Novel Marathon

Another Goodreads Giveaway – Sebastian’s Poet – Growing Up in Toronto in the Beaches…

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Sebastian’s Poet is a novel about a boy growing up in the Beaches district of Toronto in the 1970s. It follows a young Sebastian Nelson from the day he meets famous folksinger Teal Landen to the cusp of the 1980s. It’s the story of his struggles with a bohemian father and absent mother. And it’s the story of his tumultuous relationship with his younger brother, Renee, and the folksinger who blew into town one day and never left.

Goodreads is running a giveaway for a print copy of Sebastian’s Poet. You can enter by clicking on the book cover below:

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(CONTEST OPEN TO U.S.A. AND CANADA RESIDENTS)

I wrote SEBASTIAN’S POET over the course of 48hrs, during my very first Muskoka Novel Marathon in 2007. For the entire 48hrs, I listened to ANTHEM by Leonard Cohen. It greatly shaped the novel. Teal Landen IS Leonard Cohen…in many ways. I channeled Leonard to create Teal.

After the novel was completed, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s management to ask permission to use, “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN…” as the epigraph for the novel. I also got the line tattooed on my forearm. (-:

I also contacted Gordon Lightfoot’s management to request the use of Gordon’s character in my denouement in the final chapter of Sebastian’s Poet. His manager phoned me immediately and gave his permission…thrilled that Lightfoot could perhaps find new audiences through the book.

SEBASTIAN’S POET won BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. (-:

So, there’s a bit of the history of Sebastian’s Poet. I also had a lot of fun injecting it with 70s references. (-:

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.

Enter to win your print copy today.

Looking to purchase any of my books? You can do so at most book sites, but here’s a link to my AMAZON PAGE.

Another Muskoka Novel Marathon has Come and Gone

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And another Muskoka Novel Marathon is over. My seventh!

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I had an interesting challenge from one of my sponsors this year. EAT MAPLE SYRUP AND I WILL SPONSOR YOU FOR $50. Sounds easy enough. Everybody likes maple syrup, right? I mean, isn’t it a law in Canada that all citizens are required to love the shit?

I hate it. I hate the syrup itself, and I particularly hate anything maple flavoured. Donuts, cookies, candy, what have you. When Mel Cober threw down the villainous challenge, I terrifyingly took her up on it. And, wonder of wonders, she actually trusted that I would go through with it. She fronted me the donation before I left for the marathon. So, I had no choice. I arranged to have a maple syrup chow-down at the marathon. Check out the video here:

Why do we do these silly things we do? Because we believe everyone has the right to literacy. I’m willing to eat maple syrup to make that happen. The marathon is all about raising funds and awareness for the literacy programs of YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Literacy Services.

Just outside the beautiful Muskoka Novel Marathon venue in Huntsville, Ontario!
Just outside the beautiful Muskoka Novel Marathon venue in Huntsville, Ontario!

This year, we were given an almost final tally of $23,000 raised. THAT is amazing! That alone makes the whole sleepless marathon worth it. But we also benefit from having a whole 72hr period where we don’t have to worry about anything else in the world but writing. I LOVE that part of the deal. We get to WRITE.

My word count was low this year, but it doesn’t matter. I have a work in progress now. Something to work on and flesh out. I am happy with that. What more can I ask for!

We didn’t have to ask for more, but we definitely got it! Saturday night was NUIT BLANCHE NORTH. Some of the 40 writers present cut loose and walked down into downtown Huntsville to take in the sights of the event, myself included.

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It’s always interesting to see what’s what at Nuit Blanche North. And it always takes place mid-marathon. (-:

Nuit Blanche North - Downtown Huntsville, Ontario - July 12, 2014
Nuit Blanche North – Downtown Huntsville, Ontario – July 12, 2014

 

And that wasn’t all. There was more. I got to see my Camino mentor, Sue Kenney! She led some of the readers through a barefoot creative walk on the Sunday morning of the marathon. Watching my fellow writers discover Sue and her all-round wonderfulness was so great. I’ve known her for a few years and I walked the Camino with her this past May…I knew they were in for a treat.

Creative Walk - Letting in the light and preparing for day 2 of our writing marathon!
Creativity Walk with Sue Kenney – Letting in the light and preparing for day 2 of our writing marathon!

That walk transported me back to the Camino. Such a great way to begin our Sunday!

Creativity Walkers
Creativity Walkers

Sometime over the course of the weekend I spotted four writers in the food line-up wearing t-shirts from four different MNM marathons. I had to take a pic…

T-shirts from various Muskoka Novel Marathon years...
T-shirts from various Muskoka Novel Marathon years…

 

Another great marathon was had by all. I so love this event. It’s not just about raising money for literacy programs. It isn’t just about getting a whole weekend to do nothing but write. It isn’t just about the amazing camaraderie of spending a weekend with 40 writers. It’s all those things and more. I honestly can’t say enough about the event. I think all writers should have the writing marathon experience. But not just any writing marathon. This particular one is exceptional. Thanks for another great year, MNM!

Oh, and here’s something to put a smile on your face. Charlie is extraordinary!

Smiling Buddha - Charlie at one month old...
Smiling Buddha – Charlie at one month old…

 

How Does One Prepare for a Novel Writing Marathon? How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

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Let’s break it down, shall we?

She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee, her dress has got a tear
She waltzes on her way to Mass and whistles on the stair
And underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair
I even heard her singing in the abbey

She’s always late for chapel, but her penitence is real
She’s always late for everything, except for every meal
I hate to have to say it, but I very firmly feel Maria’s not an asset to the abbey

I’d like to say a word in her behalf
Maria makes me laugh

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Okay. There you have the first few lines of MARIA. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and composition by Richard Rodgers.
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I’m looking at this and guess what? I don’t see a problem. You can’t solve a problem that isn’t there. You don’t fix someone who marches to the beat of their own drum. You embrace them. Those silly nuns were just too rule-oriented. They could have really partied up that nunnery, had they had vision and insight. Shut up, nuns. One should waltz on their way to mass. One should whistle on the stair. And what wimple wouldn’t look more fabulous than one with the bulge of curlers beneath it? Get real, nuns! I mean, seriously. So, in closing…one does not solve a problem like Maria. One embraces the freedom that Maria personifies. One doesn’t catch a cloud and pin it down. Christ! That’s a barbaric notion. One watches the cloud dance.
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When I’m with her I’m confused, out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather, she’s as flighty as a feather
She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!
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(Let’s come back to that one above. It has something to do with the other topic in the title of this post…so I’ll just hint at its relevance here by asking you to remember I quoted it.)
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How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
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Guess what, Nun dudes? YOU DON’T. You watch it alight on something. You experience its light and how it changes a thing. Hold it!? Those nuns were cannibals! To harness a thing that personifies delight is to kill the world itself.
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A writing quote opportunity has just arisen. This can be the segue, because let’s face it…I almost forgot what this post was to be about!
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“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

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There. From moonbeam in the hand to show don’t tell. It was a leap, but I made it.

 

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Now…on to preparing for a novel marathon. As some of you have probably figured out by now, I’m a lover of the weekend novel writing marathon. The MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON in particular. The 2014 marathon is coming up. Nay, it is racing to the forefront of my schedule. It is screaming itself into existence. On Friday July 11th I will make my way up to Huntsville, Ontario, for my annual MNM pilgrimage. I–along with some forty other writers–will write non-stop for 72 hours and walk away from the weekend with a complete novel under my belt. Hopefully.

One would think much planning would be involved in preparing yourself to write a novel in a weekend. One would think one would need to do some kind of writing endurance calisthenics, or something. One would think that an outline of sorts would be required. An opening paragraph. An opening line. Something!

Guess what? There is no formula. As I said, forty writers will be making the same trek as me. Forty writers will go into this marathon weekend with forty different plans, forty different ways to prepare, forty different concepts. The way one prepares for a novel writing marathon is absolutely unique to the individual. We are not all nuns, forced into the confines of formulaic rules and strategies. We don’t have to be the same. We can be as unique as snowflakes.

