Heather grew up in Claremont, CA in a small home with four siblings, which meant she often dreamt of running away from home. As soon as she figured out how to navigate the bus system, this was a frequent pastime, and she often wrote short stories and poems while traveling on buses and trains. At sixteen she was afforded the opportunity to live in Israel for a summer as a working writer, and there she met poet Yehuda Amichai, whose work continues to influence her. She used the entirety of her potential college fund to travel around Eastern and Central Europe, the Mideast, and North Africa, writing and working as a baker/​pastry chef as she traveled.

She finished her undergraduate education at Columbia University in New York with majors in both Anthropology and Creative Writing, and went on to do an MFA at the Cal State MFA consortium. Currently, she is a lecturer in composition at California State University, Chico, where no matter the class, each day students open the session with a reading or recitation of a favorite poem.

Heather has also been grateful to spend time working with a wonderful community of poets at Squaw Valley, and to have spent time at the Vermont Studio Center with the help of a partial fellowship. The best compliment she ever received was from a third-grade student, who said, "It’s like Heather has 1,001 stories in her head. But even if she only had one, I would want to listen to it, like, a thousand times because she tells it so good."

Heather Altfeld’s first book, The Disappearing Theatre, won the Poets at Work Book Prize, selected by Stephen Dunn. Her poems appear in Narrative Magazine, Pleiades, ZYZZYVA, Poetry Northwest, and others. She won the 2015 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry with Nimrod International Magazine of Poetry and Prose.