Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Hobart Interview: "Each letter is its own story"

The very fine Hobart has a new issue up. There's new fiction from Ravi Mangla, Lindsay Hunter, V. Ulea, and Sara O'Leary. And there's an nice interview where Matthew Simmons and I talk about how DEAR EVERYBODY was written, my aesthetic grandparents, and suicide.
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#108 Kate Salter: Wide Landscapes and Bright Light

Kate Salter was born to Colonial parents in 1980 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Everybody calls her Kate, except her mother who calls her Kath, George, Georgina, Harold, Lucy, Tribelet, or any of a number of other names. Kate moved to Cape Town when she was 2. Her parents divorced when she was 9 and her mother mostly raised her after that (though she was always in close contact with her father). Growing up white in Africa left her with no real sense of home. Her identity feels like it is hers, but she says it isn’t. Kate had a very happy childhood, but after moving to the UK when she was 11, it felt utterly gone—not just temporally, but also spatially. Kate found herself seeking wide landscapes and bright light, but that was hard to do in England. Her teenage years were spent in rural semi-isolation in Sussex, at a terribly sweet and innocent school for girls, with ponies and cream teas and green gym knickers. She doesn't think she has quite recovered from that. After her degree, Kate taught English in Japan, then temped in the charity sector, but office work was disenchanting. So she pursued acting, which she still loves, and then journalism. Kate met her first proper boyfriend when she was 19 and they were together for 6-7 years. She got pregnant as they were breaking up. Kate’s son, Jem, just turned 3 and she still tries to co-parent with his father. Jem is the deepest emotion that Kate has ever had or could ever imagine. It is a wonderful life sentence. Also, it helps that she made him and that Jem is really clever, good looking, and funny. One day, Kate wants to learn how to drive and how to fly on the trapeze. She might get a tattoo, but only a really good one. She might sing some and act more. She will travel by couch surfing with her son and she will visit her parents in South Africa. She might have another kid, maybe. For now, Kate and Jem live in the lively seaside town of Brighton, where it is so beautiful that it’s difficult to not be happy there.
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#106 Leslie F. Miller: Let Her Eat Cake

Leslie F. Miller was born in Baltimore on the eve of Yom Kippur, the day one is supposed to do no labor. By 7, she was a great swimmer. She was also one of the early latch-key kids. Growing up, she sometimes ate frosting out of a can for dessert, which is a partial explanation for why Leslie can’t control herself around cake. Leslie liked to sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone. She wrote poems that got passed around the school because everybody could relate to Leslie’s poems. On her Sweet 16 birthday, her three best friends stopped talking to her, though years later they apologized. After this, Leslie remembers sitting in the dark in her walk-in closet listening to Patti Smith and writing death poetry. She knows what it is like to be without friends. Around this time, she started going to see bands and she once met the Ramones after she was thrown out for standing around backstage. In the early 1980s, she was one of the first people to rollerblade. In college, Leslie joined a band that once opened for the Thompson Twins, but her bandmates did too much cocaine and the band broke up. It was around this time that Leslie met her husband and they have been together ever since even though he wasn’t her type—a hippie with long hair and a beard. He was nice and funny and smart and she loved the way that he played guitar. After over 10 years together, they got married so that they could go on a honeymoon. Years after that, their daughter Serena Joy was born (so named because her mother thinks of herself as Neurotic Misery). Serena is psychic and can read Leslie’s mind at the strangest times. Once, Leslie chopped off the tip of her thumb. Also, her hands fall asleep when she raises them over her head. What else? She’s a writer and a mosaic artist and a photographer and she’s good at being each of them. What else? She used to teach college, but doesn’t anymore and she feels pretty good about that. One more thing? Sure. Leslie’s one goal in life was to have a book published: Let Me Eat Cake—which is a kind of history of cake, including cake folklore and lots of interviews with people who love cake—will come out Spring 2009.

More Leslie F. Miller

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Johannesburg's The Citizen: "Superb"

There's a nice little review of DEAR EVERYBODY in THE CITIZEN, a Johannesburg newspaper, which says: "Kimball does a superb job," among other nice things. Thank you, Bruce Dennill.
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Caketrain #6

The new issue of the very fine Caketrain is now available for pre-order. I have a short piece from FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY in it, the novel I just finished. Plus, there are all of these other wonderful people in it too:

