Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#175 Michael Hemmingson: He Is Not That Person

Michael Hemmingson was born in Los Angeles and his childhood was like a bad young adult novel—teen parents, his father missing the first 5 years before returning to marry his mother. When Michael was 11, he wrote a Star Wars novel, 300 pages in pencil. At 14, he had his first poem published. As a freshman, he was editor of the high school literary magazine. When he was a sophomore, he discovered drugs—LSD, pot. By 17, Michael had published 200 poems, a dozen stories, and his own zine, Another Fucken Review. By 18, he had published three chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction. Michael has had many painful relationships end badly. When he was 23, his girlfriend Trudi died in a car accident. She was 10-weeks pregnant and Michael fell apart after that. He couldn't get out of bed, couldn’t work, and found himself homeless. He lived in his car or in shelters. He did not care what happened to him. The person he was died with her. Michael is not that person. When he was 27, Michael published his first book (The Naughty Yard, Permeable Press). It changed his life and people in the literary community took him more seriously. Another thing that changed Michael’s life was leaving Los Angeles and then again going back home to chase Hollywood, which he wishes he hadn’t done. He was in love with a woman, though, an actress. He wishes that he would have realized the heartache there would be in that. He has been lied to, cheated, and screwed over by producers in Hollywood. Still, one of the best things in Michael’s life was making a feature film (The Watermelon, LightSong Films) in Los Angeles, having that experience that few get. Michael has left L.A. many times and returned many times. One time, Michael was a journalist in Rwanda, but he wishes that he hadn’t taken that assignment. He is still haunted by the thousands of dead bodies and the smell in summer heat. One particular image that sticks in his mind is a hungry albino black child sitting alone in the dirt and crying, and no one paying attention. People should pay attention. Michael has accomplished so much—screenplays, movies, journalism, editing books, ghost-writing books, writing his own books (all kinds—literary, erotica, biographies, ethnographies, etc.). Through 2008, Michael had published 48 books under his name, plus a dozen more under various pen names. In the next few years, Michael will publish many more books— some under new pen names and some under his own name (particularly his first collection of literary fiction and academic books on Carver, Hemingway, and Vollmann). Michael also plans to finish his biography of Carver, write a big literary novel, make a studio-budget movie, and write for a TV series that will last no fewer than 3 seasons. Further, he will buy a house and move into it with his two cats, Worf and Poe (who are the reincarnated cats he had 12 years ago, Surfette and ArtBell) and the family he has always wanted to have.

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#171 Hayley West: The Build Up

Hayley Jolene West was born in Melbourne, Australia to English-immigrant parents. Her last name, West, is new; her middle name, Jolene, she took from her sister. Hayley has some horse-whispering heritage, has broken wild horses, and loves the feeling of galloping on a horse. When she has 5, Hayley’s little sister died in a friend's swimming pool—after which, Hayley and her brother were forced to learn to swim like fish. But most of her childhood was fantastic. Her parents used to party at their friends’ houses, so she often got to stay up late with other kids. At first, Hayley was a rat-bag in primary school, cheated a lot, ran away every other weekend. Then she was sent to a different high school and became a straight-A student, at least for a while. Hayley’s first two years of University were spent drinking, seeing bands, and protesting. After that, she changed her major from languages and did an associate degree in furniture technology. At the same time, she was working three part-time jobs and saving, saving, saving. At 21, Hayley traveled Europe for a year with a friend and ran riot. Hayley’s loud laugh makes Hayley particularly Hayley. At 22, Hayley returned to Australia and lived in Hobart, Tasmania where she studied furniture design for a year—before moving back to Melbourne to be with her father who was dying of cancer. After he died, Hayley didn’t do much for a year. Eventually, she went back to school and studied sculpture at RMIT. Over the years, Hayley has worked lots of different jobs, including a few in the adult industry—a dodgy dating agency, a chat-line operator, a sex shop assistant. It is fascinating. After all that, Hayley left a boyfriend and left Melbourne. She moved far away to Darwin where she had never lived before and then things really changed for her. It is one of the best decisions she has ever made. She began to flourish as an artist and she met a man named Tobias at an art gallery where she worked. He is also an artist and would visit the gallery once a week. Hayley was always excited when he showed up. Over 2 years ago, Hayley’s mother died, also of cancer, and becoming an orphan as an adult changed how she feels about her self and family. In 2007, Tobias proposed to Hayley in Venice. In 2008, they got married on leap day and then honeymooned at an arts residency. They've been together 4 years now and Tobias calms Hayley down, especially in the build-up—a humid, grey-sky part of the year with no rain—when she can go a bit troppo (everybody goes slightly mad during this time—more suicides, more babies conceived, more angry emails). Hayley is so happy to have found Tobias and can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives being artists together.

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A Huge Chunk of His Heart on the Page

Katrina Denza has a very nice write-up of my Dear Everybody and Paul Lisicky's Lawnboy at Illuminate; Ruminate; Create. She calls Dear Everybody a "brilliantly designed novel ... It left me feeling as if the author left a huge chunk of his heart on the page and it is this generosity and depth that left me stunned."
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DEAR EVERYBODY: UK Blog Tour Wrap Up

I had a great time on my UK blog tour for the paperback of DEAR EVERYBODY that Alma Books just put out (US paperback coming in September). Here’s the wrap up with links to everything:

Me & My Big Mouth: DEAR EVERYBODY is “a wonderful, clever, imaginative and moving book. It really is quite something ... a fucking marvelous book." There’s also a nice interview.

Dogmatika: A fantastic interview that is assembled in the spirit of DEAR EVERYBODY, many different pieces.

The View From Here: An article about the writing of DEAR EVERYBODY that’s called "349 Pieces" because that's how many pieces make up the novel.

3:AM Magazine: Top 5 (novels that you may not have heard of).

Lizzy’s Literary Life: DEAR EVERYBODY is "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 smart interview.

Digital Fiction Show: 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 and the trailer.

Planting Words: Michael Kimball "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." Plus, there is a nice conversation.

Elizabeth Baines: DEAR EVERYBODY is "striking, witty, and above all moving … And here’s the most impressive thing to me – what Michael Kimball has done is to portray formally the fragmentation of a life (yet in a holistic and wholly satisfying way) – something which the form of a traditional novel would belie." Plus, Elizabeth calls out the publishing industry for its culturally disgraceful ways.

Writing Neuroses: A smart interview about the antithesis of the great American novel and ghastly characters.

Just William's Luck: DEAR EVERYBODY is "... the perfect way to tell the story of a man who has fallen through the net ... remembering that he has taken his own life gives a forensic importance to the documents. As you go through the evidence you may find yourself caring more with each page not only about his sad, short life but the continuing narrative of those other voices around him." Plus, there’s a thoughtful interview about unreliable narrators.

In Spring It Is Dawn: DEAR EVERYBODY is "a touching story of human relationships and how they can go wrong, and a story which made me stop to ponder the long-lasting effects our actions can have on others."

Thank you, Daniel, Scott, Susan, Mike, Marcia, Adrian, Fiona, Elizabeth, Kay, William, and Tanabata.
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#140 The Happy Life of Amelia Gray

Amelia Gray was born in Tucson, AZ, and had a safe and happy childhood. What Amelia mostly remembers is laughing a lot and the funny things her sister and parents did. For a childhood, it was just about as good as anybody could hope for. Around 10, Amelia started playing the violin. In 4th grade, Amelia wrote a science fiction story where everyone wore clothes that changed colors according to their moods, which was the beginning of the inventive fiction writer she has turned into today. Amelia went to Arizona State University for her BA in literature, and, when she was 20, she rode Greyhound buses everywhere. She’s afraid of flying, partly because of the way things rattle around inside an airplane. She thinks she might feel better if she could sit on the wing and hear how strongly everything is constructed. Amelia went to Texas State University for her MFA, and now she holds four jobs (transcribing a WWII veteran's journal, freelance writing, and teaching at two universities), which allows her to work all day while also avoiding work all day, depending on which project she focuses on. It's weirdly motivating. Amelia has night terrors that make her do funny things in her sleep like stand on the bed and run down the stairs. Once, she kicked out a window. Also, Amelia has two cats (Republic, who got his name because she found him in the dumpster behind the Banana Republic where she used to work, and Turkish, who got her name from the fact that she is big like an ottoman), but no boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or dog. She wants a boyfriend like she wants 180 pounds of cotton candy. She has been the cotton candy in many relationships and she has been the person with the cotton candy on her hands in other relationships. It might make her sick, but she could fit either thing (a boyfriend or 180 pounds of cotton candy) into her lovely two-bedroom apartment in Austin (of which, by some small-world logic, MK’s brother-in-law is the landlord, and, she says, the best landlord ever). Besides that, Amelia has written a screenplay and a flash fiction collection in the past year. Right now, she’s working on a novel. She’s trying to figure out what type of writing is the most fun, which, right now, is flash fiction, which she’s trying to figure out how to accumulate into a novel, which she will.

[Note: I loved Amelia's first collection, AM/PM. Amelia's second collection, Museum of the Weird, just won the 2008 Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Prize for Innovative Fiction (FC2). Judge Lidia Yuknavitch chose Museum of the Weird for a Spring/Summer 2010 release. A complex and piercing collection, as poetic as it is poignant, Museum of the Weird features twenty four short stories that collectively expose both the hilarity and heartbreak of life in the twenty first century.]

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Human Relationships

In Spring It Is Dawn wasn't on the UK blog tour, but Tanabata gives DEAR EVERYBODY a very nice review, saying that DEAR EVERYBODY is "a touching story of human relationships and how they can go wrong, and a story which made me stop to ponder the long-lasting effects our actions can have on others" -- among other nice things.
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#167 Ken Baumann Was Discovered

Ken Baumann’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and given 3 weeks to live before he ever existed. Luckily, his mother recovered and Ken was born some time after that, though extremely prematurely. Ken was supposed to be dead and blind, and he does have horrible vision, but his hearing is intact. For all these reasons, Ken was a miracle baby. For many other reasons, Ken’s parents have always known he is special. Ken had a great childhood growing up in Abilene, Texas, but didn’t play football. He was always skinny and read a lot, mostly fantasy books. When he was 10, wrote a book about a boy wizard who is recruited to a wizardry school so he can fight the evil wizard (Ken was incredibly pissed when Harry Potter came out). When he was 15, Ken wrote his first full-length novel and it felt like a huge accomplishment to finish something so large. Through these years, Ken continued to read and write fantasy books—until he read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat's Cradle, which changed the way he thought and read for good. Ken’s acting career began after he was discovered at a Model/Actor Search and later was signed by a talent agent in NYC, where he moved for 3 months. After that, Ken was set up with another agent in Dallas and started auditioning for commercials and modeling for area department stores. But it wasn't until Ken played Nick in A Thousand Clowns at a local theatre that he felt passionate about acting. He gave up the modeling thing and went to Los Angeles for pilot season. The second year he went for pilot season he booked the lead in a pilot for Fox called Don't Ask, and he has been working ever since. Even though he was just 14, Ken wanted to take care of the family and find enough work to convince his dad to move out with his mom and his little sister. Ken wanted the family together and thought it was his responsibility. Recently though, Ken realized that his parents are incredible and smart and ten times more capable to withstand life's difficulties than he is. He loves how supportive they have always been. There was never any stage mom or stage dad from them and they never put any expectations on him. Ken met his girlfriend while working on a film called Spring Break '83. He felt the most joy, the most innocence, in the 6 weeks that they were together on set. She is an intelligent, generous, talented, loving person—and he loves her purely. She has inspired him to do so much. His second novel, Interim, and the feature film that he’s working on now are both dedicated to her. Last year, Ken started work on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, bought a house, and is now living by himself. Ken feels powerful and alive, and Ken is.

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Red Cedar Review #44

The new issue of Michigan State University's literary magazine, the Red Cedar Review (#44), is just out. It's edited by Lindsey Kate Sloan and Jill Kolongowski, and an interview we did last fall (when I was there for my literary homecoming with DEAR EVERYBODY) appears in the issue. I'm particularly happy about this one because the Red Cedar Review is where I had my very first publication, back in 1990. There is also work by Sean McCarthy, Dan Moreau, Gavin Craig, Richard Fellinger, Natalie Johnson, and many others.
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Unreliable Narrators

There is a really nice interview of DEAR EVERYBODY up at Just William's Luck. William Rycroft asked smart questions about how the book took shape, unreliable narrators, and writing about mental illness -- and I did my best to answer them. Plus, the interview includes a six-word story and a couple of other publishing exclusives.
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#45 The Awesome Adam Robinson: A New and Improved Version

Adam Robinson has lived in a bunch of different cities, but that probably doesn’t matter. His childhood was not notable except for the fact that he often ate lunch in a bathroom stall during his junior year of high school and except for all of the God stuff that he grew up with. He went to a Christian college, but only because his brother, his Irish twin, did. The Christian college was awesome for Adam (though it must be noted that this word often accompanies descriptions of religious experiences) and it was there that he learned that life is really terrible unless everybody forgives each other. Adam continues to be a Christian in spite of the fact that Martin Luther consummated his marriage to Katherine von Bora in front of his friends (or, possibly, because of this fact; it isn’t clear). Said another way, Adam is a dark and sad Christian like St. Paul. Now Adam works as a technology buyer for an asset management company, but that doesn’t really describe him. It isn’t who he is. He is a guitar player for Sweatpants and the publisher of Publishing Genius and a writer of poems and stories and songs, but he cannot be fully understood in these terms either. It is better to think of Adam in terms of the time he jumped out of a speeding boat (that he was driving) and crashed it. The boat didn’t sink and Adam didn’t drown. The boat got stuck in some seaweed and Adam swam back to shore. Adam made a similar jump the time that he left behind his life in Milwaukee and ran away to Baltimore with Stephanie Barber, who is awesome (like Christianity, but in a different way). The experience was panicked and great. Another time, Adam was attacked while waiting for the bus and hit over the head with a bottle, but the attackers escaped with nothing of Adam's and Adam ended up with a bloody story to tell. One thing that should be learned from this: You cannot stop Adam Robinson. Also, it should be noted that the farthest Adam has walked at one time is 28 miles and
the farthest he has ridden a bicycle is 34 miles. He could go farther, though. He will go farther. In fact, there he goes now.

Adam Robinson is the genius behind Publishing Genius Press

A great piece of Adam's writing.

Also, it's his birthday today, so tell him happy birthday if you see him.
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Writing Neuroses

There's a nice interview at Writing Neuroses about DEAR EVERYBODY. Kay Sexton asks some really smart questions about structure, the great American novel (and its antithesis), and ghastly characters.

This is stop #9 on my UK blog tour. Thank you, Kay.
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Some Letters Concerning Michael Kimball and Dear Everybody

Elizabeth Baines has written a beautiful and thoughtful review of DEAR EVERYBODY called Some letters concerning Michael Kimball and Dear Everybody in which she calls the novel "striking, witty, and above all moving." And she says, "And here’s the most impressive thing to me – what Michael Kimball has done is to portray formally the fragmentation of a life (yet in a holistic and wholly satisfying way) – something which the form of a traditional novel would belie." She also thanks Alma Books (thank you, Alma Books) and then calls out the publishing industry in general. Plus, she says that I have "kind eyes." Thank you, Elizabeth Baines.
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