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On Writing Ontario Writers' Conference Wayson Choy Writing Life

2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference – A World of Possibilities!

Tears are a good indication that, as a team, you are doing something right. When I first saw one of the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference registrants coming up from her Blue Pencil Mentor Session with a pool of un-fallen tears collecting in the corners of her eyes, I was a bit hesitant to ask her what was wrong. And then her face bloomed into one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. When she tried to speak, her breath caught in her throat. She was too happy to form an intelligent sentence.

 

When she was finally able to communicate to me what was on her mind, I felt another pang of justification for the long hours of planning we put into the conference every year. Her session was with an agent and the agent had asked her to send her manuscript in when it was completed!

 

And in 2011, I caught a moment of sheer exhilaration as Wayson Choy’s lecture let out. The crowd was silly with childish glee. And there were butterflies everywhere. When Wayson does something, he does it big! I couldn’t count the butterflies and I couldn’t count the smiles. Origami had taken over at the 2011 Ontario Writers’ Conference. (-: It was a sight to behold. And I beamed…because I pictured all those writers going home to their keyboards, setting their origami butterflies in a place of honour…and typing away with a newfound exuberance for the words they create.

 

That’s what we do this for…to hear success stories from writers who brave the nervous uncertainty of surrounding themselves with industry professionals for the opportunity to make positive changes in their paths to publication. To see the creativity of writers blossom into something bigger than it was when they arrived at the doors in the morning, eager to begin their day.

 

Every year as we committee members are running around making sure everything is moving as smoothly as possible, we come into contact with writers in the midst of a joyous moment…of discovery, truth, solidarity, success, enlightenment or recognition. Doesn’t matter what it is. If we see that glint on a passing face, the pool of tears collecting in wide-open unblinking eyes…well, we know. We know that the whole year of planning was worth the effort. That’s why we do what we do…as volunteers for a not-for-profit organization, our payback is in knowing that what we gathered together on the conference day has touched the life of a writer.

 

If you see one of the conference organizers walking around on the day of the conference with a beaming glow on their face, you’ll know they just stumbled across a registrant in the midst of an aha moment of bliss. Their success is our success! We’ll never get tired of seeing the fruits of our labour!

 

Wayson Choy – Honorary Patron of the Ontario Writers’ Conference

 

So when you come to the 2012 conference on May 5th, come with an open heart and mind. Come with bubbling potential. Come with hope and nervous wonder and a willingness to believe in the miraculous. We know we’re not going to change the world in any major way…but we certainly hope to bring a little change to your world.

 …word by word

 Visit the ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE YouTube Station – We have a large selection of previous speakers to view at our dedication YouTube channel.

Visit the Ontario Writers’ Conference website to find out about the 2012 conference! We hope to see you there!

 The 2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference takes place on Saturday May 5th at Deer Creek Golf & Banquet Facility in Ajax, Ontario…just minutes from downtown Toronto. All registrants receive FREE entry to the Friday evening FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS. If you cannot make it to the conference, you can still come out Friday evening to the Festival of Authors (Tickets- $20).

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Kevin Craig On Writing

Fat Superhero, NaNo, Whispered Words, GoodReads, etc…

As November draws to a close, I have several things to mention all at once.

The first is NaNoWriMo. I went off the rails on this one, but I do have the beginning of a novel that I am REALLY excited about. Fat Superhero, a young adult novel about an overweight loser who lives a second life in his head-the life of a superhero–started off with a bang. But with things in my life right now being what they are, I am finding that I don’t have the concentration needed to write. So NaNo kind of fizzled out. BUT I know that I will be able to continue on with this story. It’s percolating, and I’m feeling good about it. So I don’t worry about it’s death. The Fat Superhero will rise again. Soon.

Looking for a cool writing contest? Whispered Words, the WCDR Prose Contest, gives feedback to every entry. And the top entries make it to an anthology. It’s really worth it. The 1st Place prize is $1,000.00 too! All the information you need to know can be found here: WCDR WHISPERED WORDS PROSE and COVER ART CONTEST

Speaking of the WCDR, one of my favourite CANADIAN authors is the guest speaker for the Saturday December 10th WCDR Breakfast Meeting! The incomparable WAYSON CHOY will be speaking at the December brekkie! (Click the link in his name to discover more about him) Registration for the event will be open soon. It takes place at the Ajax Convention Centre, which is about 10 minutes east of Toronto…worth the drive!

