The next day while searching Wrimonia for Chris Baty, Mia ran across a small building that looked like a church. This building had never been there before to the best of Mia’s knowledge: a small building with the NaNo shield. Mia thought of the symbols of various religions, most notably the Christian cross. None of these religions had shields as logos. She approached the group of people outside the building.
“Greetings!” a Wrimo carrying a mug and wearing fingerless gloves said as he approached Mia. Mia examined the nametag and saw that this Wrimo was MattKinsi, who had done NaNo since 2004, winning all but one of those years. A halo hovered over his head.
Now here was a Wrimo who had done NaNo for a long time. Mia looked at the building again and noticed a small table full of writing accessories: notebooks, pens, and other noveling paraphernalia.
“Welcome to the Church of NaNo,” MattKinsi said.
“Church… of NaNo?” Mia asked.
The truth was that Mia wasn’t a very big churchgoer. Sure, she went to church a few times as a kid, mostly when her friends invited her to church and she slept over at their houses the night before and went to Sunday school with them. She quite enjoyed this at face value as a kid; she got to dress up in pretty dresses and shoes and hear stories, but thinking back she realized that hearing stories like this wasn’t the way she wanted to go with her faith. Of course, her parents’ lack of faith may have been affected by her father’s abduction by aliens. What kind of faith did aliens have, anyway? This topic (and many others) was a topic that her dad was never all that open on, and it was one that Mia never dared discuss; on the rare occasion that someone did discuss the topic, he would clam up and retreat to an empty room.
Mia never did find out the truth behind this. She did know, however, that her dad was quite the space and extraterrestrial life enthusiast before this, but that spark for interplanetary life never did come back after that…
Still, all that didn’t stop her curiosity. NaNo had a church too? What would they do in their churches, sit in pews, sip caffeinated beverages, and write? Would Chris Baty stand a the podium and preach the good word about writing a novel in a month and encourage Wrimos to spread the good news that yes, there are other writers out there and yes, that story you have to tell can be told and it could be told in a month?
Wait a minute. Chris Baty. The thought hit her as she remembered her mission on this novel-writing adventure.
“Excuse me, do you know where Chris Baty is?” Mia asked.
“Chris Baty?” MattKinsi asked. “Why no, I haven’t seen him in a very long time.”
And then another thought occurred to Mia. Churches and other religious institutions were known for their stories in their holy texts. Surely this church of NaNo would have some holy text containing all the stories the Knights of NaNo hinted at.
“But you’re the Church of Nano,’ Mia exclaimed. “You should know something.”
“I’m afraid we know nothing,” MattKinsi said. “He left Wrimonia in January. We know not where he is. He could be here now, but he has been testing our faith.”
Mia sighed. This too? Why was everything testing her right now? All she wanted to do was find Chris Baty and figure out a plot and get a novel written. Surely this didn’t have to be so hard, did it? But sure enough it seemed to be getting harder and harder.
“Look, you’re the Church,” Mia said. “Do you at least know the legends?”
“Legends?” another Wrimo perked up and walked toward Mia and MattKinsi. “Legends of NaNoWriMo, you ask?”
Mia nodded as this Wrimo approached the pair. This Wrimo’s nametag read Lauren E. Mitchell, and Mia saw that she had won every year since 2004. Another wise old Wrimo, and another Municipal Liaison to boot. Surely she would know something about the legends. These were MLs we were talking about here!
“Yes, legends of NaNoWriMo,” Mia explained. “The knights of NaNoWriMo told me about them and how not everyone knew the real story of how they began. But you’re the church. Don’t you have some kind of holy text?”
Something was better than nothing, but Mia found herself wondering whether a false something was better than nothing at all. What if they didn’t know anything? Or maybe (and she couldn’t decide whether this was better or worse) what if they knew something that turned out to be false? The entire affair started to seem like quite a difficult one, but Mia sighed and stuck it out.
“A lot of us are longtime Wrimos, but even we don’t know anything about the legends of NaNoWriMo,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “No one does. There are some people who come close, but you may have a hard time chasing them down directly.”
