Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#299 Matty Byloos: Absolutely Everything Right Now

Matty Byloos was born in Los Angeles and raised in various parts of the San Fernando Valley (a Valley Boy, if there were such a thing). Matty’s childhood was great and his family was pretty typical of Italian-American families. There was lots of extended family around and everybody played a ton of cards. They all loved baseball and large meals. Everybody had a sarcastic sense of humor, so teasing was prevalent. Then, when Matty was 11, his grandfather, the family patriarch, died and everything fell apart. His immediate family stayed close—Matty and his sister have always been friends and his parents stayed together—but everybody else drifted away. For some reason, as a kid, Matty loved the movie Wall Street. Also, he attended an all-boys, Jesuit high school near the city center of Los Angeles, just a few miles from the LA riots that happened in 1992. The school was shut down for a while and it was like entering a warzone when they went back—entire city blocks reduced to rubble and ash, blackened and charred. That has always stuck with Matty. The other standout thing from high school time was visiting Mabel King during his community service commitment, which he did at the Motion Picture Country Home, a rest home and hospice care facility for anybody involved in show business. She was blind and dying at the time, but also so full of life—a kind of magical grandmother. After high school, Matty attended a Jesuit college where he played rugby on and off and also played bass in a punk band called Vietnun. Once, he was held up at gunpoint and almost killed. Besides that, he studied literature and creative writing and it was great. For his Masters, he studied painting and critical theory. Matty’s girlfriend is also his best friend and she knows more about what is going on in his brain at any given time than anybody else but him. She's divine and a poet. They met through mutual friends and, after some difficult middle years, sorted things out. Matty loves that she'll fight like a hellion and forgive just as fast. They don’t have kids, but do have two cats—Patchen and Parsley (who thinks Matty is her mom—most nights he wakes up with her suckling on the two cherry blossom tattoos on his forearm). Matty always wanted to see Japan and he did in 2005 when the cherry blossoms were in bloom. During the trip, Matty ate apple pie and ice cream in a tiny house after seeing the Buddha statue in Kamakura. Another time, Matty was almost killed again when he was almost hit by a car going 100mph in the wrong direction during a high-speed chase. That combined with the Jesuit life principles of treating every day like it’s your last have made him a workaholic and somebody who tries to do absolutely everything right now. Now Matty does online marketing stuff. He owns and operates a network of websites. He still paints and has been working on a large-scale drawing installation that functions like a novel in pictures—with every single page on display at the same time. Matty is feeling pretty good about writing these days, even more so than painting, which is a big shift after mostly existing in the art world. He’s working on a novel that is built out of independent flash pieces. It's about a motorcycle gang and the apocalypse and Detroit and lots of birds that wear jackets and ponder their own evolution.
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#282 Robin Black: Growing Up Unhappy and Becoming Happier in a Way that Makes Unhappy People Feel Like They Can Become Happier Too

