Amazing what some writers will come up with when they're high: In 1999, author Chris Baty was 26 years old and "high as a kite on Peet's coffee," he recalls. "I had the idea that it would be pretty great to write a novel in a month. And it would be even cooler if I could get a bunch of friends to write novels with me." What evolved from Baty's java dream are National Novel Writing Month (or as he dubs it, NaNoWriMo) and a book chronicling the experience, No Plot? No Problem! The mission for would-be NaNoWriMo novelists around the world is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. This year, scores of Houstonians have joined the insanity and are writing the month away. These authors have day jobs, most of them don't have a creative writing degree, many of them have families, and all of them have full schedules. Online message boards and local gatherings provide support for NaNoWriMo participants, but the secret to their success is a hard and fast deadline. The usual paralysis-by-analysis that writers face vanishes here, as quantity trumps quality. The goal of this month is not to craft the great American novel, but instead to get a novel down. The madness has paid off: A couple of novels borne out of NaNoWriMo have even been picked up by major publishing houses.
Think you're up for a 50,000-words-in-30-days challenge? Grab some coffee and get to know some Nanos (as insiders call themselves) when Baty signs No Plot? No Problem! at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 18. Barnes & Noble, 7626 Westheimer. For information, call 713-783-6016 or visit www.nanowrimo.org. Free. -- Amanda Orr
Roll Over, Regis
Those cheesy daytime talk show personalities with their nauseating banter and gargantuan coffee cups -- you could out-host them any day, right? Prove that you're the next Kelly Ripa or Montel Williams at "Lights, Camera, Action!"The Good Day Live Experience." The traveling show puts you in front of a green screen (like the ones weathermen use) and tests your skills on a TelePrompTer. Be warned: The winners (and losers) of the screen test will be shown on future Good Day segments. But if you shine, you may land an appearance on the show with Steve Edwards and co-hosts Debbie Matenopoulos and Arthel Neville. (And, just maybe, your own giant coffee cup.) 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, November 22. Katy Mills Mall, 5000 Katy Mills Center. For information, visit www.gooddaylive.com. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Eid It Up
It's only fair that young Muslims who've been observing Ramadan -- the holy season that involves daily fasting from dusk till dawn -- would want to party down at Eid, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. Problem is, the typical community parties seem to leave out loud music and carousing with the opposite sex. "They're archaic," says Sarah Ali of Groovy Crew. Her group's Eid Festival features food, prizes, live music and DJs, a guys'-and-girls' fashion show, free henna and even free ten-minute back massages for the first hour. Come to mingle, dance and enjoy the season. There's just one stipulation: Hygienically challenged folks need not attend, as the invites request "cool folks aged 18 to 35 who wear deodorant." 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, November 21. The Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Road. For information, call 281-773-4071 or visit www.groovycrew.com. $15 to $20. -- Steven Devadanam
Get cozy with local artists at the Houston Art Crawl
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If you catch a strong whiff of turpentine in the downtown air this weekend, don't panic; it's just 150 local artists taking the padlocks off their inner sanctums. The Houston Art Crawl, now in its 12th year, offers a rare chance for the aesthetically inclined and the just plain nosy to gawk at artists' private studios, where inspiration and perspiration lock in the proverbial battle for dominance. Take a free trolley to each of the 15 warehouse stops and pick up a work by an established or starving artist, or just get a glimpse into the creative process from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, November 20. Downtown Warehouse District, 1200 block of Sterrett Street. For information, call 713-236-8535 or visit www.artcrawlhouston.com. Free. -- Scott Faingold
We can see the headline now: "Colin Powell licks himself during live appearance." We're talking Colin Powell the cat, not the statesman. Colin, a black Bombay who's being heralded by cat aficionados as the best "minority breed," will be in town for the Cat Fanciers' International Cat Show. The annual event boasts some 1,000 pedigreed kitties competing in numerous "best of" categories. Talk foreign policy and hair balls with the stately feline from Friday, November 19, though Sunday, November 21. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For schedule and information, call 877-232-7469 or visit www.cfa.org. $6 to $8; free for children six and under. -- Steven Devadanam