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Fiction writer and poet captivates crowd at latest SoCo event

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Renowned fiction writer and poet, Steven Wingate, read some of his work during the third Southern Colorado Reading Series event on March 9 at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Steven Wingate shares his work at the latest SoCo Reading Series event on March 9. Photo by Zak Bratton

Wingate, a self-proclaimed “genre hopper,” shared both old and new poetry, as well as some excerpts from his award-winning book, “Wifeshopping,” in the Cottonwood Room, in the Occhiato University Center. More than 25 people attended the event.

“Wifeshopping”, Wingate’s only book, won the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007. Stories from the fiction novel have also been featured in more than half a dozen publications, including the Mississippi Review, The Pinch, River City, Green Hills Literary Lantern and several others.

Wingate also won fiction awards for “Wifeshopping” in 2006, after being featured in The Journal and the Gulf Coast.

Although standing with a towering frame, the author wasted no time revealing his gentle and intimate demeanor. He read each piece aloud in a quiet and subtle tone, entertaining the crowd in front of him while using facial expressions to animate the recited words.

Wingate also said that he wanted to minimize the distance between the small crowd and himself. He moved the podium closer at the start of the reading only to move it aside completely halfway through the reading; Wingate took measures to bond with the audience.

“Why have so much distance, aesthetic or otherwise,” he said.

Starting out with poetry, Wingate’s first poem was one that he said was very personal to him and one that he said he was very proud of.

The poem was titled, “Before the Russian Church in Sophia,” and had been written by Wingate in 2009 while he was on a fellowship in Bulgaria. Some of the friends he made while visiting there translated the piece into Bulgarian and had it published in the “Bulgarian equivalent of the New Yorker,” Wingate said.

Click here to listen to Steven Wingate’s poem, “Before the Russian Church in Sophia.”

Wingate also said that many of the poems and prose pieces that he read throughout the night were never heard by any audience prior to the event, with the exception of “Wifeshopping.”

One of these stories was entitled “Seven Ways of Staging Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron,’” a reference to “The Decameron,” a book by 14th century author, Giovanni Boccaccio.

Although Wingate said the last time he read the story was in first or second year of college, “It stuck with me,” he said, “even though I know nothing of the details now.”

Juan Morales, Southern Colorado Reading Series Coordinator, said Wingate’s writing incorporates “vibrant and vivid” emotions, while exhausting the emotional spectrum.

While some authors may write for money or fame, Morales described Wingate’s purpose as a “labor of love.” He said he also believes the author has kind and generous qualities aside from his compelling writing style.

“In the writing business, sometimes there’s like this competitiveness that kind of comes through,” Morales said. “But when you meet writers like Steven, you forget about that. You just see a very kind person that cares about the community.”

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and receiving a master’s degree from Florida State University, Wingate currently teaches writing workshops full-time at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Aside from his fictional works, Wingate’s poetry and experimental prose have been featured in various publications and anthologies, including Waccamaw, Sonora Review and Double Room. He has also reviewed books for the American Book Review, Colorado Review, Rain Taxi, and other print and online journals.

Wingate said he encourages writers to break out of their genre mold and to step outside their comfort zone when writing.

“I think it’s wonderful to access other genres, whatever you’re into as a writer because other things are out there and they can become your own private territory,” Wingate said. “You don’t have to worry about professionalism or a career – it’s just personal.”

The final SoCo Reading Series event will feature Raza Ali Hasan and will take place at the CSU-Pueblo Art Gallery, located in the lower lobby of Hoag Hall. The event begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 15.