The Fall Continues... – Raven Oak

The Fall Continues…

I truly thought that after having their asses handed to them with regards to internal bigotry…I mean possibly protecting missing stairs…no, I mean kicking all the writers in their youth program to the curb…ah, hell, I figured the folks running National Novel Writing Month would have learned something from all their copious mistakes, but it appears not.

Many writers participating in NaNoWriMo left in droves after the fiasco I last wrote about, though I know some people were hopeful that the board could turn it around. One way that the board decided to “fix” the systemic and well documented issues was to name Kilby Blades as the temporary new Director. She, along with the Board, decided to stop responding to any and all criticism, including from Municipal Liaisons or MLs. 

In order to protect NaNoWriMo participants (and thus, the Board) moving forward, the Board released a new set of requirements for all MLs and participants, which included the following requirements:

  • All communications regarding NaNoWriMo must take place via official channels (aka their website). No local groups on Facebook or Discord for discussions, write-a-thons, sprints, etc. 
  • All communications must be in English, even in countries or places where that can cause a problem 
  • All MLs and other staff must undergo a thorough background check, which is fine, except they chose to use a company ( with very questionable ratings & processes

As far as I can tell, they also removed or gutted their entire Young Writers Program.

How do we protect minors? By not having them. *facepalm*

When a Board of Directors changes or restructures the organization, especially in ways that directly affect participants and volunteers, they need to ensure that what they’re suggesting is doable and legal. Despite the name, NaNoWriMo is no longer “national” and centralized to the United States. It’s a world-wide event involving 671 regions on six continents.” That means that any changes made have to be approached from a global perspective. You can’t apply United States laws to other countries, no matter how much some folks want to.

One (former) ML in particular, Adam Lewis, was concerned about these agreements that MLs were being told to sign and for good reason. MLs were told that the new agreement:

  • Could not be shown to anyone (which could include attorneys)
  • Had to be signed within two weeks of receipt

Failure to sign within the time frame would mean they were no longer considered MLs for NaNoWriMo. 

The agreements also exposed volunteer MLs to legal liability in order to protect the NaNoWriMo organization by stating that MLs agreed to assume all liability for all correspondence and events. For example, if someone showed up to an in-person write-a-thon, which MLs are required to host, and sexually harassed a participant, the ML in charge agreed to take responsibility for those actions. Of course, this could open them up to all manner of lawsuits, but would in theory protect the Board from another fiasco like the one in 2023. Nice way to throw your volunteers under the bus. Another example is if a user lies about their age on the NaNo site or at an in-person event, the ML is liable for anything that happens as a result of that. In other words, it’s not NaNo’s fault they didn’t know you were underage, but it is the liaison’s fault. 

How about no?

It gets worse from there. If you really want to see everything, Adam has shared a Google Doc with all the communications for your viewing found here: Initial emails between Adam & Kilby

When Kilby refused to answer valid concerns and questions from Adam, he resigned from his position. Other MLs have done the same. You can read more about that here:

Because so many MLs were confused and raising concerns, Kilby forcibly removed all MLs from NaNoWriMo. All of them. Even those who had agreed to the new requirements. A new ML agreement leaked and it was even worse than the first. Only those MLs who signed it would be given back their rights to the NaNo site.  (You can see that agreement here: )

So many people have jumped ship at this point that I’m not sure it’s possible for NaNoWriMo to recover, though they are set to try. Since Kilby is a temporary director, the board recently posted a listing to hire a new director. Good luck to whoever inherits this mess, but at this point, I’m done.

Absolutely, completely done.

If you really want to fall down the rabbit hole, there’s a Google Doc with a nice timeline of events that you can check out here:–vuC9Bl4-OUFGcmHgBRt2aHSRVWBPc6su4AMFY5iDgZGyC379Zm8C7zhBd2zuf/pub 

RIP National Novel Writing Month.

Voices Carry: A Story of Teaching, Transitions, & Truths by Raven Oak. Cover image shows pride and trans flags in the background and a chalkboard & chalk piece on the bottom of the book.By the way, help support writers like myself. I’ve got a ton of books out, which you can see here, but I also have a new book coming out in August called Voices Carry: A Story of Teaching, Transitions, & Truths. If you sign up for my mailing list, you can be notified of when pre-orders go up.

With over two dozen tales in print, this is my first memoir and focuses on my life as a queer, neurodiverse enby while teaching in the south and coming out. It’s also about finding one’s self, which is something a lot of creatives write about. Hopefully we can all find a new path forward as writers that doesn’t involve the toxicity of NaNoWriMo.

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