Inside NaNoWriMo & Outside the Margins


Bria Wurst

A student’s writing workspace.

A student’s writing workspace. (Bria Wurst)

When you think of November, you usually think of falling leaves, Thanksgiving, cold weather, and a countdown until the holiday season. However, if you’re a writer, you’ve got other business on your mind too. 

That business is… 


While November does mark fall, Thanksgiving, and nearing a corner to Christmas, it’s also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo first began in 1999, and has grown immensely since then. The challenge of NaNoWriMo: write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November.

It’s very daunting to try and trump this 50,000 word challenge, but once you get there, the feeling is indescribable. ”

— Tess Janisch

Crazy, right?

This year, countless students from across the globe have decided to brave the challenge. Among them, you’ll find many of Panther Creek’s Creative Writing Club members. 

PCNN interviewed 2 members of the club: Tess Janisch and Nitya Budamagunta. Throughout the last month, these writers, along with many others at Panther Creek and beyond, have been working relentlessly to achieve their word count goals. 

An encouraging sticky-note message on a student’s mirror. (Bria Wurst)

Tess Janisch, who is a senior this year, has been participating in NaNo for the last four years. They found it on their own time in 2016 and discovered that it was a challenge that many writers have tried their hand at in the past. After researching NaNoWriMo, Tess approached the challenge with a determined, open mindset. “I decided, “Hey! Let’s go. Let’s do this.””

It isn’t senior Nitya Budamagunta’s first NaNoWriMo rodeo, either. She’s been participating in the challenge since her freshman year at Panther Creek. “Since my April Camp NaNoWriMo in 2018, I’ve done all of the Camp NaNoWriMos and NaNoWriMos since, which has been pretty cool!”

In addition to Tess and Nitya, a poll by PCNN shows that 5 out of 13 responders had also participated in the challenge before this year.

The experience of participating in NaNoWriMo is unlike any other. Here’s how Panther Creek’s Creative Club members describe it to be: 

Tess said “It’s definitely taxing at first – especially in your first year. It’s very daunting to try and trump this 50,000 word challenge, but once you get there, the feeling is indescribable.” 

Nitya laughs as she says, “Oh, the experience! 1, chaos. 2, the Hamilton song, “Nonstop”. It’s a month of chaos and keyboard smashing.”

Nitya Budamagunta’s writing workspace. (Nitya Budamagunta)

This year, all participants in NaNoWriMo are writing their own unique novels. Tess is writing a novel called “Westward Bound”, which is based in founded family and friendship. Nitya is combining mythology with fairy tales in her novel “Memories”. PCNN asked 12 students what genres they were writing; 7 said sci-fi/fantasy, 2 said contemporary novels, 2 said poetry, and 1 reported that they were writing in another genre.

Just as each member had their own characters, storyline, and conflicts, they also had their own final word counts as well. At the end of November, the challenge ends, and the writers reflect on their work. 

Tess hit their goal of 50,000 words this year! “I’m thrilled that I met my word count goal, frankly, especially because I have a running document of all of the words I’ve gone through and counted for NaNoWriMo.” A big congratulations to Tess on winning!

Tess Janisch’s writing workspace. (Tess Janisch)

While the Creative Writing Club is celebrating everyone’s finalized word counts, they’re also celebrating each other’s hard work and persistence through the month-long challenge. They did it! 

Nitya reflects on the importance of remembering that although not every member may have hit the ultimate 50,000 word goal, they should be proud of their work regardless. “Not everyone meets 50,000 words. We all write differently!” she says. 

Now, as the King of England says in Hamilton, “What comes next?”

For the Creative Writing Club, it’s their annual literary magazine, Outside the Margins. 

The literary magazine is a collection of student work; student poetry, prose, and art are all featured within Outside the Margins. Though the club didn’t have the chance to publish a copy of the magazine last school year due to the pandemic, they’re determined to publish an incredible collection of work this year, whether the students go back to school or not. 

All members that were interviewed plan to submit to the literary magazine. Tess says, “I think that everyone who reads this or watches this should submit it as well! It’s an experience that you’re going to benefit from, it’s a thing that you can try, and there’s nothing to lose going for it.”

Panther Creek’s annual literary magazine, Outside the Margins. (2019 Edition) (Bria Wurst)

The club will be opening up submissions for the literary magazine later this month. Keep an eye out for the scrolling announcements for upcoming information, and follow the Creative Writing Club on Instagram and Twitter (@pchswriters). As Tess said, the Creative Writing Club encourages all of the students at Panther Creek to consider submitting to Outside the Margins, regardless of whether they’re in the club or not!

The Creative Writing Club is excited for their next steps within the rest of this year and in the next as well. Congratulations to all NaNoWriMo participants, and good luck to all those submitting to and working on the literary magazine!