Organizers of the Muskoka Novel Marathon didn’t think it could have gotten any better. By the start of the July event, 40 writers had accumulated $28,658.03 in donations for adult literacy programs in Huntsville, far surpassing the fundraising efforts of previous years. But at the wrap-up party on Saturday, September 19, YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka board member Andrew Lorriman announced that $31,726.53 had been raised. That was topped up with an additional late donation of $500 to make the 2015 total a whopping $32,226.53.
“(With last year’s fundraising) we were able to finalize our computer upgrades,” said Nancy West, Team Leader, Employment and Literacy Services at YMCA of Simcoe Musoka’s Huntsville office. “One of the things we are going to do this year is upgrade our programs.” That includes curriculum upgrades to ensure they are meeting the needs of the community, professional development for their literacy teachers, and promoting literacy programs to the community. “It is hard to get word out there that we exist to the people who are having problems with literacy,” said West. “They don’t read the newspaper. They often don’t listen to the radio because their world is quite small. We have to find new ways of making sure we are reaching the people who really need these services.”
And she had a message for the writers: “We couldn’t do it without you. You are this outside group that decided to adopt us and I think it’s awesome. I thank you so much.”
“This is not an easy amount to raise, especially by a small group,” added Lorriman, who relayed his young daughter’s recent accomplishment of learning to read and his encouragement to her: ‘Now you can do anything.’ “That’s what you’ve done for (people in this community) with your fundraising.”
After watching an inspirational video of a literacy services client in Huntsville who has been helped by the program, volunteer tutor Wendy Dingman said, “What a difference it has made in her whole attitude. You are doing amazing things for her. It’s just phenomenal when you see this happening (for literacy clients).”
At the end of the July event, writers working on new manuscripts were invited to submit them to a panel of judges for feedback. The winning entries are sent to industry professionals for feedback. Donna Curtin, a veterinarian from Bruce County, won the Adult category with her manuscript Contraindicated. Sam Hiyate, creative writing teacher and president of The Rights Factory, a literary agency based in Toronto, will review her manuscript. Lenore Butcher of Woodstock, Ontario won the Young Adult category for With Sword and Salt. Her manuscript will be reviewed by Peter Carver, creative writing teacher and children’s book editor at Red Deer Press.
Other writer awards announced included top fundraiser, most prolific writer and four peer-voted awards. The winners were:
- Remy award (top fundraiser): Cheryl Cooper
- Most prolific award (highest word count): Lenore Butcher
- ‘Tekkie’ award (the writer who was most helpful to fellow writers experiencing technical difficulties): Dawn Huddlestone
- Spirit award (the writer who most exemplifies the spirit of the Muskoka Novel Marathon): Dale Long
- Bum-in-chair award (the writer who shows the most dedication to sitting and writing): Lenore Butcher
- Rookie award (the first-time marathoner who best embraces the spirit of the Muskoka Novel Marathon): Colum McKnight
Planning has already begun for next year’s event to be held July 8-11, 2016 at the Active Living Centre in Huntsville. Registration occurs in March and fills very quickly – all 40 spots for the 2015 event were full within 82 minutes of registration opening. Learn more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon at www.muskokanovelmarathon.com.