Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Day Marathon at Creative Alliance

I'm reading at the New Year's Day Marathon at Creative Alliance with 50+ other writers, performers, musicians. Everybody gets 7 minutes. I'm on 2:45-2:52.

Here's the promo paragraph: Celebrate the New Year with a wildly diverse day of spoken word and music. Join Baltimore son and writer for The Wire Rafael Alvarez, Charm City Kitty Club star Rahne Alexander, Underground Poetry Godfather Blaster Al Ackerman, Yao, Aware and Outraged (Ron Kipling Williams and Moziah), and local literary luminaries Chezia Thompson Cager, Mary Azrael, Kendra Kopelke, and Michael Kimball. Other musical guests include Liz Downing, John Berndt, Cliff and Rocky, and award-winning classical guitarist Zane Forshee. Throw in Maryland's Poetry Out Loud Champion Will Poxon, the Baltimore Improv Group, poetry animations (and many more fabulous people/acts we can't list them here) and you've got one awesome creative community all gathered under the Patterson's roof for an epic day of poetry, in the spirit of the annual marathon festival at St. Mark's Church in NYC. PLUS: write a verse on our poetry wall, put your New Years Resolutions in the hat to be read from the stage! Special thanks to Laurie Flannery for bringing us this cool idea! Hot, delicious Southern Style Brunch buffet (Black Eyed Peas!) and full cash bar (bloodies and mimosas!) Benefits CA’s Open Minds kids art ed. programs.

New Year's Day, 11am-5pm. $5.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Seven Things

The wonderful Gena Mohwish tagged me and I am glad to have been chosen. I am supposed to say 7 things about myself and then tag 7 other people to do the same thing.

1. I was born in 1967 in the days after the Great Midwest Blizzard.
2. Once, when I was looking up at the ceiling, a piece of plaster fell in my eye (it really hurts).
3. I don’t have a favorite color.
4. One of my nephews told me that I still hold the record for the 600-yard run at Meryl S. Colt Elementary School, which I probably set in 1978. It was part of the Presidential Physical Fitness program, but I never got the patch because I could never do enough pull-ups.
5. I like it when old classmates get in touch through Facebook.
6. Sometimes I am afraid to tell people what my favorite movies are.
7. I know that none of these things actually says much about me.

I'm going to tag 7 people who recently left me blog comments: Shane Jones, Anonymous, Peter Cole, Katrina Denza, Shanti Perez, Karen Lillis, Jen Michalski.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm Guest Editing Lamination Colony

I'm guest editing Blake Butler's online journal Lamination Colony and thought you might want to send something for it. I'm looking for the dark, the beautiful, the strange, the formally inventive, etc. Also, since it's online, and reading is different online than offline, I'm looking for the very short. There are guidelines here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

#50 The Farsightedness of Peter Cole

When Peter Cole was in the womb, his early-teens mother and 20-something father were on the run from the FBI, presumably because of statutory rape charges, and escaped to Mexico, which has often made Peter feel special but wrong. As an infant, Peter often stared at light sources, especially lamps, and his first spoken word was light, which his mother (who can hear the voice of God) believed to be a sign of his enlightenment. This also may have been the source of his crooked eyes and the reason he needed glasses early in life. Peter grew up in the church, watched The 700 Club, and prayed for his eyes to be healed. But his eyes didn’t heal and he couldn’t hear the voice that his mother heard either, which made him feel evil. In school, Peter was a chunky loner, so he started a punk band. He played music for years, but now that part of his life is over. Peter didn’t think that he would ever get married until he met the woman who would become his wife. Her name was Annie Dillard and they met, in part, because a mutual friend saw him reading a book by an author named Annie Dillard who is a different Annie Dillard. Peter doesn’t know much about cars, but he is the parts manager at an auto shop, a job he keeps because he hates shaving and cutting his hair. Recently, he stopped wearing regular clothes and only wears his work uniforms. He doesn’t know if he will ever go back to Mexico, but through his farsightedness Peter knows he will have a great, domesticated life with Annie, their beautiful beagle, Lilly, and their kids who are not yet born.

Keyhole Magazine, which Peter edits

[Note: Peter lives in Nashville and I live in Baltimore, but we're having dinner tonight, so I'm reposting his postcard life story.]

The Bookgeeks Interview

There is a nice interview over @ BOOKGEEKS where one of my answers is: "I am surprised by how many people die in my novels."

There is also a wonderful review of DEAR EVERYBODY @ BOOKGEEKS that appropriates the epistolary form and ends like this: "Thank you, Jonathon, for taking the trouble to write to everyone before you left a world in which you never felt truly at home. Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful book."

Thank you, Simon Appleby.

P.S. BOOKGEEKS is giving away a free copy of DEAR EVERYBODY; see the link with the review or the link with the interview.

Friday, December 19, 2008

119 Rejections @ Lucy Magazine

There's a nice little interview about Dear Everybody and other other things over at Lucy Magazine where I talk a little bit about the difficulty of publishing. Thank you, Susan Gray.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#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.

More Matt Bell

[Note #2: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear 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.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

#128 Michael Kimball Feels Like He Can Do Anything

Michael Kimball was born two weeks late, during the Great Midwest Blizzard of 1967. His father was huge, weighing as much as 450 pounds, and could be very scary—he had fast hands and nobody ever knew when he would go into a rage. But Michael’s mother was incredibly giving, often doing without so that her three children could have clothes for school, shoes for the basketball team. The family didn't have much money, but Michael didn’t realize this until later. For a long time, he was the shortest, skinniest kid in class or on the basketball team. Sometimes he still feels this way, even though he’s 6'2'', 200 pounds. He hit .853 one year in little league, and holds the Meryl S. Colt Elementary School record for the 600-yard dash. But he gave up all other sports for running—was all-state cross-country in high school—until he had a stress fracture in his left foot and never competed again. After that, he didn't have anything he felt great at anymore. He floundered through his early years at Michigan State, changing majors, flunking classes. Then he started reading a lot and became serious about writing. He can't believe he grew up identifying as an athlete and that now he’s a novelist. Some people think he channels voices in his novels, which is unsettling because of his family history concerning spiritualism. His great-great-great uncle was a noted medium in the early 20th century, conducting popular readings and séances. A dead Irishman was his connection to the other side. Michael learned from his grandfather little ways to supposedly communicate with the other side—knocks, slips of paper one carries until an answer is received, that kind of thing. After college, Michael moved to Chicago and then New York to attend graduate school. It wasn't until he arrived in NYC that he felt he belonged somewhere. If he had stayed in the Midwest, he probably wouldn't have become a writer. He’d probably be a high school teacher and unhappy. Dropping out of NYU was just as important, because he’d realized he wanted to write fiction, not anything academic. The other great thing about NYU is that Michael met his wife there, Tita Chico, who is smart and beautiful and kind and supportive in all the right ways. They’ve been together over 15 years, and have four cats and no children, and they like it that way. Michael had a huge struggle with his second novel, How Much of Us There Was, and almost gave up writing. The same thing happened with his third novel, Dear Everybody, but he somehow reached a point where he stopped caring what anybody else thought about his writing and that released him to finish Dear Everybody and to write Friday, Saturday, Sunday, which he recently finished. He never would have started Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) without that feeling. Even though he loves Baltimore, he sometimes misses NYC. But he’s glad he left. He likes who he is now better than who he was then. He feels like he can do anything.

[Note #1: This postcard life story was written by Sam Ligon after he interviewed me as I have interviewed so many others for this project. Thanks, Sam.]

