With the description “30 days and nights of literary abandon,” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is practiced nationally and has become a stressful but rewarding time for writers around the world. Starting as a project that included a sole 21 participants, National Novel Writing Month now has over 250,000 participants, and a collective word count of 1.6 billion words. Writers must use the NaNoWriMo website to track their word count and keep in touch with other novel writers, aiming to reach 50,000 words by the end of November. Over thirty students from Gustavus are attempting this challenge, and most are on their way to success. Here’s a look at what some Gusties are writing.
Make Your Life Count by Julia Tindell – Junior english major
It feels just like a regular Friday to Sally Sweet as she leaves her last class of the day and heads home to listen to music and take a nap. Little does she know that somewhere in the Campus Center, a faculty meeting has gone horribly awry. That night just after Sally has left the Dive – and the love of her life, Mick – to watch some Doctor Who with Antonia, everything falls apart. There’s something on campus, and it’s not in the mood for dancing.
A story of romance and invisible flesh-eating monsters in the Chapel, Make Your Life Count will tug on your heart strings and your gag reflex. Follow Sally, Mick, and Antonia as they try to get across campus to safety. Laugh and cry with professors Oscar and Isobel as they try to rescue their friend Peter from the clutches of the monsters who are using his voice to communicate to the students. Look out for Jodi, the faculty member who can change it all with a phone call. Enjoy the story… but whatever you do: don’t go looking for fresh air in the Arb.
Sally’s eyes and her side were burning as she ran. Her fingers were numb with a confused cold and she was desperate to stop, stop doing this, stop trying, the cold stinging her ears, breaking her down, trying to make her stop even though she knew that stop was absolutely the last thing she wanted to do, and then she saw it.
She saw something she hadn’t quite been expecting, something that scared her more than anything had ever scared her before (except the floating bodies pouring out of the Chapel, but perhaps that goes without saying). She saw Mick leaving. She saw him moving in the atrium of Beck Hall, moving toward the doors that she and Toni were sprinting toward, saw him pause at the doors, trying each of them one at a time to find one that would be unlocked, saw him fail and try again, fail and try again, fail and try again, and finally succeed to open the door that would lead him out into the night air – and then she saw him disappear.
Optimist by Laura Schroeder – Sophomore English Major
Peter and Erica, two people who seem perfect for each other, meet in a place they both love: Barnes and Noble. For a girl who has never been in love before, Erica thinks she’s found the one. That is, until she has a run-in with Andrew, a cocky guy who’s fluent in sarcasm and keeps her on her toes.
We met in a bookstore. It’s always interesting to me to watch people browse. If they’re true book lovers, they’ll open a book and read the first few pages, and then a huge smile will break across their face if they find it to their liking. She caught my eye in the mystery section. She was sitting with her back against the shelf with a pile of books to her left. She was bent over a large hardcover, her auburn hair forming a curtain around the book. I grabbed a random book from the shelf and sat a little down the aisle from her.
She didn’t break concentration, even as I settled into the carpet and began reading. I wasn’t really paying attention to the novel in my hand; I just wanted to be in her general area. Very few people become so engrossed in novels that they lose the world around them. I saw to it to strike up conversations with them, for they had the most interesting stories and opinions. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t realize her staring at me. “Are you going to say something?” she asked.
“I’m Peter,” I said with a smile. She hesitated, smirked, and held out a hand.
God Only Knows by Caitlin Skvorc – Sophomore english major
Jessica Rose Bailey is nineteen, living in her one-bedroom apartment, and paying for it with a cashier’s salary from Saint’s Grocery. It’s the middle of summer, her three real friends from high school are either abroad, married, or off at college, and her mother, Grace, refuses to let go of the notion that Jessica is still suffering the loss of her father, five years after his death. While Jessica does harbor some feelings of ill-will toward God and Christianity in America, she is convinced that it is merely a matter of logic and reason, having nothing to do with her personal tragedy. Nevertheless, through encounters with various small-town people on the street and in her workplace, Jessica finds that life has a way of turning “coincidences” into events of larger significance.
Jessica was making her way to the couch, repulsed by the unspeakable weather, when another troubling scene materialized in her mind. An awkward, sweating weatherman was alternately pointing at the green screen behind him and the camera in front, constantly checking to make sure he was moving his hand in the right direction…
“…with expected snow showers for Thursday around the southern end of the state. Hoo boy, that’ll be something, huh? Heh…”
The image of Mr. Unreliable tugging nervously on his shirt collar slowly faded from Jessica’s memory as the realization sunk in.
No way, she repeated incredulously in her head. He was right.
