News from NaNoLand

December 2019 NaNoWriMo Recap

NaNoWriMo 2019 has come to a close. This year Fort Stockton had 10 participants, 5 of which were winners, and collectively wrote 358,899 words.

We had 10 events throughout the month ranging from short write ins to a weekend re-treat. We had a traveling write in where we checked out several local spots and restaurants throughout the day. Another fun event was an entire afternoon of writing where we all brought food potluck style and enjoyed lots of goodies while we wrote.

This years newest event that will have to become a tradition was a writers retreat. 4 writers shared a cabin in Alpine for the final two days of NaNo. We wrote, ate, wrote, ex- plored, wrote, shopped, and wrote some more. The scenery was gorgeous and provide a much needed peaceful and inspirational environment. An added bonus was several in the group getting to pet a deer. Collectively the writers that attended wrote 53,856 words between arrival Friday afternoon and midnight on Saturday night. A definite highlight was cheering for 3 writers as they each crossed their goal.

Now as the month is over your local writer friends will be coming down off of their over caffeinated states and rejoining society, after they get a full nights sleep of course. We have one final event for the year, the Thank Goodness It’s Over party, and then it’s back to our regular lives. Though hopefully with a more solid writing habit having been established and sleeves pushed up to edit those November words!

~Sarah Shuttleworth~

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December 2019 – On Writing…Or Not

On Writing…Or Not by Sarah Shuttleworth


Sometimes you just need a moment to watch the sunset to calm your mind. This past weekend I took a trip with a few other writers up to Alpine to stay in a cabin while we finished the last couple days of NaNoWriMo. If you are unaware NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that happens every November and the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel within the 30 days of November. This is my 10th year to participate in the challenge and my 8th year to be a Municipal Liaison for the organization and run events for my local group and virtually for other writers across Texas who don’t have their own groups.

Some years I win and some years I lose. This was a losing year for me but as I sat there in the cabin in the final hours of the day writing I was at peace with it. I don’t consider it a loss because I have a pretty good chunk of a story that I didn’t have before I started.

This year has been an interesting one for me. Lots of ups and lots of downs. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone more and more. I’ve dealt with loss and grief. I’ve grown in a lot of new areas and feel like I’ve come closer to God in this past year.

The month of November is always busy for me ever since I started participating in NaNoWriMo and this month was no exception. With several other events and things going on, numerous kids activities, and a few winter blues days I just found it harder and harder to get words on the page.

I was looking forward to our retreat weekend though when I might hopefully catch up. While I did write quite a lot it just wasn’t in the cards for me to reach 50,000 this year. The cabin we rented had a nice hill in the back with a picnic table on it. On the last day of the challenge I embraced the cold and made my way to the top to get some writing in.

As I reached the top I was taken by the beauty of the skies around me. I sat and looked around the valley and every direction offered a breathtaking view. One direction held cotton candy clouds of pinks, blues, and purples. Every time I looked away and came back I was met with a different view of colors. As the sun set and the colors faded I felt a deep sense of peace. I sat for a long time just watching the clouds and listening to the birds, crickets, and dogs.

For the first time in awhile I just sat. I wasn’t worried about what events I had to get to or prepare for, I wasn’t worried about reaching my writing goal, and I wasn’t worried about the million other things that have plagued my mind lately. Instead I sat and enjoyed the quiet of the moment. I thanked God for painting me such a beautiful picture. My mind emptied and my soul lightened. I breathed out the stress and breathed in the peace of the moment.

I could have written and increased my word count getting closer to the challenge goal but I would have missed out on that moment. Sometimes you need to stop and take a breath, admire the world around you, and watch the clouds go by. Though when you hear a coyote howling close to you, it might be time to go inside.

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News from NaNoLand

July Newsletter: News from NaNoLand

Camp NaNoWriMo by Sarah Shuttleworth

Have you ever thought ‘Someday I’d like to write a novel’? Have you heard of NaNoWriMo and thought that the idea of writing 50,000 words in one month seems daunting? Well I’ve got the perfect thing for you to test those waters and push yourself to write that story! Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s retreat, designed for maximum flexibility and crea- tivity. NaNoWriMo has Camp sessions in both April and July, and they welcome word-count goals between 30 and 1,000,000. Maybe a novel isn’t exactly what you had in mind. Camp NaNoWriMo writers can tackle any project they’d like including new novel drafts, revision, poetry, scripts, and short stories. You set your own goal whether it’s to write a certain number of words, hours, minutes, lines, or pages.

If you would like more information, have questions about how NaNoWriMo works, or would just like to connect with other writers who will be writing with literary abandon this July contact Sarah Shuttleworth at

National Novel Writing Month is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes your story matters. They know that writing makes the world a more crea- tive, vibrant place. Through NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, and the Young Writers Program, they work hard to empower and encourage that vibrant creativity. And, they can’t do it without writers like you.


  • Encourages you to focus on a novel! Bonus points for 1st drafts.
  • One goal everyone shares: 50,000 words in 30 days.
  • Hundreds of in-person write-ins led by local Municipal Liaisons.
  • A 100% fun writing challenge that believes your story matters… and that you can totally write it.


Camp NaNoWriMo

  • Focus on any writing project: novel, short story, cookbook…
  • Set an individual goal! You can even track time instead of words.
  • Join a virtual “cabin” to create your own cohort of up to 20 folks.
  • A 100% fun writing challenge that believes your story matters… and that you can totally write it.

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Member Spotlight

March Newsletter Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth

Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth



In November of 2010 Sarah saw someone post on facebook about a writing challenge they were participating in called NaNoWriMo. On a whim she looked up the site, made an account, and unknowingly started a journey that would change her life. That year she started writing with no plot and no idea how to even write a novel. She met up with friends in Fort Stockton who were also participating. They had a great time that first November but once it was done they missed those writing sessions and wanted to do something to progress their writing all year round. Critique Cafe was born from that.

