Breanna Brink, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, Oct. 4, Jim Lynch, the author of the novels “The Highest Tide,” which won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award in 2006, and “Border Songs” presented to the Saint Martin’s campus. Featured as the 2017 Les Bailey Writer, Lynch discussed his “Call of the Wild: How Western Washington’s Natural Wonderland Inspires My Writing.”
The event was held in the filled Norman Worthington Conference Center, where Lynch spoke after being introduced by SMU staff and a few of his fellow writers.
In an email interview with Olivia Archibald, I was able to find out about the Les Bailey event. “Dr. Les Bailey was not just the dean of humanities and chair of the English department; he was a very dear friend. After his death in 2010, I served on a committee with former communications director Carleen Jackson and former media director Holly Harman to raise funds for an endowment in his honor. Among other projects, these endowment funds have supported the yearly Les Bailey Writer’s Series Guest Writer that began in 2014.” Archibald explained.
Lynch was chosen as the 2017 speaker through a selection process described by Archibald, “The Les Bailey Writer’s Series has a selection committee composed of community members who represent areas such as the Washington State Library, area bookstores, local writers, and other members who know about and have supported our region’s authors. Although representatives from the English department are also on the committee, selection of the guest writer is a process focused on community input.” She discussed how they seek regional writers who have interesting and remarkable publication histories in a wide variety of genres. They also research the potential speakers’ past experiences, looking for someone who can speak effectively on “the craft of creative writing in classrooms and at an evening public presentation.”
Lynch was introduced by his friend Brian Willis, a local Washingtonian and playwright who stated that “the two of them often got together and went out drinking, discussing ways of bettering the world before coming to the conclusion. A playwright and a retired journalist could not solve the world’s problems.”
In the end, they realized their discussions became focused on how best to tell stories, which Lynch discussed in detail as he began to speak.
“You need to have the courage to be vulnerable.” Lynch stated when answering a specific question pertaining to his character “Miles” from “The Highest Tide,” “He’s the observant kid I wish I had been, but I did give him my insecurities.”
Throughout the talk, Lynch was sure to give his thanks to the SMU community for hosting him, as he found it a great honor having met Bailey himself. He recounted how Bailey had told him “I just wanted to meet you in person and congratulate you on writing a great novel.”
The audience was lucky enough to hear a short story written and read by Lynch himself, which was sweet, hilarious and just lightly political enough to strike a positive accord with his audience. Inspired by our local area, this story takes a quick cut up to Seattle to explore the strange mixture of nature and crude industry. Lynch’s stories are often inspired by Washington’s greenery, and he thanked his father for moving his family here so that he could learn to appreciate its year-round beauty. I recommend seeing if you can catch a recording of the story somewhere on the net, since it has not yet been published, and Lynch stated he is unsure if it ever will be.
Archibald had some final words when discussing Lynch’s character. “From my experience, any project Jim Lynch has his hand in is always successful. Jim can talk about and teach us his craft in ways that evidence his passions for writing and people. Perhaps these passions explain his acclaim as both novelist and teacher. Yes, we have many good writers in our region, but not all good writers are good teachers.” In the end Willis’ comment seemed to ring the true about Lynch as an author, “The only thing shocking in this world now is talent,” which Lynch certainly has.