Sentences and the Senses: Where Rick Bass Discovers Stories

Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel about caregiving and ALS. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Awards. Her fiction has won Gold and Silver Medals from Readers' Favorites International Book Awards, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, and many others.

Sentences are where stories begin, according to Rick Bass, winner of the prestigious Story Prize.

“What I’m hungering for as a reader is the visuals, the reminders that the world is a beautiful place, and I’m just trying to bring, you know, almost a painterly illumination on sentences, on objects, on subjects. And so there is going to be more attention to the brushwork. And I think we’re so hungry to have our five senses engaged-slash-re-engaged, that that’s the best way to do it — is with sentences. And the stories will take care of themselves from those sentences.” — NPR interview between Rick Bass and Kelly McIvers

The Story Prize is a $20,000 award for a short story collection. The prize is awarded at The New School in New York City. Three finalists read from and discuss their books, and then the Prize Director announces the winner.

For any working writer hoping to learn what separates “so so” fiction from fiction that is vital and alive, Rick Bass provides a wealth of information about the writing craft. Bass doesn’t go into a story with some big idea. His stories aren’t predetermined. He uses sentences to write his way in. On his voyage of discovery, he forms a partnership with the reader.

Below are the notes I made as I listened to Rick Bass field questions during a literary evening honoring the winner and finalists for the Story Prize, an award that bestows $20,000 on the winner and $5,000 on the finalists.

Rick Bass talks about sentences

Rick Bass, author of the short story FOR A LITTLE WHILE, believes that writers must connect with readers on the sentence level. Readers hunger for visual and sensory information.


The last third of the video–and it’s a long one–features Bass in conversation with the