landing page

“Adrian’s writing remains hypnotic on every subject.”
—Tin House                  


Dear Knausgaard
“Kim Adrian's loving struggle with Knausgaard is the kind of criticism I most enjoy — personal, wonderfully engaged, intense but somehow simultaneously light-footed, and extremely intelligent. . . . A delight from start to finish.”
—James Wood, literary critic

The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet
“Astonishing and inventive. . . . Strangely gripping, with a momentum pulling the reader in and through. The result is whimsical, even darkly funny at times, brimming with compassion, terribly sad and deeply loving. Memoir readers should not miss this singular offering.”
Shelf Awareness

“An utterly engaging investigation — not so much of [the sock], per se, as of human evolution, anatomy, physics, sexuality, fashion, painting, consumerism, manufacturing, and motherhood. . . . illuminating, erudite, deeply intelligent.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

The Shell Game
“The Shell Game pushes the boundaries of prose and opens up a whole new world. . . . It makes readers feel as if they are learning what an essay is (or could be) all over again.”
New Pages

short works
Read a recent essay
excerpted on LitHub

"My Thoughts on Pâté" short story - Agni
My Thoughts on Pâté

What is consciousness? Is it in your head or is it something your head encounters? Is it in the world itself, can you touch it? Or does it touch you? Our brains are matter, of course, like rocks, or stars, or like that stick of butter melting in the sun on my kitchen counter. Our brains are things. Soft and greyish. Bumpy. They say electrical impulses carry our thoughts and these impulses jump from synapse to synapse. Sometimes deep paths are worn over long trails of synapses, and these constitute habitual thought, like rote memories or those odd connections that haunt you on a regular basis. For example, say there’s a certain stop sign at a certain street corner with a certain sticker on it with the name of a certain band that, for no reason you can think of, reminds you each and every time of your mother’s garden.

I bought a wheel of brie the other day and started thinking about these things. Brie isn’t even pâté, but it is French, and I suppose that must have tripped the process. I actually love pâté, but I haven’t eaten it for many, many years. I have ideas about why this might be. I even know the answer. I mean, I bet I know what Freud would say, if I ever had the opportunity—just speaking hypothetically—to discuss it with him. He would say that pâté reminds me of the goose, and the goose reminds me of Alain, and Alain reminds me of what he did to me—which by some people’s definitions might be called rape, although on this point I, myself, have never been a hundred percent certain. But really, they’re much, much more than that, my thoughts on pâté. For instance, pâté makes me think about the benefits of cruelty. And also about the love of sons for their mothers, and of daughters for their fathers. And it makes me think about the loneliness that’s wedged, like cotton, like some kind of dense packing material, between us all.

continue reading online at Agni 

"'Gooseberries' and Red Currants" personal essay - Tin House
"Gooseberries" and Red Currants

Once, about eight or nine years ago, I caught a glimpse of some wild red currants growing by the side of the road. The road traced the spine of a rolling, lightly wooded hill in West Virginia; my husband and I were on our way home from a wedding, and he was driving—forty, maybe fifty miles an hour—while I half dozed in the passenger seat. But my eyes must have been at least partially open, because I saw the berries dangling behind a thin screen of leaves and branches, glowing in a reaching bit of sunshine. And when I saw them, I felt some enormous thing—a feeling, you could call it for the sake of convenience, though it seemed much more than that—quickly rise in me and then, just as quickly, evaporate.

Twisting in my seat, I watched as the road unraveled behind us, but of course the berries were gone. And although I was strangely sad about this, I didn’t say anything to my husband, because I understood that there was no easy cure for the emptiness I felt; I knew that even if we turned back and found that same spot, those same berries—even if I picked handfuls of the tiny, ruby-red spheres and studied them for the rest of our twelve-hour trip home—whatever it was that had risen in me, then so painfully disappeared, could never be retrieved by such prosaic means.

continue reading online at Tin House

"Questionnaire for My Grandfather" lyric essay - The Gettysburg Review
Questionnaire for My Grandfather

Please answer all questions as simply as possible; do not use digression as a means of evasion. Feel free, however, to elaborate on the point at hand to a reasonable degree so as to provide the clearest and most informative answer you can. You may want to use your hands—or other body parts—to express yourself, if for some reason the answer to any given question does not present itself verbally to you. Do not lie. Any lies will render this questionnaire null and void and require that you submit to its inquiries again. (I am a patient person; I have asked these questions all my life. I can keep asking them.)

