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A community of speedy wordsmiths: NaNoWriMo 2019 in Ottawa

By Christina Bondi on November 6, 2019

My cat, Flufe, on her favourite blanket. Photo: Christina Bondi/Apt613.

My creative writing essentials—a fleece blanket, Lady Grey tea, mythological texts, and more than a few sweets—create a comforting and fortifying circuit around my desk. As I tappety-tap-tap away on my keyboard, the blank Word document welcomes progress. Dozens of tabs with valuable research patiently await their moment of reference. Flufe, my two-year-old cat, rests on her favourite blanket nearby. It’s the first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Participants aim to write 50,000 words by the end of November. A mystery novel? Historical non-fiction? A collection of short stories? Give it a go!

Not only am I new to NaNo, but I am also new to Ottawa. Just this past September, I moved here from Toronto. NaNo has provided me with the perfect opportunity to nurture my creative writing skills, whilst also meeting new people and engaging in Ottawa’s writing community.

I first decided to run with the aspect of community. I reached out to a few participants to learn more about their projects for the month, as well as what NaNo (and the community) means to them.

“I have a whole novel plotted in my mind…”

Fiona Tapp is ready to take the word-plunge for the first time: “I have a whole novel plotted in my mind—it’s a thriller that I have been mulling over for almost a year. I am ready to make it come alive.”

Eighth-time participant Alex Thomas, tells me, “This year I’m revisiting the science fiction world I wrote about in my first NaNo.” They admit, “I take part [in NaNo] because I don’t put aside much time for writing in my day-to-day life. NaNoWriMo gives me lightning focus and a serious deadline to work for.”

Trevor LaForce, another NaNoWrimer, shares his thoughts about this writing challenge: “I like tapping into the collective momentum of NaNo. The structure of it, the deadline, is also a great excuse to totally commit to one project.” When asked about his project for the month, LaForce reveals, “This year is a lighter middle-grade fantasy adventure called The Fairy Forest. It’s based on stories the kids and I have been telling each other for years. I’ll be writing two volumes at 25,000 words each.”

“NaNoWriMo gives me lightning focus and a serious deadline to work for.”

Helena Verdier, one of three NaNo Municipal Liaisons (MLs) for Ottawa, captures the thrilling essence of NaNo: “Everyone is working towards this common goal of writing something: a story, a novel, an autobiography, whatever, and we all do it as a team. It’s an incredibly supportive community where we are all alike in many ways, but we can also celebrate the diversity we bring.”

If you’re new to NaNo (and even to the city), note that there are many events to immerse yourself in the NaNo community and beyond.

1. NaNoWriMo Chats & Events

Keep in touch digitally with fellow Ottawan NaNoWrimers via the Facebook group, forums, or Discord chats. Whether it’s to ask a question, post a writing update, or share ideas, feel free to reach out to the NaNo Ottawa community.

If you prefer to meet up in person, an abundance of fabulous events have been planned throughout the month. These include official and unofficial write-ins of varying lengths all over the city, as well as social activities (like pizza and bowling!).

Take a look at the impressive list of NaNo Ottawa events.

Photo: Agatha Barc (Apt613 Flickr Pool)

2. The Ottawa Public Library (OPL)

During the month of November, NaNoWriMo is hosting write-ins at the Main branch (120 Metcalfe). Pop by every Sunday afternoon for some productive writing time.

The OPL has also compiled a collection of valuable writing resources for NaNoWrimers. Check this link out to view the books.

The Art House Café. Photo: Christina Bondi/Apt613.

3. Inspirational Activities & Venues

As I write an ancient Greek mythological anthology this month, I will simultaneously review and reference ancient works. I have also joined a couple of book clubs. This way, I can read novels of different genres for refreshing perspectives.

I also plan to visit a few charming cafés, as a new venue can trigger exciting ideas. For instance, I recently checked out The Art House Café on 555 Somerset Street West. I found the art to be quite meaning-filled. A scene, an object, a combination of colours: These may inspire a character or sub-plot when writing.

Ottawa NaNoWrimers, enjoy a month of accelerated wordsmithing!