Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#171 Hayley West: The Build Up

Hayley Jolene West was born in Melbourne, Australia to English-immigrant parents. Her last name, West, is new; her middle name, Jolene, she took from her sister. Hayley has some horse-whispering heritage, has broken wild horses, and loves the feeling of galloping on a horse. When she has 5, Hayley’s little sister died in a friend's swimming pool—after which, Hayley and her brother were forced to learn to swim like fish. But most of her childhood was fantastic. Her parents used to party at their friends’ houses, so she often got to stay up late with other kids. At first, Hayley was a rat-bag in primary school, cheated a lot, ran away every other weekend. Then she was sent to a different high school and became a straight-A student, at least for a while. Hayley’s first two years of University were spent drinking, seeing bands, and protesting. After that, she changed her major from languages and did an associate degree in furniture technology. At the same time, she was working three part-time jobs and saving, saving, saving. At 21, Hayley traveled Europe for a year with a friend and ran riot. Hayley’s loud laugh makes Hayley particularly Hayley. At 22, Hayley returned to Australia and lived in Hobart, Tasmania where she studied furniture design for a year—before moving back to Melbourne to be with her father who was dying of cancer. After he died, Hayley didn’t do much for a year. Eventually, she went back to school and studied sculpture at RMIT. Over the years, Hayley has worked lots of different jobs, including a few in the adult industry—a dodgy dating agency, a chat-line operator, a sex shop assistant. It is fascinating. After all that, Hayley left a boyfriend and left Melbourne. She moved far away to Darwin where she had never lived before and then things really changed for her. It is one of the best decisions she has ever made. She began to flourish as an artist and she met a man named Tobias at an art gallery where she worked. He is also an artist and would visit the gallery once a week. Hayley was always excited when he showed up. Over 2 years ago, Hayley’s mother died, also of cancer, and becoming an orphan as an adult changed how she feels about her self and family. In 2007, Tobias proposed to Hayley in Venice. In 2008, they got married on leap day and then honeymooned at an arts residency. They've been together 4 years now and Tobias calms Hayley down, especially in the build-up—a humid, grey-sky part of the year with no rain—when she can go a bit troppo (everybody goes slightly mad during this time—more suicides, more babies conceived, more angry emails). Hayley is so happy to have found Tobias and can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives being artists together.

[Update: On March 18, 2010, Hayley West gave birth to a beautiful baby girl --Ramona Billie Lola Richardson. This winter, Hayley canceled her arts residency in the Philippines when her mother-in-law became very ill. She died just a month ago and everybody is still devastated. Their old dog Lassie, an Aboriginal camp dog, was about 11 years old when she died in the garden next to Buddha. Hayley loved that old smelly dog. Hayley will soon begin another arts residency in London—with Ramona. Tobias will be on his arts residency at the same time in Paris. She can't wait to get out of Darwin where everybody is already going troppo. Hayley is looking forward to re-evaluating her arts practice in London. It's been quite hard being creative while pregnant, but she’s loving motherhood more than she ever imagined.]
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Elizabeth Ellen Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #250 Andrea Kneeland

Andrea Kneeland was born in Hayward, California in January of 1980, which means she just turned thirty. Andrea grew up without siblings and her childhood was difficult and isolating. She didn’t do things most other kids did, like go to slumber parties or high school or prom. When she was thirteen, her first real boyfriend held a loaded gun to her head. At the time, she didn’t think this was strange and didn’t break up with him. She thinks this says a lot about how she viewed relationships the first twenty-five years of her life. When she was fifteen, she enrolled in community college. When she was eighteen she met her first husband, whom she married two years later. She doesn’t like to talk about either her childhood or her first marriage publicly. Her second husband told her when he left that he’d kill himself if he had to stay married to her. He had been abusive for a while at this point, and her friends no longer liked to be around them. Andrea believed she was being patient, waiting for things to go back to how they were in the beginning. She would try to hug her husband and he would push her to the ground. She didn’t understand this was an unacceptable way to be treated. These sorts of relationships were all she knew, and thus what she preferred. It wasn’t until she got out into the world and saw how other people lived that she understood what it means to be treated with kindness and respect. She had to learn to value herself, which is something she still struggles with today. When she was in her mid-twenties, Andrea went back to school and got her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. She had intended to study Creative Writing, but didn’t find the classes particularly interesting or useful. She preferred Anthropology, which was similar to Creative Writing in that in Creative Writing you take things that are not real and make them seem real and in Anthropology you take things that are real and make them seem not real. Since then, Andrea has published many stories online and in print, but the one she is most proud of and which she feels is most representative of her is “Pinocchio Discovers Jealousy,” as it touches on the themes she finds herself most obsessing over: birds, fairy tales, misogyny, technology, memory, sex, torn apart relationships, and anatomy. Mostly, Andrea just wants to write stories and poems that are beautiful but accessible, so that when people read them they say, “Oh, that’s beautiful because it’s so strange, but it’s even more beautiful because the strangeness is so familiar.” Andrea feels similarly about birds. She thinks there is very little difference between reading a poem and watching a bird in flight. Andrea currently lives in San Francisco and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area her whole life. She can’t imagine living anywhere else. Five months ago, Andrea met a man through an online dating service and she loves him like crazy and thinks it’s one of the luckiest things that’s ever happened to her. Together they plan on making a trip to Spain later this year. It will be the first time Andrea has left the country. She is excited to see what Spanish birds look like and is happy her boyfriend speaks Spanish so she won’t have to learn another language.

