Santa Fe Library workshops offer a novel idea

Marcia Kellum, left, and Jackie Clowney work to develop a character out of a woman in a photo during a group exercise Saturday at the Southside Branch Library for the National Novel Writing Month workshop. Danielle Prokop/The New Mexican

This year’s National Novel Writing Month is one for the books. Really.

November marks the 20th year for NaNoWriMo (pronounced nano-rhymo), a creative writing competition that challenges people to pen a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days.

And this year, the Santa Fe Public Library is hosting workshops where aspiring writers can discuss plot lines, character development and the nitty-gritty of working on a book.

“Come as you are, no experience necessary and just write,” said Jennifer Waller, the local liaison for NaNoWriMo.

She has held the position since 2006, and said participation over the years has ebbed and flowed. “But the one constant is enthusiastic participants,” Waller said.

When a writer hits the goal of 50,000 words, it’s called “winning NaNoWriMo.” In the years she has participated, Waller has met that goal all but three times. She has published sci-fi and horror novels.

Her advice for new writers?

“Word-vomit it out and edit later,” she said, “You can only get feedback if you’ve written it first.”

Elena Valdez, one of the librarians who helped with a workshop Saturday at the Southside Branch Library, said this is the first year the library has offered the space and a little bit of structure to help writers meet their goal.

“We have a really great space to do this work,” Valdez said.

Marcia Kellum, an artist and self-described jack-of-all-trades, came on a whim after seeing a flyer for it the day before.

“I started a novel three years ago and I need serious help on it,” she said.

Jackie Clowney, sporting a ring made from the key of a 1920 Underwood typewriter, participated in the competition last year. She works in commercial real estate in Santa Fe and is also pursing a master’s degree in creative writing from Mississippi University for Women.

“I didn’t used to consider myself a writer, but I considered myself a storyteller, but now I’m working on my creative writing and I love it,” Clowney said.

She heard about NaNoWriMo through her university.

“I did it last year but didn’t go to any events,” she said. This year is different. Clowney invites everyone to the “write-ins” at Java Joe’s on Rodeo Road and encourages others to take the plunge.

Saturday’s workshop was small and intimate. Halloween candy was set out on tables. One of the group exercises was to look at a photo and name the character.

Valdez handed out a copy of an older woman wrapped in silk.

Names were called out, jumping off from Valdez’s suggestion of Elsa.

“I think Elsa’s going to be a tough name with Frozen, but that looks like Evelyn or an Edith,” Waller said.

“I like Edith. She’s an older, refined woman,” Kellum said

A middle name, Fae, was decided upon, and ideas about her former showgirl life, whether she was challenging onlookers or grieving the loss of youth, were heartily debated.

Valdez ended it on a high note.

“I’m getting inspired myself to go and do some writing,” she said.

The Southside Branch will host another workshop next weekend offering discussion and writing exercises. It will also offer prizes, biscotti and a notebook.


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