About Us

The West Michigan Author’s Alliance is a year-round collective of more than 100 writers who find social and professional value in the art of crafting novels and short stories. We’re an independent group organized in 2024 after the Grand Rapids region of National Novel Writing Month disaffiliated with the national organization over allegations of mismanagement and concerns for the safety of minors.

WMAA is a program of the Lakeshore Literary Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity focused on the literary arts.

Geographic Area

We cover a large swath of west central Michigan. Our core area consists of Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties, with plenty of engagement from the surrounding counties. In addition, we draw substantial interest from the counties immediately to the north of us.

Our Culture

We’re a friendly lot! We are fortunate to include writers of fine character who are polite, open, respectful, and funny. True story: our volunteer leaders have never — never — had to moderate or coach a participant because of disrespectful or inappropriate behavior.

Our community is focused on helping people grow as writers. We welcome fresh voices, diverse perspectives, and challenging conversations. Our Discord server operates year-round for people who want to remain connected to other writers in the area.

How to Participate

Join our Discord server to join the chat. Keep your eyeballs peeled on this blog (you can sign up to receive emails if you create an account on this site!) for more information.

Don’t forget to read our Code of Conduct — this document outlines the philosophy of the region and serves as our Terms and Conditions document governing participation in our in-person and virtual activities.


We started in fuzzy fashion in 2004, as the Grand Rapids region of the then-new National Novel Writing Month program. By 2024, we cut ties with NaNoWriMo, but we honor the road we’ve taken for the last 20 years.

Some highlights of our journey —

  • 2004 — first recorded statistics for the region as a region of National Novel Writing Month. We celebrated six participants.
  • 2010 — the last of the “early years” featured a slow but steady increase in participant counts. This year saw 79 writers in the region, with “win” rates (i.e., having written 50,000 words in November) consistently above 66 percent.
  • 2011 — a new leadership team tried new ways of recruiting, to significant success: 509 participants this year, with 181 winners. A loose team consisting of Darla, Adrienne, Brittany, and Tabitha would “shepherd the flock” at various times over the next seven years and institute a series of regional traditions, including the Day of Knockout Noveling and Rippy the Cyborg Weasel. The region was officially named “Ottawa County – Grand Rapids” under Darla’s leadership, merging the Holland-area and Grand Rapids-area regions under a single banner.
  • 2014 — the Muskegon County region formed out of the OCGR region, taking roughly 80 writers with them.
  • 2019 — Tabitha and Melanie led the region, with Darla, Adrienne, and Brittany having stood down from active service. Official participation, which had been slowly declining since the 2014 split, stood at 325. The regional “win” rate since 2011 remained consistent at around 33 percent.
  • 2020 — the Coronavirus pandemic brought a swift end to in-person events; the make-up of our participants changed as well, with veteran in-person participants now off the grid and a new group of virtual-first folks filling the gap. Melanie led the region with unofficial backup support from Jason, Bob, and Brittany.
  • 2021 — HQ mandated that 2021 be a virtual year as well. Melanie and Jason led the region as a team for the first time.
  • 2022 — a return to in-person events brought a new spirit of joy to the region’s activities. Participation was low, but enthusiasm was high. We kept the “old” traditions alive, but swapped venues.
  • 2023 — the Muskegon region, which had been leaderless for several years, returned to us. To mirror naming conventions statewide, the OCGR branding was changed to simply “Grand Rapids” although our commitment to covering the entire region remained unchanged.
  • 2024 — because of several significant problems with the “headquarters” of National Novel Writing Month (including, but not limited to, HQ’s botched handling of credible allegations of sexual misconduct by volunteer leaders toward minors), and HQ’s mass firing of all global region leaders in March 2024, Melanie and Jason decided, with strong support from local participants, to sever all ties with HQ and become an independent writers’ group. Welcome to the West Michigan Author Alliance!


A municipal liaison is a volunteer appointed by NaNoWriMo HQ to coordinate a region. In previous years, leaders including Darla, Adrienne, Brittany, Tabitha, Melanie, and Jason have shepherded the region as the MLs of the region. Melanie and Jason served as the ML team for the 2021, 2022, and 2023 program years. With the 2024 disaffiliation, they continue to steward this community during its time of transition.

Jason Gillikin is a publisher, bookseller, ethicist, and technologist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the owner of Jason’s Books and Coffee, a bookstore in Wyoming, Mich., and the founder of the Lakeshore Literary Foundation. He serves on the board of directors of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. He’s the author of The Diction Dude Essential Guide to Getting Started as a Professional Writer. He enjoys scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, Uechi-ryu karate, funny hats, mechanical typewriters, fountain pens, and serving as chief butler to four felines across two different locations.

Melanie Van Weelden is a writer and geologist based in Grand Haven, Michigan. She often social-publishes serial fairy tales and related stories, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for one of her earliest traditionally published short stories, an accomplishment that her cat Zay and her snake Snek find singularly uninteresting, but which the rest of us celebrate.


Our mascot — Rippy the Cyborg Weasel — was created more than a decade ago to inspire writers to “write more, faster, or else.” The physical embodiment of Rippy (a stuffed toy weasel with … implements … glued to it) now remains in the tender care of Melanie.

Rippy, as envisioned by Jason and rendered by Midjourney AI.