“Then again, I do not place a terribly high value on human life in general, so my opinion will be different from yours.”
It was the last line of the day for Stewart Huntsman ’16, who emailed it to the 22 other Kenyon students participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The international writing craze, which challenges aspiring novelists to compose 50,000 words by November 30, is gaining popularity at a college known for producing best-selling authors like Laura Hillenbrand ’89 and John Green ’00.
NaNoWriMo is hosted on campus by the Kenyon Writing Center-Writing Table (KWC-WT, pronounced “quick wit”). For motivation, the organization encourages writers to submit their last lines in an email along with a daily word count to the other participants.
Huntsman, a history major from Salt Lake City, Utah, is writing a fantasy novel in which “angels” who speak only in terms of probabilities, not certainties, play a kind of chess game with humans who don’t realize they’re part of the game.
“Some of the people on the email thread have heard the first 30 or 40 pages of the story,” Huntsman said. “They have a vague sense of what’s going on.”
“Stewart’s last lines are always really funny,” said Jessica Berger ’17 of Baltimore, another NaNoWriMo writer who is thinking about declaring English as her major.
Berger’s novel is a realistic fiction story about a summer camp where the girls are really mean to each other. She set her word count at 50,000—the recommended goal for NaNoWriMo. It’s the third time she has participated in the project, and each time she has reached her goal.
Huntsman, on the other hand, hopes to hit 25,000 words by the end of November—the same amount he wrote last year on the same project.
Others, like Glynis Schumacher ’14 of Gambier, Ohio, will be happy if she meets her 6,000 word goal.
“I write very slowly,” said the chemistry and physics double major. “For a lot of people, they’re like, ‘I can write 6,000 words in a day!’ I really appreciate the fact that I can say I’m going to write 6,000 words over the course of November. And I think I’m making so much progress.”
That’s the true point of NaNoWriMo, said Jeanne Griggs, director of the Writing Center and faculty advisor for KWC-WT.
“It’s easy for your own writing—writing for pleasure—to take a back seat, especially during this time of year for students,” said Griggs. “The students are finding fun ways to help it not take a back seat.