GoodReads – There’s currently a Goodreads Giveaway for 2 copies of my contemporary young adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE. It runs until December 1st and there are 2 copies up for grabs. Open to USA and CANADA only. You can enter to win here: SUMMER ON FIRE GIVEAWAY!

Back Cover Blurb: Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout? Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect-none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell-the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence. But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from imminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

What’s up with some of my other titles:

Sebastian’s Poet – I can’t wait to start edits on this one. It’s my favourite novel of all the ones I have in the hopper. It’s release date is April, 2012…through Musa Publishing. Can’t wait to see what comes of it after all the edits are done. This one won the Best Adult Novel Award in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Award Contest.

Half Dead & Fully Broken – I thought this one was my best work. It’s with my agent right now, but hasn’t had the success I’ve been hoping for as of yet. I really thought I nailed the YA voice with this one. I’ll have to wait and see if I’m right. I still have hope! This one won the Best Young Adult Novel Award in the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon Contest.

That’s Me in the Corner – This is still half a novel. It won this year’s Best Young Adult Novel Award in the Muskoka Novel Marathon Contest…but I still haven’t gotten around to finishing it. I’ve received some great feedback, though. So as soon as my dryspell is over, I will be tackling this one along with Fat Superhero. I like writing more than one novel at once. Something about switching from one world to the next keeps it interesting for me.

The Reasons – I am in the process of making this one bigger. I noticed some places where I could have gone into greater detail but didn’t. I want to eventually submit it to Summer On Fire’s publisher, MuseItUp Publishing. It won Best Adult Novel Award in the 2008 Muskoka Novel Marathon Contest. It’s a family drama with two POVs, that of the son and that of the mother. I feel it can go somewhere if I can just get the word count up.

 

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On Writing Writing Life

Busy Times Ahead – The Life of a Writer

The next two weeks should prove interesting (Yes…this is my annual September-is-a-crazy-month post). I will be doing a couple firsts and as daunting as it all seems, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to experience them. Here’s a glimpse into the schedule:

(I will start after the road trip I’ll be taking today that includes 28 hours of driving in a 72 hour period. My brother and I will be going to New Brunswick today for a family funeral and returning to Ontario by Friday.)

Saturday September 17th – Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Party and Panel Discussion – I was asked to be a panelist for a panel discussion on the publication process at the Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-party. I’ll be speaking about my road to publication–from writing to querying to signing with an agent and a publisher, etc. The winners of the 2011 Muskoka Novel Marathon will also be announced at the wrap. This year, I feel zero pressure as I flopped out at the marathon. I just did NOT feel in the zone at all while writing this year’s novel. That’s Me in the Corner might just be a shelved work in progress. I keep starting and stopping on the process of completing the first draft, so we’ll see.

Sunday September 18th – Inaugural McLaughlin Literary Festival – I was invited to be a reader at this 1st annual festival. It takes place at the beautiful Parkwood Estates in Oshawa, Ontario. I’ve lived in Oshawa for over 30 years now, and I have yet to step on the grounds of this mansion. I’m excited to do so this Sunday. And I’m very grateful for the invitation to read. There is a full day’s lineup of readers for this event, with a section in the morning’s schedule dedicated to local talent. That’s where I’m slotted to read from my debut young adult novel, Summer on Fire. I think I have about 10 minutes. Still haven’t decided what I’m going to read, but I figure I will do that while my brother does some of the driving on our road trip. I might even read out loud on our trip–a captive audience is a difficult thing to come across. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t jump out of a moving car. I’m really looking forward to this event, as a reader and as an audience member. There are some great writers lined up. Here’s a look at the day’s schedule.

Saturday September 24th – Summer on Fire Book Launch at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge! – Yes, it’s almost here. The official launch of the paperback version of my debut young adult novel (10am-Noon). I’m trying not to think about the writing workshops and the WOTS happening on the same day. I will be on hand at Blue Heron, reading and signing copies of Summer on Fire. Really looking forward to this one!

