Magazine article American Libraries

A Novel in 30 Days: Libraries Embrace NaNoWriMo

Magazine article American Libraries

A Novel in 30 Days: Libraries Embrace NaNoWriMo

Article excerpt

Last November, 310,095 writers embarked on a mission to pen a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in one month. That's approximately 1,667 words every day for 30 days. The challenge is the crux of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an event that fosters creativity and community among writers of all ages and skill sets. Since its inception in 1999, when only 21 people took part, NaNoWriMo participation has increased exponentially, and the program has grown into a global phenomenon. Libraries have played an important role in that growth, opening their doors to host events throughout the month to help writers hone their craft.

"It's a natural partnership," Lissa Staley, public services librarian at Topeka and Shawnee County (Kans.) Public Library (TSCPL), tells American Libraries. "We have everything you need to write a novel."

TSCPL offers two four-hour "write-ins" in November, allowing NaNoWriMo participants to work in close proximity to other writers. A fiction-writing workshop and a kickoff event are held in October to build enthusiasm. Creating a supportive environment is key, Staley says.

"We're trying to bring people into the knowledge that a novel can be written in 30 days, and [we] also try to create a space where newcomers can be surrounded by people who have done it," she says. "We want to make everyone feel like they're part of the club. It's hard to find that kind of encouragement in the real world."

Eric Riley, coordinator of adult programs and partnerships at District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) in Washington, D.C., echoes Staley's comments.

"We want to be a place where people can read, write, and create," he says. "Our NaNoWriMo programs raise awareness of writing and get people curious. They offer patrons a chance to see others writing in the wild and to think, 'Maybe I can do that.'"

To encourage participation, DCPL added friendly competition to its NaNoWriMo events. Every writer who met or passed the 50,000-word goal won a mug, a journal, a printed copy of his or her book from DCPL's print-on-demand machine, and a Finish-It Toolkit designed to help take the next steps with a draft, including vouchers for workshops on creating cover art and typesetting.

Of the nearly 70 participants in 2013, 30 finished their books, says Riley. To encourage further work, DCPL followed up with each writer and connected them with independent authors, who provided guidance on completing their projects.

Twelve DCPL libraries will serve as host sites for official NaNoWriMo "Come Write In" programs this year. …

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