Novel Marathon

Take Your Words for a Walk – Live Your Story!

This past Sunday I woke up with a fire in me…a fire that would only be quenched by taking a very long walk through the city that I love.

My motivation? Talk to my characters…or rather, allow my characters to talk to me. I’m finishing up my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel and I woke up knowing that my main character, Finn Barker, wanted to somehow use Kensington Market as a metaphor.

I didn’t fully understand/comprehend where Finn was going to with his idea, but I was willing to give him some rope. We don’t always know our characters’ motivations, but we should always allow them to have them. We should always listen to their musings.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to get us to Kensington Market, shut my mouth and stand amid the chaos and beauty and splendour there and listen. Listen to the music of the market. Listen to the light, and the heartbeat, and the motion. And, most importantly, listen to Finn. It was his idea. I was merely the conduit that would deliver him to the setting of the scene he was envisioning.


Courage My Love has been a staple for wonderful original clothing in Kensington Market since long before I was a punk rocker in the 80s buying clothes there. COURAGE MY LOVE is also the title of a fantastic CanLit Novel by Sarah Dearing (Read it! It’s a beautiful story that I return to often.).

So I jumped out of bed, got myself ready, and drove downtown. As an afterthought, before I set out on foot for the Market from the parking garage at Nathan Phillips Square, I set up a new playlist on Spotify. In it, I had such performers as Charlie Pride, Anne Murray, John Denver, and, Neil Diamond. No, these are not performers I myself listen to. But I knew they played in the background of Finn Barker’s childhood…and I knew intrinsically that he was taking me back in time with this metaphor he was struggling to create. Sometimes writing is the ability to hone a sixth-sense to speak to people who exist only in your head and know what they need/want before they do. The playlist was setting the mood to help Finn formulate his idea.


There is beauty everywhere you look in the Market. It’s the extraordinary eccentric pulse in the heart of an already extraordinary city.

Once I made my pilgrimage to the Market, with ‘the green green grass of home‘, ‘crystal chandelier‘, ‘thank god I’m a country boy‘, and ‘snowbirds‘ blasting through my earbuds, I attempted to get out of Finn’s way and allow him to take over. And boy, did he! Sometimes you just know what’s needed to unlock glimpses into your story. You just know that taking a backseat to the characters is the only way to grab hold of some of the most poignant vivid scenes.


Mona Lisa looks down upon the Market from her lofty place above it, and she smiles.

Before leaving the Market, I had a myriad of images and dialogue swirling about in my head. I knew that Finn had wanted to compare the eccentricities of the Market to himself, to somehow explain to his father that the beauty of the Market was that it was an individual and that its individuality was okay. Finn became passionate about the place when he first arrived in Toronto decades before. He wanted to share that passion with a father who shunned anything that stood out as different.

I had an entire scene play out while I walked the Market. I went up and down the main and side streets, doubled back and did it again, stopped in at the lovely Jimmys for a REAL chai tea latte, browsed through the army/navy, squeezed a fruit or two or three. I did all the things! Because I was Finn Barker falling in love with the place he found to be the home nearest to his heart. I was Finn Barker making note of all the things so that he could share them with his father in an attempt to show the man who he, FINN BARKER, really was. It was exquisite. I left myself behind and walked in my story. Glorious.


Jimmys – a staple for good chai in Kensington Market!

The takeaway here, I suppose, is that, as writers, we should allow ourselves to be crazy. We have so many tools in our toolbox. We should never discount any of them. One of them happens to be a propensity towards eccentricity. Embrace it! If you wake up one day with a notion that you should immerse yourself in place, in people, in time, in what have you, then you should do so. Creativity arrives in a myriad of wonderful and intriguing ways. Whether it be the spark at the beginning of a story that gnaws at you until you pick it up and run with it, or a hint of the perfect denouement lurking on the horizon…do whatever it takes to embrace it. If the occasion calls for it, TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE…


The writing of my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT continues!