Is it true that you were born and raised in the port city of Göteberg, Sweden, toward the southwestern tip of that country at some point during the second or third decade of the last century?

Is it true, as family legend states, that you ran away from home at the age of thirteen?

Why did you run away?

Is it true that the means of your escape was provided by the Portuguese merchant marines? Did you (as for some reason I always imagine) climb on board that first ship in the Göteberg harbor shoeless and wearing woolen britches rather too short for you? Were you at that time (as for some reason I always imagine) carrying nothing but a small parcel of personal belongings wrapped in flannel cloth? Did this parcel contain the thick, lightly gilded, leather–bound Bible, a Swedish translation that my mother still has (protected by triplicate layers of plastic kitchen wrap) in her possession?

Is it also true that the broad Göteburg harbor was (as for some reason I am imagining right now) shining a deep sort of teal gray blue and that sunlight was scattershot across it like so many silver coins the day you left it behind?

continue reading online at The Gettysburg Review

"The Matter of Translation: Wislawa Szymborska's 'Conversation with a Rock'" literary essay - The Gettysburg Review
The Matter of Translation: Wislawa Szymborska's "Conversation with a Rock"

1. Red and blue boxes
When I was a child, I had a beautiful book that fit perfectly in my hands. Its covers were squarish and addictively smooth, its binding a wide ribbon of coarse blue fabric, its pages thick and waxy. In simplified prose this book told child-length versions of various biblical tales. Our family was not religious, and by the time I was six or seven, I had already adopted my father's more or less aggressive atheism. Still this book fascinated me with its bisque-colored pages and tiny illustrations populated by chunky, impressionistic figures mournfully enacting terrible scenes. But mostly what drew me to the book were its tidy, hand-lettered blocks of prose, printed, for some reason, in an alternating, every-other-page pattern of blue and red ink.

Some children—my daughter, for instance, who, ever since looking at a book of religious paintings from the Louvre, has been obsessed with the story of Jesus—might have found endless fascination in the stories themselves or in the beautiful pictures: Mary, Joseph, and their sweet-faced donkey, plodding through an apricot-colored desert; Moses holding up two chalky-looking tablets, the same size and thickness as Necco wafers. But I dwelt on the words—I mean the actual slightly shaky, hand-drawn letters with their mysterious red and blue moods—which seemed to be another story, beyond the stories they told....

continue reading online at The Gettysburg Review

photo credit: James D. Carr
I'm the author of two books of lyric criticism: Dear Knausgaard (published as part of a series that aims to “reinvent literary criticism”) and Sock (“reflects on the brilliance present in the minutiae of our lives” —Shelf Awareness). My memoir, The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist, is about my experience growing up with a mentally ill mother. I wrote it in the form of a glossary, which Tin House called “a consuming plunge into each and every moment.”The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms is an anthology of lyric essays I edited. A review in The Millions praised the collection as providing “a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change.” Several of my essays and short stories have been listed as Notable or Distinguished in the Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize anthologies. My writing has been supported by the Edward Albee Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writing Seminars, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, in Bavaria, Germany.

