Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
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Michael Kimball Asks Blake Butler Some Questions and Then Blake Butler Answers Them

I interviewed Blake Butler @ elimae about his first book, Ever, which is just out. I ask him about the brackets, about nesting bits of story, and about whether it might have been a different book if he hadn’t put his underwear on. The interview is @ elimae: Michael Kimball Asks Blake Butler Some Questions and Then Blake Butler Answers Them.
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#29 David Kendall: What Surrounds Us

David Kendall grew up in Baltimore, left, and came back. From an early age, he wrote children’s stories for his brothers and sisters, which led to him being a painter and a poet as an adult. It was also as an adult that David first left his body, this after he was in a car accident. He didn’t want to feel the pain, so he floated up above the intersection. His floating body was outlined in white ink and he carried a briefcase. He still leaves his body when he is feeling at ease and secure, and sometimes he encounters his mother this way. In fact, it was his mother who introduced him to reincarnation and David was, among other people, a healer for the Czar’s family in the 18th century. He has also seen ghosts and a UFO with blue-skinned aliens. David knows things about the world that most people will never recognize.


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#42 The Possibilities of E


E grew up in a creative family in Teaneck, NJ, and had a good childhood, except at school where she was picked on for being the smart kid. Being the smart kid, she planned to attend Harvard University and then become a heart surgeon, but after working as an EMT in high school she decided that making art was her only option. Her parents were disappointed in this decision and told E that they wouldn’t consider her a quitter if she dropped out of art school at MICA and studied pre-med at Hopkins instead. She continued with her printmaking studies at MICA, but found the medium limiting and switched to oil paint. Around this same time, E contracted HPV and developed cervical cancer. She underwent a series of painful surgeries and treatments. The most painful aspect of this, however, was when her mother told her that it was her fault. Their close relationship changed after that, but E is healthy again, and the difficult experience made her more responsible, more independent, and more self-sufficient. E recently switched from oil paint to acrylic paint and has mostly stopped using paintbrushes in favor of paint scrapers, which, of course, are usually used to remove paint. E’s new paintings exhibit her personal alphabet of abstract symbols that are full of implication. The possibilities for these new paintings—and the new E who creates them—are limitless.
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The Fictionaut Five

There is a nice little interview with Jürgen Fauth that is up at Fictionaut (a literary community for adventurous readers and writers) in which I talk about a few books that I wish I had written and what I would do if I weren't a writer.
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#143 Candy Tothill Lives in Hope

Candy Tothill was born in 1973 in Parktown, South Africa, the last of four children, her siblings older by a decade and more. She grew up in a house with her 2 parents, 3 of her grandparents, her nanny, a housekeeper, a gardener, 15 cats, 3 dogs, and 1 guinea pig. Despite all the people and animals, Candy was a lonely child and shadowed people so that she was never in a room by herself (most often her Gran, a dressmaker and the homemaker for the family). She was more of an observer than a participant, though, and, as a result, she remembers much of her childhood as if it were a long movie that she watched. Reading books became a way to escape from her own thoughts. In 1986, Candy represented her school in gymnastics in the South African Games. Gran’s death, when Candy was 15, was quite difficult, and Candy’s life changed after that. It became clear that Gran had been holding the family together. Candy lost her sense of structure and began to rebel. She became anorexic and lost interest in school too. Candy married her first husband just before her 18th birthday, separated from him when she was 19, and divorced just before she turned 22. During this time period, they produced 2 extraordinary children. A few years later, Candy hurtled herself into another marriage, which resulted in the birth of her third child, her baby girl, who entered the world a mere 12 days after the suicide death of her oldest brother, which was another setback. Her brother had always been such a shining example for her and his suicide left her with nothing to believe in anymore. Life became unreal. And then Candy’s second marriage was more complicated than she ever could have anticipated. It became torturously drawn-out, in and out of court for nearly 2 years, and Candy wasn't sure that she would live long enough to see the end of it. In 2004, Candy’s dad had a brain aneurysm and died. Her father was the smile that never failed to greet her, the touch of reassurance that made everything seem okay. Candy regrets that she didn’t speak at his funeral. She wanted to, but couldn’t. She wrote an un-given eulogy for him instead. In 2007, Candy married an American who she thought was perfect for her, but he couldn’t relocate to South Africa. He lasted 175 days in the country. The marriage itself lasted 55 days. Candy still lives in hope. She still believes in fairy tales. She is so proud of raising her three children on her own. Each of them brings so much happiness and meaning to her life. Through all of this, Candy has been writing—poetry, articles, annual reports, social reports. She runs a consulting business that specializes in triple bottom line accounting, social accountability management, and black economic empowerment verification audits. Her book, Losing People, will be published as soon as she finishes writing it. Candy’s life, when she is done with it, will remind the world that she was here.

