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Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Marathon Novel Writing On Writing Writing Writing Camp Writing Life

My After-The-Marathon Post

This past weekend was the 2020 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was the…wait for it…QUARANTINE EDITION. Cue the creepy crawling dark and dreary music…

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The novel marathon is usually 40 writers getting together in one intimate space and writing 40 novels over the course of a 72 hours weekend in July. It occurs in Huntsville, Ontario, the heart of the Muskoka region. Cottage Country.

This year? Not so much. We sat in our own houses. We wrote on our own.

But the Marathon organizers did a SUPER FANTASTIC ABSOLUTELY AMAZING JOB motivating the housebound writers! They are to be commended for thinking outside the box during this, the year of impossibilities. Covid-19 changed EVERYTHING, including the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON.

I know we won’t raise as much money for the YMCA literacy programs this year. It’s pretty much a given. But writers still did their best, we still did some fundraising. Hopefully, we raise enough to keep some of the programs funded. The yearly injection of funds that the Y gets from this marathon is no small change. We often raise upwards of $30,000 per marathon year.

The other elements of this event, outside of the fundraising? The WRITING. The camaraderie. The silliness. The emotions. The food. The coffee. The love. The words. The sunshine and the rain. While in Huntsville every year, the writers usually sneak out to explore the town…either on their own or in groups. We have a pub night, we take the old fashioned train at the historical HERITAGE PLACE TRAIN STATION. We do an amazing BAREFOOT CREATIVITY WALK with BAREFOOT SUE! We do all these things and more. We are a family gone on a long weekend vacation together. 40 of us. We click and clack in the writing room day and night. We stop writing long enough to break bread together three times a day (Called to the kitchen by the flickering of the writing room lights and presented with delectable food for every meal provided by volunteers and sponsors). We huddle in small groups and large ones, talking about writerly and nonwriterly things. We do a MIDNIGHT READING on the SUNDAY NIGHT…sitting around a large table in the kitchen (let’s just call it a mess hall) reading the fresh unedited words from our manuscripts to the other gathered writers. We are, for 3 short days every year, a family.

Enter 2020.

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A screenshot of yours truly during one of the MNM 2020 Quarantine Edition WRITING SPRINTS. I chopped out all the other little Brady Bunch ZOOM squares. Our screens were filled with writers writing…quietly together. ❤ It really works, people! Motivates!

We did ZOOM meetings this time around. We wore pajamas and goofy hats and ate together and laughed. It was different. It was very different. But thanks to the gracious and tireless organizing committee, our family found to a new way to be together…to reach out and share. We even did the Midnight Reading.

MUCH THANKS AND LOVE TO: Karen Wehrstein, Colum McKnight, Jennifer Turney, Heather Cotic, Krystyne Taylor-Smith, Shellie Westlake, Sharon Bacon, and, David Bruce Patterson. These generous souls brought our happy family together in a new and vibrant way. Much things have been cancelled during Covid-19. Thanks to this group who thought outside the box and made the changes necessary to keep our little light aflame. The MNM did not happen in Huntsville this year, no. But we carried on…we came…we wrote words. We persisted.

There’s always next year, right? HUNTSVILLE CAN WAIT.

See you there, MNM family!

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Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Kill Him or Keep Him? When Manuscripts Act Up…

During the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon I wrote a novel that I titled The Époque of Ethan going in (I always start my novels by writing the title at the top of page one). I almost NEVER change the title after it’s chosen.

The novel is the story of two characters, Cooper who is the nonbinary love interest of the dead guy, and Topher, who is the dead guy’s best friend. I won’t make you guess the dead guy’s name. It was, wait for it…ETHAN.

I had Ethan dead prior to the beginning of the novel. He actually jumped from a highway overpass. It was messy. Topher witnessed it and suffered much trauma.

The truth about that jump? It was a prompt from the lovely Wayson Choy during one of his workshops at an old Ontario Writers’ Conference event. I can no longer remember the prompt, but I wrote this scene about the Topher character looking back to the jump and how it made them feel. I actually got to read it to the group during the course of the workshop. It felt like something I could use later. I liked that its origin story is WAYSON.

Fast forward maybe eight or ten years later. I finally wrote 50,000 words of the story at the novel marathon last year. And I’ve been struggling with it ever since.

I rewrote a version where Ethan doesn’t die. He takes pills and ends up in the hospital. But I struggled with that one too.

