by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month? A friend and I took part for the first time last year, and this year we recruited two more. I learned a lot from the first go-round. This time, I hope to approach the challenge with more wisdom and strategy – and that includes looking for help.
Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, happens every November. You can read about its history and purpose at www.nanowrimo.org. Essentially, the goal is for an individual to complete a 50,000-word novel (about the length of The Great Gatsby ) during the month of November – for no other reason than personal fulfillment. And if the nickname “NaNoWriMo” weren’t so catchy, they might rename it International Novel Writing Month: in 2017, there were “468,104 participants on six continents”! 
That’s great news for first-time Wrimos (yeah, that’s what we’re called) and veterans alike. The NaNoWriMo community connects through message boards on the organization’s website, as well as through social media and in-person meet-ups. By fostering camaraderie, inspiration, and accountability, these groups provide support for novelists during the 30-day challenge.
But sometimes even the most accomplished writer needs concrete resources to fall back on. During NaNoWriMo, flagging creativity is especially bad news. So bookmark this post, fellow Wrimos, for I’ve done my best to scrounge up some fun resources and practical ideas that are guaranteed* to help you reach that 50,000 word goal.
1) Don’t feel excluded if you don’t have Microsoft Word. Plenty of word processors do the job for free, such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Apple’s free offering is called Pages. Windows users may also like Atomic Scribbler; it’s designed with novelists in mind.
2) All writers have a preferred writing “soundtrack,” be it absolute silence, a curated playlist, the sounds of nature, or the bustle of a coffee shop. If the latter applies to you, but you’re not willing to increase your latte budget, try an app like Coffitivity. It “recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.” 
3) Keep track of those great ideas that strike at inconvenient moments. Carry a notebook that fits in your pocket or purse, or use the built-in note and voice memo apps on your phone. For more in-depth note taking, Wrimos often suggest Evernote and OneNote. Both let users keep track of ideas in many forms – text, audio, photos, drawings, etc. – and access them on other devices.
4) With only a month to write, web-based app Sprinter helps make the most of your limited time. With distraction-free design, it gives you “a 15-minute goal which is meant to get [you] quickly started and stay engaged despite being surrounded by the Internet.”  You can also adjust the length of the timer. For Wrimos without the luxury of large chunks of free time (hello, parents of young children!), fifteen minutes of focused writing could make all the difference.
5) Glean wisdom from those who have already been where you want to go. The NaNoWriMo forums feature tons of practical tips on technology, time management, technique, and more, all from Wrimos who know what you’re going through.
6) Yes, research is important; but to “win” NaNoWriMo, you can’t obsess over details. November’s not for editing! Using symbols and keywords in your draft, such as “[[RESEARCH]],” so you can easily find them during revision. Keep a separate notebook or file of things you need to research, too.
Bookmark sites like Refdesk.com (“Fact Checker for the Internet”), WritetoDone (“Unmissable Articles on Writing”), and OEDb’s 150 Writing Resources (“…to help you write better, faster, and more persuasively”). Come back to them after the rush of November is over.
7) Almost everyone writes on a computer or tablet these days. Tablets in particular have gotten less expensive, and computers are pretty readily available. (The Franklin branch of the WCPL system even has new laptops for patrons to use while in the library.) With internet access, writers can quickly access a wealth of information to make their stories more authentic. But all that connectivity comes at a high cost: distraction. (“Wikipedia wormholes” are a real thing, y’all.)
Sure, you could switch to pen and paper. Lots of Wrimos do, and they love the experience. I myself have opted for an outmoded piece of tech: the AlphaSmart 3000. I love its full-size keyboard, Y2K-era translucent plastic styling, long battery life, and USB connectivity. “That would make me crazy,” said one friend when I showed off my acquisition. And yeah, maybe I’ll get some odd looks when I schlep it to the pub for a writing session. But, for me, it’s a happy medium between writing by hand and typing on a laptop.
If you’re not willing to go to such anachronistic lengths to avoid temptation, though, there are computer-friendly options designed to minimize distraction. My favorite is Calmly Writer Online. Put it in full-screen mode, and you’ve got a blank page with a nice typeface and bookish margins. (You can access the menu by clicking on a subtle lotus icon.) It instantly soothes and sharpens focus.
8) And don’t forget your local library! Whether you need to brush up on your “elements of style,” learn more about writing within your genre of choice, or find a mentor in legends like Ursula K. Le Guin (Steering the Craft) or Steven King (On Writing : a memoir of the craft), if you browse the 800s in Non-Fiction, you won’t leave empty-handed.
