Writers are often asked how they started a project or where they found their inspiration. It's usually a murky question, but in the case of my novel (still untitled!) the where question is easy. I started my book at the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. The MNM takes place over a weekend every July at a gorgeous and inspiring lakeside setting in Huntsville, Ontario. Writers gather over a weekend and spill out as many words as they can on a new project. There's the spur of competition, because participants can submit their manuscripts at the marathon's end and the winners receive a consult from an agent or a publisher. There's a sense of purpose, because all the funds raised (usually well over $20000) go to literacy initiatives in the Muskoka region.
But mostly, there's a deep sense of community, a room full of writers experiencing the waves of thrill and angst together. Some writers work through the night and others come and go. Some are working on third or fourth or fifth novels, others are first timers. By the end of the weekend, it feels familial. There's camaraderie, free food, good coffee and a great view. It makes for an excellent place to write; in 2010 I managed 50 pages in a weekend, and I was a slow poke compared to some of my fellow scribes.
I've done a few marathons over the years but I haven't been able to return for a while because of births or travel or other obligations. But I still feel very much a part of the community. When my book deal was announced, my friends at the MNM took the news and ran with it, writing a press release that resulted in a lot of attention (see here and here, for example), shouting it from the internet rooftops. I'm humbled by the support and championing they continue to give me as I work away at the project I started while there.
Every writer, emerging or otherwise, needs a community. If you are in search of one, I urge you to have a look at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. It will be held July 10-13th this year. Registration is March 10th and it fills super quickly (we're talking minutes). The best way to get more information is to follow them on Twitter or join the Facebook group.