At the start of the month I was interviewed by the Marianas Variety on the topic of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. I have participated in this since 2012 and it is the highlight of the later part of the year for me. The goal is to make it to 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th. I've done it for the past two years, and I'm struggling to make it this time as well. I lost several days due to curriculum writing (I've already written about 50,000 words in terms of curriculum writing this month). I'm supposed to be at 25,000 words by now, but I'm only at 22,000. I will complete my goal however as the story "The Legend of the Chamurai" that I have been working on for the past three years has to be written and it is exciting to see it take shape each year.
Here is my interview below.
1. How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo?
This is my third year, I hit the 50,000 mark in both 2012 and 2013.
2. How did you hear about the contest?
Through the internet and Facebook. I knew several friends who had tried it out.
3. How long have you been writing fiction?
Since I was a kid. My brothers and I always dreamed of working on comic books together. I’ve published more poetry than fiction though, but I love storytelling in general. I'm known as a teacher for telling decent to interesting stories in my history and language classes.
4. What inspired you to enter the contest?
I’ve had a story in my head for many years, about Ancient Chamorro warriors fighting alongside Japanese Samurai warriors against invading Spanish soldiers. I am a historian and a scholar of Chamorro culture and there were elements of Chamorro history that I wanted to give a different flavor to, most importantly adding fantastical elements, such as warriors with great powers to stories of taotaomo’na and legendary feats.
5. Describe the pace, frustrations with deadlines and what people should know before undertaking such a task.
The most important thing is to set up time each day to write. Setting aside that time will save you so much stress. Do not judge yourself too harshly, the most important thing about NaNoWriMo is that you write. Do not overthink things. You can always edit and change things later, but having that first draft to work with will save you so much more.
6. Have you published work that you've written for NaNoWriMo, or portions of it?
I have taken portions of it and worked them into different art projects. Eventually I plan to publish it in some form, perhaps an illustrated series of ebooks.
7. Do you have colleagues who are participating or have done so in the past?
I started organizing a variant called ChaNoWriMo last year or Chamorro Novel Writing Month. It is the same basic premise, but just an encouragement to include Chamorro language and cultural elements in your stories. To this end I provide prompts through the UOG Chamorro Studies Facebook page to give people ideas of ways to write creatively and in interesting ways while still taking seriously Chamorro history, language and culture. I started this because of the frustration I felt when talking to many young writers on Guam, most of whom were Chamorro, who felt that to be a serious writer or to make a serious story it needed to be about somewhere else, some other place that is bigger or more important than Guam. Guam is an interesting and unique place and we shouldn't’ shortchange and ignore it to write about places elsewhere because of some misperceived connection between smallness and story viability.
8. What have you learned about yourself as a result of participating in NaNoWriMo?
I write the way Lee Child (from Jack Reacher fame) writes. He doesn’t necessarily plan things out in length ahead of time, he lets the moments and the characters take him in different directions. There is a place where I want the characters to end up, but the way they get there is kind of up to them.
9. You also started a version of this contest on Guam last year. How many people participated and what was the scope of their themes, plots, etc.?
Last year three of us tried out ChaNoWriMo. This year at least six people are trying it out. Several people are using suruhanu elements in their stories, where they are taking Chamorro traditional spiritual and medicinal healers and putting them in a contemporary context. One person isn’t writing a whole novel, but just a set of short stories all set in Guam today. Another is writing a story about a Chamorro serial killer who (in a distorted throwback to Ancient Chamorro life) takes the bones and skulls of his victims as trophies.
10. Has any of the work submitted to you been published and is it available on Guam for sale?
Artwork that was inspired by my story can be seen in the MARC Library. A comic book taken from the world I’ve created in my NaNoWriMo/ChaNoWriMo stories will be published locally sometime in the near future.
11. Some people have called Chamorro a "dead language." Since those comments made several years ago, it seems institutions from banking to government have refuted the assertion. Is creating a contest like yours a refutation of his claim and others, or do you even think about such comments?
Chamorro is definitely not a dead language, but you can definitely argue it is dying. One thing I am always working on in a multitude of ways is just getting more people to use Chamorro whether in writing, singing or just speaking. Chamorro needs to adapt and evolve. If it remains the language of the elders and their lives it won’t survive. It needs to change as the generations change. As we write new stories within that Chamorro journey, we need to make sure the language stays with us.