Thursday, January 29, 2009

#140 The Happy Life of Amelia Gray

Amelia Gray was born in Tucson, AZ, and had a safe and happy childhood. What Amelia mostly remembers is laughing a lot and the funny things her sister and parents did. For a childhood, it was just about as good as anybody could hope for. Around 10, Amelia started playing the violin. In 4th grade, Amelia wrote a science fiction story where everyone wore clothes that changed colors according to their moods, which was the beginning of the inventive fiction writer she has turned into today. Amelia went to Arizona State University for her BA in literature, and, when she was 20, she rode Greyhound buses everywhere. She’s afraid of flying, partly because of the way things rattle around inside an airplane. She thinks she might feel better if she could sit on the wing and hear how strongly everything is constructed. Amelia went to Texas State University for her MFA, and now she holds four jobs (transcribing a WWII veteran's journal, freelance writing, and teaching at two universities), which allows her to work all day while also avoiding work all day, depending on which project she focuses on. It's weirdly motivating. Amelia has night terrors that make her do funny things in her sleep like stand on the bed and run down the stairs. Once, she kicked out a window. Also, Amelia has two cats (Republic, who got his name because she found him in the dumpster behind the Banana Republic where she used to work, and Turkish, who got her name from the fact that she is big like an ottoman), but no boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or dog. She wants a boyfriend like she wants 180 pounds of cotton candy. She has been the cotton candy in many relationships and she has been the person with the cotton candy on her hands in other relationships. It might make her sick, but she could fit either thing (a boyfriend or 180 pounds of cotton candy) into her lovely two-bedroom apartment in Austin (of which, by some small-world logic, MK’s brother-in-law is the landlord, and, she says, the best landlord ever). Besides that, Amelia has written a screenplay and a flash fiction collection in the past year. Right now, she’s working on a novel. She’s trying to figure out what type of writing is the most fun, which, right now, is flash fiction, which she’s trying to figure out how to accumulate into a novel, which she will.

More Amelia Gray

[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, January 28, 2009

Andy Devine's First Review

I wrote a brief afterword for Andy Devine's chapbook, As Day Same That the the Was Year (Publishing Genius), which received a super nice review from Mud Luscious' J.A. Tyler. The chapbook is called "fascinating ... phenomenal ... strange and wonderful" and it is said that "perhaps every sentence of a young life could be created by combining and recombining the litany of its alphabet." The afterword is called "the perfect balance to the a-z explosion of words on the previous pages."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

#139 Stacy Muszynski, Miracle Baby

Stacy Muszynski was born 3 months early when her family was camping. This involved state troopers, some illegal things on the highway, and a bunch of brothers and sisters who still insist Stacy ruined their vacation. Stacy was called the miracle baby, which was too much and probably led to her sense of perfectionism and responsibility. Stacy’s childhood was a mixed bag. One brother fed her with an eye dropper. Another brother once gave her a running start as he packed a rock inside an icy snowball. When she thinks about the whole family together, though, it’s the living room’s flickering TV light, bodies sprawled every which way, everybody laughing. When she was 8, Stacy started playing soccer, the beautiful game, because her friend Chrissy was going to play (they’re still friends), and she learned to play each position. When Stacy was 9, her mother died unexpectedly. Stacy listened to her father cry himself to sleep at night (that was maybe the hardest thing ever, but good too, the way it demonstrated the power of love, the depth of sorrow). After that, Stacy found other mothers to take care of her, to learn from, to hug. She tried to be a good kid. Her mother's death keeps her close to tears and compassionate, a fragile gift. Years passed. Stacy went to college, kept playing soccer, had a bunch of different majors, graduated. After college, Stacy kept playing soccer—loving the beauty in the work among players: weave, give-and-go, overlap, everything in motion and open space, everything angles. Stacy has always loved chip shots, bananas, diving headers. She has always loved the smell of the grass in every season, the crunch of it after a freeze. There was the way Coach yelled at her from the sideline. There was how, when she struck the ball with the sweet spot of her instep, everything aligned and she realized a choir had started singing. Over the years, Stacy also tore some ligaments, acquired bad knees, and injured her back in a way that doctors could not quite explain. Soccer, it’s tough, and now it’s been 8 years and 4 months since she last played (as of 01/09). Another thing to know about Stacy is that she is incredibly inquisitive, which is one of the ways that she shows her intense desire for intellectual discovery and emotional connection. That is, if Stacy meets you, she will consider you her friend, and you will be. Further, she will keep writing one good sentence and then another good sentence until she has something important to publish. Also, now, Stacy has a permanent boyfriend, her husband, Vincent Cavasin, whose name she loves, along with his undying patience, his capacity for fun, his lack of sports knowledge, and his baby-butt-smooth skin. They met online @ Lavalife, and he was persistent, which was a good thing. Their as-yet-unborn kids will learn logic and high-level math from Vince and eye-foot-hand coordination and ball control from Stacy.

