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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 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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Camino de Santiago On Writing Writers Writing Life Writing Program Writing Retreat

Author Life Month – Dream Retreat – Camino de Santiago

If you’re an author/writer and you’re over on Instagram, you may be familiar with #AuthorLifeMonth This is a one-month prompt based daily photo challenge for writers, created by @missdahlelama

Yesterday’s challenge (Day 17) was DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT. Though I didn’t focus on the one I’ve been imagining for the past 5 years, I was surprised to see that one of the other writers DID.

The idea that has been brewing in my head ever since the spring of 2014 is something I didn’t realize others would be considering. But then, I can also imagine every writer who ever walked the Camino de Santiago imagining taking part in a WALKING WRITING RETREAT on the Camino. It just makes sense. So, I was shocked, but not shocked to see it come up in the DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT day on Instagram.

It’s. The. Perfect. Marriage. I. Swear. To. God.

What I have been envisioning is a pilgrimage slash writing retreat that begins in PONFERRADA. Because writers would SUPER dig waking up on their first morning on the Camino with a view to Castillo de los Templarios (a literal castle of the Templars). I mean, come on!

This castle is the thing that dreams are made of. To start at the castle, with a group of 8 to 10 writers…it would be magical.

So, I would suggest a two week pilgrimage…but over an amount of land that would normally take a few days less. Because every day we would meander, walk a shorter distance than is normally walked by pilgrims. We would stop to write in open fields and on mountaintops, have picnic lunches in pastures, with food bought in little shops from small villages we stopped in along the way. We would eat our meals together, talk shop as much as possible…and enshroud the whole Camino experience into the writing prompts and exercises.

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With Connie. Camino de Santiago, Spain. 2014. A picnic along The Way…

I guess I’m not surprised by the fact that another writer has the same dream as me. I have always seen WALKING and WRITING as perfect compliments to each other. Walking embraces creativity in ways that standing still cannot. We think when we walk, we parse, we ponder, we roam in our own headspace. For writers, that’s such a luxury. I work out so many things in my writing projects while walking. To come up with an idea that incorporates both writing and walking is really a no-brainer. If a writer walks the Camino, they probably come up with this idea as a matter of course.

After coming home from my first Camino, I wrote a novel set on the ancient pilgrimage route. It’s now up for PREORDER on AMAZON. The Camino is fuel for creativity. There’s no denying it. I think other writers would experience the same phenomenon. It fuels your writing life!

WALK & WRITE ALONG THE WAY – A WRITING RETREAT ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

-14 days in Spain on the Camino de Santiago

-From Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela

-Days of walking and writing filled with prompts and exercises to enliven the imagination

-beautiful landscapes, incredible meals, the camaraderie of fellow creatives

-walk into Santiago de Compostela with notebooks filled with new words you wrote along the way

-Fiction, non-fiction, memoir—it works for any type of writing you’d like to explore

This idea literally sells itself.

Who’s with me?!

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On Writing Writing Life

It’s Been 13 Years & I Love You Just the Same…

Today marks the 13th anniversary of this website. I’ve been babbling about writing and travelling and life for a long time on this platform! When I returned to writing in 2002, after a rather lengthy absence, I thought it would only be for a couple years. I was just working through some heavy stuff at the time and figured I’d get my words down and abandon the creative pastime when I was done with the cleanse. Turns out it was a return to a passion that haunted me my entire life…one I avoided for various reasons I don’t really feel like getting into. I’m grateful the return was permanent…as permanent as something can be in an ever changing universe. Writing brings me no end of pleasure. It always has…even while I avoided it. A writer is always writing…even when they’re not. From 2002 to 2007, I was seriously prolific. I was purging decades…attempting all the various forms of writing at once, from poetry to short fiction to song writing to memoir to novels to articles. You name it…that 5 year period had me trying everything.

I have had SO MUCH FUN! 6 novels published, a 7th sold. 5 Muskoka Novel Marathon BEST NOVEL AWARDS. Memoir recorded on CBC Radio. Memoir published in Globe & Mail. Poetry published all over the world. 12 plays produced…all over the world. Contests wins. Short stories published. Anthology inclusions. Anthologies contacting me for content. It’s been a whirlwind. But I’m JUST GETTING STARTED. (-:

I’m so grateful I decided to create this blog/website. It’s the thing that’s kept be going after I wasn’t so sure I should. So, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY CREATIVITY!

