Five Questions for Kathleen Winter, Juror of 2015 3Macs carte blanche Prize

Photo: Roger LeMoyne

Photo: Roger LeMoyne

The 3Macs carte blanche Prize is awarded annually in recognition of an outstanding submission by a Quebec writer, artist or translator. The prize is sponsored by David Goodridge from MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier (3Macs) Inc. We’re delighted to announce that this year’s finalists will be selected by award-winning Montreal author, Kathleen Winter, and announced at the Quebec Writers’ Federation Gala on November 18, 2015 at the Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre.

Get to know our juror better through this short interview we did with her in late September.

1) You’ve come to Montreal from the UK and Newfoundland. What kind of influence has this had on your language?

Both my parents write flawlessly, thought they aren’t writers – I mean that their letters and incidental writings, those that I’ve seen anyway, were always beautifully written, expressive and direct. We always had poetry in the house, and library cards. We came from the industrial north of England and it’s only later when I’ve returned there that I see how much rawness is there, as opposed to lyricism – though Dorothy Wordsworth and her brother and other writers were northerners. I mean, I don’t know how much eloquence has come out of the soil and into ourselves, wherever we are born and walk. Maybe a lot.

2) You write lyrically. Which authors bring you this same kind of aesthetic pleasure?

Gretel Ehrlich, Dorothy Wordsworth, Lisa Moore, Alison Bechdel, Margaret Craven, Katherine Mansfield, Duncan Williamson, Alice Petersen, Ngozi Adichie, Ali Smith, Louise Gluck, Maira Kalman, Roald Dahl, M.A.C Farrant…

3) ‎Where is your favourite place to write? I used to write sitting up, then standing, and now I do most of my work while walking outside—I mean that I store it up, the impetus, momentum, scenes—and then transcribe it in a relatively short time, standing up anywhere but my writing room, when I get home.

4) Your writing strongly evokes the feeling of a place. How well do you have to know somewhere before you situate fiction there? For example, how long did it take you to write stories about Montreal?

I was in Montreal a few hours before I started writing about it—the look of it, the bridges, the languages and life in the streets as they feel and appear and speak to this newcomer—but with time that changes and the writing continues but it becomes something else. So I have early blog entries and newspaper columns about those first impressions, then in my 2014 story collection, The Freedom in American Songs (Biblioasis), there are stories set in Montreal peopled by Montreal people, stories taken from life. In Boundless (Anansi, 2014) there are also Montreal scenes, often about neighbourhood and the process of belonging or becoming someone who is integrated with community.

5) What is your earliest memory of creating narrative?

In an otherwise desert-like high school, I had an English teacher, Arthur Griffin, who brought his guitar to school, told stories, and let us borrow renegade books from his alternative bookshelf. I remember that instead of writing one of his assigned essays, I figured it might be all right with him if I wrote a short story on a scroll that I made out of several yards of paper from the Bowater pulp and paper mill, attached to grooved dowels I painted red.

About Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter’s collection of stories boYs (Biblioasis 2007) won Canada’s Metcalf-Rooke Award and Winterset Award. Her novel, Annabel (House of Anansi Press 2010), was a finalist for all three of Canada’s major literary awards. It became a #1 Canadian bestseller, was published in 2011 with Grove Atlantic/Black Cat in New York and Jonathan Cape in London, and has been translated wordwide. Her memoir Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage (Anansi 2014) was shortlisted for the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and her second story collection The Freedom in American Songs was published the same year with Biblioasis.