After the Minneapolis Star Tribune serialized a novel in 2013, editors at The Spokesman-Review were inspired to find a way to bring the work of local fiction writers into the newspaper.
When several local authors started releasing short-story collections around the same time, Carolyn Lamberson, then the features editor, had another idea.
“It occurred to me that Spokane’s literary community was giving me clues on how to proceed,” Lamberson writes in the introduction.
So after reading Jess Walter’s “We Live in Water” and Shawn Vestal’s “Godforsaken Idaho,” Lamberson realized a locally written short-story collection would fit the bill.
Now in its seventh year of Summer Stories, The Spokesman-Review is publishing the most recent collection in an anthology for the first time.
“There seemed to be so many talented people who were already at home in that genre,” said Lamberson, who is now the senior editor for special projects.
The first year’s theme, “the fair,” seemed an obvious choice as Spokane was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Expo ’74, she explained. So, all that was left was to reach out to authors. The final count included 10 stories in print and several more online.
Over the years, many authors have made repeat performances, some approaching the level of tradition.
“As far as I’m concerned, as long as Shawn Vestal works for The Spokesman-Review, he will always be the first story,” Lamberson said. After all, she said, what’s the point of having an award-winning short-fiction writer on staff if you’re not going to take advantage of them every now and then?
“Of course, any time I can get Jess Walter to write a short story makes me really happy,” Lamberson said.
This year, the series included 17 works of short fiction inspired by the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. And, Lamberson said, the quality and reach of the series have increased right along with the quantity.
“This year, we decided to go beyond the Inland Northwest … so we really expanded our map with the series,” Lamberson said, mentioning authors like Deb Caletti and Beth Piatote, who sent in stories from Seattle and Berkeley, California, respectively.
“It was especially great getting Julia Sweeney to write her first-ever short story,” she said, referencing the Spokane native’s “Ashes to Ashes.” “That was particularly thrilling and a lot of fun.”
The stories will be published as they were originally printed and in the same order with the exception of a few edits and minor word replacements.
“We put a couple curse words back in,” Lamberson said.
The anthology also will feature several of staff artist Molly Quinn’s illustrations and former staff photographer Chris Anderson’s iconic photo of the Mount St. Helens eruption.
“It’s a big project,” Quinn said. Each illustration can take as much as a full day to get right, and coming up with a cohesive style each year can take quite a while depending on how abstract the theme might be. “But it’s been really fun being able to bring the stories to life,” Quinn said.
“Mount St. Helens: A Summer Stories Anthology” will be available for purchase on Tuesday at Auntie’s Bookstore, Wishing Tree Books, Atticus Coffee & Gifts and the Well-Read Moose. It also is available at spokesman.com/northwest-passages/ or by calling (509) 459-5485.
All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Spark Central.
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