[Note #2: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear 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.]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Keyhole Magazine Nominates "Sara's Eulogy for Jonathon" for a Pushcart

Thank you to Peter Cole and the other wonderful editors at Keyhole Magazine for nominating "Sara's Eulogy to Jonathon" for a Pushcart. You can read the story in Keyhole #2 or hear the podcast here (scroll down a little; it's #6).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

#127 Samuel Ligon Cannot Be Beaten

When Samuel Ligon was growing up, his family moved every 3-4 years (his father was transferred or offered a better job somewhere else). This never seemed strange, but Sam is unusually close to his three siblings as a result. After his childhood, Sam moved away to Urbana-Champaign to attend the University of Illinois, which turned out to be a great place to be because that’s where Kim was too. Back then, at first, they were both in these toxic relationships and friends with each other's toxic boyfriend/girlfriend, but they got together before their senior year. Everybody loves Kim (for example, she's never applied for a job and not gotten it). Sam knew that he wanted to marry Kim the minute they got together and she felt the same way, so they did that when they were 22. A week later, they left the country to teach English in Japan. Sam wanted to be a writer and he thought writers should leave the country. In Japan, they found a dead body, a guy who had hung himself up in the mountains east of Kyoto. The dead man was blue and they called him Blueboy and he was exactly what Sam had been looking for. They left Japan and Sam wrote a story called “Blueboy”—about some expatriates in Japan who find a dead body. It was published in The Quarterly—Sam’s first published story (1988). During three weeks in 2001, 9/11 happened 50 miles upwind from Sam and Kim, his first book was accepted for publication (Safe in Heaven Dead, 2003), and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer treatment sucked, and it was hard with a Paul and Jane (at the time, just 3 and 5, respectively), but their friends came from all over the country to help. Sam lived on Long Island for over 10 years—by far the longest he has ever lived anywhere. (Sam has lived in most states north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi.) Then he moved the family to Spokane 4 years ago, for his teaching job at Eastern Washington University. In the West, people think Sam is a New Yorker, and, most oddly to Sam, Jewish, which he’s happy to let them think. Now that the family has settled in Spokane, he doesn't want to move them again. Sam wants to raise Jane and Paul in one place, even though he claims to like the fact that he’s from everywhere. Jane is an incredible artist and Paul is the funniest person Sam knows. What else? Both of the kids are really nice people, probably because they have such nice parents. What else? Sam’s first story collection, Drift and Swerve, will come out in 2009. More? Sam doesn't play golf or have a boat, but he does edit Willow Springs. The last bit that recurs through the whole life? Kim is fine now, and Sam and Kim have been married 23 years. They're happy. They think their kids are happy. None of them has ever been beaten.

More Sam Ligon

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear 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.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Podcast Reading @ Apostrophe Cast

I read with Sam Lipsyte at Word Books in Brooklyn in October. Luca Dipierro recorded the readings and now Apostophe Cast has made the podcasts available. It was, I believe, the "yellow" reading--for those of you who have seen my tabbed copy of DEAR EVERYBODY. My reading is up now and Sam's will be in a couple of weeks. Thank you, John and Guy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

#123 Sherrie Flick Is Fully Formed

Sherrie Flick was born without a fully-formed hip socket and had to wear a brace the first two years of her life, during which she cried every single day. She insisted on having a pacifier in each hand and one in her mouth. Sherrie grew up in a Pennsylvania mill town and had an Americana kind of childhood. There was a penny candy store within walking distance of her house. In high school, she was a cheerleader and dated the captain of the football team her freshman year. She was also a good student, editor of the yearbook, and into new wave music—so by her junior year, her group of friends was called the Scoobs (after Scooby-Doo) and they were tormented endlessly. It was difficult to be different in any way. After high school, Sherrie bolted for UNH, because she wanted to be a poet and she thought all poets were from New England. During her college years, she worked in a bakery and started writing short-short fiction. After that, she traveled through Europe with her then-lover. Then she moved to San Francisco with her then-boyfriend. Things start overlapping here. Actually, Sherrie had a string of non-stop, overlapping boyfriends from age 14-26. She had a complicated relationship theory at the time, but can't remember what it is now. When she thinks about it, she envisions a lot of spinning plates. During this time, Sherrie would work until she saved enough money to travel. It was a pretty regular cycle. She kept on writing and traveling and baking and living the slightly unreal life of a 20-something until she felt like her life was about to float off into oblivion. Then she applied to grad schools. The University of Nebraska gave her funding, so off she went, site unseen. It was great for her writing, even if it felt like a nervous breakdown, which it actually was after a man there broke her heart. Nobody had broken up with her before and she went on a 9-month binge of serious interior thought, pool playing (8 ball), Jack Daniels, fiction writing, and gender studies. After that, there was a new guy in her fiction workshop, Rick Schweikert. They met in August, moved in together in December, were married two years later, and have been together for 11 years. He was the answer to everything, every single question. They moved to Pittsburgh, an hour from where she grew up, and where Sherrie now cobbles together a living writing/editing/teaching. Along the way, Sherrie published many stories in literary journals, and, in 2009, she will publish her her first novel, Reconsidering Happiness. Sherrie is still super into baking and Rick is super into eating. They have a big garden, which Sherrie embraced with her first real long-term relationship. The two go together for her. Pesto equals commitment. Fresh garlic equals devotion. Sherrie and Rick feel lucky in the life they have together.

More Sherrie Flick

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear 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.]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Australian Review of DEAR EVERYBODY

There's a very nice Australian review of DEAR EVERYBODY up at Just Listen Book Reviews: "I’m giving this novel five out of five, it was so dark (though not disturbing) yet touching, I loved reading this novel and would recommend it to anyone." Thank you, Allie.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Maybe You're In DEAR EVERYBODY Too

I always get a strange jolt of something in the back of my brain whenever I see J.M. Coetzee's THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MICHAEL K in a bookstore. That's one thing.

Then this other thing happened at a party. I was eating cake and this woman walked up to me and said, I'm Debbie Miller. I said something to her that indicated that I was willing to accept the fact that she was Debbie Miller and I ate some more cake. She said that she was her name again and emphasized the syllables. I realized that I was supposed to understand something, but I didn't. Then she said, Page 147? Then she said, The yearbook quotes? I still couldn't remember, but I tried to pretend as if I did. She knew I was pretending and said, I don't think you wrote DEAR EVERYBODY. I shrugged and she walked away. I went to get some more cake.

Here are all the names of all the characters:

