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L.A. Beat

Three Day novel contest a testament to creativity and sleep deprivation

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It is said everybody has a novel in them. Most people just never have time to sit down and actually altwrite it. This is the idea behind the  Three-Day Novel Contest which, through a conglomeration of  independent Vancouver writers, has been giving budding novelists the proper kick in the pants they need to start writing their masterpiece over the September long weekend since 1977.
This year, beginning  at 12:05 a.m. Sept. 4 and ending just before midnight Sept. 7, I joined writers from all around the world in a three day testament to creativity, sleep and food deprivation and dedication to the craft of writing.
After all, legend has it that Jack Kerouac wrote his classic “On the Road”  in a three week burst of creativity and coffee in April 1951 on one long sheet of taped together tracing paper.
I figured with modern technology I could write a novel in three days and not have to tape together paper. Besides mine is based loosely on Kerouac’s life as well as mine — particularly  my favourite passage in “On The Road” where the novel’s protagonist Sal Paradise has been abandoned by his inspiration Dean Moriarty and his girlfriend in San Francisco, he’s penniless, homeless and starting to starve when he stops in front of a shop and sees a woman there which gives him a vision of  a past life where she was his mother and he was her wayward son.
So I thought that might make an interesting novel about a 30 something who is looking for his purpose in the world and decides to find out who he is through examining all of his past lives including Kerouac, and numerous others. So several years ago I started researching past lives, Tarot cards  and various historical eras going back to the Crusades.  Not to mention near-death experiences, a little bit of Buddhism  and  a little bit of spirituality but I never got time to actually sit down and write the actual novel as life always seemed to get in the way.
 But  several months ago I did a story for the Lethbridge Herald on local artist and author Will Osler, who did really well in last year’s contest. He enters it every year and told me what an amazing experience it was, so I gave it a shot.
 I basically locked myself in my apartment for the long weekend, other than spending Saturday afternoon taking part in the In The Shadow of the Bridge Festival as wandering characters from 1909 including a coal miner and a newspaper editor, and wrote “Kerouac’s Ghost.”
 It’s only 46 double spaced pages, most of the entries  are in the 90-100 page range, but they’re good ones, in my humble opinion. There’s lots of music, lots of pop culture, a bit of action, some deep thoughts, social commentary, a slave trader, a Luddite, a Crusader, and a member of the 1907 Kenora Thistles who won  the Stanley Cup but never got of the bench, an actual ghost in my protagonist’s apartment in Lethbridge and road trips across Canada and the U.S.
 It’s a surreal experience, I was up writing until 5 in the morning Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and hacked away at it throughout the days, though I had to cave in and sleep a few hours on each of the days. But I had to forgo  meals, most breaks (other than a barbecue on Sunday with most of Lethbridge’s music community), alcohol, mostly and I don’t drink coffee, so through sheer will power, I got it done. It’s strange when you stare at a computer for 18 hours straight you actually start to see  spooks. Not really, but you almost need toothpicks to keep the eyes open. It is worth it to see your characters come to life before your eyes.
It has to be in the mail by Friday and I won’t know the results of the contest until January, but the winner gets their book published the following August, second place gets $500 and third gets $100, but everybody who participates gets at least a first draft  for their $50 entry fee as well as an unparallelled creative experience. So will “Kerouac’s Ghost ” come to anything? Only time will tell. It was worth it for the experience though. As my protagonist John is always saying, “sometimes you have to do things just for the experience.” And good luck to Will Osler as well.
Check out the Three Day novel contest at
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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