Pigeon Pages Interview with Nicole Haroutunian
Do you have a bird story or favorite feathered friend?
I am the parent of an 18 month old named Opal. Since she was born, my relationship to all animals has changed, in that they are now one of my chief topics of conversation. Living across from a park, these conversations often center around birds. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why Opal points at them and says, “goo goo.” She knows, when you specifically ask, that birds say “tweet!” But, the other day, I noticed that it is actually only pigeons that she maintains say “goo goo.” Do they? They do.
What is your most memorable reading experience?
I was lucky enough to go on a small West Coast book tour when my collection, Speed Dreaming, came out. In the months between planning the tour and touching down in San Francisco, at least half the friends I was sure would bring people out to fill up the bookstore moved away. The dazzling local writer who agreed to be join me in conversation was very kind about it, but the crowd, while enthusiastic, wound up sparse. The only person in attendance who I didn’t know, or who hadn’t arrived with someone I knew, was an intoxicated man in the back row who chuckled to himself while reading Where the Wild Things Are over and over for the duration of the event. At the end of the reading, he bought three of my books and asked me to inscribe each of them to a different woman.
What makes you most excited about Speed Dreaming?
Honestly, it’s remembering that it is the out there having a life while I’m in here, in my apartment, writing the next one, and wondering if it will ever have a life.
To tweet or not to tweet?
What books do you have in your bag right now?
I’m toggling between The Seas by Samantha Hunt and Let Me Tell You, the collection of Shirley Jackson’s work. I’ve been reading a lot more slowly than usual because the last book I finished—Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward—hasn’t let go of my brain yet.
Can you tell us your favorite rejection story?
I have a short novel that hasn’t sold (yet?). In all the feedback, which has mostly been very kind, there’s been next to no overlap in the reasons editors have given for passing. So either nothing is wrong with the book or everything is, I guess? (This might not count as a favorite rejection story. I don’t like rejection!)
What literary journals do you love?
Vol. 1 Brooklyn is a bit broader in definition than a literary journal, but it is the first that came to mind when I saw this question. Beyond the quality work they publish, the editors behind it are such active, supportive literary citizens. Like Pigeon Pages, they are out in the world, producing events, connecting folks, and championing writers and writing.
What shakes your tail feathers?
At the moment, it is all of these reading series banding together to raise money for RAICES. The deliberate retraumatization of families doing their best to escape impossible situations is devastating. It is hard to know where to focus at any given time (the Supreme Court! The Midterms! The climate!) so I am grateful for this lens on an important, wrenching ongoing issue.
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
Make sure you have friends who are writers. When you spend hours alone deleting everything you wrote the day before, it’s really helpful to be able to check in with someone who understands that that’s progress.
What other eggs do you have in your basket right now?
I am one of the editors of a digital arts platform called Underwater New York. We publish work across all genres that engages with and is inspired by the waterways of New York and what is submerged within them. On September 22nd at 5pm, on Governor’s Island, we’ll be hosting photographer Susannah Ray for a discussion of her new book, NEW YORK WATERWAYS, and a reading of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by poets Amber Atiya, Dena Igusti, and Kelly Sullivan in connection with the 2018 Works on Water / Underwater New York artist residency. On October 15th, the reading series I co-curate in Montclair, New Jersey, Halfway There, returns for its fourth season. And I recently turned in a new manuscript to my agent!
Nicole Haroutunian is the author of the short story collection SPEED DREAMING (Little A, 2015) and a literary editor of the anthology SILENT BEACHES, UNTOLD STORIES: NEW YORK CITY'S FORGOTTEN WATERFRONT (Damiani, 2016). Her writing has appeared in Joyland, Post Road, Tin House's Open Bar, the Literarian, Day One, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. She is an editor of the digital arts platform Underwater New York and cofounder of the reading series Halfway There. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Woodside, Queens.