In 2014 the Library Services of seven Local Governments joined forces to present the NaNoWriMo “Write along the Highway” project.
In November 2012 the City of Armadale Libraries hosted a programme called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where aspiring writers are challenged to produce 50,000 words of a novel during the month. The library organised write-ins each weekend – writers coming together to write and encourage one another. This initiative proved very popular, with writers from all over the southern regions of Perth attending Armadale’s sessions.
Buoyed by the great response in 2012, the City of Armadale libraries decided to talk to a few other libraries in the area with the intent of expanding the programme in 2013 as there seemed to be plenty of potential authors out there. After discussions with other LGAs we ended up with 4 Library Services happy to join in the experiment of hosting NaNoWriMo as a group.
Participating Local Government Areas were:
Within a relatively short period of time – starting in June – a representative from each council met regularly and decided to promote the joint effort. With reference to the highways that connected our four communities, the committee came up with: “Write along the Highway”.
With the 2013 joint effort being both successful and satisfying for writers as well as participating Library Services a decision was made to further expand the reach of the project by inviting a number of libraries to join in the effort. In early 2014, we started meeting from February to prevent the previous year’s pressure to present the event come November. The Library Services of Canning, Cockburn, Fremantle, Melville and South Perth were invited to join the existing members of the “Write along the Highway” project. Canning declined to be involved and Fremantle decided to wait out 2014 and join in 2015. Nevertheless the addition of plenty of ‘new blood’ to keep the joint venture vibrant provided by:
In October 2014 information sessions were held in the various participating libraries where interested people were able to learn about the project and ask questions of both organisers and NaNoWriMo veterans. Compared to last year attendances, 2014 attendances were somewhat disappointing. However, we must remember that with more libraries participating in the project and many people having attended information sessions in previous years it is understandable that demand is diminishing to some extent.
Thought for next year: Consider having fewer information sessions spread over the area that participating LGA’s cover.
Total attendance at information sessions across councils: 59
Participating libraries were open for Write-in sessions during November with at least one library open for write-ins every day of the week except for Fridays. The ‘roster’ for the month was as follows:
- Monday 2.00 – 7.00pm Willagee (Melville)
- Tuesday 2.00 – 7.00pm Mundijong (Serpentine-Jarrahdale)
- Wednesday 2.00 – 8.00pm South Perth
- Thursday 2.00 – 8.00pm Victoria Park
- Thursday 2.00 – 8.00pm Success (Cockburn)
- Friday No write-ins
- Saturday 12.00 – 4.00pm The Knowledge Centre (Gosnells)
- Sunday 12.00 – 4.00pm Armadale
Thought for next year: Re-consider write-ins. Fewer people attended sessions this year despite having more locations and longer session times available to NaNoWriMo participants. It may be more effective to have fewer write ins with shorter durations to encourage participants to cluster.
The total number of people attending write-ins during the month of November: 130
Each council organised one event during November. The aim was to provide inspiration for writers by meeting with, and listening to the experiences and advice of professional novelists.
The choice of offerings was as wide as the range of novels being written and many events were well attended as well as much appreciated by the audiences. It should be noted that events were organised by individual libraries but promoted by all! In 2013 we offered a staggering 23 events to the public. This year it was decided to limit the number of events connected to the project as writers, who are our focus during the month of November, are busy writing and have less time available to attend function no matter how interesting they might be. Hence, this year, the committee decided that participating councils would organise only one event each.
The research by Rebecca Laffar-Smith showed that not many of the attendees were people participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge. This poses the question: who are we aiming our November events at?
Thought for next year: as the project aims to get writers involved with their local libraries and their local writers’ community we might consider aiming our events at writers rather than the general library audience for the purpose of this project. This might mean: concentrate on writer-friendly workshops to be held both before and after the novel-writing month of November.
Total number of events held under the “Write along the Highway” banner: 7
Total number of attendees at these events: 288
First and foremost: “what an amazing night” was the consensus of those who were there! Rain and thunderstorms kept many of the people who booked for Write Night! away but those that had the courage to leave their homes were rewarded with a wonderful evening of writing and entertainment as well as learning and networking opportunities.
Participants were welcomed to the South Perth Hall with life music by ‘Tony M’. After introductions by MC Tamara Lampard and NaNoWriMo representative Rebecca Laffar-Smith an industry panel consisting of Sioban Timmer, Lee Battersby, Andrew Harvey and Rebecca Laffar-Smith entertained and educated an eager to ask questions audience.
The remainder of the evening was filled with lots of writing games and other writing related activities that attendees were very keen to get involved with. In short, the evening was a wonderful get-together of like-minded people, all of whom were committed to participate. The atmosphere in the hall was simply electric (something to do with the storms?) and, by closing time, it proved hard to make people leave the premises.
In the end just over half the people who signed up actually attended (yes, the weather was atrocious!), 23 of the 44 who had booked. One remarkable fact: of the people attending this evening three reached the milestone of completing 50,000 words on the night!
Number of people attending “Write Night”: 23
A few more facts
- A total of 226 people living in the ‘South of Perth” area participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo. By the end of November, 81 of those people were still actively writing.
- Of the 81 people active at the end of November 44 were registered as ‘winners’, meaning they wrote over 50,000 words for the month. Another 5 people actually reached the limit but did not register this fact before midnight on November 30th.
- Of the regular attendees at write-ins almost all scored the big 50,000!
Building on the experiences of 2013 this year’s committee had an easier job than that of last year. Having made plenty of mistakes in our first effort it was quite easy to avoid falling into the same traps. Main advantages of this year’s committee were: starting organisation early in the year rather than in June, having more LGA’s and therefore more people involved made for lighter workloads and last but certainly not least, we now had procedures, artwork and the like to re-use!
A ‘post mortem’ meeting of the organising committee was held on December 2nd where events of the year as well as the actual ‘writing month’ were critically assessed in order to come to an even better outcome in 2015.
Thoughts for next year:
LG reform may reduce number of participating LGA’s
Reduction of write-in locations and session duration
Consider incentives to attend write-ins
Drop November workshops in favour of workshops pre and post November
Consider alternative locations / venues for Write Night
Rebecca Laffar-Smith (NaNoWriMo representative)
Andrew Kelly (Town of Victoria Park)
Lisa Keys (Shire of Serpentine – Jarrahdale)
Lizanne Fernandez (City of Gosnells)
Tamara Lampard (City of South Perth)
Jennifer Bawden ( City of Melville)
Mally Hart (City of Cockburn)
Jan Pedroli (City of Armadale)