Recently, Michael said, “Why don’t you make him disappear?” Or something to that effect. So now, I’m going through and rewriting AGAIN. This time Topher and Cooper don’t know if Ethan is dead or alive. The authorities assume he’s dead after some time passes, but the characters don’t know. They don’t want to lose hope. The story is really about what Ethan (disappeared or dead) reveals to them about why he made the choices he made.

Oh wait! I began with the TITLE and how I went into the marathon with the title The Époque of Ethan. Well, scrap that. After a short discussion mid-marathon with a fellow marathoner, the book (as of yet not fully written) was renamed. Say hello to the new title, mid-marathon!

No Visible Damage. Tada! The fellow marathoner that helped me come up with the title–which was a line from the novel that Topher used incidentally and then reflected, ‘that would be a great name for a band’–was Colum McKnight. Not only did he steer the ship that changed the title, but he later went down to the village with a broomstick in his hands…wait, no. Oops. He went down to the village–the town–and had the title magically lasered into one of the bookmarks we were all given. It was official! Just like that, The Époque of Ethan became No Visible Damage. Done deal.

At that point, Ethan was still very much dead. There was a funeral and everything. I can attest to that.

Fast forward a few months and I have this niggling feeling that Ethan maybe shouldn’t die. First rewrite ensues. Hospital scenes. Rewrite everything to fit the change.

Fast forward almost an entire year after struggling to come up with an ending, while preparing my upcoming novel release for its big debut. No go. The ending eludes me. Whether he’s dead or in the hospital, I just can’t make it work.

Bang. Michael makes a comment about a disappearance. Dead or alive? Who knows? No one. Not the reader, not the characters. No one.

Another rewrite. YAY.

Oh. And, guess what? Another title change. It had to be.

Welcome to Where oh Where is Ethan Sinclair? I feel like it’s sacrosanct to change the title again, but I also feel like I can’t NOT change the title again. I mean, the title is literally written in stone. I mean, it’s not stone, but it is leather. I mean, well, not leather, but a fake leathery thing. It’s written in a bookmark. Sorry, Colum.

All this to say WRITERS STRUGGLE EVERY DAY. All we want to do is get the story right. I’m working my way towards the end of what’s written in the manuscript again. Not the ENDING, just the stopping point where I’ve been stuck. This time there’s another plot point wrapping itself throughout. Is Ethan dead or alive? I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out if the train keeps on moving past the previous stop point. At any rate, this ranty post is just here to show you how hard it can sometimes get.

Don’t think for a second I threw the whole Époque of Ethan thing out the window, because I didn’t. I refused to. It became the name of Ethan’s blog, which is how Ethan fills the two main characters in on things in his absence.

I don’t know how this will play out. I really don’t. But I’m willing to find out. To be honest, a part of me has been full on pretending the novel is finished. I’m a great pretender.

Stick around. Maybe we’ll one day find out if I kill him or keep him. Or maybe it’ll be another manuscript for the Big Manuscript Burial Ground. One never knows.

(PS: The 2020 Muskoka Novel Marathon takes place July 17-20 and it’s a pandemic version. This means it’s online and anyone can register and participate. Writers should check it out! Just click these words!)

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On Writing

Say Something, I’m Giving Up on You – When Do You Call it on a Manuscript?

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you
So this is the song I’ve been singing to far too many old manuscripts. I keep going back to them and starting at the beginning and working my way through. I’ll edit a word here and there, change a few things around. I’m not talking about 2 manuscripts. This is 4 at the least. Every once in a while the 5th or 6th one will sneak in for some screen time. They’re all 3/4 done. I keep going back. They keep not getting completed.
Why am I doing this? It has to stop. I’m not starting anything new. I’m not getting anywhere near to close to being finished with them. I feel like somewhere along the way I should take things as a sign. If I haven’t finished by now, maybe I’m not going to finish.
When do you decide it’s time to give up and move on?
Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you
It’s hard when you really like parts of the abandoned or put aside manuscripts. There’s something that keeps drawing me back to each and every one of them…and it’s not the need to finish. I do not have a desire to finish everything I start. It’s not that.
As pathetic as it sounds, I sometimes think I keep going back out of curiosity. I want to find out what happens. It’s the same old story. I begin every novel with a question. WHAT IF? And then I write the novel to discover what happens after the what if? I never outline. I’m not against it and I’m certainly not against other people doing it. It’s just something that has never once worked for me. Somewhere along the way I gave up trying.
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Gratuitous Frank-N-Furter Shot…
This doesn’t always mean that I go blindly into a story. Sometimes I know what I want it to look like, I just don’t know where it’s going. I have enough faith in the forward momentum. I trust that it will keep going until I get to the end. Usually, eventually it does. Sometimes it’s because Michael, my amazing cohort, will ask a few what ifs? of his own when I’m somewhere around the middle wondering aloud about what will happen next.
His what ifs? help to push me forward, and often even take me in different directions. Pantser writers like myself, we like to talk things through…try to figure out what’s happening. It’s an outline without calling it an outline, I suppose.
But, anyway. Today I feel only frustration. I have too many unfinished manuscripts and a real desire to finish them. AND AN EQUAL UNCERTAINLY about whether or not they’re worth finishing. All manuscripts are worthy of pursuing. None are a waste of time. Even the ones we don’t finish teach us something, right? They make us better writers, whether or not we type out THE END.
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Gratuitous Frank-N-Furter gif…
But I really want to finish a couple in particular. It’s driving me mad. I feel like I can’t move forward with something new until one or two older manuscripts are fully completed.
Here’s where I’m at.
What do you do with your difficult manuscripts? When is it time to put it in a drawer and never look back? When is it time to push on through? How many have you abandoned? How many did you consider abandoning but later, somehow miraculously finished? Frustrated minds want to know. I’m at a reckoning…
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Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Writing On Writing Writing Camp Writing Life Writing Retreat

