Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#58 William Walsh, Private Man

William Walsh is a private man and there is little public knowledge of him. We know that he was born in the 1960’s, an event that quite possibly took place in Massachusetts. Not many specifics are known of his early life, but we can be certain that certain things happened—that he fell down while learning to walk, that his parents didn’t always understand him when he first learned to talk, that his baby teeth fell out and that the Tooth Fairy visited him without him knowing it. At some point, he learned to tie both of his shoes at the same time. When he was in the first grade, he was sent home from school for whistling. That was the last time that he did anything wrong or was in any kind of trouble. He was so good that he once played hopscotch with Pope John Paul II in Vatican Square. He always did his homework. His adolescence may have been awkward and he once ate his weight in clams. Regardless, he grew up, filled in, and became quite dashing. Later, there are public records concerning his attendance of Stonehill College and then the University of New Hampshire, concerning his marriage to a woman to whom he vowed everlasting love and, following this, the birth certificates for four children (he was recently spotted playing ski-ball with one of them at Dave & Busters). Other evidence for William Walsh’s existence includes his writings—a documentary novel called Without Wax, a formally inventive work about the adult film industry. But we should not draw any conclusions about William Walsh from this novel, his short stories, or his derived texts. This would not be dependable biographical information. Little else is known about William Walsh, but he was last observed watching late night television somewhere in Massachusetts. If you go look for him, then he might still be there.


[*This postcard life story was written, as a kind of challenge, based on what I know of William from our e-friendship—that is, without an interview.]

Without Wax

Questionstruck
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The Deep and Reflective Michael Kimball

[Note: I have been thinking that I need to write my own life story (on a postcard), but then Heather Fowler did it for me.]


Michael Kimball was born in 1967 in the days after the Great Midwest Blizzard and Ingham County snowplows had to pave the way to his parents' house to clear enough roads for his mother to get to the hospital. He loved his childhood babysitter and wanted to marry her. He wanted to marry his wife-- and did. He has the sort of movie taste people either treasure or hate, but he’s reluctant to share this. He spends his time writing people’s lives on postcards in his small, neat script, or writing novels that also pull heartstrings, or smashing things. The postcards are written so he can delve into the majesty and pain of the greater population, one person at a time. When he is not writing postcards, his longer work is about sad people, happy people, erotic people, and everyday people—because he does not pretend to be above them, though he often hides the full scope of his intelligence behind an easy or charming demeanor. He is charming because he is kind, and, because he is kind, his postcard portraits empower the dreams and dilemmas of his subjects. Because he is talented, each small note reads like a person’s story told to him or her by the innermost part of his or her subconscious. Michael’s words are tricky that way, transformative. Michael is deep as Lake Michigan, which is, on average, nearly 300 feet deep, thereby equating depth at nearly 50 times his physical height. He believes in destiny and childhood memory. He is a brimming fire burning behind veiled lids and a charming, soft spoken man who runs through cold and hot mornings, contemplating, with passion and compassion, those who live and breathe.
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Where the Postcards Are

Dear Everybody,

The knee surgery, which you can read about here, combined with a serious uptick in traffic and requests, has left me a little behind on your life stories. Please note that this delay does not in any way reflect a diminishment of my desire to write your life story. I'm going as fast as I can. So here's an update of sorts. Lonely, Micah, Blake, Gena, and Tim--yours are almost done and will go out this weekend. Jen, Sally, Elizabeth, and Kate--yours are coming after that. Timothy, Steve, Pat, Kate, Karen, Daniel, and Deborah--I'll try to give all of you calls in the next week or so. In the meantime, let's all live some more life. Then let's write about it.
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#57 The Visual Fixations of Heather Fowler

Heather Fowler almost went blind when she was a toddler. She required multiple eye surgeries to preserve her eyesight and this early emphasis on her eyes has led to certain visual fixations—especially reading, looking at art, watching movies, and staring at beautiful people. She inherited both her bad eyesight and her love of good books from her parents. Reading turned into writing and Heather’s first publication was in her seventh-grade literary magazine. Ever since then, she has been writing like a maniac—sometimes writing a poem or a flash a day for months at a time (there are so many words inside her)—and now she is a widely published poet and short story writer. But a writer is only one thing that Heather is. She is also a painter, singer, actress, friend, mother, and wife. Besides that, she has two degrees, two jobs, and one husband. She loves how much her husband loves her. She mothers three children and loves every single thing about them that makes them particularly them; she loves them more and more as they get older and bigger (she is made up of so much heart). She likes dead Russian authors, though she would never kill a living one, and fresh flowers, which she will cut with a knife. She is liberated by words and her imagination. She likes email and social networking because it connects her a world of people she would not know another way and she wants to know everybody, including you.