Sarah participates in Critique Cafe all year long but November is one of her favorite times of the year. She is a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month and loves when she gets to help encourage others to write their own novels during the challenge. She loves the NaNoWriMo organization and how much they do to encourage young story tellers.

When she isn’t writing she may be found participating in her other hobbies which include painting, reading, and tabletop gaming. That is when she isn’t busy chasing down her two little boys and shuttling them to various activities of their own!


Spotlight Feature Article by Sarah Shuttleworth

It was a dark and stormy night. Of course it was, that’s how all of these things seem to start isn’t it. I was waiting at the bus stop, wrapped up in my jacket, huddling underneath the small covering when I saw her. A flash of lightning lit up the street and there she was, walking with no umbrella. I watched her walking in the darkness for a moment wondering why someone would be out in weather like this with no umbrella.

Another flash of lightning lit the sky and I noticed a person following a good distance behind her. He had a large hat on and a trench coat with the collar up. The woman crossed the street at the cross walk and turned towards the bus stop. I tried to nonchalantly look around, trying to keep an eye on the man. He was leaning in a doorway watching the woman. Lightning flashed. I tried to try to get a better look at him but even with the lightning, darkness seemed to cling to him, completely covering his face so I couldn’t make out a single detail. His head followed her as she walked into the bus stop. She sat on the other end of the bench, closed her eyes, and leaned against the dirty plexiglass. She had short blonde hair plastered to her face and her red jacket was dripping it was so soaked. Should I say something about the man?

“Hey.” I managed to say.

“Oh, uh hello.” She said with a nervous glance. The smell of vanilla and brown sugar tickled my nose.

“Crazy weather huh”

“Yeah, I didn’t know it was going to rain, otherwise I’d have grabbed an umbrella.”

“Here, take mine.” I held out my umbrella.

“Oh I couldn’t. You need it, besides I’m already soaked anyway.”

“I’ll just be jumping on and off the bus. I don’t need it. I insist.” I gave her a smile. She returned one as she grabbed the umbrella.

“Thanks.” She said.

I chanced a look across the street to see if the man was still there. He was staring at her. An 18 wheeler passed in front of me and when it was gone, so was he. I quickly looked around but there was no trace of him. Maybe I was imagining things. I looked back over to her and saw that the man was now on our side of the street and walking this way. I could feel my heart pounding faster and my mouth going dry. I could see him blurred beyond the plexiglass. I didn’t know what to do. My palms were getting sweaty. I had an intense feeling that something terrible was about to happen. I opened and closed my mouth several times but no words seemed to come out. I swallowed the lump in my throat and refused to take my eyes off the menacing man. Thankfully the bus pulled in. Safety was a few steps away. I jumped to my feet.

“Ladies first” I said as I gestured to the door, hoping she would enter quickly so we could leav

e. She smiled as she half opened the umbrella and darted onto the bus. She stood on the top step as she closed the umbrella. I went to step onto the bus when a hand grasped my arm.

“Don’t get on the bus.” It was the man from across the street. I tried to pull away but he was remarkably strong.

“Let me go!” I pulled and pulled, but his grip never slackened.

“Trust me. You don’t want to get on that bus.” I looked him in the face. He was an old man, covered with scars.

“Don’t get on that bus.” He emphasized each of those last words.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m trying to help you kid.”

“Doesn’t seem that way” I tugged my arm again.

“Look at her again.” He whispered, his lips barely moving.

I looked up onto the bus and saw the woman staring at us. She had a pleading look on her face and held out her hand like she wanted me to join her. The man suddenly pulled something out of his coat with his other hand and held it up to her. Her face immediately changed from a sweet, demure, young woman to a raging snarl. I stepped backwards and he let me go. The door of the bus closed as she was still snarling at him. The bus began to pull away and I looked at the old man.

“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

“What did you see?” He asked as he tucked the item away.

“Did she have fangs?”

He chuckled.

“You thought I was the threat didn’t you.” He said with a wry smile.

“You’re not answering the question. What’s going on?”

He looked me over.

“Come with me and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” He stepped out into the rain and began walking away.

What should I do? It’d be crazy to follow him, right? Confused, a little scared, and without an umbrella, I jogged into the night to follow him and unknowingly start a
crazy journey that would change everything about my life and what I knew.

News from NaNoLand

December Newsletter: News from NaNoLand Wrap Up

National Novel Writers Month Wrap Up by Sarah Shuttleworth

National Novel Writing Month has come and gone. Several members of Critique Cafe joined in the challenge and each pledged to write 50,000 words during November. November is typically a very busy time of the year but this group powered through all of life’s obstacles, challenges, schedules, and events. The participating group wrote an amazing 338,713 words!

During the month we gathered together at various events to come to- gether and write. We had several short write ins at local Come Write In location The Garage Coffee, Music, and More. We had our first ever Write In Motion event where we travelled around town stopping at vari- ous locations to write for a couple hours before moving on to the next one. We also had my personal favorite annual event, the Afternoon of Writing Dangerously. During that event we spend an entire afternoon writing and eating, it’s a potluck and not only can this group write well but they can cook well too! During this years Afternoon of Writing Dangerously a total of 26,260 words were written!

Overall I am really proud of the whole group. One wrote while waiting at the hospital for a grand-baby to be born. Some wrote in free moments at work. Some wrote in cars on the way to visit family. All worked really hard and no matter what their final totals were, have a story they can now start to edit and polish. In the end we had six complete their goal and made it to that 50,000 word count. Now the fun begins as we begin on the editing journey! Well maybe after a nap…nanowrimo