Thursday night, I'd just heard a kind-hearted (and slightly hammy) audience cold reading one of my radio play scripts. The story they read was the basis of what I was about to write in Huntsville, Ontario, for the 12th Annual Muskoka Novel Marathon.
I was already hopped up on positive energy and adrenaline, because of all the Facebook chatter in the weeks leading up to the Marathon, and because of all the funds my mother and I had already been able to collect for the YMCA Literacy Programs - which is the whole reason why we put ourselves through this silly marathon in the first place.
I have to say, I have some of the awesomest, most generous friends and family a gal could hope for. Between my mother and I, we raised $847.50. That's almost $500 more than what I raised last year. To put that in perspective: the person who raised the most last year had collected just over $600. In total, the Marathoners of 2011 raised roughly $8600, and that was the best year we had ever had, by far and away.
And, thanks especially to Tobin's efforts, we were able to get commitment from TELUS to match up to $500 - each. So that was an extra $1000 right there. Tobin raised I think about $600 as well.
This year's goal for donations was $10,000. Between Tobin and I, we were going up to the Novel Marathon with almost 25% of this year's goal. I was psyched for this marathon.
But you know what? I only came in at second place for top fundraiser. The top prize (the Remy), went to someone who raised over $1300. (Tobin and I had both said that we would not count the TELUS matched contributions toward our totals, otherwise I would have had a fighting chance.) I did win a fancy handwoven / handspun scarf though - which I've barely taken off since Saturday night. I'm even wearing it now. Fortunately for the rest of the public, that's not the only thig I'm wearing.
It was Tobin's first time at the marathon, but he knew a few people already, like Kevin Craig, Sandra Clarke, and fellow newbie Marie-Eve Girard, so I'm sure that put him somewhat at ease.
But for me, I remember Friday night as a period of much leaping into arms. It was a family reunion. I only get to see these people once - maybe twice - a year, but I think I keep in touch with them more than I do my own cousins. I've watched many of them move from "unpublished" to "launching this year" or "launching a second book". And as you've read in a previous interview, I was actually in the same room with Kevin Craig the moment he got the call from his agent, telling him his first book had just been accepted.
We goofed off, we kibbitzed, we introduced ourselves, and we met Nancy West, who is the Team Lead of the YMCA Literacy Programs. I wish I had recorded what she'd said, because it was one of the best and most passionate summaries of the problem and the solutions. Every dollar was assigned, and so much more had to go undone for want of money.
And then, after the intros were done, the games began.
I'd had two goals for the start of the marathon: be the first with ten (I failed - Susan Blakeney beat me by THAAAAAT much), and to close out the night with 50 pages. I didn't get to fifty either, before my eyes fell out onto my lap. After all, I hadn't slept more than 90 minutes since Wednesday morning, so I was already pooched. So, Tobin took me back to my hotel room, and I crawled into bed watching Stephen King in Creepshow. By the way, Comfort Inn - probaby one of the best stays I've had in a hotel in a long time. I didn't hear anything from the neighbours until Monday morning.
Unfortunately, my head was still abuzz, and despite my best efforts, I didn't get to sleep until well after 2:30, almost 3:00 in the morning.
The very next morning - around quarter to seven - Tobin gave me the wake-up call. I was so out of it that when he said "Get up!" I said, "Yes ma'am!" I'd had little more than 4 hours of sleep.
Saturday was one very long day of massive typing and stuff. To my discomfort, there were six people who were already ahead of me in terms of word count, and they maintained that lead. There were others who were typing lockstep with me.
Jackrabbits like Susan and Kevin, they scare the pants off me - they were at 150+ by Saturday afternoon, leaving me pretty much in the dust. Kate Wheatley was a surprise contender, too, staying hot on my heels every step of the way - and Tobin, too, which really surprised and impressed me.
But I've got one advantage they don't: stubborn, old-fashioned stupidity.
I went out later with friends to celebrate and goof off, and there I got to hang out with the likes of Kevin Craig, Cheryl Cooper, and Shellie Yaworksi (sorta - she was at the far end of the table out of yell-shot). I managed another hundred pages, when I came to a natural break and decided to call it a night. Back to the hotel I went - this time on foot - and by the time I got there, I was SO full of ideas I couldn't sleep again. I had just over three hours of sleep that time. Maybe four. I think "zoning out in the middle of a conversation" could count as power napping.
I got on a roll during Sunday, and I knuckled down. Despite my best efforts, the fatigue was starting to kick in, but I was still going at a good clip. I really, really liked where the story was going, I liked how the characters were developing, I liked the suspense, the gradual revelation of neat stuff - and the IMAGERY! Wow! If I wrote half as well as I hoped I did, if the words did the imagination any justice, I may very well have come up with some of the best animated imagery I've ever written.
And then someone (LORI TWINING, I'm LOOKING AT YOU...!) asked me why I was the only one who hadn't done an all-nighter yet. All the cool kids had done it, and it was fun every time. Had I realized that Tobin hadn't done an all-nighter, and yet he was a cool kid, I would have turned down the dare. Instead, stupidly, I gave into peer pressure and buckled in for an eleventh-hour all-nighter.
Now, to be fair - up to that point, I'd only had a rough sum total of 9 and a half hours of sleep since Wednesday night. 9.5 hours of sleep spread out over 72 hours. An all-nighter with that little sleep beforehand? That's DUMB. I will not do that again! EVER! By dawn, I was sick to my stomach, and I ended up only writing 15 pages.
On the other hand, there were some awful laughs the night crew enjoyed, the night crew being Kevin, Marie-Eve, Lori Twining , myself and Monika Moravan. (I'm probably missing a couple. If I missed you, I'm sorry, but I'm amazed I can remember this much.)
Of course, those 15 pages are probably the most deliberately surreal of the lot, and MAN - hello character development - did I have fun with them. But considering up to that point my cruising speed had been about 800-1000 words an hour, 15 pages (less than 1100 words) over eight hours was a bit of a let down. Tobin drove me back to the hotel, and I was asleep before the door was closed.
Two hours later, I was up again, and back at the desk.
Believe it or not, I wrote 72 pages on the last day. There's no logical, rational reason for why I could write so much on such a sleep deficit, but it certainly does explain why I was physically incapable of verbal speech by dinnertime.
The marathon isn't won on Saturday or Sunday. The marathon-aspect of it doesn't really kick in until Monday. The ability to push on when you're already past your limits, that's when the most prolific is won. (For the record, I wasn't even trying for quality, so if most prolific is the only thing I win, I'm happy. And if I don't win that, all the better - I won't have to defend my title for the fifth year in a row.)
In the end, I wrote a total of 312 pages between Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 p.m. To give you an idea: 2009 = 300, 2010 = 305, 2011 = 250 (with best in adult category), and this year, I came in seven pages better than my personal best. All that, and only on 11.5 hours of sleep between Wednesday night and Monday evening.
That's a fancy, mathematical way of admitting insanity.
In the end, there was not one thing I didn't enjoy about this marathon. It was, without a doubt, a success from six weeks before it even started.
Because in the end, we raised $14,572.50 - almost 50% more than our total year's goal.
And I cannot wait for next year - because if my hopes pan out, next year's going to be the best one ever.
13's the charm.