Visit Heather Fowler and read some of her writing.
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#53: The Healing Powers of Joy Leftow

Joy Leftow was born to a creative family in NYC and because of this, in part, grew up in extreme poverty. She slept with her mom and two sisters in one bedroom, while her dad and brother slept in the living room. She had two blouses, one skirt, and shoes with holes in them. The family had a radio, but never a TV. There were more problems than poverty, though. Her dad was crazy and often exposed himself to Joy and her two sisters. Her mom had cancer, but, thankfully, survived. Years later, her dad attacked the doctor who saved her mother’s life because her dad imagined they were having an affair, which led to him being hospitalized at Bellevue. Joy wrote her first poem, about snowflakes, at 4 years old, and then wrote many more poems and stories during her young life—everything was fantasy then. She stopped writing in the sixth grade, though, and started acting out, cutting school and smoking cigarettes. She dropped out of high school and married a drug dealer, but the marriage failed and the drug dealer went to prison. During these difficult years, Joy began keeping diaries—nothing was fantasy then—and now is widely published writer. After her now ex-husband went to prison, Joy went back home to live in the same neighborhood where she grew up. Things are much better now. She went back to school at Columbia and now has two masters degrees, one of which is in social work, because Joy is a healer, of herself and of other people. How else could she have survived?


More Joy
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#55 The Interior Life of Graham Nunn

Graham Nunn was almost named Austin Nunn after he was born on the backseat of an Austin in Melton, England. His parents were distant with each other, so he grew up with a fairly negative view of marriage. When he was 8 years old, he was reprimanded by the headmaster for teasing a girl on the playground, and, since then, he has always associated going near girls with getting into trouble. He has never had a relationship. Graham says that he’s never been a regular kind of guy. He spends much of his time alone. Graham says that there haven’t been any important events in his life, just minor ones that he tries to elevate with hyperbole. He has only had one proper job, working in the office of a small construction company where he started as an office junior and then progressed to Small Works Manager. Graham says that it sounds more impressive than it is. Graham’s interior life involves creative urges, particularly those associated writing and drawing. Not being able to decide between the two, he started a webcomic to satisfy both. He struggles to keep up with it, but he keeps on. What else can he do?

Graham Nunn’s Webcomic, Doormat Picnic

More Graham Nunn
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#52 Josh Maday: Satisfaction in the Things He Makes

Josh Maday was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and grew up near there in an almost childless subdivision. He has wonderful parents, but has struggled with depression since the second grade. Eventually, he learned to push those feelings down, but, directed inward, he grew to hate himself—for not fitting in, for not being a better athlete (even though he was a three-sport athlete), for not being good enough for anyone (even though his father attended every game he played and his mother loved him very much and Sarah eventually would too). Josh grew up stoic, stone-faced, and after high school he worked as a mason’s laborer, which he hated. Around the same time, he fell in love with Sarah, which was easy to do, and he began to have other feelings inside him. He kept laying blocks and bricks so that he could marry Sarah. He continued to build things up and his debilitating low periods were no longer so low. Sarah’s tireless positive outlook began to change Josh’s self-image. He began to understand that people didn’t actually despise him, that that was just a function of clinical depression. The chemical situation that often derailed his life was being corrected. The other thing that changed the way that Josh felt inside was reading. Josh found consolation in big ideas, unanswerable questions, and reading books. As his personal library grew to over 5K books, Josh began to turn his complex interior life into his own stories, which are often strange in content and/or form. He does not see the point of writing a traditional realist story. Anybody could do that and Josh is not just anybody, a fact that he now accepts, along with his tendency toward the dark, grotesque, heavy, weird, and satirical. And Josh now finds satisfaction in the things he makes—whether with bricks, with words, or with love. Sarah has taught Josh to care about someone else and their first child is due in September. He is excited. There are so many good things that are going to happen in his life.

