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A Year of Yes: What NaNoWriMo gave me as an author—and a person

I’m so honored to be featured on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) blog. With their support and encouragement, I took an outline and turned it into a published novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. You can check out the full post at http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/170689401897/what-nanowrimo-gave-me-as-an-authorand-a-person. Here is the text as well:

The road from plotless to polished to published can be long and filled with potholes (and plot holes). But, as NaNo participants continue to prove, it can be traversed. Today, author Christa Avampato shares her story of how she turned an outline into a published book:

In the five years after I survived an apartment building fire on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I sketched the outline of my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light EntersThat fire was a turning point for me, as a person and as a writer. It also plays a prominent role in Emerson’s story.

On November 1, 2014, I set a goal to transform my outline into a 50,000-word first draft in thirty days as part of NaNoWriMo. It seemed impossible, but I was constantly encouraged by the supports that NaNoWriMo offers: webinars, blog posts by authors I admired, writing prompts, social messages, and special offers for books and tools.

My first draft was terrible, but I’ve never been prouder of something so awful.

Over the next two years, I completed a dozen more drafts of Emerson’s story. New characters, plot lines, and settings emerged. Save for Emerson, the story was almost unrecognizable two years later. I got feedback from several close and brutally honest friends. I agonized over every word. It is the toughest job I ever loved.

“If you are willing to do the hard work of recognizing your wounds, if you write your truth through programs like NaNoWriMo, even if your voice shakes and sputters […] there is so much light that awaits you. ”

Still, Emerson continued her incessant tap, tap, tapping on my shoulder because it was time to get her story published. I queried agents, and received fourteen rejections—and those were just the ones who bothered to respond at all! One of them, my dream agent, responded with the loveliest rejection. Twelve were form letters. One particularly prickly agent responded in less than five minutes with a one word email: No.

I’m not kidding. That actually happened.

I finally found a happy medium when I began to explore independent publishers. Six months after querying my first independent publisher, one of them accepted the book.

When you launch a book, you launch a brand and a business. I completed several full edits in 2017 with the assistance of two editors. Then I hired the artists and art directed the cover art myself. With my MBA and business experience, I put together a marketing plan, and began to work that plan every day.

On November 1, 2017, I became a published author. Emerson left the safety of my care and ventured out into the world wrapped in paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in independent bookstores across the globe. It’s no coincidence that Emerson’s birthday was exactly three years after I started writing the draft of her story during NaNoWriMo 2014.

And on her birthday, I began writing the draft of her second book as part of NaNoWriMo 2017. That supportive tribe of fearless writers with impossible goals was there for me again, just as they were in 2014.

Emerson and I stand before you as an unfailing reminder that if you are willing to do the hard work of recognizing your wounds, if you write your truth through programs like NaNoWriMo, even if your voice shakes and sputters, if you will honor the cracks in you rather than trying to spackle them shut, there is so much light that awaits you.

That’s the greatest lesson that NaNoWriMo and Emerson taught me: that light will flood your mind, heart, and hands in a way that you never imagined possible. That light, however small, lives in you now. Your only job is to fan it into a flame that the whole world can see through the masterpiece that is your life and your writing. You matter. Your story matters. It matters so damn much.

I can’t wait to read your book.

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It’s difficult to put into words the emotions that surface during Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself. Part magic show, illusion spectacular, storytelling night, and clairvoyant event, it is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. His poise, grace, empathy, and masterful command of the stage and audience are on a level of genius that I didn’t know was possible. I alternately cried and laughed for close to two hours, completely riveted by the through line and captivated by Derek’s presence. Mostly I sat there with my jaw on the floor because I was astounded by his work. * My friend and mentor, the incomparable writer and storyteller @tellingabetterstory, took me and our friend, @hellosemrick, to this show a few weeks ago and I’ve thought about it every day since. I will be thinking about it for many days, weeks, and months to come. Even now as I write this post, I keep getting chills down my entire spine. In & Of Itself is that electric. * Derek gave every member of the audience a gift, personal and perfectly crafted. I’m not quite sure how I’ll ever be able to repay him, and legendary director Frank Oz, for all they gave me—a stranger they will likely never meet—during this performance. Thank you feels so woefully inadequate, and it’s what I have. I mean it from my whole spirit. * Thank you, @Derekdel and Frank, for showing all of us what can happen when we show up with our whole heart, pay attention, and make purposeful connection with another person our single goal. It is the purest form of magic I know—to really see and be seen. * In & Of Itself runs this weekend at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square. After Sunday, August 19th, it will be never be done again.

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