Steamboat novelists hunker down in November for project

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Nicole Inglis on Twitter

— Just one month ago, Sylvia Duncan didn’t know much about her great-grandmother, Miriam Coulter Pence. On Friday night, as she ran her hand over the blue binder in her lap, she felt like she had a new perspective on the strong woman on the cover.

“I feel like I walked in her shoes a bit, and I learned a lot,” Duncan said. “I always heard she was a woman who was very independent.”

Duncan, a participant in the annual National Novel Writing Month, which is in its second year as a Steamboat Springs program, finished a 50,000 word historical fiction novel during November about Pence, a midwife and horsewoman from Indiana.

She was one of about 12 who began the program locally and one of two who finished a novel. Several of the participants, including Anna Roth, who also finished a novel, gathered Friday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore to celebrate the end of the month.

“It’s something I’ve planned to do for many, many years,” Duncan said. “When I heard about (the program), I thought, ‘This is the time to do it.’ I felt as if I’d had it in my head for a long time, and I was just looking for an opportunity to put it down on paper.”

Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore sponsored the November event, which boasts more than 200,000 participants nationwide with almost 40,000 completing their 50,000 words in 2010.

“It’s so fun to watch people blossom as writers,” library adult programs coordinator Jennie Lay said. “At that first meeting, everybody starts out really quiet, kind of unsure, wondering if they should really be in that room doing this, wondering where to begin, wondering if it’s OK to stumble or not stumble. Thirty days later, you have an entire novel.”

The program also has a Young Writers faction, headed by the library’s Sarah Kostin. At Friday’s celebration, Delaney Ziegman and Madeline Brusky, both 10-year-old Soda Creek Elementary School students, talked about the fantasy novels they wrote together.

Delaney, who participated for her second year, wrote almost 40,000 words. Her goal was 12,000.

The two said they want to be like J.K. Rowling when they grow up and dressed up like writers for their school’s “favorite sport or activity day” by wearing pajamas and carrying coffee mugs.

“You’re going into someone else’s world; you’re going into your own world,” Madeline said about her love of writing.

She added that she never would have participated in the program without her “best friend forever” Delaney.

“Reading is a surprise, but I think writing can be as much as if not more of a surprise,” Delaney said. “You never know where your pencil is going.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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