We talk to Nicole Cloutier, whose haunting story of nighttime exploration “Coyote Runs” appeared in issue #35.
I feel like there are several different stories packed into “Coyote Runs” – the kids sneaking out to explore the house, the coyote crossing the land, and the story of Anne in the background. Did the idea for this story come to you fully formed, or did you pull together these different strands?
Definitely different strands. I’ve always had a fascination with coyotes. We heard them all the time where I grew up, yelping away in the woods. Lost a lot of chickens and cats to them too. The coyote in “Coyote Runs” is based off the trickster coyote, who steals fire from the gods and gives it to the people. So, the idea behind combining the story of the coyote and the kids was to subtly, under the story, create a parallel between Coyote’s fire with Eve’s apple. Anne’s story is less connected, perhaps. I actually almost removed it in the edits. I’m glad I kept it though; I like it. There’s a hint of a romantic connection between the girl and the leaf-boy, and I think Anne’s story strengthens that.
It is interesting that the characters in the story are never actually named. Did they have names in your head when you were writing?
They didn’t, actually. I enjoy not naming characters. In my mind I think I called them what you see on the page: the girl, the leaf-boy, the chauffeur. I kept it that way to amp up the mystical quality, to allow the characters to represent more than themselves.
The ending surprised me, in a very positive way. The narration shifts far into the future, and with it the themes of the story seem to shift as well. Did you always plan to end the story that way, or did it emerge in the writing?
Thank you. It was not planned at all, and surprised me as well. That’s always fun when you’re writing, isn’t it? I wish I surprised myself more often.
You mention in your bio that you’re the editor of Lumina. Could you tell us a bit more about that project?
Gladly! Lumina is a literary journal completely run by graduate students at SLC, which is fantastic because we really get to dig our hands into the thing. I’m the editor for this year, and then next year it will be passed on to one of the current assistants. We’re also introducing a multimedia project this November, which I’m ridiculously excited about. Mind if I plug a link? luminajournal.com.
How are you finding your MFA course at Sarah Lawrence College so far? How do you feel it has shaped your writing?
Good question. Sarah Lawrence is such a phenomenal place, really. When I look back at what I submitted to get in, I’m not sure why they let me be here. Ha. Now, my writing sounds more like it belongs to me. I’ve found the program here very encouraging in that regard. Everyone’s doing their own thing and it’s fantastic. I’ve worked with David Hollander, David Ryan, Nelly Reifler, Kathleen Hill, Scott Snyder… I hope I don’t sound like I’m trying to sell anything here, I just really can’t say enough good about the place.
Is there somewhere where readers can find out more about you and keep up to date with your writing?
Ah, I do have a website, though I’m not too great about keeping it updated. The best place is probably to follow me on Twitter: @NicoleMCloutier.
Nicole Cloutier is the Editor in Chief of Lumina. She grew up in rural Connecticut and is currently completing her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.