“I don’t care. I need to talk to them.”
“Are you sure?” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but you should talk to them now before November starts.”
“I’m positive,” Mia said.
“I’ll tell you what I can,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “But for everything else, well, whatever else is reliable anyway, you’ll have to go to sushimustwrite and her archives.”
sushimustwrite. Why did this name ring such a bell in Mia’s head?
“So let me tell you about the first legend, the one of the inspiration garden,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “There are rumors of an inspiration garden somewhere in Wrimonia. No one has ever visited it that we know of, but the legend goes that when you visit it all inspiration comes to you and all that inspiration is just right, as all inspiration should be at that time. A few folks have spoken of having seen such a thing, but theres no telling whether they actually visited the garden or some duplicate.”
An inspiration garden… “But doesn’t that not exist anymore?” Mia asked. “I thought it got destroyed when the forums got expanded.”
“That’s what a lot of folks are saying,” MattKinsi said, chiming in. “And I’ve talked with others who think so as well, but there are some who think it’s still there…”
Mia didn’t want to say anything about her own visit to the inspiration garden three years ago… She remembered it like it was yesterday, the wandering around looking for a plot all over Wrimonia for what felt like months even though it was just weeks and finally stumbling across her characters and her story. It wasn’t the best story in the world. Of course it wasn’t; it was just a first draft. but it contained a lot of the things she liked about a novel and it was a heck of a lot of fun to write, even if it did contain that scene with the busty lesbian cabbage pirate ninjas. Where did those come from?
But was that the real inspiration garden or just an imitation? And more importantly… “How would one know the difference anyway?” Mia asked.
“We’re still trying to figure it out ourselves. But there are some things we haven’t been able to solve yet. It’s up there in the mysteries of Wrimonia.”
Mia thought back to her other strange occurrences in Wrimonia before realizing that just about everything that had ever happened in Wrimonia could be qualified as strange in some way because that was how Wrimonia rolled, yes? There was something about Wrimonia and the NaNo culture that made Wrimos embrace the strange and unexpected and made them love the quirks in their very culture.
Before Mia could interrupt with another question she heard a chant.
“All hail,” the chanters said. “All hail to NaNoWriMo and caffeine. May our novels be wordy and may our bodies always be caffeinated.”
“All hail?” Mia asked. “You mean this really is a church?”
“You could say that,” MattKinsi replied.
“No one ever told you MattKinsi here is the prophet,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “He is our moist and delicious prophet, and we observe this by licking–”
“HEY!” MattKinsi protested. “No one here is allowed to salivate on me.”
“I’m sure Chris Baty would be glad to know his prophet is moist and delicious,” another Wrimo said, emerging from the chanting. Mia looked up and saw a nametag that said RuncibleSpoon. She had won NaNo for the past two years.
Moist? Delicious? What was this all about, and why were people in this church of NaNo suddenly trying to lick each other? Or more specifically trying to lick a certain MattKinsi? And how did he become so moist and delicious? He didn’t look all that moist or delicious to Mia, though she had no desire to test this.
She saw a sign over next to the table that said #lickMattKinsi. Lick MattKinsi? With a pound sign next to it? What was that supposed to mean?
But then Mia saw little blue birds fly toward the group. A few members of the group delivered small messages to the blue birds, and the birds flew away into the distance, tweeting.
“What’s going on?” Mia asked.
“Twitter,” RuncibleSpoon explained. “It’s a site where you send updates and follow people and laugh at the updates while simultaneously being depressed by the state of humanity. Kind of like most of the Internet but in real time.”
“Sounds too much like Facebook,” Mia said. The truth was that she had heard of Twitter before this NaNo season, but it sounded way too much like Facebook and was all public for her to get behind it. Besides, all that social media stuff was silly. Who would want to read Mia’s mundane updates? She imagined what those updates would look like. “2500 words written today.” “Characters won’t cooperate.” “Can’t find a plot. Anyone got a plot to spare?”