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On Writing Writing Life

A Year in the Life – A Writer Reflects

“You always say YES and figure it out later.” ~ Me, circa always

Saying yes in the writing world is the story of my life. Panicking after delivering that yes is ALSO the story of my writing life. But a writer would be a fool to say NO or I CAN’T or I DON’T KNOW HOW or I DON’T HAVE THE TIME.

For writers, opportunities are not endless. Unlike the pesky little bible-thumping crazies of the world, opportunity doesn’t keep knocking. It breezes on by to the next person on the list. As a writer, I always LEAP before I know what awaits me.

This is how I came into two situations in 2017.

One of these opportunities was an invitation from ID PRESS to submit to their romance anthology. I said yes. And then I beat myself up struggling to come up with a short story that was vaguely romantic in nature. Their shtick is to experiment with genre, after all. I had a chance at acceptance if my story skated along the outskirts of ROMANCE. I just didn’t know how hard that YES was going to make my writing life in the weeks that followed. I struggled with this one. I must have had 30 attempts at a story for that anthology. I never pressed the DELETE key so hard in all my life. It was an unendingly daunting task. It literally wasn’t until the midnight hour that I finally hit on something and ploughed through a story and clicked send. Luckily for me, they accepted THE HALF DRAWN GIRL ON THE CROSSTOWN BUS (It later became, at their request, THE HALF DRAWN GIRL). It was only because I said YES months earlier that I even struggled so hard to come up with something. I committed and I needed to see it through. I said yes…and then I figured it out. It’s times like this that I realize there actually ARE writing fairies looking out for those of us foolish enough to jump off the ledge and commit.

You can pick up THE HALF DRAWN GIRL and other genre-bending romance short stories in the newly released anthology ALLUCINOR from ID PRESS.

AMAZON PRINT USA

AMAZON PRINT CANADA

AMAZON KINDLE USA

AMAZON KINDLE CANADA

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A gorgeous cover and a wonderful collection of stories.

The other YES I pulled off in 2017? I have had a Camino de Santiago novel in my heart since I walked the pilgrimage in Spain to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where the bones of St. James, the apostle of Jesus, are said to be resting. I had a few chapters written, but mostly, as I said, it rested in my heart. Like a soft prayer bead on a rosary, waiting to be caressed into words.

When my agent asked me if I had anything ready that was a contemporary YA novel, I said NO…but that I had something almost ready. So, I also said YES. I told her my years long elevator pitch for my Camino novel idea.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB MEETS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO.

I have never been so proud of an elevator pitch in all my life. It’s golden. It resurrects the images and themes precisely, concisely and quite specifically. Thankfully, my agent also liked the sound of it.

So—-I say yes, it won’t be a problem. Give me a couple of weeks.

A WRITER ALWAYS SAYS YES! You can always figure out THE WAY after you commit. I did this with my first play and I found myself sitting in a haunted castle basement in the near dark listening to the ghosts mock me while I raced to write a play that would be performed in front of an actual audience less than 24 hours later. What’s the worst that can happen in a YES situation? You don’t deliver? I’m always willing to take that chance.

This is how writers live on the edge. It’s not the stuff of daredevils, but it certainly makes the writing life interesting.

I wrote the Camino novel. I am awaiting agent feedback at the moment. I’m feeling positive and hopeful. Saying YES to that novel was possibly one of the best things I’ve ever done with my writing life. BECAUSE it was a novel that meant a great deal to me even before the first word was down on paper. It was a novel I knew I could deliver in a couple of weeks because the bellows that blew it into existence was alive and living inside me. Did I lie to my agent when I said YES? Not exactly…it was an almost completed novel…it’s just that it was scattered about within the far reaches of my heart and mind. All I really had left to do was allow it to flow through my finger-tips, past my keyboard and land on my MSWord document. No biggie.

Those are two of the major moments in my writing life as I look back on 2017. All that is left, I suppose, is the BRUSSELS NOVEL MARATHON WRITING EXPERIMENT and MY 3rd PLACE WIN IN THE WRITERS COMMUNITY OF SIMCOE COUNTY’S 2017 WORD BY WORD SHORT STORY CONTEST. (<<<You can read my story at the link provided) The story that won 3rd place was yet another story set on the Camino de Santiago. It has become an obsession with me, and I probably won’t be satiated even after I return to the Camino in 2019…life willing.

