Sunday, September 18, 2022

Volunteering as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo

In my last post, I talked about what NaNoWriMo is, and what I've done with it over the years.  In addition to participating as a writer every year, I am also a Municipal Liaison, known as an ML, which basically just means I'm an organizer for my region, the Denver region.

I had been doing NaNo for a number of years when I decided to apply as an ML.  I was already organizing write-ins and was quite active in the local events for our region.  I started "MLing" in 2015, which means that this will be my eighth year as an ML.

Eight years!  I can hardly believe it.  When I started, I was replacing one of our region's two MLs, as she was moving.  She later moved back, and since we have a busy region and really need more than just a couple MLs, she rejoined the team.  (More recently, a longtime ML from about ten years ago has moved back to the Denver area, so we're hoping she'll rejoin the team next year, too.)

As I keep mentioning, we have a busy region here in Denver.  The last couple years have been all virtual due to covid, but before that, we always had a kickoff party Halloween night from 10pm until 2am (so that we could start writing right at midnight), and at least one write-in nearly every day of the month throughout November.

A write-in, by the way, is where a group of wrimos get together and... you guessed it... write.  We do this at book stores, coffee shops, libraries, cafes, college community areas, and pretty much just anywhere that'll put up with us. Most write-ins last two to three hours, and if you have a successful time, you can easily leave with your daily word count (or more!) finished.  They're fantastic for keeping up motivation, spirits, and word count.

As an ML, it's our job to run this busy month of moving parts.  We put a fair bit of planning into the kickoff party especially, usually starting weeks if not months in advance.  We don't have to plan all the write-ins - wrimos do some of that too - but we plan quite a few of them.  We also have a calendar we manage for all of the write-ins and events, a regional forum within the NaNoWriMo forum that we have to stay on top of, regular emails we send out to participants, and social media presences to maintain.

In addition to all of that, there are extra things that we often do in our region.  One of my co-MLs has developed a relationship with Denver's version of Comic Con (the name has changed a few times since they had to stop using the name Comic Con, but the con itself has been the same).  We get a community table there nearly every year, where we hang out and educate people about NaNoWriMo.  We also often speak on panels at the con about doing NaNoWriMo and other aspects of novel writing.

It's not a huge volunteer job, especially as so much of the "job" coincides with what I would be doing anyway (planning and going to write-ins), but it's nothing to sneeze at, either.  I feel like the past seven-soon-to-be-eight years have taught me a lot of skills that have benefitted me both professionally and personally, such as more confidence with public speaking, better people skills, more networking opportunities, and experience organizing events.  Plus, as funny as it sounds, it has given me writing experience I wouldn't have gotten as easily doing what I do: It encouraged me to keep up with my fiction writing (my first love), and also gave me an opportunity to practice my writing for emails and mailings, which I don't do a lot of in my "day job."

As I write this, we're in the early stages of NaNo prep season.  While our wrimos are starting to plot and plan, we're ordering stickers from headquarters and getting a location and other details nailed down for our kickoff party (planned way in advance because we require a venue that can handle anywhere from 60-70 people, to as many as 130 when November 1st falls on a weekend).

This year's NaNoWriMo will be an especially big deal, and I'll talk about why in my next post.

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