Listen Now! The Recordings of My STORYLINES Interview & Play Performance from Hunter’s Bay Radio…

Yesterday, the episode of the radio program STORYLINES, with host CHRISTINE COWLEY, on which I appeared, aired on HUNTER’S BAY RADIO. If you happened to miss that airing, Christine was generous enough to provide me with the tapes…and she has allowed me to use them however I wish to use them. Today, I share them here. In the episode, Christine interviews me briefly, and then the two of us perform my 10-minute play THE SPEECH…with the assistance of narrator Tobin Elliott.

So, here are the tapes. You can listen to them now!


In the interview, there is talk of my books, and other writings…particularly BURN BABY BURN BABY. You can check out my books on my AMAZON page…and order them from bookstores everywhere. Click on the image below to visit my page over on Amazon. You can read each book’s synopsis by clicking on the books on the Amazon page:


Click This Picture to Visit My Books on Amazon!

Much thanks to Christine, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity! Though I didn’t really know what I was doing, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I usually write my lines knowing they will come from the mouths of others. It was terrifying and exhilarating to have the tables turned. I’m no actor! It gives one a deeper appreciation of just how difficult it is to deliver lines…couldn’t imagine doing it on the stage!

Thank you, Christine! And thank you Hunter’s Bay Radio. And thank you, Tobin Elliott. And thank you to Driftwood Theatre and their Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival, at which THE SPEECH was created!

In Which Way Shall I Procrastinate TODAY? Or, Finish the Damn Book!

I’m doing it again. I have a fantastic opportunity in front of me and I have one job to do prior to taking advantage of this opportunity, and I am doing everything in my power to avoid the job.

On September 23rd I discovered that my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT took the Best Adult Novel Award at the Marathon Wrap Up Party. With the honour came a Muskoka chair (Adirondack chair, for my American friends), and an envelope filled with beautiful gushing feedback from the bevy of judges who read the manuscripts and chose mine as the winner.

From that date (Sept 23rd), I had six weeks in order to get the manuscript completed and edited into shape before submitting it to the MNM organization for agent feedback.

Then came a week in which ALL THE THINGS happened…all the things, that is, except the writing of the manuscript I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. You see, I was just too busy to write words. I was hanging with friends at their cottage, I was hanging with the old gang from the Ontario Writers’ Conference–including an entertaining drive from Toronto to Whitby and back with the incomparable Wayson Choy, in which we lambasted Trump as we listened to the candidates’ debate on the CBC, I was schmoozing with the contributors of the upcoming horror anthology Purgatorium, and then I was interviewing said contributors for this blog, and I was visiting my kids and grandkids, and we just HAD to go to the opening weekend of Miss Peregrine! There were a few other things in there, I’m certain. The week flew by and brought me to FIVE WEEKS remaining of the countdown to submission. I now find myself smack dab in the middle of this week and I’m not really motoring through the writing as I should be.

This is WEEK 2! I’m proud to have found yet another distraction!


My latest obsession/distraction – HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE by Jennifer Niven, the lovely writer who also brought us ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.

This book will be, perhaps, the death of me. Both Libby and Jack are fascinating characters and I am absolutely devouring their story. I never imagined loving a book as much as I loved ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. Only Jennifer Niven could make me love something more than ATBP! And if this book doesn’t distract me enough to cause me to squander this opportunity, I’m almost certain something else will come up.

If you need me, I’m just going to be over here attempting to write slightly more than half a book in 4 1/2 weeks, while simultaneously editing said book. It’s a difficult task, but it is also one I should not be taking so lightly. Must. Finish. Writing. The. Damn. Book!

I thought I would share a little excerpt of I WILL TELL THE NIGHT here. This is part of an excerpt I read at the Midnight Reading at the Muskoka Novel Marathon on the Sunday night. Every year, partway through the marathon, I get the writers to stop what their doing and gather in the dining room of our venue and read from their works. It builds upon the community spirit of the marathon and it’s always such a wonderful experience to hear these raw just written moments the other writers created right there, just hours before.

