One More Time! The Muskoka Novel Marathon Part XIII

Lucky Number 13! Here we go!

It’s that time of year to start gearing up for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON again! And this year will be my 13th kick at the 72-hour novel writing marathon can. I have well and truly found what works best for me. It’s the bum-in-chair once a year chaos of a marathon writing frenzy.

The Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, where the marathon usually takes place (when there’s not a pandemic).

This event is a fundraiser for area literacy programs. Since its inception, the MNM writers have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through this marathon. And, as an added bonus, we get to spend an uproarious long weekend together in beautiful Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka.

40 Writers – 1 Room – 72 Hours – 40 Novels

Unfortunately, the past 2 years have been online…and this year will ALSO be online. Damn pandemic! I will tell you right now, it’s not the same as when you have 40 writers living together for 72 hours, sharing one big room, while each attempts to write the Great Canadian Novel. But the magic is still there. We meet through Zoom, we brainstorm, we chat, we laugh. We read our work. There is still a special dynamic that cannot be ignored. It’s still worth it.

Taking a break in the closet at the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. My nap-cubby.

This year’s marathon is JULY 15th to JULY 18th. From Friday at 8pm to Monday at 8pm. If you register and write your novel (or part of your novel) during that 72 hour period, you can submit it at the end of the weekend. It goes to an industry panel of judges and a BEST NOVEL AWARD is chosen for MG/YA and ADULT manuscripts. Winners get prizes and the opportunity to submit their manuscript to a publisher, once they have time to complete it and edit it.

Meet and Greet at the beginning of the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon.

The online marathon’s registration fee is only $25. Here’s the INFO PAGE FOR FIRST TIME PARTICIPANTS. Keep in mind that the link covers in person details, but it also has the breakdown of prizes and awards, etc.

The facility where the Muskoka Novel Marathon usually takes place. The writers have one huge room to write in together, with a second room where we all dine together.

The in-person facility for this annual marathon is quite amazing. Once it’s back in-person, you should really consider vying for a coveted seat at the marathon table.

This dock is only a few feet from the building where the marathon takes place when it’s in-person.

Here is what I have done in past years at the Muskoka Novel Marathon:

What I have written at Muskoka Novel Marathon

2007|Sebastian’s Poet|Best Adult Novel Award
2008|The Reasons|Best Adult Novel Award
2010|Half Dead & Fully Broken|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2011|That’s Me In The Corner|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2012|Burn Baby Burn Baby
2013|Alive & Kicking
2014|The Book of Your Dreams|Honorable Mention
2015|Pride Must Be A Place
2016|I Will Tell The Night|Best Adult Novel Award
2018|Hey, New Guy
2019|No Visible Damage|Runner Up
2020|I’ve Waited Hours for This
2021| Worked on contracted novel…did not enter.

I’m not sure what my plan is for this year’s marathon. To use a juggling metaphor, a few balls are in the air.

Every time a writer reaches another 10-page milestone, they add a strip of paper with their name on it to the clothesline. It gets pretty full by the end of the weekend!

We will meet online this year. Hopefully this is the last year. The good thing is… we get to introduce NEW people to the Marathon this year. Because it’s online, people from all over the world can join…and there’s no cap on attendance. In person, the cap is 40 writers. So, if you want to focus on your writing for 72 hours in July this year, consider registering. You will get writing time, support, new friendships…win, win! REGISTER HERE.

There is LOTS of silly time to be had at the in-person marathon! Here I am with the zany Karen Elliott. Can’t wait to be back to the in-person event. I can’t believe I get so much writing done at the event, because we have the time of our lives!
I’ve met lifelong friends at the marathon, and also dragged many local writing friends to the event. And I’ve been lucky to get visits most years from my favourite person as well. 🙂

Here’s hoping 2023 is in person. As for 2022…it’s time to register! Cyber-See-You there!

To Create Inside of Chaos

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my position as a creative. When you juxtapose creativity with what is going on with the world today, it’s hard to comprehend that one could simply sit down, zone out, and create…amidst all the chaos.

