It’s amazing where I find fellow writers. The Crime Writers of Canada. High school. Writing groups. Creative Writing Classes. NaNoWriMo. By complete accident.
But my tightest bonds with fellow authors have been, hands-down, through the Muskoka Novel Marathon. The MNM is more than a writing group or literary festival: it’s a family, where those emerging authors find in one another a quick and fiery kinship. And one of my adopted kinsmen is Kevin Craig.
Kevin is, without a doubt, one of the fastest writers I know, and that’s saying something. It’s already public knowledge that I’ve been able to break 60,000 words in 72-hours. That’s ridiculous. But dang it, Kevin Craig is the only person I know in the whole world who can keep up with me. As a matter of fact, in 2010, he was ahead of me for 60 pages for the entire marathon, until he finally punked out and collapsed on his computer.
And right now, incredible things are happening in Kevin’s world: to say nothing of his successes with his breakout novel, Summer on Fire, he’s also been accepted to Trafalgar 24 (another writing marathon – this one for playwrights), he’s wrapping up details for the April launch of his next big work, Sebastian’s Poet, and as of early this morning, his grandson Edward Jacob Anthony was born into the world.
Kevin is also one of those guys I started off viewing as “competition”. Now, all I want is more good things for him. I want to see the good guy win for a change.
Kevin, may this only be the start of bigger and better things still yet to come. Like you said: life is beautiful. I say, let it shine.
PF: Kevin! You’re currently on the board of the Ontario Writers’ Conference, you’re a highly active member of the Writing Community of Durham Region, I see you pop up on Facebook all the time with this networking breakfast or that networking lunch. How important do you think it is for someone to be engaged in writer’s groups and networking circles like these?
Kevin Craig: I think it is extremely important! I never would have said so years ago when I knew writing only as a solitary act. But it’s AMAZING.
And the Ontario Writers’ Conference is just a group of volunteers doing something they love and believe in completely. We are all members of the WCDR. We want to share our love of writing and the writing community. We put the conference together every year with one goal in mind—help writers! We are a passionate group. We hope that passion is infectious. We want other writers to experience the joys we ourselves experience. It’s a lot of work, though. Kind of like the Santa Claus Parade—the fat man is waving goodbye at the end of the parade and the people in the background are already busy organizing next year’s parade. But we do it out of love. (-:
PF: You’ve had other work published before – your memoir, a couple of plays, some poetry…How long have you been writing? And in which format are you most comfortable, you diverse and prolific writer, you?
KC: To answer your first question, to an extent I’ve always been a writer. I always loved writing. But I only began to take it seriously 2002. It was a passion that I was refusing. But when you refuse a passion, your soul keeps coming back to it. So, in 2002, I gave in. That was the year I joined the WCDR. I kind of jumped in, fear and all.
I’m most comfortable writing what I want to write when I want to write it. I think that’s my way of saying I’m extremely lazy. I only do what I want to. That’s probably why my favourite writing moments are those hectic marathons I participate in. If not for marathons, I would never get anything done. They force me to write…and to keep writing. My favourite marathon type writing project is Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24, a yearly play creation festival that takes place in Whitby, Ontario. The Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario, is a close second. Format, Schmormat, though. I’m happy writing anything, as long as it’s something I’m interested in.
PF: What got you really started on trying to get published?
KC: Nothing, really. I never think my work is good enough. I guess I just thought, ‘What now?’ and took publication simply as the next step in the process of writing. It’s what writers do after they write, so maybe I should do it…even though I don’t think my work is good enough.
PF: Did you have a low point, when you were going to – or did – give up on trying to get published? What pulled you out of it?
KC: No. The first thing I wrote when I came back to writing in 2002 was a memoir piece that I submitted to The Globe & Mail. It was published.
I guess I’ve been lucky. Extremely lucky. I don’t get a lot of rejections. When I do get rejections, it doesn’t really bother me at all…it’s actually what I expect every time I submit. So acceptances are not only nice to have, but also nice surprises.
I can’t get low about my writing. Even when it’s horrendous, it’s writing. I just love the process. When one is lost in words, just typing…just ‘being’ writing…that feeling is glorious. How can one get to a low point doing something that makes them feel so good?
PF: Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard you’d possibly landed a sale for your first novel Summer on Fire?
