Categories
Driftwood Theatre Muskoka Novel Marathon Playwright Theatre Trafalgar 24

Ideas as Opiates – The Panic Begins! #MNM2016 #Trafalgar24

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Wait! That’s not what I meant to write. Whenever I start a sentence with ‘Last night…’ I become possessed by Daphne du Maurier in the most peculiar way. I need to complete the sentence that is etched in my memory forever before I can continue on with what I was going to say. How’s that for a digression?!

Last night I went through the harrowing ordeal of registering for the Muskoka Novel Marathon again. It’s a treacherous time…believe me. The marathon takes place once a year (IN JULY) in Huntsville, Ontario. It is a 72hr novel writing marathon. Only 40 writers can attend. There are far more writers interested in attending than there are spaces for them to attend. So you have to be at your keyboard and at the ready come the stroke of 7pm on registration night.

I got in! I secured one of the coveted spots for myself. Then I discovered that all the spots were taken in 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES! That’s when I realized how lucky I was to have mad typing skillz. Gah!

Add to that registration pressure the fact that I will be locked inside a castle in Whitby, Ontario tomorrow, and ‘forced’ to write a 10-minute play overnight, and I’m about ready for cardiac arrest.

BUT. In a good way. I would not be happy if I was not in panic mode during these things. Confidence is the killer of creativity, is it not? Well…maybe not. But it sometimes feels like the anxiety and the fear are the driving force behind the engine that creates. FEAR—I’m getting locked into a castle and I have to write a play in 8 hours. A play that will be produced the following night—performed 6 times in front of a rotating audience of approximately 300 people. No biggie, right? It’s a thing. Confidence would surely threaten the process here, no? I need to go in thinking I can never pull this off…in order to pull it off.

ONE OF MY PAST TRAFALGAR 24 PLAYS

The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is one thing. I need to go in there blind, without an idea–that’s how the process works. You get a room in the castle, and pictures of your actors. But the timing of the Muskoka Novel Marathon registration is so impeccable. Because today it’s not the play I’ll write tomorrow that I’m most hyperventilating about. Nah…that’s tomorrow’s nightmare. TODAY—I sit here registered and committed to the 72 hour novel writing madness heading my way without the first clue as to what I am going to write. Today is the day I need to begin the idea process that will have me jumping off the cliff into a brave new fictional world come July at the onset of the marathon’s starting bell.

From this point forward, I will be using ideas as opiates. I will smoke them, inhale them, inject them. I will run through a myriad of scenarios, settings, characters, synopses, and genres. I will try to fit puzzle pieces together without seeing the picture. I will reject ideas, rehash ideas, kick ideas to the curb, and embrace them. It will be a constant whirlwind of ideas. Which one will stick? Who knows. Will I pick the right one? Reject the wrong one? Who knows. It really is hit and miss. I have 72 hours to write an entire novel. It is mandatory that I find an idea appropriate enough to see me through those hours. One that doesn’t fizzle after a few hours. One that builds upon itself one idea after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another, one chapter after another…until it sees itself through. I need an idea pregnant with possibility.

Sure…I got my coveted spot at the Marathon. But as extremely difficult as it is to secure that spot–as barbarically stressful as it is–it’s nothing compared to the realization that you’ve made it. THAT YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO WRITE!!

5979058

Ideas as opiates. When my writing life is so rife with STUFF, I realize how extremely blessed I am to have this passion. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night…thinking of the prospects of NOT making the registration cut. Because I WANT IT. I want these stressful situations that are do or die and depend on WORDS. Harnessing words is a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

 

 

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing Writing Life

Near/Far – The Journey of the Muskoka Novel Marathon

Once upon a time there was a magical place. It was in a land far, far away. And also quite near. It came to be that a hundred thousand brave warrior knights had heard of this magical place. Or forty or so, at least, give or take.

They set out on a rather long journey. For some it was far, and for others it was simply near. But even those brave warrior knights (let’s just call them writers, shall we) who came from near understood the metaphorical distance of the journey…the farness of their nearness, as it were.

image
Each year, the marathon raises much needed funds for the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka. We have a blast, but it’s not all fun. We have an underlying mission that we take most seriously.

It was such a grand time that was had by all that they decided to do it again. And again. And again. And again. The event became a yearly festival/spectacle of writerly endurance, wonder, and mirth.

This faraway land is known as Huntsville, in the province of Ontario, in the land of Canada. The magical place is not really a place, per se, but an event. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a Spectacular Spectacular. Of sorts.

image
Last year I had the pleasure of reconnecting writerlyishly with M.E. Girard! It’s not always the same people at the marathon, but once you make the trip you’re a part of the #MNM family.

