Tag Archives: Writing Cohort

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


(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.

A Love Letter to My Writing Cohort, or as The Humber School For Writers called it: My Literary Coterie…or as The Banff Centre called it: My Future Table Mates for the Gillers…

❤ I’ve been lucky enough to workshop with some incredibly talented, award-winning writing mWriters I Met and Likedentors, (and they’re all Writers I’ve Met & Liked too) and at some point, I’ll write about them, but this post is a shout out to my many writing peers…who toil, like me, in varying degrees of passionate literary obscurity, and who make my heart beat a little faster just knowing they’re (you’re) at it too. On my last day in Toronto, possibly for a few months – before heading to Texas, naturally, I spent a good chunk of the day packing and repacking, and weighing my two substantial suitcases, but I also fit in two separate meals with writing friends I don’t see nearly enough. They’re both named Karen, and we met through the Humber School for Writers during our summer workshop in 2012. In both cases, we could hardly stop talking, we had so much to share.  On a day that could have been entirely devoted to fretting about my next up-close experience with clear air turbulence, and whether or not I’m abandoning the house looking like several luggage explosions have taken place, instead, I got to bask in the warm and bracing tonic that is the company of my extended writing cohort.  ❤

Humber claimed it would provide “Jet fuel for the literary mind,” and help writers “develop a literary coterie to assist in take-off.” They then paraded a panel of success stories before us, most of whom took 7 years to publish their first novels. We remind ourselves of this quite regularly. ‘We’ being key. Some alum I only see rarely, when they visit from other cities (Claire), but Humber is where I met my two Toronto writing partners, Emma and Sue-Anne. We’ve been meeting regularly, since 2012, to write and workshop. The deadlines, the close reading, the comraderie and the encouragement have made a huge difference to my writing practice.  Thank you! I’ll miss you and commit to trying some skyping critiques. There’s nothing like a writing partner to make you feel good or guilty, as the situation requires.  ❤

We were called Artists at The Banff Centre, where I did the novel workshop in September, 2014, and indeed, we carried the cards to prove it. The Banff Centre proved to be a perfect cocktail of literary and geographical inspiration, cushioned from the harsh realities of real life, alongside the most kindred spirits and the coolest kids. Time to do and time to be. Although we were divided by the type of writing we did, there was a lovely co-mingling with our joint readings and in the time we took to just hang out. In my group, we had far too much fun planning the seating charts for our tables in preparation for the day when we would at long last be shortlisted for the Gillers, but we also had moments of epiphany, hilarity, humility, and generosity that I won’t forget. I loved the whole group at Banff – there were no weak links – but my essential affection goes to the Grateful Bastards: Steph, Jen, and Janel, who made me feel like I got put in the coolest cabin at writing camp. Mention must be made of Ken, Mona, Deborah, and poets Jake and Chris, and short story tellers, Touer, Allison, and Terri-Lynn. And of course, the Daves. I apologize for not naming all of you, but know, I loved you too!  ❤

I never thought I’d start or finish a marathon, until I became a Muskoka Novel Marathoner. I was warned that nothing else would prepare you for a 72-hour novel writing marathon. The intensity of sleep deprivation, friendly competition, and constant immersion in story are responsible for some excellent writing as well as some near nervous breakdowns. Thanks to Tara, Emma, and Sue-Anne for taking the trip. And for being on the receiving end: Paula, Lori, Dawn, Karen, Pat, Dyoni, Shellie, Kevin, Ruth, Naomi, Kate, Cheryl, Sam and Dale. There are many more fellow writers – but we can only lift our heads for a few moments at a time, so I need to pretend I didn’t notice you all. What a shock and a privilege to have won the manuscript contest among such peers.  ❤

I put in the night shift at the Toronto Writers Centre, so I didn’t get to socialize with the regulars much, but the little bit I did let me know Amy who galvanized me with some really inspiring trailblazing.  ❤

At the Damariscotta Lake Writers’ Conference in Maine, Adelaide, Amber, Michela, and Kim made me want to be better than I was, while welcoming me as one of their own. We were a rare breed of educators who write; writers who teach.  ❤

And at the Bard Institute for Writing and Thinking, we were Focused Free-Writers, over 6 or so summer sessions. Thanks to Win and Matt for being the perfect antidote to pretty much everything on that first iteration, as well as my introductory literary crushes, and for several indelible impressions in the years to follow. There were many other writing friends along the way, but you were my initial cohort and I won’t ever forget the exhilaration of writing and sharing and reading aloud that summer. Here’s to another July workshop like Fiction: Memory and Imagination, 2005, one fine day.  ❤

And now, here it is 2015, and here’s a nod to a new writing partner I already appreciate. Lauren and I connected through the Writers League of Texas, and I look forward to spending more time sitting across the table from each other with dueling laptops and lots to share.

A 10-page story…

I’m doing this short story writing challenge with Emma, and reblogging her post about it – I couldn’t agree more with the surprising math of short versus long. Everything else I’m working on is in the hundreds of pages, so this is a refreshing change of page/pace. And yet… it requires quite a different set of tools. We’ll see if I can find that toolbox.

Emma L. R. Hogg

Last week I decided that I would write a short story and enter it into the Toronto Star’s Short Story Contest.  It seemed logical to me that since I’ve written a number of novels that surely I could whip up a 10-page short story in no time at all.

Not true.

What I quickly realized is that a short story isn’t 10 pages of a 200+ page story.  A short story is 10 pages of a 10 page story.

While some writers may shy away from the daunting number of pages in a typical novel, I learned that, in my case, it is just as frightening to fathom a complete story – with a beginning, a middle, and an end – in a limited number of pages. It’s like an artist who paints on a 10-foot square canvas and then decides to try painting on a 10-inch square canvas…

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