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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Walter’s story in ‘Best American’ debuted at Bedtime Stories 2013

Carolyn Lamberson

Two years ago, Jess Walter was among the writers invited to participate in Bedtime Stories, the annual fundraiser for Humanities Washington. The four writers that night (the others were Sharma Shields, Shawn Vestal and then Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken) were tasked with writing and reading a new short story based on the theme “Pillow Talk.”

That night, Walter introduced “Mr. Voice,” a story about a girl whose mother marries “Mr. Voice,” a local radio announcer whose basso profundo “narrated our daily life in Spokane, Washington.

Looking for AM/FM-deluxe-turntable-8-track-stereo-speaker sound with psychedelic lights that rock to the music? Come to Wall of Sound Waterbed on East Sprague, next to the Two Swabbies —”

It’s a bittersweet tale about the families we fall into. It’s also full of the Spokane details we love. After hearing the story that night, I walked around for weeks with the old “Two Swabbies – shoes!” commercial running through my head. 

The story was published the fall 2014 edition of Tin House, a literary journal. Soon, it caught the attention of T.C. Boyle and Heidi Pitlor, editors of “The Best American Short Stories 2015.” That esteemed collection, which came out earlier this month, features Walter’s “Mr. Voice” alongside works by Louise Erdrich and Thomas McGuane. 

As Boyle noted in his introduction, “Mr. Voice” was a first-round choice, a story “about what it means to be family, with 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.”

All of this is meant to remind folks that Bedtime Stories 2015 is coming up. Friday, in fact, at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Club. The theme is “A Hard Day’s Night.” Walter is back this year, as is returning writer Shields. Newcomers to the show Kris Dinnison, whose novel “You and Me and Him” came out this summer, and Sam Ligon, whose new book, “Among the Dead and Dreaming,” is set for release next year. Also, Tod Marshall, the Spokane poet and Gonzaga University professor, will receive the Humanities Washington Award for service and scholarship. My candidate for Spokane’s current Mr. Voice, KSPS general manger Gary Stokes, will emcee. 

Bedtime Stories 2015

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave.

Cost: $75 (registration is closed)

Info: (206) 682-1770 or www.humanities.org/

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