Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#155 Jason Stumpf Loves It All

Jason Stumpf was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. When Jason was 6, his father died, which was as hard as one might think and it shaped, consciously and unconsciously, all of his relationships and his sense of who he is. Jason’s mother did a wonderful job raising his sister and him. She tried to make sure that whatever limitations she faced did not keep Jason from being himself and pursuing his interests. The family house was not a sad place. It was very ordinary, which was all due to his mother. At 10, he began studying music—classical guitar and renaissance lute. Music seemed like a kind of magic, a secret language with its own form of writing. For high school, Jason went to McCallie, a boarding school on a scholarship, an all-male school that offered Jason incredible academic opportunities. He’s really grateful for that. It was a very different social atmosphere than what Jason came from. Kids were socially and politically very conservative and they had a lot of money. Within this environment, Jason had to figure out who he was. Being at McCallie forced him to grow up some. Jason started writing in high school and was immediately taken by the idea of writing as a process. In college, he realized that he was better suited to writing than music (writing is a creative process; musical performance doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revision). After college, Jason worked a variety of jobs: graveyard-shift employee at a Russell Stover’s factory (2 days), library assistant in a music library (1 year), library assistant in a rare book and manuscript collection (a little more than 1 year), graduate student at an MFA program (2 years), and adjunct professor of English at Providence College (4 years). In 2001, while Jason was working in the rare books collection, the library put on an exhibition to celebrate the release of James Merrill’s collected poems. Graduate students wrote catalogue articles for the exhibition and Margaret Avery Funkhouser co-wrote a piece on some wallpaper that Merrill had designed. Very soon after, Jason and Margaret both realized that they might be in love. One day, Jason kissed Margaret and they have been together ever since. Margaret is an incredibly serious person, but also goofy, creative, caring, talented, quiet, and spirited. Jason loves that Margaret is so many things. Being around her, he has fun. He learns a lot. Now Jason teaches English at the Walnut Hill School, an arts high school outside of Boston that is almost nothing like the boarding school he attended growing up. He feels fortunate to be teaching there. He feels fortunate to be the father of his one-year-old son, Jonas (an anagram of Jason). Everything about being a father is really tough, but Jason loves it all, even how hard it is.

[Update: Jason Stumpf just published his first book, A Cloud of Witnesses, which "is a verse-novel that is not in verse and isn't a novel."]
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#155 Jason Stumpf Loves It All

Jason Stumpf was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. When Jason was 6, his father died, which was as hard as one might think and it shaped, consciously and unconsciously, all of his relationships and his sense of who he is. Jason’s mother did a wonderful job raising his sister and him. She tried to make sure that whatever limitations she faced did not keep Jason from being himself and pursuing his interests. The family house was not a sad place. It was very ordinary, which was all due to his mother. At 10, he began studying music—classical guitar and renaissance lute. Music seemed like a kind of magic, a secret language with its own form of writing. For high school, Jason went to McCallie, a boarding school on a scholarship, an all-male school that offered Jason incredible academic opportunities. He’s really grateful for that. It was a very different social atmosphere than what Jason came from. Kids were socially and politically very conservative and they had a lot of money. Within this environment, Jason had to figure out who he was. Being at McCallie forced him to grow up some. Jason started writing in high school and was immediately taken by the idea of writing as a process. In college, he realized that he was better suited to writing than music (writing is a creative process; musical performance doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revision). After college, Jason worked a variety of jobs: graveyard-shift employee at a Russell Stover’s factory (2 days), library assistant in a music library (1 year), library assistant in a rare book and manuscript collection (a little more than 1 year), graduate student at an MFA program (2 years), and adjunct professor of English at Providence College (4 years). In 2001, while Jason was working in the rare books collection, the library put on an exhibition to celebrate the release of James Merrill’s collected poems. Graduate students wrote catalogue articles for the exhibition and Margaret Avery Funkhouser co-wrote a piece on some wallpaper that Merrill had designed. Very soon after, Jason and Margaret both realized that they might be in love. One day, Jason kissed Margaret and they have been together ever since. Margaret is an incredibly serious person, but also goofy, creative, caring, talented, quiet, and spirited. Jason loves that Margaret is so many things. Being around her, he has fun. He learns a lot. Now Jason teaches English at the Walnut Hill School, an arts high school outside of Boston that is almost nothing like the boarding school he attended growing up. He feels fortunate to be teaching there. He feels fortunate to be the father of his one-year-old son, Jonas (an anagram of Jason). Everything about being a father is really tough, but Jason loves it all, even how hard it is.
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#154 Margaret Funkhouser Doesn't Have to Curate Herself

Margaret Funkhouser grew up year-round on Cape Cod. For fun, Margaret and her friends would climb on the roofs of giant summer houses. Sometimes, a window would be left open and they would spend hours inside someone else’s vacant home. Sometimes, it was dark outside. Margaret’s older brothers had left for college by the time she was in 6th grade, so she wore a lot of oversized, baggy shirts that they left behind and she read a lot of their old National Lampoon and Heavy Metal magazines, which were both scandalous and habit-forming. Around age 12, Margaret started doing a lot of community theater with a lot of Alcoholics Anonymous members (when she thinks of My Fair Lady, she thinks of coffee and cigarettes). In high school, Margaret wrote poetry and she took one poetry workshop in college (eventually, receiving an MFA in poetry from Washington University in 2002). By the age of 23, Margaret felt quite old (much older than she does now at 35). At the time, she was living and teaching at an all-girls private boarding school in rural Connecticut. Right before she was supposed to start her second year, she quit and moved to San Francisco so that she could know what it felt like to be young again. It worked, at least for a while. Three years later, Margaret moved back to Cape Cod for a while, which was the last time she did community theater. It was a kind of sanctuary hiding out in her hometown for a year. At some point, Margaret met Jason Stumpf on the fire escape at a party. She got to know him while writing an essay on the poet James Merrill for the rare books library where Jason worked. She fell in love with him because she doesn’t have to curate herself inwardly or outwardly when she is around him. Now, Margaret once again lives on the campus of a boarding school. She writes poems, studies vintage cookbooks, and raises her 1-year-old son—Jonas Funkhouser Stumpf—and takes care of her 10-year-old cat, Dashiell Hammett. She often jokes that when she pictures her son in the 1st grade, she pictures herself sitting in a desk right next to him. One day, Margaret would like wake up in the morning and feel well-rested. And at 60, she would like to be able to do a cartwheel, a good one.

[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.]
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