Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#114 Sammy the Dog

Anne wanted to surprise her son, Will, with a dog. Will didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and what boy wouldn't want a dog? At the breeder, there was only one puppy, and nobody wanted him because he was too big for a Bichon Frise, but Anne was so excited that she took him home. They named him Sampson, after the Bible story, but the reference became irrelevant. They always called him Sammy or Sam. On his first day at home, Sammy learned his name and would come when called, so they knew he was really smart. When Sammy was a puppy, he was like a live q-tip—a cottony-white fluff of dog. He loved to pounce on balloons, but would cry and run away when they burst. At first, they tried to put Sammy in the bathroom at night, but he would cry and cry, so Anne would sleep on the couch with Sammy on her chest and that made him happy. When Sammy was 3, they got Francine, another Bichon Frise puppy. Sammy realized that he was a dog and was pretty depressed for a few days. Luckily, Francine adored Sammy and accepted his status as the alpha dog. Before long, Sammy and Francine became friends. Sammy loved to swim, to go for boat rides on Keuka Lake, to run in the snow in Vermont, and to go for rides in the car. Sammy was originally meant to be Will's dog, but he eventually became Anne’s dog—in the way that dogs will choose whose dog they are. Sammy’s favorite song was "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and Anne would sing it to him, changing a few of the words to put his name in it: "Sammy's been working on the railroad." Sammy loved that so much he would roll over on his back and moan with pleasure. Sammy also had a great long-term memory. He loved it when Anne retold stories of good times he'd had: "Remember that time at Susan's house when you and Woody and Aspen all ran in the grass? Remember that time?" Sammy would roll around and moan. He remembered. He was a very verbal dog. Once, Sammy almost got killed when an airport luggage truck ran over him. At the emergency hospital, they were happy to find out that Sammy didn't have any broken bones, which was miraculous. Toward the end of his 106-year life, Sammy lost weight and his hair started to fall out. He became incontinent and had to wear diapers, which Anne called jammies to preserve his pride. Sammy still loved his walks and eating. He still had good quality of life. He could still jump up on the couch to sit with Anne, and, every night, Anne would say to Sammy: "If something ever hurts, you just tell Mommy, because Mommy will make it all better." Sammy would look at Anne and understand. One day, Sammy started vomiting and stopped eating. The vet did some tests and, suddenly, Sammy only had a few days to live. The vet came to the apartment and Sammy died in Anne’s arms, where he spent so much of his happy life.
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#112 The Difficulties of Being Giancarlo DiTrapano


Giancarlo DiTrapano (Gian to his friends) was born in West Virginia, which is beautiful and where there is lots of drinking and lots of drug-taking and underage sex, where there are lots of mountains and rivers and the music is usually classic rock and roll--Van Halen, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, which is also beautiful. When Gian was little, he was stung in the eye by a wasp. When Gian was 9, his older brother, Lidano, died in a car crash when a couple out for prom night pulled onto the highway and hit the car Gian’s brother was in, which then struck a utility pole at 60 mph. Everybody except for one passenger died. Gian’s brother was the first person close to Gian who died and it started a chain of deaths throughout his young life that he thought would never end. Luckily, Gian had his sister, Lia, who he loves more than anybody in the world. Plus, his parents are miracles. And, fortunately, after a while, people stopped dying so much. Gian moved to New Orleans for college and studied philosophy there, mostly because his cousin Meredith did. At some point, Gian moved to Rome and learned how to speak Italian in Sezze. At another point, Gian moved to New York City. After this, he broke up with his girlfriend of 10 years, which was difficult, but he had fallen in love with something else. Another difficult time was Gian’s other older brother, Dante, going to prison. Also difficult, Gian suffers from cluster headaches that can last for a month. Once, Gian saw somebody on a TV show, walked to his computer, googled the person, emailed the person, and then walked out of his apartment. A few hours later, the person had emailed Gian back. They met for a drink and have been dating ever since. Now Gian works as a bartender and as the publisher of New York Tyrant. The rest of his life, Gian would like to get to the end of it without too much more suffering and pain.

New York Tyrant
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Guardian Profile

Kate Salter wrote a very nice profile of Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) in the Guardian's weekend magazine.

