Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#46 Karen Lillis: The Things That Saved Her

Karen Lillis was born on Friday the 13th under a full moon, which led to her being quiet and dark. She moved 7 times by the time she was 7 years old and this made her restless. She didn’t want to stay in one place long enough to get hurt. Besides, moving was always hopeful and buoyant. She narrated the receding back window scenery to her baby brother as they traveled across America. In her youth, Karen was conspicuously tall, skinny, and smart. Accordingly, the kids at school taunted her from head to toe, which led to nicknames like Ethiopia, Four Eyes, and Rex. Because of this, in part, Karen didn't talk in public until about age 15. She escaped the taunting for college and fell in love with Thomas. Their first kiss was at a train station, but they later broke up and he became The One Who Got Away. Karen became obsessed with taking photographs of train tracks and train stations. She may have been looking for Thomas where she last saw him. She felt hopeful when she looked down the train tracks. She thought her future was in the distance. Karen further escaped to NYC, which saved her from being a rag doll or going crazy. Another thing that saved Karen was writing and the cross-country book tour (see moves, above) that she took to support his her first book (she’s now published three). In NYC, she became irresponsible and preferred affairs to relationships. She wanted people to leave her. It reminded her of Thomas, who she found again—14 years after they broke up—when he applied to the store where she was working at the time. She asked him to set her free and they got back together a few weeks later. Now they are engaged and living in Pittsburgh, where they are going to stay, at least for a while.

Karen's Myspace page
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#045 The Awesome Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson has lived in a bunch of different cities, but that probably doesn’t matter. His childhood was not notable except for all of the God stuff that he grew up with. He went to a Christian college, but only because his brother, his Irish twin, did. The Christian college was awesome for Adam (though it must be noted that this word often accompanies descriptions of religious experiences) and it was there that he learned that life is really terrible unless everybody forgives each other. Adam continues to be a Christian in spite of the fact that Martin Luther consummated his marriage to Katherine von Bora in front of his friends (or, possibly, because of this fact; it isn’t clear). Said another way, Adam is a dark and sad Christian like St. Paul. Now Adam works as a technology buyer for an asset management company, but that doesn’t really describe him. It isn’t who he is. He is a guitar player for Sweatpants and the publisher of Publishing Genius and a writer of poems and stories and songs, but he cannot be fully understood in these terms either. It is better to think of Adam in terms of the time he jumped out of a speeding boat (that he was driving) and crashed it. The boat didn’t sink and Adam didn’t drown. The boat got stuck in some seaweed and Adam swam back to shore. Adam made a similar jump when he left behind his life in Milwaukee and ran away to Baltimore with Stephanie Barber, who is awesome (like Christianity, but in a different way). The experience was panicked and great. It should also be noted that the farthest Adam has walked at one time is 28 miles and 
the farthest he has ridden a bicycle is 34 miles. He could go farther, though. He will go farther. In fact, there he goes now.

Adam Robinson and Publishing Genius
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#044 Translating Anna Lenik

Her parents met at a party and three days later decided to get married. Nine months later, a tiny little girl named Anna Lenik was born in Siberia, not far from Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. Anna grew up in a good family and her parents never argued. When she was 8, she decided to learn English and her parents hired a private teacher for her. She now speaks German and Chinese as well, and she is going to be a translator or an interpreter. Anna wants to help people understand each other, but worries that she doesn’t have a talent for languages (though, in fact, she does). She wants to visit as many cities in the world as possible and make as many friends as possible (she gains her power from this). Anna doesn`t have a boyfriend, a lover, or a husband—and won’t until she finds a person who is honest and sincere. She is through listening to lies. Anna can be a vulnerable person, but she is waiting to meet somebody who will give her that feeling her parents had when they met.

#43 The Many Things to Know About Anastacia Anpilova

Anastacia Anpilova was born to artist parents and grew up in the Siberian part of Russia. There are many things to know about her. She has always been obsessed with drawing. She likes horror movies and never screams at them, but sad books make her cry. She likes studying abroad and thinks it’s romantic like in Jane Eyre. She can’t live without music and was a rock and roll girl for most of her life, but she recently started wearing high heels and skirts and became more feminine. She has no regrets. Anastacia wants to do so many things with her life and it's really hard to choose. She might do charity work with the homeless or with animals. She speaks many languages and adores doing translations, but her vocation is probably teaching. She is going to teach children English and thinks that that might be like being Mary Poppins, which is perfect. In fact, Anastacia is a good girl, though sometimes she has dark thoughts. Most people don't know that she loves her best friend, even her best friend doesn't. Most people also don't know that she once jumped from a 5-story bridge and survived. This is just one illustration of how Anastacia can do anything she decides to do.

A Few Notes on the Project

I wrote Rob Brulinski's postcard at the Transmodern Festival and it was toward the end of that first night of writing postcards and I was feeling a little zombie-ish by that point, which Rob talks about at Boy Being Buried Alive. His life story was one of the stories that really stuck with me and one of the reasons this turned into a bigger project. So I was happy and surprised to see Rob walking down the sidewalk with his twin brother, Kenny at Honfest, and glad that he shared his life story with me too. I did my best to honor their individual details.

And here's a polaroid that Rob shot while I was writing the life stories at Honfest. You can see more of them at Boy Being Buried Alive.


