Janna Willard has participated in NaNoWriMo since 2001, and is a Reference Desk moderator and ML for Saskatoon, in Canada. When not wielding the moderator scepter or novelist’s pen, she blogs about living with ADHD, and hosts a blog for her guinea pigs’ musings, too. She took a break from all that story-telling to speak with us:
Can you talk about your experiences as a moderator and ML?
Moderating is always interesting. Reference Desk (where Wrimos conduct research and polls for their novels) has some of the most interesting threads, and it’s probably the busiest forum.
Last year, I started dating threads using Stardates in an attempt to make people laugh and to deal with the problem of time zones. The conversations are amazing. Last year, we had an incredibly respectful thread about gender identification. I was proud of all the participants in that thread.
ML-ing is interesting and lots of fun. My primary role is to run events. We are building a partnership with a local bookstore, where we held our first-ever Information Night and our Kickoff Party last year.
Last year we also had our first-ever writing workshop, run by the library’s writer-in-residence. I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to repeat that this year, and possibly have some other events at the library, as well.
Has your experience with NaNoWriMo changed over the years? Do you consider yourself a master, now, of the art of 30-day noveling?
My first NaNo was in 2001, and I hand-wrote three pages (if that). What’s changed most is the people, largely because I moved in 2009. I’ve had three finishes, so I haven’t mastered the art of 30-day noveling, but I live in eternal hope that I’ll make it again this year!
My experience with NaNo has really changed through becoming more involved with the community, whether online or off. The community is so rich and vibrant, and full of amazing people. That includes my fellow ML’s, my local Wrimos, and all of the folks who poke their noses into Reference Desk.
Has your ADHD affected your NaNo writing, or vice versa?
ADHD affects basically everything I do. I don’t know who I’d be without it, because it’s been part of my life since I was a child. ADHD makes it difficult to focus, so it can be a struggle to buckle down and write. It‘s also hard to change focus once I get into something, so when I‘m really involved in writing, it can be difficult to stop and do something else (you know, like eat).
If I can hop onto my ADHD advocacy soap box for a moment: Executive dysfunction often looks like laziness or a lack of motivation, but as a general rule a person who has ADHD is really motivated to do stuff but can’t actually get started.
Sometimes that’s because we have trouble making plans, sometimes it’s because we can’t figure out how to break down the task into smaller pieces, but sometimes it’s because we just can’t make the focus happen. And that’s just how our brains are wired.
Medication can help, but it doesn’t always work. And it’s important to remember that pills don’t magically give us skills. We still need to learn how to make a plan and follow it. As I like to say, the only thing consistent about my ADHD is its inconsistency.
What’s been your favorite novel to write?
The one I wrote in 2009, Pointillism. It’s about a 17-year-old artist with ADHD. It’s part of the series I’m working on about teens with disabilities, and he’s one of my favourite characters. I threw all kinds of things at him, and his voice came through really strongly. It was the first time I’d written something so long from a male POV. That story was very different from anything I’d written before, and I loved the challenges.
Can you describe your guinea pigs’ blog?
I have three boars (males) whose personalities I try to bring out in their posts. Batman’s excitable and interested in everything; Bubble’s kind of a grouchy loner; Squeak’s stand-offish but becoming friendlier.
It started last year, when Batman participated in NaNoWriMo. I posted to the Marketing forum and asked people to contribute random writing during November. Batman “wrote” 4,000 words, which I’m hoping to publish by October. He’ll write again this year.
If you’re thinking about getting one (or two, which is better!), seriously consider seeking out a rescue or shelter and giving a forever home to a piggy who desperately needs one. I haven’t bought an animal from the pet store since I got my third guinea pig, way back when I was in grade six, and I have no regrets!