Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#225 Isla the Dog

The dog showed up on the back step of the house in the middle of the night. The people already had two dogs, Molly and Gretta, who were barking their heads off. The people thought they’d find a burglar, but when they turned the backlight on, the dog was sitting there looking up as if she were expecting them. She was. The dog had fleas and a round belly because of worms, so the people called her Little Mama. Unfortunately, the people couldn't afford another dog, so the next day the woman took Isla to the shelter and then she cried the whole way home. The woman cried until the man got home. The morning after that, the man went to the shelter and got the dog back and brought her home. The people named her Isla after a short story by Susan Steinberg. Isla is probably a black lab and rottweiler mix. Isla is the dog the people always wanted when they were kids. She's like a big stuffed animal that will never leave your side. Isla loves running in huge circles as fast as she can with a stick in her mouth. Isla loves dancing and when the woman sings "Hey Mickey" in her terrible falsetto. One evening, when Isla was just a year old, a huge black dog showed up at the carport while Isla was sitting outside with her people. His dog tag said his name was Gravy and he looked a lot like Isla, but Isla and the people never saw him again. Isla loves Molly and Gretta and will start looking for Molly if she isn’t where Isla is. Isla is so relieved when she finds Molly. When they go to the dog park, Isla squeals the whole way there. Isla introduces herself to every dog and every owner there. When her people are away, Isla stands on the back of the couch and looks out the window until her people get home. Isla loves to spoon in bed. Isla snores and runs in her sleep. After a while, the people bought a king-size bed—because Isla scrunched them up in the full-size bed—but Isla just lay diagonally across the whole thing. If the man gets home late, he sleeps on the sliver of bed that is left. Isla would love it if she fit in a backpack and could be carried around all day like when she was little. She thinks she's smaller than Molly and Gretta, maybe because she once was, but she isn't. Isla likes to curl up in the woman’s lap even though she weighs 60 pounds. Isla is the only living thing that the people have ever met who is always happy. Isla even enjoys going to the vet. And life doesn't seem as bleak now that Isla has her people and the people have Isla. Isla loves her people more than anybody ever will. Isla keeps them alive.
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Dear Everybody @ The Next Best Book Club


There's a super nice review of Dear Everybody over at The Next Best Book Club. The good Lori Hettler calls Dear Everybody "a beautifully crafted collage of life"--along with all kinds of others nice things.
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Free Movie Night in LA






















Los Angeles: On Thursday, May 20, at 10pm at Sunset 5 Theater, there will be a free double feature, both I Will Smash You and 60 Writers/60 Places. Many thanks to the great Ken Baumann for making this happen. There is more information about both documentaries, plus stills and trailers, at Little Burn Films.
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Words: Uncompromisingly Original

Over at Emerging Writers Network, David McLendon says a ton of great things about Andy Devine and WORDS. It begins like this: "The appearance of Andy Devine’s Words in 2010 is not dissimilar to the appearance of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons in 1914. Though published nearly a century apart, Words and Tender Buttons share a kind of compositional timelessness that frames them as kindred texts. Each is uncompromisingly original, and neither is marked by an anxiety of influence. What they hold in common is an uncommon difference. Each is held apart from anything that has ever been written, which in itself is a nearly impossible task."

It also says this: "Devine’s Words has sidestepped the ordinary a few steps further than Beckett’s masterpiece." This: "Devine is the sole poet of this form." And this: "The 'Thoughts' section is comprised of 'A Grammar for Fiction Writers' that I feel essential for any writer who wishes to produce serious writing." There is more here.
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Meeting Words: A Live Editing Performance

This week at Meeting Words, Matt Bell is writing LIVE. The whole schedule is explained at Everyday Genius. I'll be doing a LIVE editing performance on Tuesday night, 9pm. Then Lily Hoang will edit LIVE on Wednesday. Then Matt will rewrite.
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City Sages: Baltimore

Tuesday, May 18th, 7pm. It's a City Sages reading at Barnes & Noble--Hopkins (33rd & St. Paul). Jen Michalski, Jessica Anya Blau, Madeleine Mysko, and I will be reading from the new anthology of Baltimore writers (edited by Jen Michalski). I hope to see you there.
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Giant Lecture #6: Acoustics

Lecture #1 is about openings. Lecture #2 is about ways to keep the fiction moving forward. Lecture #3 is about some ways to get yourself to sit in the chair and write. Lecture #4 is about story and plot. Lecture #5 is about language and sentences. Lecture #6 is about acoustics.
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Inanimate Object Week: #100 Jonathon Bender (Fictional Character)

1966 Conceived, probably on his father’s birthday, in San Clemente, California.

1967 Born during The Great Midwest Blizzard in Lansing, Michigan.

1968 Cannot do much for himself.

1969 The birth of his brother, Robert.
Jonathon asks for him to be returned to the hospital.

1970 Fears taking baths.

1971 Fails to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

1972 Breaks a window with his face.
Thinks he has gone blind.

1973 Falls in love with his babysitter.
Beaten by his father for leaving a door open.

1974 Cannot stop hiccupping.
Runs away from home; returns the same day.

1975 His father teaches him how to fight.
Thinks he is crowned the Burger King.

1976 Wears red, white, and blue clothes every day for a whole summer.

1977 Tries to stop his father from choking his mother.

1978 Runs away from home again and hides from his father in the neighbor’s garage.
His blackouts begin.

1979 Thinks cancer is contagious.

1980 Begins high school.
Worries he caused his grandfather’s death.

1981 Finds his father’s pornography and begins to learn about women.
Feels he is beginning to rot after getting a cavity filled.

