Readings at the Nick returns with a talk from J.T. Bushnell

Readings at the Nick returns with a talk from J.T. Bushnell

Riley Omonaka

Linfield University alum, J.T. Bushnell returned to campus for the first time since his graduation in 2002. This time, instead of being a student, Bushnell was hosted as a guest speaker from Oregon State University with a newly released book.

Bushnell was the first speaker in this year’s series of Readings at the Nick. The readings are open to the public and students, hosted by Linfield Libraries and the English department. Bushnell’s talk was focused on his recently released book, “The Step Back”. Bushnell has frequently published short stories and articles about writing, however, “The Step Back” is Bushnell’s first novel.

During his talk, Bushnell read a section of the book in which the protagonist, Ed, steps onto his college campus. While Ed tries to find his way in the world and establish his own goals, he struggles with familial relationships. This coming of age story speaks to the uncertainty and turbulence all young adults face. Ed is forced to pursue his own ambitions against his parents’ wishes. Electing to go to a smaller school to pursue collegiate basketball, he falls short of his parent’s expectations. Grappling with his newfound independence, Ed learns about what growing-up truly means.

Bushnell also discussed his writing process in depth and described it as trial and error based. “The Step Back” was the product of many failed drafts. He recommends that new novelists keep pushing through the bad writing.

“The whole time I was writing I knew it was bad, but I just kept going,” Bushnell said.

His evolution from a short story writer to a novelist was not smooth, but it allowed him to find the pulse of his story.

“Listening to the writing is the way I found my story, when the writing is wrong, you can hear it twang,” Bushnell said.

The small cove in the library was teeming with students and faculty. Since this was the first guest speaker since the pandemic began, students and professors alike were excited to pick Bushnell’s brain about his experiences as a writer.

Joe Wilkins, head of the English department, said that he was excited to finally be able to host in-person events again. Faculty from all different departments took the opportunity to pick Bushnell’s brain and encourage students to attend.

“The Step Back” was a decade in the making for Bushnell and he displays the pride of a father showing-off his first born. He has several projects in the works, but has not settled on a second book yet. Linfield students seemed to reciprocate interest and several students had their books signed by the author at the talk.

“I’m honestly really interested in reading it,” junior Meghan Mullaly said, “I had a lot of fun.”

Readings at the Nick continue on Oct. 26, with Todd Davis a professor of environmental studies at Penn State and an award-winning poet.