Writers' Rooms: Ivan E. Coyote

Ivan E. Coyote

Coyote room 

I am a bit of a neat freak, I guess. I like surfaces, and empty space.  Normally I would have some art up on the wall and possibly a corkboard to pin up photos and quotes I like or articles that interest me, but I just moved into this little attic in a shared house in Ottawa a month ago, and I will be returning to Vancouver as soon as I finish teaching this semester, so I am loathe to decorate much. The suitcases are my esthetic answer to moving around too much. They are so much more decorative than cardboard boxes, and come with convenient handles for carrying. Plus I can tell them apart - the little one on top is full of cables and a microphone and chargers and adaptors and that kind of thing. The beige one with the green leather trim is full of newspaper clippings and updates for my resume and press pack stuff.  The caramel leather one contains all my notes and handouts and material for the classes I am teaching right now. The one under that is my favourite books, the ones I need with me enough to have not left them behind in storage, and some sentimental stuff, love letters, photos, things like that.

The desk I am madly in love with and mourn having to sell it when I move home. If only it wouldn't cost more than I paid for it to ship it, I would take it with me. I am looking for the right person to love it when I am gone. I would wish that my truck was bigger, but gas is too expensive. The lamp I bought for two dollars in Kelowna, at the Salvation Army Store. It was two days after my house had burned down, and I was on the road for a gig. It was one of the first things I bought after the fire, and I have packed it last and unpacked it first for all of my ten moves since. It has lit up many an empty room for me, and rested on top of many an unpacked box. The chair is also for sale.

The walls are white, which I would definitely do something about if I was going to be here for any length of time. But the ceilings are high, I have the whole attic to myself, it is very private, and I get a lot of work done here. There is a gigantic church about a block away from here, and beautiful bells toll everyday at noon and six for mass. Sometimes I have to close the front window if the skunk has been hanging around the backyard, and the same guy always wakes me up at about 4am on recycling day going through the blue bin, but other than that, this attic has been good to me. But I can't wait to get back home and set up my office for real. Maybe even unpack a few suitcases. Or maybe not. I've grown kind of fond of this system.


Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of four collections of short stories, one novel, two CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last thirteen years she has become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writer's festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam. Ivan is a columnist for Xtra West magazine, writes regularly for The Georgia Straight and CBC Radio, and pops up in periodicals all across the continent. Ivan recently completed an eight-month writer in residence at Carleton University in Ottawa, and is hard at work on her second novel. Her fifth collection of stories, The Slow Fix, was released in September.