Harness the power of neuroscience to combat writer’s block.
J.T. Bushnell is the author of the novel The Step Back. His short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in more than twenty literary journals and are available online at Flyway, Monkeybicycle, and Brevity. His essays about writing have also been published in Poets & Writers magazine, The Writer magazine, and The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction. He teaches at Oregon State University in Corvallis and lives in Eugene with his wife and two daughters. To see what he’s reading, follow him on Twitter: @JTBushnell1.
Looking for a new podcast to add to your rotation? Late Night Library provides an audio book club for emerging writers. In this interview, founders Paul Martone and Erin Hoover discuss why and how they started “the all-hours home of debut fiction and poetry.”
Suspense-laden opening sentences are only the beginning of the pleasures found in Tania James’s wide-ranging new collection.
I save rejection slips. In graduate school, someone mentioned an acquaintance who had wallpapered her bathroom with them, and I liked that idea. There was something honest and humbling about it. So when I started submitting my own stories to literary journals, I saved the rejections, imagining I might do the same one day. It would be a necessary complement, I imagined, for a living room mantel cluttered with prestigious awards, framed reviews, and my many excellent books. I’ve long since backed off both the wallpapering and the cluttered mantel, but I haven’t stopped saving the slips. And I have […]
After waiting impatiently for Daniel Orozco’s debut story collection, J.T. Bushnell finds that it exceeds all expectations. Bushnell calls these stories “full of satire and absurdity and insight.”
Before submitting stories to workshop in graduate school, I spent hours combing my sentences for inefficiencies. I scrutinized verbs. I wrenched clauses from passive construction. I asked myself some hard questions about adjectives. My classmates often called my writing “clean,” which pleased me. I aspired toward concision. One term workshop was led by an intimidating man largely considered a genius among the graduate students. He introduced us to Chekhov and eviscerated stories with uncanny precision. When my turn came, I was nervous—with good reason. The week my story was up, he sent an email asking everyone to bring three pages […]
When I heard The Great Gatsby had been rewritten for intermediate readers, I did what many lovers of the novel probably did—checked the online version to see how my favorite passage had been changed, shook my fist, and then re-read the original, penciling all kinds of ecstatic remarks into the margins. In case you missed Celeste’s post, Macmillan has released a simplified version of the novel as “retold by Margaret Tarner.” Essentially, it relates the events of the Gatsby story without all the big words and elaboration. And so my favorite passage, two beautiful paragraphs of imagery and movement and […]
When WTO protestors mobbed downtown Seattle in 1999, breaking windows and burning dumpsters, Keith Scribner was a new father, and it made him wonder how it would feel to have that chaos on his own street. In an interview with J.T. Bushnell, Scribner talks about how those thoughts sparked his newest novel, The Oregon Experiment, what it means to pursue the writing life, and why perfume labels don’t list the ingredients.
J.T. Bushnell considers how Lori Ostlund’s debut story collection, The Bigness of the World, filled as it is with “godless homosexuals scattered across the globe” would have likely pleased Flannery O’Connor, whose own work is “unapologetically regional and almost dogmatically Catholic.” Ostlund, who won the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction last year, writes of the mystery beneath our outer trappings, an underlying truth that binds the two writers in common cause.
In these thirteen stories, which move from gritty realism in the first half to magical realism in the second, characters are constantly engaged in the act of narrative construction. Again and again Morris structures his stories to obscure actual events, thereby forcing the characters to remember, speculate, or fantasize them into being, much like writers do. Only these characters are not writers—they are a meth addict, a car salesman, a bartender stranded on a desert island.