Next time you happen to be surfing the Web, would you spare about one minute for just a morsel of fiction about a savvy, feisty young girl growing up in Vermont? An aspiring writer in the Upper Valley hopes so.
Becky Munsterer grew up in New Jersey but she’s a happy transplant to Norwich. She works as an admissions counselor at Dartmouth, and just about every lunch hour, she rushes to the noisy Dirt Cowboy Café, a popular hangout on Hanover’s Main Street, opens her laptop, and pounds out just one page of her serialized story, "The Stonehouse Caper." She’s parcelled one-page chapters out for about two weeks now on her spiffy new website, novelnibble.com.
The light bulb went on when one of her Dartmouth colleagues lamented the end of the daily soap opera she had followed for years.
"And she was telling me about how she loved following a story every day and following characters and having that escape every day," Munsterer said about the website launch.
"It clicked in my head that I could find an audience of people who wanted a little daily space and perhaps slowly integrate my writing into other peoples’ lives in this slow building up of having an audience. And so I started taking some of my writing and started figuring out if I could create a new genre of page-per-day writing for the Internet."
Munsterer knows of no other authors doing this kind of interactive self-publishing. After two weeks, she’s amazed to have picked up more than 1,000 readers from 45 states and 22 countries, and the only marketing she’s done is through Facebook. Novel Nibble posts a weekly question, such as, "What was your worst job?" Munsterer plans to incorporate answers into the evolving plot.
It’s about a young girl itching to leave her hometown of Wilder. Her grandfather wants her to know the joys of living right where she is-like eating crullers at Lou’s Bakery, right across the street from the Dirt Cowboy Café.
Lou’s owner Toby Fried thinks Munsterer is onto something.
"Yeah, I think it should be fun," he said, carrying a tray of cupcakes to the counter. "It’s nice to have it included in all this Upper Valley stuff. And somebody was telling me in the past it used to be that way for magazines-a lot of great writers got started that way."
In fact, Munsterer’s favorite writer is Charles Dickens, whose serialized fiction brought mountains of mail from readers whose opinions and suggestions he valued.
Back at Munsterer’s makeshift writing desk at the Dirt Cowboy Café, a stranger at a nearby table agreed to weigh in on Novel Nibble. Julie Powers, a junior at Dartmouth, read aloud from the Prologue on the Novel Nibble site.
"Big-hearted people live in small towns. They live on dirt roads where the spring mud meets the budding daffodils. They’re not particularly fashionable nor overly polished, but they are hardy – good and hardy."
After only a few lines, Powers said she was hooked. Chalk up another novel nibbler. Munsterer’s growing fan club also includes Cheri Henry, hardware manager for Dan and Whit’s iconic general store in Norwich
"It’s a very quaint story and it reminds me of growing up here in a small town," Henry said.
It was a busy day. She had to stop talking to sell a pair of rubber gloves to a local resident -Congressman Peter Welch. Another reader Munsterer would love to rope into The Stonehouse Caper. She isn’t making any money from the site yet, but hopes she’ll eventually get advertisers. And she would also consider opening it to other authors.