Let’s face it, we’re all MARIAs. Let’s just get that on the table right now. The job of the writer is to climb the tree and scrape their knee. A writer does not march in line with the rest of the world. Unless, of course, they want to. A writer of fiction takes up a challenge every time they sit down to write. They create a universe. That universe can be as structured and unmoving as steel, or it can be flibbertijibbet. How they get there is of no consequence. They climb a tree. They scrape their knee. Voila! They have a story.

To prepare for a novel marathon, a writer needs to cut away structure and discipline. They need to release control. Control lives only in the land of here-not-here. There-not-there. None of us have control of anything. To give up control is merely to give up the illusion of control. Sure, you can enter a novel marathon with a full page outline. You can have every single chapter of your novel outlined in point form. You can have your character profiles all standing in a tight little row like nuns at a shooting gallery, ready to be pegged off by angry satanists. You can do that. Yes you can.

But I’ve done seven or eight novel marathons now. I know what works for me. I know how this puppy rolls. I go in with a Nancy, a Bob and a Timothy about to embark on a story of love and deception. Half an hour into the marathon I find myself writing about Grace and Bill, two hippies who just want to change the world for the better with their hot-air balloon tour company. Free rides for anyone who donates a hundred kisses to the local animal shelter!

So, in closing, this writer does not prepare. He goes in with a story or two or seven swirling in his head…desperately wanting to be told. He picks the one that screams the most to be heard at the time he sits down to begin the marathon. He hopes it has staying power. He writes.

When I get there, I want to be confused, out of focus and bemused. I want to be unpredictable as weather, as flighty as a feather. I’m a cloud. Don’t pin me down, dude. The answer is simple. You don’t hold a moonbeam in your hand.

THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A WAY TO BRING AWARENESS TO, AND RAISE FUNDS FOR LITERACY PROGRAMS. PLEASE CONSIDER SPONSORING MY WEEKEND NOVEL WRITING MARATHON. YOU CAN DO SO ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE. ALL FUNDS GO TO THE YMCA SIMCOE/MUSKOKA ADULT LITERACY PROGRAMS. THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE. TOGETHER, WE CAN OBLITERATE ILLITERACY!

 

 

 

I Know I Know for Sure That Life is Beautiful Around the World…

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I have done so many things lately. Writing isn’t really one of them. But that’s okay. One doesn’t have to be writing to be writing. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean.

I do have to mention one exception, however…as I wrote the beginning of my 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon in Wayson Choy’s Friday Afternoon Masterclass at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. The novel will be a Young Adult novel and it will be titled JUMP. I have the first three or four paragraphs on paper…and the rest is percolating.

I thought I would do this in pictures today, as I’ve been a bit camera happy lately.

As mentioned above, I went to the 2014 Ontario Writers’ Conference. This was an exquisite opportunity to grow as a writer. And it was also an excellent opportunity to see writer friends I only see once or twice a year at the OWC and events like it. This year I had the extreme pleasure of being a Manuscript Mentor at the conference, as well. I read some great work in my role as mentor. And I’m wise enough to know that everything is a learning opportunity. I learned so much from the writers I met with. All in all, the conference was spectacular…as per usual. Every single year, the organizing committee outdoes themselves.

For a full rundown on the conference, I’m going to send you over to my friend LORI TWINING’s website. Her recap is one of the most fabulous recaps of an event I have ever had the pleasure of reading. (-: AND she gives me a nod at the end, so…there’s that. (-;

On to the pictures:

Caroline Wissing - The OWC would NOT be the same without her! Read her YA novel VOICELESS. It's wonderful!
Caroline Wissing – The OWC would NOT be the same without her! Read her YA novel VOICELESS. It’s wonderful!

CAROLINE WISSING – VOICELESS, a Young Adult Novel

Mel, Naomi & Lori...three awesome women! Future Canadian Literati. I love photobombing. (-:
Mel, Naomi & Lori…three awesome women! Future Canadian Literati. I love photobombing. (-:

I’m fortunate enough to share a music blog with Naomi. She’s a musical twin of sorts. (-: You can read her latest musical escape to Kaskade at our SKY CHURCH MUSIC. Lori and I have done the Muskoka Novel Marathon together a few times. She’s a crazed-maniacal twin of sorts. She has a lot of fun with capes. Mel…what can I say about Mel? I love her…she’s awesome and she doesn’t hate us for picking on her. We have not done any heavy writing together as of yet, but I’m looking forward to discovering her words. She’s my orange twin. Together, the four of us ran amok at the Ontario Writers’ Conference…and we didn’t even get asked to leave.

