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Spokane writer Shawn Vestal won the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction on Monday evening for his collection of short stories “Godforsaken Idaho.” Vestal’s stories, printed by Amazon’s publishing unit Little A/New Harvest, “dare to charge into the well-trodden arena of the hapless male and make that subject fresh again,” according to judges.
Keely Honeywell is pitching Anthology, a fundraising event for the Spokane literary magazine RiverLit at a new all-ages venue downtown, as a literary variety show. “We’ve got fiction readers. One or two people are doing an essay. We’ve got poetry,” said Honeywell, the magazine’s editor. “And then we’ve got music from the Rustics, and then bad poetry, comedy …”
Shawn Vestal’s darkly provocative story collection rivets a reader’s attention early on. And like the Mormon faith, which visits itself mightily upon many of these stories, it never really lets you go. In “The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death,” eternity plays out in an endless reel of memories from one’s life. Everyone remains the age they were at death, and the pain, loneliness and heartbreak they lived dogs them throughout the afterlife. “Nobody tells you anything,” reports the hapless narrator from the year 2613, “No instruction sheet, no welcome wagon.”
Next week, Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal earns a new title: published fiction author. Vestal’s debut collection of short fiction “Godforsaken Idaho” (Amazon Publishing/New Harvest, $15.95) will arrive in bookstores and online on Tuesday. It contains stories set in North Idaho, Southern Idaho and Montana – and, memorably, in a cafeteria in the afterlife.