Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#209 The Amazing Life Story of Julie Riso

Julie Riso remembers being born, the light and noise. It was her first escape. She grew up in small towns in Michigan, the oldest of 5 kids, and she always knew she was different. For instance, her young artwork had talking flowers, which her Catholic schoolteachers found unacceptable. Also, Julie wanted to be an archeologist and she escaped her loneliness by going on expeditions in her backyard (which turned into Egypt, China, Easter Island). In 3rd grade, her teacher repeatedly verbally abused her, leading to a nervous breakdown, but Julie didn’t tell anybody about it. After that, her dad quit drinking, thinking that was the problem, and her parents bought her a guinea pig. Her dad started going to church again, which made the family happy, but then he turned zealous and thought himself a prophet (and believed God gave him permission to kill people). After that, Julie’s parents separated. Julie’s mom got a job as a waitress and Julie watched her brothers and sisters after school. Julie went to a big public high school, which felt like a do-over after the tiny Catholic school. In 9th grade, Julie started smoking pot, but the stoner girls didn't like her because she was too thin, and they started rumors that she was a slut, so the rest of high school was pretty difficult. After Julie’s mother tried to kill herself, Julie stole sedatives from her mother and did a lot more drugs. She barely remembers her senior year. Julie left home after high school. Then she drove out to Los Angeles alone, but it was overwhelming, so she moved to Palm Springs, worked as a waitress, and went to junior college. Julie was doing great, but began to feel suffocated, and then things got worse and stayed that way for years. She kept moving around Southern California, but could not escape her bad memories. Julie became exhausted from trying and moved back to Michigan, but felt like a failure. Not long after that, her dad died from lymphoma. After that, she had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself. Luckily, Julie got herself back together and moved back to LA. At 24, she went back to college to become an anthropologist. She didn’t have any money, so she became a stripper. She was a terrible stripper and mostly hid in the back, but the other strippers accepted her, and that was the first time Julie felt like part of a group of women. Then Julie left college again, worked in Guam a few months, then lived with Stone Age tribes in Papua New Guinea for a few weeks (where few female travelers had been before). That was how Julie realized she mostly liked anthropology in an armchair way. What she really wanted was to travel. At 27, Julie moved back to Michigan, worked in a big travel agency, and traveled the world. But the agency closed and her boyfriend became a copy of her dad, so she left Michigan again. She went back to Guam and this time she met Pascal, a Frenchman from New Caledonia. Julie married Pascal and they lived on the island for 7 years, which was when she wrote her first novel, which is about strippers. Julie still felt claustrophobic, though, so they moved to Poland. After 2 years there, they moved to Hungary. Julie has been to 39 countries so far, and, for the first time, she is content. Now, Julie is writing her memoir and it will be a relief when she can stop writing it.

J.D. Riso @ Goodreads
A piece of travel writing by J.D. Riso
Flash fiction by J.D. Riso
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Five Star Friday for Stacy Muszynski

Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) won a Five Star Friday award for one of the best blog posts of the week, this for the postcard life story of the wonderful Stacy Muszynski.
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Featherproof iPhone App

Featherproof Books has launched an iPhone app with 333-word stories. I'll have a piece out with their September launch, as will Amelia Gray, Blake Butler, Matt Bell, and a bunch of other fine writers.
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#74 Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos: Being Sick Almost All the Time Doesn't Stop Her

Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos was born in the tropical country of the Philippines in 1979. Growing up, she was a hospital kid—diagnosed with different illnesses that doctors didn’t understand or couldn’t treat. Often, all her family could do was pray for her. Luckily, it always worked. In school, Lanie became fascinated with writing and sports. Despite her illnesses, she was named Athelete of the Year in sixth grade—for her excellence in volleyball and swimming. Unfortunately, the health problems continued and when Lanie was 16 years old, her left breast had a discharge. The tests for cancer were negative and Lanie lived on. She met her husband a couple of years later in college and they were just friends at first. They didn’t realize how much they liked each other. Lanie was already pregnant with their first child when she got married. She had to drop out of college and her husband had to get a job to support their new family. It was such a bumpy journey in the beginning and then Lanie had a second child. After this, the doctor found that both of her ovaries were polycystic. The tests were negative for cervical cancer, though. Later, Lanie also had to be tested for colon cancer, which was also negative. Despite these difficulties, Lanie and her family are very happy and her husband can make the whole family laugh. Lanie writes--haiku, free verse poems and short stories--while her kids play. It lifts her up and lets her forget the pain that she lives with every day. Being sick almost all the time doesn't stop her from writing and now she has published a book called On Our Way Home, and two anthologies--Another Morning and Child Cancer: Fighters and Heroes. Lanie’s doctors are currently concerned about her lymph nodes, but the results of these tests will be negative as well.

