Muskoka Novel Marathon and Adult Literacy

novel marathon win

You might love reading the long form narrative of novels; you might prefer the brief staccato punch of twitter updates and texting. Wherever your literary loyalty lies, picture the profound impact of a sudden loss of your basic literacy: you can’t navigate the internet, you can’t fill out job applications or government forms or do simple math; your options are rendered terribly limited.

I’m doing the Muskoka Novel Marathon again this year, in support of Adult Literacy. Last year, we raised $23,000 & changed some lives – AND – total gravy – I won the manuscript contest! Please support me in this very worthy and uplifting cause, so close to my heart:…/tena-laing-at-muskoka-novel-…/

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…

<3 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.  <3

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.  <3

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!  <3

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.  <3

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.  <3

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.  <3

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.  <3

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.