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Spartan writes novel in summer

December 7, 2010

Spencer Nordwick, a comparative cultures and politics and international relations junior, poses Tuesday outside Espresso Royale, 527 E. Grand River Ave. Nordwick spent time in Poland last summer writing a novel at a local coffee shop. Nordwick said he gave himself 75 days to write 50,000 words.

Photo by Matt Radick | The State News

Most MSU students spend their summers working, doing an internship or basking under the sun on the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan.

But Spencer Nordwick, a comparative cultures and politics and international relations junior, spent the majority of his summer at Mleczarnia Café in Kraków, Poland, writing a historical fiction novel.

“I like reading novels, and I’ve always wanted to write one because I thought it’d be fun and a challenge,” Nordwick said.

“Basically when I was writing, my goal was to create a first draft — a skeletal first draft. … You have to give yourself a word count and get through that first draft.”

Nordwick said he traveled to León de los Aldama, Mexico, where he wrote the opening drafts of the novel. From there, he flew to Poland, where his goal was to finish the first draft of his 50,000-word novel in a 75-day deadline he set for himself.

The novel, tentatively entitled “The Spark That Burned One Hundred Worlds,” is the fictitious story of a family’s struggle after they were displaced by the civil war in Tajikistan in the 1990s.

In his story’s plot, Nordwick said the family was granted political asylum and immigrated to the U.S.

“(It seemed) very out of the blue but not really,” he said. “Two years ago, I went to Tajikistan, taking language courses. I have a fair enough background on culture and the war itself, so I figured, ‘Why not go for it?’”

When he was away from home, he kept a blog updated almost weekly on his website, roadtofiftyk.com, to chronicle his journey.

Linda Racioppi, a professor of comparative cultures and politics and international relations in the James Madison College and one of Nordwick’s former instructors, said although the college encourages students to be creative in and out of class, writing a novel is unusual.

Racioppi said Nordwick is an excellent student and she expects he will make a major impact in Central Asian studies.

“I have been so impressed by his discipline and his commitment to his studies that I have tried to find ways to include him as a research assistant on a project on rural development in Tajikistan,” Racioppi said in an e-mail.

“(The topic of the novel) is an innovative way to build from what (Nordwick) has been learning here in James Madison College and at MSU more generally.”

Nordwick said he’s been passionate about writing since he was young.

His mother, Jill Nordwick, who lives in Wyoming, said she noticed her son’s writing abilities in kindergarten and has enjoyed watching them grow. She said she remembers him filling up notebooks full of writing and is proud of him for venturing away from his home in Wyoming, taking risks and trying new things.

“I think he just enjoys writing. He has a lot of creativity, and it’s a good outlet for that,” she said.
“(It’s) a little bit scary because I don’t know what it’s about. But it’s exciting, and I better get a signed copy.”

Spencer Nordwick said the novel will be in the editing process for the next six months before he looks for a literary agent. He said he hopes to have it published by May 2012.

Although he said he’s excited for his novel to come out, the amount of books he sells isn’t nearly as important as the accomplishment of writing it in the first place. He said he considers it a privilege to have the opportunity to do something of which he always has dreamt.

“The bare bones are done: I’ve made the word limit,” he said.

“I would never consider myself a writer, but it was something I always wanted to do and was passionate about.”

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