Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#90 Michael Mussman: Speaking Spanish (and French) Saved His Life

Michael Mussman was born on October 27, 1978, a birthday he shares with Dylan Thomas and Teddy Roosevelt. His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and were not happy when he brought home Madonna's Immaculate Collection. They were less happy when he started burning incense and reading the Lotus Sutra in his bedroom. They were incensed when he declared himself Jewish. Michael has lived in California all his life, except for one brief attempt at bohemia in Europe, which ended with a serious gall bladder attack on a staircase in the Gare du Nord. He spent a harrowing night in a Parisian hospital, in a cot beside a gunshot victim. He might not have survived if he didn’t speak Spanish and French so well. When Michael ran out of money, he flew back to San Diego, and crashed on the floor of his little sister's apartment until his big sister got him a job in human resources, for which he was terribly ungrateful. He despised that recruiting job and four more years of different jobs until he was saved by a marketing job in which he is quite content to get paid to write. Michael used to be a poet, but he abandoned that muse when he realized that he was no longer a hysterical sobbing teenager. Now that he’s grown up, he’s writing his second novel, the story of a cutthroat salesman who runs away from home. What else? Michael finds a certain satisfaction in the fact that Spanish still finds its way into his mouth quite often now that his boyfriend is from Chile. His boyfriend, Michael loves that he gets to dance and sing and misbehave around him without a drop of embarrassment or self-consciousness.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Emotional Clarity in Baltimore Magazine

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."

Lit Crawl NYC

After the Baltimore Book Festival, I took the train up to NYC for Lit Crawl, which is just like a pub crawl except that there are books and beer instead of just beer. I read at the Arrow Bar with the wonderful people of New York Tyrant. Also, thank you to Time Out New York--which made Lit Crawl, and our particular part of Lit Crawl, one of the week's Critic's Picks. Leigh Newman read from her great story, Family Pics, and Chris March from Project Runway said nice things about us. It's always harder to read in mixed-use venues. There are people that came to Arrow Bar just to drink and talk (or drink and not talk) and they were talking through the first couple minutes of the reading, but then I realized that it had gone completely quiet and I knew it was going well.

There were so many great readers at so many different venues that I was only able to see a couple of things, but the after party was great and nearly everybody from every reading was there. Thank you to Todd Zuniga for organizing the huge event. Thank you to Giancarlo DiTrapano and Ellen Moynihan for inviting me and to Chris March for introducing. Thank you to David and Amy for the surprise of you being there (all the way from Texas). Thank you to Eleanor for the genius of being there, and for your early and continual support.

Baltimore Book Festival

The forecast was rain, but a lot of people still came out for the Baltimore Book Festival. When I started reading, there was a reggae band playing up the midway somewhere, so I held the microphone close and projected as much as I could. When I started reading, I could see straight into the tents across the midway, but by the time I finished the CityLit tent was full and my view was blocked by a few rows of people standing under their umbrellas along the edges of the CityLit tent. I felt as if my voice was bringing people out of the rain and that felt good.

Thank you to Gregg Wilhelm for organizing and to Aaron Henkin for introducing and to everybody for coming out in the rain.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I'll be reading from DEAR EVERYBODY on The Signal today (WYPR, 88.1)--noon and 7pm. There's more press here.

And I'll be reading from DEAR EVERYBODY at the Baltimore Book Festival tonight, 6-8pm. This is with Madison Smartt Bell, Rafael Alvarez, Jen Michalski, William Henry Lewis, Christine Schutt, and Betsy Boyd. Also, there will be free beer. There are a bunch more book events, including Saturday night's Lit Crawl here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

