Mia couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her, the star of someone’s novel? The star of a certain sushimustwrite’s novel? The same sushimustwrite who was rumored to know everything about Wrimonia and NaNoWriMo? How could sushimustwrite choose to write about a novel all about Mia?
“All about me?” Mia managed to squeak out after a few minutes. Tiakall and Heather had run off by now, probably to chase down forum rule-breakers or other delicious Wrimos (Mia remembered seeing a Wrimo named Lobster at some point). “But I’m really boring and I didn’t even finish NaNo last year. Why would you want to write about me?”
“Because you’re more interesting than you think you are,” sushimustwrite replied.
“But I’m just me,” Mia said. “If you want someone interesting for your book, try someone on the NaNo staff or someone NaNo famous or someone who’s actually doing something interesting with NaNo. Not me!”
“But you are interesting,” sushimustwrite said. “You struggle with NaNo sometimes but still stay determined–”
“Not last year!”
“That makes you more interesting,” sushimustwrite pointed out. “You’ve faced lots of distractions just like other Wrimos have, and you’ve defeated most of them. You can tell Wrimos about how you did it and how you traversed the many paths of Wrimonia. You’ve learned a lot about NaNo and Wrimonia during your short time here and you’re eager to learn more. You’re determined, writerly, and you don’t give up. You are the ideal main character.”
Mia still didn’t believe this but didn’t have the energy to protest. “But how can I be the star of YOUR novel? You’re… you’re sushimustwrite,” Mia protested. “You’re supposed to know everything about NaNoWriMo and Wrimonia. Or at least that’s what everyone’s told me, anyway.”
“Not everything,” sushimustwrite replied. “No one can know everything about NaNo. It would be an impossible feat, though a very impressive one nonetheless. I’ve been trying to find out everything I could about NaNo what with starting Wikiwrimo a few years ago, but…” sushimustwrite paused. “It turns out that there’s an awful lot to learn about NaNo. the deeper you dig into NaNo and its history and culture, the more there is to learn. Sort of like math.”
Mia didn’t say anything. She couldn’t really relate to this; she was never a big math person. She never really struggled in math classes, but they certainly weren’t her favorite courses, and she certainly never went out of her way to take more math than she absolutely had to. Yes, she did take AP Statistics in high school, but that was just so she could get the credit for the course in college, or at least try to anyway. She barely succeeded at that, but she succeeded and that was what mattered. Sort of like succeeding at NaNo. It didn’t matter whether you wrote fifty thousand words in thirty days or one day or whether you wrote two thousand words or two hundred thousand. It only mattered whether you thought you were a success.
“But I don’t like math,” Mia said. “And if you’re my author you should probably make a note of that because it might come up again.”
“But isn’t there anything you’ve liked so much that you wanted to dig deeper into and then discovered that there was a lot more to learn?” sushimustwrite asked hopefully.
Mia thought about this for a minute. The truth was that… well, there wasn’t anything, really. There was a reason she chose English as a major. She liked books but didn’t want to commit to reading a particular book. Even her senior thesis was probably the most general thing she could get approved by her advisor, and she only chose an English major because she wanted to keep reading books and get course credit for it, probably a reason lots of people choose that major.
Btu in all of Mia’s years, sure, she had hobbies. She liked to read. She liked to write. She occasionally took a hankering to knitting. She tried crochet at some point in the past but gave up after making too many tangled messes and tossing the whole thing. On her sister’s recommendation she once tried roleplaying but never liked it.
“Honestly, not really,” Mia replied.
“What about writing?” sushimustwrite asked. “Do you like to plot your novels? Have you ever edited something you’ve written? Maybe one of your past NaNo novels?”
“I am a plotter,” Mia said thoughtfully. “But I’ve never edited anything I’ve written for NaNo.” Truth be told, Mia didn’t want to edit anything she had written for NaNo. Not yet, anyway. The effort from the first year of NaNo was too awful to edit and deserved its place in a bonfire. She told sushimustwrite this. “The book from my second year wasn’t that bad,” Mia said. “It could really use a rewrite before really editing the thing, though.”
