Meet Teaching Artist Kate Heartfield

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Headshot of teaching artist Kate Heartfield

Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022, and the Alice Payne time travel novellas (2018/2019). Her debut novel Armed in Her Fashion (2018) won Canada’s Aurora Award. She also writes interactive fiction, including The Road to Canterbury and The Magician's Workshop, published by Choice of Games. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Aurora, Sunburst, and Crawford awards and her journalism for a National Newspaper Award. Her short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lackington's, Podcastle, and elsewhere. A former newspaper journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.




When did you start teaching? What path—career or otherwise—brought you here?

My first class for the Loft was back in 2017, and I've taught several courses since, in nonfiction and fiction. I began my career as a newspaper journalist, but I left that field in 2015 to freelance and to write fiction. Teaching seemed like a natural addition; as an op-ed editor, I'd given many workshops to academics and think tanks about how to improve their writing, and I've taught journalism at Carleton University here in Ottawa, Canada, for several years. I have always written fiction, and around 2013/2014 I began to publish more short fiction and signed with an agent for my novels. These days, fiction is an ever bigger part of my working and teaching life, but I still teach nonfiction writing too.


How would you describe your teaching style?

I don't think there are any laws in writing (or at least, none that can't be broken) so I try to stick to sharing what has worked for me, and what hasn't, and why. I love to explore connections with students and to lead discussions that spark ideas.


When it comes to imagining and creating classes, where do your ideas come from? What in particular inspires you?

I'm often inspired to teach on the subjects that haven't come naturally to me, because that means I've had to think about them very deliberately and come up with strategies. For example, I love teaching revision courses, because I've put so much thought into revision for my own craft.


What's the ideal environment for your classroom? What atmosphere are you hoping to establish?

I love a learning environment in which everyone feels comfortable and welcome, full of humor and compassion and fresh ideas.


Regardless of what your class is specifically focusing on, what's the main goal you have for your students?

My main goal is always to leave students feeling inspired and able to tackle their next challenge. I try to make sure they come away with something new and concrete: a set of ideas, or a checklist, or a plan.


What are goals you have for yourself? These could be teaching goals, writing goals, career goals, community goals, etc.

One thing about writing that can be frustrating is that it never really gets easy. But that's what I love about it; it's always going to be a challenge, and it's never going to be boring. I hope to maintain a love for making art and to nurture that love in others. I also hope to help create space for people who have been marginalized and gatekept out of access to education and opportunity, and I hope to keep learning from all generations of writers.


What have been some of your own favorite educational experiences?

Back in 2007, I took a create writing by correspondence course through Humber College. My mentor was the Canadian novelist Paul Quarrington, who died far too young in 2010. Though the novel he mentored remains unpublished and he never lived to see me publish my debut several years later, I still have all my emails from "Coach Q", and his encouragement, humor, and wisdom made an enormous difference in my life. He believed in my writing and in me, and that was huge. Everyone should read his novels; King Leary is my favorite.


To you personally, what is the most important part of the literary arts?

I believe that stories are how we understand the world and each other, and form a kind of language of empathy and possibility, without which the democratic conversation would be very difficult indeed.


Is there anything else you'd like to share?

My next novel, The Embroidered Book, has been many years in the writing, and I know that my experience as a teacher at the Loft over those same years helped me improve my own craft and helped me become the writer that book needed.