Stacy introducing Denis Johnson
Stacy introducing Tim O'Brien

Friday, January 23, 2009

#135 The Ease of Being Gillian Kiley

Gillian Kiley is the youngest of 8 kids. Her mother and her father used to go to Town Hall in Andover, Massachusetts to change her name without telling each other (Samantha, Theresa, and Jill were some of her other names, at least for a little while). Her mom won out and Gillian became Gillian for good, but her parents couldn't agree on a middle name either. Gillian’s parents are a generation older than the parents of her peers and she grew up in a strict household. She had her mouth washed out with soap. She was not allowed to go to sleepovers. Gillian was extremely shy as a kid and would turn purple trying to talk to people (and she still sounds very young on the phone), but she read a lot and was always around lots of people, so she became pretty observant. Her senior year in high school, Gillian was grounded for a month. In college, Gillian met, but did not date, Sam White. They had mostly the same group of friends, though, and then they went to the same graduate school too. During graduate school, Gillian and Sam went from friends to coupledom, if awkwardly and with an enormous amount of denial (but that was just at first; it’s been pretty great for years and years). After graduate school, there was her time in New York City. Now Sam is Gillian’s husband and she loves his sense of humor, his warmth toward others, his inventiveness, and his inability to hold a grudge. Now they are living in Providence, which is kind of close to both of their families, but not too close. Since moving there, Gillian has learned how to weld and that when shooting, she goes high and left (so duck low and to the right if she’s pursuing you, though she never will run after anybody shooting anything except sparks of love). Also, Gillian finds people who like to dance adorable. Further, Gillian’s attention can be described as diffuse. And, according to her acupuncturist, she has a hot liver. According to Gillian, she loves cheese, but is lactose intolerant. You should also know that Gillian has virtually no natural sense of direction, but this has not deterred her in any way. What else? Gillian’s job involves writing all day, which can make it difficult for her to find enough space for her writing, but she recently finished a book-length poem. Writing is where Gillian feels the most lucid and least compromised. Oh, and once, when Gillian was in Ireland looking at finger stones, she was chased by a bunch of cows; first, they just walked toward her and then they sort of galloped; she had to hop a fence to save herself, but she feels a certain ease with life-threatening things.

[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.]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

#133 The Survival of Rahne Alexander

Rahne Alexander was given a different name when she was born in 1969. She was raised Mormon in Central Valley, California, and the early grade school years were a blurry time. Rahne remembers feeling displaced and fearful as the boys and the girls were divided into separate groups. At 8, the age of accountability, Rahne let herself be baptized even though she was skeptical about the church. She knew the family would be ostracized otherwise. In the late 70’s, Rahne’s mother (an artist, dancer, painter) was diagnosed with MS and, so, at an early age, Rahne took on more of a caretaker role in the family. In high school, Rahne became more social but, at the time, it wasn’t okay to be out and gay, which caused difficulties even though Rahne wasn’t a gay boy. Rahne had done some research and there wasn’t much anecdotal information back then, but she had at least a medical understanding of transexualism. There were times when Rahne snuck her mother’s clothes, but this felt weird (probably not because they were woman’s clothes, but because they weren’t Rahne’s style). To get through, Rahne threw herself into school. She was just trying to survive until she could leave for college. Rahne attended USC and met her first girlfriend there; she was the first person Rahne came out to; she was so open and helped Rahne to explore her identity. It was weird, but great. Rahne didn’t think it would be possible, to do what she was doing, but it became okay over time. The next year, they both transferred to Redlands and Rahne studied philosophy, psychology, and women’s studies. Rahne delayed her public transition until she graduated. Then, in 1992, she legally changed her name to Rahne Alexander (see Rahne Sinclair, Wolfsbane of the New Mutants, and Alexander Woolcott, who sometimes cast himself in female roles) and had to invent Rahne’s self. And so it was during her time in Santa Cruz that Rahne began to figure out how to live her new life, figured out how to dress differently, how to present herself as a woman to the world (also to be employable). At first, she dressed in pleated slacks and pastel blouses from thrift stores, but then Rahne developed her own sense of style. This transition also involved bureaucratic steps (DMV, SS#), as well as living in the role for a year while seeing a psychologist. Rahne came out to her family, started taking female hormones (Rahne hasn’t had the surgery, prohibitive cost), and seeing an electrologist for facial hair. Rahne thought it would be harder than it was, and the threat of discovery, of violence at any point, still exists, but Rahne is prepared for it, has the language for it, the strength. In 2002, Rahne moved to Baltimore and slept on a friend’s couch. The move was impulsive, but Rahne has become more herself in Baltimore—writing stories, writing music, starting a band (The Degenerettes), meeting her wonderful partner Kristen (the drummer in the band). Rahne didn’t think it would be possible, but, in under 40 years, she has become comfortable in her body. People have told Rahne that she is brave, but she has always thought of it as survival.

