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Hope Norman Coulter (1961–)

Little Rock (Pulaski County) author Hope Coulter is a novelist, short-story writer, poet, children’s book author, and professor. Coulter has received several of Arkansas’s top literary prizes, including the Porter Prize for fiction and the Laman Library Writers Fellowship. Poems and stories by Coulter have also received awards or recognition in contests from such national literary journals as the North American Review, Terrain.org, the Southwest Review, and Louisiana Life.

Hope Elizabeth Norman was born on January 25, 1961, in New Orleans, Louisiana, but spent her early years in Little Rock. Her father, Tom David Norman, was then a pathologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Her mother, Hope Johns Norman, as a member of the Women’s Emergency Committee, had worked to reopen schools in Little Rock that were closed following the 1957 desegregation of Central High School. Norman was the youngest child in the family, with three older brothers. When Norman was five years old, the family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where she attended public schools.

In her high school in Alexandria, Norman worked with William Kushner, conductor of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, in which she played percussion and for which she wrote program notes.

Norman attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she majored in English and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude in general studies, in 1982. Norman then received a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and traveled to Zambia. In 1983, she married attorney Nate Coulter; they had three children. In 1985, the couple moved to Little Rock. They divorced in 2003.

August House Publishers released Coulter’s first two novels, The Errand of the Eye and Dry Bones, in 1988 and 1990, respectively. While both novels focus on southern life, The Errand of the Eye confronts the South’s racially charged atmosphere in the late 1960s as a young white student must question her own principles and her place of privilege. Coulter published a children’s book, Uncle Chuck’s Truck, in 1993 with Bradbury Press and began teaching creative writing at Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) that same year.

Coulter spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s writing, raising her children, and teaching creative writing. In 2009, Coulter married nature and travel writer Mel White; they live in Little Rock.

In 2011, Coulter returned to graduate school, earning an MFA in creative writing in fiction and poetry from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. She continued to publish short fiction and poetry in literary magazines such as Rattle, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Examined Life Journal, and the Carolina Quarterly.

In 2013, Coulter became the interim director of Hendrix College’s Hendrix-Murphy Foundation programs in literature and language. Each academic year, this program brings nationally and internationally known writers to Hendrix, where they work with students and faculty, as well as present public readings for the college and the community. In 2016, she was appointed the permanent director of the foundation.

Coulter’s first published collection of poems, The Wheel of Light, was released in 2015 by BrickHouse Books as part of its New Poets Series. The Wheel of Light focuses on Earth as the setting where myriad things open and close—eyes, wings, and camera apertures, seasons, experiences, and lives.

For additional information:
Hope Coulter. http://www.hopecoulter.com/ (accessed April 30, 2015).

Lawson, Felley. “Hope Elizabeth Norman Coulter.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 21, 1996, pp.1D, 5D.

Sandy Longhorn
Pulaski Technical College

Last Updated 8/3/2016

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