Monday September 26th – Ontario Writers’ Conference Planning Committee Meeting! – We took a bit of the summer off from our volunteer duties as OWC planning committee, so we’re really looking forward to putting our noses to the grindstone now and ironing out some of the details for the 2012 conference! We will be at the table on the 26th and FILLED with excitement for the coming year. I can’t wait to see what we put together this time out. The conference just seems to get bigger and better every year. We are a volunteer group with only one thing in mind when we sit down to do our planning – Create the best conference we can create to give the attendees the best conference we can give them. It is a love of words that brought this committee together, and a love of sharing words with other writers. That’s all. Just passion. We hope to put together another stellar line-up for our 2012 conference…and we hope to see you there!

You can watch video from previous conferences here: OWC Videos

That’s about it for the month of September. I can’t wait to see what October brings. I’m waiting to hear back from my agent on the progress of my young adult novel Half Dead & Fully Broken (Winner of the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon Best Young Adult Novel Award). Hopefully she will have some good news for me soon. (-:

 

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On Writing

A Pantser Visits the Evil Land of Plot (ters)

I will outline. Even if it’s in the form of thought bubbles across the page, interconnecting with one another along the way until I manage to figure out all the points between A and Z. What I will keep in mind is that I don’t need to stick to the road map I draw…but it will be something I can reference to help me get there. I can’t stick to an outline, but at least having these notions in front of me, I might be able to crawl along and figure things out. I swear, the main idea of this novel was to take place in a setting that I have JUST arrived at…after 35,000 words I managed to get the 3 characters to the main setting of the novel. That, my friends, is a problem. That’s a key sign that pantsing, in this particular instance, is NOT working for me. 

I’m willing to give this outlining thing another try. I’m hopelessly hopeless at following them, but I need something! Putting this in terms of a play—something that works extremely well for my pantsing techniques—my characters would still be behind the screen arguing about whose turn it is to take the stage. They would be back there bitching and moaning and the seats would be filled. But the stage would be in darkness and the audience would be able to hear every single word my characters say. That is not the way to do things. That is more than horrible, it’s unacceptable. The audience should NEVER hear the rumbling that gets the characters to the stage. The story should start right away, and never stop moving forward. I have so miserably failed this time that I’m considering getting rid of the pants altogether. 

Time to sit down and take a trip through the concept I originally grasped when I sat down to write my Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. This time, though, there will be no horn honking to tell me when to start. There will be no distractions and there will be no pressure. It’ll be just me, a piece of paper, and my thoughts. Here’s hoping this outline thing finally pays off!

What about you. Pantser? Outliner (Plotter)? Or a perfect mix of both?

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Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

When Goals Don’t Get Met – Writing Marathon Wrap Post

Well, it happened. I got to the Muskoka Novel Marathon and discovered I had NOTHING to write about. Usually, I don’t plan anything…but there is a something something floating around in my head that I pick up and run with. NOT THIS TIME.

It’s been a difficult year for me, for various reasons. I’ve been wondering if my writing would become strangled because of this. I made it through the Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival in one piece. I seriously worried I would have nothing to show for it after my 8 hours of being locked in the castle to write my play. The task was made even harder when I was given a blank stage as my canvas this year, instead of one of the beautiful (and inspirational) castle rooms.

But at the end of the 8 hours (actually after only 1 1/2 hours) I had my play written. By the audience reaction, I THINK it worked out. I heard much laughing…I’m sure that had more to do with the incredible actors performing the play than the actual writing. They were BRILLIANT.

Anyway…my worries over under-performing for Trafalgar24 seemed to have been premature. But I knew I was in trouble going into the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’ve been running on empty for months. Still, I love the event so much that I tempted fate and I kept my appointment with destiny.

My goal this year was 60,000 words in 72 hours. I believe I broke the 50,000 word count last year. I no longer remember the exact count. But this year, I struggled to break 30,000…not to mention, those 30K words are short scenes stretched out. I failed to reach any sort of quality or quantity this year. I still had fun, though. Still enjoyed being a part of an event that raised over $8,000.00 for the Muskoka Literacy Council. That side of it will always rock, whether I write 1 or 100,000 words.