I mean, honestly, between doomscrolling, masking, and just scraping by emotionally after two solid years of a pandemic…when does one have the time and mental capacity to create? That’s a real question, because I have been suffering terribly trying to come to terms with the answer. There is nothing worse for a creative than WANTING to create but not being able to motivate yourself to do so.

Today alone, we are waking up to Russia attacking Ukraine on the heels of Texas attacking trans kids and teens and their supportive parents days after ignorant moronic anti-masking Nazi racist anti-vaxxers tried to overthrow democracy in Ottawa. The world is so filled with hatred, madness, and rage right now. Where do we find the time to silence that chaos while sitting quietly and creating? It just feels like it would be turning one’s back on something important the very moment one shouldn’t look away. The world is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

I write this today after seeing a tweet cross my path on Twitter. Initially, I thought, ‘YES, YES, YES!’ It’s great advice. But it’s also somehow debilitating to ponder…especially if that’s exactly what you want to do, but you JUST CAN’T. For context, here is the tweet (click the tweet to go to Cavan’s Twitter):

No shade to Cavan Scott. I actually love the tweet. They’re incredibly right with this advice. Just don’t beat yourself up if you can’t pick up the torch of this tweet and run with your creativity.

It is also in times of trouble that creativity sometimes abandons our hearts. We need to give ourselves permission to NOT act on this tweet if we are unable to. Creativity will never die. YOUR CREATIVITY WILL NEVER DIE. Sometimes we need a break.

When the world is falling to pieces in front of your eyes and you can’t help but feel a deep lasting despair, please don’t complicate things by hating yourself for not being able to take refuge in your creative passions. Sometimes we are simply too overwhelmed to do so. Be kind… to yourself and to others. Times are dire. Be safe. Be the light the world needs in whatever little way you can be without burning yourself out.

Create if you can. Sit this one out if you can’t. Read poetry. Look at the beauty of art. Send hope into the universe for a better humanity. Do what you can to get by. Give yourself GRACE.

Nominated for the Queer Indie’s 2022 Awards!

Hello Readers!

It’s that time of year again. The Queer Indie’s 2022 Awards are upon us! And guess who’s been NOMINATED in the Queer Lit: Youth category?!

ME! It’s me. 🙂

QUEER INDIES is a great resource for independent queer books. Visit their main site page HERE.

This is my second nomination. If you would like to vote for my category (and/or any other category) you can do so by visiting the VOTE PAGE HERE.

Voting in each category is done by drop down box for that category. Just click on the category for which you would like to vote and the nominees will be revealed.

Voting is open until February 7th, 2022.

I Am From…a Poetry Exercise…

I just came across a little chapbook from Sue Reynolds’ Fearless Writers Spring 2004 Session. Some great poetry in it from my fellow participants. An archaeological look at some fine writers who have gone on to do great things since attending Sue’s workshop. If you EVER get an opportunity to be mentored by Sue Reynolds…just do it. No questions asked…just jump in–parachute free–and do it! She’s an exceptional teacher, and a passionate writer!

I thought I’d share the poem I have in the chapbook, mostly because I forgot it ever existed until just now. (-;

I AM FROM…

I am from the rusty Miramichi,

which swells and contracts to the heartbeat of the distant moon.

I am from the smiling lips of Shakespeare,

who tells the young lovers to look up into the night and shout out:

 “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”

I am from that ancient of minds.

“It is the East,” I say, and I am from the sun.

“Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon,” which I am also from.

I am from the liquid reason of Neruda’s lines.

I am from the forest creatures

who beat a path to my door,

calling out my name through the darkness

of night’s great blanket.

I am from the place where dreams die.

I am from a woman who is strong and dark and proud…

a woman of this soil who tells me that what doesn’t kill us

makes us weaker, but more determined.

I am from that smell that escapes

off the tattered spines of books

in the ancient library.

I am from the sadness that breathes in loneliness

and the happiness that comes with remembering the dead.

I am from anger,

mounted foolishly out of false pride.

I am from the crumbling mountains

that yearn to be flat.

