Harper’s NaNoWriMo course inspires writers and produces author: Harper College


Laura Ehrke hears it all the time: “I’ve always wanted to write a book.

As an author, she hears it from readers. As Harper College Community education instructor, she hears it from the students.

“Unfortunately, most people never get it done,” said Laura, who is also CE’s technical systems specialist. “NaNoWriMo is a great, albeit intense, way to try fatherhood.”

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which challenges writers of all ages, backgrounds and backgrounds to write 50,000 words in November. In 2020, more than 500,000 people participated in the programs, run by libraries, bookstores and educational institutions such as Harper. Since 2017 Laura has been teaching 30-day novel writing workshop: the NaNoWriMo challenge, a six-week uncredited course that begins October 21 of this year.

Laura described her role as both a cheerleader and a master builder for students who must write an average of 1,667 words per day to complete the challenge. While anyone can participate in NaNoWriMo, she sees the value of a cohort of students finding common experience in separate projects. Over the years, these projects have represented many genres, including mysteries, memoirs, short stories, and biographies.

“Every November is a magical experience,” said Laura. “But what you need to do in your life is plan for it. It really takes over your November. Now is the time to be selfish. Give yourself the chance to make your dream come true.

Four years ago, that’s exactly what one of Laura’s students did. A Palatine doctor with a teenage daughter and a half-finished novel saw the NaNoWriMo course in a Harper brochure and decided it was time to finish his project. Before long she would be known to her readers as Lily Nikopoulos.

“I started the first draft. For four years I was picking it up, dropping it… my daughter said to me, ‘Don’t you think it’s time you finished it?’ Lily recalls, a pseudonym used to distinguish her creative identity from her career in Medicine. “I have always liked to write. In medical school, I wrote down everything that was interesting.

Lily leaned on her experience by writing a romance novel about a character named Eve, a doctor in the middle of a love triangle. She said the course was crucial for the completion of her novel, highlighting the opportunity to connect with other aspiring authors and exercises that led to free ideas. With new direction, Lily continued to write – over long stretches in cafes or in short bursts while waiting to pick up her daughter from basketball practice.

At the end of class, she had a completed draft. A year later, Lily was a published author.

After the following months of polishing the project, recruiting a professional editor and learning about freelance publishing, Christmas and New Years was officially published in 2018. The novel joined other writings with the help of NaNoWriMo, including that of Sara Gruen Some water for the elephants and that of Erin Morgenstern The night circus.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My daughter and I were at home when the boxes arrived with the books, ”said Lily. “We had a little party and took pictures. It is something that I will never forget.

Lily Nikopoulos New Years Eve challenge NaNoWriMoEighteen months later, Lily released a sequel, 2020’s New Years and Evebecause she loved the characters too much not to continue their stories. She has since started a third novel. Whenever she gets stuck, she relies on the tools she learned in CE class.

“I think about how lucky I am to live in this city, where I am fortunate enough to take these classes so close to home,” said Lily.

Laura shows the cover of Lily’s first novel to the students at the start of her classes. It’s a reminder of what new writers can achieve.

“People can see that it is possible to be successful in writing a book, or books, in a relatively short period of time,” she said. “It takes a lot of work, but it can be done… and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your book printed! ”

(Photos courtesy of Lily Nikopoulos)


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