Is Coronavirus affecting your life as dramatically as it is mine? Are you sheltering at home, experiencing cabin fever, and looking for ways to keep busy? TV bingeing is an option: so far, I’ve sat through Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Community, After Life, The Great British Baking Show, The End of the F’ing World, and that’s just a partial list. Who knew I had missed such good stories? Besides TV viewing, I’ve considered and rejected other activities, including knitting, exercising, and home organization à la Marie Kondo. Among the pastimes I chose to tackle are cooking, additional Toastmasters meetings, and online classes. I am learning new computer skills: did you know that if you have a Los Angeles Public Library card, you can access‘s incredible classes at absolutely no cost?

My best, favorite activity, though, is catching up with old friends. I have been able to reconnect with some people I’ve missed terribly over the years. Let me tell you about a few.

I’ve only known Allison a few years, but I adore her. Tall, thin, creative, and commanding, she exudes warmth and wit. She is the kind of woman I’d always wanted to be. I met her when I was invited to her 50th birthday dinner by a mutual friend. She was elated that night. Recently divorced, she was thrilled to be rid of him, but sadly had to sell the house that she loved and paid for, and half the money would go to him. Still, Allison remained defiant that she would start a new life with a clean slate. I later learned that the very next day, after her wonderful party at a fashionable restaurant, she was laid off from her job. I’d only heard bits and pieces of what happened to Allison since then.

Ryan is another person I met here in California, relocated from Savannah, Georgia. Ryan was in his 20s when we met over 10 years ago. “Beautiful” best describes Ryan; I mean, he was a breathtakingly beautiful young man. But not just beautiful. He exuded southern hospitality, as delicious as sweet tea. He came out to Los Angeles be an actor. The only problem he encountered was that he couldn’t act. He was truly one of the worst actors I’d ever seen. His situation broke my heart.

My favorite lost acquaintance is Hunter. I got to know Hunter via his parents who are professors at a Vermont university. At the time, Hunter was a high school student and artist. Quiet, talented, and intense, he keenly observed everything and everyone around him. He and his older brother were passionate environmentalists concerned about climate change and the nuclear power plant in their town. One January night, the two brothers were driving to a lecture when a whiteout storm came out of nowhere. Their car slammed into a school bus.
It’s been wonderful to be back in touch with these friends and catch up with them. The other side of the coin though is that now that I’ve reached out to them, they keep buzzing around. They want to tell me more and understand their stories. Lately they demand my attention all the time: they just won’t let me in peace. Their presence is constant.

Allison, Ryan and Hunter, you may have guessed, live only in my head. They are characters I made up. And yet, they control me. I’ve lived with these characters, some of them for many years. They are different ages and genders; they have different desires, motivations, and flaws. They all have one thing in common. Each one has his or her story left untold because tenacity is not in my character. That’s why they torment me—whispering in my ear late at night.

But now—right now, this winter—this can all change. Why? Because November is NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month!

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo provides a website, a community, and a writing event. Its tools and encouragement help writers produce 50,000 words in 30 days. It offers support groups, live virtual write-ins where you can sign in to YouTube and write alongside fellow novelists, and online pep talks
by writers like Dave Eggers, Anne LaMott, Dean Koontz, Holly Black, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman…. In 2018, 450,000 writers participated and completed 53,000 novels.

Among the NaNoWriMo books are several bestsellers including sci-fi novel WOOL by Hugh Howley, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which also became a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattison. My favorite NaNoWriMo book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, is beautifully written and illustrated and, incidentally, won a 6-figure deal with Knopf Doubleday.

NaNoWriMo offers so much opportunity and so much promise! And it’s free.

I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo at least twice, but guess what? For me it was NaNoWriMo NoGo. But this year will be different. I have time; I have focus; I have inspiration.

The great writer Maya Angelou, although not a NaNoWriMo writer, said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I don’t want to be that agonized person anymore.

There is no guarantee, of course, that my book will be published or that I’ll negotiate a million dollar advance. But, heck, it could happen.

Crown2020 can end in victory. I invite you to join me. If you dream of spinning out your storytelling into a full blown novel, this could be the impetus for you. The word corona is derived from the Latin word for crown. We can take back that word. We can associate that word with more than coronavirus in 2020. We can create our own coronas and crown ourselves Successful Novelists.

Anna Ziss-Patton

Anna Ziss-Patton
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