NaNoWriMo 2020

November 1, 2020

It’s November (somehow) and along with everything else, that means it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Launched in 1999, the project’s idea is to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. In 2019, 455,080 writers participated in NaNoWriMo programs, including 104,350 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NaNoWriMo “believes in the transformational power of creativity.” If you sign up (it’s free), you get prompts and encouragement and become part of a community that stretches past the 30 days of November.

Many poets participate, using the daily-writing structure and prompts to draft enough poems to fill a book. Will this be your year for NaNo poems?

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graphic by Tyrell Waiters

are you ready?

March 28, 2020

Poets, sharpen your quills. It’s almost National Poetry Month and that means it’s almost National/Global Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo). Again this year, Maureen Thorson invites you to register (it’s free) for prompts and encouragement and to post your poems.

If you don’t want to follow those prompts, there are plenty of other ways to get your poems going. Some people start or join 30/30 duos or groups. Some poets commit to a theme for the month’s poems. You could sneak over to the internet and grab this list of 30 prompts by Kelli Russell Agodon. Robert Lee Brewer has again posted the annual April Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides at Writer’s Digest. Daily prompts will begin on March 30 at Poetry Super Highway. And while National Novel Writing Month doesn’t officially begin until November, the NaNoWriMo folks are concerned about your well-being, so they have started a new initiative that includes daily prompts: #StayHomeWriMo.

However you choose to meet the challenge, get ready: 30 poems in 30 days. You can do it.

if it’s February…

February 1, 2020

This is a guest post by Michael Dylan Welch.

If it’s February 1, it must be time for National Haiku Writing Month. This year is NaHaiWriMo’s tenth anniversary, and it’s hard to believe it’s been thriving for a decade.

NaHaiWriMo was inspired by National Novel Writing Month. I first did NaNoWriMo in November of 2010, and thought at the time that there ought to be a national month for haiku and that February would be perfect — the shortest month for the shortest genre of poetry. The goal was to write at least one haiku a day for the entire month. And so I set up a website and a Facebook page and started spreading the word that we’d begin on February 1, 2011.

On that very first day, someone asked if there was a prompt they could follow, so I came up with “hands” as the first prompt, and we were off. Following the daily prompts was optional, but they provided inspiration for hundreds of people that first month.

At the end of February 2011, participants said they didn’t want to stop, so I’ve arranged for guest prompters each month since then. The NaHaiWriMo page on Facebook immediately became a year-round place for haiku inspiration — and of course you could also use the prompts to write any kind of poetry. The Facebook page now has more than 3,100 likes, with poets participating in many countries around the world. The #nahaiwrimo hashtag is also popular on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social media channels.

Since 2020 is our tenth anniversary year, I’d like to celebrate some highlights from our history.

The first thing that many people notice is our logo, with the numbers 5-7-5 with a red slash through them. Clicking that logo on the website leads to an essay on why counting 5-7-5 syllables is a myth for English-language haiku, despite how widespread that belief is. The logo is deliberately polemical, to make people think about how there are more important targets for haiku than just counting syllables — targets that are nearly never taught in schools and that are unknown to the general public. Counting syllables is the most trivial of haiku’s disciplines. I hope the logo (and the ensuing conversation) has done some good shaking up haiku misperceptions, though it has also had the effect of offending some people who remain attached to syllable counting.

In addition to the daily prompts, I started creating haiku-related memes. These sought to poke a bit of fun at haiku (and misperceptions thereof), with the intention that we not take haiku too seriously (and yet seriously enough). Many people shared these memes on Facebook, which helped to promote NaHaiWriMo. Here, for example, is a set of memes with a Simpsons theme.

In March of 2012, NaHaiWriMo was the subject of a “group interview” of sorts, about how NaHaiWriMo worked. The results, from many voices, appeared in the online journal Notes from the Gean. This interview serves as a snapshot of the way things were in those early days.

