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Spokane writers dominate fiction category at Washington State Book Awards

Four Spokane writers have been nominated for the Washington State Book Awards, presented by the Seattle Public Library.

The fiction category is particularly heavy with Spokane talent, with three of the five nominees from the Lilac City: Shann Ray’s “American Copper,” about a strong-willed copper baron’s daughter in early-20th-century Montana, S.M. Hulse’s “Black River,” about a former prison guard who faces his devastating past, and Sharma Shields’ “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac,” about a man’s fixation with bigfoot and how it affects his family.

The other fiction nominees are Seattle writers Stephanie Kallos (“Language Arts”) and Ann Pancake (“Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley”).

Ray, who teaches at Gonzaga University under his given name, Shann Ferch, is the author of the award-winning story collection “American Masculine” and the poetry collection “Balefire,” which won the 2015 High Plains Poetry Prize. Hulse, who now teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno, was a finalist for the national PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction earlier this year. Shields is the author of the story collection “Favorite Monsters” and is co-founder of Scablands Lit, a nonprofit literary organization and press.

In the history/general nonfiction category, naturalist and writer Jack Nisbet was nominated for “Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest.” Nisbet has been nominated several times and was a 2004 winner for “Visible Bones: Journey Across Time in the Columbia River Country.”

The poetry category includes a nomination for “88 Maps” by Rob Carney, who earned his Master of Fine Arts degree at Eastern Washington University. He now lives in Utah.

The winners will be announced during a gala celebration on Oct. 8 at the Seattle Central Library. For a full list of the nominees, visit The award is given based on a book’s literary merit, lasting importance and overall quality to an author who was born in Washington state or is a current resident and has maintained residence here for at least three years.