Disseminating Josh Maday
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#51 Gina Myers: Ice Skating on the Page

Gina Myers was born, grew up, and went to school in and around Saginaw, Michigan. Despite its cold winters and depressed economy, she is a warm and happy person. As a young girl, Gina was a tomboy who followed her older brother around and did the things that he did. This is why she played hockey for three years before her parents switched her to ice skating lessons. (It should be noted that Gina might have won a gold medal with the first USA Olympics women’s hockey team if she had kept playing hockey.) She doesn’t talk much about figure skating anymore, though this was the focus of her life through high school and college. During this time, Gina was also a photographer and a poet, but she stopped shooting photos after her camera’s battery went dead and she never bought a new one. After college, she took a road trip to NYC with a friend and visited the New School. After returning to Michigan, she dreamed of NYC and knew that she had to move there. She couldn’t stop thinking about all those pairs of feet walking on the sidewalks. Gina took her ice skates to NYC, but only skated once in Central Park. She attended the New School and became a poet with a natural, playful style (think of the ice rink as the page). Unfortunately, she became unhappy in NYC. She tried to fix the unhappiness by changing parts of her life—her job, her apartment, certain people—but she eventually had to change cities and moved back home. In a few years, she will leave Saginaw for another city where she will continue to write poems. She is feeling optimistic.

A Sad Day for Sad Birds (Gina Myers)
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#50 The Farsightedness of Peter Cole

When Peter Cole was in the womb, his early-teens mother and 20-something father were on the run from the FBI, presumably because of statutory rape charges, and escaped to Mexico, which has often made Peter feel special but wrong. As an infant, Peter often stared at light sources, especially lamps, and his first spoken word was light, which his mother (who can hear the voice of God) believed to be a sign of his enlightenment. This also may have been the source of his crooked eyes and the reason he needed glasses early in life. Peter grew up in the church, watched The 700 Club, and prayed for his eyes to be healed. But his eyes didn’t heal and he couldn’t hear the voice that his mother heard either, which made him feel evil. In school, Peter was a chunky loner, so he started a punk band. He played music for years, but now that part of his life is over. Peter didn’t think that he would ever get married until he met the woman who would become his wife. Her name was Annie Dillard and they met, in part, because a mutual friend saw him reading a book by an author named Annie Dillard who is a different Annie Dillard. Peter doesn’t know much about cars, but he is the parts manager at an auto shop, a job he keeps because he hates shaving and cutting his hair. Recently, he stopped wearing regular clothes and only wears his work uniforms. He doesn’t know if he will ever go back to Mexico, but through his farsightedness Peter knows he will have a great, domesticated life with Annie, their beautiful beagle, Lilly, and their kids who are not yet born.


Keyhole Magazine, which Peter edits
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#54 The Short Life of Red Delicious Apple

The first thing that Red Delicious Apple remembered was being a flower and the way the birds sounded in the trees. Later, Apple remembered the wind and losing his petals. Apple wanted to jump down after them, but stayed on the branch, in the tree. Apple grew up, got wider, filled out, and began changing colors. He hung on by the stem even as the others began falling to the ground. He was afraid until the hand reached up, pulled him off the branch, and piled him in a bushel basket. Apple said goodbye to tree and brought his stem with him, a few small leaves, but he didn’t know where they were taking him. He bumped against the others and was afraid. The next thing that Apple remembered was the bright lights, another hand, and a plastic bag. He thought that maybe he was being suffocated, but he still trusted the hand, which eventually placed him in a small basket with others he didn’t recognize. There was a green and fat-bottomed couple, a small gang of long and spotted yellows. It wasn’t long after that, though, that the hand delivered Apple to the teeth. Apple could feel the teeth cutting through his skin and into his meat, what was left of his insides turning brown, sickening, softening. The last thing Apple remembered was the trashcan, the lid, the rotting darkness.
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Dear Everybody

I'm back sooner than expected. After getting up at 530am this morning, and then waiting in the hospital waiting room for over 6 hours, I still hadn't been called back into surgery. Sometime around noon, almost ready to pass out from dehydration, the knee surgery was cancelled. It was an incredibly frustrating day, but I'm trying to look on the bright side here. I still have all of my medial meniscus in my left knee, even if it is torn into two pieces. And, after talking to a woman with a Frankenstein knee who was having a second procedure because she could not bend her leg four weeks after her first procedure, Dr. Stephen Bell will not be performing the surgery on me.

OK, back to your life stories.
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Dear Everybody

I'm going to be away for a few days. Dr. Bell is going to cut my knee open tomorrow and take a little piece of my meniscus out and then smooth out what is left of my meniscus. I will miss that part of my meniscus. I will miss you too. Let's meet back here in a few days.
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© 2008-2011 Michael Kimball