About Kathleen


Kathleen Witkowska Tarr is the author of We Are All Poets Here (VP&D House, 2018), part-memoir, part-biography, involving the famous spiritual writer and thinker, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, she has lived in Alaska since 1978—first in the rural Tlingit Indian community of Yakutat on the isolated North Pacific Coast; in Sitka, the former capital of Russian-America; in Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula; and in Anchorage where she currently lives and writes.

Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications—literary journals, magazines, newspapers, blogs and anthologies. In her writing Kathleen has explored Alaska life, European and Russian history, arts & culture, the natural world, food, travel, politics, and spirituality.

Kathleen is a contributor to the anthology, We Are Already One, 1915-2015, Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope (Fons Vitae Press, Louisville, 2015) in honor of Merton’s centenary. And her work will soon appear in the forthcoming Merton & The World’s Indigenous Wisdom (2019).

In 2016, she was named a William Shannon Fellow of the International Thomas Merton Society.  Kathleen was a Mullin Scholar at USC’s Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies from 2013-2015.  She is also a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Kathleen has taught creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and currently teaches community creative writing seminars for 49 Writers.

From 2007-2011, she served as the founding Program Coordinator of UAA’s Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing.

She earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 where she was also awarded a full, three-year teaching fellowship.

In March 2017, Kathleen was appointed by Governor Bill Walker to a three-year public seat on the board of directors of the Alaska Humanities Forum.

Off the page, Kathleen takes to the outdoors as much as possible through hiking, birding and gardening. Her interests include photography, cinematic arts, all genres of music, and traveling off-the-beaten path. Since 1990, she has made over ten trips to Russia. She has traveled down the Volga River from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Besides time spent in Moscow, she has visited and/or worked in Chuvashia, Siberia and the Russian Far East cities of Vladivostok, Yuhzno-Sakhalinsk,  Khabarovsk, and Magadan. In 2014, she lived in Krakow, Poland. She is the mother of two grown sons, both born in Anchorage.