my 2016 MNM novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. Thanks, Paula!

 

Sometimes, in the life of an author, the echo of silence is so severe it scorches. The armor one must wear to be a writer is, at times, debilitating. Even with 5 novels published and readily available for consumption, I’m, for the most part, an unread author. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to squish a mountain of sour grapes into the universe. It is what it is. My books are largely unread. It is merely a fact.

This, in and of itself, is not as debilitating as it sounds. Honestly. Just a little disheartening. But the preciousness of the ego is protected in such a way that one can hold on to one good word for a very long time as motivation to carry on and continue on with the journey despite the obvious reasons one has for folding up shop and moving on. Between the excruciatingly long awkward silences that come of being an unread author, there are little tidbits of rewards when one discovers someone has not only read one of your books…but loved it. These nuggets are what I hold onto when I struggle with the ever-present question that dogs the unread author: WHAT’S THE POINT?

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On the Camino de Santiago, the graffiti is almost always inspiring or thought-provoking…

But the point is more about self-fulfillment than it is about being read, isn’t it? When it comes right down to it, the creative heart is creative out of necessity rather than out of any desire for recognition and being petted for being creative. Creativity happens even in a void of witnesses. If I were the last human being on the planet–the lucky/unlucky survivor of a nuclear holocaust, say–I’d still have the need in my heart to be creative. I would still write.

I’ve been thinking a LOT lately about the Camino de Santiago and how my experience there reflects my creative life. I haven’t quite made the connection, but it’s there. I just can’t put my finger on it. I have thought a lot about the concept of EVERYDAY CAMINO since returning from Spain in May of 2014. I have thought a lot about the fact that the journey not only ended at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela…but it also BEGAN there. I honestly can’t stop thinking about how the journey of the Camino de Santiago mirrors Dorothy’s journey on the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz. I was mesmerized by the analogy all throughout my Camino journey and even more so at the end of the journey when I stood in the piazza in front of the great cathedral and saw a million familiar faces staring back at me and up into the face of the cathedral itself. Every man, woman and child I had walked beside, around, with, past—every one of them seemed to be there in that piazza. I walked around in a daze, thinking, ‘And you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and you were there!’ And when I walked into the cathedral, I felt the weight of a thousand dreams, wishes and hopes. I looked about for the wizard and he was there and he was me and he was all the other peregrinos (pilgrims) present at the time. We were all the wizard. We were all the makers of our own journeys. We were all there for proof of intelligence, and for a heart, and for courage, and for a home. We were there to belong.

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My first moment in front of the Wizard’s castle. The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

I want to be on that journey, still. I want that wide-eyed wonder every day. I AM on that journey. I carry it with me. It is only after you walk the Camino de Santiago that you realize the journey has just begun. You can bottle that mesmerizing feeling and take it with you. The Camino allows you do to that.

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In the city of Santiago de Compostela, right outside the passport office where you receive your Compostela certificate for walking the Camino, there is a corner…and in that corner, the discarded walking sticks of those who made the sacred journey… THESE sticks were a PROFOUND MOMENT for me. I will never forget these sticks.

The tie-in for me, when it comes to trying to piece together my writing life with my Camino, is the Muskoka Novel Marathon. This 72hr novel writing marathon is to the Camino as The Wizard of Oz is to the Camino. At the end of the writing marathon, I look around at all the tired, sleepy, traumatized, disheveled, elated, emotional writers (40+ of them) I took the marathon journey with and I think, ‘And you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and you were there!’ We land at the end of the marathon weekend with a splash and a plunk and we say, “WE MADE IT!” The marathon is the Camino is the marathon is the Camino. They are the same thing…both are journeys. One uses your feet and your heart and your desire and your dreams. The other uses all those things and a laptop and a chair.

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My view at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon.

I may have just put my finger on it.

I need to live the Everyday Camino I theorize and I need to use the Everyday MNM I theorize. I need these journeys to continue. I have books to write. I have books to complete. I can’t sit around hoping for others to read the words I leave behind me. I need to continue to leave them there for myself.

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Just a handful of the 40+ writers who took part at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon. We raised over $36,000 for literacy in 2016.

These two paths are so connected–interconnected–when I squint, the line between them disappears. Camino = Writing = Camino. I will, in the coming months, be looking for ways to shore up my writing practice with my Camino journey…which I very much consider to be ongoing.

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Another one of my views at the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon – Writing by the dock of the bay…

I already know I will NOT be attending the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon. I won the Best Novel Award last year at the marathon, for the 5th time. I’m thrilled at that accomplishment. But I also felt like most of my time there was mired in failure last year. My unfinished manuscripts are piling up and I discovered at the marathon that I am unable to work on finishing projects there in that space of new projects. And that is what I want to do…finish projects. That is my goal for 2017.