I’m disappointed in myself for letting my life get in the way of my writing, this time out. I was always able to prevent that from happening. We live, we learn. Sometimes you just need to know when not to pick up the pen. BIC, I am realizing for the first time in my life, is quite an accomplishment. Before now, I could sit down anywhere and start writing and not look up. Marathon writing is my comfort zone. It’s how I write novels. This year showed me that it just doesn’t come naturally. I won’t forget that next year.

This is NOT writing

During previous Muskoka Novel Marathons I was always able to work without much sleep. This year, having struggled for so long before the marathon with insomnia–I hit my wall early on. After only 43 hours without sleep, I crashed and slept on and off for the next day. I just COULD NOT stay awake or concentrate.

 

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Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

A Goodbye and a Passion for Words

I thought I would attempt a very short blog post from my desk here at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. It’s 4:54am as I write this. I am sitting at the very back of the room, looking out onto a vast expanse of empty desks and scattered chairs. There are laptops everywhere, scattered sweaters and blankets and printers and lamps and satchels and laptop carriers and coffee cups and sleeping bags and water bottles and books and chip bags and toys…virtually everywhere. On the desk beside me, there is an orange piece of paper with the following quote:

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~ Vladimir Nabakov

There is only one other person within my field of vision; the person I drove up to Huntsville with. Sandra Clarke. Sandra and I were both published by the same small publisher out of Montreal; MuseItUp Publishing. We have just heard that the content editor for my young adult novel, Summer on Fire, has passed away. Karen McGrath went peacefully in the late evening of Saturday July 16th, after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. This news makes us both sad. Working with Karen, she was so very attentive to my concerns as the writer of the novel she was editing. She was thoughtful and considerate in all of our virtual discourses. And throughout the whole process, she did not once mention that she was suffering. Our dealings were professional and personable. It is with sadness that we mark her passing. Being part of a small publisher’s corral of writers, Sandra and I have grown to feel a part of a family. We all interact on a daily basis-some more than others- whenever we can…by stopping by on a group made up of Muse writers, editors, cover artists, etc. Karen’s passing will be felt by all of us. Though we have not met her in person, we have taken part in a journey with her.

I have just awoken from a nap that may have been three hours long and may have been four or five. I really have no idea. I know that I was up for 38 hours straight prior to said nap. I’m a little fuzzy, at best at the moment. I just finished what was possibly the best cup of tea I’ve ever tasted, or possibly just a nostalgic cup of hot water accidentally ingested before the teabag had a chance to perform its magic infusion. Who knows. I am beyond tired. I just drank something that seems to have awoken me. I will assume the teabag has done its job.

I began this marathon with not a thought in my head. This is the first of the four Muskoka Novel Marathons I participated in where I had NOTHING on my mind to work with. I have jotted a few words down in the past, or come into with little kernels of ideas percolating in that wide open space between my ears…but until this year, I have never come in with absolutely nothing.

I tried. I didn’t show up here on day one with the purposeful intention of having no ideas. I really tried to grab something out of that miasma of swirling grey soup that is wild mind. But nothing would stick. I spoke to Susan Blakeney just before the marathon. She picked the empty blackboard that was my mind until a thin layer of possibilities had begun to form. The palest of chalk outlines. When the marathon horn blew at 8pm Friday night, I chased that fading chalk outline with fingers on keypad. I now have almost 20K words to show for that race against emptiness. And I hope to continue chasing down the idea shortly.

I never stopped mid marathon to write a blog post before. That’s probably why I’m doing so now. I like to try everything once. Soon writers will start to trickle into the building, the streets outside the building will come to life with cottagers, and the day will be upon us. For now, there are just the two of us facing the screen. Sandra is almost as far away from me as possible, without being in another room. She sits sentinel on the entrance door at the other end of the room. As I may or may not have previously mentioned, I sit in the back corner–with a view of the entire room. This might have been an intentional choice for me. Nobody can sit behind me. I have all the other writers in my sights. When they are here.

