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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…

 

Listed – How to Write a Novel

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  • Dream up an idea that is bigger than the spot in your brain that contains it.
  • Transfer the idea from your brain to your heart.
  • Knead idea with the milkblood of your heart.
  • Push the idea out of your heart and into the highways and byways of your veins.
  • Allow the idea to float through your body for as long as you can contain the excitement.
  • When exhausted from the anticipation of giving birth to the idea, allow it to float to the ends of your arms and down into your fingers.
  • Send the idea through the ends of your finger tips down into your keyboard.
  • Watch the idea come to life on the computer screen in front of you.
  • Be amazed! You are creator.
  • Once idea has been fully purged, type THE END into the same keyboard you allowed the idea to escape into.
  • Sit back and be well pleased with yourself.

Enjoy some SHADOW STABBING from Cake. (-:

 

If You Can Read This Blog Post Title, You Could Help Me to Help Those Who Can’t…

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The Muskoka Novel Marathon is a fundraiser in support of Adult Literacy initiatives in Huntsville, Ontario. But more than that, it’s an opportunity for writers to come together in a supportive environment and spend an entire, (mostly) uninterrupted weekend writing. Friends are made, stories are shared, and the occasional midnight desk chair race breaks up the late-night silence. ~ From the Muskoka Novel Marathon Website

If you have been reading my blog, you will know by now that I am passionate about the Muskoka Novel Marathon. And extremely passionate about literacy.

 

Two out of every five Canadians struggles with basic reading and writing.  It affects their jobs, their health and their family.  Funds raised at the Muskoka Novel Marathon are donated to YMCA Muskoka Literacy Services (part of YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka) and help keep the doors open to those in the community that want to overcome literacy challenges for a better life. ~ From the Muskoka Novel Marathon Website

READ THE WHERE THE FUNDS GO PAGE OF THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON SITE HERE.

In the world of reading, I firmly believe that nobody should be left behind. To be illiterate in today’s society is to live every day with a dark monster at your heels…eating away at your potential, your light, your self-esteem. When you are unable to read, it negatively impacts every single aspect of your day to day life.

I could ask you to try to live in this world for an hour as though you cannot read. You might even think you would be able to do it…to grasp the concept…to walk (or drive) down the street and pretend to be unable to read all the words that come your way inside of that hour. You would be able to imagine some form of empathy…as you would think that not seeing the words would be a reasonable facsimile to illiteracy. You could pretend to be unable to read traffic signs, directions, a cereal box, an ingredient list for possible allergy foods, advertisements, your mail, you name it. But the bottom line is that reading is something you can’t be unfamiliar with once you have a grasp of how to do it. You can’t put yourself in the shoes of someone who struggles with literacy. It’s impossible. The closest you can get to experiencing it would be for me to pick you up and plant you down in the middle of a country where all the signs are in a language you’ve never seen before. How quickly would you feel lost? Alone? Scared? Judged? Segregated? Marginalized? Disoriented? Angry? Sad? Disillusioned? Incompetent?

So, I can’t ask you to imagine the struggles you would face if you were illiterate. I can only ask you to sympathize with those who do struggle with literacy.

On July 11th, I head up to Huntsville, Ontario, for my 7th Muskoka Novel Marathon. Yes…I will have a hell of a lot of fun at the novel writing marathon. I will write my face off. Hopefully I will walk away from the weekend with a new completed novel under my belt. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. One never knows going in if they’re going to achieve their goal. It’s a lot of fun to be locked in with a room full of writers. A LOT OF FUN. But it’s also a hell of a hard thing to do…write a novel in one sitting. At any rate, I get a great weekend of writing out of this commitment. A gift you couldn’t imagine!

I can’t arrive to the marathon empty-handed. I need sponsors. I need for people to see the value in donating money to literacy efforts in Simcoe County/Muskoka. Your donations can help chase away that dark monster that bites at the heels of those who struggle with literacy. The programs in place to assist them are designed to get them on their feet and fully integrated into the world currently beyond their comprehension. Your donations can turn on the light and make the darkness vanish. What say you? I will sit on my keister for 72 hours and write non-stop and hope that the media spotlight that hits the marathon brings in some much needed funds and awareness. That’s the easy part (and as mentioned above, a lot of fun). Will you make a small donation to help me to help them?

Click on the image below to go directly to my CANADA HELPS GIVING PAGE, where you can donate online:

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If you would rather donate to a literacy program in your own community, please do so. If we inspire anyone to donate money to literacy anywhere, we have won.

Thank you in advance!

 

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!