Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

T-SHIRT @ BLIP


I have a new piece called T-SHIRT that is about a t-shirt up at Blip (formerly Rick Magazine and, before that, formerly MississippiReview.com). Thanks to Blip's This Week editor Meg Pokrass.
Comments

Meg Pokrass Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #273 Terri Kirby Erickson

Terri Kirby Erickson was born and grew up in Winston-Salem, NC. Her brother and she were physically active from morning until night, constantly running around outside, and playing, playing, playing. They grew on the fruits and vegetables from people’s gardens, and fruit trees in the neighborhood, spent summers picking and eating blackberries, cherries, apples and persimmons. Both parents worked hard. Her father often had two if not three jobs (including working as a football referee for high school games), and her mother made dresses for Terri by teaching herself to sew. Her parents were fun, particularly her father, who still cracks her up. Terri's mom weaned Terri and her brother on fiction, reading to them regularly, making imaginary worlds live. Terri’s brother Tommy died in an accident when he was still in his twenties. Terri misses him every day of her life. Terri credits her path toward writing to Elizabeth Reynolds’ fifth grade class. Reynolds made a huge impression on Terri—she loved the arts and encouraged her students to pursue their creative interests. Terri became enamored with language at this time. Terri met her husband, Leonard, in middle school. She thought Leonard was striking when he was a teenager. He had long brown hair (which he still does, although there’s a little gray mixed up in there now!), “mischievous” green eyes, and a deep “radio announcer” voice. Terri was a year younger and too shy to speak to him, so never really did. He was way too “cool.” Terri, a self-defined nerd with glasses and braces, found Leonard many years later confessing that he thought Terri was “pretty” enough to be “intimidating” when he sat behind her in Spanish class. He must have been as intimidated as she was. They graduated from the same high school, but were going “steady” with other people at the time. They encountered each other again some years later, and started dating soon thereafter. On their first date, Leonard brought his Scrabble game to Terri’s apartment and shook her hand when he left, after beating her at Scrabble! They were married a year later, and are celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary in September. Terri had an ileostomy due to complication from Crohn's disease, and lived with that for eleven years—from the time she was 23 until 34—which was difficult to deal with on many levels. She believes it helped make her a more empathetic person, and a good listener. She knows how important it is to listen to people in pain. The most important event in her life was the birth of her daughter. Terri and her baby girl came close to dying when Terri was pregnant due to complications from the Crohn’s disease, which she has battled since she was 15. Many medical moments of life-threatening severity made giving birth dangerous. Miraculously, Terri’s daughter was born healthy. Writing poetry “seriously,” fulfilling a lifelong dream to become a published poet, is what Terri feels most proud of. When not writing, editing medical books and journal articles, conducting writing workshops or teaching, Terri volunteers at a local Cancer Center whenever she can, mostly talking about poetry with support groups. Terri was sick with 101 degree fever when she turned 50, but so far she likes her new decade. It’s like waking up in the same pair of soft, broken-in jeans every single day. At 52, she’s healthier than ever. She loves menopause and believes it’s a huge relief. Something that hardly anybody knows: Terri’s toes don’t touch each other—at all. Terri is confident that her happy childhood prepared her for the challenges of her adult life—that, her faith, and a sense of humor.


[Note #1: Terri Kirby Erickson is the award-winning author of Thread Count (2006), and Telling Tales of Dusk (2009). Terri loves to receive letters from readers that tell her how much a particular poem has meant to them. This happens often, because her work is warm, funny, sad, and accessible. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies and other publications including the Christian Science Monitor, Blue Fifth Review, Eclectica, JAMA, Thieves Jargon, and Verse Daily.]

[Note #2: You can read Meg Pokrass' expressive life story here. You can read Meg Pokrass' postcard life story of Ethel Rohan here.]
Comments (6)

