November 13, 2008


Writers try for 50,000 words

National event challenges would-be authors to pen a novel in a month


Bob Ellis/staff photographer      
Cortland High student Bobby Sikora sits at his laptop in the writing studio. Sikora and other students and residents are participating in the National Novel Writing Month during November, which calls on amateur writers to put 50,000 words on paper by month’s end.

Staff reporter

Priscilla Berggren-Thomas kept her writing a secret last year.
“I think I just took this event too seriously last month,” said Berggren-Thomas, the librarian at the Phillips Free Library in Homer.
Berggren-Thomas is one of more than 100,000 people across the globe breaking out her pen for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and attempting to write 50,000-words or about 175-pages by the end of November.
The event began 10 years ago with 21 writers in San Francisco, who describe themselves as “overcaffeinated yahoos.”
Berggren-Thomas’ novel is a fantasy story involving dwarves and other imaginary creatures. “I’m having a lot more fun this time,” she added.
Last year, more than 100,000 writers registered to participate in the event, and only 15,000 people finished the challenge last year, according to the event’s Web site.
Homer resident Lynn Olcott said she was not worried about the word count and enjoyed the freedom of just putting words on the page.
“I sometimes write (short stories) for magazines and have to worry about the intended audience,” said Olcott, a member of a writing group at the Phillips Free Library in Homer. “But this just gives me the freedom to do whatever I want.”
Kristin Yarnell of Homer said she was having trouble getting herself to sit down and write.
“Instead, I’m doing a lot of cleaning,” she said. “Sometimes, I find myself doing a lot of errands.”
Many writers said they doubted their work would ever get published and were not worried about becoming the next John Grisham or J.K. Rowling.
“I’ve never finished a short story before,” said Rachel Gillespie, a 10th-grade student who is participating in the event as part of her English class at Cortland Senior High School. “This forces me to get something done.”
Teacher Amanda Triplett said about 90 of her students have set goals to write between 10,000 and 30,000 words, with a few attempting to make the full 50,000 word count this month.
About a third of the students kicked off the event with a costume party in her classroom on Oct. 31 and cheered when the clock struck 12:01 a.m. to begin the event.
“I like this better than a regular English class,” said 10th-grade student Nick Reynolds, who is writing about a professional interrogator who is hired by private companies. “I’m learning a lot, and I’m not bored out of my mind.”
Student Tori Curtis said she would like to continue writing after the event is over.
“But I’d have to live like a hermit if this was all I did,” said Curtis, who plans to graduate this year. “I’d like to do something else with math or science to help balance my life.”


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