The Kindness of Strangers – Becoming an Ambassador for NaNoWriMo
by: Grace Tierney
Ever since I first stumbled upon the online writing community in 2001, I have been amazed by the kindness of most writers. Nowhere is this more evident than in the annual crazy ambition of more than 170,000 writers to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days at www.nanowrimo.org. Nano, as it’s known to its friends, attracts all ages and all stories.
This year, failing the 50,000 word finish-line in 2007 and 2008, I decided to become a Municipal Liaison for Nano. I’d found many wonderful online writing friends overseas but I’d never chatted to a writer in person and it bugged me. I’d set myself a challenge in 2009 to change that. I signed up for writing workshops and courses (cancelled due to the recession) and tried a local writing group (we weren’t compatible). I’d have to organize something myself. Why not become an ambassador for Nano?
Thankfully they were desperate for organizers in Ireland (usually they require MLs to be past Nano winners). I landed a region with a population of 394,000 (Census 2006). But, how many of them had heard of Nano? I spent October sending press releases to every local paper, event listing, writing group, library, and radio station I could locate. Each time I spoke to active writers they said “Nano? What’s that?”. I realized I might end up with zero participants in my region. Thankfully Nano mentors new MLs with experienced ones and they advised me to relax. I might have a small region this year, but it would grow by word of mouth. I got us a listing in a national newspaper and other coverage but I still only had a handful of writers registered on October 29th.
I prepped goodie bags from my own limited funds and headed to a centrally located hotel lobby on Halloween morning wondering if I was in for a trick or treat? I arrived twenty minutes early to help my own nerves. Two seconds later my first writer arrived. Hurrah! I wasn’t going to be the only one there!! Six writers gathered at that kick-off meeting. It was a general chat about our books which flowed easily and inspired us all so much that four of us are likely to win Nano this year, including two complete novel novices.
Attending the in-person meetings made writing pep-emails weekly and keeping the forum posts flowing for my region (Europe:Ireland NorthEast) easy. Knowing the faces and the questions they’d raised gave me something to talk about. One of the more experienced MLs ran a word war between the seven regions in Ireland. The healthy banter and competition from that egged us all on to greater word counts too. I definitely wrote more because I knew I was contributing to my team as well as my novel. Apparently being an ML or attending meetings raises your chances of winning from 18% to over 50%. That sounded good to me.
By the halfway point, despite ML duties, I was ahead on my word count. Then I found the Word Count Scoreboard. My tiny region of ten active writers was running in 6th place out of nearly 500 worldwide regions. You should have seen the grin on my face. I am so proud of my writers, I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect the flow of sympathy for my daugher’s chest infection when I posted that I’d have to stop writing for a few days due to her illness (if you think anyone gets through November without losing a few days to Real Life, you can think again). I didn’t expect the rush of goodwill, even from rivals in the word war, when I crossed the 50k finish line on day 25, or the invitation to attend the Thank Goodness It’s Over Party at my adjacent region just because they know me on the forums.
The kindness of other writers. Strange writers, writers of strange things. They have a heart of gold and if you never go to a meeting or read a forum post on your Nano quest, you will not encounter it. Please take twenty minutes to look around the next time you’re updating your word count and prepare to be amazed.
Bio: Grace Tierney is currently writing her 2009 Nano novel in Ireland NorthEast (“Hamster Stew and Other Family Meals”). She’s had publisher interest in her 2007 Nano novel (“The Morning After Service”). When it’s not November she can be found freelance writing fiction and non-fiction for anthologies, glossy magazines, and ezines all around the world – check out her writing tips at www.gracetierney.com. She blogs on unusual words at www.wordfoolery.wordpress.com.