Inside Candy
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#141 The Great Abundance That Is Steve Katz

Steve Katz was born in the Bronx in 1935 and grew up in Washington Heights. It was a classic NYC childhood—playing ball, chewing Double Bubble, and hanging out in the park. When he was 9, Steve says that he took his sled to the park across the street and noticed everybody looking up into the sky at a bright lozenge of light. He says that he became transfixed by it too and was transported up into that lozenge of light. He says that that 9-year-old boy is still up there in the light (quite content that he never grew old) and that the Steve Katz who is talking to me is the alias Steve Katz, who has written some books and screenplays. After that, Steve attended Cornell University where he met his wife who was beautiful, the rodeo queen of Winnemucca, and a great sculptor. In 1957, he worked for the forestry service as a lookout with his wife, the result of which was their first child. They lived in Italy in the late 50’s and early 60’s with their 3 sons until Steve felt like he was losing his language. (Language is an imperfect medium for representing whatever you think of as reality.) The family moved back to the US and Steve took a teaching job at Cornell. They were married 14 years and Steve’s girlfriend, after the separation helped with the divorce papers. Steve never liked going to school, but taught creative writing and literature at a number of universities until he retired from the University of Colorado in 2003. What else? One great thing he was happy he did was buy a place in Cape Breton in 1971, which was gorgeous and peaceful; he lived there in a tee-pee for many years until he built a cabin in 1988. Also, Steve says that your body gets ridiculous as you get older, but its self-destruction puts you closer to your spirit. Further, Steve was one of the founders of Fiction Collective. And the books? Steve has written and published continuously since the self-published novella, THE LESTRIAD in 1962—including THE EXAGGGERATIONS OF PETER PRINCE (3 g's intentional), SAW, WIER & POUCE, SWANNY’S WAYS, ANTONELLO’S LION, and KISSSSSS: A MISCELLANY. The critic, Jerome Klinkowitz, says he “…pushed innovation farther than any of his contemporaries.” Steve currently lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is working on his MEMOIRRHOIDS (pain in the ass memories), of which there will be 137 (which physicists call god’s number, the fine structure constant, as it appears in all transactions between matter and light), which includes an unresolved decimal.

More Steve Katz

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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Shortest, Skinniest, Funniest-looking, Little Fish Man

If you google shortest skinniest funniest looking little fish man, then this blog is the first hit.
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#125 “I” Can Rescue Herself