I am sure there will be spelling and grammar errors in this post. I’m not sure the point of the post. But I wrote it anyway. I wrote it as a mile-marker along the journey. This is the point at which wild mind meets quiet mind. The words are being strung, but there is a lull–a patient simmering, if you will. There will be more words written…many, many more words. But this is the pause between two word storms. The breather before I go back down and lose myself. I wanted to remember our friend, Karen, and her courageous battle. I wanted to remember the soft coat of the fawn we witnessed grazing outside the MNM Wine & Cheese venue, Soul Sista’s. I wanted to remember the cup of tea I may have just consumed. And I wanted to awaken to the music that words make when strung together in a row. This weekend, we are honouring those who cannot even read the words I am typing…those who have a hard time navigating the simple day to day life of the modern world. We honour those who, for one reason or another, have been lost along the road to adult literacy. I cannot even imagine walking down the street outside this building without being able to read the vast collection of words hovering on every window, every lamp post, every car, every door, every billboard and every sign. How dark a world this place must feel without the basic knowledge of the language that floats out there all around us on a yearly-monthly-weekly-daily-hourly-minutely-secondly basis. With every step I would take, every footfall I would make down Main Street, I would crawl that much darker into my own dark little universe of frustration.

We are writing for ourselves this weekend. I won’t try to sugarcoat things and say that we are being completely selfless and altruistic. We’re not. We love the concept of a writing marathon and we take full advantage of it. But we are also writing for others. We are writing for those who cannot write, those who cannot read. We are here to raise funds and awareness for the fight against illiteracy. Each writer taking part in this weekend’s marathon has collected sponsorship pledges from friends, family and loved ones. Together, we have raised money to help the Muskoka Literacy Council help those who need to have their darkened worlds made a little brighter. The Muskoka Novel Marathon, though a great and amazing opportunity for us writers to get BIC time, is about Writers Supporting Readers. That’s what we’re here for.

Thanks to all those friends, families and loved ones who have helped us arrive here this weekend with a little money in our hands. You are supporting a wonderful cause that all of us writers can proudly stand behind. After all, without readers, there would be no reason for us to do that thing we SO love to do.

I bid you all adieu for now. I am struggling to stay awake and I have many, many more words to write. I apologize for the twists and turns this blog post may or may not have taken. I know not what I write. But I am fortunate enough to know that I can, one day in the near future, come back to this post and read it. Reading it may or may not make my meaning for writing it clearer. When you are working on this much sleep deprivation, you can’t always be confident that there’s a message in your words. But read it, I will. Because I can do that. Remember today, while you’re out and about in your daily life, just how many times during the day you read things. Imagine, if you will, not being able to read those things. How dark would that existence be? How utterly hopeless and alone would you feel? Be happy that you do not have to live that life. And be happy in the knowledge that there are literacy councils everywhere who do the good work of shining a new light into the lives of those who struggle daily with the darkness of illiteracy. We can make a difference.

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Interview Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Heading to Huntsville – #MNM2011 – and Interview

Hello Readers,

Not much to say today. I am getting ready to drive to Huntsville to take part in the Muskoka Novel Marathon. It’s one of my favourite writing events of the year and it supports one of my favourite causes. All the money raised by the 30 writers participating goes to the Muskoka Literacy Council. They are doing great work in the fight against illiteracy! I’m so happy and proud to have a very tiny roll in helping them achieve their goals. Thank you to all of you who sponsored me for this year’s marathon! Our goal this year is to raise $10,000 for the cause. I hope we’ve achieved that lofty goal.

As I take to the road in a couple of hours, with my good friend and fellow marathoner, Sandra Clarke, I will be percolating…searching my brain for the beginnings of ideas. Nothing has come to me yet, but I have faith that my marathon-mind will kick in and give me something to run with!

Gotta run, now. So many things to gather up. I keep thinking I’m going to forget something! And at the back of my mind, I just know it’s my laptop I’ll forget! I will not be writing a marathon novel on my Android phone. Time to put the laptop in the car…just in case!

