Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#86 Jen Michalski: Unchanging and So New

Jen Michalski’s twin brother, Scott, came out first, but his nose and ear were all bent up. His nose still looks a little smashed. Of course, this early struggle just made Jen even more ambitious. When Jen and Scott were toddlers, their mom used to dress them up in matching outfits even though they were fraternal twins, one a boy and one a girl. Their mother would take them shopping to department stores and they would sit on the mannequin stands and sing songs from Sesame Street (today, Jen has a mannequin in her house). Their mother always knew where they were. When Jen was 4, she learned to say Fuck You from her father. But all the fighting in the family made her reserved in some ways. Jen’s filter became quite thick and sometimes she'd rather say nothing than risk what the response might be. Around this same time, Jen decided that she wanted to be an elephant when she grew up. She thought it was a viable career choice. She thought that elephants looked peaceful and that they must be brave (there aren't many hiding places for an elephant). Over the years, Jen wanted to be an elephant, then a writer, then a policewoman, then a writer, then a doctor, then a writer. She wrote her first short story when she was 5 and she read everything she could find--to try to find out how other people lived. She assumed that everybody else was happier than she was. By the time she started college, Jen had written six novels. In college, she wrote poetry. After college, she wrote short stories and two more novels, but she never tried to publish them. Also after college, she was in a relationship for eleven years, which was difficult to end. Jen doesn't like change. She doesn't even like going on vacation because then she has to get used to a new routine. She has lived in the same city for most of her life (B’more!). Now, Jen’s much much happier with her life and especially with her new partner, the wonderful Phuong. And Jen still reads all the time and runs an online e-zine, jmww, where she publishes other people's stories. She’s fascinated by what people write and why. And last year, Jen published her first collection of stories, Close Encounters (So New Media). Now she’s writing another novel and this one she’s going to publish.

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I'm an Indie Heartthrob

I've been reading Bookslut for at least 5 years, probably longer and now I'm an Indie Heartthrob.

Blake Butler on DEAR EVERYBODY

Blake Butler wrote an amazing review of Dear Everybody.

#83 Cecilia Baader: Your High School English Teacher

Cecilia Baader was born in Chicago in 1973. Both of her parents were history teachers and the family’s summer vacations were at Civil War battlefields. Her senior year of college she was depressed, stopped going to classes, and dropped out of school. She got a job doing technical support and training for farmers and their GPS equipment. She hated the job and was 5 minutes late every day as a form of protest. When she hated the job too much, she quit and went back to college. She finished her degree and then earned her masters as well. Now she’s an English teacher in an inner city school in Chicago and she gets to work early every day. Cecilia loves the kids and loves that she’s doing something that matters. She fights so hard to keep her kids in school. She calls them at home. She goes to their houses. It’s good that she’s a teacher. She was always a stage person, so now she gets to spend a lot of time in front of her class. Cecilia became a teacher, in part, because she thought that the job would give her time to write, but, of course, the job is overwhelming. And the summers, a good teacher needs all that time to recover and get ready for the next school year. That is when Cecilia gets to hang out with friends and family. Cecilia’s close with all of her siblings and loves being the favorite aunt to her many nieces and nephews. Eventually, she will attend graduate school in educational administration or educational policy so that she can change things that she can’t change as a teacher. What else? Cecilia loves kung-fu movies. That’s not enough? Well, she loves to run and is obsessed with penguins. More? OK, she’s taking tap dancing lessons, but that’s all I’ve got. OK, one more thing: You should wish that you had her for your high school English teacher.

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#082 Heather Le Roux Beltran: So Much Love

Heather Le Roux Beltran was born in Indiana, but moved to California when she was 1 year old, so don’t think that she’s anything but a California girl. Heather had a good childhood (which included a horse) and she loves her parents, who she calls the best people ever. She finds inspiration in her parents (who married, divorced, were unmarried one year, and then remarried)—and the Christian lives they have led. Heather married young, but as she got older she realized that her first husband wasn’t the one for her and became unhappy. The worst part of the divorce was that her ex-husband cut her off from her step-daughter, Katie, and she still misses her. After the divorce, Heather strayed from the Christian path, partied a lot, did a lot of drugs, and taught herself to be a house DJ. A year after the divorce, Heather met her second husband, Robert. They dated for three years, then broke up (see parents, above) and were apart for 3 years. During that time, Heather dated a guy who was really into drugs and mind-altering experiences and that got her thinking about God again, which is the best thing she could have gotten out of that relationship. She left that guy and started going to church again. Heather reconnected with Robert and they got married. Heather loves how patient Robert is, how good-looking he is, and how good and godly he is (he always helps the neighborhood widows). Heather also loves how Robert loves everything about her, including how wild she is (which he does, ask him). They’ve been married for 4 years and love their house, their dog, their cat, their fish, their chickens, and their ducks. They eat a lot of eggs. They want to have a baby too, but it’s been difficult, emotionally taxing. They have tried different fertility treatments, but may decide to adopt. There is so much love between them and so much joy (one of her nicknames is the Joy Spot) that it would be great if another person got to grow up feeling all of that.

Photographic Evidence of People Reading DEAR EVERYBODY

There is now photographic evidence of people reading DEAR EVERYBODY.