Wolfgang Matzl, Josh Wallaert, Danielle Wheeler, Aby Kaupang, Sara Levine, Eric Baus, Paige H. Taggart, Stacie Leatherman, Shane Jones, S.E. Smith, Katherine McCord, Jayne Pupek, Ryan Call, Thomas O’Connell, Catherine Kasper, Janelle Adsit, Kristen Orser, Tom Christopher, Janis Butler Holm, Ben Mirov, Clark Chatlain, Kim Chinquee, Bonnie Roy, Norman Lock, Stephen Ellis, Michele Kingery, Jordan Sanderson, Gracie Leavitt, Rituale Romanum, Joshua Ware, Jac Jemc, Karyna McGlynn, Michael Kimball, Elizabeth Winder, Forrest Roth, Jennifer Jean, Patrick Misiti, Kim Parko, Gretchen E. Henderson, Kathryn Rantala, Cori A. Winrock, Brian Foley, Anne Heide, Christof Scheele, Jenny Hanning, Kate Hill Cantrill.
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#103 Rachel Joy: Conflict Resolution

Rachel Joy was born in Uganda during a civil war, the youngest of six. Her father was a priest, her mother a nurse. When Rachel was 28 days old, her mother crossed the border to Kenya with all 6 kids. She is Rachel’s hero and her inspiration. At 3, Rachel’s father got a job in Sweden and the family followed him there. Rachel was a loner as a child. She started a year early because she was so smart. In 5th grade, Rachel started getting sick all the time—migraines, stomachaches, other various ailments. She would go home after school to read and write, so she didn’t have many friends. She devoured every book in the house, and then started on the books in the library. When Rachel reads, she forgets about the world around. When she was a child, her mother would punish Rachel’s siblings by forcing them to read and punish Rachel by forcing her to watch television—seriously. Rachel played the piano and wrote songs and poetry and stories. At 15, she went to a music school, but dropped out. Around this time, she started wearing suits and got the nickname Evil because she rarely smiled. Her body was in a state of uproar, but nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. Rachel finished high school and started university where she studied communication in English, international migration and ethnic relations, and peace and conflict resolution. She loved her freedom at university, but, after her third year, she decided she was done with Sweden, and applied for the University of Bradford (at the time, the only university in the world with an MA in conflict resolution). Warfare fascinates her, but coming from a war torn country has left Rachel with the desire to build up her native country—and maybe save the world. After her MA, she moved around a bit. In 2005, she was staying with her father when she found him dead in his bed. The worst part of dealing with her father’s death was that everybody wanted her to tell the story of finding him. The only time her father ever said that he was proud of her was when he read her dissertation. After that she moved around a lot again. Rachel will do anything on a dare, but she has trouble trusting people and lives a rather lonely life. She doesn’t feel alone, though, or that there’s anything wrong with it. She would like to have a family some day, but the thought of having people around constantly unnerves her. Rachel writes music and poetry that nobody will ever hear or read, which helps to keep her emotions in check. She is in love with words, reading them or writing them. And now she works as a consultant for GE Healthcare, which is ironic since she still suffers from an unidentified illnesss.



R. Is For Reading

Hey Josh Ritter
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#102 The Ecstatic Shanti Perez






















Shanti Perez grew up at the top of a mountain—without running water, electricity, or plumbing. When she was 8, she fell out of her grandpa's truck and she was out cold for a long time, but never went to the doctor. Shanti’s mother always wanted her to go away, so Shanti ran around in the woods—first with pigs and then with dogs. As a child, she was terrified of balloons and gym class. Her grandparents were like parents to her. One of her favorite toys growing up was a pond that her grandpa dug out with the backhoe. Shanti has always liked looking at tiny things, so she would set up her Breyer horses in front of a bush that resembled a full-sized tree, or a creek that resembled a raging river, and then photograph them so that she could see how real the scenery appeared to be in the photo. Shanti thinks in pictures. She knows where everything is located because she can picture everything. Sometimes Shanti blurts out random things in public, and she can have rigid expectations that make things difficult for those around her, but she completes every task with an amazing degree of thoroughness. When she was 14, her mother kicked her out of the house and Shanti traveled the homeless circuit. Nothing bad happened. A few years later, Shanti had two wonderful boys—Ki Song and K.C. Later, Shanti went to college where she studied anthropology, computers, and business (now she has an MFA in creative writing and an MA in management). Sometimes, college was difficult; to cope, Shanti kept her pet snake in her bra when she went to class. Around this time, Shanti met a boyfriend, a relationship that lasted 10 years. She didn't understand a lot about having a relationship then and thinks her boyfriend grew tired of trying to get close to her. Shanti still hasn’t recovered from that, but it was her two dogs, Lou and Greta, helped her to cope. Greta protected Shanti and sometimes when they sat on a hill together, Greta would lean into her and that was a great comfort. Now Shanti sees that decade-long relationship as a lesson and is grateful for it. Now she is with her boyfriend Phout, who sat behind her in 6th grade, who she is very attracted to, who accepts Shanti for who she is. With this relationship, Shanti also has two wonderful stepdaughters, Kia and Khay. Recently, Shanti was diagnosed with autistic disorder. Her family consisted of so many eccentric individuals that the autism went unnoticed until she was in her 30s. Now Shanti raises turkeys and chickens, plays with her rottweilers, hosts a show on blogtalkradio, writes fiction, reads, paints, studies hobo spiders and grizzly bears. Most days, she is ecstatic.

