Writing Riffs


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.

Brian Henry Bestseller Workshop

My lovely purple workshop notes

On Saturday I went to Brian Henry’s How to Write a Bestseller workshop in Gravenhurst. I really enjoyed it. It was good to think at an objective or macro level about what makes a compelling story, a sympathetic hero, a realistic villain, and so on.

Of course, part of the workshop involved an exercise in writing. I must be the only writer I know who dislikes doing writing exercises at workshops. I’m not sure what’s with me on that. Anyway, I have to say, once I got going I really did start to enjoy it. Maybe I’m just a little bit rusty because it’s been awhile since I wrote longer narrative fiction (been writing short poetic prose lately).

It was truly fascinating to hear what some of the other writers had written for that exercise. As for my exercise, it sort of dovetailed with an idea I’ve been mulling over for a middle grade novel. My piece hinged on the content of a text message the hero was trying to conceal. I quite like that idea, but here’s my problem: I have actually no clue what the content of that text message is. And I think it’s kind of important.

So hopefully my brain mulls that one over for awhile. The workshop was a good kicker for me to begin thinking in a longer format than I’ve written up to this point. It’s getting me to think about what I’m going to write for, oh, July’s (whisper) Muskoka Novel Marathon in which I have to work on writing a novel for a whole entire weekend–eep! Nothing like a writer setting herself up for a huge and intimidating challenge…but it’s also all in the name of raising money for literacy, and that’s always a good cause.

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

Spying on my Illustrator

I have to confess that I’ve been peeking at some of Ashley Barron’s illustration works-in-progress for our new nonfiction picture book series which begins this fall with OwlKids. I can do this because Ashley keeps a blog, and sometimes she blogs about her work … and sometimes the work looks a bit familiar.

But I respect the industry norm that I’m not to comment on the art to the illustrator. I wait until my editor sends me the actual roughs if they want my comments. And, seeing as it’s non-fiction, they do let me see the roughs. If I have comments I use the proper channel.

Still, I can’t resist popping by her blog once in awhile. If she’s sharing something I think it’s okay to leave a positive comment, too, occasionally. And it’s not like she’s trying to avoid me since she did like my Facebook Page. These days it’s so easy to look up someone your publisher partners you with for a book project. We all do it, don’t we? Um, well, don’t we?

What do you think? Should I avoid looking? Look but don’t comment? Wait until the whole project is done and then interact? Am I making too much of this (non)issue? It’s okay, you can tell me.

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