Meg Pokrass Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #236 Ethel Rohan


Ethel Rohan was born in Dublin, Ireland, while the nurse and her mother argued: her mother demanded to be allowed push; the nurse insisted the baby wasn’t coming any time soon. Ethel believes she shot into the world because she wanted her mother to be right. Ethel was her parents’ third child and first girl. Two sisters (twins) and another brother would follow. She remembers a home where there was more fighting than anything. She was a lonely, frightened, desperate-for-attention child, the kind of child that gets into deeper trouble. Amidst trouble and anger, she loved to read, act, and recite poetry. In third grade, she received a prize, a glass ashtray, for one of her poems. She has no idea what the poem was about. Her parents enjoyed the ashtray. She danced daily alone in her living room, pirouetting under the melancholy gaze of the gold-framed Sacred Heart of Jesus. Bless this home … Bless this home … She was wire-skinny and yet felt fat to bursting with so much that she couldn’t say. She excelled at debating and public speaking: all that she could say. Ethel is grateful that she also knew in childhood laughing, playing, sharing, caring, rewards, adventures, friendship, beaches, vacations, Sunday drives, and things as simple and precious as toasting bread in the open flames of her living room fire, dripping-with-butter toast that tasted of ashes and made her feel alive, crackling flames wherein she pictured bright things. She broke away for bright things at age twenty-two and settled in San Francisco. San Francisco is home, a place and people that have been very good to her. Shortly after her arrival to the city, her husband ended her winning run at a pool table in an Irish bar on Geary Boulevard and they’ve been together ever since. They have two daughters. Ethel’s daughters are her joy. Her greatest accomplishment is enjoying a happy home with them. “Circling the Drain” (Keyhole Issue 9) and “Air” (PANK, December 2009) are two stories Ethel wrote that hold deep personal meaning and that she believes are, in many ways, two of her strongest. Ethel’s story, “Circling the Drain,” centers on themes that recur in her work: yearning, fear, isolation, madness, abandonment, and loss. At the story’s end, the protagonist makes a crucial shift out of fear, yes, but also love: to give himself over to his wife’s psychosis. Writing “Air” was a moving and powerful experience for Ethel. In the original version of “Air,” the version Ethel believed was “finished,” the protagonist endured a harrowing rape. Ethel’s instincts told her not to submit the work for publication just yet. She set the work aside, but the story’s protagonist stayed with her and demanded a different fate. Ethel rewrote the story, and got it to where it felt “right-right.” For the first time she truly realized her power as a writer and the power of the characters and stories we create: there was now one less girl in the world raped, one more girl who escaped and survived. Ethel Rohan writes because she still feels fat to bursting with all that she needs to say.

[Update: Pank will be publishing Ethel Rohan's book, Hard to Say, in early 2011.]

[Note: You can read Meg Pokrass' expressive life story here.]
Comments

#204 Meg Pokrass Expresses Herself


Meg Pokrass was born near Philadelphia and her parents’ marriage was so volatile that Meg’s mother and father divorced when she was just 5 years old. It was a traumatic time and Meg just remembers scraps—like Polaroids called sad dad and mad dad and hiding. The memories are cut off from movement. But Meg’s mother drove Meg and her two teenage sisters 3,000+ miles away from her father and their entire extended family and they started a new life in Santa Barbara California. Her mother became a realtor and raised Meg and her sisters alone. They didn’t have much money and moved from rental to rental. Meg went to four different elementary schools growing up. In the 1970s, one of Meg’s sisters, Sian Barbara Allen, became a beloved actress. Sian was like a mother to Meg (being 14 years older) and she was also a great teacher. Meg studied acting with Sian while also performing in local theater (first time was age 8). One of the things she learned was how to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. In the mid-1980s, Meg moved to New York City and performed in theater there until her mid-20s. It was during this time when she also started writing poetry, which she did for 16 years, before discovering flash fiction, which is now her passion. Meg loves writing and editing and she is one of the editors for SmokeLong Quarterly. She also has a prompt blog and enjoys coming up with prompt ideas (which goes back to her acting days and using sensory recall). She finds the kernel of a character in what the character needs or wants. It was in New York City that Meg met her husband, who is funny and smart as hell. She loves that about him, and his great empathy, and the fact that he loves that Meg is a kook. Their 12-year-old daughter is a true non-conformist too, and is already a published writer. 6 years ago, Meg contracted a rare pain condition—chronic regional pain syndrome—in her right foot and couldn't really walk for 3 years, which changed her way of being. About a year ago, she fully recovered and, after that, the conditional deep depression eased up. Meg began writing seriously (writing had been in the background of her life before) and found Zoetrope, a community that has helped her tremendously. After being in theater, the communal aspect of creating is huge for Meg. And getting through all that pain has made Meg far more driven to express herself (she’s published 100+ stories and poems) and a lot of her inhibitions went away. She stopped worrying about failure and started writing in a way that felt freeing. Also, Meg has 7 animals—a dog, 3 cats, 2 rats, and a bearded dragon lizard—and they all live happily together in San Francisco.

