Creative Class: Kathleen Pfeiffer


Kathleen Pfeiffer is an essayist, memoirist and literary critic living in Rochester Hills,

Kathy was raised in Trumbull, Connecticut.  She earned her B.A. from Emmanuel College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University.  Kathy taught writing at Yale University from 1990 to 1997, and she was the Writing Tutor and Resident Fellow of Morse College at Yale for two of those years.  She is currently Professor of English at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.  Kathy was named Kresge Fellow in the Literary Arts in 2012 for her creative nonfiction writing.

What inspires you to create?

Author Henry James talks about “the germ of an idea” that’s at the launch of each writing project, and for me this germ always infects me when I’m least expecting it. I just finished an essay that began when an opening line came to me completely intact (the line was “He only hit me that one time,” although after much revision, it now lives in the middle of the piece). Sometimes I have an “aha” moment in the middle of teaching a class, when I notice a scene or a line in the literature I’m discussing, which makes a completely unexpected connection to my own life. I’ve had some pieces grow unexpectedly out of writing prompts or creative writing workshop assignments. For most writers, the compulsion to tell stories provides constant inspiration. “Once upon a time” walks with us everywhere.

Can you describe your greatest creative achievement?

I’m extremely proud of the creative nonfiction and memoir essays that I’ve completed and sent out into the world, and am ever hopeful that they’ll find a home and an audience. But for me, one of the most inspiring and unexpected achievements is my collaboration with Ali Woerner and Thayer Jonutz at Take Root Dance. I first worked with Ali and Thayer for my Art X Detroit performance in 2013 in which they danced my stories. We’ve collaborated a few times since then. I learn so much about language and storytelling by witnessing the evolution of a dance, since choreography is a nonverbal language all its own. Writing is so lonely, but dance is always social and interactive – I love watching them work, and we always bring out the best in each others’ creative selves.

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

I would encourage younger creative to develop a disciplined practice that keeps their vision at its core. Discipline is especially important now because we live in a world with so many distractions. I’ve noticed in myself how easily my train of thought can be interrupted – just as I’ve noticed how much more and better I write when I work uninterrupted. The single best book I’ve read about this topic is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

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


Learn more about Kathy and her writings by CLICKING HERE.


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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