What are your favorite writing resources? Share them in the comments below. Then read some fun NaNoWriMo facts from our 2015 post, and go deep into the writing process – from gathering inspiration, to free self-publishing resources the library provides – from my previous NaNoWriMo post. Good luck, Wrimos!
* Guarantee not guaranteed by this blogger, the WCPL, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, we’ll be proud of you whether you finish or not.
Young ones and their families are invited to come trick-or-treat with the Friends of the Library. Costumes will be admired but are not required!
Activities will be in the Children’s Department on the first floor.
Call 615-595-1244 for more information.
By Savannah, Reference Department
Urban legends, like most things in the modern world, have evolved. In the past, they were spread by word of mouth. Though detailed, there was always something in the story that made it …unreachable. They were never firsthand. Someone might tell you a story that happened to a friend of their cousin. Later, you may hear the same story from somebody else, finding it had shifted. It wasn’t the friend’s cousin. It was her brother. Or was it her boyfriend? However, there was always just enough detail to make it believable.
I remember personally being duped by an urban legend. My friend said he heard about a college student in Florida. After a kiss from a date, she developed a rash. Almost immediately, she received calls from her doctor and local law enforcement. Her rash was caused by a bacteria found on decomposing corpses. She had been on a date with a cannibal. I told several friends. They were eager to spread the story to theirs as well. I googled the story, assuming it must be all over the news . I found it…just not in the way I expected. I found multiple versions of the story all over the web. The college, state, and other minor details changed to fit the teller’s narration. It was an URBAN LEGEND spreading like wildfire. I myself had spread it to half a dozen people.
Urban legends are more popular than ever. They are thriving online. We now call them “Creepypastas” (creepy + pasta, after the pattern of copypasta, itself an alteration of copy and paste). Creepypastas are online tales that are often blatantly presented as fiction. But are they really? Even if they start as fiction, these stories develop such a following, parts of them do become real. Often in frightening ways. The website makes it easy to find a pasta about anything you desire. There are pastas about dolls, stalkers, devilish pets…you name it! I highly recommend listening to the pastas being narrated on YouTube. I like to listen to them while I get ready in the morning.
Slenderman is one of the most prolific Creepypasta. The story tells of a tall humanoid creature with a featureless, white face. The creature wears a black suit and has disproportionately long limbs. He haunts and traumatizes his victims, which are often children. The stories of Slenderman have led to real-life tragedy.
In 2014, two Wisconsin teenage girls stabbed their friend. The girl barely survived. Her friends cited their reason for stabbing the girl was Slenderman. They believed killing their friend would prove their loyalty to the monster. The crime caused hysteria among parents everywhere. Slenderman only gained more of an audience. Russell Jack, the police chief of Waukesha, Wisconsin, made a powerful statement. ” The Internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The Internet can also be full of dark and wicked things.”
Urban Legends prove one thing: our words have meaning. Sometimes if believed enough, they can bring our worst nightmares to life.
If you are up for a scare, here are a few good places to start. These are not bedtime stories.
READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED. Read the rest of this entry
By Amy Shropshire, Reference Department
Parents tend to want the best advantages for their children, and early literacy is one excellent advantage. That’s the idea, but getting a squirming toddler to sit still long enough to read a picture book demonstrates the difficulties involved. Even the best behaved children tend to struggle at some point with early literacy skills. Learning new skills is always difficult. The library is here to help.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, literacy is intergenerational. Parental involvement and expectations are directly linked to a student’s success in school. Family literacy programs often focus on building literacy skills in both parents and children. Parents that read regularly are more likely to have children with an interest in reading, since children like to emulate what their parents do. However, before a child can begin picking up a book, they need to gain pre-literacy skills, and be exposed to concepts that help develop literary skills.
We tend to think of reading as a singular activity, but in reality it’s a skill developed from assorted other skills as a child grows. Focusing on the little squiggly symbols we call letters is a step just as much as understanding how language works is. Learning to verbalize and consider abstract concepts through imaginative play and frequent communication are important building blocks to figuring out that squiggly symbols represent words. The more a child interacts and plays and expands their overall mental abilities, the quicker they will likely learn to read especially if play is already associated with words.
More than that, associating play with words is more likely to make a child enjoy reading (and want to learn more). Play is serious business for children. It may seem contradictory to learn using resources that don’t seem precisely educational, but the more fun the activity is the more information a child will absorb. Educators use a variety of resources to help children learn through play. One such resource is Tumblebooks. The library subscribes to this resource so that parents can log in and give their children access to a wide variety of books and games to aid in literacy development.
