Library inspires would-be authors with ‘novel’ writing challenge

Could you write 1,667 words every day for 30 days straight?

That’s exactly what Kristin Agcaoili set out to do in November, and at the end of the month she had created a 51,577 word tale about a young girl with magical powers on the run from a government that considers her dangerous.

Agcaoili, a Patch High School junior participating in the 2012 National Novel Writing Month, found time to write between classes, while on the bus to and from school, and late at night. “I would spend three to four hours a day, if I had time,” she said.

Agcaoili is a winner, according to Margi Desmond, organizer of Patch Library’s participation in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is an annual Internet-based creative writing project that challenges participants to write the equivalent of a 175-page new novel between Nov. 1 and 30. “You ‘win’ if you complete 50,000 words,” said Desmond, a library technician, Army spouse and published author.

“It’s like writing the first rough draft of a novel. You’re going to have to polish, revise and edit, but it is a way to get started,” she said.

While many stateside libraries offer “write-ins” for authors during NaNoWriMo, the Patch Library went several steps further, offering weekend write-ins and a series of classes for teens and adults that would take fledging scribes on a journey through publication. For lecturers, Desmond, a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, reached out to her network of professional crime writers, editors and publishers.

 “I asked these people if they’d be willing to Skype with us and every single one said yes, they would be happy to,” she said. Seventy participants — 25 teens and 45 adults — from the Stuttgart military community signed up for the program. Best-selling stateside authors appeared via Skype to discuss topics such as story plotting, genre, synopsis, narration and dialogue, critiques and rewrites, networking, and researching and pitching to agents. Expertise was also drawn from the Stuttgart military community.

Kirsten Carlson, an Army spouse and published children’s book illustrator, spoke on the business of children’s literature. Margi Desmond, who has published three short stories and more than 100 non-fiction articles, taught a lesson aimed at short story and nonfiction writers, discussing how to market and sell their writing, and get published.

The ultimate goal of every writer is to see their work in print. Desmond said it’s a hard road, but it can be done. “You’re going to face rejection. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling … everyone gets rejected,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you stink, it means that a publisher didn’t think they could sell it.” 

Desmond said when she announced at a writer’s club meeting that she’d received her first rejection letter, she got a round of applause. “Now I was really a member of the club.” That’s the traditional route. Then, there’s self-publishing, where an author publishes his or her work independent of a publishing house. Amber Riley, a Navy spouse and self-published fantasy writer, led classes on self publishing, and the critiquing and rewriting process.

The phlebotomy major turned vampire writer said she has always written for her own pleasure, but after finishing her first novel, “The Flash of a Firefly,” in 2010, she elected to self-publish so she could hold in her hands what she had worked so hard to produce.  She ended up self-publishing two additional novels for a trilogy. “Now, it’s more than just a hobby. It’s something I want to pursue through traditional publishing,” she said, adding that she is almost finished with a demon-themed, young adult novel. Not everyone in the writing program was there to write a novel.

Mike Egley, a civilian who works for U.S. European Command, signed up to learn how to market a 217,000 word fantasy manuscript he penned over the summer.

“I was interested in making contacts, finding out what resources are out there to help me to better craft the story, and find a publisher,” he said.

Egley found the help he was looking for, and thanks to what he learned from Amber Riley’s self-publishing experience, has selected a self-publishing service and expects to see his book in print as early as January. He’s also started a second book. Based on the success of the NaNoWriMo program, in January the library will begin to offer writing groups for teens and adults. 

“It will be a writing club. We’ll form critique groups. We’ll talk about people’s successes and failures — it will be a support group,” Margi Desmond said. 

For more information on The Patch Library writing program, call 430-7138/civ. 0711-680-7138. For more on National Novel Writing Month, visit