[Update: Congratulations to Meg Pokrass on her debut collection of flash fiction, which Press 53 will publish February 2011.]
Comments (1)

Fictionaut Five

This also went up while I was in Argentina, a very nice interview with the good Meg Pokrass, the Fictionaut Five. I answer questions about writing the life stories of objects and one of my pseudonyms, Andy Devine, among others.
Comments

Meg Pokrass Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #245 Tiff Holland

Born Tiffany, Tiff says her mother was expecting a pole-dancer. Tiiff considered sexual reassignment surgery but legally changed her name to "Tiff" instead. Her childhood was, in her words, something like a mix between a Roald Dahl book and the Robert Earl Keen song “Christmas With the Family.”

 Tiff's eccentric and spirited family plays a significant part in her poems, flashes and short stories. One of the strangest incidents involved finding out that her brother was actually her uncle (she now calls him her "brunkle"). Tiff's choices sometimes happen like this: she was an education major for one day. Her advisor signed her up for a course in constructing bulletins boards. Tiff immediately marched across campus and switched to Philosophy. A high school jock, Tiff was an Army ROTC cadet in college. She joined to prove a point to her first husband who had left the service. “You like it so much; you join,” he’d told her. Tiff's poet friends couldn’t believe it when she showed up at poetry readings in BDUs. Tiff has worked at a library in Hawaii overlooking Pearl Harbor, as a 911 dispatcher, as foreman of an automotive transmission ring packaging plant, as an insurance adjuster and English instructor. She says the most amazing thing she ever saw was while she was living in Hawaii: a "moonbow" a shimmering silver rainbow. While swimming in Waimea Bay she suddenly felt rain on a beautiful clear-sky day and opened her eyes to discover she was actually feeling the spray from a spouting whale less than fifty yards away. She started writing fiction while at the University of Southern Mississippi. Tiff refers to her first short story as a "mulligan," but says Rick Barthelme looked at it and pointed to a place in the first section and said: “This part is really good. This works." It was an "aha" moment. Tiff met her husband, Bill, when dispatching for the parking division at Kent State. Bill was the responding officer when an angry student attempted to break into the office after his car was towed. Tiff's favorite things about Bill: he always knows what to do in an emergency, is terrific with their young daughter, and is one of the only people in the world who can "call her bluff." Bill found Tiff while she was having the stroke, just about two years ago, and thanks to his emergency training and cool head, he knew just what to do. He later nursed her through two years of absolute hell. He’d sit on the bed when everything she saw was spinning and bouncing. He’d talk to her while waiting for her vision to normalize. Their daughter, Tori, is funny and smart and manages to sing in more than one key at a time. Tiff's dog, Tuck, kept in contact with part of her body darn near every second of the day while she was recovering from the stroke. Tiff calls Tuck her "Siamese dog-twin." Tiff is a prolific writer who has no personal knowledge of writer's block, and her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart. She is putting the finishing touches on a short story collection and is also working on a novel. Her work is both funny and heartbreaking.
 For fun, she watches "Cash Cab" while playing Scrabble on Facebook. For the most part, Tiff writes about just about everything in her life. The question is always: what parts are true? And she's not telling. Tiff says she has only one big, real secret. She's keeping it.

[Note: Meg Pokrass also wrote the postcard life story for Ethel Rohan and you can read Meg Pokrass' expressive life story here.]
Comments (2)