I am from Icarus,

the melted wax of his fallen dreams.

I am from the bridge we left behind

as the last Autumn leaves finished falling.

Thanks to Sue Reynolds for inspiring a whole group of writers to explore their worlds through words! Check out her Inkslingers Writing Workshops, Retreats, and Mentoring (which she does with James Dewar, another great writing mentor) here.

Hemingway’s Paris – Immersive Writing Retreat on the Left Bank!

The Left Bank Writers Retreat – Writing At Hemingway’s Favorite Spots in Paris!

The 2014 Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty and students, of which I was a student. From their website header, this photo was taken by Sarah Suzor. We’re posing in front of Les Deux Magots.

(Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Left Bank Writers Retreat. I am merely a past participant who thoroughly enjoyed and cherished the experience given to me by the retreat.)

It appears that the 2022 Left Bank Writers Retreat is a go!

If you or someone in your family would love nothing more than to tour Hemingway’s Paris while going deeper with your writing craft in the midst of the city of love and light, look no further than the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

The knowledgeable faculty are not only experts in the craft of writing, but they’ll immerse you fully into the Paris that Hemingway knew as an expat writer back in the day when he lived and wrote in Paris. And they’re all lovely people you will immediately feel comfortable with as they guide you through your Paris experience.

For me, being a first time visitor to Paris, I was immediately at ease in the presence of the LBWR faculty! You really get a sense that they’re taking care of all the details. Even those evenings when the students are left to their own devices, the faculty is at the ready to answer any questions you may have prior to your individual adventuring.

Visit Hemingway’s haunts, lunch together, explore museums, be guided through neighborhoods that come to life with your LBWR guides! I really can’t say enough about how wonderful my experiences were with this retreat. I think of it fondly and often…these seven years on since participating.

Visit their site for all the details:

LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT

Next retreat is June 11-17, 2022!

There is still time to register, either for yourself or for a family member (should you be looking for the perfect Christmas Gift!).

From the front page of the website, a little rundown:

Eight writers will spend a week immersed in new experiences in the magical setting of Paris’s Left Bank. Part writers workshop, part tour of Paris, The Left Bank Writers Retreat is for anyone who would like to break out of a writing rut and build momentum in their work. Will you be one of the 2022 Left Bank Writers?

Cost: $1,999 includes morning workshops, breakfast, lunch each day at a fabulous restaurant, snacks,
museum passes, literary tours, Seine boat ride, Metro tickets and a farewell dinner celebration.

This retreat will enrich your writing life and give you a lifetime of memories. I cannot recommend it enough!

LBWR on FACEBOOK

Retreat Schedule

About Page – Introducing the Faculty

Head on over to the Left Bank Writers Retreat website now, so you can head on over to the Left Bank come June 2022!

To See What Isn’t There and to Take Away What You Can See – Editing Frustration Edition

As the universe is my witness, I did not foresee these difficulties! ~ Me, circa now.

The editing journey is quite often a TRIP. Never more so than when you need to make some massive changes in your manuscript…like, thematic changes! Whoa!

This is the case with my current WIP. I did not realize how hard it would be. When you see the way things are, you cannot easily see the other ways they could possibly be…when it comes to your own manuscript. You always see the story the way it is…and as you change it, the way it was. That original story acts like a ghost in your head…inserting itself damnably and relentlessly into the current rendition of the story.  It’s a seriously difficult situation to be in. Like, impossible. It’s hard to actualize something DIFFERENT once the story is down on paper. It takes the work of a magician, I think. And even when you make those changes, it’s hard to erase the past from your memory…and, at times, from the story itself.

That was convoluted. I apologize…but also the convoluted-ness of it helps to define the difficulty level I’m facing in re-writing this story. The original is not only haunting the revision stage…it is fighting for its life…it does not want to die.

 

This is how my editing process is going today. Writing is hard. Editing is hard. Revising is hard. The conundrum is that these things are also, in their turns, divine and divinely easy. Writing life is so bizarre. Do we make things difficult, or are they inherently difficult.

