Craft · Interview

Author Spotlight: Susan Dennard, on NaNoWriMo and The Mighty Pens


Ahem. What I meant to say was: Today, we’ll be catching up with Susan Dennard, author of the Something Strange and Deadly series, as well as the Witchlands series (Truthwitch and Windwitch). Specifically, we’ll be discussing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and The Mighty Pens.

Welcome to Writer’s Block Party, Sooz! So we’ve been talking about NaNoWriMo prep this month, since November is creeping up fast. We had wanted to talk about resources for NaNo, and while I was planning to have that post be mainly links to your website… it seems you are doing something different and incredibly exciting this year, which we’d like to call attention to for all potential NaNoWriMoers.

We’re talking about The Mighty Pens, your NaNo + Malala Fund lovechild/amazing initiative to get us all in the serving-a-greater-cause/competitive-AF-about-our-writing-goals spirit.

1. To start out with, can you tell us about The Mighty Pens?

So, our goal is to raise at least $10,000 across all participants for the Malala Fund, which champions the right for all girls to have 12 years of education.

Basically, writers who sign up for The Mighty Pens will ask friends, family, colleagues, etc. to donate money when they hit specified word goals. Kind of like how runners will get each mile of a race sponsored, we’re just working with words instead!

Not only will this raise money for a great cause, but it will encourage writers (like me and Kat, who founded this), to finish their dang books!

2. Awesome. So can I ask, what brought about this initiative?

All credit must go to Kat. She had the idea for the super awesome format (sponsor words for charity–YASSS!) and mentioned it to me in September. I was like, “Please let me do this with you.”

After that, we dove in. We started reaching out for donations from authors/publishing pros, I built the website, Kat wrote up content for it, and together we got this fundraiser going!

3. Okay, this Mighty Pens thing sounds great, but…I’ve always felt super uncomfortable asking people for money (no lie, even Girl Scout Cookie selling was a stretch). What do you recommend?

We actually created a page just for that:

Basically, start with the people you know best — the ones you’re most comfortable with. I went to my parents because…duh. And then my husband was like, “What about me?” So I asked him too. 😉

But yeah, once you’ve got a few names and you’re more comfortable with the “script,” you can move into a wider circle of people. Or not!! Nothing says you have to have a lot of sponsors — any money is good money when it comes to charity.

4. Excellent, that’s really helpful. But just say, even with all your suggestions, I’m not able to convince anyone to sponsor me—can I still join The Mighty Pens?

Yes! Yes, you can! All participants must donate $10 to join the Mighty Pens, and as long as you do that, you’re good to go! You won’t qualify for our fundraising prizes (books, critiques, skype chats, etc.), but you’ll still qualify for the word count prizes!

5. So, what next? How do I go about joining?

Head here! Once you fill out the form, you’ll be sent to a Welcome Page (and receive the same content via email) that lays out exactly what you need to do to partake. 🙂

And of course, if you’re still on the fence, feel free to check out our About Page or follow #TheMightyPens on twitter to see the community that’s already building!

5. Now, about that writing 50,000 words in a month thing…😱 I know you’re a past NaNo participant—how did you start? Any memorable years/moments?

First off, I’m not shooting for 50K this NaNoWriMo. I’m not a fast writer, and I’ve finally embraced that fact. My goal is 25K, and I’m happy with that. 😉 Words are words!

But yeah, I wrote my first book, Something Strange & Deadly, during NaNoWriMo of 2009. It was TERRIBLE and I spent the next year revising it into something decent, but I learned so much.

And as you can see here, I’ve done a lot of NaNos since then. For the Witchlands, though, the timing has been off. This is the first year in a while that I’ll once more be in drafting mode during November. 🙂

6, Yayy! We’re excited you’re back. Okay, last question. Whatever your goals may be, NaNo can seem daunting. Do you have any advice/resources (coughotherthanyouramazingwebsitecoughcough) to offer potential WriMoers?

Well, we’ve set up a page with resources, and then…yeah…I can’t NOT recommend my website and newsletter. I do offer a lotttttt of content there for writers of all experience levels. So be sure check those out! 😉

Thank you so much, Sooz. We can’t wait to see you in November for all the writing sprints and The Mighty Pens fun!

Sum up of helpful links/NaNo resources:


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