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All set for our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 2019. Credencials (Passports) and patches in hand.

The Brussels novel writing experiment? Well, I’m not sure. The novel I began there? Maybe it is burning on the stove top waiting to be stirred. I like what I wrote…I’m just not sure where to take it. I’m one third in. I did, however, fall absolutely and completely head over heels in love with the beautiful city of Brussels while I was there under the pretense of writing an entire novel. It is a breathtakingly beautiful city. And nearby Brugges is no limp headless chicken, either. It’s stunning…not to be missed. We’ll see how the novel goes. Oh…I suppose this has something to do with my writing life, too…I received a WCDR Writing Grant to help pay the way to Brussels and my personal writing/exploration retreat there.

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I lost and found my heart in Brussels, Belgium this past May.
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I was also extremely thrilled to find multiple traces of the Camino de Santiago in Brussels. There were MANY of the scallop shells embedded in the cobbles in the streets of the city, as well as a church once dedicated to pilgrims that walked through the city on their way to Compostela. I even found this statue of St. James himself!

Oh, and I have a novel releasing FEBRUARY 6th, 2018. My GAY YA novel, PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE. See the cover below:

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Pride is coming from MUSE…the publisher of my debut novel, SUMMER ON FIRE. You can add Pride to your bookshelf on GOODREADS HERE. You can also check out reviews for all 6 of my books on Goodreads.

As the year winds down to nothing but the past, I sit here awaiting word from my agent on my Camino novel. AND I work on final edits on my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon Best Adult Novel Award winning novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. AND I await getting into final edits with my MUSE editor on PRIDE. Sounds like I might be doing a lot, but I promise you, I’m still the laziest writer in existence today. I do a flurry of activity and then hibernate for 8 or 9 months. L-A-Z-Y.

Outside the writing life, unto my daughter and her husband a newborn child was born in 2017. This year has seen the arrival of HARRISON:

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This little smile of a boy brings so much joy. He should be called Mr. Happy, but his name is actually HARRISON.

Go ahead…click all those links. I know you wanna.

I guess that sums up my 2017. The appearance of busy while maintaining my lazy status. Level up to 2018!

 

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Bookapalooza Writers Community of Durham Region Writing Life

BOOKAPALOOZA – Book Sale (WCDR)

This coming SATURDAY (NOVEMBER 25th, 2017), I will be on the YOUNG ADULT PANEL at the BOOKAPALOOZA event in Whitby, Ontario. This is a yearly massive book sale with vendors from all over the GTA. It’s brought to you by the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION (WCDR). Hope to see you there! The YOUNG ADULT PANEL DISCUSSION begins at NOON. I’ll be on the panel with fellow authors M.E. GIRARD and MELANIE FISHBANE.

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Social Media:  TWITTER: @bookapaloozaGTA

 

Bookapalooza – Saturday, November 25, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Durham College, Whitby Campus – Centre for Food
1610 Champlain Avenue, Whitby, Ontario
Free admission!

A GLIMPSE AT THE DAY’S PROGRAM:

11 a.m. Non-fiction – You Can’t Make this Stuff Up!
Panel to include Phil Dwyer, Ted Barris, Kristen den Hartog
Noon  YA Panel  to include Kevin Craig, M-E Girard and Melanie Fishbane
1 p.m.  Women’s Fiction Panel to include Marissa Campbell, Joan Frantschuk and Sharon Overend
2 – 3 p.m. Bookapalooza Exhibitor Showcase: Yusuf A., Deja Beals, Jennifer Bogart, Bryan Davies, Dr. Michelle Dickie, Maria Jemmott, Angie Littlefield, Maighread MacKay, Clair McIntyre, Joe Mahoney, Jason Shannon, Cindy Stone and Maaja Wentz.

LINK TO BOOKAPALOOZA SITE

SEE YOU THERE!

 

Categories
Camino de Santiago Writing Life YA Lit

When You Finish a Novel that Consumed You

There’s nothing like typing THE END at the bottom of your MSWord document. It is a distinct kind of joy and sorrow to do so. On the one hand, there is a great sense of accomplishment. On the other, you are sadly saying goodbye to great friends. It is the hug that wounds, the kiss that burns, the cut that feels so good.