Allison Adler, Mr. Akers, Mrs. Akers, Lisa Asher, Lisa Baer, Paul Barnett, Professor Bartoli, Michael Brody, Alice Bender, Jonathon Bender, Grandma Bender, Grandpa Bender, Robert Bender, Sara Bender, Thomas Bender, Professor Boyette, Coach Brackett, Cole Brooks, Diane Brunson, Jane Brunson, Sam Caginello, Simone Chute, Sheri Collucci, Mary Craftman, Joleen Curtis, Terrence Darnell, Veronica Dixon, Mr. Driscoll, Mrs. Driscoll, Mr. Evers, Mrs. Evers, Heather Fairing, Mrs. Farmington, Megan Fitzgerald, Dr. Fritch, Jennie Fuentes, Mr. Gardner, Mark Gibbons, Candace Graham, Kathy Granger, Lisa Green, Dr. Gregory, Kelly Hagan, Mr. Hall, Mrs. Hall, Maxine Haller, Coach Hawkins, Meredith Henderson, Thomas Hernandez, Greg Holiday, Henry Howard, Kay Huebler, Jimmy Ickiss, Al Johnson, Robin Johnson, Jimmy Kaspar, Bill Kendrick, Brian Knott, Francine Kuehn, Charles Leckel, Professor Lindstrom, Professor Lipaski, Ellen Lipsyte, Professor Martine, Catherine Mason, Sharon May, Carol McAnallan, Mr. McComb, Mrs. McCoy, Paula McDowell, Barbara Mertz, Debbie Miller, Leo Moore, Thomas Morris, Professor Moubray, Dr. Newman, Mark Nichols, Mr. O’Brien, Mrs. O’Brien, Megan O’Malley, Carol Olson, Grandma Olson, Harold Olson, Sara Olson, Joe Pennington, Angela Pirelli, Scott Poor, Bob Potterman, Marie Purdy, Chris Rathburn, Piper Reichman, Steve Rigowski, David Rissman, Mr. Roberts, Dr. Ross, Blinky Rush, Mr. Ryan, Lesley Samaras, Dan Schneider, Claire Sherman, Maud Siegel, Molly Simmons, Cheryl Smith, Tammy Spencer, Debbie Stornant, Rose Stringer, Mrs. Sussex, Mr. Taft, Jane Thompson, Laura Thorp, Mrs. Thorp, Dana Tucker, Ginny Twichell, Amanda VanderMere, David Vaughn, Elizabeth Vogel, Rosa Vostella, Danny Wakowski, Jim Washburn, Dana West, Ted Whipple, Lisa Wilcox, Steven Wilson, Alice Winters, Grandma Winters, Grandpa Winters, Maggie Winters, Miss Workman.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

#122 Peter Conners: Growing Up Dead

Peter Conners was born September 11, 1970 in a small town called America. He grew up in the suburbs with his three siblings. His dad put on a tie and went to work while his Mom stayed home. The family house was on a cul de sac. Peter started writing on his own in high school. He started doing it one day and never stopped. After he finishes a project, he switches genres and writing becomes new again, which means he’s also experiencing the world differently. Peter met Karen in high school and they first dated when they were 15. They dated off-and-on for the next 13 years. They went to different schools and sometimes lived in different cities, but they were never truly apart. In addition to Karen, Peter fell in love with the Grateful Dead. He went from being a fan to a Deadhead and followed the Grateful Dead on tour, selling sundry, and traveling around wherever. The music still gets him off every time he listens to it. Peter and Karen got married 10 years ago. She is a clinical psychologist specializing in children and now they have three children of their own: Whitman (after Walt), Max (just because), and Kane (after Karen’s mother’s maiden name). Peter lives in Rochester, NY, where he works as an editor and is in charge of marketing for BOA Editions. Next spring, he will publish his third book, a memoir—Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead.

More Peter Conners

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear 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.]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

J.A. Tyler Is Making Some Great Chapbooks at Mud Luscious Press

J.A. Tyler is making some great chapbooks at Mud Luscious Press. The first six are sold out (officially; there are still ways to get them); I especially loved the Blake Butler and the Brandi Wells and the Shane Jones. You can buy them individually or get a 6-month subscription--here's who you would get:

MISERABLE FISH by colin bassett
DON'T GIVE UP & DIE by james chapman
A HEAVEN GONE by jac jemc
LIKE IT WAS HER PLACE by kim chinquee
& THE UNIVERSE OF THE BODY by norman lock
WHAT I SAW by randall brown
THEY by brian evenson
BLUEBEARD by michael stewart
(forthcoming) by peter markus
THOSE BONES by david ohle
MOLTING by aaron burch
ALTRUISM by matthew savoca
(forthcoming) by johannes göransson

Monday, December 1, 2008

#119 The Comfort and Joy of Andrea Trindade Belo

Andrea Trindade Belo grew up on a campsite in Portugal where people from all over the world spent their vacations—which was great because there were always happy people around. When she was 17, she fell in love with a German boy. Andrea saw him summer after summer, but was so shy that she couldn’t say much to him. For university, Andrea moved to Lisbon, where she decided on philosophy, instead of literature, because she’s especially fond of aesthetics and symbology. When she was 23, that was last time Andrea saw the German. 8 years have passed, and there have been a few relationships, but she is still in love with the German boy. Now Andrea works in a museum, an interactive science and technology centre. It is in a beautiful location, just the place for a life-changing experience! 6 months ago, Andrea joined a Facebook application, Six Degrees of Separation, and the German boy’s face was the first one that showed up. He remembered her and now they talk through Facebook. He is still Andrea’s dream boy, but she doesn’t have the nerve for more right. She will soon, though. She realizes that she needs to let her teenage crush know how she still feels all these years later, that she has to make that relationship real or move on with that part of her life. Andrea is a very peaceful person. She lives in Lagos, Portugal—in a beautiful flat near the beach-- with her 5 dogs—Zu, Misha, Chica, Scruffy, and Ollie. Her best friend is her downstairs neighbor, John. They share the dogs and meals, the garden and wholesome free time. She adores her niece, Lara, and also her dogs. Zu, Misha, Chica, Scruffy, and Ollie want all her attention and love and Andrea is happy to give it all to them, all the time. They always give her back more. She feels blessed for finding each one of them. They are her comfort and joy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Wonderful Review of DEAR EVERYBODY that Appropriates the Epistolary Form

There is a wonderful review of DEAR EVERYBODY @ BOOKGEEKS that appropriates the epistolary form and ends like this: "Thank you, Jonathon, for taking the trouble to write to everyone before you left a world in which you never felt truly at home. Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful book."

Thank you, Simon Appleby.

P.S. BOOKGEEKS is giving away a free copy of DEAR EVERYBODY; see the link with the review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

German Review of DEAR EVERYBODY

The Junction, a German magazine for contemporary culture, gave DEAR EVERYBODY a really nice review--5/5 stars and they call it "beautifully heartbreaking" (though they say it in German, not English, so the actual words are actually different words). Regardless, it's nice, and I'm thankful, in any language. Danke, Kathleen Wächter.

#85 The Many Parts of Mike Marcellino

Mike Marcellino was born in Baltimore and, like Baltimore (in part), he is part English, part Scottish, part Irish, part French, part German--and he was raised Italian. When he was 3 years old, his parents split up—and he stayed in a hotel in Miami Beach with his mother. There is a family story that he fell off the hotel’s three-story balcony and landed on his head, but Mike doesn’t remember that. What he remembers is meeting Tony from Cleveland who was impressed with his Superman act (think bathing suit and pool towel for a cape). Tony was also impressed with Mike’s mother, later marrying her, becoming Mike’s step-dad, and moving the family to Cleveland. Mike also remembers his great uncle Buddy, a Hall of Fame jockey, which may explain Mike’s great affinity for riding his bike. Many years later, Mike joined the Army and became a combat correspondent in Vietnam. Mike continued as a journalist after he came home and brought good attention to difficult issues concerning the wellbeing of veterans. Mike is proud to have served and misses his veteran brothers, both the living and the dead. In the early 1980s, Mike jumped from journalism to politics. He worked as a political aide to former Cleveland Mayor Michael White and to former Congressman Louis Stoke, where he did more good work on human rights and veterans rights issues. The other thing to know about Mike is that he has always lived by the water. He met Joan Baez near the banks of the Cuyahoga River. And while there is no surf in Cleveland, one of his life’s greatest moments was surfing alone in a perfect thunderstorm in St. Augustine. Along the way, Mike had three great kids. He loves them dearly and loves how they each grew up into their own uniquely independent free spirits. Mike has always been out of the box too and he likes it that way. Now he’s a poet and the front man for the band Split Pea/ce—making music out of poems he wrote in a bunker during mortar and rocket attacks in Vietnam.

More Mike Marcellino
Listen to Split Pea/ce

what Is the outside of the moose made of?

