Tallahassee NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Dinner

The cool table of young, hip writers.
Needless to say, I wasn’t one of them.

“At risk of sounding foully pompous, I think that writers’ groups are probably very useful at the beginning of a writer’s career.” – Bernard Cornwell

This past weekend, the Big Bend area of the NaNoWriMo held their 2012 Kick-off Dinner, and I promised I’d tell you all about it if I went. Well I went, so grab a cup of coffee, hurry back, and I’ll fill your heads with a tale of writerly un-bonding titled, “Getting the Blue-Plate Special at the Steel City Saloon.” Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

It was Friday night and I had gotten off to a late enough start as it was. Stopped in traffic, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I squinted past the car ahead and saw blue lights assisting an accident outside the Fairgrounds. The evening traffic drained down to one lane and clogged. Damn. This was the last thing I needed.

The clock told me the event should have started by now, and I’d yet to maneuver the rest of downtown, however, if I knew writers as well as I thought I did, dinner would be late. A traffic cop waved me to an open lane and I zipped past, leaving my patience and tread marks at the scene of the fender-bender. Thirty minutes later, I pulled into the overflow lot of Ray’s Steel City Saloon and made my way to the back patio. It was time to meet my NaNoWriMo cohorts.

More of the young and the hip.
Very Kerouac, I must say.

A bubbly personality in a red dress and black witch’s hat be-bopped around the room making sure everyone was comfortable. “You must be Maggie,” I said.

“Yes…yes…” she absentmindedly murmured, popping her head above the crowd like a prairie dog. “Grab a seat anywhere.” I scanned the sea of shiny, young faces. ‘Anywhere’ proved a problem, for our lanai was packed to the gills with no room for another sardine. “There’s one…I think,” she wondered out loud, pointing to an empty chair in the far corner.

Filtering through the crowd, I nodded, smiled, exchanged niceties along the way, and squeezed between the endless rows of tables to reach my chair. When I finally plopped down and turned to my dinner companions, it dawned on me why this seat was still open. The setting sun was a blow torch that needed a welder’s mask!

So for the next fifteen minutes, Dia, the poor girl to my right, and I sat with our faces down, sunglasses on, and hands shielding our eyes as if we were celebrities trying to remain incognito. Tired of fighting the blaze, I took camera to hand and meandered through the crowd snapping pictures.

Everybody, this is Dia.
Dia, everybody.

I headed over to the first row by the entrance—a table full of young academics. I gathered this was the cool table. “Photo Op! Something for the blog. How’s everybody doing? Ever done NaNo before?”

Crickets.  Hellerrr…is this thing on?

Now, I realize as writers we are solitary creatures, but this felt strangely like the scene where Lindsey Lohan first met The Plastics in Mean Girls. Everybody slowly turned and stared, looking at me like I was so not fetch. Click! It made a great picture. I noticed they loosened up a little more when the drinks came.

John, the other half of Vikki, below,
and Maggie, our Municipal Liaison.

A couple more disappointing crowd shots and I returned to my side of the patio—you know, where the band and chess club sat.

I met Vikki, who is the creative force behind the husband and wife team of Victoria and John Woodward, and pens her pages in longhand before John edits and transcribes to digital. Between bites of my Rabbi Reuben sandwich, I learned of their book, Terra Luna (The Return of Fiorgaels), “an epic urban contemporary fantasy and paranormal romance,” or so their business card read. It’s available on Kindle, if you want to take a look.

As mentioned earlier, the bubbly personality I met when first arriving was Maggie, our fearless Municipal Liaison, who did an excellent job coordinating the night’s festivities.

Vikki is the creative force behind
the husband and wife writing team.

Dia was a quiet little church mouse, but oh-so-delightful when she did pipe in; her voice, such a treat, would pull me close to capture her soft-spoken wisdom. She participated in the NaPoWriMo back in April and knew a little of what to expect with NaNoWriMo.

As did Jory and Brian, who rounded out our table. Both are in their sophomore years of NaNo, with Brian’s story tapping out at 25,000 last year. Quite an accomplishment in its own right — a little novella to publish — but he hopes to double it and reach the 50K this outing.

Jory and Brian are confident that this
is the year they’ll break 50,000.
Over dinner and drinks a composition book was passed, with each Wrimo (as I learned we’re called) taking the previous sentence and adding their own to it. Since there was a decent showing of Wrimos, we wrangled a forty-sentence short story about a fanged, drooling, seven-foot dust-bunny-from-hell. A lack of imagination never presented this gang of wordsmiths a problem.
The lovely Tracy writes Fantasy novels.

At evening’s end, I said my goodbyes, grabbed my welcome kit of a notebook, pen, bookmark and other writerly knick-knacks, and drove the dark roads home, now clear and inviting. Write-ins are scheduled for the upcoming month on Saturdays, and although I promised I’d make one, I really don’t think they’re my cuppa joe. At least, not with this group. For whatever reason, I simply didn’t feel like we clicked.

So for now, no groups for me. We’ll see what comes along in the future.

Has your local group thrown an event like this? I’d love to hear about it and how you feel about writers’ groups. For me, I like the spawning of ideas that comes from gathering with like-minded individuals, but when all is said and done, the writing only happens when I’m alone in my quiet space.

NaNoWriMo Parting Gifts.
(Computer sold separately)

Which brings to mind a closing quote for this installment of Sunday Inspirations, also by Bernard Cornwell:

“Writing is a solitary occupation.”

Good luck to all you Wrimos out there!
ML Swift


11 thoughts on “Tallahassee NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Dinner

  1. Great pictures, Mike. Sounds like you had a blast. I also attended my local kickoff party, but didn't have the presence of mind to take photos. In all my years participating in NaNo, this was the first kickoff party I attended and I'm really glad I did. In the past I participated in online groups and sprints, and I hope to do the same this year. But, I also plan to attend at least two of the local write-ins and the TGIO party on December 1st.I'm thrilled you got to attend your kickoff. You're definitely starting NaNo off right!

  2. Thanks for swinging by, Julie and Roxanne! Yeah, it was great to be able to go and touch base with others who are participating. I'll go to the closing event, too.Roxanne, you'll have to let me know about some of those sprints.Less than three days! I do have an obstacle on the first day…it's my mom's birthday! Don't know how much of the 1667 I'll get done. I'll have to get up SUPER early that day!

  3. ML I did NaNoWriMo last year (2011) and it kicked my butt. It was a wonderful and exhilarating experience, but I had delusions of grandeur. I started out strong, but finished no where near my goal. It sounds like you're going into it with your head on straight and a strategic recipe for success. It's also great you went to the kickoff event and had a good time. Thanks for sharing the experience with us. I'm not gonna be a Wrimo this year, but I'll cheer you on from the sidelines.

  4. Thanks Demetria…I can use all the Pom-pom action on the sidelines that I can get.I have no delusions of grandeur in this endeavor. Remember that I've seen my first drafts, and they suck!! And that's even with an Internal Editor (or Inner Critic) working overtime while I write. I can't imagine what it will look like without him clocking in.Oh, yes I can…and I've got toilet paper for that.Thanks for your cheers!

  5. ML I used to be on the Pom Pom squad in high school (a billion years ago) so I can give you adequate Pom Pom action for NaNoWriMo. Minus the back flips, high jumps, and splits, of course. I do know my forty-something age limits. :)Cheers!

  6. Whoa, I like the hot new look to your blog. I trust you've been writing like crazy by the time you read this. The party sounds like it was great fun. Egg


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