Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Joseph Young on DEAR EVERYBODY

The good Joseph Young wrote a very nice review of DEAR EVERYBODY that just went up at JMWW. Here are my favorite bits: "entirely unique ... Kimball has written a book of beauty. It's a sad book and a wonderful one."
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#091 Kathryn Jachowski: Almost Completely Happy

Kathryn Jachowski has lived her whole life in Maryland. When she was a little girl, she loved animals so much that she had to pet any animal that she saw. She would stick her head in holes in the ground and talk to the worms. When Kate was 10, her parents divorced and then she lost contact with her father. Her mother told her that her father was clinically depressed, but this wasn’t true. Her new step-dad was a pastor, which was fine since Kate was always religious. Later, she learned that her father had a drug problem and was in jail. During her teen years, Kate told her friends that her dad was dead so she didn’t have to explain it. Kate always got good grades, but never liked school. Kate never got into trouble, but she did things like drugs that other people didn’t know about. She never told anybody because she always wanted to be the good girl. Eventually, Kate wrote her father a letter in jail, explaining why she was angry with him and enclosing a Get Out of Jail Free card from her Monopoly game. After he got out, they talked on the phone and eventually decided to see each other in person (Kate hadn’t seen him since she was 11), but he died from a drug overdose before that happened. Kate always got along with her mother, but she had a hard time realizing that Kate was growing up. Kate started dating Pat, an atheist, which her mother had a problem with. Kate had a breakdown and told her mother that she hated God. Kate moved out of the house and her mother abandoned her. But, really, all Kate wants is to be happy. She says she’s about 75-80% happy now that she doesn’t live at home, so she’s almost there.
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#90 Michael Mussman: Speaking Spanish (and French) Saved His Life

Michael Mussman was born on October 27, 1978, a birthday he shares with Dylan Thomas and Teddy Roosevelt. His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and were not happy when he brought home Madonna's Immaculate Collection. They were less happy when he started burning incense and reading the Lotus Sutra in his bedroom. They were incensed when he declared himself Jewish. Michael has lived in California all his life, except for one brief attempt at bohemia in Europe, which ended with a serious gall bladder attack on a staircase in the Gare du Nord. He spent a harrowing night in a Parisian hospital, in a cot beside a gunshot victim. He might not have survived if he didn’t speak Spanish and French so well. When Michael ran out of money, he flew back to San Diego, and crashed on the floor of his little sister's apartment until his big sister got him a job in human resources, for which he was terribly ungrateful. He despised that recruiting job and four more years of different jobs until he was saved by a marketing job in which he is quite content to get paid to write. Michael used to be a poet, but he abandoned that muse when he realized that he was no longer a hysterical sobbing teenager. Now that he’s grown up, he’s writing his second novel, the story of a cutthroat salesman who runs away from home. What else? Michael finds a certain satisfaction in the fact that Spanish still finds its way into his mouth quite often now that his boyfriend is from Chile. His boyfriend, Michael loves that he gets to dance and sing and misbehave around him without a drop of embarrassment or self-consciousness.

Emotional Clarity in Baltimore Magazine

I was reading our copy of Baltimore Magazine (we have a subscription) and was surprised when I turned the page and saw the cover of DEAR EVERYBODY on Page 56. It's a really nice review by John Lewis in his Read It column. I couldn't find it online, but here are my favorite bits: "Lightning has struck again with this Baltimorean's book ... Kimball's protagonist possesses an emotional clarity that makes his eventual suicide all the more believable and tragic. ... You feel his pain."

Lit Crawl NYC

After the Baltimore Book Festival, I took the train up to NYC for Lit Crawl, which is just like a pub crawl except that there are books and beer instead of just beer. I read at the Arrow Bar with the wonderful people of New York Tyrant. Also, thank you to Time Out New York--which made Lit Crawl, and our particular part of Lit Crawl, one of the week's Critic's Picks. Leigh Newman read from her great story, Family Pics, and Chris March from Project Runway said nice things about us. It's always harder to read in mixed-use venues. There are people that came to Arrow Bar just to drink and talk (or drink and not talk) and they were talking through the first couple minutes of the reading, but then I realized that it had gone completely quiet and I knew it was going well.

There were so many great readers at so many different venues that I was only able to see a couple of things, but the after party was great and nearly everybody from every reading was there. Thank you to Todd Zuniga for organizing the huge event. Thank you to Giancarlo DiTrapano and Ellen Moynihan for inviting me and to Chris March for introducing. Thank you to David and Amy for the surprise of you being there (all the way from Texas). Thank you to Eleanor for the genius of being there, and for your early and continual support.
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Baltimore Book Festival

The forecast was rain, but a lot of people still came out for the Baltimore Book Festival. When I started reading, there was a reggae band playing up the midway somewhere, so I held the microphone close and projected as much as I could. When I started reading, I could see straight into the tents across the midway, but by the time I finished the CityLit tent was full and my view was blocked by a few rows of people standing under their umbrellas along the edges of the CityLit tent. I felt as if my voice was bringing people out of the rain and that felt good.

Thank you to Gregg Wilhelm for organizing and to Aaron Henkin for introducing and to everybody for coming out in the rain.


I'll be reading from DEAR EVERYBODY on The Signal today (WYPR, 88.1)--noon and 7pm. There's more press here.

And I'll be reading from DEAR EVERYBODY at the Baltimore Book Festival tonight, 6-8pm. This is with Madison Smartt Bell, Rafael Alvarez, Jen Michalski, William Henry Lewis, Christine Schutt, and Betsy Boyd. Also, there will be free beer. There are a bunch more book events, including Saturday night's Lit Crawl here.


#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.

More Jen Michalski
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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.

More Cecilia
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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.
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