I received an email today that made me a little sad – Chris Baty is stepping down as the Executive Director of The Office of Letters and Light (OLL). Chris started National Novel Writing Month with a few of his friends back in 1999, and since then it has grown into an international phenomenon. OLL is the non-profit group created to organize NaNo, Script Frenzy, and other writing adventures.
Although I’ve never met or even corresponded with Chris, he’s been a huge part of my writing journey. I like to think I’d have eventually gotten my act together to write my first novel, but I can’t be sure about that. For years I’d been saying I wanted to write a novel, but it wasn’t until I heard about NaNo that I actually did it. In the month leading up to it, I read his book No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, which really felt like a pep talk from a friend telling me I could do it and coaching me on how to keep the fear from paralyzing me.
How amazing it must feel to Chris to have started this movement that helps people achieve their dreams and try new and scary things. I know NaNo has a lot of detractors saying people are just spewing out crap, and I myself get frustrated by the participants who don’t realize the importance of rewriting and editing these NaNo drafts before sending them out, but I will always be grateful to Chris and this insane event he started. Not only did it set me firmly on my path of serious writing, it also introduced me to a new format - screenplays.
Chris’s email said he is stepping down in order to focus on being a full-time writer. Having made that same decision about my own job a while back, I totally understand how difficult and yet exciting that was for him. And although I will miss his pep talk emails and the energy he provided even via cyberspace, I wish him the best of luck, flowing words, and much happiness!
Do you think it will be the same without Chris? How have the programs he started impacted your writing?