#016 The Life of Rob Brulinski

Rob Brulinski was born in 1988 in Towson and moved to Baltimore when he was 3. He was introduced to computers when he was six and this would have a great influence on his life. The other great influence was his grandfather, with whom he would sneak into TV shoots and movie theaters. He also began hacking, that is sneaking into other peoples computer systems. He will, for the rest of his life, do things that he isn't supposed to do. He will go to church without believing in God. He will sleep in his car instead of his house. He will be an incredible success in spite of all of this—or because of it.

Rob Brulinski's Inner Numb

#039 Kenneth Brulinski, Jr.: The Only White Kid

Kenneth Brulinski, Jr. was born in 1988 in Baltimore and grew up in Highlandtown. His father is a carpenter and his mother is a drug dealer. He was usually the only white kid in his classes, which combined with having a hearing aid, led to a lot of fights in school. In the 3rd grade, he was stabbed in the chest in class, but recovered. Years later, he became a drug dealer himself. He was never arrested for that, but his mother once had him arrested for trespassing, among 4 other charges, and then he was arrested again for smoking a blunt. He has never had a lot of friends, but, luckily, he has always had his twin brother with him. Growing up, they were the dual personification of the mirror effect, but now they are opposites—Kenneth working with his back and Rob working with his mind (though they are still great friends). Kenneth’s carpentry skills, which he learned from his father, have replaced the drug dealing skills that learned from his mother, and he will eventually build himself a good life with them.

How Much Can I Write on a Postcard?

There have been questions about how much I can write on a postcard and I usually just say, A lot. But my pal Adam Robinson asked how I was able to write all of the text from Holly Ritter's life story on a postcard and the answer is that I wrote small. Here's the proof:

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#038 Barbara Weiss: Ring Collector

Barbara Weiss has been collecting rings for most of her life—the first, a diamond from her first husband, a marriage that lasted about six years and also gave her a son; the second a diamond from a boyfriend of ten years; plus, other rings from other men that she has known, including a Polish man who didn’t speak English but who was so beautiful that they communicated by looking at each other, not to mention the bank robber who always seemed to have money. The first marriage ended when she realized that her husband’s obsession with her was not love, or not all love, but, rather, OCD. The second long-term relationship ended because of her son. In spite of this, Barbara continues to have great relationships and many interesting friends, including some who are too famous to name here. But she can say that The Temptations have sung to her in a hotel room and that she has slept in the same bed as Brad Pitt, though not at the same time.

#37 Holly Ritter: Everything Is Going to Be All Right

Holly Ritter never would have been born if her mother’s parents hadn’t emigrated from Russia to China and if her father hadn’t been stationed there in the 1940’s. But growing up a Marine brat was terrible, just horrible—especially since they always moved the middle of the school year, especially since she was a girl who wore glasses (and got called all kinds of names). These early experiences probably made Holly more introverted than she would have been otherwise, which led her to become a great reader and an English major in college (she still writes about her experiences on Steno pads, which she has never read but almost certainly contain a more detailed version of her life story). For the longest time, she would never be the first one to speak, though she has since gotten over that (as you can see by the fact that you are reading about her here). Holly first married at 21 and later gave birth to her first son, but the marriage ended in divorce when her husband left her for the office hussy. Between her first marriage and her second marriage, when the lost child faltered, God spoke to her and told her that everything was going to be all right. It’s a presence, a voice from nowhere, and everything has been all right. She learned to be on her own and got over her difficult childhood. Luckily, her second husband turned out to be the love of her life; she gave birth to a second son and they are all, as she says, living happily ever after. Holly has worked at the same job with the telephone company for 30 years and lived in the same general area for her entire adult life (just in different houses). After her early life as a Marine brat, she doesn’t even like to go on vacation.

#36 Bethany Watson: Deciding What Will Happen

Bethany Watson was born in 1989 in White Plains, NY. At 5 years old, she visited her cousin, Nicole, at Yale University, and, while playing on the swings there decided that she too would attend Yale when she was old enough. While she was still 5, Bethany moved to Baltimore with her family and, later, became a 3-sport athlete in high school—cross country, track, and lacrosse. At 18 years old, Bethany did, in fact, begin attending Yale University, where she has a particular interest in neuroscience as a way to understand human behavior. It is partly because of her knowledge of psychology, but also because of her ability to read people, that so many of her friends come to for advice. She has a rare intelligence, generosity, and intuitive ability--which will all be useful as she pursues her interests in psychology, including graduate school, so that she can continue to help the people around her. Bethany already understands that she can make things happen just by deciding that she wants them to happen.

#035 A Tiny Story About Joe Young

Joe Young has traveled back and forth between Kalamazoo and San Francisco and San Francisco and Baltimore for most of his life. This wanderlust has always been a part of Joe’s life. He is most at home not being at home—that is, he is most at home being somewhere else. This sense of home has driven Joe to hitchhike across the country and to drive drive-away cars to anywhere. Once, he died on the railroad tracks in Mexico, though the significance of this event is obscure. Now he is alive again and becoming more comfortable with being at home, as well as becoming more comfortable with himself. While at home, he writes about art and writes what he describes as tiny stories that pop out of his head with no preconceived notion attached to them. He likes the sustained, intense concentration that the tiny stories require and the white space that contains the tiny stories. He likes the miles that he has traveled and the way that that distance surrounds his life.
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