If you Google this -- what is the outside of the moose made of? -- this blog is the first hit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#118 Nate Jackson Loves His Life So Far

Nate Jackson was born in Mishawaka, Indiana on January 17th, 1981 (less than 24 hours after his wife was born). School bored Nate and he was often sent to the principal's office. In 5th grade, he got caught hiding under his teacher’s desk, which resulted in him spending a week’s worth of recesses under the principal’s desk. Disliking school led to poor grades, which led school counselors to think him simple-minded, which led to 3 days of intense scrutiny and testing by a child psychologist, which led to the discovery that Nate could perform at an 11th-grade level. That was when he was in 7th grade, the same year Nate’s parents got divorced and he lashed out even more in school. He was always a kid who loved to blow things up. Nate skipped 8th grade and was sent to a yeshiva in Chicago. He would never live with his parents again, only seeing them for brief summer visits and school vacations. But Nate hated living in a dorm and 9th grade was a disaster. After a couple suspensions, he was asked to not return and went to live in Cleveland with his uncle. He attended a smaller yeshiva where he could get more personal attention, but, after a year, his uncle moved away. Nate lived his last two years of high school with the Falk family, where Mr. Falk taught him how to play guitar, which Nate learned, along with how to write songs. It became his art. After high school, Nate moved to Israel to study at a rabbinical college, but quit after 1 ½ years, and became a sniper for the Israeli army. Of course, given previous discipline problems, Nate hated the army. He stopped being religious based on his newly-heightened self-awareness. After he got out of the army, he denounced violence and became a peace protester in the West Bank and Gaza. After a year of that, Nate returned to the US to attend Indiana University. His last semester at IU, Nate met his future wife, Micah Ling, and, after a few months of her asking him for a ride on his motorcycle, he said yes. It's been love ever since. Last year, they moved to Nashville so Nate could play music, but they missed the easy Indiana life and moved back to Bloomington. As an adult, Nate has grown close to his parents again and he loves them dearly. He also loves his life so far. Nate still plays music every single day, usually after he wakes up—because his voice is raw and his fingers are calm. His time with Micah and their bashful dog Bourbon has sugarcoated his sour memories and rounded his rough edges. They've been together for 4 years and got married on October 5th in a park near their house. Nate loves Micah more than anything and he will live every adventure with her for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

#117 Baby Charlotte @ 4 Months

Laura and Mike met at an improv class, one of the results of which was Baby Charlotte, who was born June 13, 2008, which was 3 weeks early. Also, she was face-up, which meant that she was delivered in a c-section, which meant that Charlotte was kind of perfect when she was born. Shortly after this, Charlotte’s father introduced himself and she immediately became calm. She already had that much confidence in her mother and her father. At first, Charlotte could only focus on objects that were within 6 inches of her face, but now she can see much farther than that. In fact, she prefers to face out when she is being held. She wants to see everything. Charlotte started smiling very early in her life, an early sign of her happy temperament. She doesn’t cry much and one of the few ways she shows discomfort is by pushing out her lower lip. Charlotte is good at drooling, blowing spit bubbles, and laughing. She has the brightest face and slatest blue eyes. Charlotte is currently obsessed with her hands. Her bedroom is filled with animals and books. She loves the Belly Button Book and Pat the Bunny, which is also a book. Over her crib, there is a mobile that has a monkey, a bird, and a frog. It will be years before she believes that only one of them actually flies. She loves to lie on her back, kicking and talking. She loves to sit up in her red chair and to stand up if you hold her up. She loves being swaddled. She loves it when her mother holds her in her arms and swings her around. She loves being tickled. She loves her orange friend, which is maybe a cat or maybe a rabbit. Nobody really knows. Charlotte likes to wear hats, but she often kicks the booties off her feet. She mostly wears hand-me-downs from their friends' children. Over the first 4 months of her life, Charlotte has had a wide range of nicknames—everything from Tater Tot (in utero) to Charlotte O-town to Charlotte Poo Poo, which later turned into Charlotte Popovich, to Char-Char Binx, which later became Binx. She doesn’t find any of this confusing. In fact, she is quite proficient at her own gibberish. Recently, she has been imitating a lot of facial expressions. Recently, there has been a lot of tummy time and Charlotte has been working on rolling over. Charlotte is loved so much that she can’t wait to grow old enough to start talking with words that her mother and her father understand so that she can tell them how much she can feel it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

#116 Michelle McGrane Will Love and Be Loved

Michelle McGrane was born on August 23rd 1974 in Mutare, Zimbabwe. When she was 1, her family moved from Zimbabwe to Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, where Michelle spent an idyllic childhood—until 1989, when it was interrupted by a 6-month period in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada in 1982/83, during which she was 9 and fell in love with autumn leaves, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and snow. As a toddler, one afternoon Michelle was left alone to sleep but didn’t; instead, she painstakingly smeared everything in her bedroom—the walls, her bed, her teddy bear, herself—with Vaseline petroleum jelly from the giant pot on her changing table. She loved that slick, smooth feeling. When Michelle was 7, she wrote, illustrated, and covered with glitter her first book, a Christmas story. As a girl, Michelle idolized Princess Diana and thought she might become a princess or, maybe, a ballerina. Michelle would also take care of elephant hawk caterpillars, which have large false eyes and a single soft horn on their backs, until they would wander off into the garden to transform into moths. When she was 14, the family moved to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, which was difficult—leaving childhood friends and family pets behind, going to a racially segregated high school, having to learn a new language, Afrikaans. In 1993/94, Michelle spent a year living and working in London where she survived on toast and never had enough sleep. Now, Michelle is a poet with two collections—Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). She reads so much that she can't imagine a world without books. Since the beginning of 2007, Michelle has lived in Johannesburg, and, for the rest of her life, she will read and write poetry. She will love and be loved. She will grow old gracefully. Michelle is doing everything in her life that she wants to do with her life.

More Michelle McGrane

Saturday, November 8, 2008

#114 Sammy the Dog

Anne wanted to surprise her son, Will, with a dog. Will didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and what boy wouldn't want a dog? At the breeder, there was only one puppy, and nobody wanted him because he was too big for a Bichon Frise, but Anne was so excited that she took him home. They named him Sampson, after the Bible story, but the reference became irrelevant. They always called him Sammy or Sam. On his first day at home, Sammy learned his name and would come when called, so they knew he was really smart. When Sammy was a puppy, he was like a live q-tip—a cottony-white fluff of dog. He loved to pounce on balloons, but would cry and run away when they burst. At first, they tried to put Sammy in the bathroom at night, but he would cry and cry, so Anne would sleep on the couch with Sammy on her chest and that made him happy. When Sammy was 3, they got Francine, another Bichon Frise puppy. Sammy realized that he was a dog and was pretty depressed for a few days. Luckily, Francine adored Sammy and accepted his status as the alpha dog. Before long, Sammy and Francine became friends. Sammy loved to swim, to go for boat rides on Keuka Lake, to run in the snow in Vermont, and to go for rides in the car. Sammy was originally meant to be Will's dog, but he eventually became Anne’s dog—in the way that dogs will choose whose dog they are. Sammy’s favorite song was "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and Anne would sing it to him, changing a few of the words to put his name in it: "Sammy's been working on the railroad." Sammy loved that so much he would roll over on his back and moan with pleasure. Sammy also had a great long-term memory. He loved it when Anne retold stories of good times he'd had: "Remember that time at Susan's house when you and Woody and Aspen all ran in the grass? Remember that time?" Sammy would roll around and moan. He remembered. He was a very verbal dog. Once, Sammy almost got killed when an airport luggage truck ran over him. At the emergency hospital, they were happy to find out that Sammy didn't have any broken bones, which was miraculous. Toward the end of his 106-year life, Sammy lost weight and his hair started to fall out. He became incontinent and had to wear diapers, which Anne called jammies to preserve his pride. Sammy still loved his walks and eating. He still had good quality of life. He could still jump up on the couch to sit with Anne, and, every night, Anne would say to Sammy: "If something ever hurts, you just tell Mommy, because Mommy will make it all better." Sammy would look at Anne and understand. One day, Sammy started vomiting and stopped eating. The vet did some tests and, suddenly, Sammy only had a few days to live. The vet came to the apartment and Sammy died in Anne’s arms, where he spent so much of his happy life.