Meg Pokrass Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #236 Ethel Rohan

Ethel Rohan was born in Dublin, Ireland, while the nurse and her mother argued: her mother demanded to be allowed push; the nurse insisted the baby wasn’t coming any time soon. Ethel believes she shot into the world because she wanted her mother to be right. Ethel was her parents’ third child and first girl. Two sisters (twins) and another brother would follow. She remembers a home where there was more fighting than anything. She was a lonely, frightened, desperate-for-attention child, the kind of child that gets into deeper trouble. Amidst trouble and anger, she loved to read, act, and recite poetry. In third grade, she received a prize, a glass ashtray, for one of her poems. She has no idea what the poem was about. Her parents enjoyed the ashtray. She danced daily alone in her living room, pirouetting under the melancholy gaze of the gold-framed Sacred Heart of Jesus. Bless this home … Bless this home … She was wire-skinny and yet felt fat to bursting with so much that she couldn’t say. She excelled at debating and public speaking: all that she could say. Ethel is grateful that she also knew in childhood laughing, playing, sharing, caring, rewards, adventures, friendship, beaches, vacations, Sunday drives, and things as simple and precious as toasting bread in the open flames of her living room fire, dripping-with-butter toast that tasted of ashes and made her feel alive, crackling flames wherein she pictured bright things. She broke away for bright things at age twenty-two and settled in San Francisco. San Francisco is home, a place and people that have been very good to her. Shortly after her arrival to the city, her husband ended her winning run at a pool table in an Irish bar on Geary Boulevard and they’ve been together ever since. They have two daughters. Ethel’s daughters are her joy. Her greatest accomplishment is enjoying a happy home with them. “Circling the Drain” (Keyhole Issue 9) and “Air” (PANK, December 2009) are two stories Ethel wrote that hold deep personal meaning and that she believes are, in many ways, two of her strongest. Ethel’s story, “Circling the Drain,” centers on themes that recur in her work: yearning, fear, isolation, madness, abandonment, and loss. At the story’s end, the protagonist makes a crucial shift out of fear, yes, but also love: to give himself over to his wife’s psychosis. Writing “Air” was a moving and powerful experience for Ethel. In the original version of “Air,” the version Ethel believed was “finished,” the protagonist endured a harrowing rape. Ethel’s instincts told her not to submit the work for publication just yet. She set the work aside, but the story’s protagonist stayed with her and demanded a different fate. Ethel rewrote the story, and got it to where it felt “right-right.” For the first time she truly realized her power as a writer and the power of the characters and stories we create: there was now one less girl in the world raped, one more girl who escaped and survived. Ethel Rohan writes because she still feels fat to bursting with all that she needs to say.

[Note: You can read Meg Pokrass' expressive life story here.]
Comments (5)

#204 Meg Pokrass Expresses Herself


Meg Pokrass was born near Philadelphia and her parents’ marriage was so volatile that Meg’s mother and father divorced when she was just 5 years old. It was a traumatic time and Meg just remembers scraps—like Polaroids called sad dad and mad dad and hiding. The memories are cut off from movement. But Meg’s mother drove Meg and her two teenage sisters 3,000+ miles away from her father and their entire extended family and they started a new life in Santa Barbara California. Her mother became a realtor and raised Meg and her sisters alone. They didn’t have much money and moved from rental to rental. Meg went to four different elementary schools growing up. In the 1970s, one of Meg’s sisters, Sian Barbara Allen, became a beloved actress. Sian was like a mother to Meg (being 14 years older) and she was also a great teacher. Meg studied acting with Sian while also performing in local theater (first time was age 8). One of the things she learned was how to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. In the mid-1980s, Meg moved to New York City and performed in theater there until her mid-20s. It was during this time when she also started writing poetry, which she did for 16 years, before discovering flash fiction, which is now her passion. Meg loves writing and editing and she is one of the editors for SmokeLong Quarterly. She also has a prompt blog and enjoys coming up with prompt ideas (which goes back to her acting days and using sensory recall). She finds the kernel of a character in what the character needs or wants. It was in New York City that Meg met her husband, who is funny and smart as hell. She loves that about him, and his great empathy, and the fact that he loves that Meg is a kook. Their 12-year-old daughter is a true non-conformist too, and is already a published writer. 6 years ago, Meg contracted a rare pain condition—chronic regional pain syndrome—in her right foot and couldn't really walk for 3 years, which changed her way of being. About a year ago, she fully recovered and, after that, the conditional deep depression eased up. Meg began writing seriously (writing had been in the background of her life before) and found Zoetrope, a community that has helped her tremendously. After being in theater, the communal aspect of creating is huge for Meg. And getting through all that pain has made Meg far more driven to express herself (she’s published 100+ stories and poems) and a lot of her inhibitions went away. She stopped worrying about failure and started writing in a way that felt freeing. Also, Meg has 7 animals—a dog, 3 cats, 2 rats, and a bearded dragon lizard—and they all live happily together in San Francisco.

More Meg Pokrass

Comments (7)
See Older Posts...


Share/Save/Bookmark

Subscribe



© 2008-2011 Michael Kimball