Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#217 Sarah Black Likes to Do Things Her Own Way

Sarah Witte’s family moved every 2 years, so it was always a new school, new people, a new chance (she’s now lived in 14 states). By the time Sarah was 8, she already loved books and reading. She also loved pretending to be a nurse and bandaging skinned knees, which led to college at Old Dominion, where she became a registered nurse (and then, years later, a nurse practioner). After college, Sarah joined the Navy as a young ensign in the Nurse Corps. She loved belonging to a unit, but never stopped moving. At 25, Sarah met a young lieutenant commander and knew after 5 minutes that he was it. The first time she took his hand, Sarah could see their child’s face. Maybe they lived past lives together (though Sarah doesn’t believe in that). Regardless, the whole wonderful and heartbreaking affair seemed inevitable. He was married and a serial adulterer, but she forged ahead anyway. 7 years later, they had a baby. It was much harder than Sarah expected and that doesn’t even take into account her son, James. When James was 7 and failing in school and every interaction, Sarah quit her job, sold everything, and started driving west on a camping trip with him. Sarah likes to do things her own way, so she took James off all the meds and tried to figure out what was going on with him. It would have worked beautifully, but 6 months in they were broke. So Sarah drove onto a Navajo reservation and talked a small clinic at a boarding school into taking them both—a package deal. It was during this time (when she turned 40) that Sarah took on the last name Black and started writing. Sarah Black liked that the name was all hers. She discovered literary fiction, abandoned genre with almost no regrets (she has written romance novels and gay sleuth murder mysteries, but now she writes flash fiction), and started a publishing house for illustrated flash fiction chapbooks (Bannock Street Books). Sarah stayed at the reservation for 6 years, but eventually started taking long drives over the red dirt roads and thinking about Alaska. She wanted another adventure, so she found a small Inuit village on the Yukon River (no roads in or out; you get there by small plane). The clinic was next to the school, so she was right there if James needed anything, but Sarah hated it and only lasted 6 months. She left with James, but without a job, a vehicle, or a place to live. Now James is 17. He has autism, but not classic autism. He interacts with the world in his own particular way, but he’s a lovely person—full of affection, ready to help anybody. When it’s just the two of them, Sarah and James are a happy family. Now Sarah works as a nurse practioner at a community health center for the homeless in Boise, Idaho. She’s happy working there (and she becomes unmoored when she’s not working). She loves making people feel like they can change for the better.

Bannock Street Books
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Shattered Wig Press

Rupert Wondolowski has been getting it done with Shattered Wig Press for years and he has just put out a new book, The Elements from The Tinklers. I thought you should know.
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#131: Tao Lin Will Never Get Another Real Job for the Rest of His Life

Tao Lin was born in Flagstaff, Arizona. He had a very busy childhood that involved practicing the piano a lot. When he was 5, Tao remembers writing little books and selling them to his mother for $0.50. When Tao was small, his neighbor had a rabbit farm and sold them for money. Being near that changed Tao, and, because of it, he talks less shit about people publicly and makes fewer grand pronouncements. Growing up, Tao played kickball and baseball and basketball in the neighborhood, but not at school. When he was 10, he was playing poker with his neighbor and bet his entire coin collection. The neighbor won and Tao picked up his coin collection and ran back to his house and locked the door. The neighbor knocked a lot and said things like this: "Just give me half. I won't be angry." Tao kept practicing the piano until he no longer owned a piano that worked. Then, at New York University, he studied journalism, but he would have studied creative writing if there had been a program. His sophomore year, he broke up with his girlfriend and it was after that that he decided to focus really hard on writing. After that, Tao wrote and published you are a little bit happier than I am (poetry), Bed (stories), Eeeee Eee Eeee (novel), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (poetry). As Tao has noted in interviews, his writing expresses crippling loneliness, severe depression, and the arbitrary nature of the universe. Also, Tao enjoys repeatedly looking at statcounter, salesrankexpress, facebook, myspace, gmail, and bloglines. When a number changes, he feels like something has happened. His job is to promote himself to ensure that money will come to him 2-3 years from now, and then even after that. Everything is just some thing that Tao does. It can be either good or bad depending on the way he thinks about it. Once, Tao thought about peeing in an empty FYXX energy drink bottle and selling it on eBay. Another time, after he ran out of money, Tao sold 10% shares of his second novel, Richard Yates (2010), to six different people for $2,000 per share. But he has not sold shares for Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009). He will never get another real job for the rest of his life.

