Another Muskoka Novel Marathon has come and gone, but the memories are carved into my heart. And now, a week later, I'm actually able to recall them. Writer and friend, Lena Coakley, and I were chauffered by Trusty Husband all the way from Toronto to Huntsville Friday, July 13th in plenty of time to settle in to our temporary, three-day 'homes' and socialize before the event began. It was a delight to see familiar faces and to meet several first-timers, aka Marathon Virgins. As Lena was a first-timer, I felt both protective and excited for her.
As eight o'clock neared, the energy in the room shifted. Even we old-timers get nervous! Then we were off. Keys clickety-clacked! The pace was crazy this year. I posted a ten-page ribbon in short order and soon was followed by others hot on my trail.
What surprised me most, particularly in the first twelve hours, was the insane amount of words splatting from my brain onto my screen. I suppose this is the result of cramming historical information in there as though preparing for an exam combined with having walked through the entire plot in my head more than once. Even so, my fingers could barely keep up. I knew I'd soon reach a point where the ideas grinded to a halt. I only hoped this would not happen until I was over the halfway mark of my story. By the time I posted my 100 page ribbon, I was secure in knowing that, in some form, I would walk away from the marathon with a complete draft. This gave me the confidence to keep at it.
Saturday included a brief escape with a few peers to a local establishment. I wasn't eager to stay long, but needed the break as much as anyone. It was good to get out and laugh. It seemed to do us all a world of good.
By Sunday, the slowing of my pace began and, briefly, things came to a dead stop. Aaaaah!
It was time for a change of scenery to clear my mind. I headed out of the venue to go for a long walk. Moments down the road, the writer in me took over. It made perfect sense to use the opportunity to pace out the walk my main character, Phoebe, was about to take in my story--from one end of Picton to the other. From the town hall in Huntsvilled to the turn-off to Highway 60 seemed about the same distance, so I headed in that direction without looking up. I made a brief stop at the bookstore with a gift certificate I received for being the third highest money-raiser this year. While perusing the shelves, a tiny monkey caught my attention. As the marathons' Screaming Monkey mascot, thanks to Martin Avery, was on vacation, I picked up the replacement monkey to take his place--Screaming Monkey, not Martin!
The further I walked, the darker the sky became. Thunder rumbled. Raindrops splattered the top of my head. What I was not able to fathom at the time, I now understand more clearly. It seems no coincidence that Phoebe's walk was about to take place in this exact sort of weather. I kid not! One of the crazy bits of research I did in preparing to write this story was to check what the weather was according to Environment Canada's historical records. I began the walk as Susan, the writer. Somewhere along the way I became Phoebe.
By the time I returned to the venue, I think I was in shock--in part because of the strange sense of transformation and in part due to the difficult experience my character was about to walk into. After talking about it with awesome Den Mother, Mieke, and then with Kevin Craig, I felt strong enough to write the toughest scenes. At last, I broke the 200 page mark!
Then, to add more excitement to the afternoon, one of my idols in the writing world appeared--Anne Millyard. What a delight to meet and talk with her! And how accommodating for her to allow a photo to be taken with a sleep-deprived, emotional marathoner...
The latter parts of Sunday and early parts of Monday are still something of a blur, but I do recall one bit in great detail. Lena sat next to me on the right. On my left was Lizann Flatt. Throughout the entire long weekend I'd stared at this glass enclosure she kept on the corner of her desk. It looked like a mini aquarium. For some strange reason, I though it impolite to ask. Yes, I know, how ridiculous does that sound? We are talking about me for goodness sake! Anyway, by later Monday, I had to find out. But first, I had to have a little fun, hence the accusation on Twitter that "@LizannFlatt drinks swampwater!' She responded in jest, although I'd like to point out that she never did deny it as the truth.
Shortly after 6pm on Monday, I was finished. Not in terms of the writing, but more my brain. It was screaming, "ENOUGH!" I'd actually completed an ending and gone back for a quick edit from beginning to end. Despite the fact that I'd had to delete nearly 40 pages along the way meant that my submission just squeaked past the 200 page mark. I was fine with that. Actually, I was and am still thrilled. And proud.
We raised $14,572.00, which is WELL above our $10,000 target. Yay Marathoner and Donors! This will do so much to contribute to literacy programs for the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. Already thoughts of next year are tickling my writer's funny bone, knowing what this event means to both the writers and the recipients of the donations.
Lena and I were pleased to accept the invitation from writer and friend, Erin Thomas, to spend Monday night at her family's cottage. After a couple of glasses of wine and a few competitive games of euchre, we were SO ready for bed! A big thanks to Erin, Aaron and Sarah for a wonderful and entertaining end to an incredible weekend!
As for the fate of Replacement Screaming Monkey, 6lb tiny toy poodle, Rudy, has taken custody. He's not giving up monkey. Ever. He even sleeps with one eye open...