The Office of Letters and Light may serve as the heart of NaNoWriMo HQ, but we can’t work alone. Thankfully, through Come Write In, we’ve partnered with libraries and bookstores around the world to act as part-time NaNoLand embassies. Who more suited to the task of creating a haven for writers than librarians and booksellers who are already ambassadors and agents for reading?
For your eyes only, the first ever CWI Briefing, from a most effective noveling agent, currently based out of the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in Massachussetts.
Name: Lauderdale, Sarah Lauderdale.
Length of term with NaNoWriMo: I first heard of National Novel Writing Month back in 2004 from a friend who was complaining that she had to drop out. It was just a few days into November, and I visited the site to learn more about it. ”What a great idea!” I thought, and made a stab at writing for a few days. I didn’t produce much, but I was excited for next year. I knew that I’d be coming back.
Title and duties: I became Head of Reference at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in 2009. That’s the first year I actually reached 50K, which I also did in 2011 and ‘12. When you are promoting NaNoWriMo publicly you feel an extra incentive to finish.
During NaNoWriMo, typical questions I am asked revolve around how to use the NaNoWriMo web site, where the bathroom is, and how to get a library card. Oddly, no one has asked me any reference questions about what they were writing, but I have done some reader’s advisory in the natural course of discussing our novels.
In September, I start putting out promotional bookmarks, and begin updating the web page I maintain about NaNoWriMo at our library.
In October, I set up a big display that runs through November: books on writing in general, on writing novels in particular, and writing resources for teens. There is a NaNo Rebels section for the nonfiction writers, and a selection of published NaNo-novels that Hamilton-Wenham actually owns, which was twelve titles as of last November. Flyers go up at this time as well.
November is for writing, and for write-ins! People can write in the library any time it is open, but our official write-ins are held each Saturday in November, in a room reserved for that purpose. The room is reserved all day, but writers come and go at their own convenience. The library provides coffee: otherwise, it is “bring your own snack,” which results in a tasty smorgasbord.
Utilized Resources: Come Write In resources that I use include the poster, and the window clings. I also use the flyers from the web site, especially the “One Day Novelist” flier with pull-tabs, and I post like crazy at my regional forum, the USA :: Massachusetts :: North Shore, the coolest region there is.
If you are a librarian trying to make your library NaNo-friendly, I recommend finding and using your regional forum, available through the NaNoWriMo web site. It’s free, and it is a great way to talk up your library and find out who is participating locally.
The Noveling Recruits: We’ve had students and professionals and homemakers; published novelists and first-time writers; couples competing with each other and parents competing with their kids participating in our write-ins.
In some ways, it is easier for me to think about the different books I’ve seen people working on. We had a diverse lot last year, although there was a trend toward historical fiction titles, with locales and eras spanning Ancient Rome, Victorian England and the American Civil War. Other genres included business fiction, fictionalized family memoir, and one eco-sci-fi novel for children.
Some writers reached up to 3,000 words in a single session as they wrote alongside their fellow novelists. Also, the children’s room hosts the “Kids Are Writers Too!” story writing contest, and they produce all kinds of fun stories.
Your Mission, and Why You Chose to Accept It:
What doesn’t appeal about NaNoWriMo, especially if you are a writer? Who could ask for a better kick in the pants? I will say that, starting out, it was all about The Novel. In more recent years I have come to think of NaNoWriMo as a great way to generate a lot of writing, period. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. It matters that you write it.