Later the same year, NaHaiWriMo published a free ebook, With Cherries on Top: 31 Flavors of NaHaiWriMo, featuring selected poems inspired by 31 different daily writing prompters for the month of August 2012. The book also features dozens of my fireworks photos. Follow this link for more details, including links for free downloads.

In 2014, a new feature of the NaHaiWriMo community was short interviews with each of the daily writing prompters. The interviews show the broad international support that NaHaiWriMo receives. Prompters are always reminded to make sure their daily prompts are posted to the Facebook page before the day begins in New Zealand! This international aspect of the community is emphasized in many of the comments about NaHaiWriMo.

In September of 2017, NaHaiWriMo published its first printed anthology, Jumble Box (from Press Here), with artwork by Ron C. Moss. The collection presents poems inspired by each of the daily prompts from February 2017. The book was shortlisted for a Touchstone book award from The Haiku Foundation.

One of NaHaiWriMo’s most ardent supporters from the beginning was Johnny Baranski. After he died, in January 2018, NaHaiWriMo held the one-time Johnny Baranski Memorial Haiku Contest, complete with cash prizes.

Of course the biggest highlight is the sharing of hundreds of thousands of haiku by a growing community of poets. Many poems have followed the prompts, but it’s also fine when they don’t. And not everyone who participates even posts online, which is also fine.

NaHaiWriMo eagerly celebrates its tenth anniversary in February 2020, and invites your participation, whether you’re on social media or not. Just pledge to write at least one haiku a day for each day of the month. And since 2020 is a leap year, that means 29 haiku. Are you up for the challenge?

Learn more at Follow this link for more about haiku and some of its misunderstandings (start with “Becoming a Haiku Poet”).

Personal Aside: For those who might live near Kirkland, Washington, I’m the writer-in-residence at the Kirkland Library this year. Starting on Thursday, March 26, 2020, I’ll be leading a monthly writing critique group on the fourth Thursday of most months. Please bring writing to share. I’ll also be giving a presentation on Mary Oliver and her theme of attention on Earth Day, April 22, and a presentation on “forest bathing” and haiku in July. See my other events here. One of those events is another iteration of Poets in the Park in Redmond, with poetry performances on July 25, and workshops on July 26, with a theme of travel. Watch for more details soon.

your next chapbook

October 29, 2018

November, which is right around the corner, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Some poets apply NaNoWriMo discipline to their poetry and crank out 50,000 words in 30 days.

If you’d like another option, Writer’s Digest is again offering their annual November PAD (Poem A Day) Chapbook Challenge. Robert Lee Brewer posts a prompt on his Poetic Asides blog. Write a poem each day using the prompts and then, in the month of December, pare your poems down to a manuscript of 10-20 pages in length with no more than one poem per page and submit the chapbook to Brewer for an opportunity to win fame if not fortune. At the very least you’ll have a chapbook to submit somewhere else. You don’t have to register and you don’t have to submit your poems day by day.

Read the guidelines and get ready to write.

planning your WriMo

October 18, 2018

Two weeks. That’s how long you have to get your verbs in order. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts November 1, and whether you plan to write the first draft of a 50,000-word novel or put your 50,000 words to work on poetry, it’s a great opportunity to be really productive.

2018 marks NaNoWriMo’s “20th year of encouraging creativity, education, and the power of the imagination through the largest writing event in the world.” Last year, NaNoWriMo involved 394,507 participants on six continents, and more than 58,000 of them met their 50,000-word goal. Will you be one this year?

