Kat Duff is the author of The Alchemy of Illness (Pantheon, 1993) and The Secret Life of Sleep (Beyond Words and Oneworld, 2014).

Born and raised in Minnesota, Duff left the Midwest to get her BA at Hampshire College, where she was able to pursue a multi-disciplinary course of study. She went on to work as a printer and publisher at Mother Jones Press in Northampton, Massachusetts and Red River Women’s Press in Austin Texas, before pursuing her MA in Counseling and Education at Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1992, Duff won 1st place for Nonfiction in the Taos Review Literary Contest for her essay, “Towards an Ecology of Illness,” which she later expanded into her award-winning first book, The Alchemy of Illness. Since then, she has published essays in a variety of print and online publications, while making her living as a mental health counselor and child forensic interviewer in Taos, NM.

Duff writes at the intersection of the natural world and the imagination, as it occurs in the life of our bodies. Whether she is discussing illness, scars or sleep, Duff illuminates common, intimate experiences that are often overlooked.

Born and raised in Minnesota, land of long winter nights, I developed a love for perusing library shelves at an early age. The books stacked next to my bed were (and are) an eclectic mix of history, biology, psychology, religion and fiction.  While I would like to say I love to learn, I have a poor memory for facts, and it would be more accurate to say I am driven by a desire to understand, to make sense of our world and our experiences as human beings. I write out of that desire.

During college, I made it a point to take classes in as many departments as I could. I studied literature, psychology, anthropology, history, ecology, sociology, economics, neuroscience, art and dance, and concluded that every discipline has a valuable perspective on human experience, but none has the answer. I have worked as a printer, a baker, a farm-worker, and much more, but never a candle-stick maker. 

– Kat Duff