Denise Cloutier lives in Goshen, Connecticut. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Law School, she has worked as a lawyer, bartender, investment advisor, personal caregiver, customer service call-center supervisor, substitute teacher, and collegiate women’s rugby coach. Her stories have been published in Spank the Carp, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and the Sunlight Press.
Denise's work appeared in Pond 56
Why do you write?
Like many people, I find that writing helps me to explore my own thoughts, unclutter my mind, and process what life throws at me. But what actually compels me to sit down and punch out the words is when I’ve had an experience that makes me want to capture the moment and recreate it on the page. These moments motivate me not because they are unique, but because they are universal, because I know that others have felt the exact same way as I do and describing those moments is a way to establish that connection, that underlying humanity we all share.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
I don’t devote myself to any specific creative activity other than writing, but I do try to be creative in any aspect of daily life that offers the opportunity, whether that be testing new recipes for dinner, making a scrapbook of vacation photographs, or wrapping a gift in a novel way.
Who is your favorite author and why?
My current top three authors are Ann Patchett, Colson Whitehead, and Geraldine Brooks, and if I had to pick only one, it would be whichever one of those three whose book I most recently read. Their prose is poetry and they all write in ways that touch me so deeply, I wonder how they know my secrets.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
It always starts with a moment that fuels my imagination. I write until the words start to slow down, and then I stop and do something else, anything else. The time away from the manuscript is sometimes more productive than the time spent at the computer. I come back with notes full of new ideas, edits, and revisions. I know that a lot of writers say that you should get the whole story down before going back to edit and revise, but I don’t do that. I am a constant massager of my words, revising a paragraph before it’s finished, editing the first chapter while writing the fourth. For me, the revisions and the new work often build on one another, with the story gaining depth as it proceeds forward.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
I never thought about carp, never even noticed them, until the question was asked. Now I see them everywhere. In a painting on the wall at the hospital when I visited my father. In a man-made pond in a garden on a friend’s front lawn. In the waiting room at my dentist’s office before a root canal. In a computer game where the goal is to feed each of the moving fish only once. I had never seen carp before and yet now I see they are everywhere. This happens with so many things in life. There is so much we don’t see unless we’re asked to look.