Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#66 We're Lucky There's Blake Butler

Blake Butler’s two older brothers were miscarriages. Blake was almost a miscarriage too. He was blue and not breathing. He scored 1 out of 10 on the Apgar scale, which is almost not alive, and lived under the lights in the ICU for days. When he went home, he was his mother’s miracle. Understandably, she was overprotective with Blake when he was an infant, but that turned into permissiveness as he grew older, which gave him a sense of freedom that continues to inform his writing today. By 4 years old, Blake was performing considered monologues, crazy dances, music videos, and both sides of talk shows. It’s all on video (his mother will show you, if you want). Despite these performances, Blake was a fat child by the 4th grade. He liked comic books and video games. By 10th grade, he weighed 250 pounds and felt disregarded. His bedroom walls were covered with pictures of women that he tore out of magazines at the grocery store. He started playing bass in a band and started to feel better. By 11th grade, he weighed 170 pounds and people were nicer to him. He lost all the weight for a girl named Jen. He thought his weight was the only thing keeping her from him. It wasn’t, but Blake stopped being shy and started talking to girls. He played in lots of different rock bands—15, eventually. The first time Blake was on stage, under the lights, it reminded him of when he was in the ICU. Eventually, writing replaced music, though Blake brought the rhythm of the bass with him to the page. Blake still thinks of himself as the fat kid and he writes to find out what is inside him. This is one explanation for his tremendous written output. Another explanation is his insomnia, which allows him more conscious hours than most people are allowed. Blake is never fully awake or fully asleep, though, and the normal often becomes strange. But Blake keeps giving us everything that is inside him. It’s not pounds, but it’s a different kind of weight.


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The Trailer for DEAR EVERYBODY

Luca Dipierro and Rachel Bradley, of Black Arrow Studio, made a beautiful book trailer for DEAR EVERYBODY. If you like it, please feel free to spread it around. I would appreciate it and Luca Dipierro and Rachel Bradley would appreciate it too.


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#62 Micah Ling: Outside of Time or Competition

Micah Ling’s name has always given her problems. She is not Asian or a man. She is Native American (mostly) and a woman (completely). Micah has a twin brother, but she was born first (by about 45 seconds), and her twin likes to say that she ditched him (which she would never do). She loves her family and thinks of her parents as her best friends. She started writing her mother little poems when she was about 7 years old. Her father drives a motorcycle and she started running with him when she was 10 years old. When she was 11 years old, she became a vegetarian after seeing how the turkey was killed on Thanksgiving. It made her sad, especially since she gives a name to every animal that she sees. Micah ran through high school and through college. Running is her meditation and she can think about things while she’s running without getting overwhelmed. Micah went to Indiana University for her MFA in poetry and MA in literature—and met her future husband, Nate, there in Bloomington. Nate drove a motorcycle and she would ask him to give her a ride on his bike every time she saw him. After about a year of asking, he did and that was the beginning of them. It is years later and she continues to live on his endless supply of kindness and forgiveness. It is years later and Micah is still running, but her feet are full of pains these days. In college, she ran the national race with a broken foot that still comes back on her. She wishes that she had never raced. She would rather just run outside of time or competition. Now she has the best job she could have, teaching writing and literature. And she still writes poems, often formal poems, so that she can break all the rules.
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#59 The Storytelling Instinct of Shaindel Beers

When Shaindel Beers was 4 years old, her mother kidnapped her and they fled cross-country. For a year, they lived with strangers. Because of this, in part, Shaindel has never been afraid of anybody or anything. During this time, and before she could write, Shaindel told her mother stories, which her mother wrote down with crayons. This storytelling instinct and the fact that she observed adults often writing things led her to believe that this is what adults did, a behavior that she would later emulate as an English professor and a writer of poems (when she starts with a feeling) and fiction (when she starts with a character). Eventually, Shaindel and her mother drove back to her father, but the family was still dysfunctional—in part because of her mother’s OCD, which manifested itself, partly, as a hoarding instinct. In fact, growing up, Shaindel always thought of her friends’ houses as strangely neat, oddly empty. Her mother’s hoarding led to the family house being condemned and her mother going to jail for pulling a gun on two people who were trying to clean out the house. This might not have happened, but Shaindel’s father was at Subway getting a sandwich. Another thing that almost didn’t happen was Shaindel meeting her husband, Lee. Two hippies who live in a trailer on a reservation had fixed them up on a blind date—because they both read all the time and they both are hermits—but the hippies told them each a different meeting time. When Shaindel got there, Lee had left. Shaindel found out where Lee lived and went to his house. He answered the door in a wife beater that showed off his skull tattoos, but Shaindel was not afraid. They got married, and—oh, wait, did I tell you that Shaindel means pretty in Yiddish? It does. She is. Ask Lee. He’ll tell you.

Shaindel's Website

[Note: In between when I wrote Shaindel's life story and when it went up here, she was offered a two-book deal with Salt Publishing (second item on the left), so feel free to congratulate her on that. The white space at the bottom of the postcard bothered me, but I'm glad that this good news is what it was for.]

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An Early Review of DEAR EVERYBODY

There's an early review of DEAR EVERYBODY (pub date is September 1) in the Greenpoint Gazette. It's three paragraphs of kind words with no "but" anywhere to be seen. Here are the last three sentences: [Dear Everybody is] "inventive and often extremely funny, but it will also break your heart. Michael Kimball is one of the most talented and original writers in America today. You should read his books."
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The One Thing I Have Learned So Far

Everybody is amazing. Gena is amazing. Gina is amazing. Blake is amazing. Josh is amazing. Christopher is amazing. Zachariah is amazing. William and Heather and Joy are amazing. Graham is amazing. Peter is amazing. Micah is amazing and Micah's mother, Deborah is amazing. Red Delicious Apple is amazing. Karen is amazing. Adam is amazing. Anya and Anastacia are amazing. Rob and Rob's twin brother Kenny are amazing. Barbara and Holly and Bethany and Joe are amazing. Minas and Peggy are amazing. Emily and Ann and David and Albert and Gail and Kristina and Joe are amazing. Lynn is amazing. Bart is amazing.
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#10 The Life of Zachariah Zebadiah Handler


His parents named him Zachariah Zebadiah, but most people knew him as the Miracle Baby, this because only weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces when he was born 3 1/2 months early. While still in the incubator, his father took the wedding ring off his finger and put it on ZZ’s wrist. His father doesn't know it, but this is one of the reasons ZZ survived. And it is one of the reasons they are so close today (though his father doesn't realize that either). Since his birth, ZZ has gained 193 pounds, an increase of over 100x his early birth size. And by surviving, ZZ has gained other powers, which he uses to perform his own miracles, this in his work with the deaf and the blind.





















[Note: This is one of the first ones I wrote, when I was wriiting on the fly at the Transmodern Art Festival (see first post, down at the bottom there). They were a lot shorter in the beginning, though maybe more distilled. I'm glad that ZZ stayed in touch and sent in some family photos to go with his life story.]
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#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?


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