YOU TOO Can Participate in the 2020 Covid Inspired STAYATHOME Muskoka Novel Writing Marathon!

It’s time for the Muskoka Novel Marathon once again!

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So, the marathon is different this year. It usually takes place in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada…in ONE ROOM. 40 writers gather for 72 hours and write 40 novels. But with the little pandemic and all, that’s not possible. This will be the first time it hasn’t happened since its inception 19 years ago. Tragic, yes. We DO LOVE OUR WEEKEND NOVEL WRITING GETAWAY IN PARADISE. It’s a highlight of the year for us regulars.

This year, anyone can participate. You can REGISTER HERE. If that link doesn’t work properly, you can click the clickable link to register on the home page, which I linked above.

Fundraising this year is not mandatory, but they do hope we each bring a little something to the table. Poke around on the site to learn more about the marathon. Essentially, it’s about writers getting some quality writing time while raising funds for area literacy programs. It’s actually quite incredible–we eat all our meals together, we click away at our laptops in the same room, we drink endless amounts of coffee. It’s a pure unadulterated blast!

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This year, it’s from the comfort of your own home. They’ll have some communication going on online. It won’t be the same, but the connection will still be there. The writing will still be there.

It’s open to all who wish to register. Give it a shot. What are you doing the weekend of JULY 17-20? Stop everything, get your bum in chair and write some words!

(MY DONATION PAGE HAS BEEN SET UP – IF YOU WISH TO DONATE TO THE CAUSE, HERE’S A LINK THAT GOES DIRECTLY TO MY PERSONAL PAGE! MUCH THANKS IN ADVANCE! 100% of the donations go directly toward the YMCA literacy programs!)

 

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Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Writing On Writing Writing Writing Camp Writing Life Writing Retreat

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Online Covid19 Edition

Well, now I’ve gone and done it! I told myself I was going to take a year off from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I have a new book coming out (THE CAMINO CLUB) and I thought the 72 hour marathon less than 2 months before launch was just too much me-time to take. I wanted to remain open, just in case.

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The Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada—where the yearly Muskoka Novel Marathon magic usually happens.

As it turns out, a pandemic has struck. So everything has changed. The whole world has changed. Including the magic of the Muskoka Novel Marathon. For the first time ever, this event will not take place in one room in one building in one little northern Ontario town. This year’s MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON will not be 40 writers in one room writing 40 novels in 72 hours.

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I will be sitting in the WRITERS’ ROOM in spirit only this year. Writing from home will definitely not be the same. I’ll miss my fellow MNM participants greatly. Here I was planning to give those poor people a break from my ME-ness this year!

We will be spread far and wide, in our own homes, eating alone or with our loved ones. It’s strange and shocking. I can’t fathom the world without the yearly escape of the MNM. It’s a rare event that, if experienced, all writers cherish. Writing in one room together, stopping for meals to break bread together, to laugh, to compare words, to cry, to vex, to prank. Sigh.

But I did say WE. As it turns out, I guess I do have the schedule that would afford me the ability to participate. I mean, I’ll be home anyway, right? ALSO—full disclosure: The biggest reason I wasn’t going this year was that I felt like I should give my fellow participants a break. I can be a little MUCH sometimes. When I’m doing something that is high intensity–SAY, WRITING A NOVEL IN 72 HOURS–I get a little high intensity myself. I know I can be exhausting at these things, because I exhaust myself. So, I was going to sit this one out to give them an extra year to recuperate.