[Update: Lanie recently found out that she has a blood infection that cannot be cured by any medication. Still, Lanie continues her job as a mom and a wife, plus it inspires her to write more poems. No one knows what will happen next. but the illness will not stop her from doing all the wonderful things she loves to do.]

More Shanzyra
Even More Shanzyra
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#71 Sean Lovelace: Running, Reading, Writing

Sean Lovelace was born in a clinic, not a hospital, which may explain why he later became a nurse and worked in a hospital. His biological father left when he was 1 year old and his mother was going to put him up for adoption. He didn’t know this then, but he felt abandoned, angry. Luckily, his grandfather adopted him and his uncle became his best friend. Then his mom remarried and Sean moved back in with his mother and his step-dad, who was great. The whole family would run together and read together. He often saw his parents reading and he thought that this was what he was supposed to do too. He also used to read the encyclopedia cover to cover until he found something interesting to make or do. Despite this, many of his childhood memories are of pain—hitting himself with a bolo, impaling himself on a tomato stake, that kind of thing. He went to the best schools, but was a middle class kid, so he overcompensated by writing hyperbolic stories about his classmates. When he was 14 years old, his dad challenged him to read War and Peace, which he did, but Sean didn’t really know how to use commas until he was 18 years old. Years passed. Sean kept running faster and faster. Running is the closest thing to religion for Sean. He can feel the earth moving through his body with each step. Sean read more and more books. He became a psychiatric nurse, which is how he met his wife--at the hospital (she wasn’t a patient). She is a therapist and Sean loves her heart and how much she gives to people. Sean loves their two kids, though he feels as if he abandoned his patients when he became a writing professor. His patients were thankful for everything that he did for them, though, and Sean is glad that he still makes a difference in people’s lives, which he does in many different ways—including when people read his stories and are somehow transformed.

[Update #1: Sean Lovelace's chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs is now available from Rose Metal Press.]

[Update #2: Sean is now the head editor for The Broken Plate, so, you know, send him something.]
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60 Writers / 60 Places

Luca Dipierro and I shot a bunch of 60 Writers / 60 Places in NYC over the weekend and I love this still from Leigh Newman/Living Room. We had set up the shot and then we were giving a bit of direction.
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#206 J. A. Tyler: Thoughtfully and Honestly

J. A. Tyler was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. J. A.’s child was good, normal, solid. There was no divorce. There were no massive events. When he was in elementary school, J. A. wrote a choose-your-own-adventure book and, at night, he used to read by the light from the hallway when he was supposed to be asleep. In high school, J. A. read The Catcher in the Rye and then he couldn't stop reading it and then he did a presentation as Holden (in his voice). Also, J. A. acted a bunch in high school and then in college too. In college, J. A. studied English liberal arts. In graduate school, he studied composition, literature, and theater. He has always loved to read and to write—it’s mesmerizing—so that made sense. J. A. watches tons of movies and loves the non-chronological aspects of film; it’s kind of like a time machine where you can go and do whatever you want, whenever you want. J. A. met Aime when they were playing brother and sister in a production of Father of the Bride and, then, some time after that, they got married. Aime is J. A.’s opposite—kind, loving, and playful—and she is a child at heart. It is phenomenal to see. She will order whatever new thing is on the menu. She is taken in by ads for breakfast cereals. J. A. and Aime have one son named Eddie who they could not love more and they have another son on the way. Eddie is amazing and funny and clever and smart and out of control; for instance, sometimes Eddie corrects people when they read to him; also, for a while Eddie named himself Eddie Rhino Johnson. Their dog is a Yorkshire Terrier named Sunny that barks at everything, but everybody loves her anyway. J. A. teaches high school language arts, theater, and film, which he does, in part, so that he can talk about literature and books and art all day. It should also be mentioned that a lot of people have died during J. A.’s lifetime and that the older he gets the more he thinks about it. It is frightening that we are always aging. But J. A. is proud that he made a person and that he is raising a person, that he made a book and has a handful more coming out. He tries to live thoughtfully and honestly. J. A. doesn’t know what’s next, but if he did he would rebel against it.

