Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Unbound

National Novel Writing Month is NOW – that is November 1-30 every year.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for six years, and for three of those years I was successful in drafting 50,000 word novels.

This year I was asked to write a NaNoWriMo pep talk (YAY! – does that mean I’ve arrived!) and it was selected to share with writers on November 4, 2016.


They are only publishing half of my 1,300 word essay.


  1.  SIGN UP to write a novel in November at (for adults). (for under 18)
  2. Donate . . .
  3. Read my full essay below.

Dear NaNoWriMo Colleague,

This message is for you. Yeah, you. You know who you are. You are the one so worried about having nothing to write about that you create a whole system of references and stimulators. Hey, a passage from Dante maybe, “Abandon Hope all you who enter here.” Before your writing start date you stick some phrase like that somewhere on a 3×5 card or add it to the comments on your page – on the computer or near the writing pad, whatever you use. When you come across it you’ll have something to say, everybody’s got something to say about abandoning hope, so you won’t have to worry about writer’s block.

What is a writer’s block anyway? Is it a block in a city with writers crammed in on the grassy lawns beyond the sidewalks. There they are, all of them, grinning out at you over bird baths and fallen leaves. And they are not just on the lawns and the porches, they fill the houses. Grinning. You can see them. A block full of writers, looking at you. What are you going to do about them? Maybe you should just write a novel show them.

I know you are not going to believe me, but it is actually all in  your head already. I see you. You’re leaving your job in New Mexico, on your way to Almansil, Portugal, because you can’t seem to get your head clear enough to write your novel. It’s probably not Portugal. It’s probably not New Mexico. But it’s someplace. You know I’m telling the truth. You’re always leaving someplace to get someplace to write this novel.

So tell yourself you’ve already done that. You already left someplace else. You’ve arrived. You can start because you’re already here.

You could always make it an epic. Of Man. Of Woman. Of the sneaky one. Of the angry one. Of the pious one. And what they did. How it turned out. Up to no good, of course, trying to find a way out of what? It was easy, but they made it so hard. Just take these sentences I’m sending you right now, put each sentence on the top of a page. Put each word of the sentence three or four lines down from the next word, and then fill it in.

I won’t say, “All you have to do is just fill it in.” Don’t you hate that? I hate for some advisor to say to me about some task, “All you have to do is just . . . ”  Whoever says that is lying. There is no “just” in “all you have to do is just” . . . whatever it is they are suggesting for you do will take an hour at least, if not a day or a week, a month or a year. Still, you could try! You could put one word after another word and then connect them.

Once I did a NaNoWroMo novel. I took two places, a seashore in Massachusetts, a desert in Arizona. And then I thought about the sand in the two places. It’s somewhere to start. And two children in the sand. And sand paintings. And ribbed sand at low tide. The moon does a lot of that, messing with sand. But what was I talking about? How is the sand in Massachusetts connected to the sand in Arizona? I had these two places, and then I put people in them. It actually worked. You could try that.

Sometimes the words are a waterfall and the water knows exactly where its coming from and exactly where its going. If your story is like that you are only listening to me to be polite. You are taking a break between catching buckets of water to pour out into words. That’s okay. I’m so anxious to read what you are writing that I don’t mind how you misuse my words. I want to know what you are knowing as you pour away into your word count. Books that pour like waterfalls have been a long time coming. Mine was started by an uncle, a hospital, a birth, and then forty years later a lake filled up and the water flowed over onto the page. That was all right with me. It only happened once for me that way. Mostly I take much too long and use too many words.

And then there is the story that is going to take forever any way, so why not wait until bleak November to get started. November. But what is November like in another hemisphere? Isn’t it May? It is if you are talking about earth. But November is called November everywhere. November springtime has the same name as November autumn. Do you say fall or autumn? I prefer autumn, but sometimes I’m browbeaten by convention and I say fall. Write fall.

And there is the space between the words. You could always try that again in the words don’t flow.

And, for all you know, there, near the discarded hair brush, is the space you have to write through. The words we long for, the storytelling words that matter.

So the end of beginning comes. I promise it to you. You may not be beside the Mediterranean. Perhaps not in the Sandia Mountains. And not on the great river. But who knows, perhaps it is possible. But wait before tweaking it and shaping it and molding it just so. Take this time just to scatter all the pieces in front of you, and then slowly, after the time, methodically, gather the heaps of visions into place. Gather them, watch them, follow them.

That’s only how you start. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ll be writing me to tell me you didn’t start that way at all, because that’s the way you get there. You have to have the words, but you can twist them and unloose as you lean in. I would love to have just one glass bead holding an image of how you start. We could have our own glass bead game placing and replacing images, voices, places. Would it be enough? Probably not. It would not be entirely enough for the world, but you could try. Are you the one we have been waiting for? Are these the words?

My favorite gift. My favorite novel. A friend gave it to me. It was a ream of paper, 500 pages, blank. It was all wrapped up in fancy paper. “When you read this book it will be your favorite book in the whole world.” And there it was, The novel I had to write myself. Get yourself a ream of paper and make your favorite book. That’s one way to do it.

Who has time to write a novel in one month, not me.

But the thing is, do you have the fortitude NOT to write a novel this November? Give in, give up and write it. You’ll find after all that writing your novel it is the easy way out. And there you have it, another wild bold story loosed into the world. I like it.

Carolivia Herron



Carolivia Herron: Promoting Epic Intersections in art and community

Are you ready for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? DO IT!

And check out my writerly pep talk.

Epics run through my life. I loved Milton as a child. I studied classics, earning a PhD, and taught Epic Literature at major universities. I wrote an epic as a children’s book – Nappy Hair – and left academia to pursue a dream of helping others find the epic story within communities and individuals.

Today I write and help others see the story within them. I travel the country speaking and leading seminars. I work with educators and schools to help reduce absenteeism and increase graduation rates. I talk to Jewish groups about my unusual Jewish Africana history, speaking on topics as varied as “Why I am not going to say anything about Ferguson” or “Banned in Brooklyn: The Judaic Journey of Nappy Hair from Washington DC to New York City.” And I speak about topics connected to my other books, such as the Geechee/Jewish connection in Always An Olivia and the family folklore quality of Little Georgia And the Apples.

I publish others, host a weekly radio show featuring local writers and artists, …. I mentor Washington DC youth as they develop their literary and performing arts skills.


The latest from Carolivia Herron

Book Cover for Peacesong DC

Carolivia’s latest book, Peacesong DC went to press on her 69th birthday, July 22, 2016. Peacesong DC consists of fictionalized autobiographical chapters extracted and amended from Carolivia Herron’s longer work, Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair, in order to highlight the Washington DC aspect of the author’s identity.

In Peacesong DC Carolivia’s persona, Shirah Shulamit Ojero has four loves, her African American culture, her Jewish heritage, academic study — especially the study of literary epics — and her city, Washington, DC. Peacesong DC displays the interconnection of these four loves as Shirah grows up in the Washington DC neighborhoods of Mayfair Mansions, Kenilworth, Anacostia, Takoma DC. and downtown.

If you would like to have Carolivia talk about her latest book, contact her at Available for purchase in paperback on Barnes & Noble or papberback and Kindle on Amazon.

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