Usually the marathon registration costs $100. This may sound like a lot of money to fork over for the opportunity to spend 72 hours writing. To those people, I just say, “You’re crazy!” Value your words. That $100 buys 3 meals a day for 3 days, as well as unlimited coffee and snacks. AND a place to stay for 3 days. AND the magical camaraderie of like-minded people. You’re camping in a room with 39 other writers for three days and being fed and caffeinated non-stop. Take my $100, please!

This year, registration is free. And though they ask registrants to participate in fundraising, it is not mandatory. As important as LITERACY is, there are a lot of people out of jobs right now–either permanently or temporary. Fundraising for literacy could prove to be a heavy unfruitful burden for sure. There are a few very important causes right now that should not lose our focus, including bail funds and Black Lives Matter.

So, the usual push for fundraising is gone. And as the marathon is online for the first time, I guess it opens it up for people outside the immediate area as well.

This will be my 12th marathon. I’m registered and counting down the days. Hopefully I can stay on track and get a few words written from home. I hear there’s some online things being planned too, where participants can interact. Maybe some ZOOMS, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what the organizers come up with.

I DID ask for a DONATION PAGE. So if you’re so inclined I would be thrilled if you were to sponsor this cyber-MNM. I’m certain the marathon will fall WAY SHORT of its annual close to $30,000 fundraising achievement. Any amount will help support the ongoing literacy programs of Muskoka/Simcoe county YMCA.

We are WRITERS HELPING READERS READ. You can be READERS HELPING WRITERS HELP READERS READ if you wish. Do you have it in you?

I will be receiving a donation page soon and will share it once it’s live. In light of the current world situation, I will not be doing very much canvassing for funds. But I will make the link available. STAY TUNED!

Thanks so much in advance!

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On Writing

It’s JUST a Pandemic.Why Aren’t You Writing?

People To Everyone Else: Going through a rough patch? Finding it difficult to focus? Give yourself a break…it’s a pandemic out there. We’re all having a hard time in this new upside-down topsy-turvy world reality. There’d be something wrong with us if we weren’t.

People To Writers & Creatives: William Shakespeare wrote a little piece of work called King Lear during his lock-down in the time of the plague. You have no excuse. You have all the time in the world to write.

Anyone else getting really tired with this double standard?

Maybe worrying about catching a virus that has already taken the lives of over 207,000 puts a little stress on creativity. Maybe worrying about the compromised and/or elderly people in your life catching the same virus narrows your predisposition to creativity even a little more than does worrying about catching said virus yourself.

Maybe non-creatives (and even other creatives) need to stay in their own yards and mind their own business. We are in no great race to hand in the next KING LEAR at the end of this lock-down. We are under no obligation to create. And a lot of us also know that there are quiet times in the lives of creative types…and that we are always creating, even when it appears we are not.

Write the next Great American Novel if your heart is in it. Sure! Go ahead. Knock yourself out. But if your heart isn’t in it…just breathe. Breathe until this crisis is over. Hurray for Shakespeare! But we all live by our own rules. We all know there is a time to write and a time to not write. Check in with yourself and ask yourself if you want to put the added pressure of forced creativity into the mix of things you’re currently dealing with.

Be kind.

 

 

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Duet Books Interlude Press On Writing Tiny Book Fest

The Tiny Book Fest – Day 2! April 26, 2020

This Sunday is DAY 2 of THE TINY BOOK FEST from Interlude Press & Duet Books!

Come for a panel on WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION, A Q&A with author CLAIR RUDY FOSTER, which will include a reading from his marvelous collection of short stories SHINE OF THE EVER, A Conversation with CB LEE, author of the fabulous SIDEKICK SQUAD series, A Conversation with award-winning IP Art Director C.B. MESSER led by author JULIAN WINTERS, and a panel on YA IN SPAAAAAAACE!! THE MANY WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY YA!

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Definitely something for everyone!

I’m really looking forward to this, but especially to hear more about the cover design process at Interlude Press/Duet Books. I’m more than a little thrilled with the cover CB Messer came up with for THE CAMINO CLUB. It’s not accidental that they’re phenomenal at what they do! Messer reads the books for which they create covers. There couldn’t possibly be a better cover design for THE CAMINO CLUB. It’s impossible. It’s pure unadulterated perfection and I have CB Messer to thank for that. What an incredible attention to detail!

thumbnail_Camino Club (IPG)

Catch it on ZOOM or FACEBOOK LIVE!