Interviews & Media ▼
"Collectively speaking, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that humanity is dealing with something that looks a lot like mental illness writ large. We’re suffering. And the planet is suffering because of us."
"I think this notion that we have to separate the work from the writer is artificial and in reality nobody does that. We all have incredibly personal responses to literature."
"The object of the sock interests me precisely because it’s so ordinary. So ostensibly boring. What’s to say about a sock? (I liked that challenge.)"
"For me, an essay is an investigation, a very organic thing. Every sentence you commit to it opens up the field of discovery a little more and you basically let it work to take you where it needs to go."
"We write as we speak, word by word by word, and we read that way, too. It takes time to progress through a story. It’s not like a painting, for which you can get at least a rough overall impression at a single glance."
"Although I'm happy whenever someone finds something beautiful in my work, I'm not personally interested anymore in writing beautifully. I'm interested in illuminating my subject, whatever that might be. It gives me a lot more energy to work in this way."
"Being a people pleaser can be a very dangerous proposition when it comes to writing."
"What Happens When You Write Karl Ove Knausgaard a Letter?"Originally published on New Books Network, featured on LitHub
"The Face Behind the Mask"
The Colin McEnroe Show, WNPR Connecticut Public Radio
"You Can Keep Your Socks On"
The Colin McEnroe Show, WNPR Connecticut Public Radio
"Kim Adrian Recommends" 
Poets & Writers
September 3, 2020 Online
Brookline Booksmith Reading

April 1, 2021 Online
Arlington Author Salon - "Books about Books"

photo credit: Sven Birkerts
September 27, 2022, 12:30 pm
Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts
Mary Lyon Hall, Woolley Room
I'll be reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet. Free. Deets here.

September 29, 2022, 1pm EST - 18:00 GMT
Online Book Launch for the U.K. edition of Dear Knausgaard
with Katharine Craik and Tara Blake.
Tickets here (and free).

Past Events ▼
July 3, 2022 - Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Schwandorf, Germany
Creative Arts Residency Studio Open House. Reading from new work.

June 17 and 18, 2022 - Kelly Strayhorn Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
Premier of The Strange Child, a chamber opera with music by Julia Werntz and libretto by Kim Adrian

April 11, 2022 - University of Hartford, CT
Cardin Reading Series — a reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

October 2, 2021 Norfolk, CT
Haystack Book Festival - "The Hidden Lives of Ordinary Things"

June 10, 2021 Cambridge, MA
Boston LitCrawl - "The Art of (Writing About) Reading"

April 1, 2021 Online
Arlington Author Salon - "Books about Books"

March 4, 2021 Online
AWP Conference - "Close Readings: Experiments in Bibliomemoir"

September 3, 2020 Online
Brookline Booksmith Reading from Dear Knausgaard

August 31, 2020 Online
Essay Daily Salon - "Books About Books"

March 12, 2019 NYC
PageTurners Series - "Head to Toe"

November 29, 2018 University of New Hampshire
Lecture and Reading for UNH Writers' Series

November 4, 2018 Denver, CO
Counterpath Press Reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

November 3, 2018 Phoenix
NonfictioNOW Conference - "Writing the Hermit Crab Essay"

October 30, 2018 San Francisco, CA
Green Apple Books Reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

October 18, 2018 NYC
Shakespeare & Co. Reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

October 2, 2018 Boston
Brookline Booksmith Reading from The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

June 2, 2017 Reykjavik, Iceland
NonfictioNOW Conference - “Microhistories: Writing Deeply About Narrow Subjects.”

April 29, 2016 Boston
The Muse and the Marketplace Writers' Conference - "The Lyric Essay"

April 16, 2016 Boston, MA
The Art of Life After Workshop Series - "Grounded Words: a Body-Centered Workshop for Survivors of Sexual Violence"

January 28, 2016 NYC
McNally Jackson Bookstore Object Lessons Reading from Sock

I've taught creative writing at Brown University and at Grub Street Creative Writing Center in downtown Boston. Recently I've been teaching multi-week workshops independently, online. If you would like to be alerted the next time I offer a class, please contact me at and I'll put you on my student mailing list.

