Friday, April 29, 2011

Anonymous Love Letters / Don't Give Up

The artist Cynthia Gray has been collecting anonymous love letters for ten years. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking project and this June I will edit the next collection. Please feel free to send one in. I'm also a distributor for Cynthia Gray's don't give up magnets. If you need one, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#282 Robin Black: Growing Up Unhappy and Becoming Happier in a Way that Makes Unhappy People Feel Like They Can Become Happier Too

Robin Black was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. Her parents were legal scholars and she grew up in a great big house that was not a bit fancy. The house had lots of illness around it, which made growing up pretty odd. When Robin was 10, her grandmother who was a paraplegic from spinal tumors moved in with the family. Also, her father’s difficult moods dominated the household and his lack of balance kept everybody off-balance. Robin had ADD (still does) and other learning issues, which made her feel like a failure growing up. She was always the kid with unfinished homework and she missed lots of school because of illnesses, which had their basis in her fear of going to school. When Robin was 16, she asked her parents if she could go into therapy and that probably saved her life. She’s thankful for that instinct to get help when life felt so overwhelming. Robin’s memories of childhood are largely unhappy ones, but she always liked reading and writing, and she loved theater. She was in every school play and some community theater too. Playing a character was a great way to not deal with her own stuff. Robin studied voice too and can sing just about every song written between the two world wars. If she wasn’t going to be an actress, she was going to be a nightclub singer. But she didn’t pursue either, in part, because she was afraid of how sophisticated the other theater kids seemed when she got to college. That paralyzed her and she took German instead, which made no sense at all. During college, Robin took time off to return home and be her grandmother’s caregiver. After college, she became severely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave her house without having crippling anxiety attacks. During this time, Robin also had two difficult pregnancy losses, one late along, and those were shattering experiences. Robin met her wonderful husband Richard at a Public Service Fair when she was in law school, which she was doing so she could support herself and her kids. She was 30ish, had ended her first marriage, and was a mother of two children. Richard has been a full-fledged parent to her two older kids and to the daughter they have together. She’s amazed by how much he can give to other people. Around 40, Robin decided agoraphobia wouldn’t get in her way anymore. It took years of intensely difficult work, but she beat the disease. Most of the decisions Robin made the first 40 years of her life were motivated by fear. Robin’s kids are now 23, 19, 15 (girl, boy, girl) each amazing and amazingly kind. Her daughters are gamer girls and her son is a singer, which makes her super happy. Her youngest has significant learning disabilities and works so hard for things that come easily to most. The learning disabilities concern language processing, so Robin and her daughter are always trying to find the right words, though for very different reasons. Along with her family, Robin also loves her dog Watson, who is so loving back. It's important to have a relationship that doesn't involve words. For now, Robin wants to keep writing, to age well, and have friends who think she’s kind and funny, which she does. She wants to write a book about growing up unhappy and becoming happier that makes unhappy people feel like they can become happier. She also wants to sing more, but not in some corny, metaphorical way. She actually wants to sing more.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Best Man

I have a new piece of fiction up at The Good Men Project, which is narrated by a man who isn't much of a good man. It was inspired by helping my friend from high school, Stew Rat, write his best man toast for another friend of ours from high school, but the content doesn't really have anything to do with that -- except the part about eating dirt. Many thanks to Matthew Salesses for liking the piece.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear Everybody in Korean

I was surprised when I received the Korean translation of Dear Everybody and it was a hardback. Most translations are paperback. Then I opened it up and saw that it had a two-color interior that picks up the blue from the cover. American publishers don't do that kind of thing with novels. It's a really beautiful book. I wish that I could read it. Which reminds me, if anybody is good with Korean Google, I'd be grateful for a good jpg of the cover or any reviews that may be out there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#293 Brian Allen Carr: The Best Things Are Happening Now

Brian Allen Carr was born in Austin, TX in 1979. His father was a preacher, his mother a nurse. His childhood was pretty good except that there was often tension in the house and usually yelling. It was weird having an angry father who would preach peace and love in public, but screamed and broke furniture at home. Brian lost a certain respect for authority figures, but his father was always getting bigger churches so the family moved around a lot—different cities in Texas. Brian wasn’t a big fan of school, but he liked the library and skipped classes so he could read books there. He was a terrible student, always trying to drop out of high school, but his mother wouldn't let him. Eventually, Brian graduated high school and his father got fired from the church. After that, Brian went to Austin Community College for a few years, taking classes here and there. He started writing for a magazine called Salt For Slugs and decided to get a degree in journalism. When Brian was 21, his older brother died, which was terrible. They were pretty close. His brother had gone missing, then his car was found on fire and somebody wasn’t alive inside it. They had to match the teeth and then they cremated the rest of him. After that, Brian got really good at school for a few semesters. Then he moved to a new school and got really bad at caring about anything. Brian was in a band for a while and then culinary school in Vermont for a while. During that time, Brian got married for the first time. It was a good marriage, but it wasn’t a life-long thing. They are still friends and they high-fived each other when they signed their divorce papers. Brian only has one kidney, but that’s all he needs. He’s also got this condition called Chiari malformation that throws his perception off sometimes and makes things look taller or shorter or bigger or smaller. It’s fine most of the time, but being in public can be difficult sometimes. When he was 25, Brian moved back down to Texas and finished up college while working as a line cook. After Brian got his BA degree, he worked as a special needs teacher at a high school. He had 20 students and 12 assistants. It was a really fun job, except for the violent students (most of the students were the sweetest). While doing that, Brian got his MFA. He started sending out fiction and getting published. He published a book of stories, Short Bus, which made him really happy, and now he is an English instructor at South Texas College, where he is proud to work with the students and staff. Brian is also really proud of the books that he’s worked on at Boulevard and at Dark Sky—also, that he taught himself to juggle last summer. The best things are the things that are happening now. Brian’s happily married now. He met his second wife in a biker bar when she punched him so hard that he saw a bit of light. She kicks ass. A bit after the punch, they were holding hands. Also, she understands him. They have a two-year-old girl named Georgia who is perfect—and they have two dogs and two cats (Boo, Tyke, Wilson, Lola)—and Brian is really proud of having a family. He’s really proud that he can be proud of these things, because for 26 years he was a fucking mess.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Writers in Baltimore Schools