More Rahne Alexander

Monday, January 19, 2009

#132 The Wildfires of Davis Schneiderman

Davis Schneiderman is sometimes Henry Mescaline is Henri d’Mescan—in Wilmington and Chicago and Calcutta, all at the same time. The three have a certain understanding regarding where things begin and end. Davis is many triplings. His childhood was made up of playing with toys, considering the problems of modern existence, and slumbering in the sweet and easy repose of innocence. He recalls being warned not to eat snow that may have been produced by acid rain. Davis is Davis and Henry is Henri as a result of a certain emotional scarring. He is an introverted-extrovert, with fine lines running over the curve of his skin. At a certain age, he learned that he was missing part of his spine. Many years ago, at Penn State, Davis got to know Kelly Haramis after they made a bet as to whether she could write a certain amount of stories for the school newspaper. There is some dispute over who won, but Davis paid the check when they went out to dinner, which could be taken as a kind of resolution. Once, Davis took his cold, January turn on a ferris wheel in Nanchang, China. Another time, Davis lied to the actor, Richard Dreyfuss, which made Richard Dreyfuss and Max Bickford happy. Also, it is possible that he has read at least one word from every single work in the English language, through which he has built a disastrous lexicon. At some point, Davis and Kelly got married, got a cat (Cassiopeia, who is mildly telepathic and strongly telekinetic), had a baby (Kallista, 1.25yo), and adopted another baby (Athena (2.50yo). Currently, Davis is the chair of American studies and an associate professor of English at Lake Forest College. He is a multimedia artist, the author of Multifesto: A Henri d'Mescan Reader, and the co-author of Abecedarium. His daughters run like wildfires through his brain.

More Davis Schneiderman

[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, January 14, 2009

Rave Review in The Believer

There is an absolute rave review of DEAR EVERYBODY in The Believer. Just a little bit of it is available online, including those funny little nuggets of information they do, but there are some great lines in it: "Kimball creates a sort of curatorial masterpiece, finding the perfect spot for everything that a life comprises. ... As Dear Everybody draws to a close, the letters and accompanying texts become progressively more intense and unexpected. ... The final power of Dear Everybody is that the reader shares in the inevitably conflicted feelings of those closest to Jonathon." Thank you, Drew Nellins.

#131: Tao Lin Will Never Get Another Real Job for the Rest of His Life

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

Tao Lin’s Blog

[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, January 13, 2009

#5: The Moving Life of C.

C. is glad that she was born in 1976 in San Jose, California, but wishes it would have been to a different family in a different house. Her childhood was unique and painful. In those terms, it’s difficult to say more than that. At 4, C. moved to Utah with her family, which was Mormon, which led to certain problems. At 7, C. started playing piano, and, at 12, she realized music would be her life's calling. She thought she would be a concert pianist, but it didn’t work out. At 14, C. realized that there were problems with being a Mormon, and only now does she realize that this was part of the reason she ran cross country in high school (she was trying to get away). At 15, C. stopped studying classical music when the piano became restrictive. After that, she picked up the guitar because her boyfriend played guitar and wrote songs, and she wanted to do everything that he did. When she was 17, C. was out walking when she had a realization—she stopped walking and decided to leave the Mormon Church—then she began walking again. The decision was easy in the moment, but it took a lot of will power to get to that moment. Please know that C. is not a recovering Mormon or a Jack Mormon or even culturally Mormon. When C. left, she left for good. It will always be part of her past, but it is not part of her identity.