Here’s an introduction to Finn Barker and his grandmother, MyImogene:

“Honey, get me those two Vidalia onions over there,” his Imogene said. “The two beside the sink. We’ll cut those up and have ourselves a good cry over the cast iron pan, shall we?”

Finn scrambled from the rocking chair on the other side of the kitchen. He had already given up on trying to pin Oscar’s tail under one of the rockers. He had to give up on his theory that cats were stupid enough, or gullible enough, to fall for that trick. He grabbed up the onions and brought them to the woodstove where his grandmother was preparing their afternoon dinner.

“What’s a Vidalia?” Finn asked.

“If these were peaches, sweet boy, they’d be Georgia peaches,” his Imogene said. She was always one to get to the point of a thing by taking the more circuitous route to it. She was well on her way to telling the boy the answer he would need to know, but she would not take him there too quickly. His Imogene was all about the roundabout.

“How can an onion be a Georgia Peach, my Imogene?”

“Oh, it’s not, my boy. Land-sake’s no. That’d be a horrible peach to bite, now, wouldn’t it?”

Without thinking too much on it, Finn decided to try again. “What’s a Vidalia?”

“Well, hon, you know the red part of a match? The part that makes a fire?”

“Yeah,” he said, finally putting the onions he was holding into his grandmother’s waiting hands. She quickly began to skin them with an intense anger that would put any animal hider to shame. “Sulfur, Daddy said.”

“Right,” my Imogene said. “We’re halfway there, my smart boy. How’d an eight year-old get to be so smart? I swear, I was eighty before I knew that one.”

“You ain’t eighty now, my Imogene.”

“Boy, ain’t ain’t no word. Not yet. We haven’t devolved to that level of grammar deconstruction as of yet. With any luck, I’ll be dead and buried before that happens.”

The cast iron pan was now over the open flame of the old woodstove, and a mound of butter the size of Topeka was frying down to a river as my Imogene slowly dropped her Vidalia pieces into the mix. The onions sizzled to life as they hit the skittering butter on the bottom of the pan.

“What’s a Vidalia, my Imogene?” The boy was persistent in his constant pursuit of knowledge.

“Sulfur, my dear boy, is a chemical element of atomic number sixteen. It’s combustible. Do you know what that means?”

“It explodes or catches fire?”

“That’s near enough to the truth of the matter. Well, sulfur is found in the earth. In the dirt. In the soil. It’s from the land, Finn. And when there’s very little sulfur in the ground, in places such as Vidalia, Georgia, well that Earth does its best to make the sweetest most delectable onions found on the planet.”

“Vidalia? It’s a place?”

“Yes sir, young man. Vidalia, Georgia. In the deep south of the United States of America, the country found on the bum side of Canada. They are famous for some nasty and ugly things down there in the deep South, Finn. Things we’ll talk about, perhaps, at some other time. But they are most famous in Georgia for the glorious Georgia peach and the divine Vidalia onion.”

I Will Tell the Night – Muskoka Novel Marathon 2016 Best Adult Novel Award!

A writer is sometimes lost and sometimes found. And quite often it’s a monumental moment that causes the shift between those two delicately interconnected worlds to occur. This weekend, I had one of those moments. I am found.


The Dock at Dale & Sue Long’s Haliburton cottage on Lake Kashagawigamog this past Saturday morning, prior to our Hunter’s Bay Radio stop along the way to the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party!

I swear, sometimes it seems a writer’s life is made up of a series of gifts, miracles, and happenstances. Or so it very much seems to me. Every time I bring myself close to the edge of oblivion–to that place of writer/notwriter that I believe most writers go to–something or someone in my life brings me back to the heart.


Writers! From left to right, Tobin Elliott, Christine Cowley, myself, and, Dale Long. Tobin and Dale were interviewed together for an episode of the show appearing later in October. And Tobin helped out with the narration of my play THE SPEECH, which I performed with Christine.

This past weekend, I began one of my many cycles of intense writerly related periods. They seem to come and go. Nothing happens for weeks or months at a time to even remotely suggest that you may in fact be living the life of a writer, and then suddenly you find yourself in a chaotic hotbed of WRITERLY stuff.

