Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#195 Kaya Larsen: 8 lb, 3 oz; 20.5"

Kaya Larsen’s parents tried to get pregnant for 4 years before she was born (Boo died in the womb at 6 months), so part of Kaya’s Kayaness is that she was so wanted. They had dreamed of her for years. They picked Kaya’s name months before she was conceived (while paddling a kayak in the Prince William Sound). Kaya was born by unplanned C-section after her mom went through 15 hours of heroic, unmedicated labor. At some point before or during labor, Kaya was infected with Group B Strep (GBS), which caused fetal distress. After the delivery, Kaya was attached to a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The first 3 days of her life were pretty rough. The doctors and nurses didn’t know if she would live. The uncertainty was terrifying for her parents. Kaya was so fragile that any stimulation could throw her vitals off. It was agonizing for her parents to visit her and not be able to hold her. She wore little eyeshades and had cotton balls over her ears. Eventually, she began to move her hands and feet, her arms and legs. She opened her eyes, briefly. Kaya’s parents didn’t get to hold her until she was 13 days old. A few days later, Kaya was breathing on her own and making her first vocalizations—beautiful little gurgles and throaty cries. After 3 weeks, Kaya still needed to learn how to eat. For Kaya's 1-month birthday, her parents baked cupcakes for the NICU staff. After 5 weeks, Kaya began to eat consistently. 2 days later, Kaya went home. She was fussy leaving the hospital, but the moment they got outside she became quiet, awestruck that the world is so much bigger than a hospital room. At 3 months, Kaya laughed for the first time when her parents were tickling her and her squeals of delight morphed into a giggle. At 6 months, Dr. Perez pronounced Kaya too healthy for his high-risk clinic and said he never wanted to see her again. Kaya’s first word was either Bartleby (the dog) or Uh-oh. Kaya’s favorite toys are her pink blanket, anything she can knock over, and anything out of reach. She loves bananas (nana), raisins (ree-ree), and turtles (tuh-tul), and Bartleby (Bobby). She loves the stuffed turtle that Bartleby also loves and she loves books. She asks for a book as soon as her mom or dad comes into her room and she is partial to lift-the-flap books. She loves playing hide-and-seek, even though she isn’t very good at hiding or seeking. She thinks that all animals say, Moo. Now Kaya is 22 months old. For 21 of those months, she has been supremely happy and healthy (the only remnant from her being so sick is a little bird-shaped scar on her left hand, a pressure sore from all the tape holding down her tubes.). In fact, part of Kaya’s Kayaness is her supreme happiness. Another part of Kaya’s Kayaness is her unbelievable fearlessness (she’ll try nearly anything headfirst). In about 3 months, Kaya’s parents will bring home a brother or sister for Kaya and she will be a great big sister.
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An Act of Severance; Or, How Unsaid Magazine Became What It Is

I interviewed David McLendon about editing his great literary magazine Unsaid and the interview appears at another great literary magazine, elimae. David and I talk about what he looks for in a submission and why he loves some of the writers he loves.

The issue of elimae also has work from Brian Allen Carr, Elizabeth Ellen, Harold Bowes, Mike Topp, Eliza Walton, Michelle Reale, Stacy Muszynski, Darby Larson, and a bunch of other fine writers.
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#129 Matt Bell Is One of the Coolest Things Ever

Matt Bell mostly grew up in a house outside of Hemlock, MI, where there was enough isolation to grow up odd, but not too odd. In 3rd grade, Matt won a certificate for writing the best pirate story set in outerspace, which is part of how he became the writer he is today. For the longest time, he wore Velcro shoes because he thought they were the coolest things ever and because that is what the astronauts did. That’s how he was 12 before he learned how to tie his shoes. That is, Matt was a nerdy kid. He read D&D rulebooks on the school bus, played lots of computer games, and read tons of science fiction and fantasy books. In 7th or 8th grade, Matt wrote a 200-page fantasy novel, but then he stopped writing in high school. After that, Matt went to Saginaw Valley State University and dropped out. After all, he had only been tying his shoes for 6 years and he didn’t know what he wanted to do yet. He went to Delta Community College, a 2-year school, where he had the distinction of placing 3 years in a row in a writing contest. Then Matt went to Oakland University, which was the closest university he could drive to, and received his English degree. Over this time, Matt worked as a bartender (he may have gotten the first internet-posted job anybody got) and then as a restaurant manager. These jobs were good for him personality-wise. He lost his shyness. He met characters and had experiences that he wouldn’t have met or had otherwise. Then Matt met Jessica on Valentine’s Day, which was a kind of sign. She was the roommate of two women he worked with at the restaurant, and, as soon as they started dating, Matt wanted to spend all his time with her. Instead, Matt went on a camping trip by himself. He drove across the country, which gave him a sense of scale and changed his perspective. After that, Matt and Jessica were engaged within a year, got married on the beach in Port Austin, and had one of the best weddings ever. It was amazing to stand up in front of all those family and friends, and for everybody to be so happy for them. Then everybody cried. By the time Matt finishes his MFA at Bowling Green State University (2010), he will have finished writing a short story collection and a novel. He will also have an even happier marriage and remember even less of what his life was like before he met Jessica.

[Note: I'm sending out two congratulations to Matt Bell. (1) Matt's first full-length collection, How They Were Found, will be published with Keyhole in 2010. (2) He's been named the editor for the new literary journal, The Collagist.]

[Note #2: This postcard life story was originally written as part of a series of postcard life stories that will appeared 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.]

#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.

More Stephanie Barber
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.

More Brian Oliu
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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."
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