Many of the books on Tumblebooks play videos, sing songs, or animate highlighted words to allow children to follow along with the story on the screen. It may seem counter intuitive, but a child’s attention is often better with learning how to read by watching a video rather than simply reading a story, which develops early pre-literacy skills. The resources grow with the child using quizzes, book reports, and games for more developed readers, and even lesson plans for teachers and parents alike. There are also playlists of various lengths and subject areas to keep a child intrigued and entertained in a way that’s educational.
Tumblebooks is excellent for helping the youngest child gain early literacy skills before learning how to read. The library has multiple similar resources for various ages and literacy levels available in our collection databases. To access these resources, simply go to http://wcpltn.org/ Tumblebooks can be found in “Children’s Electronic Resources” which is located in the Children’s Department section under the “Main Library” tab on the website. If you can’t find it, just ask a librarian at (615) 794-3105. Tumblebooks does require a username and password to sign in. If you have any questions, call the library and we will gladly help you.
Library-based family literacy projects R 027.6 MON
Early literacy storytimes @ your library: partnering with caregivers for success 027.6251 GHO
Growing a reader from birth: your child’s path from language to literacy 372.4 MACG
Art across the alphabet: over 100 art experiences that enrich early literacy 372.5 CAM
The garden classroom: hands-on activities in math, science, literacy, and art 635.083 JAM
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Originally published September 7, 2018
Most of us remember seeing the poster, somewhere, at some time stating that “Uncle Sam Wants You….” Did you ever wonder why it is everywhere, and why this United States mascot is called Uncle Sam?? Prepare to be informed…
During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson (Marvel’s Falcon was aptly named), a meat packer in Troy, New York delivered meat for the soldiers fighting the battles of the war. There was a directive from the government that all supplies sent to the troops be stamped with the name and location of the supplier. He stamped the barrels with a U.S. which actually stood for United States. Sam was locally called Uncle Sam; when the barrels were delivered to the troops, soldiers from Troy knew Sam Wilson and called him Uncle Sam to other soldiers. Word spread and hearing the story, more and more soldiers began saying that the meat came from “Uncle Sam.” The soldiers began calling themselves Uncle Sam’s soldiers. By the end of the War of 1812, Uncle Sam was considered a new nickname for the United States.
The United States of America had also been called Columbia, shown as a classical Greek statue of a woman, sometimes holding a flag – dos the song “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” ring any bells? The name Columbia was based on Columbus, since he discovered America (but maybe not the first discoverer any more…)
So now we know how the name Uncle Sam became associated with our armed forces. But what about the picture? We have to go back earlier than you might think. Thomas Nast was the first artist to create a picture of Uncle Sam. He’s the same artist who made Santa Claus into the character we see today. He created his image in the 1870s and 80s, and then continued to refine the image; he was the first artists to give Sam a white goatee, top hat and a suit of stars and stripes.
We’re probably all familiar with the poster Uncle Sam Wants You! Artist James Montgomery Flagg (truly, his last name is Flagg!) designed over 40 recruitment post for the United States as it entered World War I. Flagg was under a deadline; he didn’t have enough time to find a model for the poster. He looked in the mirror and used his own face for inspiration for Uncle Sam. He had a long face, with bushy white eyebrow and full beard. So he had the image he wanted for the poster. Flagg also had illustrations in “Photoplay,” “McClure’s Magazine,” “Colliers Weekly,” “Ladies Home Journal,” “Saturday Evening Post” and “Harper’s Weekly.”Now…, to find the message. He remembered seeing a poster of Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of War, asking the British to “Join Your Country’s Army – Lord Kitchener Wants YOU.” Inspiration! He created the poster with the soon to be iconic image of Uncle Sam with the caption Uncle Sam Wants You To Join the Army. It was this image more than any other that set the appearance of Uncle Sam as the elderly man with white hair and a goatee wearing a white top hat with white stars on a blue band, a blue tail coat and red and white striped trousers, and his pointing finger. Flagg’s Uncle Sam first appearance is generally believed to be on the cover of the magazine Leslie’s Weekly, on July 6, 1916. Also on the cover was the title “What Are You Doing For Preparedness.” A poster of the image was also created, using the now famous phrase I wan You for the US Army. More than four million copies of this cover image were printed between 1917 and 1918. When Flagg was asked to update his famous image, he hired Indianan veteran Walter Botts as a model. Family lore has it that he was chosen because he had long arms, a long nose and extremely bushy eyebrows.
In 1961 the U.S. Congress recognized that Sam Wilson “Uncle Sam” as the progenitor of America’s national symbol. Wilson died in 1854, and is buried in Troy, New York, which rightly calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”