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Write That Novel, Already

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Today marks the start of another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an event during which new and veteran writers attempt to complete a brand new novel. As the site says, "The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." Boasting over 79,000 participants in 2006 -- nearly 13,000 of whom actually completed the 50,000 word goal -- this is where aspiring novelists need to be.

Although NaNoWriMo is primarily about putting pen to paper (or, uh, fingers to keyboard), many NaNoWriMo novels have been published -- check out this list of 19 such novels, including the rather famous Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Here are some impressive statistics demonstrating the growth of NaNoWriMo since its inception in 1999:

Founded: 1999 in Oakland, CA

Annual participant/winner totals:

1999: 21 participants and six winners

2000: 140 participants and 29 winners

2001: 5000 participants and more than 700 winners

2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners

2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners

2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners

2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners

2006: 79,813 participants and 12,948 winners

Number of official NaNoWriMo chapters around the world: Over 500

Number of K-12 schools who participated in 2005: Over 100

Number of K-12 schools who participated in 2006: Over 300

Number of NaNoWriMo manuscripts that have been sold to big-time publishing houses: Many (details below)

Percent of NaNoWriMo's net proceeds from donations and merchandise sales that went to build libraries for children in Southeast Asia 2004-2006: 50%

Number of libraries NaNoWriMo has built through this program: Twenty-two (three in Cambodia, seven in Laos, an anticipated twelve in Vietnam, pending 2006 financials)

Number of words officially logged by participants during the 2004 event: 428,164,975

Number of words officially logged by participants during the 2005 event: 714,227,354

Number of words officially logged by participants during the 2006 event: 982,564,701

To get started, check out How NaNoWriMo Works (in Ten Easy Steps) or consult the helpful book No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. If you're a visual artist, check out NaNoMangO, a similar project for comics.

Have any _flossers participated in NaNoWriMo? If so, share your story in the comments!

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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literature
How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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