“And to do that you’re going to have to go deeper,” sushimustwrite said. “You’ll have to get to know your characters better, get to know your setting, get to know your plot. Take what you already know from your first draft and go deeper, maybe faster, but that part doesn’t matter too much as long as you know your world as well as you know yourself by the end of the thing. It’s the same thing when I’ve been exploring NaNo and its history. I keep thinking I know a good bit about NaNo. Heck, some of the NaNo staff have said I know more about NaNo than they do. But there’s so much more to explore when I look at little things, especially in the history. Not all of Wrimonia’s archives are there, and it takes a huge effort to find such archives, especially when they may or may not exist in the first place. And when they do exist but not all the pieces of the puzzle are there, I have to put the pieces together myself. It’s a lot of fun.”
“So what are you trying to tell me?” Mia asked.
“I don’t have the answers to everything,” sushimustwrite told Mia. “It may sound nice to know someone who knows a lot about NaNo, and goodness knows I’m not the only person who does. But no one knows everything, as you’ve already discovered. You’ll find this out as you keep going into Wrimonia and asking people about things. You’ll find out that you too know a lot about NaNo that other people don’t know, especially those who are doing NaNo for the first time. You could wow them with your knowledge.”
“but you can wow me with yours,” Mia said.
“That’s not the point,” sushimustwrite reminded Mia. sushimustwrite looked at her.
“Look, I need to ask you something.” Mia turned over the best way to ask this in her head, wishing she had rehearsed this sooner. She could have run into sushimustwrite at any time.
“I was wondering if you could help me with something. Well, a couple of somethings.”
“I can certainly try,” sushimustwrite said. “I can’t promise anything, but depending on the request I can do my best to help you out. What is it you’d like me to help you with?”
“Well….” Mia paused for a minute, wondering what sushimustwrite would think about the first request. Sushimustwrite had been around the NaNo block, according to lots of folks Mia had talked to. She might have even met Chris Baty in person. What would she think about Mia’s trying to bring Chris Baty back to Wrimonia? And the legends of NaNo… What if they’re documented in this wiki sushimustwrite had mentioned? It all seemed so simple. Why didn’t Mia look up the legends in this wiki sooner?
“NaNo feels different this year,” Mia started.
“Well, it’s your fourth year,” sushimustwrite replied. “And you’re coming back after a nonfinish last year. It’s going to feel a little bit different and that’s completely understandable. You want to win this year, yes?” Mia nodded.
“I’m in it to win it,” Mia replied. “It’s okay if I’ve lost one year, but losing two years in a row… I don’t know if I could stand that.”
“I have a friend who has done NaNo as long as I have,” sushimustwrite replied. “And how many times has she finished? None.” Mia gasped here and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could sushimustwrite continued. “She still keeps coming back year after year, and she still has ideas to write. And heck, I think she just might win this year.”
“Don’t you say that every year?”
“Well, yes,” sushimustwrite admitted. “But this year I really think she can win, even if she might not think so. So keep believing in yourself and you can win. Now why else would you think Wrimonia feels different this year?”
Mia sighed, again thinking of what sushimustwrite thought of Chris Baty. “Wrimonia just isn’t the same without Chris Baty,” Mia finally said.
“Why would Wrimonia feel different?” sushimustwrite asked.
“I don’t know!” Mia exclaimed. “All my NaNos have involved Chris Baty leading Wrimonia and NaNo, and now he’s not here anymore and something in the air feels different. I don’t know what it is, but there was something in the air around here that was just… Baty.”
“You know, I’ve experienced this before. And yes, with NaNo,” sushimustwrite added before Mia could say anything. “You know how Lindsey Grant’s the current program director?” Mia nodded. “That used to be Chris Baty’s job. People thought things would be different when Lindsey Grant started giving pep talks and making more announcements around Wrimonia. But not that much changed. Does Lindsey have her own voice and style? Absolutely. Things would be boring if she didn’t, and I personally like it. But she still maintains the big picture voice that is Wrimonia. She wouldn’t have been chosen for the job if she didn’t.”