For now, I leave you with an interview. Fellow MuseItUp Publishing author, Lindsay Below, was kind enough to interview me for her blog. You can read the interview here:

Author Spotlight: Kevin Craig, Author of Summer on Fire

I am off on my weekend odyssey. Enjoy your weekend…may it be filled with writerly–or readerly–goodness!

(You can purchase SUMMER ON FIRE here)

 

Categories
On Writing

Things and Stuff – Oh, and a Poll on Novel Titles

Another one of those posts where I couldn’t really pick one specific topic. There’s a lot of those lately.

My favourite living poet is going to be Turning Leaves this fall. In my imagination, he is constantly turning leaves. His poetry is playful and heart-stabbing and funny and vein-ripping. I really don’t think there’s anyone out there quite like him. He has a way of making a satisfying turmoil of my emotions. I guess I like his stuff so much because I like rollercoasters. Ooh! Which makes me think of this:

I love that scene in Parenthood where the dazed grandmother goes off on a tangent and accidentally spills the most eloquent life advice. Me thinks she’s wiser–and more alert–than she lets on.

Where was I? Yes. BARRY DEMPSTER. If you ever get a chance to read his work, DO SO. And even better, if you ever get an opportunity to listen to Barry read his work…DO SO. His delivery is exquisite. Kind of takes your breath away.

And speaking of taking one’s breath away, the fall kind of does that. The changing leaves, the dying of the light, the promise of hibernation and new life. Some people see Autumn as the beginning of the end…but I always thought it was when things are most alive. You can virtually hear nature screaming in Autumn. It shrills on, begging you to remember the vibrancy of life. It is not dying…it is showing you that nothing dies. The burning trees–bright with oranges and reds and yellows–they’re not going quietly. Fall has always been a time of new beginnings for me.

A great way to celebrate a new beginning would be to throw oneself wholly into something one loves. Fall is a time to chase your passions. Which brings me back to Barry Dempster (Why do I always take the long way around things?). If you’re a writer wanting to develop your craft on a deeper level, you really should check out TURNING LEAVES Where else can you have a fireside discussion with one of Canada’s greatest poets? I’m guessing nowhere…but I didn’t really do the research. Being held at FIRESIDE INN at the FERN RESORT on beautiful Lake Couchiching in the Muskokas (just under 2 hours from Toronto), the Turning Leaves writing retreat is taking place October 28th – 30th. Not only does it have the amazing Ruth E. Walker & Gwynn Scheltema facilitating its writing workshops, but you also get the chance to pick the brain of the humble poet, Dempster. And his is a good brain to pick…he is a prominent figure in the Canadian Publishing industry. You just have to read his website bio in the link provided above to know that he has a wealth of information to share with retreat attendees. And his generosity is overwhelming. The folks at WRITESCAPE could not have picked a better person for this unique fireside chat opportunity. I would be extremely surprised if this retreat doesn’t sell out quickly.

Pssst. Now would be a GREAT time to TURN YOUR LEAVES

Okay. See. I really do jump around. I began this post with the intention of starting a poll. A poll on what? Absolutely not anything to do with leaves or fall or killer poets born with the gift of the golden voice.

The poll is for the title of my as yet unwritten Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. Every year before I begin the 72-hour novel writing marathon, I write the title of my novel at the top of the word document and I save the empty file. I always try to pick a title that is going to inject me with ideas when that infamous gate bell tolls. Here are the titles of my previous novels, and the ideas that came from them:

2007 – Sebastian’s Poet – I thought this: A boy who tries to navigate an adult world, surrounded by adults who can’t navigate a straight line. GO!

2008 – The Reasons – I thought this: Cool family name…dysfunctional family. Rape. Mental illness…and a boy who tries to navigate an adult world, surrounded by adults who can’t navigate a straight line. GO!

2010 – Half Dead & Fully Broken – I thought this: twins – one dies, the other lives. The broken one lives and struggles to survive half broken. His brother was the spine of the unit of two. GO!

So there you have it. For the 2011 marathon I have 3 titles vying for my creative attention. I have a favourite right now, but it’s not the same favourite I had yesterday. (-:

So there you have it. A poll. If you can take a second to let me know if any of these three titles speaks to you, that would be great. I’m just curious, really. If it helps, my novel will be a Young Adult.

