It's a busy time for anyone involved in November's NaNoWriMo, especially the amazing volunteer Municipal Liaisons who work their tails off to create a special experience for writers in their region. MLs are veteran Wrimos who organize in-person meet-ups and parties, send out regular pep-filled emails, answer questions, and generally serve as the cheerleaders for the region and beyond. Here in Calgary we are lucky to have the leadership of two MLs: Naiya Azurewater and Xanateria.
Click here for Calgary's regional website (www.calgarynano.ca).
Xanateria recently took the time out of her busy schedule to enlighten us on the expansive, welcoming world of NaNoWriMo, in Calgary and beyond...
WRITER’S NOOK: The basis of National Novel Writing Month seems straight-forward, to produce a short novel in the month of November with the support of hundreds of thousands of people, but in its thirteenth year NaNoWriMo has grown to become much more. Can you tell us why the project has been so successful?
XANATERIA: One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it means so many different things to participants. But, the results are about more than just words on a page. As a municipal liaison, I’ve seen teens find the sheer joy of writing for pleasure, and develop a real love of the written word. The structure of NaNoWriMo allows many participants to finally let go of the idea that what they write must be perfect. Stripped of the ability to be their own worst critic, participants who honestly believe they aren’t creative at all get to experience the magic of telling their story. That can be a powerful mechanism for change. And that’s the biggest benefit of all, I think. Crossing the NaNoWriMo finish line is often a huge confidence boost. For a person who didn’t think they could manage 5000, managing 50,000 makes them ask, if I can do that, what else could I accomplish? And that confidence spills over to all areas of life, not just creative endeavors.
WN: Last I checked there were 2,489 members signed up in the Calgary region, which seems like a strong response (even though Edmonton is beating us, per capita, yikes!). What can Calgarians look forward to by getting involved in their regional NaNoWriMo group?
XT: Writing is often seen as a solitary undertaking. For NaNoWriMo Calgary, nothing could be further from the truth. We have a core group of die-hard regulars, with more enthusiastic newcomers every year. We welcome any person who wants to attend, regardless of the challenges they face. All our in-person events are held in venues accessible to people with disabilities, and you will never find participants who are more welcoming and friendly.
The Office Of Letters and Light, the organization that runs NaNoWriMo, only requires us to host a Kick Off Event, a Thank Goodness It’s Over (TGIO) party, and one in person write-in per week.
Due to demand from our members, we take things a bit farther. There’s Newcomers Night (held in October to help lessen panic and confusion for first-timers), a Midnight Kick-Off held on Halloween Night, a Midway Bash, 2 in-person write-ins per week, and a Marathon Write-In (at least 8 hours). For those who can’t make it to in-person events, there are also 2 virtual write-ins per week, held in the regional chat room.
Needless to say, my co-municipal liaison and I don’t get a lot of sleep until after TGIO. But, even after that, our members enjoy our in-person events so much; we now meet once a month year-round. Our members have formed lasting friendships, even a few romances, but more importantly, we support each other every step of the way. For example, a few years ago, one of our members was already behind, and then lost a big chunk of work on the final day of the month. Upset and discouraged, he logged into chat to share that he had given up. His fellow Wrimotaurs lifted his flagging spirits and took turns cheering him on. He’d come to enough events that people knew how important finishing NaNo was to him. Those in the chat recruited each new arrival to help until he crossed the finish line a winner. Quite simply, they wouldn’t let him quit.
The same is true at in-person events. Any time you are stuck in a scene, someone has ideas how to help you get out. If you are lacking motivation, someone will help you find more (and probably hand you caffeine).
WN: Libraries are the ultimate place to write… The leisure and domestic distractions of home are eliminated, the calm-yet-lively atmosphere nurtures focus, and you surround yourself with all the glorious material you could ask for in terms of research and inspiration. Is there anything else about the library that makes it the perfect place for participants of NaNoWriMo?
XT: It’s true that the library means you have fewer distractions and plenty of research material (though some of our participants would say researching is the ultimate distraction), there are a couple of other good reasons Wrimos write at the library. For one thing, like our participants, there are library branches all over the city. Branches are accessible, and come with friendly staff who can help you put your hands on the right material much faster than many of us can on our own. And unlike some other venues, libraries are filled to the brim with people who love the written word, so are much less likely to minimize, or even ridicule, your fantastic literary undertaking. As much as I love NaNo, I’ve seen how hard it can be when friends or family just don’t see the value in trying it. The library gives you another option to find a supportive environment.
WN: What is the difference between a Wrimo and a Wrimotaur ?
XT: Wrimo refers to any person, worldwide, who participates in NaNoWriMo. The regional group here in Calgary chose a mascot who is a cross between a writer and a Minotaur. So, our participants are known as the Calgary Wrimotaurs.
WN: What do you have to say to stubborn, old-dog type of writers who are going to write their brains out all month long regardless of November and would rather not get distracted by the goal of a 50,000 word count? What will I miss out on?
XT: Well, for one thing, you would lose the chance to meet the most dynamic group of writers I’ve ever been privileged to meet. But as one of their leaders, you might think I’m biased on that score. Seriously though, the true benefit of NaNoWriMo is not the 50,000 word goal. Rather, it’s the idea that in order to meet it, you must lock up your inner editor, put writing first (for at least the month), and put the words on the page. In fact, many of our Wrimotaurs set goals both below or far above the 50,000 mark. NaNo is a self challenge, so any number that challenges you personally would do just as well. We have some members who do a double NaNo, and pull off 100k, and others move up to triple and beyond. Others, who have multitudes of jobs, school, or children set their goal to 10k, or a half NaNo and are perfectly content with that.
During NaNo, what you produce might not be literary gold, but the lack of pressure to be perfect can pave the way for higher productivity. Experts say it takes 30 days for an action to become a habit, so if you participate in NaNo you will hopefully have made writing every day a habit. Even if you plan to write all month, it can still be very difficult to make writing a priority in an already busy life. The magical thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you an easy way to explain why you have put writing ahead of all the other obligations. Granted, your friends might forget what you look like and your laundry pile might be mistaken for a mountain, but in the NaNo world, that’s considered normal.
Xanateria (who also answers Josie or Josiah on Facebook) first attempted NaNo in 2005, but didn’t log her first win until 2006, when she discovered the hugely supportive community in Calgary. When she’s not helping pull NaNo together every year, she works as a home support worker for seniors and enjoys spending time online reading far too much fanfiction. For those of you who have yet to meet her, she is easy to pick out: just look for the mobility assistance service dog in the bright red harness next to her. Look as much as you want, but please don’t touch: Declan is adorable, we know, but he is working and needs to be left alone.