LACEY, Wash. – 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, will share his craft and body of work at the second annual Les Bailey Writers Series at Saint Martin’s University.
The event will be held Wednesday, September 30, at 7 p.m. in the University’s Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE. It is free and the public is invited to come hear Walter speak, in part, about what it takes to become a writer, even when facing financial and educational hurdles.
“The quickest path to being a fiction writer is to get an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts), which is a $30,000 - $50,000 degree with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. I was a dad at 19 and I had to take a more blue-collar approach to being a writer,” says Walter, who penned eight books and also worked as a career journalist, ghost writer, screenwriter and teacher of writing.
“I want to talk about the democratization of writing,” adds Walter, who says he couldn’t afford a master’s degree and was the first in his family to go to college. “The great thing about great writing is it doesn’t depend on what class you’re in; it solely depends on your ability to write and tell a story.”
Walter will also talk about the craft of writing and will share some of his literary work at the evening gathering. Earlier in the day, he plans to meet and speak with Saint Martin’s students about writing and literature.
The Les Bailey Writers Series is presented by the University’s English Program, with funding from the Leslie G. Bailey Endowment. The endowment honors the gifted and inspiring Saint Martin’s University Professor of English Les Bailey, Ph.D. A 1964 Saint Martin’s alumnus, Bailey returned to his alma mater in 1975 as a faculty member and, later, became chair of the English program and dean of humanities. He continued to teach until his death in 2010.
The writers series aims to bring writers and authors of note to campus to read and discuss their books, a practice that was an especially meaningful part of Bailey’s teaching philosophy. He shared his great passion for the written word with students, inviting them over the threshold of a book to explore the deeper themes and meanings of life captured in its pages.
“When we chose Jess Walter as our 2015 Les Bailey Writers Series presenter, we sought an acclaimed author who not only wrote literary novels and short stories. We wanted someone who is very aware of his writing process, someone who could share decisions he made as the stories were constructed, as Jess will do in his presentation,” says Olivia Archibald, professor of English and a member of the Les Bailey Endowment and Writers Series Committee. “Such revelations are a true gift for those of us lucky to be in the audience, for we get to glimpse a writer’s mind at work and learn, as a result, a wee bit more about the extraordinary craft of creative writing from a remarkable writer.”
Walter’s short story, “Mr. Voice,” originally published in the literary magazine, Tin House, (Volume 16, Issue 1), has been selected for Best American Short Stories 2015. He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for “The Zero” and won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for “Citizen Vince.” He’s been a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Prize in fiction and nonfiction. He was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and twice won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His most recent book, the short story collection, “We Live in Water,” was long-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize. Walter’s work has been published in 32 languages. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Esquire and more.
Walter lives in Spokane with his wife, Anne, and two of his three children, Ava and Alec. His daughter, Brooklyn, directs the writing center at Washington State University.
Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 340 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.
For additional information:
Olivia Archibald, Ph.D.
Professor, English Program
Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media Relations Manager
Saint Martin’s University