It might sometimes seem as though these comments fall into a black hole. What, exactly, do we do with them, particularly the suggestions for improvement? We ponder them, implement some--especially when they are mentioned by several writers--and acknowledge that we can't do much to change others. What we haven't done in the past is respond publicly to them, beyond sharing a few. This year, we wanted to tell you what our writers had to say and what we plan to do about it.
Most of the comments are overwhelmingly positive. We're thrilled that, except for some minor glitches, almost everyone was happy with their experience. These were some of the suggestions for improvement:
- More room to eat together (the table in Club 55 only seats 12). >>We recognize that this is an issue and are looking for ways to incorporate more opportunities for social interaction next year for those who want it.
- More space for writing/sleeping. >>We struggle with this every year. Club 55 fits just about everything on our list for the ideal venue: it is available in the middle of July (Muskoka's busiest time of the year), is available 24/7 and is secure at night, has a kitchen and washrooms, is in a central location close to coffee shops, can accommodate up to 40 writers, and is affordable (which allows us to keep the registration fee ridiculously low). More space would mean losing some of these features and/or much higher costs and/or changing the date of the event to the off-season. We are looking at other venue options for next year, but for now Club 55 is as close to our ideal as we've found.
- Better method for choosing seats. >>Yep..that was a bad idea! We tried something new and it didn't work. We have another plan for next year.
- Better WiFi. >>That sucked, too, but was a complete surprise. We had no issues last year and expected that this year would be the same. To make matters worse, our backup plan didn't even work. We're looking at getting dedicated service set up for the event next year.
- A place to shower for anyone not getting a hotel room. >>There are showers at the pool at the Canada Summit Centre (which is just a few blocks from Club 55) -- they are available for a small fee. We didn't think to mention this, but will add it to the handbook for next year.
- More time for writers to speak during the welcome meeting. >>This is not likely to change. The welcome is already quite long due to all of the house-keeping info that we need to share. Even giving each writer a mere 30 seconds to speak adds 20 minutes to the time. Hopefully, increased social opportunities will allow you to get to know your fellow writers better and we'll consider giving you an extra sentence next year ;) .
- More support for writers during the event. >>We try to ensure that at least one co-convenor or writer liaison is available at all times (except maybe during the wee hours of the morning) and encourage writers to support one another during the event (especially veteran marathoners helping rookies). We've all been first-timers and know that this can be a nerve-racking experience. (It sometimes still is the third or the fourth time!) We are looking for ways to provide greater support and encouragement throughout the event.
We just completed our debriefing meeting and we have many more exciting new ideas and possibilities to make Muskoka Novel Marathon 2014 even better. We’ll share them with you when they’re finalized. Stay tuned! And now that you've had time to catch up on your sleep and reflect on your experience, please share any other suggestions you have in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the Wrap Up in September! (Don't worry - we'll send you a reminder email as the date gets closer.)