Category Archives: Literary Intentions

It’s Muskoka Novel Marathon Sign-up Day! Stressful? Yes! Worthwhile? Absolutely!

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(SPOILER UPDATE: just found out I made the 40 writer cut off!)

This will be my 3rd year signing up for the Muskoka Novel Marathon – and the competition to be among the 40 writers is fierce. I am traveling this week, and so when 7:00 pm Muskoka time hits (that’ll be 5:00 in Denver – or just 18 minutes from this moment), I need to be glued to my computer, refreshing their site, fingers crossed for no wifi weirdness, until the magic button appears and I can register.

If you have never attended a novel marathon, you’d be in the majority, and while some writers might assume that nothing good can come of writing like you’re running desperately from a pack of starved wildebeests snapping at your heels (that’s how I picture the ticking clock as the 72-hour writing marathon ticks down), you’d be wrong. Here’s what’s so great about a writing marathon:

In 3 days (or 72 hours) at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, I’ve somehow written 110 pages (2013) and 77 pages (2014). In the Real World, It’s taken me 3-6 months to double those lengths. Kind of unbelievable. I mean, I could strap myself to my desk, and in fact, this year has been a writing sabbatical for me, where I took a break from teaching and alarm clocks (and paycheques too!) and still, the magical alchemy of writing amongst a group of driven writers, where all of your physical needs are met in a retreat setting that is impossible to beat AND all that plus raising funds for the worthiest of causes – ADULT LITERACY – over 72 frenetic hours where you pretty much NEVER leave your story long enough to lose the thread or the thrust is not to be underestimated.

And did I mention, last year I WON THE MANUSCRIPT COMPETITION!

http://www.muskokanovelmarathon.com – check out their website. They do amazing things.

Ok – ten minutes left. I’ll report back – fingers crossed.

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Book a Week Reading Challenge

I was going for 45 books this year, to meet a writerly challenge set out by some writing friends, but now I think, why not a book a week? That said, some books won’t be bloggable, because I might be too embarrassed to mention them by name, whether they were forced upon me by book clubs, or are part of the guilty ‘lite’ read shelf.

Please share any books you have recently read and loved! I’m always looking for recommendations.

What I’m reading right now: Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers

Here are a few of the books (spoiler free and with just a hint of the gist) I’ve enjoyed since taking up the challenge on January 1:

The Divinity Gene (short stories) by Matthew Trafford – inventive and wild – ‘fantastical and fantastic’

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – the mystery surrounding an historical text and its conservator

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to transcend loss

The Dinner by Herman Koch – mystery asks how far you’d go to protect your child

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson – set in Georgia, lilting and lush, smart and funny voice, unpredictable and bittersweet plot

Seven for a Secret by Mary C. Sheppard – captures the Newfoundland Outport life of youth before the highways and centralization changed everything

BOOKS I READ BEFORE THE CHALLENGE AND LOVED IN 2014 INCLUDE:

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Between Gods and Far to Go by Alison Pick

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

February by Lisa Moore


Book Blog – Literary Intentions – A Book A Week in 2015 & You?

How many books are you planning to read this year? Will you log and record them like notches on your literary belt before the details of what you’ve read slip almost entirely from your memory? Pile-of-Books-2That’s my plan for this writing sabbatical year.

As much as I am always reading something, I love the fact that this A Book A Week (52 minimum) in 2015 challenge has me not only reading with more of a sense of deadline and purpose, but I’m also making notes of things that stood out, instead of just turning down the bottom corner of a page on a memorable passage that I will almost certainly never go back to. That’s kind of symbolic of how much of what I read I forget, and the scattered attention span and memory deficit of our internet heavy lives. I’ve always read several books a month, but to even remember their titles a few months later is a challenge in itself. I’m usually reading 3 or 4 books at the same time, and this challenge is helping me focus a little more closely on one (ok, two) at a time.

I’m also more self-conscious of the narrative nutrition (or lack thereof) of a given selection, given the writerly company I’m in. (Thanks to Amy Stuart for quantifying a reading challenge for the year!) For example, I just read a technical book on writing for the web – that I will definitely not be including in my 52 books for 2015, no matter how much it looks and smells like a book, and no matter how helpful it might have been in explaining some concepts to me. On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my guilty pleasure (ie – YA) selections don’t make it onto my official list, either – though those reads will probably push me well over the book-a-week mark to 52 on that less official tally 🙂

My current reading: (Books 2 and 3 on the list) The Writer’s Notebook II – Craft Essays from Tin House, and The Divinity Gene by Matthew Trafford, Short Stories of amazing inventiveness.

You can read my blog post on Book 1 – The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill here:  https://tenalaing.com/2015/01/09/book-blog-the-girl-who-was-saturday-night-by-heather-oneill-45-book-reading-challenge/

You can read about my Literary Intentions for 2015 – (My Writing Sabbatical Year) here: https://tenalaing.com/2015/01/01/writing-sabbatical-a-midpoint-check-in/


Writing Sabbatical – A midpoint check in

Ok, clearly my writing sabbatical – which began in June 2014 and extends to September 2015 – has not involved any blogging. This blog has lain fallow long enough now that I’ve probably forgotten how to eveBook Mugn make a post. Still, here it is January 1, 2015, an inspiring and significant year in my little writing life, and so I’m going to carve out a few literary intentions for 2015 and post them here for good measure. I’m even attaching numbers to the words where I can, to make them measurable.

~ Read 45 books and keep a record of not only the books read but some impressions of my reading.

~ Meet my writing partners as often as possible to write and commune. Weekly if possible.

~ Write a minimum of 2 hours or 1250 words per day, 5 days a week on new manuscript.

~ Write at least one short story – for submission to contest (2500 words max)

~ Blog about the standout writing experiences this sabbatical year has held: Banff Centre, Writers at Woody Point, Muskoka Novel Marathon – manuscript contest win, Writers League of Texas events, Toronto Writing Group

~ Blog weekly, at a minimum.

~ Spend at least 10 hours per week editing completed manuscript.

~ Continue to swim 5 times a week – (it’s proven to be an incredibly rich story creating opportunity and, of course, it’s good for me)

~ Stop for a moment every day to appreciate the gift of this time, this year, this life.

Happy New Year! Bonne Annee!