Literary field guide: Local authors at the 2019 Get Lit! Festival

Posted on April 11, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Caitlin Wheeler

In the past 20 years, the Get Lit! Festival has hosted a whole slew of authors of exciting written work: Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Smiley, and Tim O’Brien are just a few. This year is no exception.

At the 2019 festival, you’ll find the opportunity to hear from Roxane Gay, Tommy Orange, Kaveh Akbar, Leni Zumas, and dozens more at the forefront of literary excellence.

Spokane’s own rich literary scene is well represented this year as well with over 20 local authors offering their works and insights.

If you’re feeling a bit lost in a sea of authors, never fear! The Library District’s Inland Northwest Collection includes the novels, poems, nonfiction, and anthologies written and edited by local authors who will be presenting at Get Lit!, so you can dive into their words before you meet them in person. There’s plenty to read, shared below.

With so many authors, you may find yourself overwhelmed for choice. I offer up the following field guide to help navigate your festival choices.

In this list, I highlight books by local authors published in the last year and currently on the library’s shelves. To set the mood, I even suggest an accompanying music album for these reads.

And just as your appetite is whetted for more, I share forthcoming book releases from local Get Lit! authors.

Perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite writer in this field guide and start refining your 2019 Get Lit! Festival author hunt now.


What the Sky Lacks, by Thom Caraway

What the Sky Lacks captures the ache that comes when glimpsing nature’s beauty through the gaps still left behind by the infrastructures of society. In these poems, readers will find the yearning and mystery of a post-apocalyptic civilization, where modern America is the apocalypse that acted upon what came before. Despite the weight of such undertones, these poems are anything but theatrical or pretentious. Caraway’s affection for his children as he watches them probe at the nature of language, humanity, and themselves fills his poetry with an honest warmth and wonder. Trains and baseball games and Richard Dreyfuss root every presented musing in the familiar and particular. With that understated quality so characteristic of the Midwest, these poems are evocative without being affected, probing without straying into the clinical.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: Life is Good on the Open Road, by Trampled by Turtles

Whiskey, by Bruce Holbert

Holbert’s characters and setting in his novel Whiskey carry a distinctly Inland Northwest timbre to them. Highly atmospheric and tied up in matters of personal identity as it relates to familial and inherited identity, Whiskey is the story of two brothers fighting through the struggles of adulthood that hauntingly echoes that of their parents. Violence, religion, comedy, hedonism, and loyalty tumble together in a tale that follows a cult and a kidnapped daughter and lands at a study of what it means to be family.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: Loaded, by The Velvet Underground

Making Landfall, by Paul Lindholdt

Making Landfall explores autonomy, nature, and the effects of colonialism through the voices of real figures from 17th century America. The compelling narration will have readers jotting down names and events, eager to learn more—and Lindholdt helpfully provides notes at the end of the collection to get your research rabbit holes started. The repressed suffer from enforced sexual secrecy and stifling legalism, and the powerful use their positions to maintain a dark unbalance between the newly emerging government and everyone else. Lindholdt’s clean lines and deft release of information ensure that both history enthusiasts and laypeople will find this collection accessible.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: Echolocations: River, by Andrew Bird

Dresses from the Old Country: Poems, by Laura Read

This collection is a masterful exercise in teasing out universal resonance in particular experience. Read’s poetry is full of bittersweet memory, at once both distantly observant and wistfully grasping for connection. The narrative style of these poems and the clean, minimal images would make Dresses from the Old Country a quick read, if the neat line work and delicate balance of emotional weight (“What kind of child names her yellow dog/Shadow?”) did not force the reader to slow down and savor every line.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: Wasteland, Baby!, by Hozier

The Cassandra, by Sharma Shields

The Cassandra tells the story of a clairvoyant woman whose visions lead her to leave an abusive home life in favor of working at the Hanford nuclear compound during WWII. Mildred’s harrowing youth and weighty gifts leave her teetering between timidity and boldness, sharp observation and naiveté. With her characteristic eye for small interactions that tell a larger story, Shields reveals the everyday discomfort of American women. The war time setting and Mildred’s supernatural predilections only serve to twist the dial up on that discomfort, so that the reader is forced to acknowledge and experience it with Mildred and with all the present day women her story gives voice to. The Cassandra unflinchingly examines agency and complicity in the face of personal, systemic, and institutional abuse of power.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: Who Killed Amanda Palmer, by Amanda Palmer (also available for streaming on hoopla with your library card)


Sam Ligon’s serial novel Miller Cane is more ongoing than forthcoming at the moment—but really both at the same time. Read it at The Inlander. Musical accompaniment suggestion: America, by America.

May Is an Island, by Jonathan Johnson, is being catalogued at the Library District as of this writing and can be placed on hold.

The audiobook of Simeon Mills’s The Obsoletes is being catalogued as of this writing and can be placed on hold. The print version is scheduled to release in May 2019.

Also keep your eyes peeled for these releases later in 2019:


Caitlin Wheeler

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