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Group participates in NaNoWriMo

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Every November, writers across the country put pen to paper in hopes of reaching 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Second-year MFA student Betsy Cornwell is leading aspiring Notre Dame novelists in an on-campus writing group.

Cornwell first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2008 when she was a junior undergraduate.

“The draft I wrote in 2008, I am just now getting a book deal on,” she said. “Two publishing houses are actually bidding on it. This year, I’m doing a steam punk version of Cinderella and actually the publishing houses have offered preemptively on this one as well.”

Cornwell’s book that is currently being bid on is a young adult magical realism book, called “Tides.”

“I was working at a teen magazine at the time, and we got all these letters about how they either hated things like Twilight or they liked it, but wanted to make it more literary,” she said. “I said, ‘You know what, I agree, I’m going to try to do that.'”

Cornwell teaches a fiction-writing course and has encouraged her students to participate. Of her 15 students, 10 have chosen to write 50,000 words this November instead of turning in a final portfolio of all their work.

“I really encourage people to do it, because you write this messy bad draft, and then you revise it,” she said.

Cornwell said she believes people who have never written a novel or have no idea how to approach fiction writing benefit the most from NaNoWriMo.

“People who think this is a big impossible thing, because it really is about plunging in without knowing what you’re doing and forcing yourself to do it,” she said.

One of Cornwell’s students, senior Darsie Malynn decided to attempt the 50,000 word challenge.

“I am attempting to do NaNoWriMo because it seems like a cool, challenging and rewarding project,” Malynn said. “Also if we do it, we are not required to turn in a final portfolio for our class, so it’s hopefully not a completely unmanageable amount of writing.”

Malynn is not the only student participating this month. Junior Leah Coming, the president of Notre Dame’s creative writing club, Mustard, is participating in her own way.

“Mustard traditionally has done a couple write-ins during NaNoWriMo, but usually members do it on his or her own,” she said.

Coming said she uses her capacity as president of Mustard to help spread the word about more structured write-ins led by Cornwell in the University Writing Center. When Coming is not helping Cornwell get the word out about NaNoWriMo, she will also take part.

“I’m doing pansy NaNo,” she said. “I’m only doing 15,000 words [this November].”

Coming said she decided to do a smaller word count because she is already working on a large project that she has chosen to extend during NaNoWriMo.

“Usually when people do a NaNo, they come up with a crazy new plot, the plot twists and turns and they write total nonsense to get to the word count,” Coming said. “I figured if I reduced it, I would not be writing total nonsense to get the count.”