Why I Didn’t Do Camp NaNoWriMo


(And Why I Won’t Be Doing Any NaNoWriMo Events in the Future)

A blue ball point pen on opened notebook on a hardwood desk.
What my writing output has looked like the last couple of months (Jessica Lewis 🦋 thepaintedsquare / Pexels.com)

Right! So, it’s May already. You may have noticed that the blog went on a bit of an extended break from early March. That wasn’t really my intention, but … life happened, as it is wont to do.

Truth is, I haven’t written much—fiction or otherwise—since early March, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Baby Arrived

If you’ve been following along with updates here and on BlueSky, you might know that I was expecting a little bundle of joy! Said bundle arrived in March.

That was always the plan, but Baby P did make an appearance earlier than we anticipated. I’d also mucked up my week-counting, so I worked right up until I was nearly thirty-nine weeks pregnant.

I didn’t want to do that. It happened somewhat by accident. As much as I’m a workaholic, I’d seen other people do similar things and then deliver their babies within days of going on leave.

I wanted to avoid that, but I didn’t. In theory, I should have had nearly two weeks, but life often doesn’t work out the way we think it might.

I Opted for Induction

I developed a rash at thirty-seven weeks. Midwives in my province can’t prescribe, so at thirty-eight weeks, my one midwife kind of shrugged her shoulders. At thirty-nine weeks, another midwife told me to head to the hospital and speak with the OB on duty.

I spent the night being unbearably itchy, unable to sleep even after taking 150mg of Benadryl. So, in the morning, I went to the hospital. The OB said the only thing they could really prescribe was “having the baby,” so I chose induction.

I know induction doesn’t have a great reputation. One friend of mine was induced, labored for hours, then went to a C-section, which is a very typical story. Some people urged me not to let the medical team induce me, because, more often than not, induction leads to a C-section. (There are lots of reasons why, one of them being that epidurals can tack on extra time‘.)

In my case, induction did indeed lead to a C-section, after about thirty-three hours of labor. The problem? Baby P was head-down but situated on an angle. That meant Baby’s head was trying to pass at the widest possible angle. In essence, my baby got stuck on my pelvic bone—a situation that was no good for either of us.

So, off to major abdominal surgery it was!

Recovering from Double Labor + Surgery + Having a Newborn!

As you might imagine, an emergency C-section after thirty-three hours of labor—as much as it was the right choice—wasn’t exactly ideal. It definitely wasn’t what we’d prepared for. I’d passingly thought about a C-section, but everyone in my family has had successful vaginal deliveries, so I’d kind of figured I’d do the same.

Recovering from major surgery isn’t necessarily an easy task. Doing it while you have a newborn is even more difficult.

Oh, also? Having the baby didn’t solve my rash issue. It lasted for another seven weeks. The rash is supposed to be self-limiting to about six weeks, but I suffered with it for a total of nine. Fun stuff.

So, here I am, basically months later, finally getting back on track health-wise. I’m still not cleared to do certain things, but I’ll get there.

Baby has been challenging in many ways, although we could mostly definitely have had a more challenging situation. The biggest issue right now is use of my hands: Baby likes to cuddle! A lot. Which is lovely in some ways, but it makes it very challenging to get things like chores and writing done.

Given all of this, I knew I wasn’t in any shape to take on a writing challenge that’s based on hitting a certain word count in so many days.

Bad Apples in NaNo

My personal situation prevented me from even contemplating a writing challenge, but there was another major reason I decided not to do Camp NaNo. Allegations against the organization of harboring a mod who was actively grooming minors using the organization’s program for young writers.

Last fall, these accusations went public. According to the group who leveled the accusations, the organization had been contacted in Spring 2023. They were assured the organization would look into the issue. In the intervening months, they heard nothing further from the organization, and the mod in question continued to be active.

Action was not taken until the allegations went public, in November—right during NaNoWriMo. The organization at first tried to deny there was even an issue. Later, they took to locking the forums and deleting comments in their Discord server.

Accusations Resurface

These accusations resurfaced in early April with the news that the organization had finally removed the problematic individual but more problematic behavior was recorded. More accusations showed the organization seemed to have been acting in bad faith the entire time.

The renewed discussion brought to light a track record of ongoing issues. People who were okay with the previous allegations were now seriously challenged to rethink their ongoing relationship with the organization. Others, who may not have seen the discussion in November, were now made aware.

I had been following the discussion since November 2023. I’d already decided that I no longer wanted to associate with this organization. I hadn’t fully cut ties because I wanted to see if the organization could turn itself around.

With these additional allegations, which show an ongoing pattern of bad behavior, I really feel, I have no choice but to sever all ties to the organization. In another blog post, I mentioned that it was unlikely that the organization would be able to restructure itself in a meaningful way to prevent future abuses.

Rot Goes Deep

The new allegations show that there’s a lot more housekeeping to be done if NaNo wants to change. What the National Novel Writing Month organization has shown is how deeply rooted that culture is. You would have to effectually up-end the organization, and even then it’s unlikely that you would remove the culture of enablement.

What that means is the organization will likely continue to harbor bad actors and allow them to operate within it. In light of that, I don’t think that supporting the organization is the right move. Instead, I believe we need to look to building a new organization, one that has a culture that protects against these kinds of abuses as much as possible. That culture needs to be built-in from the ground up.

With that in mind, I am not going to participate in another event organized as part of a National Novel Writing Month effort. That includes both annual Camp events in April and July.

That is ultimately why I did not do Camp NaNo this past April. Sure, I had a lot of other things going on, but I had already decided that I was not going to participate until the organization showed us what they were doing to correct what had taken place.

The new allegations show us the organization has long engaged in this sort of behavior, and they are unlikely to change. Even if some people try to change it from within, it’s likely that their best efforts will be stymied by other forces existing in the organization. This happens time and again in organizations—it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make these kinds of changes from the inside.

Cutting Ties

With all that considered, I’m no longer comfortable having ties to the organization and I have deleted my account. I will be very reluctant to associate with the organization again in the future. I’d need to see dramatic evidence of wide scale changes.

I think this is important because the organization has allowed bad actors to prey on not only minors but incredibly vulnerable minors, particularly those who are part of the queer community. As part of that community myself, I can’t let that kind of behavior to go unpunished or even tolerate it. I don’t have much sway as an individual, but I most certainly can do something to show my solidarity with the victims. That means leaving this organization behind. If it is not safe for all, then it is not safe for me.

Good Memories Don’t Cancel Out Harm

It’s too bad because the organization has done a lot of good for individual writers, for aspiring writers, and for others as well. It fostered a sense of community, and it helped many people write their first book. It helped me write some of my books, including Glitterati Omega and a couple of the Zodiac books. I also had a lot of fun playing along and building community via social media games, the website, and more.

The cover of Glitterati Omega, a book written for NaNoWriMo, features a blond man in a silver dress and red lipstick lifting his arms over his head with a cityscape and palm trees in the background.
Glitterati Omega was one of my NaNo projects.

Good memories are no reason to keep something that’s doing harm alive though. NaNo has taken some steps toward potentially addressing the issues, but coming back from this basically means ripping out the internal culture and rebuilding.

There’s a point where it makes more sense to raze a rotted structure to the ground than trying to preserve it. Sometimes, the rot is so deep, you simply can’t do anything but.

So, don’t expect me to jump back into NaNo events. Instead, I’ll be looking forward to the new writing events that are springing up in the wake of this scandal. NaNo has had a chokehold on the writing world for years now. Maybe this is something like a wildfire that allows new seeds to flourish.

About the author

By Cherry

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