When “I” was born, she didn’t cry. She lived in a squat with her mother for the first part of her life. After that, they lived in an abandoned farmhouse where “I” screamed at night and said there were farmers coming out of the walls. Then they got evicted and were homeless for a while. They lived with various friends and family until she was school age, when they got a council house. As a little girl, she made wheelbarrow gardens for ladybirds, fed digestive biscuits to pet snails, and had a hairclip as an imaginary friend (he was a crocodile). She was known as a daydreamer and found it hard to concentrate. When she was 12, she had an out-of-body experience while making toast. She floated above and behind herself, connected with all the world, looked at her mortal self from the past and the future. It only lasted a second. Later, she would remember it as a sign of hope before all her trouble began. Just after her 13th birthday, she went to China to visit her grandfather, who abused her emotionally and sexually while she was there. She was totally alone on the other side of the world, confused and terrified, and she felt as though her mind was going to flip. She made a conscious choice to stay sane. Back at school, the other kids noticed that she had become a frail and reticent creature and bullied her relentlessly. She did little schoolwork, but managed to gain both GCSE and A levels. She started going with her only proper boyfriend when she was 17 and pretty much lived with him and his mother for 2 years, sleeping on his tiny single bed. She fell in love with their dog, and took her for walks as often as she could. One of the most joyful times of her life was a holiday in Anglesey with her boyfriend and his family. When she was 19, she dreamed that she didn't love her boyfriend anymore, cheated on him, and broke up with him. She started taking drugs, all sorts, and drinking every single day. She moved in with a friend and spent all her time with her. They slept together, went to the bathroom together, everything. They were both terrified of being alone. After that, she flew to Australia by herself. While there, she made porn photos and a porn video because she needed money. After that, she flew back and went to Glasgow University, where she took more drugs and slept with various boys who knew nothing of her. She was trying to shed her identity. She came out of this period of her life with a nasty bout of genital warts and having been sexually assaulted again. At 21, she stopped drinking, smoking, and sleeping with people. She became afraid to leave the house and lost all confidence. Her despair grew until she went to a doctor who sent her to counseling. She spent the next year trying to reconnect with the girl she lost after her 13th birthday, but, eventually, realized that the real “I” was somewhere between that girl and everything that had happened since. Last year, she fell in love (unrequited) with a boy, who seemed to inhabit her dreams, accompanied by various animals. She felt a rare sense of trust and ease with him. Sometimes, she wishes he had rescued her. He didn’t, but now she sees that she can rescue herself.
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#140 The Happy Life of Amelia Gray

Amelia Gray was born in Tucson, AZ, and had a safe and happy childhood. What Amelia mostly remembers is laughing a lot and the funny things her sister and parents did. For a childhood, it was just about as good as anybody could hope for. Around 10, Amelia started playing the violin. In 4th grade, Amelia wrote a science fiction story where everyone wore clothes that changed colors according to their moods, which was the beginning of the inventive fiction writer she has turned into today. Amelia went to Arizona State University for her BA in literature, and, when she was 20, she rode Greyhound buses everywhere. She’s afraid of flying, partly because of the way things rattle around inside an airplane. She thinks she might feel better if she could sit on the wing and hear how strongly everything is constructed. Amelia went to Texas State University for her MFA, and now she holds four jobs (transcribing a WWII veteran's journal, freelance writing, and teaching at two universities), which allows her to work all day while also avoiding work all day, depending on which project she focuses on. It's weirdly motivating. Amelia has night terrors that make her do funny things in her sleep like stand on the bed and run down the stairs. Once, she kicked out a window. Also, Amelia has two cats (Republic, who got his name because she found him in the dumpster behind the Banana Republic where she used to work, and Turkish, who got her name from the fact that she is big like an ottoman), but no boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or dog. She wants a boyfriend like she wants 180 pounds of cotton candy. She has been the cotton candy in many relationships and she has been the person with the cotton candy on her hands in other relationships. It might make her sick, but she could fit either thing (a boyfriend or 180 pounds of cotton candy) into her lovely two-bedroom apartment in Austin (of which, by some small-world logic, MK’s brother-in-law is the landlord, and, she says, the best landlord ever). Besides that, Amelia has written a screenplay and a flash fiction collection in the past year. Right now, she’s working on a novel. She’s trying to figure out what type of writing is the most fun, which, right now, is flash fiction, which she’s trying to figure out how to accumulate into a novel, which she will.

More Amelia Gray

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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Andy Devine's First Review

I wrote a brief afterword for Andy Devine's chapbook, As Day Same That the the Was Year (Publishing Genius), which received a super nice review from Mud Luscious' J.A. Tyler. The chapbook is called "fascinating ... phenomenal ... strange and wonderful" and it is said that "perhaps every sentence of a young life could be created by combining and recombining the litany of its alphabet." The afterword is called "the perfect balance to the a-z explosion of words on the previous pages."
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#139 Stacy Muszynski, Miracle Baby