In college, C. was an English major, but didn't stay long enough to finish her degree. For years, she has felt the need to keep moving—moving away from her family to Colorado Springs to Seattle to New York City to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Los Angeles again and to Baltimore (21 total addresses). Now C. is a shampoo girl by day and a musician by passion. She’s not sure what she wants from music anymore, but she’s trying to tap back into what she likes about music, what naturally comes from her, whether anybody likes it or not. It's hard. She doesn’t know what will come of it. C. is also starting massage therapy school and looking forward to learning about anatomy and physiology. She looks forward to being able to help people. C. is kind. C. wishes that she could sort out her relationship with music. She has a feeling it will happen naturally as she sorts out her head. Eventually, C. might find somebody to play great music with and to tell that she secretly loves romantic comedies. For now, C. likes Baltimore and she has finally moved far enough away from home to stop moving. But she has also developed a sense of pleasure from that physical movement and knows she won’t stop. She could move to Chicago or London. She could go to Philadelphia or Rome. Now she can go anywhere.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Apostrophe Cast Interview, Concerning Literary Crushes

The Apostrophe Cast interview, in which I answer whether I ever had a crush on a literary celebrity, is now up. You can also hear the podcast of the "yellow" reading here. Thanks, John and Guy.

#66 We're Lucky There's Blake Butler

Blake Butler’s two older brothers were miscarriages. Blake was almost a miscarriage too. He was blue and not breathing. He scored 1 out of 10 on the Apgar scale, which is almost not alive, and lived under the lights in the ICU for days. When he went home, he was his mother’s miracle. Understandably, she was overprotective with Blake when he was an infant, but that turned into permissiveness as he grew older, which gave him a sense of freedom that continues to inform his writing today. By 4 years old, Blake was performing considered monologues, crazy dances, music videos, and both sides of talk shows. It’s all on video (his mother will show you, if you want). Despite these performances, Blake was a fat child by the 4th grade. He liked comic books and video games. By 10th grade, he weighed 250 pounds and felt disregarded. His bedroom walls were covered with pictures of women that he tore out of magazines at the grocery store. He started playing bass in a band and started to feel better. By 11th grade, he weighed 170 pounds and people were nicer to him. He lost all the weight for a girl named Jen. He thought his weight was the only thing keeping her from him. It wasn’t, but Blake stopped being shy and started talking to girls. He played in lots of different rock bands—15, eventually. The first time Blake was on stage, under the lights, it reminded him of when he was in the ICU. Eventually, writing replaced music, though Blake brought the rhythm of the bass with him to the page. Blake still thinks of himself as the fat kid and he writes to find out what is inside him. This is one explanation for his tremendous written output. Another explanation is his insomnia, which allows him more conscious hours than most people are allowed. Blake is never fully awake or fully asleep, though, and the normal often becomes strange. But Blake keeps giving us everything that is inside him. It’s not pounds, but it’s a different kind of weight.

[Update: Blake Butler's first book has just been released. I've already bought my copy and you can buy your copy of EVER by clicking on EVER. There are blurbs from Brian Evenson and Gary Lutz. There are excerpts. There is an official trailer. There is an unofficial trailer.]

Friday, January 9, 2009

#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.

[Note #1: Matt Bell's new chapbook, How the Broken Lead the Blind is now available for pre-order here.]

[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.]

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dear Everybody Goes to CarolineLeavittville

There's a really nice interview about DEAR EVERYBODY and other things where Caroline Leavitt asks me interesting questions and I do my best to answer them in interesting ways at CarolineLeavittville. Just be careful if you go there. The interview begins with a command.

#71 Sean Lovelace: Running, Reading, Writing

Sean Lovelace was born in a clinic, not a hospital, which may explain why he later became a nurse and worked in a hospital. His biological father left when he was 1 year old and his mother was going to put him up for adoption. He didn’t know this then, but he felt abandoned, angry. Luckily, his grandfather adopted him and his uncle became his best friend. Then his mom remarried and Sean moved back in with his mother and his step-dad, who was great. The whole family would run together and read together. He often saw his parents reading and he thought that this was what he was supposed to do too. He also used to read the encyclopedia cover to cover until he found something interesting to make or do. Despite this, many of his childhood memories are of pain—hitting himself with a bolo, impaling himself on a tomato stake, that kind of thing. He went to the best schools, but was a middle class kid, so he overcompensated by writing hyperbolic stories about his classmates. When he was 14 years old, his dad challenged him to read War and Peace, which he did, but Sean didn’t really know how to use commas until he was 18 years old. Years passed. Sean kept running faster and faster. Running is the closest thing to religion for Sean. He can feel the earth moving through his body with each step. Sean read more and more books. He became a psychiatric nurse, which is how he met his wife--at the hospital (she wasn’t a patient). She is a therapist and Sean loves her heart and how much she gives to people. Sean loves their two kids, though he feels as if he abandoned his patients when he became a writing professor. His patients were thankful for everything that he did for them, though, and Sean is glad that he still makes a difference in people’s lives, which he does in many different ways—including when people read his stories and are somehow transformed.

