We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Kleinfeld and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
If you follow this advice, you will be burned out and spread too thin. I think the truth is that there are many things worth doing and the real trick of life is figuring out which things to give 100% to. You can’t give 100% to everything, so you have to be choosy and give 100% only to the things that are really important. The rest of life can get less than 100%.
For example, I have chosen to give 100% to parenting. That means lots of other things, like answering email and dusting my house, get less than 100%. It’s a trade off and I don’t feel bad about taking a while to answer email or not dusting my house because I know that doing those things at just a “C” level enables me to be a great parent.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Two years ago, my husband had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and in need to 24/7 caregiving from me. I began writing about the experience on a website to keep friends and family up-to-date on his condition. Although I was writing the entries at the end of very long days, I began to look forward to writing them and found that the writing helped me close out each day with hope and optimism. After my husband passed away a year ago, I continued writing about my experience of being a caregiver and then widow. I began to identify as a memoir-writer.
I am still employed full-time as a professor and writing center director, but I write memoir everyday. Sometimes I am writing in my journal, somestimes on my blog, and most often I am working on memoir essays that I hope to publish. I have had one accepted for publication and another one rejected twice. Rejection is a normal part of the process, so I don’t let those rejections get me down. I just figure I haven’t found the right home for that piece.
I take online writing courses to sharpen my skills. Although I’ve taught writing for 20+ years, I’ve never taught or written memoir before, so this is new to me. The advice I give students who want to be writers is to read a lot in their chosen genre, so I read a lot of memoirs. I consider it part of my job as a new memoirist.
Ultimately, I hope my blog and the memoir essays and book I publish will serve others struggling with loss.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love Union Station in Denver. With all the sights in and around the station, the restaurants, and the hotel, a person could spend a week just exploring Union Station and its surroundings. Plus, because it’s a historic building, hanging around there gives lots of of opportunities to share Denver’s history. From Union Station, we could walk up to the Tattered Cover Book Store, take in the skyline and mountain views from Millenial Bridge, drink gin at Ultreia, and drink coffee at Pigtrain.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
All my students at Illinois State University, Red Rocks Community College, Community College of Aurora, and Metropolitan State University of Denver. They have mentored me along my journey, trusting me when I asked them to be vulnerable, pushing back when I had unreasonable expectations, and reminding me of why I became a teacher. I see my writing as an extension of my teaching; in both capacities, I am serving others.