NanoWriMo Young Writers Program
This post saddens me to write, as I have been a long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month challenges. You may even remember my post (here) from just last year citing the benefits of participating. I still stand by the benefits of pushing yourself to get into the habit of prioritizing writing for a month. But I can no longer say I stand by or respect the NanoWriMo organization or platform as a whole. Here is what is unfolding in this NanoWriMo controversy. (I will use the term allegedly for legal protection where necessary.)
Those of you familiar with the platform know that in addition to your own Dashboard where you create your work in progress and receive your milestone badges there are also a multitude of chat threads and forums.
Last spring, it was uncovered that a moderator of these forums was allegedly using the platform to lure teens to a fetish site that he allegedly owned which showcased content involving minors. There were also allegations made that this same moderator was approving users from that same fetish site into the forum and allowing them to engage with teen NanoWriMo users.
The story gets more upsetting in seeing how long it took for NanoWriMo staff to intervene and take action and in the lack of transparency and accountability the organization has been taking in regards to the situation.
My reasons for sharing this information are two-fold. One- I feel the writing community needs to know about what allegedly transpired and how the organization failed to respond. Especially since they offer a Young Writers Program targeting teens under the age of 18 and K-12 educators.
Two- I feel there is a larger issue here that needs to be discussed. How do we protect young writers who want to participate in writing communities? And honestly, is it even appropriate for teens to be participating in some of these adult writing communities?
Should age play a role in an authors’ journey?
This is a situation where I feel technology and its accessibility has played a role. For instance, I’m involved in a number of engagement groups on Instagram. These are all geared towards authors and bookstagrammers. But there is no limit on genre or content that participates. As a result, there are some very explicit erotica book covers and reviews being showcased.
Not long ago I saw that a thirteen year old girl was admitted to some of the groups since she had written a book. It was discussed in some of the chats that authors were uncomfortable sharing this content with her. I brought it to the attention of one of the moderators and she said she wanted to support the girl in her writing endeavors, but she did understand the concern. Eventually, the girl was removed from the group.
This is where the internet has blurred the lines. If this had taken place in an actual physical setting would we have had a sole child sitting in a room full of adults sharing this content? But with the faceless nature of online presences that incongruous distinction is easier to overlook.
I wish I could say I had an answer to this dilemma. As both a former educator and a once voracious young writer myself, I get it. Teens want support, they want to learn, they want mentorship and community. But online writing communities might not be that answer. In general, online hobby communities might not be the answer. They are too difficult to monitor and there is no way to ensure security.
Instead, look for in-person learning opportunities in your community. Check for school clubs and classes. Many local colleges offer camps and young writing programs. See below for some examples. Try entering young writer competitions- still the broader potential without the online presence.
What are your thoughts on this issue?
Follow up Resources and Ideas-
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