ONCE AGAIN, THERE WILL BE PRIZES!

That will be a wrap for THE TINY BOOK FEST! Make sure to catch it this SUNDAY APRIL 26th, 2020!

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Duet Books Interlude Press Kenya On Writing Poetry Tiny Book Fest

Recovered Poem (Maasai Adumu at Keekorok) and The Tiny Book Fest Recording…

Every once in a while a publication that has published one of my pieces goes under. The reasons are various, but we know funding has a lot to do with death in the art world.

Message in a Bottle Poetry Magazine came through for me in 2010 and published my poem Maasai Adumu at Keekorok. I wrote this poem soon after returning from a writing retreat in Kenya where I made a side trip to Keekorok Lodge on the Maasai Mara National Reserve for a safari.

MiaBPM is now defunct. As first rights are now gone for this poem, I thought I would share it here so it doesn’t slip away to someplace where I can never find it again.

Maasai Adumu at Keekorok

Their voices lift
like gazelle in fright,
swell your insides
to heights that burst
and bleed in rivers red.


Their screeches
hit that place inside,
cracks it into pieces;
that place you did not know,
you did not dream you carried.


Their dance beckons,
screams your name
and you are left in tatters,
feeling loss of life,
your old life slips away,
you lift with every jump and neon yelp,
to stretch yourself complete.


Their red shúkàs sway,
entice ancient longing,
scream to all who are present,
“We are, we are,
we are Maasai.”


While you’re here, I did a panel for THE TINY BOOK FEST by INTERLUDE PRESS AND DUET BOOKS this past weekend. The panel was LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION and it was moderated by Sarah Penna of FROLIC MEDIA. Also on the panel with me were fellow pub-house authors Julian Winters, Lilah Suzanne, and Laury A Egan.
Apparently, if you missed it, you can still watch the Facebook recording:
The Tiny Book Fest continues next Sunday (APRIL 26, 2020) and you can tune in via Zoom or Facebook on Interlude Press’s Facebook page. Here’s the schedule:
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Books Duet Books Interlude Press On Writing Tiny Book Fest

The Tiny Book Fest – DAY 1 SCHEDULE Sunday April 19th, 2020

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The Tiny Book Fest is coming! Day 1 is SUNDAY APRIL 19th, 2020.

Tune in this SUNDAY (APRIL 19th, 2020) via ZOOM and FACEBOOK LIVE.

I’ll be on the LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION PANEL…

1pm – 5:30pm Eastern Time or 10:00am – 2:30pm Pacific Time.

Join the conversation and win prizes!

Brought to you by INTERLUDE PRESS and their Young Adult imprint DUET BOOKS!

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Duet Books Interlude Press On Writing The Camino Club Tiny Book Fest

Readers & Writers – Come to The Tiny Book Fest Sunday April 19th from 1pm to 5:30pm While Staying at Home!

This coming Sunday (APRIL 19, 2020), join Interlude Press and Duet Books for THE TINY BOOK FEST! Events are happening from 1pm to 5:30pm Eastern Time!

CLICK the link above for the full fest schedule. Here’s a little about the discussion panel I will be on:

1:30 pm Pacific Time / 4:30 pm Eastern Time

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Every once in a while, you’ll read a book where the setting feels almost like another character in the book. Authors with setting-inspired fiction discuss how the location can set the tone and influence storytelling.

Moderator: Sarah Penna, Co-founder of Frolic Media
Panel:
Kevin Craig, The Camino Club (Duet, October 2020)
Laury A. Egan, The Ungodly Hour
Lilah Suzanne, Tack & Jibe; Jilted
Julian Winters, The Summer of Everything (Duet, September 2020)

THE BOOKS:

books

Moderated by Sarah Penna of FROLIC MEDIA, our panel will discuss the importance of place in story. I can only speak for myself, but my story was literally built around the location…I would not have a story without the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. I’m looking forward to sharing this panel with such amazing authors!

THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY IS THE SECOND DAY OF THE FEST. MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR BOTH SUNDAY APRIL 19th, 2020 and SUNDAY APRIL 26th, 2020. A BOOKFEST FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN LIVING ROOM! Get cozy and join Interlude Press and Duet Books for what promises to be a fantastic and entertaining time.

I’m not saying anything, but…I do believe there are prizes to be had!