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About the Fiction 

by Inlander Staff

Usually people wait until after the holidays to start voicing their frustration with Inland Northwest winters, but sooner or later the familiar lament begins: "I can't stand another [foggy/rainy/snowy/cold/dreary] day. Next year, I'm flying to Mexico."

But what do you do when, as so happens in Paul Haeder's "Bird Stamp," the Inland Northwest follows you there?

Haeder's story suggests that not only is Spokane a place, it's a state of mind. And as such, it's a potent literary device conveying undercurrents of hope and despair, possibility and dead ends. We're proud to name Paul K. Haeder's "Bird Stamp" the winner of The Inlander's ninth annual Short Fiction Contest, and to announce that he'll be reading from this and other works on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at Auntie's Bookstore. In addition to offering some well-deserved kudos to Mr. Haeder, we'd also like to congratulate our second- and third-place winners, "Metaphorica" by Robert Salsbury and "Washtucna'ed" by J.A. Satori. Both stories will be available on our Web site, Congratulations, Paul, and our thanks to everyone who entered this year's contest.

About the Author

Paul K. Haeder

Wouldn't it be great if we all had English teachers who would do the same assignments they give their classes? Climb down into the writing trenches and get grubby with grammar like the rest of us? Well, that's exactly the kind of teacher this year's winner, Paul K. Haeder is. As a professor at SCC, SFCC, the Continuing Education Program, and previously at Gonzaga, it's not uncommon for Haeder to do his assignments right along with his students.

"I threw out some ideas to the class and went home and wrote some of ['Bird Stamp']," he says. "I brought a page of this into class the next day and said, 'This is what I came up with." It was primarily just supposed to be an example, but I kept tweaking it and reworking it and thought, 'What the hell, I'll send it in.' I never expected it would win."

Haeder has only lived in Spokane for three years. Previously he worked in El Paso and has degrees from the University of Texas and the University of Arizona (where, as city editor of the daily college paper, he had the opportunity to go out drinking -- on separate occasions -- with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tess Gallagher, W.S. Merwin and Octavio Paz). He's worked as a journalist for everything from the Miami Herald to E-Magazine and says that in his younger days he used to "hitchhike, pick up writing jobs for small newspapers and teach diving," which is how he was able to infuse the Cozumel scenes of "Bird Stamp" with so much authenticity. "The diving-off-Cozumel parts weren't just fantasy," he jokes.

Haeder is married to writer and teacher Connie Wasem and has an 8-year-old child. He's also a strong advocate for environmental issues. And it's not surprising to find that, after hearing that he'd won The Inlander short fiction contest, he went right back to his writing desk to start a few new projects.

"I've got writing in my blood," he says. "I think the real pivotal event for me was 9/11. After that happened, I had a lot of my students asking me, 'Why do you care about literature and poetry?' And I told them, 'Now is the time to care. That's where we can retreat and rediscover ourselves in times of trouble -- in writing.' "

About the Artist

Amy Sinisterra

If the name of the artist for this year's fiction contest sounds familiar, it might be because you're used to seeing her photo credit throughout many pages of The Inlander. Amy worked as our editorial art coordinator for four years before launching her own photography business, Amy Sinisterra Photography. During that time, we were often astonished at what Miss Sinisterra could accomplish with only a basic, no-frills digital camera and her own imagination. It's largely due to her intuitive and wide-ranging images of nightlife, downtown, local artists and food and drink that we've been able to present a vision of Spokane as a unique, edgy, attractive place to be.

A graduate of the University of Washington in Fine Art and English, Sinisterra is also an accomplished writer. Her ability to envision scenes served her well as the illustrator of this year's fiction contest -- the photo illustrations accompanying the story came to her while reading and re-reading Haeder's evocative "Bird Stamp." Sinisterra continues to take pictures for The Inlander on a freelance basis. To see more of her work, visit her Web site:

About the Judge

Beth Cooley

We were delighted to have Beth Cooley as the judge for this year's fiction contest. Cooley's recently published young-adult novel, Ostrich Eye, is a nuanced, suspenseful and ultimately satisfying novel that garnered her a Delacorte Prize (for first novels in the YA genre). In addition to teaching writing and literature at Gonzaga University (where she is also chair of the English Department), Cooley is a regular participant in EWU's "Writers in the Rural Schools" program, an outreach effort in which published regional authors visit elementary, middle and high schools in outlying areas. She is at work on a second novel, tentatively titled Shelter, which will be published by Random House sometime around 2006. Cooley, who has been published in Mid-American Review, Roanoke Review, Poet Lore and other journals, shares her home with "my husband, Dan Butterworth, two daughters and a house rabbit named Scout."

Of this year's winner, she says: "'Bird Stamp' initially stood out among the stories submitted because of its vivid imagery and original language. The poetry of the story kept me involved almost as much as the protagonist, who is realistic and believable. Structurally, I found the interwoven plots of disease, love, infidelity, risk, life and death intriguing. The stories within the story, such as the lost Japanese divers and the marines, were fascinating. Paul Haeder makes us believe in his rough and colorful Mexico and his troubled, complex characters."

Publication date: 12/23/04

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