Nicole Baute is the winner of the 2018 Pinch Literary Award for her fiction story “You Will Be Extraordinary.” She grew up in Southwestern Ontario and has lived in many places including Toronto, Vancouver, and New Delhi, India. Her short stories and essays have been published by Joyland, River Teeth, carte blanche, Cleaver, and Wigleaf, and she placed third in the Mythic Picnic Fiction Prize. Nicole teaches creative writing online as part of Sarah Selecky Writing School and is pursuing her MFA at the University of British Columbia.
How and when did you first realize you were a writer?
In my final year of high school I won an essay-writing contest run by our local newspaper by answering the question “What makes a good parent?” My essay was cheesy, obviously, but specific enough to start a conversation – I argued that children learn best by example, and parents need to focus on being decent people before anything else. Part of the prize was an interview on our local television network and, to my horror, they ran the interview over and over again that entire summer. I was eighteen, going to parties and trying to meet guys, and I’d inevitably get a head-tilt and a smirk and “Aren’t you that good parenting girl?” That was the moment I realized I was prepared to embarrass myself for my writing.
Whose work have you been reading lately?
At the moment I’m reading Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living and re-reading The Bell Jar. Over the past year I’ve been most influenced by work that might be considered cross-genre or autofiction or literary collage, including Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonauts” and “Bluets,” Jenny Offill’s “Department of Speculation,” Brian Doyle’s “The Wet Engine” (an underappreciated gem) and Ben Lerner’s “Leaving the Atocha Station” and “10:04.”
What have you been working on since your piece “You Will Be Extraordinary” was published in The Pinch?
I’m working on two projects simultaneously, which I would not necessarily recommend. One is a short story collection about finding one’s place in the world—professionally, romantically and literally—called You Will Be Extraordinary. Yes, the Pinch published the title story! The second is a novel set in India, where I’ve lived for the past three years.
Why should people enter this particular contest?
You can tell by the choice of judges that the Pinch is interested in fresh, potentially edgy work. Last year I jumped at the chance to be read by Carmen Maria Machado, and having her pick my story was a huge boon to my self-confidence. If your work is a bit raw and slightly outside the norm, the Pinch could be a great fit for you. Submit, submit!
What is the last a) TV show you watched, b) drink you drank, and c) song you listened to?
a) Russian Doll b) Green tea with mint c) “The Isle of Arran” by Loyle Carner.
What does literary success look like to you?
The easy answer would be to publish regularly and have a good teaching job on the side, but I think it can be dangerous to measure success in this way. When you’re dependent on external powers like publishing companies and universities, you set yourself up for disappointment. So I try to think of it differently. A student of mine recently said a story I’d written and shared in class made her cry. Touching another person in this way is the only achievement that matters.