Well, it happened yesterday. And it was great!
Since it was my first program, I was a bit nervous. I mean, I’d helped with lots of programs, and I’d dreamt up a lot of ideas that other people helped execute, but this one was my first time in charge of creating, marketing, and hosting a library event.
I started planning about a month and a half ago. I had just gotten my feet under me at the library, and noticed a lack of adult programming. We were also a library in transition (we hired a new director in October, and lost our interim Children’s Program Coordinator as a result), so it needed to be something relatively easy to do alone. And then I realized – Nanowrimo was a month away.
Nanowrimo, for those who don’t know, is the shortened version of National Novel Writing Month. It’s been going on for over 10 years, and has grown immensely in the past few. The goal is to write 50k words on a novel manuscript during the 30 days of November. That boils down to 1667 words/day – no mean feat.
There were a number of benefits to using Nanowrimo as my first program. One, I was familiar with it. I’ve been doing Nanowrimo myself for 7 years now, both in Michigan and in Pittsburgh, so I understood how write ins work – and don’t work. This was huge, since I’m on a limited time and money budget. It also allowed me to target the audience I was after, in this case the group of writers who do Nano, but also the teens in my library.
The Office of Letters and Light runs Nanowrimo, along with a few coordinated programs. The first is the Come Write In program, which encourages bookstores, libraries, and other “third space” locations to host write ins. Write ins are group meetings for writers. They range from impromptu and informal to structured and organized. Mine was somewhere between the two – being planned but not particularly structured. The OLL sends out free kits to Come Write In spaces (cost of shipping) that include some handy advertising materials, including a window sticker and posters.
They also run the Young Writers Program, which is designed mostly for use by teachers or other structured settings. The important thing for me is that they put out a YWP kit, which I ordered in addition to the Come Write In kit.
I wanted to combine experienced writers with the teens at my program, so I aimed pretty wide. I advertised a bit on tumblr (though not to much effect, since it was started about 4 days before the program), had posters around the library, and talked directly with patrons, especially teens. I was hoping for a few more older teens than I got, but I did get 4 neighborhood kids.
The major point of contact was the Nanowrimo forums. I advertised the write in early – in October, to let the people in charge of the Pittsburgh region add my event to their calendar. Then I started a forum thread in the region, explaining the point of the program, the source of the idea, where it was at, etc. Then I kept an eye on it to answer any questions (a lot came up about parking and whether there would be Gluten Free food at the event). I asked for a rough head count there to help plan.
I did my grocery shopping on a budget of $100 at Costco. I’ll admit I went a little over, but nearly everything will keep, so it can be used for other children’s/teens programs around the library. I asked our local Barnes and Noble for a small gift donation, and they really came through – I got two tote bags, a mug with tea strainer, and 3 copies of a Greek Mythology collection. I also got an invitation to come meet with them early next year to talk about a better relationship between the store and our library (since we’re the only library in this borough). Yes connections!
I set up for about 10 people. I pulled 2 local teens who had come into use the computer in with the promise of breakfast. I had breakfast foods and beverages set up. After all, if you feed them, they will come. It works at church, it works in college, and it works for libraries (most of the time; my demographic is particularly likely to fulfill that adage). Because of the chatter on the forum, I had some Gluten Free options ready. Because I was hoping for teens, I mixed up chips/cookies with fruit and pretzels. The hummus was surprisingly popular, too, and all of the teens tried it. Most of them had never seen it.
Also, coffee. Coffee is important for this kind of thing. I even have a Nanowrimo mug!
As far as library resources, I tapped the large room. Often we rent this on weekends, so I scheduled it early. Conveniently, the weekend I wanted was the only one open. Score!
I also used the library’s collection of laptops to supplement those who wanted to type their stories, but didn’t have laptops of their own. It’s a problem I’ve seen in a lot of Nano regions – people without laptops don’t come, because everyone else is typing (much faster). I also offered notebooks and pens for people who didn’t want to type. There were 3 people in notebooks.
I did forget my power strip, which was almost a problem. The group (around 16 people at its biggest) was really good about rotating use of the power supply. Good folk.
The reaction was great – lots of people came into the library who had never been there. We have an amazing facility in an area with a sketchy reputation, so a lot of people have never found a reason to come. One of the writers told me she’d come back next week to write on her own in our reading room. I told her that if it got colder we might turn on the fireplace for a truly epic writing experience.
The big victory for me was that the teens asked to do it again. They asked for next month, but since that’s the holiday break for me, I’ll be home in Michigan, so I told them to wait til January. If there’s enough interest, we can do a writing group. Time will tell if they are more interested in the writing or the snacks.
Check out some pictures from the event here, and feel free to comment/ask questions.