[Update: Tao Lin just published a new novel, Shoplifting from American Apparel and he has a band.
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Dear Everybody (Or: When a Poet Writes a Novel)

There's a really thoughtful review of DEAR EVERYBODY up at The Lesser of Two Equals. It says, in part: "Kimball’s background as a poet is apparent in his ability to isolate and frame small moments of a particular character’s experience. Fine attention to detail is exercised both as an art and as a special effect ... It has a surprisingly strong dark humor for being about such a serious topic, his observations are keen and quirky, and he knows how to let imagery make a scene swell." And I liked this bit about Jonathon's suicide letters: "This writing spree has all the highs and lows of a drug binge."
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#216 Matthew Simmons Likes to Get the Door for People

Matthew Simmons was born in Columbus, Ohio, and his family moved around a lot after that—Pennsylvania, Kansas, Upper Michigan. Matthew always had the sense that every place he moved had a version of a person from the last place he lived. He had a friend in Lenexa, Kansas named Loren who looked almost exactly like his friend Andy in Gladstone, Michigan (similar temperament too). Sometimes, Matthew tried to reinvent himself after a move, but eventually he realized that he was always Matthew. Matthew had wonderful parents, but still managed to be a kind of sad child, and sometimes he feels a little guilty about that. Lots of good things happened to him, though. For instance, once, he won Best Customizing in the Pinewood Derby. Also, it was nice the way Matthew and his brother were so close growing up (still are; they live just a few blocks from each other). It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that Matthew became a reader, but now he really likes books. In college, Matthew studied English—reading, writing, and writing about reading were the only things that he felt naturally good at. Once, Matthew wrote a short story that somebody else turned into a short film without asking him, but the guy flew Matthew to LA to see it on a big screen and he liked it. Years ago, Matthew had a friend, a coworker, and he would write weird little stories for her on sticky notes and then stick them on her desk. Matthew liked her and liked making her laugh. She encouraged him to take storytelling more seriously. Within a year, he was sending fiction out to online journals. Within 5 years, he had an MFA. Matthew continued to move through the years—Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and now Seattle, Washington. Moving to Seattle was big for Matthew. He had been rootless for a while. After Matthew turned 30, a lot of things in his life normalized. He stopped clamping his jaws. He stopped not letting things go. Also, the Zoloft has helped. A while ago, Matthew realized that he is often really melancholy and so he decided to just be okay with being sad, which sometimes he can enjoy now—not in a self-indulgent way, but in a natural way. Also, Matthew’s girlfriend is really wonderful, so easy to be around. His mind quiets down when he is around her. He likes waking up next to her and seeing her face softened by sleep. She's beautiful and smarter than he is and he likes that. Matthew’s cat let Matthew tattoo his likeness on Matthew’s arm. Also, he likes to get the door for people. Now Matthew works as a copywriter and feels settled, but there is a chance that he will move again—to go back to college to pursue a Ph.D.

Matthew Simmons’ first book A Jello Horse is now in its second printing and just received a really nice review in The Believer.

Also, Here's Matthew’s chapbook, Caves.
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This Blog Will Change Your Life

Ben Tanzer has a super nice write-up, at This Blog Will Çhange Your Life, in which he calls me "the dark overlord of all things writing, film and interview" and in which he calls DEAR EVERYBODY "moving, even paralyzing"--and notes that "pain can be captured on the page both sparsely and lyrically, an achievement that is magical."

Thank you, Ben Tanzer.
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Directors Notes

As Luca Dipierro says, Directors Notes is the best podcast for independent filmmaking, which is nice because they posted an interview with Luca and me, where we talk at length about I WILL SMASH YOU and about our next project 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES. You can listen to it directly on the website or save it on your computer and listen to it whenever you want.
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First Screening of I WILL SMASH YOU

We had the first screening of I WILL SMASH YOU at the PPOW Gallery and here are a few photos to prove it. We'll also be screening 60 Writers / 60 Places at the PPOW Gallery on December 12. Thank you, Jamie Sterns.

If you're interested in setting up a screening of I WILL SMASH YOU in your city, leave a comment or email me and I'll send you a DVD.
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#62 Micah Ling: Outside of Time

Micah Ling’s name has always given her problems. She is not Asian or a man. She is Native American (mostly) and a woman (completely). Micah has a twin brother, but she was born first (by about 45 seconds), and her twin likes to say that she ditched him (which she would never do). She loves her family and thinks of her parents as her best friends. She started writing her mother little poems when she was about 7 years old. Her father drives a motorcycle and she started running with him when she was 10 years old. When she was 11 years old, she became a vegetarian after seeing how the turkey was killed on Thanksgiving. It made her sad, especially since she gives a name to every animal that she sees. Micah ran through high school and through college. Running is her meditation and she can think about things while she’s running without getting overwhelmed. Micah went to Indiana University for her MFA in poetry and MA in literature—and met her future husband, Nate, there in Bloomington. Nate drove a motorcycle and she would ask him to give her a ride on his bike every time she saw him. After about a year of asking, he did and that was the beginning of them. It is years later and she continues to live on his endless supply of kindness and forgiveness. It is years later and Micah is still running, but her feet are full of pains these days. In college, she ran the national race with a broken foot that still comes back on her. She wishes that she had never raced. She would rather just run outside of time or competition. Now she has the best job she could have, teaching writing and literature. And she still writes poems, often formal poems, so that she can break all the rules.