But RuncibleSpoon kept explaining about Twitter to Mia, even though Mia really didn’t want to join Twitter. “I don’t want another distraction right before NaNo,” Mia said. “I already have enough distractions as it is. Look at the forums. Look at everything else around Wrimonia. Look at this quest I’m on.” Mia paused. “Speaking of this quest, why are we talking about licking MattKinsi when I could be getting info on the legends of NaNo?”
“Thank you!” MattKinsi said. “You are against the licking of me, right?”
Mia looked at Matt. “We’ll see about that,” Mia said. “I need to get going.”
But as Mia walked away from the group, she ran into another group of Wrimos. “All hail Heather Dudley, magnificent forum mod,” they said. “She is made of magic and wonder,” one of them chimed in. “And she can travel in time,” another said. “And she exists in all dimensions,” another said.
Mia noticed the life-sized cardboard model of Heather Dudley; Mia recognized her from past years as the head forum moderator. The life-size model had a crown on its head, and the Wrimos stood around this model.
“Why are we all worshiping Dragonchilde?” Mia asked.
“She’s made of magic,” one Wrimo by the name of mixeduppainter said. “And I swear she has superpowers. Did you see her magical cape of forum magic?”
“Don’t all the staff members have capes of magic?” Mia asked.
Mixeduppainter shook her head. “Oh, they’re all made of magic, all right,” she said. “But only Heather’s cape has a special forum magic added to it that lets her jump tall forum with a single bound and ban trolls with a single hit to the head with a big stick. I hear it’s going to be upgraded to a real banhammer if we get enough donations this year.”
A real banhammer… Mia imagined all the trolls Heather could ban with a banhammer. Heather would be able to take out trolls not only with a single hit, but with a violent hit at that.
“And you know what else Heather can do?” another Wrimo by the name of Alex JF asked.
“What?” Mia asked, now genuinely curious.
“She can visit a thread just by thinking about it,” Alex JF whispered. “You know how we have to search the forums manually or take the elevator or WrimoRails?” Mia nodded. “She can just think about a thread and she’s there. She has superpowers, Mia, and I swear she’s made of magic.” The group of Wrimos around mixeduppainter and Alex JF nodded in agreement.
Mia started to leave but on her way out she ran into another group of Wrimos wearing NaNoWriMo shirts and handing pamphlets to other Wrimos as they passed.
One Wrimo handed Mia a pamphlet. “What’s this?” Mia asked.
“Welcome to NaNoVangelism,” the Wrimo said. Mia examined the cover. Spreading the good word of NaNoWriMo, the cover read. A NaNo logo also graced the front of the pamphlet.
“No, really, what is this?” Mia asked as she opened the pamphlet. “Telling others the good news,” the pamphlet read.
“It’s a guide to showing others the light of NaNoWriMo,” the Wrimo, whose nametag read Miri Mirror, said. “Every now and then you might encounter someone who doesn’t know the good news of NaNoWriMo. Sometimes it’s hard to show them how amazing the NaNo experience is, especially when they don’t think they can write fiction or they don’t think they have the time to write fifty thousand words in a month or they don’t think they can write prose that’s any good, but that’s okay. We’ve made guides that tell you exactly how to approach these fickle people and the stubborn ones and how to convince them that they too should do National Novel Writing Month and join us in the good land of Wrimonia.”
Mia studied the inside, reading it carefully. It contained tips on how to convince these people starting with telling them what exactly NaNoWriMo was: a fun, seat of your pants challenge to write a book of fifty thousand words in a month. specifically the month of November. That wasn’t all, though; the most important part was to emphasize the fun of the experience; after all, NaNo was more about fun than anything else, and not having fun was completely undermining that.
