Reflecting on NaNoWriMo 2023 with Novelist Lara Ehrlich

Red Hen Press
6 min readDec 7, 2023


By Lara Ehrlich, Samantha Diaz, and Mackenzie Ostrowski

To celebrate the conclusion of NaNoWriMo, Red Hen Press asked novelist Lara Ehrlich a few questions about the annual challenge and the art of writing. Lara is the Founder and Director of Thought Fox Writers Den, which builds community and supports writers of all levels with in-person and virtual workshops, coaching, events, and more. To learn more about Thought Fox check out their website at To learn more about NaNoWriMo and Lara’s writing perspectives, read on!

What is NaNoWriMo?

For the entire month of November it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you think you missed your chance at participating, don’t worry! You can always check back at the wonderful resources and tips on the website and take on the challenge next year.

For those who are just starting out, NaNoWriMo is a month of dedication to your work-in-progress. It is meant to help you stay focused on your writing, design goals and milestones, interact with other writers within your community, and keep mindful of your work so you can finish your novel effectively and efficiently.

The rules are straightforward: write x amount of words and complete that goal. The official rules state that writers taking on the challenge should strive for 50,000 words; that’s roughly 1,667 words a day! The trick is you should only count the words you started in November, not existing words written before (or after).

The word count should be from the novel writing, not in any sketches, research, citations, character designs, etc. Does this sound daunting? Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds. The most important thing is to have fun with it. This is meant to challenge AND fuel your creativity.

To give us a perspective on juggling the task as a writer, author Lara Ehrlich shared some amazing answers to your questions on our Instagram. Since this was a collaboration on our Instagram post, each person Lara mentions is linked to their Instagram profile through their username so you may check out their wonderful work. Here is what Lara (@lara.ehrlich) had to say about writing, mentorships, and staying involved with the literary community.

RED HEN PRESS: Who is one of your favorite authors and when did you decide to write books?

LARA EHRLICH: I started writing books in fourth grade, when I filled notebooks with a fantasy novel about Zohara and her wolf companion, Blubluck. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. So hard to choose just one favorite author! Here are a few: Angela Carter, Elizabeth McCracken (@elizmccrack), Katie Peterson (@poetrykatie), Crystal Maldonado (@crystalwrote), James Joyce, Nabokov, Ray Bradbury, Tananarive Due (@tananarivedue), Deesha Philyaw

(@deeshaphilyaw), Ann Hood (@annhood56), and so so so many more!

RHP: Where do you find inspiration? Especially for characters!

LE: Personal experience is an amazing source of inspiration. Friends, family, memory, hopes and fears, milestones — all fair game for writers! I also look to fairy tales, which tap into and transform the most primal aspects of being human. And, research! For BIND ME, I attended the Sirens of the Deep camp at Weeki Wachee Springs (@weekiwacheesprings) in Florida to learn how to swim — and dance! — in a tail. That experience helped bring depth and detail to every aspect of my novel.

RHP: What is your favorite genre to read?

LE: Ooofff…everything! I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers lately, but I love literally every genre. Another very specific genre I feel is particularly vital and exciting right now: rage-filled books by bold women.

RHP: Who are your most influential mentors?

LE: Mentors are so important! In college, the poet Geoffrey Hill was formative. His acute attention to language on the level of individual words was revelatory. Later, I began seeking out strong women-writer-mothers and Elizabeth McCracken (@elizmccrack) and Ann Hood (@annhood56) influence has been life-changing.

RHP: What are the most fun and least fun things about being a novelist?

LE: Most fun = finishing a novel. Least fun = writing a novel.

(Sort of) kidding! I love those rare moments where I find a state of flow, where the story seems to be pouring out on the page. The flip-side of that is when the story just. doesn’t. want. to. come. and I get frustrated with myself, which doesn’t help. So the least fun part is getting in my own way.

That said, it’s hard work but joyful work. Ray Bradbury said: “It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it.”

RHP: By going with an independent publisher, do you think you get a chance at a more attentive editor, a better edit, if you will, than say, with a mega corp where your work could be chopped to bits & excused as “creative licensing”?

LE: GREAT question! My only experience is with an indie publisher, but many friends have been published by big publishers. I’m sure it depends on the press — but my experience with Red Hen Press has been nothing but fantastic. I just had a meeting with Kate Gale yesterday, in which she offered thoughtful, insightful feedback on BIND ME, and took the time to talk me through some early marketing and media ideas. She — and the rest of the amazing team — really “get” my vision for the book and are helping to clarify that vision, rather than chopping it to bits so it’ll fit more neatly onto a shelf. I do believe that indie presses tend to be deeply invested in storytelling and supportive of their authors.

RHP: Do you think it’s essential for an author to be a good public speaker? Or can you be shy? Have you always been comfortable doing PR/speaking stuff?

LE: I hear you! I had a crippling fear of public speaking. My voice would shake as if I were on the verge of tears. Practice helped — especially on Zoom and other platforms that are “public” but not in person. I was eventually able to transfer my newly acquired confidence to in-person events. I don’t think it’s necessary for an author to be a good public speaker, but it definitely helps to have SOME public presence, in whatever mode is comfortable for you. Maybe that’s a substack or social media channel or op eds — some way to get your work out into the world beyond your book itself. And, community is vital — you may be more comfortable promoting other writers (something we should all do as literary citizens anyway), so it may help to organize a small group of writer friends and agree to promote each other’s work. A rising tide lifts all boats!

RHP:What are examples of ways to stay connected with the literary community and how do you stay connected?

LE: I love this question! I believe that as writers it’s our responsibility and our pleasure to be a good literary citizen, which means lifting up other writers, contributing meaningfully to timely discourse, and sharing our experiences with transparency. I stay connected through my podcast, Writer Mother Monster (@writermothermonster), which highlights writer-mothers and offers solidarity, support, and advice. I also stay connected through my writing center, Thought Fox (@thoughtfoxwritersden), a mission-driven organization that serves writers at all levels and builds local and virtual communities. Other examples include shouting out other writers on social media, celebrating authors’ hard-won book launches, attending readings and other literary events, donating even a modest amount to content creators like podcasters and authors who offer substack subscriptions, reading and talking about the work of living writers — especially those who are underrepresented in the literary world, buying books from indie bookstores (shoutout to my local bookstore, the wonderful Bank Square Books (@banksquarebooks), reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads — but NOT buying books from Amazon (again, buy local!), writing notes of appreciation to authors whose work you enjoy, inviting authors to book clubs, and so many other ways!

Feel inspired yet? Thank you to Lara Ehrlich for sharing your words of wisdom! Grab your copy of Lara’s award-winning debut collection Animal Wife: Stories and look out for her forthcoming novel Bind Me Tighter Still, coming out Fall 2025.



Red Hen Press

Nonprofit independent literary publisher aiming to amplify unheard and underrepresented voices and improve literacy in schools.