I just need the ghosts of this current WIP to die already, to allow me to move forward with another version of this story. Like, just shut up! I have deadlines, and you’re not making my work any easier by sticking around and staying in my head and refusing to be deleted.

That is all.

Except also, preorder my upcoming novel BOOK OF DREAMS so I can feel like I’m still propelling myself forward with this writer thing. Just click on this highlighted paragraph to preorder.

 

 

When Paris is Possible – A Journal of Paris…

When I want to manifest something, I first bring it to life on my blog. For those paying attention, I always do this. I’ve become predictable, even.

Sometimes these notions I have first appear in my Twitter feed. And then I feel the need to solidify them by writing about them on my blog. It’s called accountability and it’s a way to hold myself to task. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Dollarama has such cute journals!

This is how my last novel, The Camino Club came about. At first, I dreamed it. Then I tweeted about my idea. And then, while I was preparing to walk my first Camino in 2014, I blogged about it. It was a kernel of an idea. So in order to hold myself accountable, I put out into the world that I would write a YA novel set on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path.

That novel was published by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press, in 2020. Ask me about launching a book during a pandemic. You know what, on second thought…don’t ask me. Nobody should have to do that!

Anyway, I’m also famous for digressing. Today I want to hold myself accountable for a new idea.

My dream this time is to release a journal of our upcoming short trip to Paris. It will only be a week in Paris…but a week is enough if you’re fast of your toes. Paris is a moveable feast. But it’s also a well constructed easily traversed city that’s perfectly laid out for the hiker and consummate walker. That happens to be what Michael and I are. We will take that city by storm, one footstep at a time…and we will cover it all!

And I will keep a daily journal. And if all goes according to plan, I will publish it. The only other thing I ever self-published was my short story set on the Camino called Light Near the End of the World. So this will be my 2nd journey into that world.

My short story set on the Camino.

I don’t have a plan, but I will write about the places we visit in Paris and how we got to those places. And I will write about food and restaurants and cafes and macarons and baguettes. I will cover everything that strikes my fancy. We’ll see how this goes.

I will probably start writing in the journal before I even get to Paris. This will be a personal account of ONE JOURNEY. We’re traveling during a pandemic and we’re getting to Paris via Iceland. I mean, anything can happen, right? We’ll see if we get there…and if and when we do, I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about.

I’m ready. With my Dollarama journal and the lovely bookmark I picked up somewhere along the way as its traveling companion, I will take notes on our Parisienne travels.

I hope this goes well! I’m so passionate about Paris. It appears in many of my short stories, and I am also currently writing a YA novel that takes place there. Wrapped somewhere in the reasoning for returning to Paris–one of my favourite cities in the world–is the excuse of doing some extra research for my novel in progress. But honestly, I just love it there so much. I want Michael to see it…and I want to see it again for the first time, through his eyes.

My Paris journal, with a Camino bookmark I received with an Etsy purchase.

Just over 40 days before our departure. Let’s hope the Delta Variant doesn’t keep us from our already postponed (we originally planned Paris for September, 2020) trip to the beautiful city of light!

Updates from the Edge – Worldbuilding Zone Edition

Today, I am almost to the end of a very complex (for me, the creator) story. It’s a story I had contracted just a couple of weeks ago…to my favourite LGBTQ publisher, no less.

The thing that makes it complex is the thing that takes it out of my usual lane. Truth/Confession: I am NOT a worldbuilder. I do my best to navigate my stories through the contemporary non-shifting non-magical world of now. Sometimes, to be honest, even that’s a struggle.

Contrary to popular belief, writing doesn’t always come easy. Throw into the mix the fact that I like to shift lanes and expand my comfort zone and I often find myself in over my head.

This manuscript is one of those times, indeed.

But I have persevered. My first chapter told me this was going to be a story outside my comfort zone. I still buckled in, knowing it would be a hard–but not unrewarding–ride.

I’m closing in on an ending now…after trudging my way through a mile of worldbuilding complications and learning moments. The fact that my publisher offered a contract on the novel after reading the first third was the fuel I needed to edit the second third and complete the last third. Also, deadlines help!