Why do I bring this event up today? Because registration is as much a spectacle as the event itself these days. Writers clamor to get in to this thing! With room for only 40 (ish) and rumours of its delightfulness spreading both far and wide (or near and far—as it were), it is getting increasingly difficult for a writer to procure his/her seat at the gala. As in, it is nigh on impossible.

And every March, like warriors of old, we stand before our keyboards on the night of registration and wait for the seconds to tick off… and for the virtual gate to open so we can scurry about and type our way into this yearly magical emporium of madness.

When the time comes and the gate opens, the Internet feels the tug of love from all points across Ontario as the virtual worms of registration information make their way to the Mother Ship of this Spectacular Spectacular up in the snowy northern outpost of Huntsville.

And at the end of registration night, there are virtual bodies scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding… Wait, no… sorry, I somehow channelled Jim Morrison for a second there. No bodies. BUT… there are, both near and far, those ecstatic to be ON THE BUS and those melancholy to have missed it.

Yes… I’m talking about the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON again. My skin prickles tonight in the knowing that registration approaches. It is neither near nor far on the horizon. And I want to call myself among the tribe of #MNM2016 participants. I want it, I want it, I want it!

Where else in all the world can one writer sit in the same room as 40+ others and do nothing but write for 72hrs? Nowhere. Where else can one take communion with a writing community more vibrant, alive, exhausted, miserable, exuberant, joyful, angry, and insane? Nowhere. Where else can one come together with a group of like-minded people for a cause close and true to all of their hearts? Nowhere.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon Fundraiser for literacy in Simcoe Muskoka County is more than a fundraiser to raise money for literacy, and it’s more than the greatest weekend retreat for writers on the globe. It’s a religion and it’s a cult. But don’t tell anyone. We’d have writers coming from… well, coming from near and coming from far to be a part of the worshipping. We’d have to go underground just to exist. That’s how spectacular spectacular our 72hr novel writing (and I swear to God that’s all we do!!) Marathon happens to be.

This is why writers begin to lose sleep through February and early March. They imagine themselves not registering in time, not securing one of the coveted spots at the July Marathon, not being a part of the most magical writing weekend of the year. And they spend their time at their keyboards, fingers at the ready… Awaiting the opening bells of the registration melee that opens the chaotic yearly ritual.

We want to be there. We want to be fierce warriors against illiteracy and we want a weekend of writing bliss. Whether we come from near or far… We just want a seat at the table. The journey to the Muskoka Novel Marathon… it’s all about words.

Check out the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE!

image
For the past few years Sue Kenney has been giving writers the gift of her “WALK FOR CREATIVITY” to allow us a reprieve to connect with nature, barefoot. It’s such a welcome part of the amazing weekend!

Categories
Best Adult Novel Award Kevin Craig Muskoka Novel Marathon Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available on KOBO! (With Reader Praise and Link to Chapter One)

 

Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet is now available on KOBO!

Here’s what readers have said about the novel:

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful feel-good story that you must read!

Broken people, abandonment, longing, aching. This book drew me in with its beauty, and I shed a few tears. It was so well crafted –- a really well-written book — and I was so glad to read it. I loved this book.

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful contemporary work that deserves much more notoriety than it has received. More people need to know about this author. Please, please, trust me when I say that you will love every page of this fantastic story.

Oh Sebastian, your story made me smile, made me angry and made me cry. It’s not that often that a book rings this true to real life for me.
I found I couldn’t put it down.

This novel for me is a 5/5 for sure! I would suggest this for anyone who loves a novel that is going to make you feel (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and makes you think about what other people have gone through and why they may be the way that they are.

Sebastian’s Poet is a story full of heart and humanity. The characters are strong and believable and I rooted for them during their struggles, particularly the children: Sebastian and Renee. Their suffering and confusion is touchingly, achingly real. When I finished this story, on the bus on the way to work (of course) I had to struggle not to audibly sob in public.

Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair.

Beautifully written! I couldn’t put it down! Kevin is a wonderful writer – he gets you from the moment you turn the first page!

Months after reading SEBASTIAN’S POET, I’m still haunted by images of Sebby and his poet, Teal; I still smell the ashes in the ashtray; I still feel the awkwardness at the corner store.

Why don’t more people know about this author? About this book? Because they should. It’s a hidden gem.

I could not put this book down! I started it this morning and am already done reading it.

This is an excellent book about family, secrets, music, and the different kinds of love that we experience in our lives.

Kevin Craig does an excellent job of writing this beautiful, yet tragic tale through the eyes of a child caught in an unfortunate situation. The thoughts and feelings come through so well with Craig’s lyrical prose that you will instantly be drawn in and feel yourself experiencing the same emotions as the characters.

