One cultural story we tell is that we are in control of our bodies, and this, too, is impossible. We are, rather, a sort of middle management. Meaning: The body is going to do what the body is going to do, and it is better if we think it is our idea. Or: to control the body guarantees eventual backlash. Or: the trick is catching the signs, early on, of what the body wants. To get out in front of it. To know what a body is.
— Katherine E. Standefer, "Animalis: References For a Body, One Winter"

Katherine E. Standefer writes about the body, consent, and medical technology from Tucson, Arizona. Her essay “In Praise of Contempt” appeared in The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan, and won the 2015 Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction. Her debut book Lightning Flowers is forthcoming from Little, Brown Spark in September 2020 and was shortlisted for the 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Works-in-Progress Award from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Her essay “The Unmaking” was selected as Notable in Best American Essays 2019 and her essay "Wilderness" was selected as Notable in Best American Essays 2017. Her other work has been published in or is forthcoming from Kenyon Review Online, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Normal School, The New England Review, Fourth Genre, The Iowa Review, Alpinist, Crazyhorse, The Colorado Review, Quarterly West, Cutbank, The Indiana Review, Fugue, Camas, High Country News, Edible Baja Arizona,, The Essay Daily, Lithub, and The Rumpus. She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Arizona. She is a professor in Ashland University's Low-Residency MFA program.

Standefer is represented by Bonnie Nadell of Hill Nadell Literary Agency.

Standefer was a Fall 2018 Logan Nonfiction Fellow at The Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York, which advances deeply reported, longform nonfiction about the most pressing issues of our day, and a Fall 2018 Jentel Arts Resident in Banner, Wyoming. She was a Fall 2017 Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow at The Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, California, which supports writers working at the intersection of nature, human economy, and equity.

Standefer has taught nonfiction at the Virginia Quarterly Review Writers' Conference in Charlottesville, Hugo House in Seattle, the Boulder Writers Studio, Catapult, The University of Arizona Poetry Center, University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning program, Casa de Libre in Tucson, and the University of Arizona's undergraduate creative writing program. She has also taught narrative medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and The Examined Life Conference at University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine. 

Originally from outside Chicago, Standefer has spent the last sixteen years between Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.  She earned a B.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in English- Fiction Writing from The Colorado College, where she was awarded the Colorado College Award in Literature, the Bridges Prize in Poetry,  and the Reville Prize for Fiction. She took third place in the 2006 Playboy College Fiction Contest. 

Her book Lightning Flowers traces the global supply chain of her internal cardiac defibrillator, considering whether her lifesaving device could have caused loss of life elsewhere. Research for the book has been supported by a University of Arizona Writing Program Fellowship and by a 2014 Kickstarter project , which enabled primary source research on mining and corporate social responsibility on the island of Madagascar. 

Her manuscript Strange Gifts of the Body: A Sexual Reckoning is a sexual autobiography that unfolds in the intersection between sex, self, and culture, asking what it means to be both animal and human. Standefer is an American College of Sexologists Certified Sexologist.

Over the last fourteen years, Standefer has worked with thousands of students as a sexual health educator, global mentor, outdoor educator,  writer-in-residence, freelance editor, and college instructor. She is an award-winning composition and creative writing teacher, and works from a trauma-informed and sex-positive framework. Work one-on-one with Kati toward your writing goals or take one of her writing classes.

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Literary Publications


  • "In Praise of Contempt" appears in The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2016.

  • "Kati Standefer on the Mysterious Leslie Ryan and the Structure of a Trauma Narrative" appears in How We Speak To One Another: An Essay Daily Reader, edited by Ander Monson and Craig Reinbold, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, MN, February 2017.

  • "Shock to the Heart, Or: A Primer on the Practical Applications of Electricity" appears in Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays, edited by Stephanie G'Schwind, Center for Literary Publishing, Fort Collins, CO, May 2017.


Writing about Writing

Writing Awards

  • “The Unmaking” selected as Notable essay in Best American Essays 2019 (ed. Rebecca Solnit and Robert Atwan).

  • Artist Opportunity Grant recipient, Arizona Commission on the Arts. Phoenix, AZ. March 2019.

  • “The Unmaking” nominated for Pushcart Prize by former recipient Jessica Wilbanks.

  • Logan Nonfiction Fellow, Carey Institute for Global Good. Renesslaerville, New York, Fall 2018.

  • Writing Resident, Jentel Arts Foundation. Banner, Wyoming. Fall 2018.

  • Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays winner of a Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology. Spring 2018.

  • Lightning Flowers shortlisted for $25,000 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Works-in-Progress Prize from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.

  • How We Speak to One Another: An Essay Daily Reader winner of the New Mexico/ Arizona Book Award for Best Anthology. Fall 2017.

  • "Wilderness" selected as Notable essay in Best American Essays 2017 (ed. Leslie Jamison and Robert Atwan).

  • Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow, The Mesa Refuge. Point Reyes, California. Fall 2017.

  • Finalist for Breadloaf Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship, May 2017.

  • Third Place, Tucson Woman of Influence in the Arts/Culture, Inside Tucson Business. March 2017.

  • Finalist for The Pinch Journal's 2017 Literary Award in Nonfiction ("Hallelujah the Blind Gifts").

  • Third Place, Arizona Humanities Rising Star in the Humanities, December 2016.

  • "In Praise of Contempt" selected for inclusion in Best American Essays 2016 (ed. Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan).

  • Nominated for The Pushcart Prize ("Shock to the Heart, Or: A Primer On the Primary Applications of Electricity," The Colorado Review) 2016.

  • Finalist in Creative Nonfiction, Tucson Festival of Books 2016 Prizes ("The Taste of Lavender"), February 2016.

  • Winner, The Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction ("In Praise of Contempt"). May 2015.

  • Finalist, The Masters Review Anthology IV ("Wilderness"). April 2015.

  • Finalist, Eddy Award for Best Story: Gardening ("The Revolution Requires Cover Crops" 3/14), Edible Communities, March 2015.

  • Finalist in Creative Nonfiction, Tucson Festival of Books 2015 Prizes ("Wilderness"), January 2015.

  • University of Arizona Foundation Award in Creative Nonfiction ("Shock to the Heart, Or: A Primer On the Practical Applications of Electricity"), December 2013.

  • Semi-finalist in Creative Nonfiction, Tucson Festival of Books 2014 Prizes ("Clearcut"), January 2013.

  • Finalist, Orlando Prize in Nonfiction ("Dear Husband"), A Room of Her Own Foundation, March 2013.

  • Honorable Mention, Fifty Shades of Smut Valentine's Day Erotica Contest, Tucson Weekly, February 2013.

  • First Place, Jackson Hole Writer's Conference Flash Fiction Contest ("Stealthwalkers"), May 2009.

  • Reville Prize for Fiction ("Moment for Tanagers"), Colorado College, May 2007.

  • Third Place, Playboy College Fiction Contest ("Seed"), May 2006.

  • Second Place, Arapahoe Community College Fiction Contest ("Seed"), May 2006.

  • Bridges Award in Poetry ("Tailings"), Colorado College, May 2006.

  • Honorable Mention, Associated Colleges of the Midwest Nick Adams Short Story Contest ("Seed"), May 2005.

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