The writers of Muskoka Novel Marathon (MNM) didn’t want it to be this way, but 2022’s edition was the third Marathon to be conducted entirely online, due to the lingering threat of Covid-19.
The annual event, a combination intense writer’s retreat, literary contest and fundraiser for literacy programs in Muskoka, usually takes place at the beautiful Active Living Centre in the Canada Summit Centre in Huntsville. But the writers gathered again on Zoom to write as much and as well as they could between the starting bell at 8 p.m. on July 15 and the ending bell exactly 72 hours later – and enjoyed the camaraderie.
“This was an interesting online Marathon in that we had Zoom on the whole time except for short breaks between 3 and 4 a.m., because Zoom has a 30-hour meeting limit,” says MNM 2022 convenor KM Wehrstein, known best in Muskoka for writing the Cottage Country Cuisine column in Unique Muskoka magazine. “So there’d be writers on, both on mute and with their video off, but still there, for hours, together via the internet. I came to realize it’s the equivalent of us pounding away in the writer’s room at the Active Living Centre for hours without a word to each other – but together.”
As well as the enthusiasm of writers and sponsors, the remarkable support from the Huntsville community and the work of MNM’s volunteers are instrumental in the event’s continued success. Founded in 2002, it has never missed a year, and has raised more than $237,000 since it began in 2002. The funds are used to directly support literacy programs in Muskoka, including basic reading and writing, English as a Second Language, numeracy and Digital Technology Training. The preliminary fundraising total for 2022 was $6,950, no small feat for the 32 participating writers, and is expected to rise somewhat before the event’s wrap-up celebration, at which winners will be announced, in late September.
“Once again, I am so humbled by the writer’s enthusiastic support of our literacy programs!” says Nancy West, Team Leader, Literacy and Special Projects for the YMCA’s Huntsville branch. “We will be starting ESL classes in Huntsville again with the funds raised this year. This is timely support, as we are seeing a greater number of local employers hiring foreign workers.”
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