LikeWise began in January of this year, as a search for online venues that connect teen artists, writers and readers with like-minded souls. For my final post of 2015, I'm reviewing what I found.
The most impressive sites were created by fans of authors John Green and J.K Rowling. Nerdfighters and The Harry Potter Alliance connect readers like never before. They've built a legion of reader activists who use their love of story to fuel positive changes, like sending a plane load of supplies to hurricane survivors, forcing corporate giants to practice fair trade, and battling ogres who threaten net neutrality. The Nerdfighters site offers seemingly endless opportunities to connect with all creative types. And The Harry Potter Alliance continues to reach out to the reader community. Next March, they'll present The Granger Leadership Academy, where teams will help attendees develop hero skills. So readers, if you haven't checked them out, what are you waiting for?
Sites for writers and visual artists are harder to find. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is by far the most notable. It offers young novelists support and a discussion forum. Since the focus is on penning an entire novel in November, I'm not sure how long the connections and support last beyond that month. But it's certainly a place to meet teen writers and those relationships could grow beyond the event. For artists, The Art Assignment is a a fun, interactive project hosted by John Green's wife, Sarah. Guest artists present challenges and creative fans post their results on YouTube. It's ongoing, so you can participate when time allows and when it doesn't, pop in to keep up with the projects of your new online friends.
In August, I presented a Plethora of Artistic Links, including contests and opportunities to submit writing and art for publication. When I couldn't find more venues for artists and writers to connect, I drifted toward sites for creative minds: The Maker Movement, inventors, young and old, using technology to fabricate wondrous things; Imagination Foundation, collaborators who create with cardboard, and TED, the place to view and hear people with big ideas. They're fascinating places that feed the mind and fuel creativity.
To be sure, I'm not the most experienced researcher, or the most patient. While fantastic websites may have escaped my feeble fingers, I was thrilled to find an abundance of regional programs, many of them offered through libraries and museums. Nothing beats physical connections. What's important is finding people you trust to share your work with. Whether it's in person or online, I wish you rewarding relationships in 2016.
NaNoWriMo starts Sunday, so this is prep time for all you people itching to start a novel. The Young Writer's Program offers a novel workbook, author pep talks and venues to connect to other teen writers.
NaNo launched in 1999 and last year 325,142 participated. Since it's beginning over 250 NaNo novels have been published, including Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and Marissa Meyer's Cinder.
Here's how it works. You go to their website, fill out a profile, hang out with other writers and commit to trying to write 50,000 words in a month. At the end of November, you stop. Not everybody makes the goal, so don't feel bad if you don't. There are badges that reward your best efforts. Display them with pride!
Fifty thousand words is a lot to write in a month. The great thing is, no one expects them to be brilliant. You just write the story straight from your head. It will probably be a mess. Like most first drafts, it might make you wince when you read it. But it might also be the beginning of a good book.
NaNoWriMo is a fast, fun way to prove you have a novel in you. It doesn't guarantee it will be a novel worth publishing. The value of the words you write depend on you learning to write them well. So if you start NaNo as a beginning writer, don't expect to create a blockbuster novel. Use it as a learning experience. Most authors start by writing books no one will ever read. Why not do that with a legion of new writer friends? And for experienced writers who are using NaNo to bring a third or fourth book into the world, who knows? It could be the next Eleanor and Park.
My friend, Leslie Zampetti is over three thousand words into NaNoWriMo, the internet event that challenges writers to pen a 50, 000 word novel in the month of November. Leslie urged me to join her. Thank goodness, I was knee deep in clutter and price stickers for a garage sale we planned last weekend. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to do NaNo and that, for me, would have ended in disaster.
This time of year is hectic enough. One holiday barrels into another. There are gatherings to attend, gifts to buy, goodies to bake, lights to string and out-of-town visitors seeking sunny cheer in Florida. I can't imagine adding a novel committment to that mix. Sure, no one need know that you committed and there's no public exposure of your failure if you don't reach the 50,000 word goal. But I'd know. When I accept a challenge, I give it my best and if I fail, shame finds me.
Shame is an enemy of productivity. I've been struggling with word count the last few weeks and I don't need any more roadblocks so I'm glad I didn't jump into NaNo. But I can't deny I'm a bit jealous of Leslie's great start . . . over three thousand words, twelve pages. Sigh. What I wouldn't give to have twelve fresh pages to admire. Hopefully, my novel's word count will rise before the turkey is eaten. For now, I'll admire Leslie's effort and cheer her on. You can read about Leslie's NaNoWriMo experience on her blog, Rear in Gear.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor