Presented by the Saint Martin's University English Program, the Les Bailey Writers Series brings writers and authors of note to campus to read and discuss their books. It was named in honor of Leslie G. Bailey, Ph.D., a gifted and inspiring English professor at Saint Martin's who was beloved for sharing his great passion for the written word with students. Bailey taught at Saint Martin's from 1975 until his death in 2010.

Upcoming lecture

Photo collage of Les Bailey Writers Series speakers John Hughes, Rachel La Corte and Lynda Mapes

Print Journalism: Past, Present and Future

On Oct. 2, 2019, the Les Bailey Writers Series at Saint Martin's will hold a panel discussion, "Print Journalism: Past, Present and Future," with three journalists and a moderator with more than 100 cumulative years of experience. The event will feature John Hughes, chief historian for the Washington state oral history program, housed in the Secretary of State's Office; Rachel La Corte, reporter for the Associated Press; and Lynda Mapes, reporter for the Seattle Times. The discussion will be moderated by David Ammons, chairman of the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. 

The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the Worthington Conference Center at Saint Martin's University. Admission is free and open to the public. 

John Hughes

A Grays Harbor native, John Hughes spent nearly half a century at The Daily World in Aberdeen, Wash., rising from a paper carrier and copy boy to editor and publisher. He was also a columnist of considerable talent, wooed by big metropolitan papers but unwilling to leave his Hoquiam home. He won many awards for his investigative reporting, historical features, editorials and columns. A gifted storyteller and speaker, he is a mentor to many Pacific Northwest journalists, include Les Bailey Writers Series committee members John Dodge and Dave Ammons.

Hughes left his newspaper career in 2008 to become the chief historian for the state’s oral history program, which is housed in the Secretary of State’s Office. In the past decade, he has authored numerous nonfiction books on major Washington figures, including U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, Gov. Booth Gardner, Gov. John Spellman and the Blethen and Woods newspaper families. 

An alumnus of the University of Puget Sound and the University of Maryland, he is a trustee of the Washington State Historical Society and has contributed to several Northwest history books, including “On the Harbor: From Black Friday to Nirvana.”  He was a longtime acquaintance of Krist Noviselic and wrote a popular online biography that drew the attention of Rolling Stone.

Rachel La Corte

Rachel La Corte has been a reporter for The Associated Press for 22 years, and has covered Washington state politics, elections and breaking news as head of the Olympia office since January 2005. Previously, she was based out of AP’s Miami and Tampa offices and covered politics and a variety of news stories in the Sunshine State, including the 2000 presidential election and recount, the international custody battle between the U.S. and Cuba over Elian Gonzalez, and way too many hurricanes. She’s traveled to several states, Canada and international waters between the U.S. and Cuba to report national and international stories for AP, and contributes regularly to the photo wire, shooting a variety of features and political news events. In 2017, she spearheaded a lawsuit against the Washington Legislature over lawmakers’ claims they are exempt from the state’s Public Records Act. That case is currently awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court, which in June heard an appeal of a superior court judge decision that found mostly in favor of AP and the news coalition that joined the suit. La Corte won several awards in 2018 in recognition of her reporting and work on the lawsuit, including two national honors: The Associated Press Media Editors “Journalism Excellence Award” for state news reporting and a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. She received her BA in journalism from the University of Central Florida and a master’s in international affairs from Florida State University. She is currently the president of the Capitol Correspondents Association.

Lynda Mapes

Mapes is an acclaimed Seattle Times reporter on tribal and environmental issues, most recently the coverage of the plight of the orca, including the mother orca who carried her dead calf for many days. She is also author of three books: “Elwha: A River Reborn,” “Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Unearthing of Tse-Whit Zen Village,” and “Washington: The Spirit of the Land.”

David Ammons

David Ammons is chairman of the Public Disclosure Commission. He retired in 2017 after a long career in journalism and state government. He was political writer and columnist for The Associated Press for 38 years, hosted “Inside Olympia” on TVW, and served as communications director and senior policy adviser for the Office of Secretary of State for more than eight years. He writes, lectures and does public speaking, and advocates for civics, civility and civic engagement. Commissioner Ammons is involved with many state and local charitable organizations. He is vice chair of the Washington State Parks Foundation, board member of Olympia Arts & History Alliance, a volunteer at SideWalk, a longtime trustee for the Washington State Historical Society and president of the area mental health board. He has been a member of the writer selection committee for the Saint Martin’s University Les Bailey Writers Series for the past five years. He is a leader in the Presbyterian Church. He is a journalism and political science graduate of the University of Washington, lives in Olympia and has two adult children, Jennifer and Jonathan.

Past lectures

Kathleen Flenniken

Kathleen Flenniken

On Oct. 4, 2018, The Les Bailey Writers Series returned for its fifth installment at Saint Martin's University with a presentation from poet Kathleen Flenniken entitled "A Case of–and for–Poetry." Flenniken studied and worked as a civil engineer and didn’t discover poetry until her early 30s. Her collection Plume, published by University of Washington Press in 2012, is a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site and her home town of Richland, Washington. The collection won the Washington State Book Award and was a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Pacific Northwest Book Awards.

Her first book, Famous, which was published by University of Nebraska Press in 2006, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Her other honors include a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Artist Trust. She was the 2012–2014 Washington State Poet Laureate. She currently serves on the board of Jack Straw, an audio arts studio and cultural center. Flenniken holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering.

Jim Lynch

Jim Lynch

On October 4, 2017, Saint Martin's hosted internationally-acclaimed novelist Jim Lynch, author of four novels set in Western Washington with his latest creation, “Before the Wind." The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin picked his novel “Truth Like the Sun” as one of her 10 favorite books of 2012. That novel was also a finalist for the Dashiell Hammett Prize, given to the best literary crime fiction in North America. Lynch’s first novel “The Highest Tide” (2005) won the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Award, was performed on stage in Seattle, and became an international bestseller after it was featured on England’s “Richard and Judy” television show. His second novel, “Border Songs” (2009), was also adapted to the stage and won the Washington State Book Award as well as the Indies Choice Honor Book Award.

Molly Gloss and her horse, Koko

Molly Gloss

Molly Gloss, author of numerous best-selling and prize-winning novels, including “The Jump-Off Creek”, “Wild Life”, and “Falling Off Horses”, came to Saint Martin's as our third annual Les Bailey Writers Series speaker. In her presentation that evening, “Romancing the West: Rethinking and Rewriting the Greak American Mythos”, Gloss discussed her longtime passion with Western literature and history.

Jess Walter

Jess Walter

Award-winning author Jess Walter, a native son of Spokane whose 2012 novel, "Beautiful Ruins," spent more than a year on The New York Times Best Sellers List, shared his craft and body of work at the second annual Les Bailey Writers Series. Walter has authored eight books and his short story, "Mr. Voice," has been selected for Best American Short Stories 2015. We had the privilege of hosting him Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Photo of Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle

Acclaimed author Brian Doyle, whose 14 books of nonfiction, essays, poems and stories provoke deep thought, as well as laughter, was the inaugural author for the Les Bailey Writers Series on October 8, 2014, in the Norman Worthington Conference Center.