You can pick up your copy for your KOBO device or KOBO app today! For $3.75

VISIT SEBASTIAN’S POET AT KOBO.

You can read CHAPTER ONE of SEBASTIAN’S POET in its entirety at this link to an older blog post where I shared it here.

 

Categories
Best Adult Novel Award Kevin Craig Muskoka Novel Marathon Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet – Redo (Bringing Back the 70s)

The long journey to my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, began in the 1970s. And it ended in a 48-hour maelstrom of a writing marathon. Sebastian has always been there. It wasn’t until I sat in front of my laptop at the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon that his story bled from me. And boy did it bleed. In those 48 hours I was transported back to the 70s childhood I endured. And having always imagined Sebastian, the child of a down and out no-good and his hit-the-road wife, it was all I could do to keep up with the story as it came out during that marathon weekend.

I love a good story of loss and despair and, in the tiniest of ways, hope. Every good downtrodden story should offer the reader a glimmer of hope, even if it’s an infinitesimal glimmer.

And, having come to age inside a record store in the early 70s, I had to include the perennial bad-boy musician who kind of floats through the world in a cloud of smoke and philosophical optimism. Teal Landon is my favourite character…out of all the characters I have ever written. He is the kind of father figure all lost boys dream of having.

Sebastian’s Poet was originally published in 2012 by Musa Publishing in the United States. Sadly, Musa closed its doors a few months back. This made SP revert to a non-published novel. My favourite novel written by me and it disappeared. It’s very special to me…in that it came to life in a frenzy of emotion and drive and creativity. It’s not easy to write a novel in 48hrs. Until I tackled SP, I would have said it was impossible. But then I did it.

And at the time I desperately wanted to write CANADIANA. I wanted to capture Toronto, and the Canadian music scene, and what it was like to grow up Canadian in the 70s. I think I did that, though I can’t really be objective about it. What I do know is that Sebastian’s Poet won BEST ADULT NOVEL in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And I also know that it transformed me. I went away from that weekend with a feeling of euphoria. I knew I had found MY WRITING METHOD. Writing a novel in one sitting was the way for me, a flighty easily distracted person, to write a novel.

The pictures above are reflections from the 70s setting of the novel. GORDON LIGHTFOOT is actually a character in Sebastian’s Poet. He appears in the last chapter, as part of the denouement. And, if I’m being completely honest, the main character TEAL LANDON is based upon the incomparable LEONARD COHEN. I didn’t see a way to write a story based in the 70s without somehow including Carol Burnett. I loved making references to the things of my childhood…but make no mistake about it, this novel has nothing of me in it. It is not my Mary-Sue.

I don’t like SP not being out there in the world. It is, after all, my favourite. When I say my favourite, I’m talking feelings. I carry the memories of the experience of writing my novels as a way of judging which are my favourites. And the time I shared with these characters? That time is my Belle Époque as a writer. It was a moment of awakening for me. Or, should I say a 48hr period of awakening. My soul is in this book.

So I am releasing it on KOBO, for those interested in exploring the novel I wrote at my highest point as a writer. I don’t usually worry about how my works will be received. I put them out into the world and I shudder and cringe, knowing they will never be what I intended them to be…that they could have been so much more…that I fell short. I can’t expect the reader to love something I myself feel didn’t quite make the grade. Although this may sound like a bad thing, I do tend to think that it keeps me honest as a writer. If everything COULD be better, then I challenge myself always to attain BETTER.

But Sebastian’s Poet was the one novel I was SURE of…even in its rough finished draft at the end of that 48hr weekend, I knew. And here’s where it sounds like I am bragging, but I assure you I am not. It’s more the essence of the story and the feelings I had while writing it that make me feel like this about it…not the finished product itself.

SEBASTIAN’S POET is now available at AMAZON for $1.44 and KOBO for $1.33.

I hope you give it a go. Here’s the cover blurb:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

And you can also read the reviews at GOODREADS, from its original release life: GOODREADS SEBASTIAN’S POET

 

Here’s the cover of the re-release coming to KOBO soon…

Sebastian's Poet

The epigraph of this novel is “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.” This is a line from Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM. That song was the soundtrack of my 48hr weekend novel writing marathon. On repeat…it gave me what I needed to write Sebastian’s story…and the story of the folksinger known as The Poet. It was an amazing weekend…one I will never forget. If you want to take the trip, you’ll have to get the novel. (-:

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon WCDR Writers' Community of Durham Region Writing Life

WCDR Events, MNM Event, and Stuff of Goodness…My September Cornucopia Mash-Up Blog Post

So much going on of late! The fall is always a busy time when it comes to a writer’s life. A writer with an orbit in the Durham Region in Ontario, anyway.