And, just a reminder…you can still enter the contest to win 1 of 3 copies of my upcoming Young Adult novel – SUMMER ON FIRE. Click the book cover below to go to the post that has all the extremely easy entry details:

Summer on Fire by Kevin Craig
Categories
On Writing Writing Life

Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David – You CAN Go Back – Rediscover the Wonder

When I was seven–way back in 1973-I was already deeply addicted to music. I loved lyrics, I loved the sound, the rhythm…it had me. I knew my entire life would be surrounded by music. And I loved singing along to my favourite songs. Music was almost as important to me as books. Almost! In fact, I even worked in a record store at the time. Yes…I was a child labourer. And I wasn’t raised in the third world, either. I grew up in Toronto. In 1973, I found myself living next door to a place called Target Tape & Records. It was in the Baycrest area. I worked there most days, and I was paid in record albums. Vinyl record albums. The coolest thing. I still remember ripping off that plastic and taking a big whiff of the vinyl inside. To this day, it excites me to think about that moment when you first open an album!

Music was in my soul, and I listened to it every single day. The Beatles were kicking it for me in the early 70s…all the glitter and rock and reggae was kicking it too, but the Beatles…something about the lyrics resonated with my love of words. I was digesting every book I could get my hands on, while listening to every album I could get my hands on.

Enter the misunderstood lyrics. I sang my heart out whenever ACROSS THE UNIVERSE came out. And you know what? I KNEW the lyrics couldn’t possibly be Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David. Why would the Beatles sing about my brother? Why would they not make sense? Actually, quite a lot of their stuff didn’t quite make sense to me in their experimental phase. But I’m almost positive it made sense to them–to somebody. Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone. But that was okay. It was the process of singing, connecting with the music and the words (right or wrong) that I was addicted to. I was happy to substitute whatever the hell they were saying with my own variation…just so long as I could sing along with the song.

That, to me, was what it was like to be a kid. The kid who could happily sing such words as Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David, was also the kid who could believe that a girl could turn into a blueberry; that a boy could get zapped into a TV; that an Indian Prince could be so insolent as to build his castle with chocolate when he lives in the hottest country in the world.

I remember that little boy believing all of those things…I remember the wonder I felt as I read the amazing books around me. Green eggs? Sure! Boys stranded on an island, going crazy and fighting over a conch for the power to control each other? Why not? Giants discovering an island of little people? A giant peach! All these things and more were mine. And they were mine to the extent that I wanted to ADD to them. I wanted my imagination to contribute to the world that these creations came from…a world of nothing but thought. I could do this. After all, I could sit and sing along to the Beatles. Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David.

It was all about wonder. Wonder in song, wonder in words.

Are you writing for children, tweens or teens? Don’t forget to go back! You can inject yourself with the wonder you felt as a child by RE-READING those books you loved back then. When I feel myself slipping too far into the adult world, I sure as heck don’t start singing  “Jai guru deva om” (which are the actual lyrics in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!). No way. Why would I want to do that. I pick up a book I first caressed when I was seven or eight and I slip into that mindset. I allow myself to read it the way I first read it. I sing Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David.

You have to let yourself slip away to remember what it was like to be a kid or a teenager. You have to allow those experiences to come back to you. The best way for me to do that is to read those old books; books that have since gone through another generation. To this day, I still have the copy of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY I had when I was a little boy. I still feel like that boy when I pick the book up and read it. In fact, reading it helps me to remember the boy who wanted to write a story as good (Imagine being brazen enough to think you could write a book on a par with Roald Dahl! Only a child could have that kind of confidence.) …so that he could make other boys slip into an unreal world where wonderful things can and do happen. A world where you could even eat the dishes.

Put your pen or laptop down every now and then. Sit for a minute and recall that child you were, long ago. What books did that child read? If you don’t still have beat up, faded and falling apart copies of those books…you can read them for free. There is a way! Just go to your local library. They’re still there. Find the books you loved way back then and slip back into them. Before you know it, you’ll be remembering things you thought you forgot forever. You’ll be that little boy or girl who had imagination enough to think they too could write a book and share it with the world!