#112 The Difficulties of Being Giancarlo DiTrapano

Giancarlo DiTrapano (Gian to his friends) was born in West Virginia, which is beautiful and where there is lots of drinking and lots of drug-taking and underage sex, where there are lots of mountains and rivers and the music is usually classic rock and roll--Van Halen, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, which is also beautiful. When Gian was little, he was stung in the eye by a wasp. When Gian was 9, his older brother, Lidano, died in a car crash when a couple out for prom night pulled onto the highway and hit the car Gian’s brother was in, which then struck a utility pole at 60 mph. Everybody except for one passenger died. Gian’s brother was the first person close to Gian who died and it started a chain of deaths throughout his young life that he thought would never end. Luckily, Gian had his sister, Lia, who he loves more than anybody in the world. Plus, his parents are miracles. And, fortunately, after a while, people stopped dying so much. Gian moved to New Orleans for college and studied philosophy there, mostly because his cousin Meredith did. At some point, Gian moved to Rome and learned how to speak Italian in Sezze. At another point, Gian moved to New York City. After this, he broke up with his girlfriend of 10 years, which was difficult, but he had fallen in love with something else. Another difficult time was Gian’s other older brother, Dante, going to prison. Also difficult, Gian suffers from cluster headaches that can last for a month. Once, Gian saw somebody on a TV show, walked to his computer, googled the person, emailed the person, and then walked out of his apartment. A few hours later, the person had emailed Gian back. They met for a drink and have been dating ever since. Now Gian works as a bartender and as the publisher of New York Tyrant. The rest of his life, Gian would like to get to the end of it without too much more suffering and pain.

New York Tyrant

Guardian Profile

Kate Salter wrote a very nice profile of Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) in the Guardian's weekend magazine.

You can only see the text at the link. The print magazine also has scans of the postcard life stories and photos of Blake Butler, Karen Lillis, Nate Jackson, and Moose the Cat.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

#111 Aaron Goolsby: He Can Go Anywhere

Aaron Goolsby was born in Oklahoma City, OK and then adopted into a Mormon family where he grew up with all the love in the world. He was a sick child, though. His mother was often sick too. They spent the first 5 years of his life mostly together, mostly in bed, the both of them sick. When he was 6, he wrote a book about a bird and a bee being friends. For the first 9 years of his life, he went to the same church as his biological family, though he never knew it. Then Aaron’s adopted family moved to Witchita Falls, TX for his dad’s job as a special agent for the railroad. That year and the rest of 4th grade were difficult—the OK schools were behind the TX schools. Also, he was always a big kid and sometimes he got picked on because of it. That spring he fought back for the first time and got kicked out of the school system (and ended up going to a private Catholic school). As a Mormon, Aaron read a lot, both scripture and literature; Aaron loved reading science fiction and fantasy; the other worlds were a perfect fit for him. When he was 15, Aaron met his biological mother, who is Hispanic, and this created identity issues for him. He didn’t really know who he was anymore. This was compounded by his weight. Sometimes he would act in ways that were not him, act the class clown, the stereotypical fat kid, just so that other people would like him. It worked. They did. When he was 19, Aaron went on a Mormon mission to California to preach the gospel. After 9 months, he was hit by a truck, and, even though he was OK, he used that as an excuse to go home and see his mother, who was very sick. His mother was always his savior and he was grateful for being adopted by her. She died when Aaron was 20, which was terrible and confusing. Aaron left the Mormon Church and started spending more time at the bowling alley (he had grown up a bowler). Within a couple of years, Aaron was drinking and doing whatever drugs were available—mostly psychedelics like acid, mushrooms, LSD, but also lots of cocaine, plus prescription pills, especially anti-anxiety pills. During these 10 years of drugs, Aaron worked at a Pizza Hut, worked as a security guard, and wrote three bad novels. He has always been a writer—a tell-all person. After a couple of near-death episodes, especially a bad LSD trip that he almost didn’t make it back from, and visions of Chris Farley, Aaron got clean. He didn’t want to end like that. Now he’s living back in Oklahoma City and working for Southwest Airlines. He loves the free travel. He can go nearly anywhere. He just has to decide where that is.

On Book Tour

The reading last night with Jessica Anya Blau in DC was great. And tonight I'm reading at Myopic Books with Darcie Dennigan in Providence. And tomorrow, I'm reading in Boston/Cambridge with Kim Chinquee and Timothy Gager, at the Dire Reading Series. There's more information, with links here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hobart Interview: "Each letter is its own story"

The very fine Hobart has a new issue up. There's new fiction from Ravi Mangla, Lindsay Hunter, V. Ulea, and Sara O'Leary. And there's an nice interview where Matthew Simmons and I talk about how DEAR EVERYBODY was written, my aesthetic grandparents, and suicide.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

#108 Kate Salter: Wide Landscapes and Bright Light

Kate Salter was born to Colonial parents in 1980 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Everybody calls her Kate, except her mother who calls her Kath, George, Georgina, Harold, Lucy, Tribelet, or any of a number of other names. Kate moved to Cape Town when she was 2. Her parents divorced when she was 9 and her mother mostly raised her after that (though she was always in close contact with her father). Growing up white in Africa left her with no real sense of home. Her identity feels like it is hers, but she says it isn’t. Kate had a very happy childhood, but after moving to the UK when she was 11, it felt utterly gone—not just temporally, but also spatially. Kate found herself seeking wide landscapes and bright light, but that was hard to do in England. Her teenage years were spent in rural semi-isolation in Sussex, at a terribly sweet and innocent school for girls, with ponies and cream teas and green gym knickers. She doesn't think she has quite recovered from that. After her degree, Kate taught English in Japan, then temped in the charity sector, but office work was disenchanting. So she pursued acting, which she still loves, and then journalism. Kate met her first proper boyfriend when she was 19 and they were together for 6-7 years. She got pregnant as they were breaking up. Kate’s son, Jem, just turned 3 and she still tries to co-parent with his father. Jem is the deepest emotion that Kate has ever had or could ever imagine. It is a wonderful life sentence. Also, it helps that she made him and that Jem is really clever, good looking, and funny. One day, Kate wants to learn how to drive and how to fly on the trapeze. She might get a tattoo, but only a really good one. She might sing some and act more. She will travel by couch surfing with her son and she will visit her parents in South Africa. She might have another kid, maybe. For now, Kate and Jem live in the lively seaside town of Brighton, where it is so beautiful that it’s difficult to not be happy there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