Mr. Unreliable weather man was never right. Which meant that something was seriously wrong. Of course something was wrong. An innocent teenage boy was lying bloody in a dumpster last night, and was probably currently lying in a hospital bed in only slightly better condition. Jessica sank into the couch cushions as she wondered how much sleep Tom had had. Probably not thirteen hours, she guessed miserably. Judging by Sir Ma’am’s calm handling of the situation, she assumed that he had survived the night, but how well?
The Beasts of Burden by Rob Ward – Sophomore theatre major
An insane local drug lord/ high school math teacher. A nihilistic gang enforcer/depressed poet. A small time gambler/scholar of the classics. A pompous, heavy metal guitarist/werewolf. A masochist/class clown. These are some of the mythological/dirty realist stories of those involved in the small-time criminal underworld of a Southern Chicago suburb and their plights and falls in the world of vice they’ve come to thrive in.
There is a sixth sense that a few people in this world of vice have known as the sense of death. Those with the sense of death know when things are going to fall like the leaves of the autumn trees. They know when a drug deal or a fight is going to go sour and when someone will end up in a sewer. They know when tensions between two friends are going to end up with someone jumping out of a car on the highway and this very sense carries over from the of the dark underbelly; the diaspora of the hell they’ve created.
Driving past a gas station, they could make a rough estimate of the time it’s going to take before it becomes as dead and silent as Graceland Cemetery in the city just by a short twitch of the eyeball. When a store is going to go out of business, if a movie is going to do terrible at the box office or when two lovers split apart more often than not they knew it was going to happen at least a month in advance. They sense the impending storm and know there is no hope.
Nothing Lost by Kenton Watson – Senior English & Computer Science Major
Faerie is dying.
The belief that gave the ancient land its power slowly fades away, and no one seems able to stop the slow and inevitable decline. Regents sit on the thrones of the two courts instead of Faerie’s true rulers, who have been missing for millennia, and the nobility slowly becomes more and more lost within their own ostentatious frivolity.
Five hundred years old, Ian serves as the regents’ executor within the city of London in the mortal world. Ian is left with little hope for the future as he watches Faeries slowly die. But when a secretive and cryptic set of order leads Ian to the esteemed Litchfield house, he meets Ana, a girl who may represent Faerie’s only hope of a future.
Deidra’s expression went cold. Her expression had been simply bored before, but now it was if all expression had seeped from her face. And it was terriying. “I told you not to speak of that.” Her voice seemed distant, as if echoing from the far off place her emotions had fled to. “And yet you did. You ignored a command.” A wave of cold shock seemed to blast outwards from her, tearing through his mind, and leaving him mentally reeling. Ian attempted to look toward Brennan for help. Surely they wouldn’t just kill him?
But there was no such surety. Brennan’s face was a mask of anger. If Deidra went cold, Brennan was fire. His face was horrifying. Apollonic mask of burning anger. A Faerie responded to the feelings of its rulers. And the throne room was no exception. Ice began to spread outwards from Deidra, spider-webbing like a living thing straight toward him. Through every instinct he had shouted at him to run, he stood still. He would hold on to protocol, even if it was his death.
Winds of Alaska by Tim Niederriter – Senior english major
She’s been to the afterlife, but only for a visit. Surviving freshmen year was hard enough for Carrie, but now she knows the inhabitants of the world beyond ours don’t like her. A guardian tasked with protecting the secrets of the afterlife is trying to send Carrie to it. The magical barriers around the oldest building on campus, Gatewood Hall, are crumbling, but the creature imprisoned within it might need more protection even than Carrie. The vicious, master-less Cyclops is hunting for the body parts of anyone or anything that can make it stronger. Carrie’s friendships are fraying even as her need to explore builds. Tensions mount when she realizes that even her friends could become her enemies at any moment, and the winds blowing from the life after death can’t change that. The mysterious makers she met as a freshman are back, but can she trust them? If she wants to get through sophomore year, she’s going to need as much as help as she can get. Life and life after death are on the line.
Carrie’s shoes were still soaked with blood, or at least, she supposed it was blood. She wouldn’t be able to wear them anymore, that was for sure. Unless she decided to go post-modern and walk around on a canvas spreading flakes of dried blood all over it she didn’t have any more use for these. She liked them, but nothing lasted forever. At least she had a different pair to go out and shop for replacements in. Unfortunately Dad also wanted to go to the mall the next day she had free off her job.
“I need to see the price on the rabbits,” he said. “The last white one is getting a little big.”
“White ones again?” Carrie said. “Dad you are so racist.”
Ian James nodded solemnly as he started out the door. “I was sure you’d be telling me not to keep the rabbits on such diet.”
Carrie shrugged and followed him out the door. “The health of your rabbits isn’t in doubt. They’re not supermodels, Dad.”
“I’m glad we finally agree on something.”