The Muskoka Novel Marathon has always welcomed the 13-19-year-old crowd. But this year it will set a record, with three teenagers participating in the event, which last year raised $15,000 for the YMCA’s literacy programs in Huntsville.
The first ever teenaged writer to participate was Bronwyn Russel-Brooks in 2005, at age 19. In the following year, Tracey Lapham made her first appearance at the tender age of 13, and was elected Rookie of the Year by her fellow writers.
Of this year’s adolescent trio, two are not even rookies.
Alison Doucette of Aurora, 18, will be participating for the third time. At her first marathon, as a 16-year-old, she won Rookie of the Year after writing 200 pages. She has since won the Techie Award twice for helping her fellow writers solve computer problems—a triumph she modestly attributes to the others not thinking to Google their glitches.
“I find it more comfortable than a classroom,” Alison says. “You often don’t know half the kids sitting with you. In the marathon, you might not know anyone either, but you all know that you have that love of writing in common. Once you get past that initial realization that ‘Hey, I’m the youngest person here!’ it really doesn’t feel at all unusual.”
Raphael Wehrstein of Huntsville, the 15-year-old son of writer and co-convenor Karen Wehrstein, first participated at the age of 13—despite having autism. He plans to continue his picture book ‘The Legend of Sheriff Frog,’ a humorous Western/adventure featuring cartoon animals. “I still want to finish Sheriff Frog,” Raphael says, echoing the words of many writers who’ve used the marathon as impetus to complete a stalled work. “It needs to be finished.”
First-time participant Brenna Pinckard of Huntsville, age 17, became interested in writing almost before she can remember. “I used to write little mystery stories all the time when I was eight,” she says. “I have always found books fascinating and thought authors were the coolest people alive. However, I didn’t look at writing seriously as a career until the eleventh grade. I always thought it seemed like a ridiculous dream, but then I realized that it’s the only thing I could ever see myself doing.” She’s both incredibly excited and a little intimidated to be in the marathon.
Asked whether she recommends that other teens try the Novel Marathon, Alison recommends it to everyone interested in writing. “Not only is it for a charity, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another thing like it. Even if you don’t win, the advice you get from the judges is priceless. So at the very least, the marathon’s a really good way to help take your skills to the next level.”
The Muskoka Novel Marathon takes place July 12-15 at Club 55 in the Huntsville Civic Centre. For more info or to donate, please visit www.muskokanovelmarathon.com .