Op-Ed

‘Stories connect us.’ New reading series brings writer Amy Bloom to Lexington.

Kim Edwards
Kim Edwards

When I first moved to Kentucky over 20 years ago, I offered a master class in fiction writing to 10 gifted students. We met weekly in the beautiful, soaring spaces of the Carnegie Center to talk about their stories, which were remarkably wide-ranging in their scope and voices. I still think about this class, the place where I first was introduced to the passionate readers and vibrant literary community thriving in this city and this state.

Many years later, as I imagined a new reading series that would bring a nationally acclaimed writer to Lexington every year, I reached out to the Carnegie Center again. We began an energized conversation about what such a series would look like, and how such a partnership might work.

Stories connect us to what is universal in human experience, transcending cultures, place, and time. I wanted this series to add to the diversity of authors that the people of central Kentucky can easily experience firsthand. There’s nothing quite like hearing an author’s voice in person. In addition, I wanted to give writers from other parts of the country a chance to glimpse the vibrant artistic scene and natural beauty of Kentucky — especially in the spring, when it seems the whole state is greenly lush and bursting into flower.

Now, a year later, the series we dreamed up together is about to become a reality.

After a careful vetting process and much discussion by the series committee, Amy Bloom was invited to be the inaugural writer. I still remember the first short story I read by Amy Bloom, its beautiful use of language and deep characterizations informing a powerful narrative, and I have been an admirer of her work ever since. Amy Bloom is the author of three collections of short stories, in addition to her two New York Times best-selling novels; she has written a children’s book and a collection of essays, as well. She has been nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic Circle Award, and her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies.

In her visit to Lexington, Amy Bloom will read and discuss her most recent novel, White Houses, a fictional exploration of the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and her long-time companion, the journalist Lorena Hickok. As O: The Oprah Magazine noted, “Vivid and tender . . . Bloom—interweaving fact and fancy—lavishes attention on [Lorena Hickok], bringing Hick, the novel’s narrator and true subject, to radiant life.”

Stories connect us, and art transcends time and place. In January 1938, Eleanor Roosevelt visited Kentucky, traveling here by train through the snow. She wrote in her My Day column that she had a very warm welcome from Dr. and Mrs. McVey, toured PWA-funded projects, including the UK law school and student center, traveled to Breathitt County, and listened to John Jacob Niles sing ballads. She talked to farmers and discussed the importance of bees to state agriculture. Reflecting on all that she had seen and learned, Eleanor Roosevelt observed, “. . .how little we know of the everyday life in another state as near as Kentucky is to New York and Washington.”

I hope this evening — and this reading series as a whole — will be a special experience for everyone involved, bringing multiple worlds and perspectives closer together, connecting us through the transcendent power of art. The event is free and open to the public. Please joins us at the Carnegie Center on April 25 at 6 pm to give a warm Kentucky welcome to Amy Bloom.

Kim Edwards is the author of the novels The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Lake of Dreams, and a story collection The Secrets of a Fire King. She lives in Lexington and is finishing a new novel.

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