Superheroes, Paris, Magic

Reedies Participate in National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month, shortened to NaNoWriMo by its adherents, is an internet-based creative writing project in which participants attempt to finish a 50,000 word manuscript in November. That amounts to an average of 1,666 words per day – I don’t know how they manage it either. This first draft can then be edited at the enervated author’s discretion. I spoke to two current students, and one alumna, about how their endeavors are faring.

Alyssa Ferguson ‘21, Smoke & Mirror

When did you first start participating in NaNoWriMo?

This is my first year! I’m super excited but slowly dying inside at the same time.

How’d you first hear about it?

Will I get bullied if I say tumblr? [No.] Then tumblr.

Is the novel you’re writing something you’ve had in the works for a while?

It’s something that came to me a few months back that I had outlined but hadn’t done any real work on. NaNoWriMo was exactly the push I needed to dig in.

Have you written novel-length work before?

Oh yeah. My best friend in middle school and I wrote a five-part YA series during high school. Though come to think of it, we never finished the fifth book.

What was the hook? Harry Potter riff, Percy Jackson riff, Twilight riff?

Aw, fuck you! It was a sci-fi book about a government based on the moon who controlled most of humanity, and an omnipotent alien who picked seven people to help fight them. Said alien adopts the main character in a wonderful family-found moment — very touching. Also our love interest became a serial killer at age 15? Man the more I recount, the more I realize how fuckin’ wild it was.

What was the overarching story arc?

Well, another alien came and wiped out the government, so they spend most of the books fighting her. There’s also time travel involved.

How so?

They needed to talk with past friends of the alien. It takes places in 2399, by the way, so back in time means the 2100s.


Hey, I was 14! Trust me, the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo will be better.

What’s that book about?


Go on.

The main character is a victims advocate for the DA who moonlights as a superhero, trying to get the attention of my version of the Justice League They don’t notice her so she creates an archnemesis for herself. Then that archnemesis gets recruited to the villains while her hero is recruited to the justice league. Oh, and her powers are that she can create copies of herself. Why are my plots always so complicated?

What are your main influences?

I went through a comic book phase my senior year of high school where I was reading about ten different DC comics at any given time, but for the most part, books.

Which ones?

I really love YA books and, I know people look down on them, but I just love the community, and the characters, and the plots — I know it’s hard to sum up an entire genre, but there you go. As far as specific favorites I’d say the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows; and The Illuminae Files series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. [For comics] I loved Batman and Robin Eternal, Batgirl (New 52, before the redesign), Batwoman (New 52), and Harley Quinn (New 52).

Héloïse Bardon, French exchange student, La cage aux fumées

When did you first start participating in NaNoWriMo?

I started participating six years ago.

What kind of works have you written?

Fiction. Last year was the only time I wrote something non-contemporary: a historical novel with time travel, La nouvelle Carthage.

Have they been written in English and French?

Only in French, but I am trying to write both an English version and a French version of this year’s novel La cage aux fumées.

What’s it about?

I have a summary: “Ovidie has everything it takes to be happy: an eccentric but lovely family, boyfriend(s), a cute body, lots of adventures, and a certain talent for writing. There’s only one problem: none of it is real. Ovidie is really Olly, a closeted trans deaf guy, bored of his lonely teenage life in Burgundy. When he finally receives his acceptance to a Paris university, he decides to start his transition to adult life by abandoning his online persona and disappearing from the internet completely. Again, there’s only one problem: a year after his escape, one of his former internet friends, Aliyah, tracks him down and is ready to take revenge.” It’s about contemporary youth in Paris, catfishing and LGBTI+ stuff, essentially. I’m currently at 23,300 words as of day 9.

What are your main influences?

Some parts are very autobiographical, while others are inspired by my friends in Paris.

Do you read more English or French novels these days?

Mostly English ones, thanks to Powell’s.

Which ones influenced your approach to this novel/its style?

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata (autobiographical manga), Autoboyographie by Christina Lauren, Appelez-moi Nathan by Quentin Zuitton (French comic telling the real story of a trans young man), Le lambeau by Phillippe Lançon (autobiography of a victim of the Charlie Hebdo attack), and everything by Édouard Louis.

Hannah McConnell ‘18, Untitled

When did you first start participating in NaNoWriMo?

I started my senior year of high school, and I’ve done it every year since, so this year is my sixth time.

Each time has been a separate work?

Yeah. I typically get about one to two-thirds of a way through a work by the time NaNoWriMo is over, and I’ll finish them over December and January, then start something new for the next NaNoWriMo.

So what kind of works have you started in past years?

Mostly urban fantasy, with one sci-fi.

And the one you’re writing this year?

It’s more traditional fantasy, not set anywhere even remotely real.

In what kind of world?

A non-urban one where magic has allowed for technological advances we would expect to see in an equivalent modern city on earth — at worst, the rich have access to clean water and regular heating/lighting, and at best, everyone does. There are a number of established countries that range in stability, all made up of the descendants of different cultural groups that immigrated to the region following a major famine. Depending on the country, these cultural groups may have coordinated to effectively rule together, or there may still be conflict between them.

So how do humans interact with the magic that’s there? What form does it take in their lives?

It varies from place to place. People interact with it directly through spells (all pretty traditional to the genre), and transportation and communication focused spells are especially important, but some areas only utilize those related to infrastructure, like for sterilizing water.

How is society set up, what’s the story?

Some of the countries are premised on the clans that originally immigrated, with roles and interactions between people based on clan standing, which is mostly familial, but can also be on the basis of profession. For less clan-based countries, profession is again important, with jobs relating both to leadership and (perceived) selflessness seen as the most noble. The main plot focuses on characters in three countries and the revolutions that are occuring or have just occurred in two of them. The main characters are all invested in either supporting the current revolution or trying to provide aid to a new government that’s just been created by the other revolution’s leaders.

What are your main influences, whether literary or historical or otherwise?

My literary influences are Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings and Tamora Pierce’s works in general. My historical influences are the rise of the Byzantine Empire following the fall of Rome, the challenges faced by huge regions of the world to find effective new methods of government as British colonialism collapsed, and forms of college student/youth protest from the last 200 or so years.

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