#86 Jen Michalski: Unchanging and So New

Jen Michalski’s twin brother, Scott, came out first, but his nose and ear were all bent up. His nose still looks a little smashed. Of course, this early struggle just made Jen even more ambitious. When Jen and Scott were toddlers, their mom used to dress them up in matching outfits even though they were fraternal twins, one a boy and one a girl. Their mother would take them shopping to department stores and they would sit on the mannequin stands and sing songs from Sesame Street (today, Jen has a mannequin in her house). Their mother always knew where they were. When Jen was 4, she learned to say Fuck You from her father. But all the fighting in the family made her reserved in some ways. Jen’s filter became quite thick and sometimes she'd rather say nothing than risk what the response might be. Around this same time, Jen decided that she wanted to be an elephant when she grew up. She thought it was a viable career choice. She thought that elephants looked peaceful and that they must be brave (there aren't many hiding places for an elephant). Over the years, Jen wanted to be an elephant, then a writer, then a policewoman, then a writer, then a doctor, then a writer. She wrote her first short story when she was 5 and she read everything she could find--to try to find out how other people lived. She assumed that everybody else was happier than she was. By the time she started college, Jen had written six novels. In college, she wrote poetry. After college, she wrote short stories and two more novels, but she never tried to publish them. Also after college, she was in a relationship for eleven years, which was difficult to end. Jen doesn't like change. She doesn't even like going on vacation because then she has to get used to a new routine. She has lived in the same city for most of her life (B’more!). Now, Jen’s much much happier with her life and especially with her new partner, the wonderful Phuong. And Jen still reads all the time and runs an online e-zine, jmww, where she publishes other people's stories. She’s fascinated by what people write and why. And last year, Jen published her first collection of stories, Close Encounters (So New Media). Now she’s writing another novel and this one she’s going to publish.

More Jen Michalski

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm an Indie Heartthrob

I've been reading Bookslut for at least 5 years, probably longer and now I'm an Indie Heartthrob.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

#83 Cecilia Baader: Your High School English Teacher

Cecilia Baader was born in Chicago in 1973. Both of her parents were history teachers and the family’s summer vacations were at Civil War battlefields. Her senior year of college she was depressed, stopped going to classes, and dropped out of school. She got a job doing technical support and training for farmers and their GPS equipment. She hated the job and was 5 minutes late every day as a form of protest. When she hated the job too much, she quit and went back to college. She finished her degree and then earned her masters as well. Now she’s an English teacher in an inner city school in Chicago and she gets to work early every day. Cecilia loves the kids and loves that she’s doing something that matters. She fights so hard to keep her kids in school. She calls them at home. She goes to their houses. It’s good that she’s a teacher. She was always a stage person, so now she gets to spend a lot of time in front of her class. Cecilia became a teacher, in part, because she thought that the job would give her time to write, but, of course, the job is overwhelming. And the summers, a good teacher needs all that time to recover and get ready for the next school year. That is when Cecilia gets to hang out with friends and family. Cecilia’s close with all of her siblings and loves being the favorite aunt to her many nieces and nephews. Eventually, she will attend graduate school in educational administration or educational policy so that she can change things that she can’t change as a teacher. What else? Cecilia loves kung-fu movies. That’s not enough? Well, she loves to run and is obsessed with penguins. More? OK, she’s taking tap dancing lessons, but that’s all I’ve got. OK, one more thing: You should wish that you had her for your high school English teacher.

More Cecilia

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

#082 Heather Le Roux Beltran: So Much Love

Heather Le Roux Beltran was born in Indiana, but moved to California when she was 1 year old, so don’t think that she’s anything but a California girl. Heather had a good childhood (which included a horse) and she loves her parents, who she calls the best people ever. She finds inspiration in her parents (who married, divorced, were unmarried one year, and then remarried)—and the Christian lives they have led. Heather married young, but as she got older she realized that her first husband wasn’t the one for her and became unhappy. The worst part of the divorce was that her ex-husband cut her off from her step-daughter, Katie, and she still misses her. After the divorce, Heather strayed from the Christian path, partied a lot, did a lot of drugs, and taught herself to be a house DJ. A year after the divorce, Heather met her second husband, Robert. They dated for three years, then broke up (see parents, above) and were apart for 3 years. During that time, Heather dated a guy who was really into drugs and mind-altering experiences and that got her thinking about God again, which is the best thing she could have gotten out of that relationship. She left that guy and started going to church again. Heather reconnected with Robert and they got married. Heather loves how patient Robert is, how good-looking he is, and how good and godly he is (he always helps the neighborhood widows). Heather also loves how Robert loves everything about her, including how wild she is (which he does, ask him). They’ve been married for 4 years and love their house, their dog, their cat, their fish, their chickens, and their ducks. They eat a lot of eggs. They want to have a baby too, but it’s been difficult, emotionally taxing. They have tried different fertility treatments, but may decide to adopt. There is so much love between them and so much joy (one of her nicknames is the Joy Spot) that it would be great if another person got to grow up feeling all of that.

