Nanowrimo and Katimavik

I haven’t posted in a while because of Nanowrimo. I hope to explain the title as I go. I’m sure there are some people that have never heard of Nanowrimo and others that haven’t heard of Katimavik.

November was a long month of writing. Once again, I participated in Nanowrimo. For anybody who doesn’t know, this stands for National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November, you sign up to write 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 a day. It’s a lot. It’s wonderful. It’s exhausting. It feels good to win. Not just to win, but 50,000 words is a good start to a novel. It’s an amazing month of motivation.

Past Nanowrimo Experiences

I’ve participated in Nanowrimo five times. I won the first year. It’s currently still at 50k, but it’s waiting for me to finish it. I will.

The second year my laptop fell in water (a long story I don’t care to remember). Although I had signed up, I didn’t get it back in time to write anything more that 2000 words.

The third year I had a six month old baby. I tried, but didn’t get anywhere. I wrote about 5000 words, but I didn’t try to win. My first time trying after Anthony wasn’t going to work out, but I was proud of myself for starting something. (It’s still unfinished.)

The third year I was more interested in baby snuggles than writing.

Last year, I won and finished 50,000 words, but I haven’t finished the novel yet. I will though. It needs to continue. It’s about a character from the first novel I wrote. It was easier to work on this because I knew my characters, and I loved continuing their stories.

As many know, it is a lot harder to write with a child than it is without. That’s a fact of my life. I wrote while Anthony was sleeping. I wrote and wrote and wrote. 

Somehow I finished a novel with a toddler and a puppy surrounding me in 2017.

The Current Nano project: Katima-What

This year, I wrote during the terrible twos. I wrote at night while my toddler was sleeping. Also, he’s been pretty good this last month, the terrible twos were mellow. I was lucky enough to have Clint home with us so I wasn’t completely exhausted when it came time to write. 

It’s hard to write during the day when you have to eat chocolate with your tot.

For my 2018 project, I chose a different genre of writing. It seems fiction is the preferred Nanowrimo choice, but I decided on something new. It was a new kind of writing for me as well. I chose to write about an experience 20 years ago. I finished the 50k, but it was tough this year. I couldn’t blame my toddler. I wrote when he was asleep. The real problem was my story ended before the 50,000 words. My last few days were spent trying to get more words even though in my heart, I knew I was done. I did it, but I know that I’ll be deleting a lot of it. I honestly should have just stopped writing. I could have been happy just finishing a short novel, but instead I continued trying to write more words so I could win Nanowrimo. I don’t regret that, but I was pretty exhausted by the end of the month.

The topic I chose to write about was Katimavik. When I was 17, I travelled to three different provinces in Canada with 10 other young Canadians in a government funded program. I left my town of 200 people after graduating high school, and got on a plane by myself. My first stop was Newfoundland for three months. We also went to Ontario and Quebec, each for three months. I had never met anybody in my group before. I had no idea who I would be living with for the next nine months. 

This was my group. We looked like this 20 years ago. This was our very first day. I’m the one in the tiny sunglasses third in standing up. 

This was 20 years ago. It turns out I don’t remember a lot about what life was like 20 years ago. My plan was to pull out the photo album to look at the photos from back then. Twenty years ago we didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t take photos with a digital camera. For that matter, we had dial up Internet and a phone hanging on the wall to keep in contact with family. We also sent mail. (I still send mail now.) We took photos, and then dropped the film off at the store until the photos were developed. You never really knew what you’d get. I have a lot of photos from that time, but not nearly as many as I’d have now. 

Before I started going through the photos and keepsakes, I pulled out the journal I wrote during the program. It was probably the best I’ve ever kept a journal. I’m proud of myself for keeping it, but reading it was kind of a slap in the face. I didn’t remember half of the things I wrote about, and I spent a lot of time not being happy. I was involved in a once in a lifetime program, and I wasn’t appreciating it. 

My journal from 1998-1999.

I remember having rough times on this trip, but I didn’t at all expect what I was reading. There were so many times when I just wanted to shake that 17 (and then 18) year old girl. I want to teach her about the gratitude I have so much trust in now. I know I did love what I was doing because I remember that feeling of happiness 20 years later, but I used the journal for the negative thoughts.  

