Local wordsmiths produce volumes - in just 30 days
PRESCOTT - While most people view Thanksgiving as the peak event of November, at least 322 Prescott area writers spent long days and fevered nights attempting to reach 50,000 words to "win" the annual NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.
At a TGIO (Thank God It's Over) gathering at the Yavapai College library, several participants shared their struggles over cookies and snack food, tea and coffee.
Kristen Kauffman, advising faculty for the English club and teacher of short stories and creative writing, worked with Yavapai College Library Public Events Liaison Ginney Bilbray to coordinate events in the library and promote them on the Yavapai College website.
At least 28 people from the college and community came to the Nov. 1 organizing meeting and 15 signed the pledge downloaded from the nanowrimo.org website to pursue, "an absurd, month-long deadline on such an enormous undertaking, I understand that notions of 'craft,' 'brilliance,' and 'competency' are to be chucked right out the window."
Some area participants organized their own "meet-ups" at local writer-friendly public spaces like the Wild Iris Coffee House, Method Coffee and the Raven Café.
"I just kept plugging away and spent as much time in coffee shops that my wallet would allow," said Leah Wacks, 30, who's participated for eight years and succeeded five times in a row. "You learn so much about yourself and that you can do so much more than you think you can."
Wacks, the education coordinator at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, said that, during her 10-day visit with her family in Maryland, it was difficult to keep writing, but her parents were very supportive, though "wondering when I'm going to do something with it."
Kauffman, 27, said she reached 31,000 words for her novel, an updated tech-heavy retelling of the classic "Fahrenheit 451," and hopes to hit the magical 50,000 words next year.
"This was a great opportunity for us to do it and incorporate the community and make it available to the English Club - and on the 'Night of Writing Dangerously' (Nov. 15), we brought in food and birthday cake and I wrote a good 5,500 words in one night," Kauffman said.
Other participants included Rin Foster, 21, a first-year Yavapai College student, who said that a dream inspired her to try writing a Manga novel involving a young girl whose father is a member of the Yakuza for the online contest.
Carmelo Tornambe, 24, said participating was fun - and he wrote most of a novel with a reality TV theme. The business student relocated to Prescott from Phoenix this year and began studying at the college.
Anne Brendgro, 21, said she signed on to the contest, "So that I would actually sit down and write something." She reached 5,000 words before school commitments kept her from continuing.
The contest, which launched online in 1999 and continues each November, involves tens of thousands of writers from around the world. In Arizona, the Phoenix area has the highest number of participants at 4,811, followed by Tucson at 2,391, the East Valley at 1,802, "Elsewhere" at 1,044, Flagstaff at 613 and Yuma at 110. The 322 Prescott area writers include those in Chino Valley, Dewey, Humboldt and other locales.
The total word count for all writers was 3.28 billion words; for Prescott area it was 2.2 million. Numerous best-selling authors have sprung out of the program's nurturing support.
A large number of Arizona writers are retired and can devote whole days to writing, such as many members of the Professional Writers of Prescott. At least half a dozen at a recent meeting mentioned working on NaNoWriMo projects this year. But plenty of participants are far younger, working full-time or have other commitments that make completing far more difficult.
Kelly Paradis, a Prescott website designer, posted that she had participated for five years and this is the first year she "won" by reaching 50,135 words. Her novel "Don't Be Late For The Bus," is about a novice tour guide for an American travel agency in Europe who struggles to lead an unruly and oversized group on a two-week tour on her own.
At the TGIO gathering, Bilbray asked the English club if they'd like to do NaNoWriMo again - which elicited a resounding "yes." She said she plans to start organizing earlier next year - in October.