Creative Catalyst
NaNoWriMo Founder Chris Baty

In 1999 Chris Baty and nearly two dozen others set out on a writing odyssey, a month of literary abandon when word counts reigned supreme, when tight plotlines and punchy prose didn’t matter. The goal? To write a 50,000-word novel in a month. The result? National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. What began as a local lark has grown into an international annual event that breaks loose perfectionist restraints and sparks the imagination of hundreds of thousands. The event includes more than 250,000 writers in ninety countries. Chris now serves as a Board Member Emeritus for NaNoWriMo. He also teaches classes on writing and creativity through Stanford University’s Writer’s Studio. He’s the author of No Plot? No Problem! and co-author of Ready, Set, Novel.

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PROP by FR Dane
FEATURED | CRAFT / Artwork: PROP by FR Dane

Fiction at the Sentence Level

Elements of Craft in John Updike's “The Happiest I've Been”

by Sean Madden

I first read John Updike while standing at a crowded, downtown Los Angeles bus stop in November 2011. The story was “Natural Color,” a selection from Richard Ford’s Granta Book of the American Short Story: Volume Two.

At that time, I was busy reorienting my life around one particular ambition. I’d graduated from UC Berkeley in the spring of 2010 determined to become a professional fiction writer. Now I was ready to dedicate myself to the task.

Between graduation and the fall of 2011, I’d given up. I’d given up after getting ahead of myself and failing to achieve what I’d set out to do. I’d let the publication of the first short story I’d ever written, in the University of California’s student-run literary arts magazine, convince me that any top-tier Master of Fine Arts program would be thrilled to accept my application. When this fantasy didn’t play out—I applied to programs in the fall of 2010, and was rejected by them all—I felt like the butt of a cruel joke. I was so heartbroken, actually, and disappointed in myself, that I quit writing. I quit reading fiction, too. I no longer believed I had what it took to succeed as a writer. I came to regard the publication of my story in Matchbox Magazine as a fluke. My professors and peers at Berkeley who’d acknowledged my talent were guilty of mere flattery.

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After Alexej Jawlensky
by Karen Holden

Young Girl, 1915 by Alexej Jawlensky. Collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California, gift of The Milton Wichner Collection Bequest, 1979. Photograph © 2018 Long Beach Museum of Art.


Young Girl, 1915
        by Karen Holden
There are eyes upside down
behind my mouth, another brow
beneath my chin. We are all like this:
who we are painted over who we were

Speech silenced, dead to smell
they could not take away our eyes
those reflecting pools in our faces:
            dark mud, red blood, blue sky

Or those curtained, but open still, inside


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