From ink to text: Jim Buck, Professor of Creative Writing


CC Coene, Contributing Writer

Assistant professor of English, Jim Buck, had a lot to say regarding his passion for journalism and teaching at Bucknell. Professor Buck attended Kenyon College, graduating with a BA in political science. He then proceeded to attain a masters at Ohio University in comparative literature following an MFA in fiction at the University of Maryland. 

When asked about a specific piece of writing he’s drawn inspiration from, he reflected for a moment before telling a shocking yet compelling story.

Jim worked at Bradford Era Newspaper up in Northwestern Pennsylvania, located in an area of oil extraction which goes back to the late 1800s. One day when he was working, a tank blew up abruptly while he was in the newsroom. The editor sent Jim outside to see what all the commotion was about. He was informed that a young man had died on the scene. Professor Buck paused for a moment before continuing. He then went on to explain that the boy was actually one of the firefighter’s sons. 

“He and his friends used to climb up on top of this tank and would smoke which obviously wasn’t the smartest idea,” Buck said. “I wrote this story and it was very powerful. A friend of the family felt as though I was exploiting the situation in a way he didn’t appreciate, which I get because it is a small town. I mean the firefighter found his son on the scene so I understand how unimaginably terrible it must have been.” 

As a young boy, Professor Buck always fantasized about being a writer. He would even create architectural drawings in his little notepad. Throughout his time in school, he felt he was stronger in writing compared to the science and math fields. Buck wanted to major in English as an undergrad but too many people at his university planned on majoring in the subject which discouraged him.

In the early stages of his career at Bucknell, he decided to travel to Nicaragua accompanying the Bucknell brigade. This idea was initiated by a Nicaraguan student after a massive hurricane had occurred in Nicaragua. The student began this effort in order to provide free labor for non profit.

“People in this country had this fear that this little central area needed to be the focus of weapons because it could potentially pose some kind of threat but in reality, (Nicaragua) could never be a threat to the United States” Buck said.

Buck realized he wanted to become a teacher after instructing a creative writing class for first-year students at the University of Maryland. He was a TA. When it comes to teaching here at Bucknell, Professor Buck loves the fact that there are talented students across all different cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, sharing parts of their lives through their work.

“I hope students write something that they’re engaged with and truly proud of,” Buck said. When asked about what the most important attributes are for instructing, he said, “you have to be interested in the subject, keep up to date with what’s going on in the field and interested in students as well as what’s going on in broader culture.”

“When I was in college, it was a different world, different society, there was no social media,” he said. “I was using a typewriter as an undergrad. When we were remote, it was a challenge I could not imagine being presented with.” 

Professor Buck went on to explain one specific, memorable encounter he had with a student from about 10 years ago. He was teaching a fiction and film foundation seminar. One of the films they had to watch was The Descendants which takes place in Hawaii. It’s a discussion based class so one of his priorities is to make sure everyone participates.

He remembers distinctly a young woman who was relatively quiet compared to the rest of the class and sat in the back. When called upon, she would offer insightful comments. Otherwise, she did not normally jump into conversation. Towards the end of class, another girl that was sitting beside her, lifted the quiet student’s hand. 

“I was born in Hawaii and I grew up there so I recognized a lot of the places depicted in this movie,” the student told Buck. He mentioned how this specific occurrence says something about the diverse group of people having a discussion with everyone contributing in different ways.

For students that are looking for journalism or any writing opportunities, Professor Buck recommends the Press Enterprise in Bloomsburg, Pa. He used to work there as a copy editor.

“Writing is different, you can go back and move things around. Working on a newspaper, you can’t overthink things. You have to figure out what the core of the story is,” Buck said.

He also mentioned other opportunities which include the Daily Item in Sunbury, as well as the Sun Gazette based in Williamsport.

(Visited 58 times, 1 visits today)