July 2012


I Survived Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012

Yes, I survived. More than that actually: I loved it! (MNM2012)

Imagine 72 hours to do nothing but write as much as you like. Heaven!! You could take time out to eat and sleep if you wanted/needed to. Meals were provided and prepared by and the lovely den mother Mieke, who even did our dishes afterwards (and didn’t kick me out on the first day when I spilled my coffee).

On top of it all is knowing that while you’re there writing you’re raising money for the YMCA Literacy Services. This will allow you to feel fine about ignoring your family for the whole time (because you get up before they do and you come home after they’re all in bed–heh heh. Thank you, family, for being so amazing and understanding.). And thank you so much to my sponsors. I’ll be sending you individual thank you letters. All together the writers this year raised an astounding $14,572.50 last I heard.!!

I admit that I was a bit worried going in. I mean, me, write a novel? I wasn’t sure there was a story of novel length proportions in me. Okay, so I’m still not sure the story is worth anything but my amusement in writing it, but who cares at this point? I went in with an initial idea, and I came out with 60 pages written and a workable outline to keep going with. Here’s my 60 page milestone ribbon (and note how there are others much bigger than mine).

For someone who writes at home in the (mostly) quiet it was scary to think about writing in a crowded room. But with the help of my iPod and some playlists it worked out just fine. I was focussed when I wanted to be and distracted when I wanted to be.

Susan Blakeney

The wonderful writer to the right of me was Susan Blakeney, who taught me that physically acting out things can really help you. And she is an amazingly prolific writer in that she STARTED AND COMPLETED her novel at the marathon. Wow.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster

The wonderful writer to the left of me was Cathy Olliffe-Webster, who is an amazingly brave and funny writer who demonstrated the power of perseverance because during the marathon she was able to write the ending of her novel–a goal which had alluded her in the past. Way to go, Cathy!

View beyond my keyboard

It was energizing to be with such a diverse group of writers, some of whom I knew going in and some I didn’t. I’ve definitely added to my “to be read” pile.

(LtoR) Kimberley Ann Sparks, Cheryl Cooper, Sharon Ledwith, Lena Coakley, Lori Twining

I didn’t submit my manuscript to the judges for the contest portion. Walking away with a huge chunk of a draft completed and a workable outline was reward enough for me. Thanks to Karen Wehrstein and Paula Boon and Dawn Huddlestone for all their work organizing the marathon. Check out the storify of the mnm Dawn put together: http://storify.com/MuskokaNovel/mnm-2012

Most memorable moments:

  • Anne Millyard dropped in!
  • Creme brulee from Spencer’s Tall Trees–I went back for seconds
  • Watching Sandra act out being very pregnant (thanks to a well placed pillow) and getting down to and up from the floor so Susan could see how that action would play out.
  • The guy who stuck his head into a quiet room of writers writing and announced “It was a dark and stormy night–There, start with that.” Groan. He was chased down for a donation.
  • The three cats I narrowly avoided hitting on three separate drives to/from the marathon.
  • Realizing it’s truly astounding how many times some people stir their coffee before drinking it.
  • The slurping, gushing noises of Karen’s green tea thermos which she could not hear thanks to her noise cancelling headphones.

And some other random shots:

They provided all the essentials–earplugs, ibuprofen, antacids, bookmarks, and popcorn!

We all donated to the marathon to thank Mieke (in red) for looking after us all weekend

What a goody bag! Loved the pipe cleaners and playdough.

Susan decorated my water bottle and christened it “Swamp Water” 

Look at all those 10 page milestones people had!

© Lizann Flatt, www.lizannflatt.com
No part of this blog may be used without written permission from the author.

Marathon Madness?

What have I gotten myself into? I must be mad. This weekend I’m participating in the Muskoka Novel Marathon. A whole 72 hours to do nothing but write. A novel. And I’ve never written one before. (I don’t think that fantasy adventure I started writing in high school should count, do you? Besides, I quit after about 2,000 words.)

I’ve always had some excuse to myself for not writing a novel even though I have plenty of half baked ideas. So the fact that I’ve committed myself to devoting three days to writing a crappy novel first draft scares me. Okay, I will have to sleep in there and I have to minus the time to attend my niece’s wedding. But that still leaves me a decent two and a half days. And I’ll be in a room full of other writers all doing the same thing! Will it be intimidating or motivating to see everyone around me writing away? I guess I’ll find out.

But here’s the other great component to this event: we’re all raising money for the Simcoe-Muskoka YMCA’s literacy programs. All participants are asked to collect donations for the YMCA. Here is my Canada Helps donation page where online donations are accepted (if you take that as a hint or invitation I won’t object) and you get an instant tax receipt.

Between my paper pledges and my online donation form it looks like I’ve reached my minimum fundraising goal. That makes me happy. Now here’s hoping at a minimum I can get some ideas flowing this weekend, and keep them flowing for the whole event and beyond. That would make me very happy. And maybe, at a minimum, I would prove to myself that I’m not mad.

© Lizann Flatt, www.lizannflatt.com
No part of this blog may be used without written permission from the author.

Me, the Museum and Medieval Times

Before school was out, one late June afternoon I wrote this as my Facebook status:

Am in a school bus with 39 grade 4/5s in Toronto rush hour traffic and it’s 30 some degrees and two plus hours home. Oh did I mention most of the boys bought swords at Medieval Times? My writing friends will understand I’m just callin it research. 🙂

I wasn’t kidding. Getting home from the trip was no picnic. It took just over three hours–an hour longer than it should have. Here’s a shot of the traffic through the front of the bus:

 But it was all worth it because

  • I got to spend time with my youngest daughter and her friends 
  • I love museums, so seeing a couple exhibits at the ROM was fascinating and made me realize I need to bring my kids back for a more in-depth visit
  • I was quite serious about putting the trip down as research. I listened and observed and just absorbed the experience of being in grade four 
  • and Medieval Times was just a lot of fun and made the kids feel like they really were at a king’s tournament. Plus it was air conditioned.

As if that wouldn’t make the day rewarding enough, I had an unexpected bonus.

At the ROM we took part in a special program. We donned cotton gloves so we could carefully handle actual objects from medieval times. ROM staff had grouped objects by theme at each table. My daughter’s table was full so I couldn’t sit with her, but there was a space at a table with a few boys. Turns out this table had a piece of chain mail, a knight’s spur, a rounded ceramic vessel that would have held Greek fire, and an odd tiny square piece of metal with intricate characters on it. Very cool.

I picked up the tiny square and looked at it closely– it looked like it had Arabic lettering on it. The facilitator confirmed that yes, that’s exactly what it was. I was holding an early Arabic coin. Wow! Here is a photo of the square coin. It was wrapped in a protective case.

The coin in its protective case.

This was my unexpected bonus because I’d just received the finished copy of an educational title I worked on for Crabtree Publishing called Arts and Culture in the Early Islamic World. I’d done lots of research but never actually handled something from that era or that part of the world. This makes book number twelve for me.

I was a bit flippant describing the journey on Facebook, but the whole day’s experience is one I count as excellent. More importantly, I think my daughter would count it that way too.

Bonus photos:

The hall at Medieval Times

The stadium at Medieval Times 
Two of the knights–boo! (We were to cheer for the Green Knight)

© Lizann Flatt, www.lizannflatt.com
No part of this blog may be used without written permission from the author.