Steamboat writers of all ages take on monthlong challenge
December 4, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Delaney Ziegman opened her journal to one of 37 pages of fantasy fiction she'd written in the past month.
The 9-year-old's wide blues eyes scanned the pages as she read descriptions of unicorns, dragons, her heroine Ezra and the evil, beady-eyed monsters she called Delvers.
"I write a lot, so this was really cool," she said about working on her novel. "This was one of my best months."
Wednesday night at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Delaney ate gluten-free cupcakes and celebrated — along with her new writing friends — the completion of a story of about 5,000 words during National Novel Writing Month's Young Writers Program.
At the celebration, youth services librarian Sarah Kostin handed out library badges, certificates and prizes to the four participants who attended. Two more children also showed up for the weekly meetings.
"Aren't you guys proud?" Kostin asked.
"Very proud," answered Delaney, jumping up and down.
"Can we continue it?" Hannah Woods asked.
To the delight of the children, Kostin agreed to continue into the new year what was supposed to be a four-session writing workshop.
"I've gotten more done than I ever have in my entire life," Delaney said about the past month. "It's been a great opportunity, and I've even made some new friends."
Now, she has set an even bigger goal: 5,000 pages in the next three years.
Max Hall, 8, wrote 4,185 words, a mighty feat for a boy who claimed he never had previously written outside of school.
His story was a description of a toy sailboat race at a Cub Scouts meeting.
"It was really cool," he said about the program. "We had a lot of jokes."
The adult National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, program challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel in one month, a challenge that 13 Steamboat residents took on at the beginning of November.
"I'm so impressed," said Jennie Lay, the library's adult program coordinator. "It's been really awesome."
There were more than 200,000 participants nationwide.
Susan de Wardt, a local writer and writing instructor, got to about 18,000 words, but her real accomplishment was not quantitative.
Having wanted to write a book for several years, de Wardt finally broke through writer's block by forcing herself to simply put words on the page.
"I was really up against it," she said. "I told myself to just put some other word on the page. Write anything. That was really a revelation because I committed to it."
In the past month, she's finally formulated the outline for 18 chapters of her memoirs, featuring humorous and inspiring stories from her travels abroad.
As of Friday, only one of the 13 novelists came forward to claim reaching the 50,000-word milestone.
Nancie McCormish was one of 37,000 winners nationwide, which is about 19 percent of the total participants.
She said she wasn't expecting to be the only local finisher, and she attributed her success to de Wardt's weekly workshops.
"Pretty soon, I'm writing, and it's all the things I want to say," McCormish, a rancher and horse specialist, said about falling into a writing rhythm.
She finished 50,000 words, but her historical fiction novel set in Routt County is far from finished. Her lead character, Angus, grew up on a local homestead and fought in the Civil War.
His story intertwines with historical events, landscapes and, of course, horses.
Despite her achievement, McCormish still hesitates to call herself a writer, but her eyes light up as she describes how something such as the changing colors of the cottonwoods have inspired her novel.
"To use one of Susan's sayings, I've got this story by the tail," McCormish said.
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