More J. A. Tyler
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Postcard Biographer

The talk show host, Mike Rogers of CBS Radio in Dallas, and I talked about Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) for his feature, "The Other Side of the News." The interview is playing on the radio several times today in Dallas and you can listen to it online here. Thanks to Mike for his interesting questions.
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#139 Stacy Muszynski, Miracle Baby

Stacy Muszynski was born 3 months early when her family was camping. This involved state troopers, some illegal things on the highway, and a bunch of brothers and sisters who still insist Stacy ruined their vacation. Stacy was called the miracle baby, which was too much and probably led to her sense of perfectionism and responsibility. Stacy’s childhood was a mixed bag. One brother fed her with an eye dropper. Another brother once gave her a running start as he packed a rock inside an icy snowball. When she thinks about the whole family together, though, it’s the living room’s flickering TV light, bodies sprawled every which way, everybody laughing. When she was 8, Stacy started playing soccer, the beautiful game, because her friend Chrissy was going to play (they’re still friends), and she learned to play each position. When Stacy was 9, her mother died unexpectedly. Stacy listened to her father cry himself to sleep at night (that was maybe the hardest thing ever, but good too, the way it demonstrated the power of love, the depth of sorrow). After that, Stacy found other mothers to take care of her, to learn from, to hug. She tried to be a good kid. Her mother's death keeps her close to tears and compassionate, a fragile gift. Years passed. Stacy went to college, kept playing soccer, had a bunch of different majors, graduated. After college, Stacy kept playing soccer—loving the beauty in the work among players: weave, give-and-go, overlap, everything in motion and open space, everything angles. Stacy has always loved chip shots, bananas, diving headers. She has always loved the smell of the grass in every season, the crunch of it after a freeze. There was the way Coach yelled at her from the sideline. There was how, when she struck the ball with the sweet spot of her instep, everything aligned and she realized a choir had started singing. Over the years, Stacy also tore some ligaments, acquired bad knees, and injured her back in a way that doctors could not quite explain. Soccer, it’s tough, and now it’s been 8 years and 4 months since she last played (as of 01/09). Another thing to know about Stacy is that she is incredibly inquisitive, which is one of the ways that she shows her intense desire for intellectual discovery and emotional connection. That is, if Stacy meets you, she will consider you her friend, and you will be. Further, she will keep writing one good sentence and then another good sentence until she has something important to publish. Also, now, Stacy has a permanent boyfriend, her husband, Vincent Cavasin, whose name she loves, along with his undying patience, his capacity for fun, his lack of sports knowledge, and his baby-butt-smooth skin. They met online @ Lavalife, and he was persistent, which was a good thing. Their as-yet-unborn kids will learn logic and high-level math from Vince and eye-foot-hand coordination and ball control from Stacy.

[Update: Stacy is now the web editor of American Short Fiction and its blog, so submit.]

Stacy introducing Denis Johnson
Stacy introducing Tim O'Brien



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#45 Adam Robinson, Publishing Genius: 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.

[Update: Adam Robinson has always insisted that Publishing Genius is transitive, but it's become clear that the Genius also refers to Adam. There's a great article on Adam's publishing genius in Inside Higher Ed and there's another one on his genius idea of an outdoor journal IsReads in Poets&Writers.]

A great piece of Adam's writing.
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Unsaid Reading at Unnameable Book

I'm reading with Brian Evenson, Brian Kubarycz, Joanna Howard, and Alexis Almeida at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn. It's on Saturday, August 15th, 5pm-7pm. It's for Unsaid magazine; it'll be good.
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More Everyday Genius; More Andy Devine

This is my second week guest-editing Everyday Genius and today there is a great piece by Andy Devine. Yesterday was J.A. Pak's formally-inventive adaptation. Tomorrow is a Venn diagram from Ingrid Burrington. Then there'll be some Catherine Moran, and, of course, some Kim Chinquee. And, speaking of, there's an incredible interview with Andy Devine at elimae; the brilliant Josh Maday asks the great questions.
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