A Novel Idea: MGA Students Look Forward to NaNoWriMo

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:00 AM
Categories: Students | School of Arts and Letters | Faculty/Staff | School of Aviation | Pressroom | Events- Public

Macon, GA

Dana Casper, center, graduate studies librarian, was behind the initiative to bring NaNoWriMo to MGA. With her are two students who plan to participate in the writing marathon, Zach Brigmond and Heather Dudley.

Zach Brigmond is close to finishing his first novel, a science fiction tale with a military theme that he describes as “Tom Clancy meets Starship Troopers.”

“I’ve got everything outlined and I’m 29 nine chapters in,” said Brigmond, a 25-year-old Middle Georgia State University history major. “I think I’ll get there.”

Brigmond feels good about his chances of completing the novel before the end of 2019 because, along with other Middle Georgia State (MGA) students, faculty, and staff, he plans to participate in November’s National Novel Writing Month. Better known as NaNoWriMo, the worldwide event is an annual writeathon that pushes participants to complete at least 50,000 words of a manuscript over the course of 30 days.

While this year is the event’s 20th anniversary, the MGA Library is for the first time taking on a visible and supportive role for all writers who want to join in. Dana Casper, graduate studies librarian, is behind the initiative.

“I saw some information on a blog about libraries and their participation as host sites for writers during NaNoWriMo,” Casper said. “After doing some research, I thought it seemed like a perfect fit for us. I reached out to some faculty to gauge their interest and we put together a good team of people who were interested in participating.”

As a result, the Library throughout October has been hosting writing workshops, led by MGA faculty or staff who are published authors, to help NaNoWriMo participants prepare for the writeathon. Sessions have included “Developing a Story Idea and Building a Strong World" with Dr. Adam Young, "Creating Complex Characters" with Dr. Kelly Whiddon, and "Constructing a Detailed Plot or Outline" with Andy Davidson.

The workshops will be followed by "Come Write In" sessions during November’s NaNoWriMo, so participants will have a quiet space to work on their novels or other writing projects while encouraging each other. Thanks to Casper’s efforts, the MGA Library is among the several official 2019 NaNoWriMo writing sites in the region. All writing sessions at the Library will be open to community members as well as students.

“What I love about NaNoWriMo is the camaraderie,” said MGA student Heather Dudley, 40, a public service major. “Writing is such a solo activity until you get to NaNoWriMo.”

This will be her 18th year participating in the writing marathon. A tutor for the MGA Writing Center, Dudley said she has reached the 50,000-word goal 10 times and has more or less completed at least that many novels in the fantasy and science fiction genres. She’s not yet tried to get any of them published – post-NaNoWriMo editing time eludes the mother of two – but she still loves the event.

“NaNoWriMo is a way for me to get ideas out of my head and onto paper,” she said. “It gives me a deadline, community support, and commiseration with people who know what it's like. It's not easy, especially for a mom, a full-time employee, and a full-time student. But it's a challenge that frees me for creativity, something I don't get to do as often as I like. College students mostly write for grades; this gives you a chance to write for fun.”

Brigmond, who hopes to make writing his full-time career, will try to get his novel published after NaNoWriMo. He’s encouraged by the knowledge that previous marathons have helped writers complete novels that not only got published but went on to become bestsellers, including Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, and Fangirl.

“I’m glad Middle Georgia State took this interest in helping writers,” he said. “NaNoWriMo is about telling your story. Whether you want to be published or not, whether you think it's good or not, it doesn't matter. Your story matters and NaNoWriMo will help you tell it.”


Dates and times for the MGA Library’s writing workshops and the “Come Write In” writing sessions are listed here. All sessions are open to the general public. For more information about the Library's role in NaNoWriMo, contact Dana Casper at dana.casper@mga.edu.