Fast forward to earlier this week and I find myself with an appointment with a WORLDBUILDING CONSULTANT. Or maybe a WORLDBUILDING AUDITOR. Yeah…auditor. That’s it. My son-in-law has offered to do a reading of the manuscript for me…with particular attention to worldbuilding. I still have time to make corrections/edits/rewrites before my deadline, so I thought it was a timely lifesaving offer. I’m definitely going to take him up on it.

During the course of the conversation, he also laid down some knowledge when he said there’s NO GROWING IN A COMFORT ZONE AND NO COMFORT IN A GROWING ZONE. I mean, yeah…I get the concept, but I don’t think I ever saw it laid out so BOOM…there. If it’s a popular saying, it’s one that has, until now, escaped my radar. I definitely needed to hear it. Man, have I been outside my comfort zone on this one!

So…stay tuned. I might just make my deadline on this horror novel I’ve had contracted with Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press. And I have a worldbuilding doctor on hand to give it a pre-submission check up. Pandemic aside, things are going well.

Happy Writing or Editing or Worldbuilding or Whatever it is you’re doing these days. Push those boundaries. Comfort zones are nice, but sometimes tedious. It’s a false lull. Change lanes and see what happens…

Book of Dreams

Win a Novel Marathon – We’ll Show You How!

The 20th Anniversary Muskoka Novel Marathon is this coming JULY!

The 20th Anniversary of the Muskoka Novel Marathon is Open for Registration! Save the Date: July 16 – 19, 2021

Have you ever thought about taking part in a novel writing marathon where you set aside a whole 72 hours to do nothing but write? It IS possible to have all or most of a first draft manuscript completed within that time period. I’ve done it several times. And if I can do it, anyone can.

Usually an in-person event, with meals and coffee and snacks and friendship and outings into the wild and into a lovely northern town, this year’s event is ALL VIRTUAL…thanks to the bitch known as THE NEVERENDING PANDEMIC.

So what this means to writers anywhere in the world, is that you too can attend the 20th anniversary marathon! There will be Zoom meetings throughout for bolstering, socializing, etc, etc, etc. And there is a coveted BEST NOVEL AWARD trophy. All manuscripts handed in at the end of the 72 hours are judged by a panel of industry professionals. They pick a BEST NOVEL out of both a child/youth category AND an adult category. Both of these BESTs move forward to a publisher for consideration and professional feedback.

On June 3rd I will be a panelist on a panel/lecture about putting your best foot forward during the writing period of the marathon…and winning that coveted BEST NOVEL AWARD. Joining me on the panel is Jennifer Turney and Shellie Westlake. Between the 3 of us, we have won 8 of the novel marathons…that’s just shy of HALF! We may have some tricks and insights to share with you in order to help you achieve that coveted win.

See above for the lecture’s description.

The Active Learning Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, where the Marathon usually takes place.

HOW TO WIN THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON is free to attend and it’s an online event in ZOOM. We’d love to have you aboard! Whether you’re registering for the marathon or not, I’m sure we’ll have some great advice to help you in your novel writing path.

Click HERE TO VISIT THE EVENT PAGE.

If you want to know more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon, you can CLICK THIS LINK RIGHT HERE! For 20 years writers in the Huntsville, Ontario region (MUSKOKA) have been assembling for a long weekend in JULY to write novels…but the main goal of the marathon–outside of the grossly beneficial writing time experienced by the writers–is a fundraiser. Each writer gets sponsors and we collect money for the literacy programs in the area. This is no small fundraiser…in the previous 19 years we have collected over $200,000.00 for these programs. By literacy, I don’t only mean those who struggle with reading and writing, but also new Canadians, ESL, computer literacy skills for elder students…the programs help SO MANY PEOPLE. We, the writers, are thrilled to be able to help in this small way to bring much needed funds to the YMCA literacy programs that help so many. We are writers helping readers.