The Writers’ Community of Durham Region just had its 20th Anniversary Gala last weekend. What a milestone. Together, we have been supporting each other for two decades. Some literary giants past, present, and future have been involved with this amazing organization. It is, perhaps, the best run community for writers in the world. I don’t say that in passing…it is a phenomenal resource for writers. And not just the acclaimed ones…the door is open for writers on all levels of the journey.

Hi-jinx may have ensued at the Gala. There’s a camaraderie in this organization like no other. When we get together we tell stories…on walls!

wallstory

And there was, apparently, a crime committed at the event. I received an email from an offshore account with a picture attached. It seems somebody is attempting to ransom some doohickey things. They want me to let the organization know that they want $100,000.00 in unmarked bills dropped off at a garbage can in downtown Oshawa in exchange for the return of their tree tchotchkes. But I refuse to help bargain with thieves. I’m so above that kind of nonsense. I do, however, wish to share exhibit A:

The nerve of some people! Seriously!
The nerve of some people! Seriously!

Speaking of the WCDR…five more things to add on that front.

Their Phoenix WCDR Short Story Contest is now open! Top Prize is $750. It’s open internationally. Closes to submissions on Oct 25th! Submission fee is $20. Click on the image below to go to the site to see the FULL SUBMISSION GUIDELINES (which you must always follow to a tee).

Click to discover PHOENIX WCDR Short Fiction Contest!
Click to discover PHOENIX WCDR Short Fiction Contest!

Also coming down the pike for the WCDR clan is the next WORDS OF THE SEASON! This is a regular member reading event that takes place in Pickering. This one will be the Culture Days edition.

Date: Friday, September 25th, 2015

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: The Bear (A Firkin Pub) located at 1294 Kingston Road, Pickering (Liverpool and Kingston Road).

Admission: Free! Food and drink are available for purchase.

MEMBER READERS are already lined-up, but this event is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and there will be an OPEN MIC session after the scheduled readings. SO, bring some work…come join us. Read for the crowd!

Culture-Days-version-2-300x294The WCDR will also be present at this year’s TORONTO WOTS! That’s WORD ON THE STREET…the cross Canada celebration of words. Rain or Shine. Come out to our booth to meet some of the WCDR people (MYSELF INCLUDED). You can find out just how vibrant this amazing organization is. You can see for yourself why we members keep drinking the Kool-Aid!

The WOTS is at HARBOURFRONT CENTRE on Sunday September 27th (11am-6pm). Come on down and look for the WCDR booth!

ALSO coming down the tracks is the next WCDR ROUNDTABLE MEETING! This is our monthly breakfast meeting. About a hundred of us get together and break bread and listen to the guest speaker and socialize. It’s a great event…the glue of the organization, really. There are also mini-workshops after each meeting for the eager to learn writer.

The Roundtable Meeting happens on the second Saturday of every month. They are open to everyone…not just members. And you will be warmly greeted and welcomed to the fold. The next one is Saturday October 10th. It’s not on their website yet…but will be shortly. Keep your eye out for it…the venue is changed for the October meeting.

Okay…so, NOVEMBER…the 5th thing to mention about the WCDR:

bookapaloozaYep! It’s happening again!

BOOKAPALOOZA 2015 takes place SATURDAY NOVEMBER 21st at The Durham College, Centre For Food/Bistro 67 at 1604 Champlain Avenue, Whitby.

I will have a table at this event and I will be selling a few of my books: SUMMER ON FIRE, BURN BABY BURN BABY, and, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN. This is a great event to showcase local talent…and to discover resources for writers and readers. YOU SHOULD COME!

WHEN:

Saturday, November 21, 2015
10:00 am to 4:00 pm

WHERE:

Centre for Food
Durham College
1610 Champlain Ave.
Whitby, ON

On to other events!

Tomorrow I head to HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO for the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WRAP PARTY!!! I talk about the marathon non-stop to whoever will listen, but just to sum up…it’s a yearly novel writing marathon where 40 writers get together in one room and each attempt to write a novel. AND…more importantly…it’s a fundraiser for literacy programs in Simcoe County/Muskoka region. We have raised over $135,000.00 so far for literacy. No small feat! It takes place every JULY. The wrap-party takes place every SEPTEMBER. The writers get back together, celebrate each other…hand out awards, do readings, make merriment! It takes place tomorrow…and I can’t wait! (-:

That’s it. Not so much, really. (-: Oh…also…I’m writing. My agent, STACEY DONAGHY of the DONAGHY LITERARY GROUP currently has my 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel on submission. It’s called PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE and it’s an LGBTQ YA novel. I will be reading from this novel at tomorrow’s MNM event, and at the WORDS OF THE SEASON event. I’m excited about this one…so much fun to write. We’ll see if it finds a home. (-:

I’ll leave you with a song, but first—

I always say that writing is absolutely a solitary and lonely endeavor. It is, well and truly. It is something one must do alone. BUT…if you choose a writing community lifestyle, as opposed to solitary existence as a writer, you will enrich your life ten-fold. If you’re not close enough to the WCDR community (AND TORONTO IS CLOSE ENOUGH…JUST SO YOU KNOW!), find a writing community in your area. It will change your life. Community is everything!

