Spokane is awash in cool literary events. Pie & Whiskey was just Thursday night. Get Lit is shaping up for a banner year with the announcement of headliner Anne Lamott in April. The Individual World Poetry Slam wrapped up another successful run in town a couple weeks ago. The best-selling YA author John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”) will pack the house at Lewis & Clark High School on Saturday night. And Lilac City Fairy Tales IV, themed “Towers and Dungeons,” is in the works.
Then there’s Bedtime Stories. Now in its sixth year in Spokane (it just marked its 19 year in Seattle), the annual reading is a fundraiser for Humanities Washington. The format is simple. There are dinner and drinks, then four writers will read works created for the event based on that year’s theme. This year, it’s “Beacon in the Night.”
Tickets are sold out. For those not going, we’ll share 7 things we dig about Bedtime Stories.
1. Sharma Shields. Shields has been a frequent participant in Bedtime Stories – she’s read at four of the six events, including tonight’s. This year, she’s reading a piece called “Light House.” Knowing Shields, the story will be funny and dark – something we expect from the author of the Washington State Book Award-winning novel, “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac,” and the story collection “Favorite Monsters.” Her new book, called “The Cassandra,” set at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, is due out from Henry Holt in 2019.
2. Shann Ray. Author of the novel “American Copper,” the story collection “American Masculine,” and the poetry collection “Balefire” – all award winners – as well as academic works on the subject of forgiveness and leadership, Shann Ray Ferch is a writer clearly at home in any genre. A former professional basketball player who now teaches at Gonzaga University, Ferch is making his first appearance at Bedtime Stories since the first one in Spokane back in 2012.
3. Thom Caraway. Spokane’s first poet laureate. Instructor in the English department at Whitworth University. Co-founder of Millwood Print Works. In short, the kind of guy who would write a poem (many of them, actually), teach a class on J.R.R. Tolkien and then go play around with a letterpress (while teaching others to do the same). Caraway is making his first appearance at Bedtime Stories tonight.
4. Kate Lebo. There won’t be any pie at Bedtime Stories, not that we know of, anyway. We’re assuming that after baking pie for 300 or more for this past week’s Pie & Whiskey reading, Lebo is leaving the flour and butter alone for a few days. She tells Humanities Washington that she’ll be reading from her in-progress book of essays, “The Book of Difficult Fruits,” in her debut reading at tonight’s Bedtime Stories.
5. Great stories. Tod Marshall’s fun odes to Washington, its landscapes, history and schisms might someday find their way into a chapbook, when he’s done poet laureating, that is. Jamie Ford, the author of “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” who specializes in historical fiction, delved into a real-life Spokane mystery with “Wish You Were Here at the Bottom of a Well,” about tycoon F. Lewis Clark, who disappeared in California in 1914 while on a business trip. Then there’s “Mr. Voice.” Jess Walter wrote “Mr. Voice,” a story about families we’re born into and families we make, for the 2013 edition of Bedtime Stories. A couple years later, it was selected for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories 2015 anthology. As co-editor T.C. Boyle noted in his introduction, the story features “one extraordinary character at the center of it and a last line that punched me right in the place where my emotions go to hide.”
6. Jess Walter. Walter will be at Bedtime Stories tonight, but not to read. He’s there as the recipient of the Humanities Washington Award for scholarship and service. In announcing the award earlier the year, Humanities Washington cited not only his involvement with that organization – he was on the award selection committee in 2009 and is a former member of the board of trustees – but also his work in co-founding Spark Central, a community arts and literacy center. Previous winners from Eastern Washington include Marshall; Shaun O’L. Higgins, a former Spokesman-Review executive who has been active in Connoisseur Concerts, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Humanities Washington and KSPS Community Advisory Board; and Liz Burroughs, former chairwoman of the MAC board and longtime arts and education patron.
7. Gary Stokes. Spokane’s real-life “Mr. Voice” once again will emcee Bedtime Stories. A longtime broadcast journalist who is now is general manager of KSPS, Stokes speaks with a deep and soothing tone, perfect for a night of bedtime stories.
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