I’m seeing it differently than I did when I first read the journal. At first, I thought I was an unhappy teen who was very inexperienced in almost everything. I read it thinking the writer had very low self esteem, and was just looking for a place to belong. 

As I read it the second time, and wrote about it with 20 years of life experience, my story became less about me travelling Canada, and more about my young self dealing with anxiety, but not knowing what it was. She still had low self esteem, and desperately wanted to be a part of the group, but she also had incredible anxiety. It’s taken me 20 years to recognize it. I can look back and see it in my  more recent past, but I didn’t realise how far back it went. Luckily, it didn’t hold me back from new experiences (but did at times hold me back from being happy.)

The first half of my story was written just from my journal. I then went back and started again with my photos. I added in different experiences and memories. The two stories mixed together into the real story. Photos tell a completely different story. It turns out people have been showcasing their happy lives since way before social media. It’s very rare to look back at a photo album, and see the unhappy memories. Thank goodness for that. I loved looking at the photos, and seeing the smile on my face.

I also had a tape (it’s a CD now) that one of the participants made me for my Christmas present. It’s got the voices of my group. Jokes, songs, laughter. It’s one of my favourite things to listen to. It still makes me feel loved. 

Katimavik was a whole bunch of firsts for me. It was my first time travelling. My first time away from my family. My first real boyfriend (I had limited experience with dating). It was also my first heart break. This didn’t help with my moody journal entries. It was my first time discovering what I was good at, and what I needed to work on. 

Our very last photo together on our last day of the program.

Nine months later, we made it though the great adventure, and got to go home. We were our own Katimavik family, and although I’ve kept in touch, and seen a few of my friends throughout the years, we are planning a Katimavik reunion next year. It will be 20 years since we said goodbye. It will be wonderful and strange all at the same time.

I want to share some of the words I wrote in my novel. I’m basically going to quote myself. I’ve always enjoyed that. What I’m sharing isn’t about the travel itself, but how I felt in my group. These lines will also probably be edited, but it’s a start, and they’re really honest moments in my writing.

“As much as I haven’t enjoyed reading my journal, I think it has helped put things into perspective. You can’t just trust the happy photos. The thing is now, I recognize that it can be both. You can be an angsty teenager going through all the problems in life, and have wonderful moments that you want to remember. I think at the time, I was sad a lot, and after it ended all I could remember were the good things. I like the mix now. I’m okay with knowing that things can be good and bad. I didn’t understand that back then.” (Quote from Katima-What unpublished by Erin McCrea).

“I tried so hard to be normal. And tried so hard to be liked. I didn’t realise that normal is not me, and I don’t ever have to change who I am for people to like me. If they don’t like me for me, that’s okay. I wish young me had taken a breath, looked around, and enjoyed her life, and enjoyed her kooky personality for what it was. People are constantly changing, I was constantly changing, but I also needed to figure out how to embrace who I was.” (Quote from Katima-What unpublished by Erin McCrea).

I always wanted to write about my first travel experience. I’m glad I did. However, I will be going back and editing it. I’ve never been so excited to get rid of  words. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll every share with anybody, but we’ll see. I can’t imagine getting something so personal published, and I also can’t imagine anybody wanting to publish it. One book at a time. 


I finished Nanowrimo 2018, and I finished my second novel. That’s something to be proud of.

I will make all of the changes to it in the New Year. It turns out when you spend all of November writing in your spare time, you don’t give yourself a lot of time to plan Christmas. 

That’s my Nanowrimo month. I write everyday regardless of Nanowrimo, but it’s nice to push myself. 

I have a lot more posts that are unfinished, including one about my birthday in September. I’m very behind in my online writing. I’ll get to it soon. 

I’m sure I’ll write at least once more here before the end of the year, but I hope you’re having a stress free December. I know how easy it is to be stressed this time of year, but I’m working on it.

Thanks for reading.

©ErinLeahMcCrea All photos I share on my blogs are my own, please Ask Me For Permission Before Using Them. 

2 thoughts on “Nanowrimo and Katimavik

  1. Congrats on finishing your 2nd novel. That’s really amazing. I’m really glad I learned about Nanowrimo. I would love to write a novel one day and what a way to get started! That is a decent amount of words per day for sure. I’m going to look out for it in 2019! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Katimavik Reunion – Writing Momma Life

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