After living inside the Camino de Santiago for the past month, retracing my own steps for the sake of my characters, I am exhausted-spent-exhilarated-lonely-happy-thrilled-gutted-euphoric-elated-dejected-emotional and fragile and infinite and empowered. And a few other emotions thrown in for good measure.

If you’re a novelist, you know the feeling.

My young adult novel The Walk–or The Camino Club (I cannot decide)–has been put to bed. It will be what it will be. I need to strike that pilgrimage place from my list of obsessions for a spell. The Camino itself fully consumed me while writing that novel. From watching the movie THE WAY on repeat, to listening to the same movie’s soundtrack on repeat, to reliving my own Camino experience through memories and photographs…I swear I feel like I just got back from Santiago de Compostela today. So powerful was the spell it has had on me these past weeks.

Goodbye Santiago de Compostela. I love you so much. And I love the characters I created to walk the path towards you too. Goodbye Diego, Shania, Manny, Troy, Greg, Claire, Meagan, Gilbert, Kei, Mia, Becky, AND Bastien. Buen Camino!

But there is nothing to do after finishing a novel, but to jump into the next one. Whether that be returning to a work in progress or starting something new. To dally would be to get out of the habit. So, onward. Back to the novel I began in Brussels this past May. It needs to be completed. Today, I turn the page from Spain and open a new one on Brussels. I swear, these settings are consuming me just as much as these characters.

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Time to revisit Brussels, one of the few settings for my current young adult WIP. This is me in Grand Place, the beautiful square in the heart of Brussels, just two minutes from where I stayed this past May.
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My upcoming release PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE is now on GOODREADS. Click the image above to swing on over to GOODREADS and add #PMBAP to your shelf! It drops February 6th, 2018.
Categories
Gay YA Pride Must Be A Place Writing Life YA Lit

Pride Must Be A Place to be Published

My 2015 Young Adult Novel, PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, has found a home! It will be released on FEBRUARY 6th, 2018 by MUSEITUP Publishing. This is the publisher that published my very first novel, SUMMER ON FIRE.

 

PRIDE

Pride (#PMBAP) began life as my 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. I once wrote a blog post about it and how it was originally to be wrapped up with Lorraine Segato and how that plan changed as the novel awakened during the 72 hour marathon writing weekend in which it was born. The rest of the novel was written a couple weeks after the marathon when my partner and I went up to his sister’s cottage for the week. I would write a chapter, send it to my Kindle app and he would read it while I went on to the next chapter. And we took long walks while discussing what would happen next. It was a great week of writing and editing. I was so connected to the story this way. And it turns out he’s a great editor and story-talker. We worked well together. By the end of that week, the first draft of #PMBAP was completely finished.

Prior to writing the novel, I emailed Lorraine Segato of Parachute Club regarding the lyrics of their hit song, RISE UP. I felt the need to check on the possibility of using some of the lyrics even prior to writing…because I felt them to be an important part of the story. To my surprise, the generous Segato actually phoned me and we discussed possibilities for the novel—AS CHANCE WOULD HAVE IT, literally as I made my way to Huntsville to write the novel–I pulled into a Tim Hortons about halfway to Huntsville in order to talk to her. Her feedback was so helpful…I incorporated some of her suggestions into the story. Unfortunately, I think her feedback is what started the move away from her jumping into the story around the midway point. She helped to show what she would or wouldn’t say in the scenes I envisioned. I began to adjust and change in my head. Eventually, I thought maybe I was reaching too far and that their iconic song was enough. I’m hoping now that they will grant me the permission I sought out at the time. It’s been a couple of years. Those lyrics, used sparsely, but at integral parts of the story, will be sadly missed if not there. Fingers crossed.

I will be following up with more on this publication as details are made known to me. It’s early days. The contract has been signed and the publication is slated for February, 2018. Once the cover is revealed to me, I look forward to sharing it here! So thrilled to have this one see the light of day. I certainly hope you like it!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Camino de Santiago Writing Life

The Monster of Passion

If you’re anything like me, your story sparks blow up while you’re trying to keep ahead of them.

Recently I began to write a short story for a contest I wished to enter. When I see local writing contests, I like to enter as a way of showing my support for the organization that is hosting them. The intention is never to place in the contest. I don’t have enough self-esteem to hope for that to happen. If it does, even better. But if it doesn’t–if I just happen to be one of the paying entrants whose money helps to support the continuation of the contest in the future–well, I’ve already won. I like that these writing opportunities exist.

