From stories to soup to Sudden Fiction, Nicole d’Entremont is one of those writers who touches lives, over and over again – with and without her pen in hand. I caught up with Nicole in her studio apartment tucked in an enchanting carriage house on Peaks Island recently and learned that two maritime communities claim her as their own.
Whereas most people flock to Peaks Island in the summer, Nicole reverses that pattern, migrating to her father’s homeland, the Acadian community of Pubnico in Nova Scotia, a cluster of seven harbor villages. Her father’s emigration to the once rural outskirts of Philadelphia placed her there as a child where she started writing stories as a 5th grader. “Writing was always a place I could go where I could control it,” Nicole shared with me. “As a writer, you conjure a world, building it on what you’ve observed, creating something new.”
Nicole’s observations and her writing about the world are worth reading. Her newly-published novel, City of Belief, stems from her personal experience as a Catholic relief worker during the 1960s in a soup kitchen in New York City’s Lower East Side. If you’re looking for a peace sign- and tie dye-bedecked version of the Vietnam War era, then you’re better off looking at tweener fashions at the local mall. Nicole’s novel captures not only the gritty daily life of a Bowery soup kitchen and the characters who inhabited it, but also Catholic workers’ resistance to the draft. We’re talking trench coat-clad surveillance, FBI phone tapping, and abductions off of the street. “This kind of resistance is not talked about. All of my friends went to jail. It was serious stuff with serious consequences. The sixties wasn’t all party. I wanted people to know that.”
When I asked her about the potential reception to her book by readers living in the midst of the Iraq War controversy, Nicole added, “I wanted young people to know they could say no to the military. There are consequences. But it’s been done before and it can be done again.”
Nicole’s footprint in Portland has been an impressive one; not only has she taught writing for 17 years in Portland’s Adult Education program but she also started the Sudden Fiction approach to writing in 1985, an approach to writing workshops that has become a favorite in Peaks’ writing community.