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Author raises AIDS awareness through NaNoWriMo challenge

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When Lumumba fled the Republic of Congo, he left his wife Mukemba and family behind. Through a series of letters to her, he update his progress and continues to profess his love. Even though she cannot respond often to him, as doing so could cause government officials to trace her to the refugee, both hold out hope for a better life.

That’s the premise of The Runaway Country, a novel currently being produced by Brazilian writer and blogger Nicole Froio for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo, for short, is an annual November event in which writers pledge to devote 50,000 words to a new or current project during the month.

But there’s a secondary purpose to Froio’s efforts: She’s hoping to raise AIDS awareness. Her goal is to raise £1,240.10 ($1,970.39 USD) by the end of the month for the Mercury Phoenix Trust Charity, which strives to educate and raise awareness about the disease, using a donation page through crowdfunding platform Just Giving.

Froio's desire to help out with AIDS awareness stems from the fact that three people she would have liked to meet were taken by the disease. One person is iconic Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 and for whom the charity is named. Another is Brazilian rock star Cazuza, who passed in 1990 at the young age of 32. Froio admired the musician for his refusal to hide his bisexuality and struggle with AIDS during the late 1980s. The final man is her uncle, who also died in 1990, shortly before she was born.

"I like to think we would talk about books and how blind as bats we are," Froio said of her uncle. "I would like to know what books he would recommend and if he likes the same music as me. Maybe we would go to a bookshop, since that's a place I Iove spending hours in, and we could share reading tips."

Froio, who has written for The Independent and the Rio Times, studied journalism in college and has a personal blog named Lucid Outlook. It only seemed natural to apply her skills and passion to an important cause.

"Not all of us can run a marathon or climb a mountain," she said. "I definitely think [raising money through NaNoWriMo] could be a trend because we're not all built for the usual charity raising type of things. I am definitely not. I am made for writing."

Froio spent three weeks prior to NaNoWriMo preparing an outline for the story as well as profiles for her characters. But even still, the task hasn’t come easily.

"It's not going as badly as I thought. It's a lot harder now that I've started a full-time job as an assistant, plus the freelance writing I do, but I find time to make up for it. I just try to concentrate on only this on my days off and weekends, so I haven't been going out much!

"I just say to myself, 'You have to get at least 2,000 words done today so get on with it.' Sometimes I'll spend hours researching the Congo and its history just so I know my characters' culture better. Then I have a better mind frame to put the story together."

Despite a slow start in fundraising (so far, only seven readers have pledged money), Froio said that there has been a very positive reaction to her work so far.

"I've had great help from the Glipho community for example, and some other people who aren't very close to me have said they really like what I am doing," she said. "It's always nice to have help and hear that what you do inspired someone!"

With the Nov. 30 completion date for NaNoWriMo just around the corner, Froio is certain that, if she conjures up a similar or even better idea than The Runaway Country, she will pursue it again in 2013 and had some words of wisdom for those who may be considering the challenge.

"[NaNoWriMo] has completely revolutionized the way I think about fiction and people who write it. I am not sure I am made for writing fiction, but my mind feels more free because of it,” she said. "My advice would be just write, even if you hate what you're writing, because your mind will be better for it. I hate about 80 percent of my writing so far, but it has made me more creative and it has taught me how to write a novel."

Froio's NaNoWriMo exercise can be found on the project's official website.

Photo via Nicole Froio/Twitter