I haven’t forgotten the thread of this post. It’s actually about the short story I penned for the writing contest. Or rather, it’s about what happened when I took on the spark of an idea that prompted that original short story. Perhaps it was the subject matter itself–the Camino de Santiago–but I doubt it. Because it happens a lot, no matter the subject matter. I begin to write one short story, and, like a horse in a race it begins to make its way to the finish line while I struggle to keep up with its frenetic pace. What happens next is typically what happens in a horse race. While the horse and I are tearing up the track, another more urgent horse comes barrelling up alongside us.

The second horse in this analogy, as you may have guessed, is another spark for a short story idea…which stemmed from the original. Do I get off the first horse and hop onto the second? Probably dangerous, right? It may kill my momentum and fizzle out the writing fire I’ve begun with the first story. If I try to jump to the second horse, I may fall and end up horseless.

Here’s where multi-tasking comes in to play. No…I don’t try to write both stories simultaneously. That’s like straddling both horses, and it’s almost always a catastrophe in my own personal experience. I DO jot down a few of the second story’s more pertinent sparky little details before I lose sight of them, though. I can do this while maintaining my pace with the first horse.

If you’ve ever been to the races, you’ll know there are very seldom (never) races which involve only TWO horses. Enter horse number three. If you’re feeling a bit of stress reading this and realizing that the Creative Spark Fairy is often a sadistic bastard, you’re not alone. I’ve known this for quite some time.

So there I was, writing my short story for the writing contest and knowing the deadline was RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER. I mean, at the stroke of midnight my time to submit it would be up. And a third horse came up alongside me. “Hi. Look at me. I’m another story!” I can’t hush these sparks. They demand attention. They insist that you juggle them. They want to be told. Our passions are monsters…they take hold of us in the best possible way. They make us better.

Maybe it’s a matter of being really good with a lasso? When I was 5ish I lassoed the family television and pulled it around the living room, so I happen to know that I am exceptional with a lasso. (Before you ask, yes I did get permission to do this prior to doing it. I’m not crazy. My parents, on the other hand, may very well have been. They should always pay attention when their most rambunctious child is asking them a question. Especially when he’s twirling a lasso over his cowboy hatted head while asking it. It’s like they never learned.) So, back to the horse analogy. I DID manage to stay on my first horse and race him to the finish line in time to complete and submit the original short story prior to the submission deadline. Yay, me! What I also managed to do was lasso the other two horses and get them to keep pace with me so that I could explore the sparks that created them in the first place.

After the first story was submitted, I hit the ground running with story number two. The thing about this particular subject matter was I can think of a hundred thousand stories that take place on the Camino. When I walked it, I met so many people from so many different countries. And I got snippets and tidbits of their stories while I walked. People open up on the Camino de Santiago. They whisper to fellow peregrinos some of their deepest most private thoughts. They share their lives.

So when I started that first story, about a woman walking the Camino in order to find a way back to who she was before she identified solely as a wife and a mother, more people came up to me from the deep well of creativity that the Camino inspires in me. I wrote about Helen and that second horse, Corinne came barrelling up and said, “Wait…I too have a story that you can tell.” And then a third horse, Richard, came up and pleaded, “No, tell my story.” And it just snowballed from there.

 

Images from Portomarin, Spain…one of the multitude of beautiful and inspirational places along the Camino.

Usually when this happens with a spark I do see a few projects through. But often I only use one of them. Often, it’s the original that goes out into the world. But it’s also at times the third or the fourth or the fifth story that I eventually end up using. I never consider the unused ones to be a waste of my time, though. Every spark becomes a horse race. And horse races are fun. I enjoy exploring all my options before I settle with the winning horse. And then there are the times that a subject matter possesses me so thoroughly that the topic comes up across the board in my writing life. I’ll write plays, novels, short stories and poetry from the same well. It’s the only way I know how to exhaust the well. Get all my horses to the finish line. Then and only then can I move on to the next spark that inflames my passion. This Camino race? It certainly has a lot of horses in it. I suspect this race will be off and on for the rest of my life. Its horses are strong and fierce and filled with spunk. It’s a horse race without a finish line. And I’m good with that. I have to be. I’m a peregrino.

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