Find that inner child…it’ll make you a better writer.

♪ ♫ Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David ♪ ♫

Enjoy this fabtastic version of Across the Universe, by Rufus Wainwright:

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Writers Supporting Readers! July, 2011

It’s almost time again for one of my favourite yearly writing projects. The Muskoka Novel Marathon! It’s coming. In 25 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes and 10 seconds…at last check! I love the site’s countdown clock. It sends a thrill down my spine every time I look in on it. I am SUCH A GEEK!

The marathon is an exciting event for writers, disguised as a fund-raiser. Actually, it well and truly IS a fund-raiser…but the value you get out of attending the marathon, from a writer’s perspective, is so concrete…one often forgets that it is benefiting anyone other than themselves.

But the Muskoka Novel Marathon is a WONDERFUL fund-raising event. Billed as WRITERS HELPING READERS, the marathon supports the Muskoka Literacy Council. Each year, between twenty and thirty writers gather together inHuntsville,Ontariofor 72 hours…and they each write a novel over the course of a single weekend. But before they arrive, each writer collects pledges for the fund-raising aspect of the event. All funds go to the literacy council, and those who sponsor the writers get a warm fuzzy feeling…they are helping people fight illiteracy. It’s a rather large battle…the fight against illiteracy. Writers, perhaps more than any other group in society, understand the value of the written word. They are often the second line of defense against illiteracy…the first being those who work tirelessly with the illiterate and reading impaired to improve their life skills so that they can, in turn, improve their very lives.

For this reason alone, the Muskoka Novel Marathon is a wonderful—and much needed—event. Society must stand together in the fight against such unnecessary social imbalances as illiteracy. By giving the Muskoka Literacy Council a helping hand in this way, the writers involved with this project are, in a very real way, paying it forward…each of us has a deep intense love for the written word. The word has given us so much joy…so much pleasure. We play in a field of words whenever we can, we get lost in the beauty each word possesses. We can’t imagine being lost in that field, without any sort of map to help guide our way—looking about and not knowing the richness that words have to offer us. To think of those struggling in that field…lost and scared and alone, stumbling through the chaos of the written word without understanding its meaning…it’s unbearable to even imagine. So pay it forward, we will. The marathon is all about WRITERS HELPING READERS. We’re so grateful that the people working tirelessly for the Muskoka Literacy Council are able to enrich the lives of those living in that cloud of illiteracy.

The other aspect of the marathon is how truly valuable it is to us as writers. It truly is a writing retreat. Not only are we frantically writing our way through the weekend in the hopes of having a finished novel to show for it in the end, but we are also communicating. We are sharing secrets and truths about our individual writing lives. We have aLOTof fun. There is a LOT of hilarity…especially in the middle of the night when you are struggling to stay awake and the giddiness has taken over and there is no way you can prevent yourself from being foolish, even if you wanted to. We sit. We write. We take communion in ourselves and in each other. We learn. We struggle. We laugh. We cry.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon, in my humble opinion, is a rite of passage for writers. It is a BIC event (Bum In Chair). It is a calling to our sense of dedication as writers. I often hear, “You’d have to be crazy to give up an entire summer weekend to put yourself through a three-day sleepless ordeal like that!” No. We’re not crazy. We’re taking a stand—against illiteracy and for dedication to our craft.

Okay…yeah. And I guess, technically, we could be considered a little bit crazy. But if writing a novel over the course of a weekend is crazy, than I don’t want to be un-crazy.

If you would like to help take a stand against illiteracy, you could sponsor me in this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. All donations over $10 are tax deductible. The Muskoka Literacy Council is a registered charity. You can contact me at kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com. I would be able to take your donation through Paypal…or, I can give you the information needed to send a cheque. All donations would be greatly appreciated. Together, we can wipe out illiteracy. I truly believe that!

This year’s Marathon goal is to raise $10,000.00 for the council. With your help, we can meet that goal!

Don’t forget to enter to win 1 of 3 copies of my new YA novel, SUMMER ON FIRE! Click the book cover below for details:

Summer on Fire, by Kevin Craig