Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#165 Renée E. D’Aoust: One of the Most Difficult Things that a Human Can Do

Renée E. D’Aoust was raised on Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound, where it was so much fun growing up around her mother and her two older brothers. At school, Renée refused to play any sports and was sometimes called into the counselor’s office because of it. But Renée always wanted to be a ballet dancer, and, at 8, she signed herself up for ballet lessons, then studied ballet every day after that until she was 16. Renée regrets not attending the Royal Winnipeg School of Ballet summer school when she was 16, but is glad that she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts summer session in New York City instead—a precursor to her living there. At 21, Renée packed up her little car and moved from the Puget Sound area to Missoula, Montana, but it did not go well. She moved 8 times in 2 years and also broke her jaw in a terrible bicycle accident. But she also got a dance scholarship from the Montana Dance Arts Association and that’s how she moved to New York City to be a dancer, which was awesome. Renée spent most of her money on dance lessons and was mostly broke, so she walked everywhere to save money. She performed in little black box spaces and was almost always sore, exhausted. It was a blast, though, and the best part was knowing so many people doing so many incredible things. There was a great sense of possibility. After that, Renée went back to college, at Columbia University, and studied literature and writing (eventually getting an MFA in creative writing from Notre Dame). She wanted to create something that would last longer than dance. Years later, Renée went through one of the most difficult times in her life—when her brother, Ian (who had a Ph.D. in American history from Yale) died from multiple sclerosis. During this time, Renée lived with her parents again and helped them however she could. Renée still misses Ian so much. To face grief is one of the most difficult things that a human can do. The other thing you should know about Renée is that she is really nutty about dogs. Renée’s dog Truffle is a hound dog and she is writing a book about him. In fact, about 3 years ago, Renée swore off men and decided that she would live with a series of dogs, Truffle being the first, but then her graduate school roommate suggested that Renée meet a man named Daniele because he was unique, but in a different way than Renée was unique. But Renée did not want to meet Daniele because he was an electrical engineer who rode a bicycle and she had spent 5 years off-and-on with another electrical engineer who rode a bicycle. Now Renée and Daniele live part-time in Switzerland (his post-doctorate at a university there) and part-time in Idaho (where Renée teaches; she loves the returning adult students at North Idaho College). Renée loves that Daniele holds her hand when she gets scared on top of mountains and reminds her that her feet are on the ground. She thinks Truffle understands. Now Renée writes every day and she will keep writing no matter what. Also, often, Renée plants seedlings on her family’s forestland in Idaho, over 2,000 so far, and she wishes for every one of her trees to grow.

A Dance Review of Nicole Seiler

Theatrical Release
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How I Made Fiona Robyn Cry

On her blog, Planting Words, Fiona Robyn posts a photo of me and then writes: "This is Michael Kimball. ... He made me cry by creating a character called Jonathon, and making me care about him as if he were a member of my own family."

After that, there is an email conversation about DEAR EVERYBODY how novels begin, how to present difficult material, and what it's like to be an author.

This is stop #7 on my UK blog tour.
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Digital Fiction Show

Adrian Graham from Digital Fiction Show has posted a nice and thoughtful review of DEAR EVERYBODY "lives in the head of the reader after we have read it ... The letters combine to create a wonderful resonance that feels immensely vivid and real ... a lot of writers will read DEAR EVERYBODY wishing they had thought of something like this themselves."

Plus, there's an excerpt, the introduction from Robert Bender, who has never really liked his brother, the main character, Jonathon Bender.

Plus, there's the trailer for DEAR EVERYBODY.

This is stop #6 on my UK blog tour.
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#106 Leslie F. Miller: The Cake Lady

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.

Update: Leslie's cake memoir, Let Me Eat Cake is now out.

More Leslie F. Miller
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Top 5: Novels You May Not Have Heard Of

I wrote a Top 5 (novels that you may not have heard of) for 3:AM Magazine. Plus, there's a bonus Top 5 for people who have heard of the first Top 5.

This is stop #4 on my UK blog tour.
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Cream Tea with Lizzy Siddal

Lizzy Siddal gave DEAR EVERYBODY an amazing review at Lizzy's Literary Life in which she says: "unputdownable ... the most searingly honest and authentic sentiments I have ever read ... I had to pick myself up off the floor at the end ... easily the best read of 2009 thus far."

Plus, there's a nice interview in which we have cream tea and discuss the unspoken.
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Dear Everybody @ CityLit Festival

I'm reading from DEAR EVERYBODY at the CityLit Festival on Saturday, 1pm-2pm in the Poe Room (at the Enoch Pratt Library). There will be a ton of other readers and writers throughout the day--Christian Bauman, Jessica Anya Blau, Leslie Miller, Warren Brown, Mark Doty, Junot Diaz. There will be a panel on Michelle Obama.
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349 Pieces

I wrote a short article about the writing of DEAR EVERYBODY for The View from Here, where I talk about how "I try to let a novel tell me what it is going to be." It's called "349 Pieces" because that's how many pieces make up the novel.

