When Covid first hit Ontario in March 2020, the Muskoka Novel Marathon organizers decided to hold it on the same mid-July weekend they’d planned to – only all online, rather than at the Canada Summit Centre’s Active Living Centre as usual. Rather than setting up their workspaces in the elegant Huntsville building for the 72-hour event – a combination intensive writer’s retreat, literary contest and fundraiser for literacy education in Muskoka – the writers set up at home and joined together on Zoom.
As a result of a February survey of MNM writers who have held seats reserved in 2020 for three years, MNM will happen online for the third time next weekend. Convenor KM Wehrstein notes that MNM’s two “Quarantine Editions” in 2020 and 2021 have produced a whole new set of MNM-hooked writers, from places as far away as Hawaii. “The next in-person Marathon, next year’s, is going to have to have an online aspect,” Wehrstein notes. “We’re planning for it.”
Since its inception in 2002, the MNM has raised well over $200,000 for free training in literacy, numeracy, computer skills and English as a Second Language for needful adults in Muskoka. With close to half of Canadians having some difficulty reading and a sixth unable to read even simple writing, such as road signs, it’s a hidden but severe problem, and one close to a writer’s heart.
But there are benefits for the writers themselves: the camaraderie of their own tribe, prizes donated by local businesses to those who raise the most funds, and the big plum: Best Novel contest winners get to skip the flushpile and have their manuscripts sent straight to publishing-house editors or literary agents. Many MNMer’s have gone on to publish projects started at the Marathon, including Amy Stuart, whose novel went on to become an international bestseller.
If you want to sponsor a writer, support the MNM’s fundraising generally or sign up to write – it’s not too late! – visit muskokanovelmarathon.com .