Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#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.

[Update: Jessica Anya Blau's wonderful second novel, Drinking Closer to Home, will be published February 2011 by Harper Perennial.]

Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties.
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#192 M Created a New Life

M was born in Toronto, Canada to immigrant parents. Her mom was from Hungary and her dad from Poland. She always felt different growing up—everything from the clothes her parents bought her to the radishes and pate in her school lunch. M longed for bologna on white bread and Oreo cookie lunches. She felt a mixture of embarrassment and shyness when friends came over to her house and wished that she lived in a house with thick carpeting and velour wallpaper. She wanted to be either a veterinarian or an airline hostess. One summer she was Mr. Cookie and dressed in a huge cookie outfit. M went to university in the town where she grew up and she kept the same friends that she had always had. After university, she thought about what it would be like to sit at the same job, gradually growing wider and wider and wearing increasingly nubby sweaters. It terrified her and she started sending out resumes everywhere in the hopes for a job that was something different. One of her job offers was in Copenhagen—though it could have been anywhere—and so, on a whim, M sold or gave away nearly everything she owned and moved to Copenhagen with her gigantic suitcase and whatever she could fit inside it. Copenhagen felt strange and different, but beautiful, so it was an easy, and now she works there in advertising as a writer. She was able to figure out who she was, since nobody around her had any preconceived expectations of who she was. M created a new life for herself. She found new friends and new things to do. For instance, she likes to pet strangers’ puppies. M also recognized that her life had been pretty good back in Canada, but she loves her new sense of independence. In fact, M just went freelance and now she is on her own in every part of her life. And she loves that. She’s smiling just thinking about it.
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#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
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