“But she’s not Chris Baty,” Mia said. “And Chris Baty himself was still around during that time, just not in that same position.”
“Okay, here’s another example,” sushimustwrite replied. “You don’t remember this since it happened before your time, but a long time ago NaNo transitioned into a nonprofit called the office of letters and Light. Chris became the head of this organization and people thought lots of things would change because of this. As it turned out, the main thing that changed was the improvement of everything. So many things were better run, more people got involved, and much more. And okay, a lot more things had to be watched out for because of their nonprofit status, but besides, that, not much really changed for regular Wrimos like us.”
“Regular Wrimos?” Mia asked, ready to protest this title.
“Yes, regular Wrimos. And I do include moderators and Municipal Liaisons and everyone else in this. People who aren’t staff,” sushimustwrite finished. “Basically these changes may look like big changes but they’re not that big on the whole. They just mean that things will be a little different on the backend. The nonprofit thing? That meant a lot of organizational stuff plus being able to donate year round, which let me tell you, I’ve been wanting for awhile before that. I was a student back then and didn’t always have the money to donate in November, so that was definitely welcomed. And Lindsey coming into the program director helm? That primarily left Chris to concentrate on other things within NaNo to make it bigger and better so Lindsey could run NaNo itself.”
“So what about Chris being gone altogether?” Mia asked. “That means he’ll never be here anymore… ever.”
“Oh, he’s probably still doing NaNo,” sushimustwrite said. “He founded NaNo! Without him NaNo and the wonderful community wouldn’t exist for us to enjoy and to meet new friends and write books and maybe even get them published. It wouldn’t exist for us to reach out and become better than we ever thought we could be. But him not begin at the head of NaNo now means that yes, someone else is doing it. But it also means that he’s going out on his own big fun scary adventure. Do you remember that forum that comes up after NaNo’s over?”
Mia shook her head. Truth be told, she didn’t really hang out in the forums post-November.
“That forum is sort of like a new year’s resolutions forum, but it starts in December and lets you make more than one goal and lets you talk to people who are going for the same things or even just other Wrimos going for their own adventures. They do have to be big, fun, and scary, or at least one of the three. Last year I made one of my goals to move out, and let me tell you, that was a scary prospect with little money and no job leads. But I did it and I’ve never been happier.”
“What does your life have to do with Chris Baty?” Mia asked.
“Chris Baty is doing this on his own,” sushimustwrite said. “His current big fun scary adventure is to be a full-time author, and that’s something he’s never had the time to do while working on NaNo full time. That’s practically juggling two jobs at once, and taking the plunge to full time writer is a scary thing in itself. What if you fail? What if you get a ton of bad reviews? What if? I’ve thought about it myself. But really, he’s living the mission of NaNo by leaving. Strange, I know it seems at first, but oh so true.”
“You mean he’s doing the right thing by leaving?” Mia asked. She still wasn’t convinced, but maybe she could understand what sushimustwrite was saying here.
sushimustwrite nodded. “Absolutely,” she replied. “And you’re probably not going to convince him to come back and run Wrimonia again.”
“But what if I could just find him? I mean, he must know more about the legends of NaNo than anyone else. Well, except you.”
“The legends of NaNoWriMo?”
“Well, yes, that was the other thing I was going to ask you,” Mia said. “I’ve heard about these legends of NaNo, and I don’t know why, but somehow these all seem connected. I think I’ve even seen one of the legends in person for real but don’t have a way to verify this.”
“For real? As opposed to a fake one?”
“That’s what everyone’s been telling me, like the experience could be fake instead of real. How can something be fake if you really experienced it?”
“It’s not,” sushimustwrite replied. “It’s real because you experienced it. Just as it’s real in your mind, it’s real in your own set of personal experiences. Someone else out there may think it’s fake, but that doesn’t change anything for your own.”
“But what about the people who say otherwise? What about the people who say that certain things about the inspiration garden are real or fake or what have you? What about everyone who says that there’s only one true inspiration garden experience or noveling nirvana experience, not that I’ve ever experienced noveling nirvana myself?” Mia was talking faster and faster by this point, and she realized that she was out of breath by the time she stopped asking all these questions. It was an awful lot for sushimustwrite to take in at once, Mia was sure, but there wasn’t much of a way to get all these questions out.