And before those photos, there was this photo from the reading at Rockfield Manor in Bel Air. I wish that could remember what I was talking about right then. But then my friend Leslie (aka dogfaceboy, aka the Cake Lady) is always catching me.

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Interview at Word Riot

There's an interview at Word Riot that I did with Josh Maday. We talk a lot about DEAR EVERYBODY, but also Faulkner, Beckett, and Andre the Giant. The interview is just appearing now, but it's actually the very first interview I did about DEAR EVERYBODY. And Josh was also the very first person to ask for a review copy way back when, which I want to thank him for here, because that early support, well, honestly, it's a huge relief to get that. Thanks, Josh, and congratulations on your beautiful baby girl.

Blogging about the Book Tour

Thank you to Neil Ferguson, the events manager at the Charles Village Barnes & Noble in Baltimore, for organizing a great reading. Thank you to the 130+ people (by Neil's count) who came out to hear Jessica Anya Blau and me read. Thank you to Tita for introducing. Thank you to everybody who asked questions after the reading. Thank you to Caryn and Hannah and another Hannah and Michael and Neil and Lihan and Jess and Jessica and Jill and Shelly and Rob. Thank you to everybody whose name I don't know.
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Interview in Sunday's Baltimore Sun

There was an interview that I did with Managing Editor Dave Rosenthal in Sunday's Baltimore Sun. Now the interview is up on their books blog, Read Street. Because of space the paper doesn't include the questions, just the topic and the answers. I say things like this: "I had about 400 fragments on different pieces of paper spread out in my dining room."

Also, I love this. I love Brandi Wells.

DEAR EVERYBODY Book Tour: Fall 2008

The first book tour event for DEAR EVERYBODY was a signing on September 6 at the Ivy Bookshop, a nice independent here in Baltimore. It took place during Tropical Storm Hanna, but people still came out, which I take as a good sign.

The rest of 15+ scheduled dates for Fall 2008 are here -- DEAR EVERYBODY Book Tour: Fall 2008 -- with details, addresses, links to the particular venues, etc. I hope to see you in Baltimore, Bel Air, Washington D.C., New York City, East Lansing, Lansing, Detroit, Brooklyn, Providence, Boston, etc.
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#78 Timothy Gager: The Greater Things

Timothy Gager was born in 1961in rural Long Island. He had a mostly sheltered childhood and didn’t leave the house much, though he can recite television schedules from his childhood (really, ask him). He had his first crush on a girl when they were in fifth grade. They were playing together when the neighbor’s dog ran up to them, started humping the girl, and then ejaculated on her. That was the end of their brief, traumatic relationship and Timothy didn’t have another girlfriend until college. That was when he started playing in punk bands, the most popular of which was The Maytags (listed on Billboard’s charts for a time), and, well, he was the singer, so he had lots of girlfriends. After college, Timothy worked in a Mexican restaurant by day and played up and down the East Coast with The Maytags by night. Eventually, that stopped being fun and Timothy became a social worker, working his way up to his current position as Human Service Coordinator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. During the band days, one of Timothy’s bandmates hung himself and Timothy started writing in a journal to cope with this loss. It helped and now Timothy’s published three books—Twenty-Six Pack, Short Street, and We Needed a Night Out. Along the way, Timothy also got married, fathered two children, and then divorced. He gets along with his ex-wife better now than when they were married. Timothy isn’t good at relationships, but he’s happy by himself. The other thing that you should know about Timothy is that his spirituality is the result of a near death experience in 1980—when he left his body and had to make a choice: return to his body or continue to the afterlife. If Timothy had continued to the afterlife, then he would have known everything that humans can know. Timothy realized that he wanted to do other things with his life on earth first, but this near death experience gave him insight: a greater knowledge exists and there are even greater things beyond that.

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#77 Steve Caratzas: Governed by Numbers

Steve Caratzas had a sad childhood. His parents were angry and the tone of the house was critical. As one of five kids, he felt lost, isolated. Steve wrote poems and played guitar to cope. Later, he quit a job and moved to LA to attend the Musicians Institute. Around this time, Steve got tattoos that made him seem unapproachable, a kind of challenge to everybody. College got derailed. His early adult life was mostly playing in bands, drinking, and doing drugs. On his 35th birthday, Steve decided to get clean and sober, but he kept playing guitar. He went back to college and finished his bachelors (he is haunted by not completing things) and then earned two masters as well. This has given him a sense of completion and allowed him to move on with himself and his life. Steve’s been clean for 14 years, but he still misses pot, his drug of choice. He also worries that he has lost touch with amplified feelings, but you can see that he hasn’t if you read his brief, dark poems. Steve invented the eight-word poem, a form based on his birthday (August 8). He loves cutting words from a poem to make the poem better in the same way that he has cut certain behaviors out of his life. What else? Well, Steve hates driving, but loves cats. Also, he is incredibly grateful for his two children from his first marriage. He says that his second wife is a beautiful person, but not the right person for him. Now he’s living with a woman he met in college in 1978. She was the right person, though they wouldn’t realize that until 25 years later when they found their own artwork hanging next to the other’s in a group show at a New York gallery. They hadn’t seen each other for years, but Steve could see that she was the right person for him. They love the same things, including each other, including themselves.

Steve Caratzas
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