More Shanti Perez
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#101 Elizabeth Crane: She’s Great


Elizabeth Crane was born in 1961 to a professor and an opera singer. She was a social and rambunctious child. The small family lived together until she was 6 years old and Elizabeth’s parents split up, which was disorienting (and at least part of the reason that Elizabeth didn’t marry until 34 years later). Elizabeth moved with her mother to New York City, which was overwhelming (the buildings too big, too physical, so dense). Elizabeth’s mother sang in operas that took them all over the US and Europe and Elizabeth sang opera too—until 5th grade, when she started writing fiction. She spent half of the summer in Iowa with her father’s new family. The rest of the year Elizabeth and her father wrote letters to each other, which Elizabeth loved. In 7th grade, she wrote a novella (based her half-sister as a creature that lived under the table). For college, she went to George Washington in DC, in an attempt to escape New York City. She kept writing, but didn’t learn anything from her writing teachers, which was a disappointment. After college, she moved back to New York City, which kind of sucked for another 10 years. She was trying to be creative and pay the rent and please her parents, and, well, you know. She had lots of different jobs, but didn’t like any of them. It was during this time that Elizabeth’s father bought Elizabeth her first computer, because he thought that any serious writer should have one. She kept writing, but it wasn’t until she read David Foster Wallace that Elizabeth realized that she could write like herself (instead of, say, Jane Austen). That’s when everything changed. She moved to Chicago even though she didn’t have a job, but finally felt like she belonged somewhere (so open, so beautiful, the lake). Her mother got cancer, which was terrible, but Elizabeth also realized that she needed to reconcile with her mother. Elizabeth tried to make amends for not being a good enough daughter, even though she was. Once, while she was talking, trying to explain, her mother fell asleep. When her mother died, Elizabeth realized that she needed to get on with her life. She took a year off from work and finished a novel that she had been working on for years. Her agent couldn’t place it, but, in the meantime, Elizabeth had been writing short stories. There was a mini-bidding war for the collection and Elizabeth burst out laughing when her agent told her the amount of the advance. Things have been pretty good ever since. She’s published three wonderful collections of short stories. She has a great husband who she met through friends (though she didn’t realize they were dating for the first two weeks of their relationship, not until he brought her flowers). And she has a dog named Percival Fontaine Barksdale, which—how great is that? Yeah, it’s pretty great.

More Elizabeth Crane

Buy one of Elizabeth Crane’s books
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#100 The Chronology of Jonathon Bender (b.1967-d.1999)

1966 Conceived, probably on his father’s birthday, in San Clemente, California.

1967 Born during The Great Midwest Blizzard in Lansing, Michigan.

1968 Cannot do much for himself.

1969 The birth of his brother, Robert.
Jonathon asks for him to be returned to the hospital.

1970 Fears taking baths.

1971 Fails to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

1972 Breaks a window with his face.
Thinks he has gone blind.

1973 Falls in love with his babysitter.
Beaten by his father for leaving a door open.

1974 Cannot stop hiccupping.
Runs away from home; returns the same day.

1975 His father teaches him how to fight.
Thinks he is crowned the Burger King.

1976 Wears red, white, and blue clothes every day for a whole summer.

1977 Tries to stop his father from choking his mother.

1978 Runs away from home again and hides from his father in the neighbor’s garage.
His blackouts begin.

1979 Thinks cancer is contagious.

1980 Begins high school.
Worries he caused his grandfather’s death.

1981 Finds his father’s pornography and begins to learn about women.
Feels he is beginning to rot after getting a cavity filled.

1982 His first visit to a psychiatrist.

1983 His first sexual experience with a girl who is not in a magazine.

1984 Loses virginity; does not want it back.

1985 Breaks up with first real girlfriend.
Graduates from high school.
Leaves home to begin college.

1986 Tries to hug his father, but his arms are not long enough.
His mother worries about him being away at college.

1987 His parents separate.
Considers suicide after reading depressing novels.

1988 Stops going to class or studying.
His parents divorce.
An airplane explodes over Scotland.

1989 Graduates from college.
Cuts off contact with his father.

1990 Disappears for a year.

1991 Chases a tornado.
Lies on resume to get weatherman job.
Gets camera time in a small market.

1992 Meets Sara Olson, who recognizes him from television.

1993 Starts living with Sara.
Gets distracted by airplanes.

1994 Attempts to make it rain; fails.
Marries Sara.

1995 Attempts to conceive a child with Sara; fails.
Buys a house with a cracked foundation.

1996 Committed to a mental hospital by Sara.
Months pass; gets himself out.

1997 Sara separates from him.

1998 Begins looking for his childhood.
Loses job.
Refuses to sign divorce papers.

1999 Tries to remember his whole life.
Commits suicide in his car in the garage
at his home in Jefferson City, Missouri.

More Jonathon Bender
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#99 Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties

