Participation in writing marathons is one of my favourite ways to grow as an author. What is a novel marathon? It’s a 3-day, 72-hour, non-stop event where writers, of all stages and ages, come to write a first-draft novella over a long-weekend.
I’ve attended the Muskoka Novel Marathon at least six times and I intend to join the Toronto Novel Marathon this summer. Both of these Ontario based marathons are connected to worthy charities. Writers accept pledges and are encouraged to fund-raise up to $500 per author. Cumulatively in Muskoka, $105,000 has been raised for adult literacy programs. The Toronto Novel Marathon, affectionately dubbed ToNoMa, raises funds for the Renascent House – a residential treatment program for people with addictions.
Imagine meeting fellow writers, who become fast friends by the end of the weekend. I’ve had some of my most inspiring conversations while being surrounded by fellow writers. We eat wonderful meals together and share stories on the craft of writing. Everyone is encouraging of one-another.
Sleep deprivation can bring out silliness and since my already out-going personality blossoms at novel marathons, I was nicknamed Giggles. When I became a grandmother my nickname morphed into Grandma Giggles and the moniker stuck. I’ve also gotten involved in childishness, like a chair race at midnight of the third night and silly games with horns. However, what happens at a novel marathon stays at the marathon, so I can’t share too much without fear of retribution.
On April 1st, 2010, I received an email from my friend Martin Avery to tell me that he and Jenny Cressman were putting together a book called The Best Stories from the Muskoka Novel Marathon 2000 – 2010 to commemorate the first 10 years of this fundraising event for literacy. Martin is known for his humour so I asked him to stop sending me April Fools jokes. After he convinced me that his email was not a prank I began to get excited about being one of only twelve authors chosen. In the anthology, I included a polished version of a short story I wrote at one of the marathons.
Friendships are forged over the weekend and most keep in touch via social media. Writing is often a lonely existence, so having the privilege of being part of a worthwhile event lifts my spirits and compels me to write and edit when I’d otherwise be procrastinating.
Veteran novel marathoners have become my support system throughout the year. We’ll occasionally meet at other events where writers congregate. I’m welcomed with a great big hug, followed by another inspiring conversation about their writing and mine.