KC: I was in Huntsville, Ontario. I was madly typing away at my new novel idea, Half Dead and Fully Broken, at the Muskoka Novel Marathon in July, 2010. The marathon started on the Friday evening and on the Saturday afternoon I received the acceptance in the form of an email. I remember announcing it to the room. I was completely blown away. I thought it completely apropos that I would be at the marathon when I got the acceptance. It’s the place where I most zone in on my creativity.
(PF’s post-interview note: I was in the room sitting directly across from him when I heard a tiny little “EEP!” behind me. I looked back and saw something I can only describe as the happiest heart attack ever. Man, I was proud of that guy. And his distraction allowed me to pull into the lead for word count!)
PF: How did you first get involved with the Muskoka Novel Marathon?
KC: Hmmm? I have to think about that. I knew about it through Martin Avery, but I kept missing out on the opportunity. Marty held a winter marathon one year in Pickering. It was a three day marathon, but the library wouldn’t allow us to stay overnight. I loved the experience so much that I made a promise to myself to do the Muskoka Marathon that summer. I wanted to experience the marathon the way it was supposed to be experienced…non-stop writing.
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLlet me tell you, it made for a lot of wasted white space. But since I didn’t once hit the space bar, it didn’t help my word count at all.
PF: There are other 3-day novel competitions out there. Why MNM?
KC: Because. It’s so simple, really.
The second reason: COMMUNITY. NETWORKING. With the MNM the writers are together. There is face to face support. We mingle. We get frustrated together. We feel victory together. We act silly together. We take ourselves seriously together. Most importantly, perhaps, is that we break bread together. That makes us a ‘family’ of writers. Most of us don’t even see each other throughout the year, but when we get back together every July, it’s like no time has passed. It’s wonderful to be a part of such a unique community as the one that assembles once a year to share in a love of words.
PF: I have a copy of Summer on Fire (signed and everything), but I haven’t read it yet. Who’s your audience, and what’s the message you’re trying to convey?
KC: You haven’t read it yet! I should pretend to stalk off now out of anger.
The message I am trying to convey with Summer on Fire is that, boy, are we fallible. We make bad decisions, terrible choices. It’s what we do after those choices are made that matters. Anybody can be redeemed. It’s a story about friendship and loyalties. It’s really just a story about the stupid things boys do and their ability to clean up their messes after doing stupid things.
PF: You’re a two-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon award for best adult and for best young adult fiction – and neither of the were Summer on Fire. Can we expect to see these stories in publication too?
KC: One of the two Best Adult novels is being published this spring. Sebastian’s Poet is my 2007 marathon novel. It was picked up by Musa Publishing in the States. I’m currently in edits. The 2008 Best Adult novel, The Reasons…I’m working on making this one longer. It’s a bit on the short side. Half Dead & Fully Broken, my first Best Young Adult novel from 2010, is currently with my agent. Terrie Wolf is with AKA Literary. She’s shopping the novel now. My second Best Young Adult was from this past year. It’s called That’s Me in the Corner. It remains unfinished. I hope to see them all published eventually. It is, after all, the natural next step in the progression. Right?
PF: If I’m not mistaken, you’ve also nabbed the BIC (Bum-in-Chair) and Most Prolific Awards for the Marathon, too. In 2010 and 2011, you were my toughest competition (and considering our combined word count, that’s really saying something). Are we on again for 2012?
KC: I think I got the BIC three times. This past year I just wasn’t with it. It was extremely hard to keep my BIC during the 2011 marathon. My mind was elsewhere.
I liked chasing your word count! What a fun motivator. I still remember the first year we actually participated together. I didn’t know you and you came in and gave me the stink eye! I thought it was hilarious, if a little bit daunting. There are little competitions like this going on all the time at the marathon. It’s all in fun. And, are you kidding! Of course we’re still on! 2012 will be the year I beat you. (Yeah right…I don’t know how you do it. You’re a typing machine!)
(PF’s post-interview note: Outside the corporate environment, I don’t ever give people the stink eye. In the writing environment, the mercenary glare and lifted eyebrow constitute my “game face.” And I reserve it only for those who pose the biggest threat to my “Most Prolific” championship belt.)
Kevin Craig is a novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, Summer on Fire, was published by MuseItUp Publishing. His second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, will be released in April, 2012, by Musa Publishing. Kevin is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. He is also an award winning poet. Most recently, one of his works from time spent in Kenya on a writing course was celebrated as Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada. Kevin has had three plays produced at Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. Kevin is a founding board member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference. He is currently busy taking registrations for their 2012 conference. Kevin is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Agency.