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National Novel Writing Month: Inspiration for the inner novelist

National Novel Writing Month kicks off Friday, and thus far, more than 95,000 people have each pledged to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Nearly 11,000 Chicago-area folks have registered, so this week we're offering a little inspiration to motivate these intrepid writers. While publication is certainly not the only reason to write a book, it's typically the grand prize that writers aspire to. Here are five books conceived during NaNoWriMo that have been published by major houses.


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen

"Water for Elephants," published in 2006, was the first major book to be published by a NaNoWriMo author. The best-selling page-turner is about a veterinarian student who joins the Benzini Bros. Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a seedy, Depression-era circus. The book was made into a 2011 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz. Local trivia: The book references the 1918 Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train crash and fire in Forest Park, which killed 86 people.

"The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern

NaNoWriMo spawned another best-selling circus hit with "The Night Circus," published in 2011. The book club favorite is a historical novel that follows Le Cirque des Rêves, a mesmerizing circus that only performs at night. The book, which spans the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hinges on a duel — and a love story — between two young magicians, Celia and Marco.

"Wool" by Hugh Howey

Wool is the omnibus edition of Howey's five-part "Silo Saga," a story about life in a dystopian future where the outdoor air is toxic. Howey made waves last year when he initially turned down traditional publishing deals for his 2011 self-published phenomenon, "Wool," only to strike an unusual print-only deal with Simon & Schuster. Earlier this year, 20th Century Fox acquired film rights, with Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian named as producers.

"Sure Signs of Crazy" by Karen Harrington (ages 9 and older)

"Sure Signs of Crazy" follows Sarah Nelson, a 12-year-old girl whose mother drowned Sarah's twin brother and attempted to drown Sarah. It's been 10 years since the incident — which was the subject of Harrington's adult novel, "Janeology" — and Sarah launches an investigation to find out what led her mother to murder.

"The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan

Ryan has become a best-selling author since the 2009 publication of "The Forest of Hands and Teeth," her take on survival in a zombie apocalypse. Ryan told Publishers Weekly that she conceived of the book after her fiance took her to see "Dawn of the Dead"; she thought it would be a fun way to experiment with voice. The inspiration for the book's breathless rhythm? Jamaica Kincaid.

Jennifer Day is editor of Printers Row Journal.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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