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Tara

Write Your Heart Out!

I have to be honest – when I sat down to write this piece, I wanted to start by explaining how I was introduced to NaNoWriMo… and then I realized that sometime between my first year participating (2012) and now, I completely forgot how I originally got involved in it. Thankfully, I do remember that that first year – I decided to participate a couple of months in advance, and spent most of October 2012 researching and plotting my first-ever NaNo project.

Unfortunately, that first year was the only year that I was also extremely involved in the local NaNo activities. I live in a small city but we have a fairly large number of participants here compared to our size, and our Municipal Leaders (MLs) were very active and great about scheduling plenty of gatherings – kick-off parties, write-ins, wrap-up parties and the like, as well as hosting online activities via the NaNo website and message boards.

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But I’m the type of person who stretches myself too thin, which meant that in 2013 I didn’t get to attend any of the official events, though last year I did make it to the wrap-up party, and I’ve always been fairly active in our local Facebook group and official NaNo site message board. I have to admit that attending the write-ins were a big part of what helped me win NaNo my first year, though; I won in 2013, as well, but it was more due to my own stubborn nature than anything else, and last year I unfortunately didn’t even meet the halfway mark for word count before realizing how terribly behind I was and simply giving up entirely.

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I also find it helpful that a handful of my Facebook friends participate in NaNo and post about it throughout the month of November. I may not be able to meet up with the ones who live far away, but we tend to encourage each other via Facebook posts, and even last year when I announced that I was giving up, I received plenty of messages telling me that even if I wasn’t going to go for the win, I should keep writing. I didn’t keep writing, but I DID switch back to spending my time working on other unfinished projects, so in a way, National Novel Writing Month still helped me buckle down a bit more than I would have otherwise.

And as for this year? Well, I’ve already begun my research and taken some basic plot notes, and I’m planning on inviting local NaNo friends to my house for our own write-ins, both because I hope that will encourage myself and others to write more, and also just in case the official write-ins don’t fit into my busy schedule.

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I am of the belief that there’s really no one “right” way to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Yes, there are rules – you have to write 50,000 words of a new story to win, of course – but if you want to do that entirely in the privacy of your own home, do it. If you want to accomplish your word count by attending every write-in, that’s great too. If you feel like you can only win if you finish your novel, whether that’s at 50,000 words or 150,000 words, kudos to you. Or if you’re just using those 50,000 words as a jumping-off point (which is what I do) and you don’t complete your story during NaNo, it’s still an awesome way to get started.

In fact, the novel I won with in November 2012 wasn’t actually completed until March of 2013 – I added about 30,000 more words to the 50,000 I wrote during NaNo, and then took my sweet time editing it. But I did finish it, and extensive edits, and in December 2014, I published it via Amazon Kindle Direct. I’m still working on the novel that I began for NaNoWriMo 2013 – and I fully believe that eventually I’ll finish it, and edit it, and publish it, even if that means that I self-publish again.

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The point of NaNo isn’t necessarily to be a social writer, or to write a full novel, or honestly – in my opinion – even to win. It’s simply to write. And it’s wonderful. So here’s looking forward to NaNoWriMo 2015!


TaraTara has been a geek at heart all her life. She has spoken about geek culture at several industry conventions (including San Diego Comic-Con and Dragon Con), Ohio State University, and TedX Sarasota. She also co-founded and co-organizes Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones/Song of Ice & Fire convention in the U.S.. She resides in lovely Greenville, SC in a house full of Star Wars-themed carpets and a plethora of dogs and cats. You can find her personal stories at her blog, A Geek Saga.

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We interrupt your normally scheduled programming for… FEELINGS

FEELINGS…with The Geekiary – Dragon Con 2015 Edition, where Some Nerd Girl writers Tara and Eve join others to talk about their feelings regarding this year’s DragonCon for The Geekiary.

TedX? TED-yeah!

Last year I was presented with the amazing opportunity to give a speech at a TedX event in Sarasota, Florida. A friend had suggested that I apply, and my original speech idea was along the lines of “Women’s Roles/Voices in Geek Culture”. Little did I know how much that would change and evolve throughout the few months between being accepted as a speaker and the event itself.

As someone who is fully immersed in geek culture, I was admittedly surprised at the reactions to the first version of my speech. Basically, most of the people who heard it said that they either didn’t understand a lot of what I was talking about, or that they weren’t sure it was ‘universally palatable’ the way TedX speeches are supposed to be.

Like I was asking them to try and figure this out...
Like I was asking them to try and figure this out…

To be honest, it was difficult to take a step back from something I love so much and view it from an outsiders’ perspective. I wanted to use my speech to bring the idea of geek culture – and specifically, women’s involvement in it – to others. But suddenly I found myself wondering if it was even possible to do that in the twelve minutes I was allotted on stage.