I leave you with my favourite writerly song:

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Pride Must Be A Place

Pride Must Be A Place – Rise Up

As novel titles go, I kind of like it. Pride Must Be a Place. I thought it spoke to the struggle my latest main character, Ezra Caine, dealt with in his journey to coming out and being out in his high school. Ezra, along with a couple old friends and some new ones, starts a gay-straight alliance club in his high school. Why? Because he’s had enough of the bullshit. Will Severe has attacked Ezra’s friend Alex Mills one too many times. Sometimes, the only way to have things around you change for the better is to create the platform and environment from which that change can eventually happen.

I think there are some fantastic LGBTQ young adult books in the marketplace today. Quite a few of them are amazing. But…there’s not enough. I think there’s room for more LGBTQ young adult novels. The issues facing young people, both in their high schools and at home, are perhaps better than they were twenty years ago…but they’re not good enough. There is still bullying. There is still homophobia. There is still suffering.

I think a great place to begin a dialogue that will hopefully bring about change in the landscape of the future is through literature. We, as humans, have been doing this for millennia. I have been dealing with YA issues for a few books, now…I thought it was time I tackled this particular issue. Like Ezra, I feel that it’s time for a change.

I wrote about half of Pride Must Be a Place at last month’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was my eighth such novel writing marathon. I went in with the hopes of some grand story wherein Lorraine Segato of Parachute Club makes a cameo at the end. I was even able to secure her blessing…not to mention the fact that she gave me some great ideas about what her ‘character’ would potentially do.

But then the inciting incident which would have opened the door for that ending wasn’t as big as it had to be in order to make that happen. As is often the case, the story got away from the idea and it went off on a tangent and changed wildly from the original vision. I had to admit to myself that the place where I brought the story to did not allow for Lorraine’s cameo. And it was going to be a legen–wait for it–dary cameo.

BUT! I did keep to the original vision that had my main character, Ezra Caine, obsessed with the 1983 hit RISE UP. That hit was an anthem for so many groups. It was Pride, though, that latched onto it in a big way. Ezra was called to action mostly because of the hassle his friend Alex was receiving at the hands of the bully, but also because of the power of the lyrics of his favourite song.

I finished the novel at the end of July. I’m excited about it…I haven’t yet had the time to worry over its scars and blemishes. It was one of the easier novels I ever wrote…the message was an easy one to write about. But I did face the most difficult challenge the YA author has when dealing with YA-issue story-lines. What’s that? Writing a novel with a message without beating the reader over the head with the message. People want to be entertained. Nobody wants to pleasure read only to find that they are being lectured to. It’s such a thin line to skate…harder when you’re close to the issue you are writing about.

It’s in the vault now…only time will tell if I treated it correctly.

For now, it’s on to the completion of other projects. I’ve had a lazy year and a half-ish. It’s time to finish the three or four other novels on the table waiting for my attention. With the success of getting this out of my system, I think I’ll be good to go on the next, and the next, and the next. To think…two short months ago I was considering the fact that I might be finished as a writer.

But I still have a few stories left to tell. Pride Must Be a Place is only one of them…

Rise Up – Parachute Club

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Writing Life

Never Take Your Gifts for Granted and Always Grant Your Friends Gifts #MNM2015

#MNM2015 – It’s here in one more sleep. This is the night before Christmas. All through the house, everyone is stirring and all writers are up. Visions of characters swim in our heads, in the hopes that St. Francis soon would be there. One more sleep and I am humming one more colour. I have my playlist chosen for this year’s manuscript. It’s a doozy. I seriously cannot wait to begin writing this manuscript. It’s been too long since I felt this way.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon organizers periodically send out letters of encouragement and hope from marathoners…to the rest of the marathoners…in the days and weeks leading up to the marathon. And while the marathon takes place.

Today, they sent out a letter I penned last year. I include it here…because I think it might actually capture the essence of what we do and why we do it…and how we love. As humans, as writers, as friends.

At the Muskoka Novel Marathon, all are welcome and all are welcomed. We are writers helping readers…and writers helping each other.