1982 His first visit to a psychiatrist.

1983 His first sexual experience with a girl who is not in a magazine.

1984 Loses virginity; does not want it back.

1985 Breaks up with first real girlfriend.
Graduates from high school.
Leaves home to begin college.

1986 Tries to hug his father, but his arms are not long enough.
His mother worries about him being away at college.

1987 His parents separate.
Considers suicide after reading depressing novels.

1988 Stops going to class or studying.
His parents divorce.
An airplane explodes over Scotland.

1989 Graduates from college.
Cuts off contact with his father.

1990 Disappears for a year.

1991 Chases a tornado.
Lies on resume to get weatherman job.
Gets camera time in a small market.

1992 Meets Sara Olson, who recognizes him from television.

1993 Starts living with Sara.
Gets distracted by airplanes.

1994 Attempts to make it rain; fails.
Marries Sara.

1995 Attempts to conceive a child with Sara; fails.
Buys a house with a cracked foundation.

1996 Committed to a mental hospital by Sara.
Months pass; gets himself out.

1997 Sara separates from him.

1998 Begins looking for his childhood.
Loses job.
Refuses to sign divorce papers.

1999 Tries to remember his whole life.
Commits suicide in his car in the garage
at his home in Jefferson City, Missouri.

[Note: This piece was originally published in No Colony #1 and then in Dear Everybody.]
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60 WRITERS/60 PLACES at Eyedrum in Atlanta

There is an enthusiastic review of 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES by Wyatt Williams at Creative Loafing, which calls the documentary "a clever and surprising experience" and ends like this: "You start wondering which writer and place will come next, only to be confounded by each marvelous and gem-like revelation."

60 WRITERS/60 PLACE will be screened on Friday, May 14. at 8 pm, at Eyedrum in Atlanta, after a reading by Zachary Schomburg and Ann Stephenson. Event starts at 8PM.

If you can't make the screening, DVDs of 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES can be gotten at Little Burn Films.
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Inanimate Object Week: #219 Cubicle Wall (as written by Adam Robinson

At about three o'clock Central time, the cubicle wall was born at average height. The cubicle wall was happy about this, but before long he was laid flat and wrapped in cardboard. He was stacked somewhere. (He didn't know where because he couldn't see on account of the box he was in and also because he didn't have eyes or a brain.) He stayed there for several long days. He started to cry through his fabric. Then, earless, he heard a truck and felt himself lifted onto it. There was a rumbling. In the truck he traveled until the truck stopped, whereupon the cubicle wall was unloaded. He was elated when the box was peeled away and he was fastened to some other beige cubicle walls in the form of a box. Together with a computer and some pens they became a community. A phone came along and joined the group. The computer was friendly, but the pens were often short. The phone had a whiney ring. One day, and then repeatedly every weekday for three years, a good looking young man came and sat in front of the beige cubicle wall. He touched the computer, the phone and the pens. He rarely touched the cubicle wall except, occasionally, to stick some sheet of paper to it with a pin. The puncture didn't hurt nearly as bad as the feeling of being ignored. The young man seemed not to care about the cubicle wall. It was even as if the cubicle wall represented something hateful to the young man, or if not hateful, at least unbearably mundane. But the cubicle wall was resolute. He would be there for the young man tomorrow, too, and the next day, and the day after that. Oh yes, the cubicle wall would remain a presence in that young man’s life for many long years.

[Note: Adam Robinson's postcard life story is here.]
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Alice Blue

I have tiny piece called Plots in the new Alice Blue. There is also fine work by Amelia Gray, Brian Evenson, A. D. Jameson, Susan Moorhead, Erik Leavitt, Julio Peralta-Paulino, Erika Kristine Bogner, Sam Schild, Timothy David Orme, Benjamin Buchholz, and Aron Block.
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Inanimate Object Week: #98 Chair

Chair didn’t remember being a tree or being a part of something larger and growing. Chair didn’t remember the sounds of the chainsaws or the limbs cracking and breaking as the tree fell to the ground. The first thing that Chair remembered was being in pieces—the frame and the legs, the back and the slats, the contoured seat—and how strange it felt when the glue was squeezed into its holes. But then Chair felt so big, so sturdy, so grounded when he was standing up on all four legs. Chair thought: I could walk anywhere with four legs. But then Chair realized that his legs didn’t move independently of each other and that he couldn’t move at all without some help from Hand. Hands pulled Chair out and pushed Chair in, which made Chair feel as if he had no control over what happened. Also, Chair wished that he had arms. Sure, sometimes Chair stacked with other chairs, but that wasn’t the same as holding a person or holding another chair. At least, Chair didn’t think so. Chair couldn’t really know. Chair did know that there were others like him covered with fabric or cushions, something soft, but Chair soon realized that his life was going to be hard. Over the years, Chair lost count of how many people pushed him around and sat on him. Usually, it was the same couple of people, but sometimes it could be anybody. And all the people were so much bigger than chair, so heavy and so mushy. But Chair was strong. In fact, Chair was amazed that he could hold up over 400 pounds and not even get tired. And Chair always felt so light, such relief, when people got off him. Over the years, Chair started to creak. It was his back at first and then he got a little wobble in one of his legs. Chair started to come out of his own holes and nobody helped him. Nobody pushed chair back together or tightened him up. That’s when Chair got loose and Chair started making noises that made the people laugh. But Chair didn’t care anymore. Chair thought: Wood and glue. Chair thought: Next time, I’m letting go. And when Chair did, he broke one of his legs and then his back. Chair thought: That didn’t even hurt. Chair thought: I should have done that sooner.
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