What started as a thrilling adventure at the local radio station in Huntsville, Ontario, this weekend, culminated in discovering that I had won a much coveted writing prize. Again.

I was invited by writer friend Christine Cowley to be interviewed on her radio program STORYLINES on Huntsville’s Hunter’s Bay Radio. But not only was I interviewed, which was a thrill in and of itself, but I also performed one of my Trafalgar 24 plays for the radio program…along with Christine herself playing the role of the lead in the short play, and my other writer friend Tobin Elliott stepping in as narrator. It was such a fun time! The episode of Storylines airs in early October and I can’t wait to see how the performance went. It will be interesting to see if it translates well as a radio play.

We stayed in Haliburton over the weekend, taking up residence in the cottage and bunky of writer friend Dale Long and his wife Sue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable stay, filled with great laughs, amazing food and good friends. Dale is something of a BBQ aficionado and what he can do with a grill, a cedar plank and a side of salmon is almost religious.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Longs, the Elliotts, and the beauty of Haliburton.

After our stint as radio celebrities in the recording studios of Hunter’s Bay Radio Station, Dale, Tobin and I went to Kelsey’s in Huntsville with our significant others (Sue, Karen, and Michael) for a quick lunch prior to heading to the Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party. We were all excited to see who would take home the peer nominated awards and the Best Novel Awards this year. After the long summer that follows the July marathon, it’s always a special treat to head back to Huntsville and reunite with the other marathon writers…so the excitement we had felt at the radio station was only growing as the wrap up party approached.

The photo above-left shows the table full of awards handed out every year at the novel marathon wrap up party, from peer nominated awards to the judged Best Novel awards. On the right, Kate and Nancy from the YMCA revealed the total raised at this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon—A whopping $36,000.00. Just see what 40 writers can do when they put their hearts to something. ALL FUNDS raised go directly to the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka Counties.


The Winners Take a Selfie! I was extremely thrilled to have been awarded the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon for my novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And just as thrilled for the lovely Lori Manson, who took home the coveted BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for her novel NED AND NORA STONE.

I did not think I would ever win the Best Novel Award again. I counted my 4 previous wins among my greatest feats in my writing life. With the amount of struggling I have done in recent years, I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this. It is the vote of confidence I needed to continue writing. It’s pure unadulterated validation.

I would like to thank Dale Long for two things. The first…over 24hrs into the marathon, I still did not have my novel started. I couldn’t connect. Dale told me to tell my story—just shake it up and make it fiction. Or something along those lines. So I said, “What have I got to lose…might as well do something!” He stirred my creativity and got me started. The second thing he did? I wrote my two title considerations down on a piece of paper, looked about the room until I saw Dale (who happened to win this year’s SPIRIT AWARD–for the 2nd year running) sitting and typing…then I approached him and asked him which he preferred. So, it is because of his choice that my novel is called I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. THANKS, DALE!

Here it is! My name on the Best Novel Award trophy again! VALIDATION!

A list of my Best Novel Award wins:

2007 – Best Adult Novel for SEBASTIAN’S POET

2008 – Best Adult Novel for THE REASONS

2010 – Best Young Adult Novel for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

2011 – Best Young Adult Novel for THAT’S ME IN THE CORNER

2016 – Best Adult Novel Award for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT

What an incredible weekend. Filled with affirmations, friends, laughter, food, love, light and life. I want to thank Tobin’s wife, Karen, for starting the snowball-rolling-down-a-hill conversation that culminated in the arrival of my new nickname, which I will expect to be addressed by from this day forth. I am LORD AWA (awa aka AWARD WINNING AUTHOR).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript to pound into shape! I am now tasked with the great burden and joy of completing and polishing my novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT, in preparation of submission. (-:

Stay tuned to this spot! My spate of WRITERLY related chaos is still ongoing this time around. Tonight and tomorrow night I have some exciting writerly events happening that I’m sure I will want to write about. Stay tuned!