Lorenzo Reading Series: Kathleen Winter’s “Freedom in American Songs”

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On Thursday, Jan.15th, 2015, Canadian writer Kathleen Winter read at UNBSJ as a part of the Lorenzo Society Reading Series.

The night opened with Lorenzo Reading Series coordinator, Alison Hughes, giving a wonderful and breathtaking introduction for Winter. The audience was receptive, eager to hear from Winter’s new collection, the turnout reflective of the author’s renown following her novel Annabel’s incredible critical reception.

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Winter shared from her most recent collection of short stories, Freedom in American Songs, an assortment of stories about “modern loneliness, small town gay teens, catastrophic love, and the holiness of ordinary life.”

Many of Winter’s stories are based on her travels from Newfoundland to Montreal, where she now resides, and her journey through the Canadian arctic.

Many questions following the reading resided particularly on that experience, the topic for her “non-fiction novel” Boundless, as Kathleen called it, recounting experiences with past reviewers.

Kathleen explained how she got to go on an educational boat trip from Greenland to a small Inuit town, until her group became stranded. She explained that once it was over, Margaret Atwood had been waiting to go on the trip, but because of the delay, was unable to. Kathleen stated, “I got to go, and she didn’t.”

One thing was for sure, following the reading—Winter has a brilliant personality about her. She would tell a story perfectly, recounting in great detail and inclusive of all the daily humour she included in her short story collection.

It was interesting to talk with her about her once-upon-a-time love for poetry, how she became uninspired and moved to prose, and her experience talking with another writer.

Over dinner, Winter explained that, “ I asked her to place her hands on my head, and give me inspiration back. And she did—with no joke or irony. I wrote poetry that night.”

She also stated that because of other experiences doing readings recently she was hesitant to participate in the Lorenzo Reading Series. On reading series, Winter stated that, “Often they’ll pick you up, and you’ll go all over the place and they won’t even ask, ‘have you eaten?’ So I told my publisher that I would go, but only if I knew when I would be eating.”

Unaware of this request, Alison had given Kathleen’s publisher a full itinerary—including meal times. Kathleen then stated that coming to Saint John and being part of the Lorenzo Reading Series was one of the best experiences she’s had.

On top of conversations about writing and reading, we discussed the state of our friendly Port City, experiences among other cultures, as well as therapeutic touch and reiki healing.

Winter’s bright personality bubbled through every word she spoke, creating a beautiful and relaxing experience both throughout the reading and the dinner afterward.