Photographic Evidence of People Reading DEAR EVERYBODY

There is now photographic evidence of people reading DEAR EVERYBODY.

And before those photos, there was this photo from the reading at Rockfield Manor in Bel Air. I wish that could remember what I was talking about right then. But then my friend Leslie (aka dogfaceboy, aka the Cake Lady) is always catching me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interview at Word Riot

There's 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 is just appearing now, but it's actually the very first interview I did about DEAR EVERYBODY. 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, and congratulations on your beautiful baby girl.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blogging about the Book Tour

Thank you to Neil Ferguson, the events manager at the Charles Village Barnes & Noble in Baltimore, for organizing a great reading. Thank you to the 130+ people (by Neil's count) who came out to hear Jessica Anya Blau and me read. Thank you to Tita for introducing. Thank you to everybody who asked questions after the reading. Thank you to Caryn and Hannah and another Hannah and Michael and Neil and Lihan and Jess and Jessica and Jill and Shelly and Rob. Thank you to everybody whose name I don't know.

Interview in Sunday's Baltimore Sun

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.

Friday, September 12, 2008

DEAR EVERYBODY Book Tour: Fall 2008

The first book tour event for DEAR EVERYBODY was a signing on September 6 at the Ivy Bookshop, a nice independent here in Baltimore. It took place during Tropical Storm Hanna, but people still came out, which I take as a good sign.

The rest of 15+ scheduled dates for Fall 2008 are here -- DEAR EVERYBODY Book Tour: Fall 2008 -- with details, addresses, links to the particular venues, etc. I hope to see you in Baltimore, Bel Air, Washington D.C., New York City, East Lansing, Lansing, Detroit, Brooklyn, Providence, Boston, etc.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

#78 Timothy Gager: The Greater Things

Timothy Gager was born in 1961in rural Long Island. He had a mostly sheltered childhood and didn’t leave the house much, though he can recite television schedules from his childhood (really, ask him). He had his first crush on a girl when they were in fifth grade. They were playing together when the neighbor’s dog ran up to them, started humping the girl, and then ejaculated on her. That was the end of their brief, traumatic relationship and Timothy didn’t have another girlfriend until college. That was when he started playing in punk bands, the most popular of which was The Maytags (listed on Billboard’s charts for a time), and, well, he was the singer, so he had lots of girlfriends. After college, Timothy worked in a Mexican restaurant by day and played up and down the East Coast with The Maytags by night. Eventually, that stopped being fun and Timothy became a social worker, working his way up to his current position as Human Service Coordinator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. During the band days, one of Timothy’s bandmates hung himself and Timothy started writing in a journal to cope with this loss. It helped and now Timothy’s published three books—Twenty-Six Pack, Short Street, and We Needed a Night Out. Along the way, Timothy also got married, fathered two children, and then divorced. He gets along with his ex-wife better now than when they were married. Timothy isn’t good at relationships, but he’s happy by himself. The other thing that you should know about Timothy is that his spirituality is the result of a near death experience in 1980—when he left his body and had to make a choice: return to his body or continue to the afterlife. If Timothy had continued to the afterlife, then he would have known everything that humans can know. Timothy realized that he wanted to do other things with his life on earth first, but this near death experience gave him insight: a greater knowledge exists and there are even greater things beyond that.

