Creative Class: Heidi Kaloustian

heidiHeidi Kaloustian is a writer who lives and works in Detroit. She has received numerous awards and honors for her writing, including a 2015 Schulze Fellowship for a debut novel, a 2012 Kresge Fellowship in the Literary Arts, and a Hopwood Award in Fiction. In 2005, she was named a Davidson Fellow, Laureate of Literature. She was the first Davidson Fellow to receive the top prize in the category of literature.

She holds a BA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she studied fiction with Marilynne Robinson and Karen Russell. She served as the fiction editor of the Iowa Review, a tri-annual literary journal. During her tenure as editor, the magazine’s fiction was awarded a Tim McGinnis Award and Pushcart nominations, and was included in the 2016 Best American Short Stories and 2016 Best American Non-Required Reading.

She is also a visual artist with a focus on book arts and book-making. In 2013, she exhibited a series of thirteen visual works and a limited-edition book at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (MOCAD). Her work explores the dynamic between seeing and reading, image and text, the object and the imaginary.

Kaloustian has taught creative writing and served as a guest teacher in metro-Detroit public schools. She is currently at work on her first novel.

What inspires you to create?

Other artists. Art is always the conduit for me. The sentences of Marquez, or Nabokov. My childhood loves Hawthorne and Poe, the rhythms of their stories, memorized but somehow always veering new. Gertrude Stein and Aram Saroyan make language seem totally bizarre and infinite with possibilities. They make me want to write, and attend more closely to the world around me, see and hear the strangeness and electricity crackling beneath the ordinary. Visual art, too.
Hieronymus Bosch and Paul Delvaux’s worlds seem to contain everything I’ve ever wanted to say.

Can you describe your greatest creative achievement:

The finish line is always moving. Every project has its own challenges, and once you figure those out, you start setting new goals. And I think that’s good, the way it should be. The most satisfying part of writing is so microscopic and humble and alone: the feeling of pinning it down just right, getting the image, the sentence. I can think of one passage, the end of a story, maybe three hundred words, that wrote itself in a rush, perfectly, everything sharp and singing right. That’s the closest I get to a feeling of accomplishment. That’s what I love most.

What advice would you give the next generation of creative people?

Oh wow. I just graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and lived for two years in a postage stamp sized city that contains the most writers and translators and poets per square foot in the world. I heard so much advice! I think I’ve distilled from all of it the idea that the process of making art is singular and irreducible. Advice is just comforting because it make us feel less alone, less scared of a process that is generally lonely, and scary, and kind of mysterious. Every artist creates according to their own peculiar habits, every project has its own particular requirements. But I think its a comfort to know this, too: it means you’re not doing it wrong.

What one word would you use to describe yourself or the work you do?

Meticulous (me and the work)

For more information about Heidi and her work, check out her website:


is a series of profiles of creative people throughout the world that I have either shared the stage with or have observed their talents from a far. The questions are my own and their answers are unaltered.

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