by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
IN THE writing world, November is a special month, although a generally crazy one.
It is known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. During
this month all of those who have a passion for writing are encouraged to
cast caution into the wind and blitz out the novel they have always
dreamed of writing. It is something anyone, from any walk of life can
participate in. All it takes is commitment and time management. The link
for the website where you can sign up is nanowrimo.org.
those who take on the NaNoWriMo challenge, the number 50,000 signifies
both a hated overseer and a inspiring target. As this process is about
getting those who want to write, to write, everyone is given a target –
50,000 words – they are to reach by the end of the month. Over the
course of November you are to type out 50,000 words of your chosen
Since the target is all that matters you are not
encouraged to edit and rewrite as you write, but simply charge forward
until you finally scale that 50,000 word tall peak. The rest of the year
can be spent tweaking and rethinking, but November is purely for
writing. So you take your idea and see whether it can take you to 50,000
words or not.
I participated last year and used November as a
chance to start a story I had always imagined but never gotten around to
really fleshing out. My story was titled “The Legend of the Chamurai”
and takes place over 600 years after a great warrior makahna, or
spiritual fighter, receives a vision foretelling the doom of her people.
Along the way, conquistadors and Japanese samurai make appearances.
Ferdinand Magellan appears in a cameo at one point.
Chamorros believed in ancestral worship as their religion, they saw the
world around them as filled with the spirits of their ancestors. These
spirits give guidance and good fortune, and so my story tries to give
life to this possibility, placing the worlds of the living and the dead
side by side. Makahnas (today known as suruhanus) have the ability to
harness the power of the spiritual world and cast spells, summon
monsters and create shields of protection.
figures such as the white lady and Gadao are there, as are lesser known
spirits such as Anufat and Gamson. Even the infamous trickster spirit
Ukudu plays a role in the story.
I reached my goal of 50,000 words and have been eagerly awaiting November so that I can continue my story.
year is different however, because I am currently the program
coordinator for the Chamorro Studies major program at the University of
Guam. The purpose of the program is to preserve, study and promote the
knowledge, language and culture of Chamorros. So this year’s NaNoWriMo
has a visibly local twist for me, and I am encouraging people to join me
and participate in ChaNoWriMo, or “Chamorro Novel Writing Month.”
in ChaNoWriMo is just as easy as NaNoWriMo, with one expected
difference. For NaNoWriMo you can write about anything, for ChaNoWriMo,
you have to take special care to weave throughout your story things that
are representative of Chamorros. In other words, write a story that
will use the Chamorro language, history and culture as core parts of how
the plot unfolds.
This can mean that you write a story entirely
in Chamorro, or it can mean just the dialogue is in Chamorro. Or it can
just be a promise to use Chamorro words as much as possible in the
dialogue or the text.
But these sorts of things can be
incidental; the inclusion of a minor character from Guam, the use of
“Hafa Adai? here or there, or as most films and novels do it, just the
mention of Guam randomly at some point. For those who want to
participate in ChaNoWriMO, you have to go a bit further. You have to
really find a way to creatively represent Chamorros. This means finding a
part of the Chamorro story or the Chamorro experience that doesn’t
receive as much attention and highlighting it. Or it can mean taking
something that people are already familiar with and writing about it in a
completely new light.
For example, I am looking forward to
someone updating the traditional “suruhanu/suruhana” figure. Suruhanus
can help people in many ways. They have natural remedies, sometimes
offer midwife service, can be experts at massage, and can also be our
link to the spiritual world. When you are at a point where an illness
seems to have no cure or where some supernatural mystery cannot be
answered, you turn to a suruhanu to help you.
I can’t wait till
someone writes a series titled, “CSI: Suruhanu.” In it, families and the
police when faced with crimes or mysteries that cannot be solved or
have some unfathomable dimension, they’ll call in the services of CSI:
Suruhanu, who can use his mental fortitude to analyze clues, but also
his connections to his “ga’chong” in the taotaomo’na world for finding
the truth. If this concept doesn't interest you, take some other aspect
and write a similar transformation for it.
The Chamorro Studies
Program Facebook page will be offering more information on how to
participate in ChaNoWriMo. To receive these updates please like it on