[Update: Sean Lovelace just won the Rose Metal Press Third Annual Short Short Chapbook contest.]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Launch for the BMA's New Audio Tour: Friday, January 16th, 7-10pm

I'm reading a piece that I wrote about Dan Flavin's Untitled (To Barnett Newman for 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf') at the launch party for the BMA's new audio tour. This Acoustiguide is a great project that includes lots of wonderful writers (see list, below) and will be free to the public. Here's the museum's press release:

Beginning January 16, 2009, visitors to the BMA can experience a dynamic Acoustiguide audio tour of some of the most beloved and intriguing works in the Museum’s collection. Titled 60 Objects / Countless Stories, this innovative free tour offers an insider’s perspective on the works of art from the BMA’s expert curators, as well as art-inspired stories and poems by celebrated Baltimore writers, including David Simon, Laura Lippman, and Michael Kimball.

In addition to the personal take on objects from the Museum’s expert staff, the BMA invited 23 local writers to chose anobject and submit a piece of writing to be recorded. “There are tons of stories that surround and inform our understanding of objects,” said the project leader Anne Manning, Deputy Director for Education. From Laura Lippman’s musings on Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen to Justin Sirois’ poem on Alberto Giacometti’s Man Pointing, the creativity of these writers adds another dimension to our appreciation of these works of art.

Laura Lippman • Jackie Regalas • Hank Lewis • Shirley Brewer• Elizabeth Spires • Ed Hodges • Stephanie Briggs • Joshua Weiner • Amy Siegel • Chezia Thompson Cager • Kevin Robinson • Michael Salcman • Claire Banks • Dan Fesperman • Barbara Diehl • Olu Butterfly Woods • Suki Kuss • Caleb Stine • Justin Sirois • Teri Taylor • Michael Kimball • Jennifer Carinci • Michael Salcman

Celebrate the connection between arts and letters with an evening of live readings from the authors featured in this dynamic new Acoustiguide audio tour. Meet the curators, conservators, and writers who contributed to the project, and enjoy an evening of curatorial talks, poetry readings, storytelling, music, and book signings.

FREE, open to the public
Cash Bar

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

#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.

[Note: Jen and I co-host The 510 Readings (see article, below). Plus, the new issue of her online journal JMWW just went live.]

Monday, January 5, 2009

The 510 Readings in Baltimore Magazine

There's a really nice article in January's Baltimore Magazine about The 510 Readings, which I host with the wonderful Jen Michalski. Thank you, Jason Tinney. Thank you, Peggy and Minas.

#54 The Short Life of Red Delicious Apple

The first thing that Red Delicious Apple remembered was being a flower and the way the birds sounded in the trees. Later, Apple remembered the wind and losing his petals. Apple wanted to jump down after them, but stayed on the branch, in the tree. Apple grew up, got wider, filled out, and began changing colors. He hung on by the stem even as the others began falling to the ground. He was afraid until the hand reached up, pulled him off the branch, and piled him in a bushel basket. Apple said goodbye to tree and brought his stem with him, a few small leaves, but he didn’t know where they were taking him. He bumped against the others and was afraid. The next thing that Apple remembered was the bright lights, another hand, and a plastic bag. He thought that maybe he was being suffocated, but he still trusted the hand, which eventually placed him in a small basket with others he didn’t recognize. There was a green and fat-bottomed couple, a small gang of long and spotted yellows. It wasn’t long after that, though, that the hand delivered Apple to the teeth. Apple could feel the teeth cutting through his skin and into his meat, what was left of his insides turning brown, sickening, softening. The last thing Apple remembered was the trashcan, the lid, the rotting darkness.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


There is a wonderful writer and editor, J. A. Tyler, doing wonderful things over at Mud Luscious Press where a chapbook called SOME OF THE LETTERS THAT WERE CUT, BUT THAT TELL EVEN MORE OF THE STORY OF JONATHON BENDER, WEATHERMAN (b. 1967-d.1999) is now available for pre-order ($2, including shipping). The press run is limited and each chapbook always sells out.

There have also been, are, or will be chapbooks from Kim Chinquee, Blake Butler, Shane Jones, Brandi Wells, Brian Evenson, Peter Markus, David Ohle, and a bunch more great writers.