Learn more on the NaNoWriMo website and on Facebook. Mark your calendar. Make the commitment. It could change your life.

yes, yes, November

October 28, 2016


It’s almost November, and if your calendar isn’t already bulging, please note:

  • National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) celebrates its 18th year of encouraging creativity, education, and the power of the imagination through the largest writing event in the world. This year, NaNoWriMo expects nearly 500,000 people to start a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, guided by this year’s theme: Your Novel, Your Universe. More than 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. Many poets use the project as a challenge to write a poem each day of the month. To find out more, sign up, get pep talks, participate in forums, and get inspired, visit the NaNoWriMo website.
  • Writer’s Digest will offer the 2016 November PAD (Poem A Day) Chapbook Challenge. Robert Lee Brewer, author of the Poetic Asides blog, will post a prompt each day. The idea is to write a poem in response to that prompt and then, at the end of the month, assemble and submit a chapbook of the best 20 or fewer of your poems. Find out all the details on the 2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Guidelines page.
  • November also brings the Cascadia Poetry Festival (Seattle, Nov 3-6) and Wordstock (Portland, Nov 5).
  • Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6, 2016, 2:00:00 AM, when clocks are turned backward 1 hour to 1:00:00 AM local standard time.

how’s your WriMo?

November 12, 2015


Are you on track toward 50,000 words? It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and you can almost hear the keyboards clicking and the pens scratching.

On Sunday (November 15) in San Francisco, writers who have raised some dough to support NaNoWriMo will gather for The Night of Writing Dangerously — a mid-November extravaganza of food, drink, and lots and lots of noveling.

Over at Red Wheelbarrow Writers, Juicy Fruit Don’t Grow On Trees, a group-write novel, is racking up the words at the rate of a chapter a day.

There are write-ins going on at libraries, student unions, coffee shops and other venues near you. To find some inspiration, check out the list of regional NaNoWriMo groups or go to the NaNoWriMo Pep Talks page to see encouragement from authors from 2015 and previous years. There are also live-streaming virtual write-ins and lots of other spirited visual aids on YouTube at the Office of Letters and Light (the geniuses behind NaNoWriMo).

Okay. That’s enough distraction. Get back to the writing.

NaNoWriMo minus eight

October 24, 2015


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts Sunday, November 1. For the 30 days of November, writers of every ilk crank out massive numbers of words toward the goal of 50,000 by the end of the month. The emphasis is on quantity, not clean copy, the idea being that if you have 50,000 words to edit, you’re really close to having a book.

And don’t let the word novel dissuade or intimidate you. Poets and non-fiction writers can NaNoWriMo, too. If you sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, you’ll find pep talks, word counters, milestone badges, forums, tips and plenty of NaNoWriMo swag. There are also local/regional activities and Come Write In events at libraries, bookstores and other neighborhood spaces. NaNoWriMo is on Facebook, too.

Whether you go for the gold or just use NaNoWriMo as a challenge to get you to write every single day for a month, just think of all the delicious words you’ll write!

Seattle Writes

July 29, 2015

Seattle Writes

Seattle Writes is a free, public program of The Seattle Public Library that offers workshops, write-ins and writing space. The Seattle Writes calendar currently includes a workshop on SELF-e, the Library’s free self-publishing platform, a presentation on book publishing by author Jayne Ann Krentz, and weekly NaNoWriMo write-ins during the month of November. Learn more on Seattle Writes.

Are you ready?

October 30, 2014


Pencils and pixels, on your mark! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins on Saturday, November 1, and challenges you to write 50,000 rough-draft words of a novel over the course of the month. This year, NaNoWriMo expects 400,000 participants (there were 310,095 in 2013), including 100,000 students and educators who will use NaNoWriMo’s virtual classroom management tools, closed social network, and free Common Corealigned curriculum. National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light).

Participants can enjoy Pep Talk letters from author-mentors and other ongoing encouragement; write-ins at local coffee shops, book shops and living rooms; and free resources at local libraries, bookstores and other neighborhood spaces. There are online forums with tips, logistics and other musings. Plus, NaNoWriMo provides an array of tools to help you keep track of your growing pile of words.

Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

It’s easy: just sign up and start writing. NaNoWriMo is on Facebook, too. (But of course you knew that.)

P.S. No one says your novel has to be prose or, for that matter, that it even has to be a novel: 50,000 words is 50,000 words…
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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

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