Guest Writer Series: Cal Lutheran Professor Dustin Atkinson

The Guest Writers Series continued Wednesday, March 29 with a reading and conversation with author and California Lutheran University professor Dustin Atkinson.

Atkinson, who specializes in fiction, was the winner of the Baucum-Fulkerson Award for Fiction and Drama and a nominee to Best New American Voices. His debut novel, “Travelers,” was recently completed. He teaches Creative Writing and Composition courses on campus at Cal Lutheran.

“I’ve been here for quite a while, and I feel like I’m part of the CLU community,” Atkinson said. “It’s very cool, I’m very excited [to do the reading].”

Jacqueline Lyons, a professor who studies creative writing with an emphasis on poetry and literary nonfiction, introduced Atkinson at the event. Lyons first founded the Guest Writer Series in 2012, and since then has hosted a dozen different authors, the last one being Filipinx poet Angela Penaredondo this past February.

“Since he teaches a creative writing course and he’s part of the program, I decided to bring him in,” Lyons said. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing him.”

Atkinson decided to read a new short story he wrote, something no one else had heard before since he had just recently finished writing it. He described it as focusing on “history and Truth with a capital T,” and said that it was a “surreal story in every sense.”

“We had to come for class, but it was much more interesting than I thought it would be,” said freshman Holly Leeson, a student in Lyons’ Introduction to Creative Writing course. “Especially because this was a new story, I could tell he was excited to read it.”

After reading the short story, Atkinson answered questions from the audience about the themes of the work, his novel and his creative process. Besides fiction, he said he is also interested in screenwriting.

Atkinson’s advice for new writers is, “you read a lot and you write a lot, and that’s all.”

He said he has found a process that works for him: he starts every morning with an hour of writing, listens to Radiohead and movie soundtracks, and handwrites the first draft.

“I think it was cool to hear an author read their own story out loud,” said freshman Ellie Long, who is also a student in Lyons’ course. “I like how he answered questions about the process. In our creative writing class it’s all about the process.”

For the future, Atkinson is working on another novel and is considering going more into screenwriting.

“Writers are just people who don’t take no for an answer,” Atkinson said. “I just need to enjoy doing it, and live for doing it. I’m much less happy if I’m not working on some creative project. That is a big part of my life.”

Check the Hub for a possible special event in April regarding National Poetry Month, as well as for any future Guest Writers Series Readings.

Emily Graybill
Staff Writer