Robin Black was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. Her parents were legal scholars and she grew up in a great big house that was not a bit fancy. The house had lots of illness around it, which made growing up pretty odd. When Robin was 10, her grandmother who was a paraplegic from spinal tumors moved in with the family. Also, her father’s difficult moods dominated the household and his lack of balance kept everybody off-balance. Robin had ADD (still does) and other learning issues, which made her feel like a failure growing up. She was always the kid with unfinished homework and she missed lots of school because of illnesses, which had their basis in her fear of going to school. When Robin was 16, she asked her parents if she could go into therapy and that probably saved her life. She’s thankful for that instinct to get help when life felt so overwhelming. Robin’s memories of childhood are largely unhappy ones, but she always liked reading and writing, and she loved theater. She was in every school play and some community theater too. Playing a character was a great way to not deal with her own stuff. Robin studied voice too and can sing just about every song written between the two world wars. If she wasn’t going to be an actress, she was going to be a nightclub singer. But she didn’t pursue either, in part, because she was afraid of how sophisticated the other theater kids seemed when she got to college. That paralyzed her and she took German instead, which made no sense at all. During college, Robin took time off to return home and be her grandmother’s caregiver. After college, she became severely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave her house without having crippling anxiety attacks. During this time, Robin also had two difficult pregnancy losses, one late along, and those were shattering experiences. Robin met her wonderful husband Richard at a Public Service Fair when she was in law school, which she was doing so she could support herself and her kids. She was 30ish, had ended her first marriage, and was a mother of two children. Richard has been a full-fledged parent to her two older kids and to the daughter they have together. She’s amazed by how much he can give to other people. Around 40, Robin decided agoraphobia wouldn’t get in her way anymore. It took years of intensely difficult work, but she beat the disease. Most of the decisions Robin made the first 40 years of her life were motivated by fear. Robin’s kids are now 23, 19, 15 (girl, boy, girl) each amazing and amazingly kind. Her daughters are gamer girls and her son is a singer, which makes her super happy. Her youngest has significant learning disabilities and works so hard for things that come easily to most. The learning disabilities concern language processing, so Robin and her daughter are always trying to find the right words, though for very different reasons. Along with her family, Robin also loves her dog Watson, who is so loving back. It's important to have a relationship that doesn't involve words. For now, Robin wants to keep writing, to age well, and have friends who think she’s kind and funny, which she does. She wants to write a book about growing up unhappy and becoming happier that makes unhappy people feel like they can become happier. She also wants to sing more, but not in some corny, metaphorical way. She actually wants to sing more.
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Shya Scanlon Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #257 bl pawelek

Barry Pawelek was born at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, NC, in 1968, the first son of three to a two-term Vietnam Vet. His family soon moved to the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where his mother worked as an emergency room RN, and his father jumped from job to job, being everything from a florist to a wrestling coach. Very active in sports as a teenager, Barry taught hockey to kids until, in the winter of his 16th year, he had a bad fall on the ice, and was unconscious for two days. Fortunately, he woke up. For the next two years or so, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but in time his memory became noticeably unreliable for what Barry calls “secondary memory.” Though he could still remember things most dear and important to him, things of lesser importance, like directions, or the names of acquaintances, were now increasingly lost. He now sees this as one of the defining moments of his life. Barry has been writing since he was in his teens, but although he has notebooks of evidence, he has only one distinct memory of writing during this early period: one summer his father worked as a park ranger, and he spent time with his father in the woods. He remembers the feeling of carrying his binder around, of writing among the trees. It was “horribly bad stuff.” He wrote sporadically during his 20s, but he was a voracious reader, having earned a BA in English Literature from Cal State. Encouraged by a teacher, he went on to earn an MA in Literature from Loyola Marymount. It was at Marymount that Barry began to take creative writing classes, and as a result to take writing more seriously. In the beginning, he had a very “shotgun” approach to submitting, and though he found some success with publication, he was not proud of either the work, or the publishing credits. In 1998, he stopped submitting altogether, and began to think less about getting it out there, and more about self-improvement. During the next ten years, he focused on his own private artistic practice, which includes writing, painting, and photography, on his family, and on his career in public relations. Barry is a Communication Project Manager for a water company, and no one at work knows about his issues with memory. This is partly because he keeps his private and work lives separate, but also because he has successfully been able to mask the matter by taking exhaustive notes, and because the nature of his work follows short project lifecycles. Barry takes a journal with him everywhere, and writes down everything that seems important. When he travels by car, he uses a GPS to make sure he knows how to get where he’s going, and how to get back. But when he wants to remember something important, to savor an experience, he also stops, focuses, puts the scene into perspective, and tries to embed it in his memory. Barry was married in 2003, and has two children—Eli, who is five, and Abbey, who is three—with his wife, Jennifer. Jennifer is the best thing that ever happened to him (he realizes that everyone says this, but he knows it to be true). She is extraordinarily caring and patient with him, and is his best friend. Barry feels incredibly fortunate to have waited until his mid-30s before having children, because by this time he could let go of his youthful selfishness. He does not have any real regrets. Everything serious, he’s talked through and apologized for. The small things he simply forgets. In 2008, Barry began again to submit his writing for publication, but this time he was very selective and smart about where he wanted to be published. The first publication he sought out was Willows Wept Review, and Molly Gaudry was the editor who accepted his poetry. Barry does not consider himself an accomplishment-driven person—he enjoys building relationships and promoting things that are important to him—but he does look forward to publishing his first book. In 2009 he wrote a novella, but he’s not in love with it. Sometimes he goes back to old journals—much of which he does not remember writing—and types some of it out. But generally, his writing keeps getting better, and whatever he most recently wrote, he likes the best.