“Okay, hold on a minute,” sushimustwrite replied. “Remember what I said about your experiences all being real? That applies to other people as well. Don’t listen to what other people say about a given experience being fake. It’s the same way about ignoring cheaters. Their experiences, whether they sound better or worse or maybe even more real than yours, that doesn’t make them any more real or fake. All of these experiences are genuine, and all of them are true to what you’re experiencing and getting out of NaNo.”
“But what if Chris Baty says something different?”
Sushimustwrite paused, not having much to say to this. Mia couldn’t read sushimustwrite’s mind but if she could, Mia had a feeling sushimustwrite probably wanted to clobber Mia right now. Or at least Mia would if the situation was swapped.
“Chris Baty isn’t the final authority here.”
“Let’s find out.”
“Whoa whoa, I don’t know anything more about where Chris Baty is than you do, and let’s face it, that’s not all that much,” sushimustwrite said. “how am I supposed to help you find Chris?”
“But you’re sushimustwrite!” Mia said. “Everyone’s told me you know everything about NaNo. Surely you know where Chris Baty is.”
“Look, if the NaNo staff have no idea where he is–”
“I’ve already asked them. They have no idea.”
“Then how do you expect me to know? I’m just this gal, you know?”
“Then will you help me then?”
“With finding Chris Baty? I’m not sure how much help I can provide, to be honest. The most I could do is tell you whether or not you’re terribly wrong in your guesses. And what if I lead you to some dangerous spots within Wrimonia?”
“The Pit of Procrastination? Don’t tell me you’ve never been there before.”
“How’d you know? That’s part of how I never finished last year.”
“I’ve been here since 2002 and believe me, I know all about the Pit of Procrastination. That’s why I hardly got any real work done last year. Blame my novel and the lures of the Internet. But I’m telling you, there’s not much I can really do with helping you find Chris Baty.”
“Well, can you at least be, I don’t know, a mentor of some kind? Not the kind newbies get when it’s their first time doing NaNo since I’m not a newbie, but you know, guide me to the right place when I have guesses? Guide me to the right places involving these legends?”
sushimustwrite considered this for a minute. What would it cost her to do this? Mia could almost see the wheels turning in sushimustwrite’s head.
“I could do that,” sushimustwrite said. “I can’t promise that everything I tell you will help you or even that it’ll be right. DO you agree to this?”
Mia considered this for a minute. sushimustwrite, yes, sushimustwrite! could lead Mia in completely the wrong direction in finding Chris Baty, and Mia wouldn’t be able to blame her. They were two girls going on a wild goose chase, or was that a wild Baty chase? In either case, they were definitely looking for something that they may or may not find.
“Okay,” Mia said. “I can work with this. Let’s get some stuff done.”
The two of them shook on this.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to write.” Sushimustwrite made to walk away from Mia.
“Hey!” Mia yelled behind sushimustwrite. “Why can’t I come with you? You already said I’m your character!”
sushimustwrite turned around. “Isn’t that what you’re doing now?” sushimustwrite asked. “Besides, I already have this scene, and it’s ready to be written. I like you, Mia, but I don’t need all my characters to follow me around all the time. Sometimes Wrimo introverts gotta introvert.”
Mia took this as a sign to go away and work on her own novel, which was certainly lacking in word count. It was okay. She hadn’t written a word that day yet anyway, much like sushimustwrite.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Mia said. “Let’s do a word war. You said you haven’t written anything yet today either.”
Mia watched as sushimustwrite’s eyes lit up. “Okay,” sushimustwrite said. “Let me pull up my outline for this scene and we can get started. But a word of warning: Don’t try to compete with me.”
“Why not?” Mia asked, but she already knew the answer before it left sushimustwrite’s mouth.
“You’ll find out.” And they walked to the Word Wars, Prompts, and Sprints forum straight to the word war area where BattleJesus was running word wars.
This one was pretty hard to title (but was easy to write).
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.