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Calgary Writers at Scrawl-a-thon 2014

On March 15th seventeen writers gathered at Loft 112 armed with laptops, notebooks, pens, books, and stencils. I was there ready to write for 6 hours. We carefully picked our spots and silenced our restlessness. At 4pm, a sudden wall of silence covered the room until the sound of restless typing and scribbling could be heard. The Scrawl-a-Thon writing marathon had just began.

participant writers

The Scrawl-a-thon is a fundraiser organized by Lisa Murphy Lamb through the Writer’s Guild of Alberta in order to raise funds to supports the Wordsworth Creative Writing Residency. It’s held every year during July and going on to it’s 15th year. At the camp, children and teens get workshop opportunities and mentor with experienced and established artists, writers, and poets.

This year Wordsworth set a fundraising goal of 20,000 dollars. “WordsWorth Creative Writing Residency charges participants a tuition and also relies on the generosity of Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Unfortunately these two sources of income are not enough to cover the costs of everything we do at WordsWorth including paying mentors, hiring bands, paying our food and board bills at Kamp Kiwanis, replenishing supplies and so I need to fundraise on a yearly basis,” Lisa points out. This years Lisa decided to change her fundraising efforts to reach out to a broader community. She found the idea for a writing marathon online. “I piggy backed on the idea I saw online. Night of Living Dangerously is a National Write a Novel Month (NANO) fundraiser in San Francisco on a much grander scale. But I liked the idea of writers getting together to write for six hours, eat, drink and raise money for a good literary cause,” Lisa indicates.

To me, finding the time to write creatively is a challenge. One simply cannot make do with ideas on post it notes and unfinished journal entries. I envy the people I write about in my Calgary is Awesome articles and the Scrawl-a-thon was a great event to share the experience of writing.

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Derek Beaulieu working on visual poetry.

Yet, six hours of writing was not an easy task. The mind looses focus and needs periodic breaks, nourishment, and sometimes, inspiration. Fortunately, Lisa, her friends and family, and a community of artists were there to support us. Amy Theissen and Bryan McLean played music and told stories.

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Bryan McLean play for the writers

Lisa’s friends and family healthy snacks, vegan cupcakes, and vegetarian lasagna, which I had shamelessly gave up writing time and snuck away for extra helpings.

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Cupcakes from The Cozy Vegan

Her friends even helped reduce stress with some outdoor yoga and PUPPIES.

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Along the way Lisa gave away prizes depending on the challenge and at the end of the night she gave away the top prize of a writing retreat to the writer who raised the most funds for the event. We also had a remote writer doing the challenge from Arizona, who also won a prize.

I have to admit I didn’t get as much as I planned to get done, but I’m satisfied with the pieces I wrote and started on an major fiction project that has long been gestating in my mind.

One of the participating writers was Jani Krulc, author of The Jesus Year. Scrawl-a-thon was also a wonderful experience for her, “we had a full itinerary – snacks and drinks, a yoga session, dinner, musical entertainment, prizes (and the puppies, of course). Overall, it was just wonderful to be in a room with other writers, writing,” Jani recalls.

For me, Jani, and other writers, the fundraising experience was equally rewarding, “I was surprised at people’s generosity – I raised $875! I found that people wanted to support me and the camp – it’s a unique initiative, I think, and one that is very valuable for teens. I didn’t have to cajole anyone, that’s for sure… I do think that community engagement is an important part of a creative life, and that fostering creativity in young people is crucial.” Jani noted. Over 250 people and organizations were involved with Wordsworth fundraising drive. At the end of the Scrawl-a-thon, we raised $8,302, with some contributions and donations pouring in from the community.

With such a large amount raised in one sole event, Lisa sees the possibility of a scrawl-a-thon 2015 “it was so successful and fun I may try it again next year.” She says.  Let’s hope so, since programs like Wordsworth deserves Calgary’s support because it’s a smart investment, Wordsworth is a program that fosters not only the writing but also the creativity and leadership skills YYC’s youth.

To find out more about Wordsworth’s programs and contribute to this year’s fundraiser visit youngalbertawriters.com

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The end result of Derek’s hard work.

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