“So how exactly do you go about these steps?” Mia asked. There weren’t any scripts on exactly what to say, meaning that if the conversation got derailed, everything would be off, and to be quite honest (if Mia was going to be completely honest with herself, which she was at the moment), she wasn’t the greatest conversationalist. She and one of her friends who didn’t do NaNo (but was quite supportive of Mia’s noveling experiences) would have pretend fights for the queen of awkward. Mia’s friend, whose name was Natalie, would insist that she was the queen of awkward, but Mia knew better. Natalie was a social butterfly in situations like telling people about things she loved, and Mia was the one who stood in the corner when faced with a lot of people she didn’t know with nothing to talk about. Natalie could talk about anything. Mia was the one who needed a common topic. Maybe that was what NaNoWriMo was good for and why she didn’t suffer from awkwardness and shyness from not wanting to step into a forum topic as much here; she knew that everyone here was as wiling to talk about NaNoWriMo and writing and the noveling experience as she was. And that was what made NaNoWriMo, in part, what it was: the common bond of the noveling experience.
“But what if we do go off script?” Mia asked while these thoughts sent through her mind and Miri Mirror didn’t answer. “I mean, I can’t just force NaNo on people. That’s like telling people about Jesus and having the other person think that they don’t give a crap and eventually yelling at me to go away. This is what gives religious nuts the reputation that they do.”
Miri Mirror nodded. She understood. “You first need to listen to the people,” she explained. “You need to understand here they’re coming from.” Miri Mirror studied Mia’s username badge. Two wins, one loss. “You know what it’s like to do NaNo while busy, I take it. You’ve also probably done NaNo while having a lot of other commitments, like work or school or something else altogether. You can tell these people about that. You can tell them about other people who have and give advice about how to go about such things. Now there may be people who just don’t want to go about and change their lifestyles for NaNo, like those who watch six hours of TV a day and don’t want to change that. But that’s where you tell them about Hulu and Netflix and everything else that exists that’ll let them catch up on TV on weekends… assuming they’re not catching up on their novels, of course.”
“But what if they do get behind?” Mia asked, remembering all those times she did get behind on her novel. It happened every year, and one would think that she would learn by now.
“That’s not something to be addressed unless they bring it up,” Miri Mirror explained. “Like other things, there are some topics that you need to bring up only when they ask about it, like all those what ifs. What if they get behind. What if they lose? What if? What if? What if?”
“What if they can’t come up with a plot?” Mia asked.
“See, that’s why you mainly approach the people who already like writing in the first place,” Miri Mirror said. “Lots of people have always wanted to write a novel some day but never have. and those are the people you want to approach when talking about something like NaNoWriMo and joining the wonderful forums on Wrimonia. Tell them about how that novel won’t always be there one day as a legacy for their kids and that time won’t tick along forever. They won’t want to wait forever, and NaNoWriMo is there to end the one day novelist. It’s part of their mission. Appeal to that part of them, and explain the deadline and the breakneck pace. Well, don’t quite explain the lats part, but explain how you can fit it into your day quite easily, even if you’re already busy.
Miri Mirror noticed the copy of No Plot? No Problem! that Mia was clutching. “Did you read that already?” Miri Mirror asked.
“Parts of it,” Mia replied. “I did the Magna Carta exercises.”
“There’s a part in there that even you might find useful, O fourth time Wrimo,” Miri Mirror said. “It’s called the Time Finder, and it’s outlined in the book, but what you do is outline everything you do for a week and for how long you do it for. Then at the end of the week you divide all the items into vital, love to do, and like to do things. Chances are you’ll have about two hours a day for NaNo, and you’ll treasure all that spare time you have for the things you’ve cut, like Internet surfing and TV watching and other exciting things you’ve done. It’s amazing, and it’s something you can point out to prospective Wrimos when they’re searching for spare time.”
Mia now took this chance to read the back of the pamphlet. The side of the back page was designed to be detachable so the new Wrimo would know how to find Wrimonia. The rest was designed for the returning Wrimo so they could use the pamphlet over and over.
Mia turned the pamphlet and pocketed it. How was this going to help her find Chris Baty? It was just a pamphlet. She tried to toss it while walking away from the Church of NaNo group, but the trash can threw it back up. Mia almost smiled; at least something was normal in Wrimonia.
I wrote part of this section while sitting next to Dragonchilde and Miri Mirror. Fun fact. It was very hard to keep my giggling in.
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to NaNo if you’re so inclined.