At 4, Jessica Anya Blau thought that kids were strange and had no friends her own age; she didn’t want to play Butts and Vaginas with them. Her best friend was a 70-year-old widow who let Jessica play with her sock monkey. At 5, Jessica fell in love with the 5-year-old boy who lived across the street after he told her that he was 25 years old. At 7, Jessica’s father’s job moved the family from Ann Arbor to Santa Barbara and they lived in a lemon orchard. This turned Jessica into a sunny California girl and she made lots of friends. As got older, she wore a bathing suit everywhere she went and had a deep tan that made her look like one giant freckle. Jessica studied French at Berkeley and gained a lot of weight without realizing it (she thought that the Laundromat was shrinking her clothes). She met her good-looking first husband at the college pub and they lived in a mansion that he was housesitting. They got married in a park in Berkeley and Jessica bought clothes for a department store. They moved to Toronto and Jessica couldn’t work in Canada (though she did some, illegally), so she started writing. She sent one story out to one place and it was accepted. Jessica kept writing. They got a dog, but Jessica had always wanted to be a mother. Jessica felt her body change and knew that she was pregnant. Her body kept changing until she felt huge, uncomfortable, ridiculous—and then her first daughter was born. There were marriage problems and Jessica applied to graduate school. She was accepted into the writing program at Johns Hopkins University and moved to Baltimore. Her first husband stayed in Toronto and that was how their marriage ended. Jessica loved Hopkins and writing and felt liberated. She met her second husband, the unbelievably wonderful David Grossbach, at Sam’s Bagels. He looked her up in the phone book after he got home and then they got married and then Jessica’s second daughter was born. After that, Jessica wrote and then published The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and felt, after all those years of writing, that she had finally made it. And she had. And everybody was happy that she had.

Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
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#97 Lynn Alexander: Witness to the Suppressed Narrative

Lynn Alexander’s childhood was kind of strange because her father got custody of her and her siblings when her parents got divorced. Her father is amazing. He supported her mother even after the divorce and sometimes she lived in the house with the rest of the family. One of Lynn’s favorite childhood memories is watching the Sunday news shows with her father, which is probably why she’s still a news junkie. Lynn went to Stony Brook University and then to New York University, which changed her life. She became interested in social work because of a job she had working nights in a rough neighborhood. She mostly served coffee and let people linger when they had very few places where they could be. There were all kinds off people—runaway kids, prostitutes, crack addicts, seniors with limited money who took their spouses out to share a coffee. Once, she found a dead man frozen outside. Another time, she found a baby left in a car while its mother turned a trick. After this, she applied to social work school, and then worked at a psychiatric hospital. During this time, Lynn learned what it was like to be a single parent, broke, trying to go to college, working nights. She learned about exhaustion and about living in survival mode. She learned how to make things without art supplies, using things around the house—magazines, junk mail, packages—making collages, “rock women” out of Rolling Stone magazines, strong vibrant women who resembled the opposite of how she felt at the time. She made things with her daughter, who needed to know about such women. These collages were both escapist and celebratory. They were symbolic and they were triumphant. She learned about the way art can change lives. This combined with the study of social issues broadened her awareness and re-affirmed her commitment to combining work with making a difference in people’s lives. Now Lynn is a social worker, policy researcher, activist, writer, and poet. She’s a mother and a wife and married to a supportive, caring person. She’s an artist and it is the artist who is the witness to the suppressed narrative.

More Lynn Alexander

Even More Lynn Alexander
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You Can Go Home Again

It was kind of great to go back home to Michigan and to MSU. I talked with writing classes and gave readings and did Q&As and it was all different and all good because I had never done any of those things in the place where I grew up. It was a kind of passage and I loved that my mother and my sister came to each of the readings in Lansing, East Lansing, and Detroit. I loved that some of my childhood neighbors showed up and that some of my cousins did and and that my niece and nephew who go to MSU did and that some of my high school friends did--and that this was the first reading that a lot of them had ever been to. I got to meet Josh Maday, who has done a ton to help get the word out on Dear Everybody with a review and an interview. I got to meet Matt Bell who wrote a grew review for the LA Times and then blogged about the reading at MOCA in Detroit. Gina Myers also came out to MOCAD and it's always nice to see her and I loved that she blogged about my mom and my sister. For the record, I never tried to burn the house down.
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