[Update #1: Micah Ling and Nate Jackson married.]

[Update #2: Micah Ling just published her first full-length collection, Three Islands.]
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Barrelhouse Mixtape: Indie Lit in Charm City

Barrelhouse Magazine just put up its first Mixtape, which focuses on indie lit in Baltimore. I talk with them about Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), kind of the long version of the NPR interview. There's also Publishing Genius, Adam Robinson, on IsReads. Plus, there's a Josh Maday poem and there's Mike Ingram reading the postcard life story of Barrelhouse Magazine, which is also here. Nice.
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#215 Barrelhouse Magazine Is All About Great Writing, Pop Culture, and Cuddling

Barrelhouse Magazine had 4 fathers—Dave Housley, Joe Killiany, Mike Ingram, Aaron Pease—and no mother, which some people say is impossible but it’s not. Barrelhouse is proof of that. The fathers were in a writing class together and they kept getting together after the class for beers and writerly talk (which tended to devolve into random pop-culture talk—Snoop Dogg, David Lee Roth v. Sammy Hagar, etc.). One of those beer nights, Dave started talking about starting a journal and they were all into it. That’s how Barrelhouse was born in 2004 in Washington, D.C. Barrelhouse’s first words were “We worship power chords” (Matt Kirkpatrick) and it hasn’t stopped talking since. Now Barrelhouse is 5 years old, but if you ask Barrelhouse its age, it will probably tell you it’s #7 and soon to be #8. Barrelhouse ages irregularly. Also, Barrelhouse’s childhood was a bit drunken, but that didn’t seem to hinder its development. Early on, Barrelhouse had to ask writers for their words, but now Barrelhouse mostly relies on the slush pile (and it likes it that way). Early on, Barrelhouse had a thing for dodgeball, which was way before the movie and way before everybody started playing the game in a semi-ironic fashion. Sometimes, Barrelhouse wonders about its ink, thinks about the tattoos of its fathers—Matt’s tattoo of Pennsylvania on the inside of his wrist, say, or Dave’s Grateful Dead tattoo. For a while, Barrelhouse was all about Patrick Swayze, which was a strange time for Barrelhouse. Also, the time that Barrelhouse had those four poems in it about giving Ed Asner a spongebath, that felt a little weird. A while back, Barrelhouse’s parents were excited about the pieces that were chosen for one of those “Best” anthologies—an essay from Lee Klein on Barry Bonds and those poems about Ed Asner. Gradually, Barrelhouse staked out a voice in fiction, but it’s its nonfiction that sets it apart, especially the way it all relates to pop culture. Also, Barrelhouse always tries to maintain a sense of humor. Barrelhouse has a refreshing lack of pretense. They would, for instance, probably publish a 7K-word essay on Bring It On if somebody sent it to them. One thing you should know: None of Barrelhouse’s parents ride fixed-gear bikes or wear skinny jeans. They aren’t hipsters. They’re semi-cool, at best, but, once, one of Barrelhouse’s fathers (Aaron) got into an AWP dance-off with one of OneStory’s mothers that was pretty amazing. Aaron is the Justin Timberlake of Barrelhouse. Barrelhouse isn’t married, but it is interested in other magazines, especially if they’re about great writing, pop culture and cuddling—also if they play guitar or sing or maybe paint. All that stuff is totally hot. But, really, Barrelhouse is just proud to still be alive. Most magazines die young. Also, Barrelhouse is proud of everybody that it has ever had inside it. Writers are great. One of the best things that happens to Barrelhouse is when they meet one of the writers and the writer says, "I wrote this crazy thing about [insert crazy thing], but nobody would take it, and then I sent it to you, and, man, you guys seemed to really love it." Barrelhouse loves that. Barrelhouse hopes that keeps happening.

More Barrelhouse
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A Ribbon of Language: Blake Butler and Michael Kimball Talk About Acoustics

Blake Butler and I talk about acoustics--how we think about acoustics, how we use acoustics, and where we feel acoustics. We called the talk A Ribbon of Language. It originally appeared in Unsaid #4. Now it's posted in my interview column at The Faster Times, along with a Gary Lutz interview.
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