Stacy Muszynski was born 3 months early when her family was camping. This involved state troopers, some illegal things on the highway, and a bunch of brothers and sisters who still insist Stacy ruined their vacation. Stacy was called the miracle baby, which was too much and probably led to her sense of perfectionism and responsibility. Stacy’s childhood was a mixed bag. One brother fed her with an eye dropper. Another brother once gave her a running start as he packed a rock inside an icy snowball. When she thinks about the whole family together, though, it’s the living room’s flickering TV light, bodies sprawled every which way, everybody laughing. When she was 8, Stacy started playing soccer, the beautiful game, because her friend Chrissy was going to play (they’re still friends), and she learned to play each position. When Stacy was 9, her mother died unexpectedly. Stacy listened to her father cry himself to sleep at night (that was maybe the hardest thing ever, but good too, the way it demonstrated the power of love, the depth of sorrow). After that, Stacy found other mothers to take care of her, to learn from, to hug. She tried to be a good kid. Her mother's death keeps her close to tears and compassionate, a fragile gift. Years passed. Stacy went to college, kept playing soccer, had a bunch of different majors, graduated. After college, Stacy kept playing soccer—loving the beauty in the work among players: weave, give-and-go, overlap, everything in motion and open space, everything angles. Stacy has always loved chip shots, bananas, diving headers. She has always loved the smell of the grass in every season, the crunch of it after a freeze. There was the way Coach yelled at her from the sideline. There was how, when she struck the ball with the sweet spot of her instep, everything aligned and she realized a choir had started singing. Over the years, Stacy also tore some ligaments, acquired bad knees, and injured her back in a way that doctors could not quite explain. Soccer, it’s tough, and now it’s been 8 years and 4 months since she last played (as of 01/09). Another thing to know about Stacy is that she is incredibly inquisitive, which is one of the ways that she shows her intense desire for intellectual discovery and emotional connection. That is, if Stacy meets you, she will consider you her friend, and you will be. Further, she will keep writing one good sentence and then another good sentence until she has something important to publish. Also, now, Stacy has a permanent boyfriend, her husband, Vincent Cavasin, whose name she loves, along with his undying patience, his capacity for fun, his lack of sports knowledge, and his baby-butt-smooth skin. They met online @ Lavalife, and he was persistent, which was a good thing. Their as-yet-unborn kids will learn logic and high-level math from Vince and eye-foot-hand coordination and ball control from Stacy.

Stacy introducing Denis Johnson
Stacy introducing Tim O'Brien



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#135 The Ease of Being Gillian Kiley

Gillian Kiley is the youngest of 8 kids. Her mother and her father used to go to Town Hall in Andover, Massachusetts to change her name without telling each other (Samantha, Theresa, and Jill were some of her other names, at least for a little while). Her mom won out and Gillian became Gillian for good, but her parents couldn't agree on a middle name either. Gillian’s parents are a generation older than the parents of her peers and she grew up in a strict household. She had her mouth washed out with soap. She was not allowed to go to sleepovers. Gillian was extremely shy as a kid and would turn purple trying to talk to people (and she still sounds very young on the phone), but she read a lot and was always around lots of people, so she became pretty observant. Her senior year in high school, Gillian was grounded for a month. In college, Gillian met, but did not date, Sam White. They had mostly the same group of friends, though, and then they went to the same graduate school too. During graduate school, Gillian and Sam went from friends to coupledom, if awkwardly and with an enormous amount of denial (but that was just at first; it’s been pretty great for years and years). After graduate school, there was her time in New York City. Now Sam is Gillian’s husband and she loves his sense of humor, his warmth toward others, his inventiveness, and his inability to hold a grudge. Now they are living in Providence, which is kind of close to both of their families, but not too close. Since moving there, Gillian has learned how to weld and that when shooting, she goes high and left (so duck low and to the right if she’s pursuing you, though she never will run after anybody shooting anything except sparks of love). Also, Gillian finds people who like to dance adorable. Further, Gillian’s attention can be described as diffuse. And, according to her acupuncturist, she has a hot liver. According to Gillian, she loves cheese, but is lactose intolerant. You should also know that Gillian has virtually no natural sense of direction, but this has not deterred her in any way. What else? Gillian’s job involves writing all day, which can make it difficult for her to find enough space for her writing, but she recently finished a book-length poem. Writing is where Gillian feels the most lucid and least compromised. Oh, and once, when Gillian was in Ireland looking at finger stones, she was chased by a bunch of cows; first, they just walked toward her and then they sort of galloped; she had to hop a fence to save herself, but she feels a certain ease with life-threatening things.

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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