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Storytelling at the Pfister Hotel

Off the Cuff with Pfister Narrator Nicole Mattke

Aug. 15, 2017
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Photo Credit: Jean-Gabriel Fernandez

Making a living as a writer is a dream for many. It’s daily life for Nicole Mattke, the current Narrator-in-Residence at the Pfister Hotel. Well known for supporting local talent, the Pfister employs a new Milwaukee-based author every year. The Narrator’s job is to interact with hotel guests, collect their stories and put them on a blog. Award-winning author Nicole Mattke, poet and mother of two sets of twins, was chosen to be the hotel’s 10th narrator, succeeding Dominic Inouye.

What is the role of Pfister Narrator?

As the Narrator, I spend time in the Pfister talking to guests and writing their stories. I narrate the life and rich history that the Pfister houses on the Pfister blog. I also host literary events at the Pfister, including a monthly book club—second Thursday of each month, 7-9 p.m.—and seasonal parties based on classic books. We have events for Alice in Wonderland, The Polar Express and Sherlock Holmes in the works.

What are your daily tasks?

I roam around the hotel and try to capture the stories around me. I post stories to the Pfister blog twice each week. Right now, Margaret Muza [Pfister Artist-in-Residence, featured in a previous Off the Cuff in the Shepherd Express] and I are doing a weekly series together where she takes someone’s tintype and I talk with that guest and write their story. At the end of the year, we plan to co-host a gallery night together of all these tintypes and corresponding pieces of writing.

Does any particularly striking story you encountered as a narrator come to mind?

A particularly fun and lighthearted piece I’m working on this week is about all the beloved dogs that stay at the Pfister. Recently, I loved talking to a couple as they got their tintypes taken about how they met and fell in love late in life. I will also always remember bringing my twin 4-year-old sons here and getting their perspective on this beautiful hotel.

What does it take to get such a job?

There was an extensive application process that involved submitting pieces of writing, a video, a creative proposal and a panel interview. I was glad that the process was so involved because it showed how seriously the Pfister takes these residencies and how deeply they value well-crafted writing for their blog.

What previous experience do you have with writing?

I have a creative writing degree from UW-Madison.  In previous jobs, I’ve been responsible for a variety of types of writing, including curriculum and grant writing. I’ve published poetry and won a national poetry prize for a five-poem series, blogged in many places and been a part of many writing collectives. This is the first position I have where I can write with so much freedom.

How does being the Narrator influence your personal life? 

I have to be in the hotel 10 hours a week. I have two sets of twins, so being the Pfister Narrator is a wonderful chance for me to hone my skills as a writer and develop my passion for writing outside my “regular” life of being a mom to four young children. 

What do you think of the Pfister’s Narrator- and Artist-in-Residence Programs?

There is no other job like this in Milwaukee, and possibly anywhere! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time in such a gorgeous, historic place so rich with story. To spend time with people, writing and books here is a dream. I love how the Pfister allows their Narrator and Artist so much creative freedom to develop the position according to our individual interests and art.

Visit the Pfister’s blog at blog.thepfisterhotel.com to read Nicole Mattke’s stories.

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