(submitted anonymously)
"Kim Adrian is an excellent teacher. She can describe with such insight and precision what’s working and not working in any given piece being workshopped."
"Zoom was an excellent vehicle for this class! People from all over the country were able to participate and we got to know each other and build the trust necessary for an honest exchange of ideas and feedback. Kim's degree of specificity with writing craft and memoir shaping ideas were excellent. She modeled feedback that was useful, clear, constructive, and actionable."
"It was an invaluable experience. Kim Adrian was great. She was engaging, full of information and ideas. She's a great listener and is especially personable."
"Great class! Immediately established a community. Lots of prompts and writing."
"The silver lining [of Zoom] is that it drew writers from many places. It was engaging, informative and super supportive. Kim Adrian is a gifted instructor with insight, deep knowledge about writing and a firm but gentle approach to bringing out each writers' best."
"Kim controlled the class, while allowing everyone to contribute, an excellent instructor!"
"I thought it was great. I loved the organization, the assignments and thought the teacher was very insightful."
"Kim was terrific. A natural listener with totally relevant and helpful responses to each participant. Balanced and professional."
"The class was excellent. Kim is a great instructor, sharing some of her own story to let us know that she identified with us. Kim offered the right blend of large and small group discussion, small group exercises, individual writing, and helpful feedback. "
"I enjoyed the instructor's approach to the class and her personal way of sharing her experiences with us. I thought the material she covered was helpful to me."
"The instructor, Kim, was fantastic."
"Class was wonderful! There were many students but because Kim is such a skilled teacher and writer, she immediately established comraderie and community. There was a variety of writing expertise and experience, from published writers to those submitting for the first time, yet Kim managed to knit us together into a cohesive group."
I consult with writers working in memoir, fiction, the personal essay, lyric nonfiction, and more adventurous forms of criticism. My method is to read and reflect on the work, then respond with a 3-5 page letter addressing large scale issues such as plot or throughline, pacing, voice, use of imagery and dialogue, scene building, and overall structure. If it makes sense, I will also mark up 3-4 manuscript pages pointing out recurring sentence-level issues. Written feedback is followed by a voice or video call in which we review my suggestions and discuss strategies for revision.

My rate is $100/hour. Every project is different, so the cost of a consultation varies with each project and each client’s goals. If you’d like an estimate, please send me a description of your project along with a 5-10 page excerpt, and thoughts about what you'd like to get out of our work together ().


"Kim Adrian consulted with me on an early draft of my memoir. Her suggestions for revision were spot on; she helped me clarify the themes in my work and create a narrative path for readers. She identified passages that needed to be expanded into scenes and and also areas where the writing was unfocused. In both her written comments, and during our face to face meeting, Adrian was fully engaged with me and my work, and brought her intelligence and keen instincts, as well as warmth and humor to our conversations. I came away with a list of tasks that have been a road map for my current draft. Though Adrian was honest about the flaws in my work, I felt very encouraged by her response and returned to my writing with renewed sense of excitement."
—Suzanne Simmons, publications in The New York Times, Rattle, Baltimore Review, and elsewhere
"Kim Adrian is the consummate professional. She somehow strikes just the right balance between being warm and truth-telling, a winning combination to move writing to the next level. When I met with her for consulting, she both provided specific feedback on my piece and talked about general craft points applicable to the work. This two-pronged approach makes her an extremely effective teacher, not something that many excellent writers can do. I would absolutely hire her again."
—Sheryl Boris-Schacter, working on a memoir
"Kim Adrian is a powerhouse! With a remarkable eye for everything from structure to the smallest detail, she meets you where you are and helps you realize the full potential of your project. I can’t recommend her more highly."
—Ann Tashi Slater, publications in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere
"Kim’s consultation is unfailingly on point. Her close reading and honesty help me take my writing forward. When it comes to assessing voice, Kim has a golden ear. Her love of language and deep understanding of craft inform her valuable feedback."
—Judith Helfand, working on a memoir
"Kim Adrian is an unusually perceptive critic with a keen sensibility and rare gift for writing. Her reading of my first chapter made me feel she’d caught every nuance I’d put into the material, and even every intention. Her observations and advice—written as a short lyrical masterpiece on pertinent aspects of the craft of fiction writing—helped me enormously and stayed with me as I revised other chapters and also as I produced some new material."
—Anne Mackin, author of Americans and Their Land: the House Built on Abundance (University of Michigan Press), working on a novel

Write On is a newsletter I originally created for my writing students, but anyone interested in looking at how good writing works is welcome to subscribe. It's free; it comes out 4-6 times a year; and it contains writing tips and prompts based on close readings of exemplary texts. You can check out past issues and subscribe here.



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