Annual Bedtime Stories Event Benefits the Humanities and Inspires Authors

This installment of 40 Years of Washington Stories shares the background of our Bedtime Stories fundraiser, begun 16 years ago in 1999. Join us this year for Bedtime Stories events in Seattle and Spokane!

The authors for the 2011 Bedtime Stories event. From left to right: Charles Johnson, Jamie Ford, Heather McHugh, Jim Lynch, Stephanie Kallos and Garth Stein.

The authors for the 2011 Bedtime Stories event. From left to right: Charles Johnson, Jamie Ford, Heather McHugh, Jim Lynch, Stephanie Kallos and Garth Stein.

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

The first Bedtime Stories evening, held in 1999, asked its authors to go beyond a traditional reading. Rather than reading from a previously published work, writers and poets created new pieces with only the loosest of guidelines to contain them. “Bedtime stories are those tales that create a bridge between our waking hours and the dreams of our sleep,” read the first author invitation. “Clearly, what constitutes such a story will be very subjective, and that is what we hope for.”

Since that first year, authors have gathered with Humanities Washington supporters each year to read new works that explore themes of dream, death, sleep, life, love, hate and beyond, all based on loose prompts that the authors receive just a few months before the event. Bedtime Stories is now in its 15th year and has hosted a series of knockout Northwest authors, including Charles Johnson, Jess Walter and Nancy Pearl. Johnson, winner of the 2013 Humanities Washington Award, has called it “the region’s premier literary event.”

Bedtime stories has also proved an excellent workshop for established writers. In addition to Johnson’s story collection Dr. King’s Refrigerator, author Jaime Ford’s latest novel Songs of Willow Frost was borne out of a Bedtime Stories reading. In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Ford described struggling with the beginnings of a new novel before he was inspired by his reception at Bedtime Stories. “I just knocked out 12 pages and read it at this event. The reaction was so positive that I just threw myself into this new story and here we are now.”

Join us this year for Bedtime Stories in Seattle Sept. 12 and Spokane Oct. 17! Read more, including how to get tickets, on our website.

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