This is stop #3 on my UK blog tour.
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#163 The Fighting Poems of Paul Long

Paul Long was born in Cleveland, OH, and had a hectic childhood. The family moved often and Paul has lived in 10 different states including OH, MI, CT, MD, TN, MA, NC, VA, NY, and RI. It was difficult to keep moving and keep losing friends. It was difficult to keep trying to make new friends. A lot of times, Paul ate lunch alone. Writing became a release for him, creating a new world inside the one he lived in (when Paul was 8, somebody told him that he couldn’t write, as if it was illegal, and that’s when he decided to keep writing). In high school, Paul was the captain of the swim team and now he misses swimming, the discipline of getting up early in the morning and jumping into the water when it was cold, the back and forth of it. In college, Paul studied English and started writing stories with/for his best friend. They would sit in the library and create crazy stories that were often inspired by Grateful Dead songs. In graduate school, Paul met his wife, Kris, at Brown University, where they both received their MFAs. Kris is a playwright. Paul loves her stories and her smile. For now, Paul and Kris are living in MD, with their two Shitz Tsus (Annabel Lee and Conrad) and their two cats (Nickolai and Puchento), so Kris can pursue her PhD at the University of Maryland. Paul is teaching at BCCC and MICA and loves it. Working with inner city students in Baltimore has changed his life. Also, he is proud of the books of poetry that he has written so far and hopes to one day publish one. In the future, he will work on less abstraction and more physicality. He hopes that his poems will eventually bruise and pummel readers. Strange things happen to Paul a daily basis, but he tries to lead a normal life.

[Note #1: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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Time Out NY on NY Tyrant

There is a nice article by Michael Miller in this week's Time Out New York about great literary magazines -- New York Tyrant, Agricultural Reader, Noon -- thriving while so much of publishing is crumbling all around us.
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Dear Michael Kimball

I did an interview with the wonderful Susan Tomaselli -- she asked really smart questions -- for the wonderful Dogmatika. And then Susan Tomaselli did something amazing with the questions and answers. In the spirit of DEAR EVERYBODY, she spliced that interview with photos and reviews and postcards and trailers and her own notes. Plus, she mentions a connection to Oulipo, the first person to make that true obversation. Plus, the piece mentions that HTMLGIANT named me the International King of Postcards. Thank you, Susan Tomaselli.
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#160 Particularly Michael Martone

Michael Martone was born in 1955 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is one of the things that made Michael Martone particularly Michael Martone. Michael Martone’s childhood was like many childhoods at the end of the baby boom—happy, rich, optimistic. His mother was a high school English teacher and Michael Martone loved reading mythology—in part because the translator (Edith Hamilton) was from his hometown, in part because she made the mythology new. Growing up, Michael Martone loved to make model airplanes (each with its own nose mascot or variation of camo paint) and 54mm soldiers (the uniformity of uniforms, the slight variation in the details of the dress and how those details can be read)—theme and variation. In junior high school, Michael Martone wore black-and-white saddle shoes (for their black-and-white-ness). In high school, Michael Martone was mostly speech and debate, reading and writing, government and politics; he also wore black-and-white saddle shoes (because they were the first gym shoe). At Butler University and then at Indiana University, Michael Martone continued to wear black-and-white saddle shoes (for their iconic nature). Michael Martone graduated with a degree in English, and, for a while, worked in a bookstore. In graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, Michael met the poet Theresa Pappas. The first thing he noticed about her was the brightly colored socks she wore, and, after that, they got married. For all these years, Michael has admired her strength and her intensity, her devotion and her intelligence. The strangest thing Michael Martone ever did was become a father—two sons, Sam and Nick—but he loves the rewiring that takes place when one has children. For the past 30 years, Michael Martone has taught creative writing—at four different universities (now at the University of Alabama). At one university, at a party, a drunk colleague threw a drink at a woman student. The fallout from that gesture changed Michael Martone’s life in profound ways. It made him rethink and reimagine what it means to be a teacher, a writer, a man; his notions of what art is, what fiction is, what power is; what a family is and whether that should that be a model for a program, a department, or any job. Over the past 25 years, Michael Martone has published 12 books of fiction and nonfiction—including The Flatness and Other Landscapes (2000), Michael Martone (2005), Unconventions (2005), Double-Wide (collected fiction; 2007), and, most recently, Racing in Place (2008). Right now, Michael Martone is on a semester leave and hopes to finish up 3 or 4 books he’s been working on. He also wants to keep running, to start a compost heap, and to redesign his garden to include more vegetables. He wants to work harder to care and to not care. He wants to learn how to sit still. He stays in touch the best he can.

[Note #1: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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