I'm doing a benefit reading for Writers in Baltimore Schools. It's on Wednesday, April 20th, @ 6pm in Mudd Hall at Johns Hopkins University. It's with Alice McDermott, Ron Tanner, Danielle Evans, Jean McGarry, and Elissa Weissman. And it's, you know, for a good cause.

[Click on the photo for more details.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Animation of Us

Us from Michael Kimball on Vimeo.

Luca Dipierro's beautiful and heartbreaking animation -- based on a single sentence from Us. Preorders are open at Tyrant Books.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 1-Hour MFA (in fiction)

I'm doing my 1-Hour MFA (in fiction) talk at Conversations and Connections: Practical Advice on Writing, which is in DC on April 16. My talk is at 3:45, but there's a whole day of great people talking about writing--including Steve Almond, Rae Bryant, Matt Bell, Amber Sparks, Tara Laskowski, Adam Robinson, Mike Young, Susan Muaddi-Darraj, Lalita Noronha, Eugenia Kim, Marita Golden, Dan Brady, Will Grofic, Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, Cathy Alter, Matt Kirkpatrick, Randall Brown, Steve Himmer, Dylan Landis, Eric Goodman, Janice Shapiro, Robin Black, Leslie Pietrzyk, Mark Drew, Mark Cugini, Reb Livingson, Kim Kupperman, Dan Cafaro, Molly Gaudry, Erin Fitzgerald, Susan McCallum Smith, and Dave Housley.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Us @ The Next Best Book Club

There's a really nice early review of Us at The Next Best Book Club. The good Lori Hettler says, "Michael Kimball has blown me away with his upcoming release Us -- a beautiful, heart-wrenching novel." Plus, she pulled one of my favorite bits as an excerpt.

Preorders are open at Tyrant Books.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#288 Stephen Graham Jones: He Lived and Died by Def Leppard

Stephen Graham Jones was born in Midland, Texas in 1972. As an infant, he got knocked out by a ceiling when a family friend threw him too high into the air and, before he was even one, he had more than 100 stitches in his face. Another time, the fire department had to be called to get his head unstuck from the highchair. It’s so easy to get hurt. When Stephen was 4, he got lost in Carlsbad Caverns and was found by this blond woman who said she could be his mom if he wanted. Before and after that, his childhood was dry and loud—with lots of pecans and lots of dogs and more stitches. The family was always moving—always different houses and different schools and different situations. In school, teachers were always after him for something—the way he wore his t-shirts, the way his boots smelled from feeding, the way he smiled, sometimes his long hair. When Stephen was maybe 12, his dad came through town and dropped off a Remington 870, Stephen’s first gun. For days, he stood out in a cotton field trying to figure out how to shoot it. Around this time, his 7th grade teacher died—the last teacher to believe in him—and there weren't any others after that. By that point, Stephen was ready to blow holes in the world. Once, he had to have his tongue sewn back into his mouth. Another time, Stephen ate 14 hamburgers in a single sitting, but now he can't remember the last time he ate one. He used to drink tall glasses of water before meals just to feel full. One year, he grew 13 inches. In high school, Stephen only wanted to play basketball, but he got kicked off a team that went on to be state champions. He didn't study anything or do any homework. He doesn’t remember taking any tests. One semester, he had 81 truancies. Once, he just sat on top of the school all day, but usually he played pool or worked on his truck or a friend's car. He raced his truck a lot. Sometimes, he went out shooting things. He lived and died by Def Leppard. Louis L’amour saved his life by giving him something to read and Hacky Sack saved his life by giving him something to focus on (and he still plays whenever he can). Eventually, Stephen received his diploma from an alternative school. Then he went to college even though he wasn’t supposed to. That’s where he met his wife, freshman year, at the edge of a parking lot, which changed his life. She was just who he’d been looking for and he still finds her every day. In 1991, Stephen ran a 5-minute mile while carrying a snake. For graduate school, he flipped a coin—philosophy or English. In 1994, in a jail cell, a guy named TJ saved his life. Stephen ended up with some brain damage to his visual cortex, but he’s all rewired now. Stephen started writing a month or two after that, when he could. In 1996, he saw Scream and that reminded him of everything that he'd loved growing up and it made him realize that it could be that way again. Horror movies are worlds that make sense, contained systems where bad acts are punished and good acts rewarded. Now, Stephen and his wife have a couple of kids. His wife doesn’t need to read his books because she sees right through them to him. He still has a lot of dogs and he has a lot of knives. Stephen has always trusted knives (but not guns) and he cuts himself a few times with each new knife so they can get to know each other. Stephen likes to wear boots, probably too much, and he likes to get lost. He likes his bikes, which he rides because basketball trashed his knees. Stephen wishes that he could meet his wife again for the first time and that he had every single moment of his kids' lives on a better Rolodex in his head.

[Note: More Stephen Graham Jones.]