It's 1977, and a bunch of unemployed writer dudes are sitting around a Vancouver bar and one goes Hey, what are you doing for the long weekend, man? And after everyone at the table has complained about not being able to do anything on accounta being starving artists, they order another round and start speculating on how much writing a person could do on the long weekend if they, you know, didn't stop to sleep, man! There followed a bit of one-up-man-ship, a sprinkle of bravado, and then the dares started. By the time they got to a double-dog-dare, the 3-day novel contest was born!
Honestly, I don't know exactly how the story goes, but the history definitely includes a bar bet.
Here on Cortes Island, the contest has some lore of it's own. Picture it: Whaletown, 2009. Ruth Ozeki and I are sitting around the Whaletown Institute eating potato chips and scheming about fun writing projects. We should get a whole group together and enter the 3-day novel contest, man!
And so we did. Ruth ran four writing workshops in August. Nineteen intrepid writers began planning their novels in their heads only - no writing yet! (I also began planning my menu for the weekend which was my second favourite part of the whole experience.)
Over the Labour Day weekend of 2009, nineteen Cortes writers wrote over 1000 pages. That's more than 2% of the entire island population. Can Manhattan say that two percent of their population wrote a novel on the long weekend? I think not.
Several of the writers camped in and around the Whaletown Institute. Volunteer body workers dragged cramped bodies away from laptops and smoothed out the kinks. Community members brought soup and bread and all kinds of snacks to keep body and soul together and the writers kept writing.
It was epic!
I can't describe the energy that vibrated over our whole little island that weekend, with its Whaletown epicentre. It was as though we stepped into a different landscape altogether that weekend. For 72 hours, we gave ourselves permission to leave the everyday behind and strive for something special; a freeing of our most creative selves. Our families were left to fend for themselves, we abdicated from all other responsibilities, we turned off phones and email and told everyone we were unreachable for the weekend.
We left the world behind for the words.
I will never forget that weekend.