Monday, July 12, 2010

The Reading

Cathy Olliffe (Third Place), Robert M. Murdoch (Second Place), Paul Feist (Honourable Mention) 
and Karen Wehrstein (First Place) happily clutch their certificates and cheques following 
award presentations for the Muskoka Short Story Contest, hosted by 
Gravenhurst's Blank Page Writers Group and Metroland North Media. 
The reading night was held in the Gravenhurst Public Library 
last Thursday evening.
Photo by Dave Webster

Maybe it was just coffee and cookies in the children's room at the local library but, to me, it was a really, really big shew.
Winning third place in the Muskoka Short Story Contest was an affirmation that maybe I can write. That maybe I don't completely suck. That maybe writing is a worthwhile pursuit. That maybe I can seriously consider doing more of this.
I'm just full of confidence, aren't I? Hey, you're no different - show me a writer and I'll show you a bundle of insecurity, pronouns and emotional wreckage. I was reading what Jon Strother had to say about writers needing to develop a thick skin and I can no sooner do that than wake up 50 pounds lighter and 25 years younger with blonde hair.
I think all of the writers who placed in the contest were equally amazed to be there. And yet all of them display an extraordinary amount of talent.
Take Paul Feist, for example. He wrote one of my favourite stories of the evening. It was funny, it was sad, it was human. His sentimental tale The Button introduced us to an elderly couple and their adopted son. It was character-rich and beautifully written. Paul, a local actor and an affable retired advertising salesman, told it with passion. I had tears in my eyes when he was done.
I know Paul a little bit - he just stepped away from his long-time career at the Bracebridge Examiner, where I work designing ads and he worked selling them. He was a joy around the office, with his booming voice and his self-deprecating humour. He is definitely missed and it was a pleasure to see him and his lovely wife on Thursday.
Robert Murdoch, the second prize winner, was probably the most surprised about his award. He doesn't profess to be a writer but boy, does he know how to put pen to paper. Robert's funny story Lessons Hard Learned about setting his outdoor woodstove (and the neighbourhood) on fire kept everybody giggling.
Karen Wehrstein was the real star of the show. An novelist, blogger and co-organizer of this weekend's Muskoka Novel Marathon, Karen wrote Her Husband's Killer as a futuristic sci fi loaded with real human emotion. If you love science fiction, you'll want to check out Karen's website Chevenga Lives.
As for me, I couldn't have been any more tickled, standing up at the front of the room, reading For Bella, the story about a man who drowned his children in a rain barrel; a horrible story, but something I felt compelled to write.
I'd like to thank the judges of the contest for their hard work, especially novelist Jacqueline Stirrup (the woman in the green dress pictured with Karen) who made me feel so welcome. I had coffee with Jackie one day and I came away very impressed. I'd also like to thank Tracy Nita Pender for talking me into entering; my fiance Dave Webster who puts up with me at the computer for hours at a time; and all my online blogging buddies who are so supportive.
My prize was $25. That's a lot of money. Not sure what I'm going to do with it. I am thinking of framing it and hanging it on a wall. The first money I ever made writing fiction.
Look out, Stephen King, here I come.
By the way I'm nervous and pumped about the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Thirty writers (a full house) will be devoting the entire weekend to being in one room in Huntsville, glued to their computers, trying to write the bones of a novel in that short amount of time.
Are they crazy?
Am I crazy?
Um, yeah!
More than just a way to get some writing done, the marathon is also a fundraiser for literacy. I've been collecting pledges from everyone I know, and now am compelled to show up and try to write something.
I've never, ever seriously considered writing a novel. It sounds BIG. Almost TOO BIG. Ostentatious, even.
Eegads, what am I getting myself into?
More on this later... by the way, if you feel you have to send me big lumps of cash, I will not turn you down. It's a good cause.
Good yes,
Scary, oh yeah.


  1. My dear... YOU definitely do NOT suck. In fact, you rock. Congrats on your award.

  2. With that little kite sticking out from the back of your dark hair and with your dun colored shirt you look like an Indian with a feather in your hair.

    I'm a tad disappointed. I'm always telling you you're great, you should know it by now - then again, keep doubting, it'll keep you on your toes.

    Wish I could have been there!

  3. Hey I love you, I always wanted to BE you. Haven't you been writing chapters to your novels all of your life? You have so many ideas, maybe if the idea of a novel feels too big, how about more short stories??? Thanks for your support Cathy, I miss you, I miss your humour, your drawing, but anything I can find of yours to read I do. Frame the $25! It's that first step in the long journey (although you have already taken several googleplex steps). I also know too well that someone else telling me positive things rarely makes an impact. I understand the agony of self-doubt, it's toxic, its relentless. All of us have pain, we all have loss, scar tissue is protective but so hard to get trough. We are both good women, deserving of love, and I guess our lot in life is to learn first how to love ourselves. Stupid lot. Thanks for reading my bloggy.
    Take care!!! Love Kel

  4. Hey! Where's my comment?

    Well, here's a new one: Congrats! I know you were super awesome, and blew everyone's socks off with your reading.

    Can't wait to read my author signed copy of your first novel.

  5. Hope that the reading went well, Cathy! What, no video of the big event?

  6. Congrats Cathy! Mom and I tried with all our might to go see you read, but the thunderstorm had other ideas for us! Bad timing for that tree to cross the road for sure! Anyway, I remember reading a book you started but never finished. You wrote it when we lived in Claremont, and it definitly could have been Stephen King's work for sure, but I was dissapointed because I got so wrapped up in the story and then you never finished it, so I was left wanting more! No doubt in my mind you were born to be an author! Good Luck this weekend!

  7. Congratulations, Cathy. Self doubt and writing seem to go hand in glove, but you've nothing to doubt in what you do. You're terrific.

    "Robert's funny story Lessons Hard Learned about setting his outdoor woodstove (and the neighbourhood) on fire kept everybody giggling."

    Well, that certainly cracked me up. These folks all sound wonderful. You should try to subvert, er, recruit them into #fridayflash.

    A weekend? A novel? The Muskoka Novel Marathon makes NaNoWriMo sound like a bunch of pikers. Does it sound crazy? Oh yea. Crazy fun though. Good luck! ;)


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