One thing we’ve just got to discuss before NaNoWriMo ends is the fact that Writer’s Digest actually did a whole issue devoted to NaNoWriMo. It was even the cover story! The whole issue was packed with tips about writing a novel in a month and support for the event. But, wait…
…what’s that? Up there by the little pull quote on NaNoWriMo ED Grant Faulkner’s article?
Huh. Would you look at that!
While it seems kind of mysterious to me why they chopped my quote in half with a random pull quote from elsewhere in the article, that is indeed me he’s quoting up there. And that’s not all! I also make another appearance at the end of the article.
So let me tell you a quick little story about how this all came to be. Many months ago, Grant had asked me for some inspiring anecdotes about participants I’d known in past years. I replied back with a long rambling email most of which was indeed about a specific participant but the rest of which was just general musings on the nature of community and NaNoWriMo. I figured he’d get back to me with what parts were interesting to him to expound upon but I never heard back so I assumed he couldn’t use any of it.
Imagine my surprise when he didn’t just use some of what I wrote, he let me conclude his entire article! Clearly, he realizes how important it is to me to get the last word. 😉
What’s funny about this is that I am a long time subscriber of Writer’s Digest and I’d set a goal for myself at the start of this year to see my name in print there soon and intended to query some articles with them this year. I actually didn’t get the chance to do that yet but, oddly enough, I got my name in print there anyway! It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
If you were curious, here’s the full text, rambling and unedited though it may be, that I originally sent to Grant:
My cousin, a high school freshman, was an avid reader, loved writing and dreamed of being a writer. Once I became the ML, she was a fixture at all NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy events writing away, spinning stories and dipping her toe into the writing life with dozens more like her. But this isn’t a story about her.
Her little sister was a year younger and was struggling in middle school, especially in English. She’d told me multiple times that she hated writing. Which is why I was surprised that she also diligently came to every write-in for both events year after year. She’d wear a nametag that identified her as a “NaNo cheerleader” and seemed to make it her mission to be as useful as possible to me, helping with everything from taking photos, timing word wars, signal boosting on social media. She was the most devoted NaNoWriMo volunteer in our area… and she wasn’t even a participant.
At first I thought she was just attending because she just wanted to tag along with her sister but I gave up on that theory when she even attended events her sister couldn’t make. It was several years later when, sitting beside me at a write-in as she always did, that she took out a paper notebook and showed it to me. She timidly whispered to me that she was “kind of doing, like, aNaNoWriMo thingie.” She was so nervous even telling me and I almost cried right there in the middle of the write-in because I was so proud of her. She smiled when I told her that and, as she surreptitiously participated in our next word sprint, I wondered how many times she’d been only pretending to surf Facebook or do homework as the rest of us wrote because she was embarrassed to let people know that she was actually writing.
Shortly after that, she came over my house with a book that she was reading for fun, something I’d never seen her do before. When Script Frenzy came along the following year, the family decided to write a movie script together and while most didn’t finish their parts, she committed to it, writing more than any other person. I’d love to say that this caused some kind of major academic turn around but sometimes the most important changes are subtle. She approaches challenges differently now and I can say with assurance that it never would have happened if it hadn’t been for thoseNaNoWriMo events and the community they fostered that made her see that it was OK to try even if you weren’t the best or most experienced and especially if you’re afraid.
NaNoWriMo is a safe space for creatives. It’s an event that says, we’re going to do something sort of ridiculous and it’s OK if we fail because we’re only doing it for fun. There’s power in numbers, both in the 50,000 words that may not be enough for a novel but is plenty to teach you what it is to really and truly write, and in all those other people taking the challenge with you. Having that global community at your back is so very important because it legitimizes what you’re doing and gives those of us that were afraid to face the blank page the confidence that can only come from thousands of other voices saying in unison, “We’re all in this together.”
While writing is so often a solitary pursuit, it’s impossible to overestimate the power of the NaNoWriMo community in motivating a writer of any experience level. From the friendly ML whose late night email pep talk kept you from quitting to the inspiring veteran who cranks out 50,000 words every month, it’s the only way I know of to be welcomed into the arms of a community of writers even before you’ve written a single word.