You can only see the text at the link. The print magazine also has scans of the postcard life stories and photos of Blake Butler, Karen Lillis, Nate Jackson, and Moose the Cat.
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#111 Aaron Goolsby: He Can Go Anywhere

Aaron Goolsby was born in Oklahoma City, OK and then adopted into a Mormon family where he grew up with all the love in the world. He was a sick child, though. His mother was often sick too. They spent the first 5 years of his life mostly together, mostly in bed, the both of them sick. When he was 6, he wrote a book about a bird and a bee being friends. For the first 9 years of his life, he went to the same church as his biological family, though he never knew it. Then Aaron’s adopted family moved to Witchita Falls, TX for his dad’s job as a special agent for the railroad. That year and the rest of 4th grade were difficult—the OK schools were behind the TX schools. Also, he was always a big kid and sometimes he got picked on because of it. That spring he fought back for the first time and got kicked out of the school system (and ended up going to a private Catholic school). As a Mormon, Aaron read a lot, both scripture and literature; Aaron loved reading science fiction and fantasy; the other worlds were a perfect fit for him. When he was 15, Aaron met his biological mother, who is Hispanic, and this created identity issues for him. He didn’t really know who he was anymore. This was compounded by his weight. Sometimes he would act in ways that were not him, act the class clown, the stereotypical fat kid, just so that other people would like him. It worked. They did. When he was 19, Aaron went on a Mormon mission to California to preach the gospel. After 9 months, he was hit by a truck, and, even though he was OK, he used that as an excuse to go home and see his mother, who was very sick. His mother was always his savior and he was grateful for being adopted by her. She died when Aaron was 20, which was terrible and confusing. Aaron left the Mormon Church and started spending more time at the bowling alley (he had grown up a bowler). Within a couple of years, Aaron was drinking and doing whatever drugs were available—mostly psychedelics like acid, mushrooms, LSD, but also lots of cocaine, plus prescription pills, especially anti-anxiety pills. During these 10 years of drugs, Aaron worked at a Pizza Hut, worked as a security guard, and wrote three bad novels. He has always been a writer—a tell-all person. After a couple of near-death episodes, especially a bad LSD trip that he almost didn’t make it back from, and visions of Chris Farley, Aaron got clean. He didn’t want to end like that. Now he’s living back in Oklahoma City and working for Southwest Airlines. He loves the free travel. He can go nearly anywhere. He just has to decide where that is.
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On Book Tour

The reading last night with Jessica Anya Blau in DC was great. And tonight I'm reading at Myopic Books with Darcie Dennigan in Providence. And tomorrow, I'm reading in Boston/Cambridge with Kim Chinquee and Timothy Gager, at the Dire Reading Series. There's more information, with links here.
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Hobart Interview: "Each letter is its own story"

The very fine Hobart has a new issue up. There's new fiction from Ravi Mangla, Lindsay Hunter, V. Ulea, and Sara O'Leary. And there's an nice interview where Matthew Simmons and I talk about how DEAR EVERYBODY was written, my aesthetic grandparents, and suicide.
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#108 Kate Salter: Wide Landscapes and Bright Light

Kate Salter was born to Colonial parents in 1980 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Everybody calls her Kate, except her mother who calls her Kath, George, Georgina, Harold, Lucy, Tribelet, or any of a number of other names. Kate moved to Cape Town when she was 2. Her parents divorced when she was 9 and her mother mostly raised her after that (though she was always in close contact with her father). Growing up white in Africa left her with no real sense of home. Her identity feels like it is hers, but she says it isn’t. Kate had a very happy childhood, but after moving to the UK when she was 11, it felt utterly gone—not just temporally, but also spatially. Kate found herself seeking wide landscapes and bright light, but that was hard to do in England. Her teenage years were spent in rural semi-isolation in Sussex, at a terribly sweet and innocent school for girls, with ponies and cream teas and green gym knickers. She doesn't think she has quite recovered from that. After her degree, Kate taught English in Japan, then temped in the charity sector, but office work was disenchanting. So she pursued acting, which she still loves, and then journalism. Kate met her first proper boyfriend when she was 19 and they were together for 6-7 years. She got pregnant as they were breaking up. Kate’s son, Jem, just turned 3 and she still tries to co-parent with his father. Jem is the deepest emotion that Kate has ever had or could ever imagine. It is a wonderful life sentence. Also, it helps that she made him and that Jem is really clever, good looking, and funny. One day, Kate wants to learn how to drive and how to fly on the trapeze. She might get a tattoo, but only a really good one. She might sing some and act more. She will travel by couch surfing with her son and she will visit her parents in South Africa. She might have another kid, maybe. For now, Kate and Jem live in the lively seaside town of Brighton, where it is so beautiful that it’s difficult to not be happy there.
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#106 Leslie F. Miller: Let Her Eat Cake

