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Chit Chat: Writing the ‘Great American Novel’

Residents participate in National Novel Writing Month

Marte Freke Smiewec started writing her novel “The Woodsman” in 2009, but never got around to finishing it.

“I just kind of forgot about it over the years,” said the 32-year-old St. Charles resident.

Smiewec is determined to finish the novel this month as part of National Novel Writing Month, a free global event started in 1999. More than 300,000 people participated in the event last year.

Smiewec attended a write-in event earlier this month at the Geneva Public Library and got right to work with pencil and paper in hand. She ended up filling four pages of a yellow legal pad.

“I just sat down, and I wrote whatever I felt like,” she said. “I like writing with pencil and paper. It feels more me.”

She is juggling writing a novel with being a new mother. Smiewec gave birth to Eliana in May.

“I had my husband watch the baby during the write-in,” Smiewec said. “It was kind of nice for me to get away and just write.”

The goal for those participating in National Novel Writing Month is to complete a 50,000-plus word novel in 30 days. The Naperville region of National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaperWriMo) represents the cities and suburbs west of Chicago.

Along with the Geneva Public Library, several other area libraries held write-in events this month as part of National Novel Writing Month, including the Batavia Public Library, Messenger Public Library in North Aurora and the Aurora Public Library.

As the name of Smiewec’s novel indicates, “The Woodsman” revolves around a woodsman.

“He’s got a terrible secret,” she said. “It’s kind of like a mystery. I’m influenced a lot by the works of Alan Paton. He was a South African writer. I loved the way he wrote and how a lot of morals came into his stories, so that’s kind of my model.”

Participating in National Novel Writing Month is a natural fit for the Geneva Public Library.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot in reaching out to the writing community,” said Kimberly Gotches, the library’s public relations and adult program associate. “We’ve been doing what we can to inspire writers.”

Five people came to the library’s write-in event, including Smiewec. A writer herself, Gotches said she understands the obstacles that writers sometimes encounter.

“A lot of times, people just want to get out of their homes and have some place to go where they’re not distracted by doing dishes or the laundry,” Gotches said. “People really valued coming to the library and [having] two hours of uninterrupted time. It was dedicated time for them to write.”

Those attending Messenger Public Library’s write-in event did not necessarily have to be working on a novel.

“It was for people who wanted to get together with other writers,” said Michelle Kurczak, head of youth and teen services for Messenger Public Library. “Anybody who is interested in writing was welcome to come to our event.”

Five people also came to the Batavia Public Library’s write-in event. Christine Edison, the young adult librarian at the Batavia Public Library, said she admired the efforts of those who chose to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

“It really takes a lot of discipline,” Edison said. “You have to really be energized to decide that you are going to try and write 50,000 words in November. Having five people in our community come out and say they are going to go for it, I think that’s really cool.”

Edison said she will take advantage of the month to write her novel, a fantasy story.

“I’ve worked on a few stories before,” Edison said. “My trouble is finishing them. For me, if nothing else, it’s getting me writing every day, which is good.”

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