More Timothy Gager

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

#77 Steve Caratzas: Governed by Numbers

Steve Caratzas had a sad childhood. His parents were angry and the tone of the house was critical. As one of five kids, he felt lost, isolated. Steve wrote poems and played guitar to cope. Later, he quit a job and moved to LA to attend the Musicians Institute. Around this time, Steve got tattoos that made him seem unapproachable, a kind of challenge to everybody. College got derailed. His early adult life was mostly playing in bands, drinking, and doing drugs. On his 35th birthday, Steve decided to get clean and sober, but he kept playing guitar. He went back to college and finished his bachelors (he is haunted by not completing things) and then earned two masters as well. This has given him a sense of completion and allowed him to move on with himself and his life. Steve’s been clean for 14 years, but he still misses pot, his drug of choice. He also worries that he has lost touch with amplified feelings, but you can see that he hasn’t if you read his brief, dark poems. Steve invented the eight-word poem, a form based on his birthday (August 8). He loves cutting words from a poem to make the poem better in the same way that he has cut certain behaviors out of his life. What else? Well, Steve hates driving, but loves cats. Also, he is incredibly grateful for his two children from his first marriage. He says that his second wife is a beautiful person, but not the right person for him. Now he’s living with a woman he met in college in 1978. She was the right person, though they wouldn’t realize that until 25 years later when they found their own artwork hanging next to the other’s in a group show at a New York gallery. They hadn’t seen each other for years, but Steve could see that she was the right person for him. They love the same things, including each other, including themselves.

Steve Caratzas

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Whole Bunch of DEAR EVERYBODY-Related Stuff at Keyhole Magazine

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.

Monday, September 8, 2008

#76 Deborah Ling: The God Gene

Deborah Ling has the God gene. Her life-long pursuit of God started on the farm where she grew up and where she would have mystical interactions with other planes—particularly the earth, animals, and rocks. She has always known how to get along with the earth. Once, she had an interaction with beings from another planet, but knew enough, at her young age, to not tell anybody. When Deborah was 10 years old, her father died unexpectedly and Deborah felt abandoned and angry. Her mother’s mental illness got worse and Deborah started studying survivalism: she knew that she would have to take care of herself. Deborah married young, but this was mostly so her mother would disown her, which she did (her mother re-owned her years later). In the midst of her divorce from this brief abusive marriage, Deborah met her second husband at her sister’s wedding. There was an undeniably connection, but they weren’t ready for each other yet. The second time Deborah saw her second husband was a year later at her sister’s house. The fifth time they saw each other was on their wedding day. Now they’ve been married 34 years. Deborah used to work as a therapist, but now she earns her living as a spiritual director and practices shamanism. She is a healer and a servant to others. She is somebody you can tell things that you have never told anybody before, not even yourself. She gives so much to other people, but loves her husband, her two kids, and her dog even more, which is kind of staggering, that amount of love. She is most proud of channeling her two children into this world, in part because they are both working artists. There isn’t anything that either of her children could do to make Deborah stop loving them. Deborah also loves playing the drums, especially the way that the rhythms change her brain waves and allow her to connect to the different planes of being that surround all of us.

More Deborah Ling
Micah Ling

Sunday, September 7, 2008

DEAR EVERYBODY in Sunday's LA Times

This has been a great first week for DEAR EVERYBODY. Closing it out, today, there's 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.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Playlist for DEAR EVERYBODY at Largehearted Boy's Book Notes

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.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