#106 Leslie F. Miller: Let Her Eat Cake

Leslie F. Miller was born in Baltimore on the eve of Yom Kippur, the day one is supposed to do no labor. By 7, she was a great swimmer. She was also one of the early latch-key kids. Growing up, she sometimes ate frosting out of a can for dessert, which is a partial explanation for why Leslie can’t control herself around cake. Leslie liked to sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone. She wrote poems that got passed around the school because everybody could relate to Leslie’s poems. On her Sweet 16 birthday, her three best friends stopped talking to her, though years later they apologized. After this, Leslie remembers sitting in the dark in her walk-in closet listening to Patti Smith and writing death poetry. She knows what it is like to be without friends. Around this time, she started going to see bands and she once met the Ramones after she was thrown out for standing around backstage. In the early 1980s, she was one of the first people to rollerblade. In college, Leslie joined a band that once opened for the Thompson Twins, but her bandmates did too much cocaine and the band broke up. It was around this time that Leslie met her husband and they have been together ever since even though he wasn’t her type—a hippie with long hair and a beard. He was nice and funny and smart and she loved the way that he played guitar. After over 10 years together, they got married so that they could go on a honeymoon. Years after that, their daughter Serena Joy was born (so named because her mother thinks of herself as Neurotic Misery). Serena is psychic and can read Leslie’s mind at the strangest times. Once, Leslie chopped off the tip of her thumb. Also, her hands fall asleep when she raises them over her head. What else? She’s a writer and a mosaic artist and a photographer and she’s good at being each of them. What else? She used to teach college, but doesn’t anymore and she feels pretty good about that. One more thing? Sure. Leslie’s one goal in life was to have a book published: Let Me Eat Cake—which is a kind of history of cake, including cake folklore and lots of interviews with people who love cake—will come out Spring 2009.

More Leslie F. Miller

Friday, October 31, 2008

Johannesburg's The Citizen: "Superb"

There's a nice little review of DEAR EVERYBODY in THE CITIZEN, a Johannesburg newspaper, which says: "Kimball does a superb job," among other nice things. Thank you, Bruce Dennill.

Caketrain #6

The new issue of the very fine Caketrain is now available for pre-order. I have a short piece from FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY in it, the novel I just finished. Plus, there are all of these other wonderful people in it too:

Wolfgang Matzl, Josh Wallaert, Danielle Wheeler, Aby Kaupang, Sara Levine, Eric Baus, Paige H. Taggart, Stacie Leatherman, Shane Jones, S.E. Smith, Katherine McCord, Jayne Pupek, Ryan Call, Thomas O’Connell, Catherine Kasper, Janelle Adsit, Kristen Orser, Tom Christopher, Janis Butler Holm, Ben Mirov, Clark Chatlain, Kim Chinquee, Bonnie Roy, Norman Lock, Stephen Ellis, Michele Kingery, Jordan Sanderson, Gracie Leavitt, Rituale Romanum, Joshua Ware, Jac Jemc, Karyna McGlynn, Michael Kimball, Elizabeth Winder, Forrest Roth, Jennifer Jean, Patrick Misiti, Kim Parko, Gretchen E. Henderson, Kathryn Rantala, Cori A. Winrock, Brian Foley, Anne Heide, Christof Scheele, Jenny Hanning, Kate Hill Cantrill.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

#103 Rachel Joy: Conflict Resolution

Rachel Joy was born in Uganda during a civil war, the youngest of six. Her father was a priest, her mother a nurse. When Rachel was 28 days old, her mother crossed the border to Kenya with all 6 kids. She is Rachel’s hero and her inspiration. At 3, Rachel’s father got a job in Sweden and the family followed him there. Rachel was a loner as a child. She started a year early because she was so smart. In 5th grade, Rachel started getting sick all the time—migraines, stomachaches, other various ailments. She would go home after school to read and write, so she didn’t have many friends. She devoured every book in the house, and then started on the books in the library. When Rachel reads, she forgets about the world around. When she was a child, her mother would punish Rachel’s siblings by forcing them to read and punish Rachel by forcing her to watch television—seriously. Rachel played the piano and wrote songs and poetry and stories. At 15, she went to a music school, but dropped out. Around this time, she started wearing suits and got the nickname Evil because she rarely smiled. Her body was in a state of uproar, but nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. Rachel finished high school and started university where she studied communication in English, international migration and ethnic relations, and peace and conflict resolution. She loved her freedom at university, but, after her third year, she decided she was done with Sweden, and applied for the University of Bradford (at the time, the only university in the world with an MA in conflict resolution). Warfare fascinates her, but coming from a war torn country has left Rachel with the desire to build up her native country—and maybe save the world. After her MA, she moved around a bit. In 2005, she was staying with her father when she found him dead in his bed. The worst part of dealing with her father’s death was that everybody wanted her to tell the story of finding him. The only time her father ever said that he was proud of her was when he read her dissertation. After that she moved around a lot again. Rachel will do anything on a dare, but she has trouble trusting people and lives a rather lonely life. She doesn’t feel alone, though, or that there’s anything wrong with it. She would like to have a family some day, but the thought of having people around constantly unnerves her. Rachel writes music and poetry that nobody will ever hear or read, which helps to keep her emotions in check. She is in love with words, reading them or writing them. And now she works as a consultant for GE Healthcare, which is ironic since she still suffers from an unidentified illnesss.

R. Is For Reading

Hey Josh Ritter

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

#102 The Ecstatic Shanti Perez

Shanti Perez grew up at the top of a mountain—without running water, electricity, or plumbing. When she was 8, she fell out of her grandpa's truck and she was out cold for a long time, but never went to the doctor. Shanti’s mother always wanted her to go away, so Shanti ran around in the woods—first with pigs and then with dogs. As a child, she was terrified of balloons and gym class. Her grandparents were like parents to her. One of her favorite toys growing up was a pond that her grandpa dug out with the backhoe. Shanti has always liked looking at tiny things, so she would set up her Breyer horses in front of a bush that resembled a full-sized tree, or a creek that resembled a raging river, and then photograph them so that she could see how real the scenery appeared to be in the photo. Shanti thinks in pictures. She knows where everything is located because she can picture everything. Sometimes Shanti blurts out random things in public, and she can have rigid expectations that make things difficult for those around her, but she completes every task with an amazing degree of thoroughness. When she was 14, her mother kicked her out of the house and Shanti traveled the homeless circuit. Nothing bad happened. A few years later, Shanti had two wonderful boys—Ki Song and K.C. Later, Shanti went to college where she studied anthropology, computers, and business (now she has an MFA in creative writing and an MA in management). Sometimes, college was difficult; to cope, Shanti kept her pet snake in her bra when she went to class. Around this time, Shanti met a boyfriend, a relationship that lasted 10 years. She didn't understand a lot about having a relationship then and thinks her boyfriend grew tired of trying to get close to her. Shanti still hasn’t recovered from that, but it was her two dogs, Lou and Greta, helped her to cope. Greta protected Shanti and sometimes when they sat on a hill together, Greta would lean into her and that was a great comfort. Now Shanti sees that decade-long relationship as a lesson and is grateful for it. Now she is with her boyfriend Phout, who sat behind her in 6th grade, who she is very attracted to, who accepts Shanti for who she is. With this relationship, Shanti also has two wonderful stepdaughters, Kia and Khay. Recently, Shanti was diagnosed with autistic disorder. Her family consisted of so many eccentric individuals that the autism went unnoticed until she was in her 30s. Now Shanti raises turkeys and chickens, plays with her rottweilers, hosts a show on blogtalkradio, writes fiction, reads, paints, studies hobo spiders and grizzly bears. Most days, she is ecstatic.

