We like a lot of things that come from the fine city of Atlanta: Diet Coke, CNN, the music of Outkast, and even NaNoWriMo PD Lindsey Grant. But our favorite thing—sorry, Lindsey—is probably the IKEA-invading, panda-loving region known as “NaNoLanta.” We asked local MLs Matt, Hype, and Tia to clue us in on their strange, inspiring brilliance.
The Atlanta region rundown:
Best Local Writer Fuel — The Atlanta Bread Company, where else?
Every year we have weekly write-ins at various Atlanta Bread Companies across town, but we’re particularly fond of the one in Norcross. Coffee! Tea! Loaves of soup! Cookies! Power outlets! Wi-fi! What more could you ever need?
Also, at closing time, they tend to give away the last of the cookies.
Best Way to Beat Writer’s Block — The Botanical Gardens and Oakland Cemetery are two fabulous places to walk through when you’re looking to get inspired. Even in November, the weather doesn’t usually get cold enough to deter a little afternoon wandering.
For the indoor types, we’ve got this little fish tank down in the middle of the city, the Georgia Aquarium—that’s pretty nice, too.
Regional Genre of Choice — It it exists as an identifiable genre (and even if it doesn’t), chances are someone has written it in our region. While many of our writers fall quite squarely in the fantasy category, Matt is quite well known for “somber” literary fiction.
The Can’t Miss Atlanta NaNo Event
Toughie, because last year we had our first ever Evening of Writing Wildly fundraising event, which went really darn well.
But we’ve got to come down on the side of our annual IKEA write-in. Every year, we show up, have a write-in in the cafeteria (huddled around the only power outlet in the entire space), work for an hour or two, then go on a massive photo-op rampage throughout the store. And it’s where our mascot, the Panda, came from.
The Runners-Up — We’ve got some great runners-up. Our MARTA/subway write-in all over town, the Airport Write-In, our kickoffs with our fundraising partner the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, and TGIOs at the iconic Varsity.
The Municipal Liaisons
Matt (4th year ML, 9th year Wrimo): My old college roommate somehow found out about NaNo; I think while she was putting together a calendar. We decided to give it a try. I lasted a day. The year after, I discovered the website, and bam, winner every year since.
My first year ML-ing, we had a midnight write-in on the last day of November to help those last-minute folk. I’d started up this regional adopt-a-newbie program, and one of my newbies came to the write-in, desperate to finish on time. She hit her 50,000th word at 11:55 p.m. and was so happy she almost cried. That, right there, is why I ML. I want to help people do something they never thought they could do.
Tia (4th year ML, 9th year Wrimo): A writer friend of mine mentioned it to me, but it was midway through the month and I figured it was too late to start. I kind of wish I had though! But I started in 2004, and have won every year since.
Watching NaNo grow over the years has been amazing. It’s not just a writing program—it’s a program that changes people, makes them better. I can’t narrow it down to one specific instance because there have been so many times that we’ve witnessed people set goals and surpass them, and then set their next goals a little higher. I am constantly awestruck by the amazing things NaNoWriMo pulls out of people.
Hype (2nd year ML, 10th year Wrimo): I started participating in NaNo more or less on a dare from a friend, and made it through a few thousand words before completely forgetting about it. I picked up my current winning streak in 2007, though, and kept onward. I owe a lot of that to the awesome community here in Atlanta.
A Guide to the Local Wrimos and Culture — We’ve developed some good, and some odd, regional traditions over the years. Every year, we work something peachy—the fruit, the color, etc.— into our novel. We also started an Adopt-a-Day program. On their adopted day, a Wrimo will post a pep talk for the day and make a $10 donation in the name of whoever wrote the most words that day. Halos for everyone!
The last three years, we’ve declared a word war and donation battle against other regions. Our results may be mixed, but we have a blast!
Hype: My favorite memory centers around the amazing partnership we had last year with the Atlanta Radio Theater Company. They put on two shows that helped raise money for NaNo, and we held Kick-Offs before each show. Before the second show, I met a Wrimo who came to the Kick-Off even though we’d be traveling home to England for the remainder of the month. He gave me a light-up pen that I still have on my desk, and I love seeing status updates on his novel. I really value NaNoAtlanta for unique connections like that one.
The Region In a Nutshell — Atlanta: the Overachieving Capitol of NaNoLand. Many of our Wrimos write double or triple 50K in November, and we averaged five regional events a day in 2011. We also overachieve in terms of fundraising—last year, we were the 20th largest region, but ranked third in fundraising. Last but not least, every one of our participants overachieves in pure awesomeness.
Check out the region in November!