The Boston region of National Novel Writing Month has developed a series of customs and traditions since 2006. In the interest of keeping things fresh, some of them have been retired, while others are still going strong.  

The Goal Board

For every write-in we put up a Goal Board, which is a large sheet of easel paper with a column for the name of the participant, the word count they are starting the event with, the word count they would like to finish the event with, and finally, the word count they actually reach at the end. 

If they reach their goal, they get to ring the Goal Bell and everyone in the room stops writing to clap and cheer for them! 

We came up with this idea during our first year as MLs when one of our spaces had a whiteboard and we were figuring out how we could use it for the event. It has been an enduring, affirming, and very motivating tool every since.


The story of Merlene, the one-heeled drag queen of Waxahatchie County, is a story in the best tradition of William Shakespeare and Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  This epic tale has all the makings of a seriocomic tragedy:  Love.  Betrayal.  Death.  A ghost.  Sequins.  And the Ultimate Glitter Bomb.
Travis retelling this sad, sad story at the end of our Kickoff and TGIO events has become a NaNoBoston tradition, one that we hope you will become a part of.
*Photo credit goes to Eddy Torigue for the picture of Travis telling the story of Merlene.

The NaNoBoston Beacon Award

Established in 2015, the NaNoBoston Beacon is presented to the Wrimo who best leads by example, who contributes to the community, and who works hardest to set a good example for their fellow NaNoBostonians.

Previous Winners:
                                              2015 – Karla (pikagirl)

The ELMO Award

The ELMO award was the highest honor bestowed by NaNoBoston from 2006 – 2015.  It has been superseded by the NaNoBoston Beacon Award.

At the end of every National Novel Writing Month in Boston since 2006, Elmo and Merleneprizes have been awarded to wrimos who have distinguished themselves in some way. While the prizes are all equally desirable, the first among equals is the “Excellence in Literary Monthly Overachievement,” or ELMO, award. But why ELMO?

Elmo, the Sesame Street character, became the unofficial mascot for NaNoBoston that year. Travis and Jordan, both freshly–minted MLs at that time, were scouting write-in locations one October day. It had been a long and tiring series of visits to unenthusiastic shopkeepers and restaurateurs, trying in vain to convince them that letting a group of people come in, take up tables for a couple of hours, and write was a good idea.

As they drove across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge from Cambridge into Boston, Travis caught sight of a truck behind him. Tied to the grille was not one, but two Elmo dolls. At that moment, tired as they were, they thought it was very funny and resolved to make Elmo the mascot.

It was later that night, when brainstorming about prize ideas (new at the time) that one of them (no one remembers who) came up with the idea of calling the biggest prize the ELMO. A suitable acronym was coined, and the rest of the idea came together.

ELMO award winners received a certificate extolling their achievements, along with an Elmo doll and the appreciation of their fellow Boston wrimos.

Previous Winners:
2006 – Mageta (Swain)
2007 – irascible (Viv)
2008 – The Wordspinner (Randy) and bschory (Brandon)
2009 – SocioTom (Tom)
2010 – bschory (Brandon)
2011 – aliciagregoire (Alicia)
2012 – Pikagirl (Karla)
2013 – EmpressRiz (Riz)
2014 – Sarah E. Biglow (Sarah)
2015 – sinistmer (Megan)

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