In keeping with that goal, I am going to be exploring ways to work on my WIPs while at the same time exploring my life journey, my Camino. I know I can continue to incorporate the two. I don’t always write about the journeys I take, but I always feel more invigorated and ready to write when I take journeys. Perhaps I should make my own Camino this year, make my own novel writing marathon.

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The Camino de Santiago – Close friends and strangers…all fellow peregrinos for life. Magic happens on the Camino—a magic that the Camino allows you to carry away from its journey.

I Will Tell the Night – But I Won’t Remember It.

I have been madly editing my latest novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. Having just completed it a week or so ago, it is material that should be fresh in my mind. But it isn’t. Not at all. It’s actually quite frightening to be reading along and have no idea what’s coming up WHEN YOU WROTE THE THING THAT’S COMING UP! Mere days ago. And when I say NO IDEA, that is exactly what I mean. Whole scenes are surprises to me. Entire chapters are foreign and unrecognizable.

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From an editing standpoint, this makes part of the process easier. Because as I read, I am not doing that thing writers do when they read what they meant to say instead of what is actually on the page. When you know what’s coming, you can accidentally read a line the way you meant to write it instead of the line you actually wrote…thus perpetuating your error and keeping it in your manuscript.

That’s not happening, because I have no idea what the hell is going on. I’m just over 200 pages in with the edit, on a manuscript that is 308 pages long. I vaguely recognized a few of the scenes. I remember feelings I had while writing some of them, even though I did not actually remember the scene itself. I remember things I contemplated putting into the story, but didn’t. Those are the phantom limbs I spoke of in THIS POST. So, essentially, I am waiting for scenes to happen that will never happen because I didn’t write them. I’m a hot mess.

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I won Best Novel for the novel I’m editing, but I can’t remember why…

I will often blame this lack of connection with my writing on the way in which it is written. This floats when I write a novel in 72hrs under duress of getting it completed in a weekend with sleep deprivation, distractions, and intensity. Yeah…then I can say, “What the hell did I write?! I don’t remember a thing.” But the lion’s share of this novel I wrote over the course of an entire month. I can’t use that marathon brain alibi.

Times like this, I have to admit to myself that this not-remembering entire chunks of a novel I just wrote is one of those longtime symptoms of PTSD. It’s actually a bit painful to read your work and not feel familiar with it. Where did I go when I wrote it? Where the hell am I?

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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.

This is something I don’t only realize when I’m editing my work. The looming deadline for getting I WILL TELL THE NIGHT back to the Muskoka Novel Marathon people has me fully concentrated on editing this book to the best of my ability…so it’s the thing that is making me think of this NOW.

But if I were being completely honest with myself, I find it very difficult to have conversations about ANY of my published novels. Someone will say something about one of my characters and I have to chase a thread going nowhere inside my head to try to figure out what novel that character is even in. I often come up empty and just pray that as the person continues to speak, a clue will be offered up and I will figure out what novel they’re talking about. Then, I try to piece together a response that sounds halfway intelligent…as though I know what the hell they’re talking about. I don’t.

I guess I’m just destined to be like this. I do have an overall impression of my works, but just in the vaguest possible of ways. I carry something akin to a fractured synopsis around for each of my novels. But if I am required to go outside that gossamer description, everything gets lost in the shadows. I become the unreliable narrator. Unreliable, because I don’t recall. I believe Peter Gabriel said it best…

I don’t remember, I don’t recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don’t remember, I don’t recall
I got no memory of anything
Anything at all” ~ Peter Gabriel, I Don’t Remember

This is not something new to me. I wish it was. I guess this post is just to vent on this truth that has always effected my writing life. It is my coming out. I have a shattered memory processor. It will never be better. As passionate as I am about the process of writing, I’m as attached to my words as I am attached to John Doe and Jane Doe. I don’t know John Doe. I don’t know Jane Doe. They are unfamiliar to me.

I am editing away…discovering my novel for the first time. When I ask what the writer’s motivations were for including this scene or that character, I ask because I want to know. When I think, ‘Whoa! That’s intense! I did NOT see that coming!’ It’s because I didn’t see it coming. I get slightly mildly depressed when I edit. Wanting to be attached to something and realized you’re not…that’s at times a really difficult reality to accept. Because it makes you remember the why of it all. It makes you remember that you are broken and your old wound is never going to go away, no matter how healed you believe yourself to be. Parts of you will always be collateral damage.

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If you see me and you would like to ask me about one of my novels, go gentle on me. You will most definitely know more about the novel than I do. I can’t answer many of your questions. It makes me feel small. It makes me feel less. It makes me remember how much I’ll never remember and how much I will always forget.

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I remember this. Vividly. Just not the words born from this moment.

For me, my memory lies squarely and surely in the FEELINGS I had while I wrote the thing that I wrote. The process. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It’s all about the process for me. It can’t be about anything else. I don’t have that luxury. I’m broken in the places where my stories live. I can tell them, I just can’t retell them…