Here is today’s #MNM2015 Letter to the participants:

When I walked into my first Muskoka Novel Marathon, I entered on my tippy tippy toes in anticipation. But I was also terrified out of my ever-loving mind. I’m a manic-edge-of-the-seat writer, so the Muskoka Novel Marathon spoke to me. Actually, it screamed at me. BE HERE NOW! So I threw caution to the wind and signed up.

It’s hard to find the perfect writing practice for yourself. But from the first hours of my very first marathon, I knew I had discovered my practice. Write a novel in one sitting! Before I arrived, I thought the feat impossible. Once there, I knew I had found my WAY. What was terrifying as a concept, became the most comforting/comfortable thing I could imagine for my writing life. It’s the only way I want to write. And I get to do it in communion with other writers. At the marathon, you will meet writers at their very best…skating the edge of wonder and giddy with excitement. We arrive on our first year as strangers, but we go home with a new family…alumni of a wonderful—and wonderfully nurturing—society.

If you haven’t been yet, you may be a bit terrified by my words. You may be asking yourself, “Do I really want to drink this Kool-Aid?” But once you arrive—once you’re in your seat writing, talking to your neighbours, breaking bread with your fellow writers—you’ll get it. You will be a member of an elite society…a society that is inclusive of all those who find the courage to enter.

I have been fortunate enough to have won the Best Novel Award four times. I don’t know how it happened. I only know that once I enter that building and sit down and start writing, I’m there. I can clear the clouds of my workaday life and drop myself so deeply into story that I live the novel I’m writing.

ONE SITTING! How generous of a thing is that to do for oneself?! Live inside your own imaginary world without leaving it for an entire three days. Nothing distracts you. Not even the often boisterous camaraderie of your fellow writers. You just sit, you just write…and you enjoy the ride. You will find that your characters will like it this way. They don’t pout in a corner because you abandoned them for a week as you found yourself too busy to attend to them. They will be happy to live their lives non-stop. They will reveal untold gifts to you over your weekend writing extravaganza. All you have to do is keep your fingers moving at the right clip to keep up with the story! The novel marathon writing experience is one you will not soon forget. For it truly does feel like the novel is writing itself.

And if you have blocks or plot problems or difficult corners to walk yourself out of…you are in the company of forty other writers. You will find that their generosity of spirit is never-ending. At the Muskoka Novel Marathon no writer gets left behind! There is always someone there to take your hand. Encouragement is bountiful!

So whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, or this is your first year…have no fear! You’re not in this alone. Just as we rally around the cause for literacy, we rally around each other. To this year’s newbies, I say this: WELCOME TO THE FAMILY! May your experience be filled with magic and light!

 I love this gift I’ve been given…the gift to form words into thoughts, into sentences, into paragraphs, into stories, into worlds. I never take it for granted. I’m extremely grateful for the Muskoka Novel Marathon for granting us writers the beauty of 72 hours with our own thoughts. We are blessed. Blessed that we have found our bliss in creative writing…and blessed that we have found each other.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon

Goodreads Giveaway for BURN BABY BURN BABY, and MNM Stuff!

Before I give you the information for the Burn Baby Burn Baby paperback giveaway…MNM2015! Yes! It’s almost here, and I cannot wait!

I will never forget my first Muskoka Novel Marathon back in 2007. It seriously sealed my fate as a one-sitting writer. And not just for novels. It’s also how I’ve come to write my plays, and I suppose everything else I pen. Come to think of it, it’s kind of how I live my life.

And before you get on a high horse and begin to tell me nothing that takes a megalithic effort, such as a novel, should be written in one sitting…hear me out. YES…I do make mistakes writing this way. I make huge ugly stupid mistakes. I make mistakes writing a novel in one sitting and I make mistakes running through life at top speed in my live-life-in-one-sitting method too. With life, maybe it’s not so easy to correct the mistakes. Let’s face it, when all is said and done and you’re gasping for your last breath…you probably don’t get to do it all over again and correct the imbalances. BUT…with writing a novel in one sitting YOU DO…YOU DO GET TO FIX IT.

That’s what the rest of the year is for. For anyone who thinks we Muskoka Novel Marathoners write our novels in one weekend and raise to get them up on Amazon, Kobo, and all the other insta-book selling sites, you’re wrong. I spend at least a year kneading the dough of the novel I write during this marathon weekend. I nurture it into shape through careful reading and re-reading. I remove the string of LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLs that accidentally appear on page 182 because it was 3am on Sunday night of the marathon and I fell asleep at the keyboard. I remove the random words that my sleep addled brain accidentally dumped into my manuscript with no rhyme or reason. I edit. I edit. I edit.

