Alumna helps run NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing challenge

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers to complete a novel in 30 days.

In 2004, Elayna Mae Darcy, a 2013 film and media arts alumna, published her first book at age 14 — after writing it in just one month.

Now Darcy works as a municipal liaison of the PhillyWrimos, a group of writers who participate in National Novel Writing Month, which is every November.

The nonprofit goes by NaNoWriMo and provides a different approach to the creative writing process and begins today. PhillyWrimos and other writers around the world will each try to complete a 50,000-word novel in just one month.

“There’s no wrong way to do it,” said Sebastian Castillo, an English professor. “Practical constraints like deadlines are frequently the most useful tools to help writers complete a task.”

PhillyWrimos has nearly 400 novelists registered for NaNoWriMo this year. The organization is expecting 500,000 people worldwide to participate, according to its press release. Last year, 40,000 people met the goal of 50,000 words.

Participants from Philadelphia are just as colorful and artistic as Philly itself, said Jules Staples, another municipal liaison of PhillyWrimos.

“The people I’ve encountered over the years have been some of the nicest and brightest,” Staples said.


PhillyWrimos aims to make writing both fun and challenging through community encouragement, she added.

“That’s what I love most about this region,” Staples said. “It’s so difficult to find such a melting pot of talent, experience and levels of interest anywhere else.”

“Without the Wrimos over the years who have been there to encourage me, ideate with and just listen, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today,” Darcy added.

Her first short story, “Continuum,” which tells the story of a girl who plays a video game that lets her choose a new reality, is set to be published next month by Nerdist Industries and Inkshares.

The group hosted a kick-off party at the Parkway Central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia last Saturday. The party included a social mixer as well as writing workshops and seminars to prepare participants for the month ahead.

“November is a manic blur of writing,” Staples said. “By the end of the month, we all emerge blurry-eyed from our writing caves and try to reacquaint ourselves with society again.”

Staples has participated in NaNoWriMo for 11 years and has published a series of fantasy novels under the pseudonym Peter Dawes.

Her series, “Vampire Flynn,” begins inside a coffee shop located near Temple University Hospital.

Although Castillo said “the writing process is different for everyone,” PhillyWrimos wants to move writers one step closer to a finished piece of work, no matter whether they reach 50,000 words by Nov. 30. Although NaNoWriMo has official rules, including word count, Castillo said novel-writing is still very open.

“It could take a few weeks, a few days, probably a few hours or minutes too,” Castillo said. “There’s no standard for what constitutes a novel.”

Every Saturday in November, PhillyWrimos will hold write-ins, or writing groups, to encourage writers to make progress on their manuscripts. During the write-ins, there will be “word sprints” to challenge writers to see how many words they can write in a certain amount of time.

“We want people to show up and create with us,” Staples said. “We love to share our knowledge of the writing process with both hobbyists and professional writers.”

“NaNoWriMo reminds you that at the end of the day,” Darcy added. “No excuses are good enough to not try.”

Madison Hall can be reached at

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.