Leslie F. Miller was born in Baltimore on the eve of Yom Kippur, the day one is supposed to do no labor. By 7, she was a great swimmer. She was also one of the early latch-key kids. Growing up, she sometimes ate frosting out of a can for dessert, which is a partial explanation for why Leslie can’t control herself around cake. Leslie liked to sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone. She wrote poems that got passed around the school because everybody could relate to Leslie’s poems. On her Sweet 16 birthday, her three best friends stopped talking to her, though years later they apologized. After this, Leslie remembers sitting in the dark in her walk-in closet listening to Patti Smith and writing death poetry. She knows what it is like to be without friends. Around this time, she started going to see bands and she once met the Ramones after she was thrown out for standing around backstage. In the early 1980s, she was one of the first people to rollerblade. In college, Leslie joined a band that once opened for the Thompson Twins, but her bandmates did too much cocaine and the band broke up. It was around this time that Leslie met her husband and they have been together ever since even though he wasn’t her type—a hippie with long hair and a beard. He was nice and funny and smart and she loved the way that he played guitar. After over 10 years together, they got married so that they could go on a honeymoon. Years after that, their daughter Serena Joy was born (so named because her mother thinks of herself as Neurotic Misery). Serena is psychic and can read Leslie’s mind at the strangest times. Once, Leslie chopped off the tip of her thumb. Also, her hands fall asleep when she raises them over her head. What else? She’s a writer and a mosaic artist and a photographer and she’s good at being each of them. What else? She used to teach college, but doesn’t anymore and she feels pretty good about that. One more thing? Sure. Leslie’s one goal in life was to have a book published: Let Me Eat Cake—which is a kind of history of cake, including cake folklore and lots of interviews with people who love cake—will come out Spring 2009.

More Leslie F. Miller

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Johannesburg's The Citizen: "Superb"

There's a nice little review of DEAR EVERYBODY in THE CITIZEN, a Johannesburg newspaper, which says: "Kimball does a superb job," among other nice things. Thank you, Bruce Dennill.
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Caketrain #6

The new issue of the very fine Caketrain is now available for pre-order. I have a short piece from FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY in it, the novel I just finished. Plus, there are all of these other wonderful people in it too:

Wolfgang Matzl, Josh Wallaert, Danielle Wheeler, Aby Kaupang, Sara Levine, Eric Baus, Paige H. Taggart, Stacie Leatherman, Shane Jones, S.E. Smith, Katherine McCord, Jayne Pupek, Ryan Call, Thomas O’Connell, Catherine Kasper, Janelle Adsit, Kristen Orser, Tom Christopher, Janis Butler Holm, Ben Mirov, Clark Chatlain, Kim Chinquee, Bonnie Roy, Norman Lock, Stephen Ellis, Michele Kingery, Jordan Sanderson, Gracie Leavitt, Rituale Romanum, Joshua Ware, Jac Jemc, Karyna McGlynn, Michael Kimball, Elizabeth Winder, Forrest Roth, Jennifer Jean, Patrick Misiti, Kim Parko, Gretchen E. Henderson, Kathryn Rantala, Cori A. Winrock, Brian Foley, Anne Heide, Christof Scheele, Jenny Hanning, Kate Hill Cantrill.
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#103 Rachel Joy: Conflict Resolution