More Shanti Perez

Monday, October 27, 2008

#101 Elizabeth Crane: She’s Great

Elizabeth Crane was born in 1961 to a professor and an opera singer. She was a social and rambunctious child. The small family lived together until she was 6 years old and Elizabeth’s parents split up, which was disorienting (and at least part of the reason that Elizabeth didn’t marry until 34 years later). Elizabeth moved with her mother to New York City, which was overwhelming (the buildings too big, too physical, so dense). Elizabeth’s mother sang in operas that took them all over the US and Europe and Elizabeth sang opera too—until 5th grade, when she started writing fiction. She spent half of the summer in Iowa with her father’s new family. The rest of the year Elizabeth and her father wrote letters to each other, which Elizabeth loved. In 7th grade, she wrote a novella (based her half-sister as a creature that lived under the table). For college, she went to George Washington in DC, in an attempt to escape New York City. She kept writing, but didn’t learn anything from her writing teachers, which was a disappointment. After college, she moved back to New York City, which kind of sucked for another 10 years. She was trying to be creative and pay the rent and please her parents, and, well, you know. She had lots of different jobs, but didn’t like any of them. It was during this time that Elizabeth’s father bought Elizabeth her first computer, because he thought that any serious writer should have one. She kept writing, but it wasn’t until she read David Foster Wallace that Elizabeth realized that she could write like herself (instead of, say, Jane Austen). That’s when everything changed. She moved to Chicago even though she didn’t have a job, but finally felt like she belonged somewhere (so open, so beautiful, the lake). Her mother got cancer, which was terrible, but Elizabeth also realized that she needed to reconcile with her mother. Elizabeth tried to make amends for not being a good enough daughter, even though she was. Once, while she was talking, trying to explain, her mother fell asleep. When her mother died, Elizabeth realized that she needed to get on with her life. She took a year off from work and finished a novel that she had been working on for years. Her agent couldn’t place it, but, in the meantime, Elizabeth had been writing short stories. There was a mini-bidding war for the collection and Elizabeth burst out laughing when her agent told her the amount of the advance. Things have been pretty good ever since. She’s published three wonderful collections of short stories. She has a great husband who she met through friends (though she didn’t realize they were dating for the first two weeks of their relationship, not until he brought her flowers). And she has a dog named Percival Fontaine Barksdale, which—how great is that? Yeah, it’s pretty great.

More Elizabeth Crane

Buy one of Elizabeth Crane’s books

Friday, October 24, 2008

#100 The Chronology of Jonathon Bender (b.1967-d.1999)

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.

More Jonathon Bender

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

#99 Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties

At 4, Jessica Anya Blau thought that kids were strange and had no friends her own age; she didn’t want to play Butts and Vaginas with them. Her best friend was a 70-year-old widow who let Jessica play with her sock monkey. At 5, Jessica fell in love with the 5-year-old boy who lived across the street after he told her that he was 25 years old. At 7, Jessica’s father’s job moved the family from Ann Arbor to Santa Barbara and they lived in a lemon orchard. This turned Jessica into a sunny California girl and she made lots of friends. As got older, she wore a bathing suit everywhere she went and had a deep tan that made her look like one giant freckle. Jessica studied French at Berkeley and gained a lot of weight without realizing it (she thought that the Laundromat was shrinking her clothes). She met her good-looking first husband at the college pub and they lived in a mansion that he was housesitting. They got married in a park in Berkeley and Jessica bought clothes for a department store. They moved to Toronto and Jessica couldn’t work in Canada (though she did some, illegally), so she started writing. She sent one story out to one place and it was accepted. Jessica kept writing. They got a dog, but Jessica had always wanted to be a mother. Jessica felt her body change and knew that she was pregnant. Her body kept changing until she felt huge, uncomfortable, ridiculous—and then her first daughter was born. There were marriage problems and Jessica applied to graduate school. She was accepted into the writing program at Johns Hopkins University and moved to Baltimore. Her first husband stayed in Toronto and that was how their marriage ended. Jessica loved Hopkins and writing and felt liberated. She met her second husband, the unbelievably wonderful David Grossbach, at Sam’s Bagels. He looked her up in the phone book after he got home and then they got married and then Jessica’s second daughter was born. After that, Jessica wrote and then published The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and felt, after all those years of writing, that she had finally made it. And she had. And everybody was happy that she had.

Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties

Monday, October 20, 2008

#97 Lynn Alexander: Witness to the Suppressed Narrative

Lynn Alexander’s childhood was kind of strange because her father got custody of her and her siblings when her parents got divorced. Her father is amazing. He supported her mother even after the divorce and sometimes she lived in the house with the rest of the family. One of Lynn’s favorite childhood memories is watching the Sunday news shows with her father, which is probably why she’s still a news junkie. Lynn went to Stony Brook University and then to New York University, which changed her life. She became interested in social work because of a job she had working nights in a rough neighborhood. She mostly served coffee and let people linger when they had very few places where they could be. There were all kinds off people—runaway kids, prostitutes, crack addicts, seniors with limited money who took their spouses out to share a coffee. Once, she found a dead man frozen outside. Another time, she found a baby left in a car while its mother turned a trick. After this, she applied to social work school, and then worked at a psychiatric hospital. During this time, Lynn learned what it was like to be a single parent, broke, trying to go to college, working nights. She learned about exhaustion and about living in survival mode. She learned how to make things without art supplies, using things around the house—magazines, junk mail, packages—making collages, “rock women” out of Rolling Stone magazines, strong vibrant women who resembled the opposite of how she felt at the time. She made things with her daughter, who needed to know about such women. These collages were both escapist and celebratory. They were symbolic and they were triumphant. She learned about the way art can change lives. This combined with the study of social issues broadened her awareness and re-affirmed her commitment to combining work with making a difference in people’s lives. Now Lynn is a social worker, policy researcher, activist, writer, and poet. She’s a mother and a wife and married to a supportive, caring person. She’s an artist and it is the artist who is the witness to the suppressed narrative.

More Lynn Alexander

Even More Lynn Alexander

You Can Go Home Again

It was kind of great to go back home to Michigan and to MSU. I talked with writing classes and gave readings and did Q&As and it was all different and all good because I had never done any of those things in the place where I grew up. It was a kind of passage and I loved that my mother and my sister came to each of the readings in Lansing, East Lansing, and Detroit. I loved that some of my childhood neighbors showed up and that some of my cousins did and and that my niece and nephew who go to MSU did and that some of my high school friends did--and that this was the first reading that a lot of them had ever been to. I got to meet Josh Maday, who has done a ton to help get the word out on Dear Everybody with a review and an interview. I got to meet Matt Bell who wrote a grew review for the LA Times and then blogged about the reading at MOCA in Detroit. Gina Myers also came out to MOCAD and it's always nice to see her and I loved that she blogged about my mom and my sister. For the record, I never tried to burn the house down.

Friday, October 17, 2008

#96 Jamie Lin Is Perfect

Jamie Lin’s grandmother was sold to her grandfather’s family when she was 8 and she worked until she was old enough to be a bride (16yo). Jamie was born in China and her family moved to NYC when she was 8. The biggest difference was the snow. Jamie did not see her dad much and her mom worked at the sweat factory—where Jamie used to play, thinking it a magical place. Once, her dad told her to do the dishes, but she didn’t because she didn’t know him that well. Sometimes, she still feels bad about that. Her dad is the sweetest person. At first, Jamie was oblivious to American culture and she didn’t have friends outside of her ESL class. At 10, Jamie’s family relocated to the suburbs of New York. The first apartment they lived in had one bedroom, a storage room where Jamie slept, and a living room where her brother slept. She read lots of books and her favorites were The Boxcar Children where the kids controlled their own lives. After middle school, her English got a lot better and she joined the high school newspaper and literary magazine (she started out writing supernatural novels). At the time, she was infatuated with a Russian boy with a mischievous smile, but he was shorter than her so she never expressed her feelings. Jamie had body image issues. For two years, she wore the same two vests over and over again to cover her bulge. Her mom would tell her that she needed to lose weight and she would tell herself that her nose was too big for her face. Jamie did not feel invincible when she was a teenager. During high school, her two closest friends were white and Jamie learned to become more American from them. Now people can hardy distinguish her from other Americans, just a slight Chinese accent. In 2005, Jamie was introduced to Zoetrope and the online literary community—and everything changed. She learned about flash fiction and how to write stories that didn’t suck. Jamie thought she would become a completely different person once she got to college, but she didn’t. She was quite depressed during her first year, but was comforted by the idea of starting over. Now at almost 20, Jamie has found her two passions—writing and promoting social justice. She is deliriously happy, for once in her life, to be different from everybody else. She weighs more than she did in high school, but she has never felt so perfect and so proud to be exactly who she is.