I also–truth be told–become acquainted with my manuscript. THIS is the most exciting part. When I do my first read-through of my Muskoka Novel Marathon manuscript, I feel like I’m reading my story for the first time. No…like I’m reading someone else’s words. That’s both a great thing and a bad thing. It’s actually the thing I struggle with the most with this method of novel writing. I don’t feel connected to my work. Not at first. I read it and I keep reading to find out what happens next. Somewhere along the 72 hours that it took me to write it, WILD MIND took over. We do become machines of sorts at the MNM. It’s inevitable. It’s magical, it’s great and it’s disconcerting. We become automatons.

au·tom·a·ton
ôˈtämədən,ôˈtäməˌtän/
noun
plural noun: automatons
  1. a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

Yep. That’s what happens. It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. And when you come back in, after typing all those words on autopilot, you need to reacquaint yourself with the work you created. Or, rather, acquaint yourself.

You could see why this would be both a good and a bad thing. The author needs to be the orchestrator of the story. But you also need to trust your instincts and leave yourself at the starting line. Once story takes over, you should allow it to do so. This is never truer than when you’re writing a novel in a marathon. Instinct is king. Thinking too much is the killer of this method of novel writing. Thankfully, I am a master at the art of disconnection (<< also not entirely a good thing).

Anyway, I just wanted to write a bit on the Muskoka Novel Marathon and the process involved in writing during this monolithic writing weekend in Huntsville, Ontario. I’m getting excited. The mayhem begins in three days!

Again, I will remind my readers that this is in fact a fundraising event. As epic as it is as a retreat for writers, we do actually do this for a worthy cause. 40 writers. 72 hours. 40 novels. Bam! And each of those 40 writers collects donations for the YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka literacy programs. We have collected over $100,000.00 thus far for the literacy cause. No small feat. But the funds are sorely needed…as literacy programs, sadly, are underfunded. So, if you are feeling charitable…and you would like to help writers help readers, please feel free to click on the pic below and jump over to my Canada Helps Giving Page and make a donation. Any amount helps. Together, we can make a difference in the life of a reader:

b3c84dea90eee1c44c3bf91a1e9ae507
Click this pic to be taken to my Giving Page to make your donation. Thank you in advance!

NOW…

The Giveaway!

Burn Baby Burn Baby has been getting amazing reviews. Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.

Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.

The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.

If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.

Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.

Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

And some praise for Burn Baby Burn Baby:

I’m putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Anderson’s, TWISTED, and John Green’s, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!

I could not put it down. I loved everything about it.

Nice way to start the 2015 reading year 🙂

What an emotional book. When you read a book like Burn Baby,Burn you can’t help but cry and be grateful if you have never been in that situation. I loved this book…

Burn Baby Burn Baby is a great story about bullying, love and friendship. Definitely one to add to your wishlist.

BURN BABY, BURN BABY pulls you in from the opening pages and doesn’t let go.

This book blew me away. Blew. Me. Away.

Kevin Craig knows how to write teenage boys.

This book is such a gem that I think adults and teens will both love it.

I am so surprised that this book isn’t getting more attention… It is definitely along the lines of The Fault in Our Stars and those other YA books we all love.

To enter to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY, click on the pic below and jump over to GOODREADS and click the ENTER GIVEAWAY BUTTON!

goodreadsGood luck! Contest open to USA and CANADIAN residents. Burn Baby Burn Baby is available wherever books are sold. (-:

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Writing Life

8 Days – Muskoka Novel Marathon Approaches. Have Idea, Will Travel!

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the last Muskoka Novel Marathon, but it has. The time just keeps flying by. How do I measure the year that just flew by? Well, I’m definitely getting older. I think now is the time in my life when I’m going to NOTICE that part. I turn 49 in two months. My hips often hurt, as does my lower back. But I don’t know if this is because I’m aging, or because I’m walking too much. See, I think I’m addicted to walking. It started when I was ‘training’ to walk the Camino during the winter of ’13/’14. By early spring of last year, I was up to about 10K a day…and I was on my way to Spain. Turns out the Camino was a stroll. By the time I got back home, I knew the walking had only just begun. SO I turned around and went back to Europe and walked the streets of Paris with the same intensity that I had walked the Camino. And then I came home and continued to walk. One day last month I actually hit 30K. In one day…just out for a stroll. I continue to walk the Camino every day…with my feet in Ontario and my heart in Spain.

I guess I measure the last year in footsteps. It only makes sense. In inches and miles walked. And also, I suppose, in laughter…as there has been an abundance of that. You see, I became a member of a start-up group that just sort of burst into existence. We are THE BAD TABLE. We’re a group of writers who hang together at the WCDR Roundtable Meetings. We perceive ourselves as the baddies of our writing group, but we don’t blow up gas stations or rob banks. We don’t even trip old ladies trying to cross the street. Our modus operandi appears to be the creation of long strings of puns, accompanied by 12-year-old-boy-washroom-humour, near as I can tell.

