The 2023 Muskoka Novel Marathon (MNM) happened entirely online for the fourth year in a row on July 14-17, but for the second year in a row its final event gathered writers and volunteers together face to face. Winners were announced, trophies awarded and the final fundraising total revealed on Sept. 16 at the Huntsville office of YMCA Employment & Literacy.
For 13 years, the Y’s literacy program has been the Novel Marathon’s beneficiary, as its participating writers not only pound out the best work they can for 72 sweaty hours, vying the opportunity to send their manuscript direct to a publisher, but raise money to support local literacy and related education.
“This group of passionate writers and individuals, this volunteer organization, has a commitment unmatched by our other events,” said Kate Meeks, general manager of philanthropy for YMCA Simcoe-Muskoka, just before announcing the final fundraising total. “So I just want to say thank you.”
Huntsville Y literacy instructor Jennifer Harris-Lowe told the story of one of her students, who had been working for some years to get her G1 beginning driver’s license—which requires 80% correct answers on a textual test. “She came to me a couple of months ago and she’d got it,” Lowe recounted.
“You make such a difference in people’s lives,” said ESL teacher Joanne Lea. “This year we’ve got just under 50 people in six classes, from probably ten different countries.” The majority of students, she said, are from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Brazil.
“A lot of them have post-graduate degrees—but they just don’t speak English. It’s helping them with day-to-day things like going shopping, going to the doctor, calling 911 if they need to. But also there are language tests they have to pass to change their immigration status or to have their qualifications from their own countries recognized in Canada.” She cited the example of a nurse whose current job is stacking wood because she cannot yet pass such a test.
The final fundraising total for 2023 was $4,500.
This year’s award winners were:
Best Novel in the Adult category: Christine Blenkhorn (Huntsville – in her rookie year!)
Best Novel in the Young Adult/Juvenile category: Kevin Craig (North York)
Most Prolific Award: Catherine Neal (Mississauga) who wrote 103 pages and 26,559 words
Remington Award (for the writer who raises the most funds): KM Wehrstein (Huntsville), who raised $1,000
Spirit Award: Janet Nichols (Toronto) & Atiya Hakeem (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) (tied vote)
Bum-in-Chair Award: Atiya Hakeem (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA)
Techie Award: Catherine Neal (Mississauga)
Rookie of the Year Award: Annamarie Kelly (Niagara Falls)
Award for Outstanding Marathon Volunteer:
Star Volunteer Award: David Bruce Patterson (Bracebridge) – the Marathon’s long-time Publisher/Agent Liaison
For more MNM information: www.muskokanovelmarathon.com