Agnes Bushell (born March 25, 1949) is an American fiction writer and teacher. She has published steadily since her work first appeared in print in the mid-1970s. She is the author of ten novels, and innumerable essays and book reviews most of which have appeared in Maine newspapers and publications, including Down East Magazine. She has taught literature and writing at Maine College of Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of Southern Maine, and lives in Portland, Maine with her husband, James Bushell, a criminal defense lawyer.
Born Agnes Barr in St. Albans, Queens, New York, Bushell attended the University of Chicago from 1966–1968. She met James Bushell during the summer of 1967; they were married the following year. In 1971, the Bushells moved to Portland, Maine, where they have lived almost continuously ever since. They have two children, Jessie, born in 1972, and Nicolas, born in 1979.
In July 1972, Bushell and several other political activists began publishing a monthly political pamphlet called The Rag. The women involved in The Rag later formed Littoral Books and published Balancing Act, an anthology of Maine women’s poetry. Several of Bushell’s poems appeared in this anthology. In 1975, Littoral Books joined with other small presses in Maine to form Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.
During this period, the Bushells were actively engaged in the countercultural movement in Portland. Two of their close friends went underground during this period. Ten years later, these friends and five others, known after their capture by the FBI as the Ohio 7, were put on trial for bombings, bank robbery and sedition. These events were the inspiration for Bushell’s second novel Local Deities, published in 1990. Hailed by the book reviewer for The Nation as a potboiler like the best of Dostoyevsky’s, it is Bushell’s most successful book to date, a roman à clef based on her friendship with “two of Maine’s most notorious radicals.” The author herself identifies the origin of the novel as a desire to remember and transmit the nearly forgotten history of the 1970s, what she calls a “consciously forgotten period.”
During the decade of the ‘80’s, Bushell became involved in local political activism. She was one of the parent-organizers of the alternative public school, Many Rivers. She was also a member of the Pledge of Resistance against U. S. intervention in Central America, and was arrested twice during sit-ins in Portland protesting military aid to the Contras. She visited Nicaragua for the first time with a group of writers and poets accompanying Allen Ginsberg to the 1986 Ruben Dario Festival. Subsequent trips to Nicaragua inspired the novel Days of the Dead, a spine-tingling, high-tension, deviant political thriller, in which Bushell “violates the conventions of the genre and plots homosexuality into the revolutionary insurgencies in Central America.”
By the ’90’s Bushell’s work was finding publishers among independent presses and it was during this time that she published her three gay-themed mysteries, two set in Portland and one in San Francisco. She also co-founded the Maine political journal The Dissident, and became its primary book reviewer. But by the beginning of the next decade many small presses had gone out of business, and Bushell began publishing her work privately in small numbered editions. As of 2010, Bushell’s newest work, including a quartet of novels set in the United States, Greece, and Turkey, is only available from the author herself.