[Update: Andrea Kneeland has a new collection, The Birds and the Beasts, forthcoming from Willows Wept Press in 2011. Besides that, Andrea is an editor at the great Hobart and here is her chapbook in Fox Force 5.]

[Note: You can read Elizabeth Ellen's postcard life story here.]
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Word-Things

I interview Ingrid Burrington at Hobart about protest signs, Venn diagrams, and other word-things.
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Elizabeth Ellen Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #250 Andrea Kneeland

Andrea Kneeland was born in Hayward, California in January of 1980, which means she just turned thirty. Andrea grew up without siblings and her childhood was difficult and isolating. She didn’t do things most other kids did, like go to slumber parties or high school or prom. When she was thirteen, her first real boyfriend held a loaded gun to her head. At the time, she didn’t think this was strange and didn’t break up with him. She thinks this says a lot about how she viewed relationships the first twenty-five years of her life. When she was fifteen, she enrolled in community college. When she was eighteen she met her first husband, whom she married two years later. She doesn’t like to talk about either her childhood or her first marriage publicly. Her second husband told her when he left that he’d kill himself if he had to stay married to her. He had been abusive for a while at this point, and her friends no longer liked to be around them. Andrea believed she was being patient, waiting for things to go back to how they were in the beginning. She would try to hug her husband and he would push her to the ground. She didn’t understand this was an unacceptable way to be treated. These sorts of relationships were all she knew, and thus what she preferred. It wasn’t until she got out into the world and saw how other people lived that she understood what it means to be treated with kindness and respect. She had to learn to value herself, which is something she still struggles with today. When she was in her mid-twenties, Andrea went back to school and got her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. She had intended to study Creative Writing, but didn’t find the classes particularly interesting or useful. She preferred Anthropology, which was similar to Creative Writing in that in Creative Writing you take things that are not real and make them seem real and in Anthropology you take things that are real and make them seem not real. Since then, Andrea has published many stories online and in print, but the one she is most proud of and which she feels is most representative of her is “Pinocchio Discovers Jealousy,” as it touches on the themes she finds herself most obsessing over: birds, fairy tales, misogyny, technology, memory, sex, torn apart relationships, and anatomy. Mostly, Andrea just wants to write stories and poems that are beautiful but accessible, so that when people read them they say, “Oh, that’s beautiful because it’s so strange, but it’s even more beautiful because the strangeness is so familiar.” Andrea feels similarly about birds. She thinks there is very little difference between reading a poem and watching a bird in flight. Andrea currently lives in San Francisco and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area her whole life. She can’t imagine living anywhere else. Five months ago, Andrea met a man through an online dating service and she loves him like crazy and thinks it’s one of the luckiest things that’s ever happened to her. Together they plan on making a trip to Spain later this year. It will be the first time Andrea has left the country. She is excited to see what Spanish birds look like and is happy her boyfriend speaks Spanish so she won’t have to learn another language.

[Andrea Kneeland is an editor at the great Hobart and here is her chapbook in the fine Fox Force 5.

[Note: You can read Elizabeth Ellen's postcard life story here.]
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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.
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