[Update: bl pawelek's collection of poems, The Equation of Constants, is now available at Artistically Declined Press.]

[Notes: You can read Shya Scanlon's postcard life story here. And you can read bl pawelek's postcard life story of James Beach here.]
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Shya Scanlon Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #257 bl pawelek

Barry Pawelek was born at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, NC, in 1968, the first son of three to a two-term Vietnam Vet. His family soon moved to the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where his mother worked as an emergency room RN, and his father jumped from job to job, being everything from a florist to a wrestling coach. Very active in sports as a teenager, Barry taught hockey to kids until, in the winter of his 16th year, he had a bad fall on the ice, and was unconscious for two days. Fortunately, he woke up. For the next two years or so, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but in time his memory became noticeably unreliable for what Barry calls “secondary memory.” Though he could still remember things most dear and important to him, things of lesser importance, like directions, or the names of acquaintances, were now increasingly lost. He now sees this as one of the defining moments of his life. Barry has been writing since he was in his teens, but although he has notebooks of evidence, he has only one distinct memory of writing during this early period: one summer his father worked as a park ranger, and he spent time with his father in the woods. He remembers the feeling of carrying his binder around, of writing among the trees. It was “horribly bad stuff.” He wrote sporadically during his 20s, but he was a voracious reader, having earned a BA in English Literature from Cal State. Encouraged by a teacher, he went on to earn an MA in Literature from Loyola Marymount. It was at Marymount that Barry began to take creative writing classes, and as a result to take writing more seriously. In the beginning, he had a very “shotgun” approach to submitting, and though he found some success with publication, he was not proud of either the work, or the publishing credits. In 1998, he stopped submitting altogether, and began to think less about getting it out there, and more about self-improvement. During the next ten years, he focused on his own private artistic practice, which includes writing, painting, and photography, on his family, and on his career in public relations. Barry is a Communication Project Manager for a water company, and no one at work knows about his issues with memory. This is partly because he keeps his private and work lives separate, but also because he has successfully been able to mask the matter by taking exhaustive notes, and because the nature of his work follows short project lifecycles. Barry takes a journal with him everywhere, and writes down everything that seems important. When he travels by car, he uses a GPS to make sure he knows how to get where he’s going, and how to get back. But when he wants to remember something important, to savor an experience, he also stops, focuses, puts the scene into perspective, and tries to embed it in his memory. Barry was married in 2003, and has two children—Eli, who is five, and Abbey, who is three—with his wife, Jennifer. Jennifer is the best thing that ever happened to him (he realizes that everyone says this, but he knows it to be true). She is extraordinarily caring and patient with him, and is his best friend. Barry feels incredibly fortunate to have waited until his mid-30s before having children, because by this time he could let go of his youthful selfishness. He does not have any real regrets. Everything serious, he’s talked through and apologized for. The small things he simply forgets. In 2008, Barry began again to submit his writing for publication, but this time he was very selective and smart about where he wanted to be published. The first publication he sought out was Willows Wept Review, and Molly Gaudry was the editor who accepted his poetry. Barry does not consider himself an accomplishment-driven person—he enjoys building relationships and promoting things that are important to him—but he does look forward to publishing his first book. In 2009 he wrote a novella, but he’s not in love with it. Sometimes he goes back to old journals—much of which he does not remember writing—and types some of it out. But generally, his writing keeps getting better, and whatever he most recently wrote, he likes the best.

[More bl pawelek.]

[Note: You can read Shya Scanlon's postcard life story here. And you can read bl pawelek's postcard life story of James Beach here.]
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