Nearly everyone dreams of the writer’s life: days spent in quiet contemplation over notebooks, or painstakingly crafting the plot of The Great American Novel while sipping espresso in cafes with sweater-clad peers.
There’s that dream, and then there’s NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is the annual exercise in November noveling, sponsored by the non-profit Office of Letters and Light. Now in its 13th year, NaNoWriMo offers writers of all ages and skill levels the challenge of drafting a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (that’s 1,667 words a day, which sounds slightly more doable).
Aside from the famous-writer pep talks and frantic support forums covering everything from plot doctoring to coping with “Life during NaNo” at www.nanowrimo.org, Participants, affectionally called WriMos, are also organized into regional chapters, with word-count scoreboards updated daily as regions go head-to-head. Atlanta’s WriMos, the Pandas, get local through www.nanolanta.org, where write-ins (group writing sessions at various metro spots), newbie adoptions, regional chats and forums, and word count challenges flow forth like ink from a leaky pen. The over two thousand Metro Atlanta participants are organized by four local Municipal Liaisons.
Why are we called the Pandas? “It started off with a write in at Ikea, where they had these adorable stuffed pandas on sale for a dollar,” says Tim Atkins, one of Atlanta’s Municipal Liaisons. “We had been looking for some kind of mascot, and we were doing everything we could to avoid something peach-related. We kept seeing pandas everywhere we went. A couple of months prior to NaNoWriMo 2009, the Atlanta Zoo launched a big fundraising effort to keep the pandas in Atlanta. The mascot stuck with us in 2010 after the baby panda was born at the Atlanta Zoo. And pandas are cute while vicious. It works.”
National Novel Writing Month has a special connection with Atlanta. Current NaNoWriMo Program Director, Lindsey Grant, hails from Atlanta. “I am so delighted that my home town has such an active region, led by impressively dedicated (and very good-looking) volunteer chapter heads. Yet another way in which Atlanta rocks the southeast!”
And just who chooses to devote a month’s worth of free minutes to the frenzied writing of a novel, at the expense of family, career, school, and regular meals? All sorts of people – corporate types and college students, loners and extroverts, fantasy buffs and fans of Jane Austen. NaNoWriMo knows no bounds, is free to join, and offers participants hundreds of hours of immersive entertainment, plucked from the reaches of their own imaginations.
Want to be a part? Register at www.nanowrimo.org and get cracking on your outline. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!