One of the great joys of my short career has been working with Shawn Vestal at the Spokesman-Review. Vestal has just won the prestigious PEN/Warren W. Bingham Prize for his debut book of short stories. The Spokesman-Review has a nice writeup of both Shawn and what make Spokane tick, literarily (not literally).
To my mind, what makes Vestal such a great writer, and a writer that we should all try to emulate, is his humility. Unlike so many authors, he doesn't try to make himself out like the smartest/sexist/craftiest person in the room. Rather he positions himself in the scrum with the rest of us, vulnerable, looking around with compassion and a true desire to better understand what truly drives our day-to-day lives. It's been my experience that, in general, writers in "fly-over country" like Spokane have far more interest in the everyday man than those living on the coasts, where power/sexual dynamics seem to be the only thing anyone can think and write about. Vestal exemplifies this, and it's great to see his work get the credit it deserves.