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Calling All Aspiring Authors: Library participating in NaNoWriMo in November

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Many people dream of writing “the great American novel.” Few know where to start. But for anyone who’s ever aspired to see their name on a dust jacket one day, the Artesia Public Library’s adult and teen services librarians, Jo Nickerson-Harper and Jessica Paschal, have one piece of advice: Just get something on paper.

With that in mind, the library will be participating in an annual event with which writers have likely become familiar over the past decade: NaNoWriMo.

Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo takes place each November, and its focus is simple: Start your novel at midnight Nov. 1, and finish it by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30.

It may sound daunting, but the aim of NaNoWriMo is to help writers set goals for themselves that will help keep them on track and keep them writing every day as they work toward their finished product.

“nanowrimo.org is expecting 400,000 participants this year from around the world,” says Nickerson-Harper, “and as far as I know from looking at the websites, we’re the only library that’s participating in the state.”

Both the library’s adult and teen programs will be participating, hosting workshops and “write-ins” throughout the month, and keeping track of authors’ word counts. And as added motivation to follow through? The first three adult writers to reach 50,000 words and first three teens to reach their goal – teens’ word counts will vary according to skill level and age – will receive a bound copy of their novel once it’s complete.

Adults ages 18 and up are invited to a kickoff event from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 1, while teens will have their first writing workshop during those same hours.

“The adults will be having what I call a brainstorming kickoff event,” says Nickerson-Harper. “We’re just going to kick around ideas for books, and the newer writers can talk to the more established writers to find out how to go about everything.”

Teens’ NaNoWriMo event will be conducted as part of the Young Writers Program, meaning they’ll have slightly different instructions on how to participate.

“We’ll have charts with recommended word counts,” says Paschal. “The writing workshops during the month are optional, but it would probably be helpful for them if they came in, because they can get input from me and other teens, especially if they have writers’ block.

“It would also be better, obviously, if they started on the 1st as opposed to the 10th.”

The librarians say with this being the first year the library has participated in NaNoWriMo, everyone will be going through the learning process together, and as such, writers are welcome to take advantage of the library.

“We encourage people to come to the library to write whenever they can,” says Nickerson-Harper. “We have outlets below the tables for laptops. The only thing you can’t do is drink coffee and things like that in here – you can out in the promenade – but during the writing events, we’ll be in the media room and will have snacks and drinks available, as well as door prizes.

“We’re going to see how it goes this year, and then next year, we’ll get started in October and have a plot-planning party and try to get some authors in to do some talks.”

Although NaNoWriMo intends for writers to start their novels on Nov. 1, individuals getting a late start are still encouraged to participate, as are those who aren’t able to attend any of the workshops or write-ins. The librarians ask only that authors periodically check in to provide their word counts.

For those who feel stuck when it comes to creating a plot, the librarians suggest contemplating what they love about their favorite novels; Paschal is partial to the Harry Potter series and works by John Green, while Nickerson-Harper is inspired by the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.

“We’re both going to be doing this along with the participants, and I have absolutely no experience whatsoever with writing, except for research papers,” says Nickerson-Harper. “But we’ll have workbooks available, and we’re making up a display of writing books with all kinds of advice on writing different types of novels.”

“We’ll draw attention to the books in our library that started as NaNoWriMo projects that’re published now,” says Paschal.

Such works include “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen and young adult novel “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer.

Ultimately, the librarians say, aspiring authors young and old have nothing to lose and everything to gain from participating in NaNoWriMo.

“Come to the events because they’re awesome and we’re here to support each other – but make sure you bring your own technology or pen and paper, because we’re limited to three laptops,” says Paschal. “It helps, though, to know that we’re all going to be in this together, you’re not alone.

“Especially for teens, this is the kind of writing they need to do – just writing and not criticizing every other sentence. The few I’ve been talking to who get stressed about it, I tell them, ‘It’s a first draft – all it has to do is exist for you to finish, and we can edit it when you’re done.’ If you like to write fan fiction, awesome, go write me a 10,000-word fan fiction. Just write.”

“My ultimate goal is I want to support our local writers and the indie authors that are in the area, because they have very little support,” says Nickerson-Harper.

Following the kick-off events Nov. 1, additional teen writing workshops will be held from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 16 and 21, adult and teen write-ins from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Nov. 11 and 2-6 p.m. Nov. 27, and NaNoWriMo will culminate with an “Endgame Event” from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 1.

For more information, call the library at 746-4252.

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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