More Jamie Lin

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Human Destiny Starkly Illuminated

There's a profile on all three of my novels in this week's City Paper, in which human destiny is starkly illuminated and and I am compared to a small woodland creature and it is revealed that I have miles-deep brown eyes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

#94: Tim Hall: Bohemian Rat + Yuppie Queen = Bohemian Prince

Tim Hall has born into a family of English majors and has always loved reading. Besides this, though, his home life was often difficult. His father was a neglectful alcoholic and his mother hated his father. The family was repeatedly evicted from houses. When Tim was 10 years old, his parents divorced and he read The Hobbit—both of which led to Tim creating his own world. He began writing fantasy novels and serialized them for his classmates, though he sometimes got into trouble with his teachers for doing this. Tim continued writing and saw his father sporadically after the divorce. Through junior high, it became more difficult to keep the real world at bay. Tim’s mother often used him as a little soldier in the war against his dad. He developed ADD and couldn’t concentrate enough to write anymore. London Calling came out and he became a punk rocker. Tim often fought with his father and then his father died. Tim was still in high school and his last words to his father were, Fuck you. Tim doesn’t feel badly about this. It seems fitting. Tim went to college and dropped out. He drank a lot and played in hard rock bands. This was most of Tim’s 20’s. Then Tim realized the bad effects that alcohol had had on his family and he quit drinking. He quit music and quit a bad relationship and he returned to writing--founding Typism, co-founding Blacksmiths For Literary Progress, writing the novel Half Empty, and writing the story collection Triumph Of The Won't. These good changes in his life led a friend to set him up on a blind date with the woman who became his wife. Tim was stunned by her when he first saw her and has been living under her dazzling beauty and genuine kindness ever since. He was the bohemian rat and she was the yuppie queen and their little boy George is now the bohemian prince.

More Tim Hall

Buy Tim's new book Full of It

Sunday, October 5, 2008


DEAR EVERYBODY has been out for one good month+ and it’s been great. There was an early review in the Greenpoint Gazette that says DEAR EVERYBODY is "inventive and often extremely funny, but it will also break your heart. Michael Kimball is one of the most talented and original writers in America today. You should read his books."

Then there was a rave in Time Out New York's Fall Preview: "Michael Kimball Reinvents the Suicide Letter" where Michael Miller calls the writing “stunning” while also saying other nice things.

There was an a big excerpt of DEAR EVERYBODY in the September Urbanite and then they also ran an interview online that covers a lot of ground—everything from my first novel to DEAR EVERYBODY to what I eat for breakfast. Thank you, Hannah Spangler, for asking the questions (it was her first interview). And thank you, Marianne Amoss, for making it happen.

Rafael Alvarez (one of the writers who made The Wire great) wrote a profile in the Sunday edition of The Examiner. It's about the cross-country trip I took to revise the first draft of THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY.

And then there was a really nice review by the wonderful Josh Maday at New Pages. I tried to figure out how to just quote a tease line, but I couldn't. Here's the whole last paragraph: "Kimball writes with such deep emotion and crafts his sentences with such mastery that he sweeps away his own footprints and allows the reader unhindered access to the story. The fragmented nature of the book makes it an addictive read, giving the reader regular breaks while at the same time drawing them along. I often found myself thinking, 'Just one more letter. One more diary entry. One more interview,' until it was time to go back to the beginning and start over. With Dear Everybody, Michael Kimball achieves the perfect balance of form and content, comedy and tragedy – all without sliding into melodrama or sentimentality, instead evoking genuine emotion that will remain with readers far beyond the last page."

The playlist for DEAR EVERYBODY is up at Largehearted Boy's Book Notes (an author creates and discusses a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published book). Largehearted Boy's David Gutowski says: "Dear Everybody is a cleverly constructed book that balances pathos and humor exquisitely, and proves Michael Kimball to be a master storyteller."

Gregg Wilhelm gave a very nice plug to DEAR EVERYBODY on WYPR's Maryland Morning: “quite a literary feat … the character of Jonathon Bender is stripped down to his emotional core.”

There's a great new literary magazine: No Colony, edited by Ken Baumann and Blake Butler, and it had two excerpts from DEAR EVERYBODY--the Chronology and a To-Do List.

And then the great first week+ for DEAR EVERYBODY closed out with a wonderful review in the Sunday LA Times. Matt Bell closes the review with this line: "There is a whole life contained in this slim novel, a life as funny and warm and sad and heartbreaking as any other, rendered with honest complexity and freshness by Kimball's sharp writing." I'm really happy for DEAR EVERYBODY.

The wonderful people of Keyhole Magazine made me a featured author. What does that mean? Well, that means there's a interview where Jonathan Bergey and his voice ask me excellent questions and then I try to answer them; it comes in two forms, podcast and words that you can read. Then there's a review of DEAR EVERYBODY by the amazing Blake Butler that put me in a state in which I could not describe what it said to my wife. Plus, there's a brief conversation that the good Karen Lillis and I had about a subject that is close to both of us, feeling in fiction. Plus, plus, there are excerpts from DEAR EVERYBODY. Thank you, Peter Cole, for pulling all of this together.

There was an interview that I did with Managing Editor Dave Rosenthal in Sunday's Baltimore Sun. Now the interview is up on their books blog, Read Street. Because of space the paper doesn't include the questions, just the topic and the answers. I say things like this: "I had about 400 fragments on different pieces of paper spread out in my dining room."

Also, I love this. I love Brandi Wells.

Then there was an interview at Word Riot that I did with Josh Maday. We talk a lot about DEAR EVERYBODY, but also Faulkner, Beckett, and Andre the Giant. The interview was the very first interview I did about DEAR EVERYBODY, though it appeared after other interviews. And Josh was also the very first person to ask for a review copy way back when, which I want to thank him for here, because that early support, well, honestly, it's a huge relief to get that. Thanks, Josh.

There is also photographic evidence of people reading DEAR EVERYBODY.

This next one made me really happy. I've been reading Bookslut for at least 5 years and now I'm an Indie Heartthrob.

After that, I was reading our copy of Baltimore Magazine (we have a subscription) and was surprised when I turned the page and saw the cover of DEAR EVERYBODY on Page 56. It's a really nice review by John Lewis in his Read It column. I couldn't find it online, but here are my favorite bits: "Lightning has struck again with this Baltimorean's book ... Kimball's protagonist possesses an emotional clarity that makes his eventual suicide all the more believable and tragic. ... You feel his pain."

Then the good Joseph Young wrote a very nice review of DEAR EVERYBODY that just went up at JMWW. Here are my favorite bits: "entirely unique ... Kimball has written a book of beauty. It's a sad book and a wonderful one."

And the last thing, so far—I grew up in Michigan and went to school at Michigan State University. I've never gone back to Michigan as a writer, so I'm looking forward to this trip back home. I'll be talking to classes at MSU and giving a bunch of readings: October 7, MSU Library; October 8, Schuler Books in Lansing; October 9, MOCA in Detroit. In support of that, Bill Castanier at City Pulse wrote a nice profile/review of DEAR EVERYBODY. You can go home again?