#75 Moose: Feral Cat to House Cat

Moose’s father abandoned him before he was born. His mother took care of him for a few weeks, but then she abandoned him too. He wasn’t given a name for the longest the time. Moose was on his own, which he was fine with, but then he got sick. Then he didn’t feel like he could move anymore. Moose curled up under the bushes next to a house. Luckily, the man noticed him and made noises with his mouth. Moose opened his mouth and tried to meow, but he couldn’t make any noises come out. But that’s how the man knew he was sick. The man took little steps toward Moose and held his hand out to him. Moose was scared but too sick to move, so he let the man catch him. What could Moose do? The next thing Moose remembers is being inside a little cage and the outside moving by too fast. Then Moose remembers being inside a building for the first time in his life. The two people with long coats did things to Moose that he did not like – lifting his tail, putting their fingers in his ears, poking him with needles. Everybody but Moose was surprised by how small Moose was (2 lbs.) because he had such long fur, which everybody admired, and that made him look full-grown. The man took Moose away from the two people and Moose was grateful for that. Every morning for a week after that, the man made noises with his mouth and gave Moose tuna covered with pink sauce in a China dish. That made Moose feel good enough to run through the dry leaves in the bushes next to the house, which was really loud, but Moose was letting everybody know that it was his house. Moose got big enough to catch birds and squirrels. He broke their necks and tore their heads off. He ate nearly everything but the feathers and wings -- or nearly everything but the legs and fluffy tails. Sometimes, he saw his mom crossing the street, but then she was hit by a car and died. Now Moose throws up whenever he has to go anywhere in the car. Eventually, it got cold at night and the man made noises with his mouth and Moose followed him inside the house. Now Moose lives inside the house all the time and he runs up the front stairs and down the back stairs. He watches the birds and the rats from the 3 stories of windows. He could catch them—he could catch anything—if the man would just let him outside.

Moose Between Editing Projects

Moose Doing Yoga

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

#74 Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos: Being Sick Almost All the Time Doesn't Stop Her

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

More Shanzyra
Even More Shanzyra

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

#73 The Ancient A.F. Rützy

A.F. Rützy (pen name) was born Ari Rytsy in Joensuu, North Karelia, which is considered to be the treasure chest of Finnish folklore, especially ghost stories about dead Russian soldiers wandering the old battlefields. Later, A. added a second name (Feodor) to honor his paternal grandfather, who he never met. He stole the last name from his uncle (RIP) who immigrated to the U.S. The only part of his name that is his own is Ari, which is Hebrew for lion, Armenian for brave, Hindi for sin, and Japanese for ant. The first year of his life, A. lived in a old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with his mother. His father visited on the weekends until the whole family moved to Helsinki. As a kid, A. had episodes of sleepwalking and weird premonitions. Once when A. was five or six years old, he was riding his bike and suddenly had this strange need to fall down, which he did off to the side of the road, which saved his life from a large truck that came blasting down the road. Years later, A. broke his nose during a sparring session, which made him realize that physical pain can't compete with inner demons. Along the way, A. worked jobs from sales to quality management to bodyguarding (once for a Saudi Arabian prince). He now works as a freelance writer (see: End Credits), which is almost the same thing as being a bodyguard—doing something for somebody else because they can’t do it for themselves. Meeting his girlfriend Galina and becoming a father has forced A. to admit that there are beautiful things in this world. He works hard to support his family. He’s currently working on what may be the perfect novel—not a bestseller, but a novel that will help people to handle the perpetual craziness that surrounds us. He’s currently 36 years old, but he feels much older. When he’s drunk, he feels ancient.

More A.F. Rützy

Josh Maday Says Really Nice Things About DEAR EVERYBODY at New Pages

I'm happy to say there's a really nice review of DEAR EVERYBODY by the wonderful Josh Maday at New Pages. I was trying 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."

Also over the long weekend, Rafael Alvarez (one of the writers who made THE WIRE great) writes 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 an interview went up at Urbanite that covers a lot of ground--everything from my first novel to DEAR EVERYBODY to what I eat for breakfast.

Plus, there was the rave by Michael Miller in Time Out New York's Fall Books Preview: "Michael Kimball Reinvents the Suicide Letter." Here's a little bit of it: "In addition to writing stunning prose, Kimball evocatively hints at entire physical and emotional worlds lying just behind his story’s surface. In many cases, the author’s verbal compression both amplifies and dampens the tragic clamor of Jonathon’s letters ... they harbor such a strange emotional power that you’ll find them hard to forget." Here's the whole thing.