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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘There are so many great writers in town’: Summer Stories contributors join readers at Northwest Passages event

From left, Jess Walter listens as Chris Crutcher speaks Wednseday about the difference between writing novels versus short stories, with fellow authors Megan Rowe, Kris Dinnison, Sherry Jones, Shawn Vestal and Sarah Hulse during the Northwest Passages Book Club's Summer Stories: Summer Of '69 edition at the Montvale Event Center in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane authors got the chance to meet local readers and Spokane readers got a chance to hear from a slate of local writers Wednesday night, during a Northwest Passages Book Club celebration of The Spokesman-Review’s annual Summer Series of short fiction.

Avid readers Jim and Linda Bauer gushed about their excitement to meet some of their favorite local authors.

“I had 2,000 books in my classroom,” said Linda, who taught fourth and fifth grade for years and always made it a point to have books by Chris Crutcher, one of the Summer Stories authors, as part of her collection.

The couple share a love and enduring excitement for reading.

“When I first went to a library as a kid, it blew me away and I never changed,” Jim said.

The Bauers said they come to as many of the Northwest Passages Book Club events as they can for their date nights.

Summer Stories is a series of short stories written by local authors on a theme. The 2019 theme is “Summer of ’69,” with a new story published in The Spokesman-Review every Sunday for 10 weeks.

Wednesday’s Northwest Passages Book Club event at the Montvale Event Center featured readings of some of the short stories and a look behind the scenes at how Carolyn Lamberson, the S-R’s senior editor for special projects, has put the series together each year since 2014.

Most of the writers said they don’t have strong personal memories of the summer of ’69, and some weren’t even born yet.

S.M. Hulse, whose story “Many Crowns” will soon appear as part of the series, wasn’t alive in 1969, so she relied on her “mom and dad’s help with fact-checking,” she said.

“Many Crowns” is about a young high school girl in rural Montana who is coming of age in 1969.

Montana girls were on Hulse’s mind when she wrote the story, as her forthcoming novel “Eden Mine” is about a young woman in Montana whose brother commits an act of terrorism. The novel is set to hit shelves in February.

Fellow writer Chris Crutcher didn’t need any outside help with fact-checking.

“These other people can’t remember ’cause they weren’t there,” Crutcher said. “I can’t remember ’cause I was there.”

Crutcher graduated from Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University, in 1968 and, like the character Tommy in his Summer Story “Where Oh Where Is Tommy Parker?”, he spent the next year figuring things out.

Kris Dinnison’s “The Island” was read and performed by local actors. Her story details familial struggles that came with the Vietnam War.

Dinnison has written summer stories before but said, “This one was a little more challenging.”

For Dinnison, one of the perks of writing for the series is the chance to see other Spokane writers.

“We’re not in the same room as everyone else very often,” Dinnison said. “We’re so lucky that there are so many great writers in town.”

At Wednesday’s event, that group also included Spokesman-Review columnist and author Shawn Vestal, S-R reporter and writer Megan Louise Rowe and authors Sherry Jones and Jess Walter.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct lineup of authors who attended the event.