The setting is Raether Library, the time is evening, and the scene consists of students, sprawled in their comfy chairs, surrounded by balled-up pieces of paper, snack wrappers and piles of backpacks, scribbling or typing away in an atmosphere buzzing with creativity.
These students are taking part in the Young Writer’s Program of the National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as NaNoWriMo. They have joined more than 80,000 students and 300,000 adults from around the world, in a challenge to write a novel in the month of November. What started in 1999 with just 21 participants has gone on to become the largest writing contest, with an international community that encourages creativity, confidence, and self-expression through writing. Famous NaNoWriMo novelists include Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) and Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl).
The kid-friendly Young Writer’s Program was developed by teachers and allows students to set their own word-count goals (adults have to write at least 50,000 words). The program is free for schools, which receive buttons, stickers, posters, and access to a supportive, online community of like-minded novelists. Plus, a handy-dandy word count tracker!
CA students meet on Tuesday evenings in Raether Library for snacks, activities and lots of writing time! The 12 students, from grades 6 -10, are learning to silence their inner critics and let their creativity take charge.
Most plan to write between 5,000 and 10,000 words, while a few are aiming higher, for 30,000 words. Sixth-grader Grace Trembath says “Yes, it is challenging and you have to stay focused, but whatever I write, I just let it be the best thing it can be”.
Other students suggest that writing has mental health benefits, helping them to “tap into calmness” and “create new ways of relating to real life experiences.”
For most students in the group, the initial apprehension about writing a novel in 30 days was quickly replaced with an enthusiasm, not just to reach the word count goal, but to express themselves, jotting down the good ideas as they come. Here are some of the word counts students have already achieved:
Eva Knepper: 30,000
Eve Reid: 25,000
Quinn Taylor: 10,000
Lily Greenberg: 10,000
Anne Freeman: 30,000
Molly Karst: 15,000
Lily Brinker: 10,000
Renna Allan: 10,000
Grace Trembath: 10,000
Claire Kenney: 5,000
William Sharp: 5,000
For more information, please visit ywp.nanowrimo.org or speak with Raether Library Assistant, Mary Leyva.