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Earlier this year, Nicole Mattke was chosen as the 10th Pfister Narrator and almost halfway through the year she describes it as her "dream job." I held the narrator position from 2013 to '14 and I completely understand this. For a writer and a lover of people, history and Milwaukee the gig often feels like it’s rooted in fantasy rather than reality.
Mattke is the mother of two sets of twins, all under the age of five, and says the opportunity to tell the stories of The Pfister guests via the hotel’s blog has made her come alive again as a writer.
OnMilwaukee had the opportunity to chat with Mattke earlier this week about her writer-in-residence role as well as how she balances family life, her Pfister-based book club and her wonderful relationship with artist in residence, Margaret Muza.
OnMilwaukee: Overall, how is the year going for you so far?
Nicole Mattke: I've been savoring my first six months as Narrator. I've met so many amazing and interesting people, and hearing their stories while honing my writing in such a beautiful place has been so wonderful I can't wait to get back to The Pfister each time I leave.
What have you implemented that's new / different to the Narrator Program?
I began a monthly Pfister Book Club that has met four times now. The immense popularity of the book club shows me that we live in a community where books are important, and where people admire The Pfister and are so glad to be invited to take part in events here.
I've also planned and hosted an Alice in Wonderland tea party that was such a fun event – my favorite part was seeing so many little girls waiting with bated breath for the doors to open, twirling in their fancy dresses with their mothers, aunts and grandmothers and ready to make memories together around a classic book in a beautiful ballroom. It wasn't just for children, though, and many grown adults who love the quirky classic Alice story joined us, too.
I've been working hard lately on dreaming up a literary event that is all about kids: An Afternoon on The Polar Express will take place on Dec. 10. I can't wait for this event. Seeing my own four-year-old twin sons' eyes light up as they experience something so magical that I created at The Pfister is going to be a really special moment for me.
Have you collaborated with the artist in residence?
Margaret Muza and I are kindred spirits, and watching her create tintypes and having the chance to collaborate with her has definitely been one of my very favorite parts of the Narrator position. I admire her process, her artistry and her sense of the tremendous value in antique things, so working with her has come very naturally.
Our major project together has been a standing weekly time when we ask whoever happens to wander into Margaret's studio if she can take their tintype and I write an accompanying piece about them. The fun part of this project has been that we don't know who will come, which challenges both of us, especially me, to find the beautiful stories hidden in every single person and not wait around for that huge, dramatic story.
This project we've done together will culminate in a big gallery night in March. We'll have around 30 pieces by then, and we can't wait to invite the community and the subjects of the portraits / written stories to celebrate this amazing year of residency that Margaret and I feel so lucky to have shared together.
Anything coming up for the holidays?
I'll be here, soaking up every last bit of festive spirit I can and writing about everything happening. I think one of the sweetest things The Pfister offers Milwaukee is a place to make lasting and potent memories with their loved ones, and the holidays are the best time for that to happen, so I can't wait. I also have a "story prompt" posted at the narrator desk in the lobby asking guests to share a particularly tactile holiday memory from their childhood, and I'll be writing a big collaborative piece with those.
When do you usually come to The Pfister? What part of the hotel do you find the most stories?
Because I have to accommodate my family's schedule, I don't have set hours at The Pfister except by appointment, so my week is always different. Because of our collaboration, I'm often in Margaret's studio. You're also likely to find me writing at the narrator desk in the lobby, lounging by the fireplace, and I love Blu (the hotel's top-floor cocktail lounge) for those long, chatty stories that are best spun out over a cocktail with a view.
What’s your favorite blog so far?
My favorite so far has been "The Rule is to STAY FANCY" that I wrote in June. I took my 4-year-old sons Oliver and Milo to The Pfister all dressed up and just experienced everything through their fascinated, funny little eyes.
Is it difficult to balance the job with motherhood?
I have two sets of twins, boys aged 4 and boy / girl aged 1.5. They make everything in my life difficult and lovely, and working is no different. I'm so grateful that this position allows for the flexibility it does. It's really been only good for my family. Ask my husband how me being the Narrator has been and he will gush on and on about what a wonderful opportunity it's been for us, and how it's helped me come alive again as a writer.
What do you love about being the Narrator?
I love writing, I love people, I love The Pfister, I love escaping my life as a stay-at-home mom of four kids four and under, I love Milwaukee ... really, it may sound like I'm being dramatic, but the honest truth is that I feel that this position was made for me, it feels so perfectly suited to me and my interests. I wish I could stay forever.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.