2 happy MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON BEST NOVEL AWARD WINNERS – 2016 – Best YA Novel (Lori Hanson for Ned & Nora Stone), Best Adult Novel (Kevin Craig for I Will Tell The Night)

While I have you here, I will share my MNM profile page and my own fundraising page, if you’re so inclined to donate to this much needed cause:

MY MNM BIO PAGE WITH WINNING MANUSCRIPT INFO

MY DONATION PAGE FOR 2021

Join us on JUNE 3rd, 2021 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm for HOW TO WIN A MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. Shellie, Jennifer, and I hope to see you there!

It’s a Novel Writing Marathon – And You’re Invited!

It’s time, once again, to register for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON!

I have been attending this event for years! Pride Must Be A Place was written at a Muskoka Novel Marathon.

Every July, for 72 hours, a group of 40 or so writers have gotten together in the small but glorious northern Ontario town of Huntsville. Every July, they hole up in a space together and they each attempt to write a novel over the course of a three-day weekend.

THIS YEAR it’s the 20th Anniversary of this event!

Some of the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon writers!

Sadly, it’s also the 2nd year that the writers aren’t quite getting together. At least, not in the same way. Last year was our very first ONLINE EDITION. And this year will be our second online marathon.

There are AWARDS handed out for BEST NOVEL in Adult and Young Adult/Juvenile categories. A panel of industry judges reviews each of the manuscripts submitted at the end of the weekend. Invaluable feedback is given to each manuscript.

I’m not going to lie. IT’S NOT THE SAME. Imagine the energy of having 40 writers in one room together for 72 hours. It’s frenetic, it’s chaos, it’s practically euphoric. We help each other with plot bunnies and holes, we urge each other on, we tease and joke and laugh and cry. And we also break bread together…as we are served 3 meals a day. All we have to do is stop writing, leave our writing stations, and go to the mess hall for food. It’s all set out and ready for us hungry writers to dig into.

You just can’t get that online.

BUT…it’s still an amazing journey. Writers meet through Zoom frequently. We have smaller breakout groups. We support each other. We even have silent Zoom meets where all those who attend just quietly type out their words together. Trust me…those are super helpful. I got a lot of words down during the silent Zooms. I didn’t think it would work, but it did.

The gorgeous dock at the in-person event space. Sadly, we will miss this in 2021…but it’s there waiting for next year!

We make the best with what we have. What we have during this pandemic is online camaraderie.

The good thing about ONLINE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON is that it’s open to more than the usual 40 writers…and you don’t have to travel to HUNTSVILLE to attend! You can register and participate online in the comfort of your own writing space! AND you can be from anywhere in the world.

So think about spending a productive writing weekend with a group of writers dead-set on writing an entire novel in 72 hours.

The details (from the MNM website):

The 20th Anniversary of the Muskoka Novel Marathon is Open for Registration!
Save the Date: July 16 – 19, 2021

Due to the on-going situation with the pandemic, we will be holding our second (and hopefully last) all online Muskoka Novel Marathon. Join us for a ZOOM event. No seat limit! Tell all your friends!

This event is also a fundraiser for local (Muskoka) literacy programs. READ THE ABOUT PAGE HERE FOR ALL DETAILS AND HISTORY OF THIS EVENT.

There IS a nominal fee to register. This will cover all the expenses the organization incurs for organizing the event. Registration is $25 and there are also cool MNM T-shirts you can pick up if you wish.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Think about joining us this year. It’s so much fun to get online together and urge each other on! There’s also an evening during the weekend where anyone who wants to can read an excerpt from their MNM work-in-progress in a safe nonjudgmental environment.

You’ll have to make your own coffee…but what this organization puts together for this weekend is worth your attending. It got me through in 2020…and I’m looking forward to attending the 2021 event. It will be an opportunity to see old friends from previous MNM events…and meet new ones in this safe virtual creative space!

I’m guessing a good portion of my blog posts on this site are about the MNM. This will be, I think, my 13th marathon! I’ve written about many of them. Just search Muskoka Novel Marathon on this site to read more about it. And spend some time at their site:

MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE

I hope you’ll join us for the 2021 marathon! Take advantage of this burst of creativity this July!

%d bloggers like this: