Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#192 M Created a New Life

M was born in Toronto, Canada to immigrant parents. Her mom was from Hungary and her dad from Poland. She always felt different growing up—everything from the clothes her parents bought her to the radishes and pate in her school lunch. M longed for bologna on white bread and Oreo cookie lunches. She felt a mixture of embarrassment and shyness when friends came over to her house and wished that she lived in a house with thick carpeting and velour wallpaper. She wanted to be either a veterinarian or an airline hostess. One summer she was Mr. Cookie and dressed in a huge cookie outfit. M went to university in the town where she grew up and she kept the same friends that she had always had. After university, she thought about what it would be like to sit at the same job, gradually growing wider and wider and wearing increasingly nubby sweaters. It terrified her and she started sending out resumes everywhere in the hopes for a job that was something different. One of her job offers was in Copenhagen—though it could have been anywhere—and so, on a whim, M sold or gave away nearly everything she owned and moved to Copenhagen with her gigantic suitcase and whatever she could fit inside it. Copenhagen felt strange and different, but beautiful, so it was an easy, and now she works there in advertising as a writer. She was able to figure out who she was, since nobody around her had any preconceived expectations of who she was. M created a new life for herself. She found new friends and new things to do. For instance, she likes to pet strangers’ puppies. M also recognized that her life had been pretty good back in Canada, but she loves her new sense of independence. In fact, M just went freelance and now she is on her own in every part of her life. And she loves that. She’s smiling just thinking about it.
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#184 The Art That Is Stephanie Barber

Stephanie Barber was born on Long Island and her childhood was complicated, chaotic. She didn’t enjoy that. She moved more than a dozen times as a child and chunks of time were lived in Florida and Pennsylvania. There were times when she swam in the ocean and there were often a lot of musicians around. When she was 6, Stephanie knew that she wanted to be a writer and started typing out her poems because she thought published poems were typed. When she was 8, Stephanie had a ballet recital that went particularly well, and, after the show, as she was driven home in her father’s convertible, she stood up in her seat and pumped her bouquet-filled fist into the sky in triumph. Sometimes, Stephanie thinks of that moment and how she never feels that unadulterated pride and joy after a performance or a screening. Stephanie regrets not having become a child star. Growing up, Stephanie was bizarrely serious and very religious (even though nobody in her family really was). She decided she was Catholic and walked by herself to church on Sunday mornings. She even talked her way onto a cheerleading squad at the Catholic school, which she did not attend. Stephanie thought that she was cheering for God or Jesus. Eventually, the Catholics realized that she was not one of them and wouldn’t let her cheer anymore. When Stephanie was 12, she fell out of the church and today she is a sort of lazy spiritualist. In high school, Stephanie studied playwriting and ballet at a performing arts school. In college, she studied film and anthropology and poetry. In graduate school, she studied film and poetry. Stephanie became interested in making films because the more experimental films she had seen seemed rooted in poetics. Stephanie reads a lot. She is an artist, a filmmaker, a videomaker, a performer, a writer, and, sometimes, a musician. The way that Stephanie believes in art has a religious fervor. There is a purposefulness that sometimes assuages the angry muddled tenor of her existence. As an adult, Stephanie has lived in 9 different cities. Whenever you see her anywhere, she is almost always smiling or laughing. To get by, she always gets different funny jobs for money—shoveling gravel, selling snakes, teaching water aerobics to senior citizens, college professor, street performer, freelance editor, adoption counselor at an SPCA, phone psychic. Other than where she is living and what job she has and who she is romantically involved with, Stephanie is pretty consistent. She doesn't have too many decisions to make. When she moved to Baltimore, she bought a house that used to be a corner grocery and leaks. It was full of groceries when she moved in, but the groceries are all gone now. Soon, she will move again. She will get her first professional job and win a large grant. She will write a novel and fall in large love.

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Photo Credit: Joe Milutis
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A Helluva Short Story

Dan Wickett said nice things about short stories for the whole month of May at Emerging Writers Network and one of the last entries for short story month was this thing I put together called, "Some of the Letters That Were Cut, but That Tell Even More of the Story of Jonathon Bender, Weatherman (b. 1967 - d. 1999)," which Dan calls a "helluva short story." The chapbook short story sold out at ML Press before it was officially published and then Powell's had a few copies, but those are gone now too. Luckily, the great Adam Robinson will be republishing it this September as part of Publishing Genius series, This PDF Chapbook.

A List of Terms; Or, Things that You Can Do with Language

As some of you know, I love The Wire, Anna Ditkoff's brilliant Murder Ink, and follow crime in Baltimore. Here are some terms that come to us as part of the fallout or a series or recent raids:

•a "birthday boy" is a person who is to be robbed
• a "birthday party" refers to a robbery, assault, or other act of violence to be committed
• if a person is "on the menu" or labeled "food," that person has been designated as someone who is going to be "eaten," meaning seriously beaten or killed

SOURCE: Indictment filed in Baltimore U.S. District Court via the Baltimore Sun

Here is the original news story.


The only reason I write books, really, is so that I get a cake each time I publish one -- or each time time one comes out in a new edition or translation.

Here's the cake for the UK edition of the paperback, which we ate in one day.

And here's the cake for How Much of Us There Was.

How Do You Say Dear Everybody in Greek?

I love my foreign rights agent. We just sold Greek rights for Dear Everybody.
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#177 Brian Oliu: He Loves the Kaplunk

Brian Oliu was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was an only child and his childhood was great. He spent a lot of times in piles of leaves. He played a lot of video games and ate a lot of cookies. Growing up, Brian learned a lot of useless trivia, including an absurd amount about fragrances (because he is larger than most people and was always afraid of smelling terrible when he was a kid, so he did his research). In high school, he played football (tight end) and basketball (power forward). In college, Brian studied English at Loyola in Baltimore, in part, because his friends were all English majors. He started writing essays and memoir—after he realized that he was awful at making things up. Another thing that you should know about Brian is that his ex-girlfriends all move away immediately after or close to the end of their relationship. His first kiss moved a few miles away and out of his elementary school district. His first girlfriend moved to Rhode Island in the fourth grade. His high school girlfriend moved to Los Angeles. His college girlfriend moved to San Diego. The girlfriend after that moved to the United Kingdom. So Brian moved Tuscaloosa, Alabama to terminate the loop. He also moved there to work on his MFA and currently runs the flag football league for the University of Alabama English Department; its mantra: athlete's mind, poet's body. Once, Brian spent an entire year in Belgium drinking beer, eating beef stew with fries, and hanging out with his Italian roommate Danny Apples (this name isn’t made up), a male model from Milan. Brian wears a lot of brightly colored track jackets. Also, he beat Contra and Super C without the Konami 30 Lives code. He really loves his computer and the internet a lot (but doesn’t like that he now has a very short attention span for anything that isn't sitting in front of his computer). When Brian isn’t designing of websites, he’s viewing of ephemera on the web. Plus, he loves the kaplunk of the GChat new message. Right now, Brian is wrapping up his MFA at the University of Alabama and teaching composition and creative writing there. He has a bad tendency to count down the time he has to do something, even if he’s having a great time or his on vacation. He wishes he didn’t do that. Also, he’s going to Romania to do a reading tour with his friend, the poet Jeremy Allan Hawkins. Next year, he’s going to become an instructor at the University of Alabama. And Brian just finished a memoir called i/o—it's going out to publishers as soon as he becomes less afraid of sending it out.

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A Quiet Tour de Force

There's a great review of Dear Everybody up at The View From Here. Charlie Wykes calls Dear Everybody "a quiet tour de force" and also says this: "Writing a novel with a moral centre without being ‘preachy’ is not easy. Michael Kimball deserves great praise." And Charlie also says some other nice things that nobody else has said yet. Thanks, Charlie.

Taking the Epistolary Form to a Special Place

M. T. Fallon put a super thoughtful review of Dear Everybody up at Trestle. He says: "In Kimball's careful hands the epistolary form really gets to a special place. The assemblage of textual evidence of Jonathan's dissolution feels like a personal discovery. You don't feel as if there is a story being told, it's as if you are uncovering the story and telling it to yourself. I think that's where Kimball really succeeds, he pieces this novel together in just the right way so you don't really know that he pieced together this novel in just the right way." Plus, he has a bunch of other really smart observations about "transparent prose."

#182 The Myth of Scott McClanahan

Scott McClanahan was born in West Virginia and regularly used the bathroom in a johnny house (johnny houses have been a seminal event in many writers lives, including Jean Genet). Scott’s childhood was spent in Rainelle, West Virginia—a town full of lumberjacks, severed arms, coal miners, and old mountains. The town specializes in teenage pregnancy and prescription drug abuse. When Scott was five, he watched some older boys set a forest on fire, which the West Virginia National Guard had to put out. When Scott was 7, his grandmother Ruby had her gallstones removed, then brought all 15 of them home and asked Scott to put them in her flowerbed. During the blizzard of ’93, Scott started writing. Scott’s teenage years were spent reading Isak Dinesen and watching professional wrestling. He will not rest until Ric Flair is recognized as a great artist by this culture. In high school, he played quarterback, which is how he ended up with a compound fracture of his left arm. In college, Scott’s roommate was a great friend from Rainelle who suffered from OCD, which meant that he also always kept the room clean. Scott worked at the same grocery store his father did and was a substitute teacher at the same school where his mother taught. It was for 7 years that Scott chased a woman named Sarah before she went out on a real date with him, but now they are married. Sarah is a nurse and each night he sits and listens to her talk about patients dying, the way eyes look when the last moment of oxygen is escaping from a brain. Sarah has a magnificent heart and Scott will fight the man who doesn’t believe in true love (seriously, send him your address and he’ll come fight you). Scott cries every other day over something, which he considers a good thing. A couple of months ago, Sarah brought home a 13-year-old blind dog. Now Scott goes home each day and watches it bump from wall to wall. The blind dog has become a metaphor for Scott’s life and Scott is training his other dog to become a seeing-eye dog. Now Scott lives in southern West Virginia, an hour from where he grew up. He has stayed because it's one of the last places with myths (John Henry is from there). Scott does not plan for the future if it can be avoided—he understands that within 3 months the shroud could be his garment—but he knows that he will be buried on Backus Mountain. And he wants “I regret” written on his tombstone—along with “I told you I was sick.”

Scott’s Stories
Scott’s movies
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A Kind of World

I have a short poem up at Everyday Genius. It's at least 15 years old and a little bit about my early days in NYC.
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#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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