As of Saturday, November 26, 2011, I completed this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for the second time, coming in two words over the goal of 50k! I couldn’t be happier!
The experience this time around was an interesting one, as I didn’t really have an idea for what I was going to write until the week before November 1st rolled around. I took the pre-challenge to title my novel before knowing what I would write and came up with Ending at the Start. I ended up changing the title, but thinking about what “ending at the start” might mean, I started to think about a child’s life ending before it had a chance to begin.
My first NaNoWriMo I wrote about abortion, so I didn’t want to go in that direction, but the thought brought me back to a time four and a half years ago when I was serving as a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps.
There were many sights I witnessed while serving in Malawi, Africa, but none that stuck with me as vividly as the time I witnessed a teenager giving birth to her second child in the village where I was stationed. The experience was as raw as it could get – we were in the Third World after all. All this young woman had was a sarong wrapped around her (called a “chitenje” in the Malawian language of Chichewa). She kept calling out for her mother, though the Malawian nurse I was with told me she didn’t really mean it – the women there knew they had to go through the labor and birthing process alone, a sign of feminine strength.
Not only was this girl, at least five years younger than I had even been at the time, going through the most physically demanding process a woman faces solo, but she had to keep the child from her husband for at least two weeks thereafter, caring for it alone still. Only if the child survived those two weeks would she be allowed to present it to her husband and name it.
Thinking about these truths and traditions of the Malawian people, I couldn’t help but wonder what if the girl I had seen give birth refused to follow those “laws.” Death in the first two weeks of birth is common in Africa – what if that girl, who I had been told lost a child already, lost a second child, or a third child? What if she refused to go through it alone any longer? What would the first Malawian feminist look like?
And thus, Vuto was born – both the character (the name means “trouble” or “problem” in Chichewa) and the novel as a whole.
Now that the rough first draft is complete, I am so excited to go back for Round Two. I shall keep you posted as my newest book gets closer to completion!