Rachel Joy was born in Uganda during a civil war, the youngest of six. Her father was a priest, her mother a nurse. When Rachel was 28 days old, her mother crossed the border to Kenya with all 6 kids. She is Rachel’s hero and her inspiration. At 3, Rachel’s father got a job in Sweden and the family followed him there. Rachel was a loner as a child. She started a year early because she was so smart. In 5th grade, Rachel started getting sick all the time—migraines, stomachaches, other various ailments. She would go home after school to read and write, so she didn’t have many friends. She devoured every book in the house, and then started on the books in the library. When Rachel reads, she forgets about the world around. When she was a child, her mother would punish Rachel’s siblings by forcing them to read and punish Rachel by forcing her to watch television—seriously. Rachel played the piano and wrote songs and poetry and stories. At 15, she went to a music school, but dropped out. Around this time, she started wearing suits and got the nickname Evil because she rarely smiled. Her body was in a state of uproar, but nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. Rachel finished high school and started university where she studied communication in English, international migration and ethnic relations, and peace and conflict resolution. She loved her freedom at university, but, after her third year, she decided she was done with Sweden, and applied for the University of Bradford (at the time, the only university in the world with an MA in conflict resolution). Warfare fascinates her, but coming from a war torn country has left Rachel with the desire to build up her native country—and maybe save the world. After her MA, she moved around a bit. In 2005, she was staying with her father when she found him dead in his bed. The worst part of dealing with her father’s death was that everybody wanted her to tell the story of finding him. The only time her father ever said that he was proud of her was when he read her dissertation. After that she moved around a lot again. Rachel will do anything on a dare, but she has trouble trusting people and lives a rather lonely life. She doesn’t feel alone, though, or that there’s anything wrong with it. She would like to have a family some day, but the thought of having people around constantly unnerves her. Rachel writes music and poetry that nobody will ever hear or read, which helps to keep her emotions in check. She is in love with words, reading them or writing them. And now she works as a consultant for GE Healthcare, which is ironic since she still suffers from an unidentified illnesss.



R. Is For Reading

Hey Josh Ritter
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#102 The Ecstatic Shanti Perez






















Shanti Perez grew up at the top of a mountain—without running water, electricity, or plumbing. When she was 8, she fell out of her grandpa's truck and she was out cold for a long time, but never went to the doctor. Shanti’s mother always wanted her to go away, so Shanti ran around in the woods—first with pigs and then with dogs. As a child, she was terrified of balloons and gym class. Her grandparents were like parents to her. One of her favorite toys growing up was a pond that her grandpa dug out with the backhoe. Shanti has always liked looking at tiny things, so she would set up her Breyer horses in front of a bush that resembled a full-sized tree, or a creek that resembled a raging river, and then photograph them so that she could see how real the scenery appeared to be in the photo. Shanti thinks in pictures. She knows where everything is located because she can picture everything. Sometimes Shanti blurts out random things in public, and she can have rigid expectations that make things difficult for those around her, but she completes every task with an amazing degree of thoroughness. When she was 14, her mother kicked her out of the house and Shanti traveled the homeless circuit. Nothing bad happened. A few years later, Shanti had two wonderful boys—Ki Song and K.C. Later, Shanti went to college where she studied anthropology, computers, and business (now she has an MFA in creative writing and an MA in management). Sometimes, college was difficult; to cope, Shanti kept her pet snake in her bra when she went to class. Around this time, Shanti met a boyfriend, a relationship that lasted 10 years. She didn't understand a lot about having a relationship then and thinks her boyfriend grew tired of trying to get close to her. Shanti still hasn’t recovered from that, but it was her two dogs, Lou and Greta, helped her to cope. Greta protected Shanti and sometimes when they sat on a hill together, Greta would lean into her and that was a great comfort. Now Shanti sees that decade-long relationship as a lesson and is grateful for it. Now she is with her boyfriend Phout, who sat behind her in 6th grade, who she is very attracted to, who accepts Shanti for who she is. With this relationship, Shanti also has two wonderful stepdaughters, Kia and Khay. Recently, Shanti was diagnosed with autistic disorder. Her family consisted of so many eccentric individuals that the autism went unnoticed until she was in her 30s. Now Shanti raises turkeys and chickens, plays with her rottweilers, hosts a show on blogtalkradio, writes fiction, reads, paints, studies hobo spiders and grizzly bears. Most days, she is ecstatic.

More Shanti Perez
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