Merriam-Webster defines amok as: “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Indonesian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures”

Yep. That’s what happened…only it was en masse.

The Incomparable Wayson Choy!
The Incomparable Wayson Choy!

I could talk all day about Wayson. It’s been an absolute pleasure spending time with him every year at the conference. Having been on the Board of Directors for approximately 8-ish years, I was able to get to know Wayson a bit. He’s the most generous person I’ve ever met. I say that as an absolute. In his presence, one gets to feel the true meaning of Namaste. He is someone who is THERE. ALWAYS. He is All That Matters.

The conference was wonderful. I highly recommend it to writers everywhere. Check it out: ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE

Barbara Kyle - May, 2014
Barbara Kyle – May, 2014

Now, for another writing event. Every month but one the Writers’ Community of Durham Region puts on their RoundTable Meeting. If you have not yet been, you should seriously consider it! For May, they had the incomparable BARBARA KYLE. She gave a charged inspirational talk on writing. She offered 10 TIPS TO SURVIVING FIRST DRAFT. Her first was Get Dressed: “When I sit down to write, I don’t do it in a ratty old dressing gown and slippers. I get dressed as if I’m going into the world to work.”

GO TO THE WCDR WEBSITE TO READ THE FULL ROUNDTABLE MEETING RECAP

Barbara Kyle, addressing a captive audience of writers at the May 10/14 WCDR Roundtable Meeting
Barbara Kyle, addressing a captivated audience of writers at the May 10/14 WCDR Roundtable Meeting

Barbara has done a few things right. To date she has sold over 425,000 books! She is always gracious and inspirational to other writers, wherever they may be on their path.

Barbara Kyle
Barbara Kyle

I have been immersing myself in writing without writing. It CAN be done. When writing isn’t happening, one is always collecting grist for the mill.

Colleen Knight - Fellow WCDR Writer
Colleen Knight – Fellow WCDR Writer

I had to share that last photo. Someone saw me taking shots at the RoundTable Meeting and wanted a piece of the action. I MUST spend more time with Colleen Knight. I have a feeling she’s my kind of people. (-:

My dear friend Karen Cole
My dear friend Karen Cole

Karen Cole was a member of my longtime writing circle WIP. She now runs the circle herself. She is also an ex-nun who lifted her veil. (-: You can check her out at her BLOG. Lifting the Veil is her memoir of her life as a Benedictine nun.

My BOY - Edward!
My BOY – Edward!

The dude of dudes. Ladies and gentlemen, Edward Jacob Anthony! My grandson. He’s about to have a brother… CHARLIE THOMAS ANTHONY. Another Thomas! I’m a Thomas and my son is a Thomas…the name comes from my Nana’s Daddy…which makes me very happy. Edward and I chilled at Starbucks recently with his ‘rents. 1/2 price Frapps. We couldn’t resist. Edward likes the Strawberries and Cream. And I like Edward!

Tobin Elliott - Fellow MNM marathoner!
Tobin Elliott – Fellow MNM marathoner!

I thought I would photobomb my own blog-post with a shot of Tobin Elliott’s back. He definitely would have photobombed it if he could…

My Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery Rock
My Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery Rock

Now for a bit of seriousness. I spoke previously about attending Male Survivor Weekends of Recovery for men who were sexually abused either as children or as adults. At the end of the weekend, survivors do a small rock ceremony. I went home from each of my weekend retreats with a rock or two. The one above…I will be taking with me to Spain. I fly there tomorrow… I will be walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. So my blog will be very quiet for the rest of May. I will be taking a spiritual journey across Spain. And I will be leaving my rock there, somewhere along the way. Here’s a link to MALE SURVIVOR –If you or someone you know needs it…there’s no time like the present. Freedom is just a click away. They will help you reclaim your life.

I think that’s all I have to share today.

Oh wait. The title. Remember one thing above all others…life is beautiful.

See you in June!