We WRITE, practicing the arts of storytelling and poetry. We SHARE—reading our own work aloud in the classroom, performing in public, or having work published; sharing brings writers in contact with readers, helping build literary communities in our own backyards.
—The Badgerdog writing program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation
For most of us, November 1st means digging a few sweaters and sweatshirts out of the back of the closet, ramping up the panic as Thanksgiving’s culinary pressures approach, and enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of peak autumn. But for a certain group of word nerds, November 1st means one thing above all: It’s time to begin the NaNoWriMo marathon and not look up from the notebook or keyboard until midnight, November 30th.
NaNoWriMo, an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, is an international writing challenge community that started as a tiny idea in 1999 in San Francisco and eventually turned into a nonprofit in 2005. Today, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe participate by signing up online and pledging to write the first draft of a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. If you make that goal, you “win” NaNo, but even if you don’t reach the word mark, participants get a great sense of camaraderie and accomplishment just from process.
For young people, there is a special community, called the Young Writers Program, where kids of all ages can join in the challenge with their teachers and parents. In 2015, more than 80,000 students and educators took part, not counting the teens who participated, as many do, in the main NaNo community. Kids generally set their own word limits, and aren’t bound, of course, by the 50,000 goal, which is about the length of The Great Gatsby. For a little taste of the excitement involved in plotting, world building, and sharing stories, take a look at some of the many videos created by past teen participants by searching “NaNoWriMo2016” on YouTube.
In Austin, the place for young writers to learn more about the NaNoWriMo experience is at the Austin Public Library. At Faulk Central Library, kids ages 10 and older are invited to attend a NaNoWriMo kickoff Tuesday, November 1, at 5:30 p.m. called “What’s Your Story.” This will be followed by “Keep It Up,” a meeting halfway into the month, on November 15. At the end of the intense and fabulous month there will be a celebratory meeting on December 1, when kids can talk about their experiences, learn a little about how to revise the first draft they have created, and even share their work.
In addition to the library activities, if you have girls in 3rd through 8th grade who are aspiring writers, they may be interested in a couple of workshops happening on Saturday, November 5, as part of the We Are Girls TX conference. Here’s the schedule.
The NaNoWriMo activities at the library are sponsored by the Badgerdog writing program, which operates year-round and sponsors spring break and summer writing workshops for elementary, middle, and high school kids all over Austin.
Cecily Sailer, Programs Manager for the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, says her best advice is that kids of all ages should have fun with NaNoWriMo and set their own, personal goals. “If you spend November writing a little more than normal, you win!” says Cecily. “And make sure to talk about what you’re creating with someone else—take it outside the keyboard or notebook and into the world.”
Need more inspiration?