We're nerds. And we're women. We do exist. It's pretty simple... I thought.
We’re nerds. And we’re women. We do exist. It’s pretty simple… I thought.

Because that’s the thing you don’t know or see when you view Ted or TedX talks – that so much of the time, the end result – what you see live or online – is the product of months worth of coaching and feedback and editing (and in my case stress and anxiety and wondering if I’d ever get it right or if I should just admit that I was in over my head and throw in the towel).

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My speech went through several iterations before it was completed, and as weird as it sounds I was both under- and over-prepared for the event itself. As fate would have it, I ended up giving a speech I was proud to have written…while suffering through a terrible case of bronchitis. I was medicated nearly out of my wits just to be able to get up on that stage, and this led to a lot more “um’s” and “uh’s” and other silliness that I wish I could edit out of what became the true final product.

But other than the difficulties that my illness caused (and of course the previous frustration with how to make my geeky story into something a bit more relatable to the general populace), TedX was nothing short of an amazing experience. I’m glad I didn’t throw in that towel, because not giving up meant that I got to spend nearly twelve minutes on a TedX stage, talking about the general ideas of self-defining oneself as a geek and how people can ‘geek out’ over so many things. Because there really are so many different kinds of geeks out there. I’m the geek who gets nearly obsessive over certain books and movies, who goes to conventions and speaks on panels about the things I love, who cosplays, who has a house full of Star Wars-themed rugs.

And I quote...

The question I tried to raise with my TedX speech was, what do you geek out about? And I’ll probably never stop talking about my TedX experience because that’s a conversation I’d like to keep going.

We at Some Nerd Girl wanted to know more about Tara’s experience – so we followed up with some burning questions!

What made you want to get your thoughts and ideas out there?

Well, I guess I’d been doing so for years through my blog and then writing for The Geekiary, as well as being a panelist at several conventions from 2012 on, but until my friend suggested that I apply to be a speaker, I’d never really thought about doing so – at least not for TedX.

What was your process for coming up with ideas and what you wanted to talk about?

When I was approached about applying to be a speaker, it was suggested that I stick with talking about geek culture, and to be honest, my original idea to focus on women’s roles/voices in geek culture immediately popped into my head.

How were you approached? What was the selection process like?

An acquaintance of mine was a speaking coach for TedX Sarasota and he thought I could bring something different to the table, so he suggested that I apply. I filled out the online application and was contacted maybe a month or two later – I can’t remember exactly how long. I’m not sure how the selection process went for TedX Sarasota, but I’ve since volunteered for TedX Greenville (just on the event staff) and I know that theirs is a pretty intense, time-consuming process, where they review all applicants, choose the ones they think best fit, and then continue to narrow it down from there. I’m assuming it’s probably similar with other TedX events.

Were you totally geeked out or were you like… of COURSE they picked me! ??

Oh I was totally surprised and nervous and excited. Even though I was encouraged to apply, I certainly never *expected* that I would be chosen. I actually had to keep it a secret for a while after I found out, and let me tell you, that was one of the most difficult secrets I’ve ever had to keep! I just wanted to tell everyone because it was such a big deal to me that I would get to be involved in something so amazing.

How familiar were you with TED Talks? Did you have any favorites that inspired you to go for it?

I knew about TED talks and had watched a few throughout the years, but before participating in this event I hadn’t really delved into them all that much. (Mostly due to lack of time on my part, to be honest.) That said, now that I’ve done one myself, I’m constantly on the lookout for good ones, new and old!

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Definitely having to take my original speech idea and basically rework it entirely so that it was more ‘universally palatable’….although coming down with a horrible case of bronchitis two days before the event didn’t help things either. Giving such an important speech all doped up on cold meds (I didn’t have time to go to a doctor and actually get real medication until after TedX) and with a 100+ degree fever was difficult to say the least.

What, if any, feedback or comments did you get afterwards? The nerd/geek culture is not always kind to those who point out girls love nerdy things, too.

Actually, it was during the preparation process that I struggled a bit – not that anyone was rude, but there were a lot of comments from the organizer and even fellow speakers that were along the lines of “this isn’t interesting because we don’t understand it”. I tried not to let it get to me, but I definitely got really stressed out about it, especially when I had to rewrite my speech several times. In the end, though, the final product was very well-received. I was approached by several attendees later on that day – some of them wanted to discuss similar interests (I had a great conversation about Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars EU novels); others just wanted to share with me what THEY ‘geek out’ about. To be honest, it was those conversations that really made the event memorable for me.


TaraTara has been a geek at heart all her life. She has spoken about geek culture at several industry conventions (including San Diego Comic-Con and Dragon Con), Ohio State University, and TedX Sarasota. She also co-founded and co-organizes Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones/Song of Ice & Fire convention in the U.S.. She resides in lovely Greenville, SC in a house full of Star Wars-themed carpets and a plethora of dogs and cats. You can find her personal stories at her blog, A Geek Saga.

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