We do kind of rock, though, in a superhero kind of way. In my own mind.

There will be a few of us in attendance at the Muskoka Novel Marathon next Friday through to the following Monday. We will do foolish things. We will laugh and giggle and be inappropriate. You can count on it. But we will all also put our heads down and get some writing done. For ourselves AND for those who might possibly not even be able to read the words we write. When it comes to illiteracy, there is no laughter. We are a united front against it…the Bad Table Alliance Against Illiteracy. Hey, that kind of sort of acronyms to BATTLE, at first glance. BTAAI. But not really. But it IS a battle we are waging.

We can only win that battle with your help. Each of us are charged with bringing in sponsorship donations for the Simcoe Muskoka YMCA literacy programs. You can donate online by clicking on the pic below and going to the link set up for my donation page for the event. ANY amount would be appreciated! We start writing Friday July 10th at 8pm. And we don’t stop until Monday July 13th at 8pm. Our part in this is to write…for 72 hours. You are the important much needed element in the equation. Your donations will help us writers help readers. Thank you in advance for your generosity. It is greatly appreciated!

canadahelps

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Writing Life

Revving Up for the Next Muskoka Novel Marathon – I’m Gonna Burn Baby Burn Baby…again!

So many of my darlings have come out of the Muskoka Novel Marathon 72 hour writing frenzy. I have taken part in this long weekend of novel writing 7 times now. 7! Holy crap. That’s a lot of writing.

Four of those seven darlings created at the marathon are now published and available for your reading pleasure. (-:

1. Sebastian’s Poet – Contemporary Adult story with a child narrator. Winner of the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for 2007.

2. The Reasons – Contemporary Adult story with duo narration…one child narrator and one adult narrator (son & mother). Winner of the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for 2008.

(I didn’t do the marathon in 2009. I was going to Kenya that year…and did not have the time to attend the marathon)

3. Half Dead & Fully Broken – Young Adult story with a teen narrator. Winner of the BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for 2010.

4. Burn Baby Burn Baby – Young Adult story with a teen narrator. Received an Honourable Mention for 2012.

That’s 4 of my 5 published novels created at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. 4! I did win the marathon one other time, though that novel was never completed…so remains unpublished.

1. That’s Me in the Corner – Young Adult story with teen narrator. Winner of the YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for 2011.

Two more Muskoka Novel Marathon novels…

1. Alive & Kicking – Young Adult story with the same teen narrator as Half Dead & Fully Broken. It’s Book 2. It remains incomplete. Written during the 2013 marathon.

2. The Book of Your Dreams – Young Adult horror story with a teen narrator. Honourable Mention for the 2014 marathon.

2015?

Who knows. But I am writing something.

Which is WHERE YOU COME IN.

I need your money.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon is not only an event for 40 insane writers to camp out together while each of us writes a novel. It’s also a fundraising event. We raise funds for literacy programs at YMCA of SIMCOE MUSKOKA. To date, this marathon has raised well over $100,000.00 for this cause…but it’s not enough. With government funding cut to the bone, the literacy programs depend on the generosity of donors. The 40 writers involved in this weekend all collect donations on behalf of the cause. We are writers helping readers. But without you, we are nothing. In order for the writers to help the readers, we need your generous donations. Without them, we are simply writers writing at this weekend marathon.

I need you to click on the picture below, go to the CANADA GIVES page I have set up to receive donations, and give. Anything. I don’t need $500 donations. $5 will do. Whatever you can spare.

A View of Lake of Bays. Dwight, Ontario…just outside Huntsville.

From the official MNM website, a bit about what the MNM actually is…

The Muskoka Novel Marathon is an annual event to raise funds and awareness for adult literacy in Huntsville and surrounding areas. To date, the event has raised over $105,000. Please see About the Marathon for more information.

I thank you in advance for your generosity. Together, we can make a difference.

I leave you with a couple snap-shots from last year’s marathon…

The MNM venue - Huntsville Active Living Centre.
The MNM venue – Huntsville Active Living Centre.
Dockside Writing - The Beauty of Muskoka Novel Writing!
Dockside Writing – The Beauty of Muskoka Novel Writing!

This year’s marathon is in 32 days. In 32 days, 40 writers will get together in Huntsville, Ontario, and attempt to write 40 novels over a 72 hour period. That’s about 2,000,000 words, if we’re all lucky. That’s a lot of words. And all for literacy. But our goal is not really to write a bunch of words. Our goal is to help others read words.

My part is the easiest. All I have to do is sit in front of my laptop and burn, baby!

(All donated funds go directly to the literacy programs. Thank you in advance for your generosity!)