Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Blake Butler Asked Me to Guest Edit Lamination Colony and I Said Yes

I guest edited Blake Butler’s Lamination Colony and the issue looks amazing. Blake asked me what I wanted it to look like and then he made it look like that. It’s all different-colored boxes that you have to scroll over until a name pops up and then you click on that some-colored box and there is something for you to love there.

There are 100 boxes and 38 writers and over 60 pieces. There is Kim Chinquee, Adam Robinson, Ben Mirov, DS White, Matthew Salesses, Blaster Al Ackerman, M.T. Fallon, Adam Good, Stephanie Barber, J.A. Tyler, Catherine Moran, Cooper Renner, Luca Dipierro, Amanda Raczkowski, Rupert Wondolowski, Whitney Woolf, Lauren Becker, Michael Bible, Robert Swartwood, Darcelle Bleau, Robert Bradley, Jamie Gaughran-Perez, Aimee Lynn-Hirschowitz, Shane Jones, Conor Madigan, Krammer Abrahams, Shatera Davenport, Jordan Sanderson, Stacie Leatherman, Josh Maday, Joseph Young, Jason Jones, Gena Mohwish, Jen Michalski, Aby Kaupang, Jac Jemc, Karen Lillis, and Justin Sirois.
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#59 Shaindel Beers and Her Writing Behavior

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 Beers' Blog Tour started a couple of weeks ago--in support of A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, which is just out. She will be stopping by here tomorrow for an interview about her life and her books.
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60 WRITERS/60 PLACES, Trailer #2

60 Writers/60 Places is a film by Luca Dipierro and Michael Kimball that is about writers and writing occupying untraditional spaces, everyday life, everywhere. Here is Giancarlo Di Trapano reading some of his writing in front of a church.

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I WILL SMASH YOU: Trailer #3

This is my segment from I WILL SMASH YOU. I was smashing an office, and I had no idea what I would look like on camera with a sledgehammer, but I love this. It feels like a relief all over again just watching it.

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#155 Jason Stumpf Loves It All

Jason Stumpf was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. When Jason was 6, his father died, which was as hard as one might think and it shaped, consciously and unconsciously, all of his relationships and his sense of who he is. Jason’s mother did a wonderful job raising his sister and him. She tried to make sure that whatever limitations she faced did not keep Jason from being himself and pursuing his interests. The family house was not a sad place. It was very ordinary, which was all due to his mother. At 10, he began studying music—classical guitar and renaissance lute. Music seemed like a kind of magic, a secret language with its own form of writing. For high school, Jason went to McCallie, a boarding school on a scholarship, an all-male school that offered Jason incredible academic opportunities. He’s really grateful for that. It was a very different social atmosphere than what Jason came from. Kids were socially and politically very conservative and they had a lot of money. Within this environment, Jason had to figure out who he was. Being at McCallie forced him to grow up some. Jason started writing in high school and was immediately taken by the idea of writing as a process. In college, he realized that he was better suited to writing than music (writing is a creative process; musical performance doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revision). After college, Jason worked a variety of jobs: graveyard-shift employee at a Russell Stover’s factory (2 days), library assistant in a music library (1 year), library assistant in a rare book and manuscript collection (a little more than 1 year), graduate student at an MFA program (2 years), and adjunct professor of English at Providence College (4 years). In 2001, while Jason was working in the rare books collection, the library put on an exhibition to celebrate the release of James Merrill’s collected poems. Graduate students wrote catalogue articles for the exhibition and Margaret Avery Funkhouser co-wrote a piece on some wallpaper that Merrill had designed. Very soon after, Jason and Margaret both realized that they might be in love. One day, Jason kissed Margaret and they have been together ever since. Margaret is an incredibly serious person, but also goofy, creative, caring, talented, quiet, and spirited. Jason loves that Margaret is so many things. Being around her, he has fun. He learns a lot. Now Jason teaches English at the Walnut Hill School, an arts high school outside of Boston that is almost nothing like the boarding school he attended growing up. He feels fortunate to be teaching there. He feels fortunate to be the father of his one-year-old son, Jonas (an anagram of Jason). Everything about being a father is really tough, but Jason loves it all, even how hard it is.
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Blake Butler, That's the Worm; Or, Another Book Trailer for My Friend, Adam

Here is another short video with Adam Robinson and Blake Butler in the foreground, Shane Jones and Molly Gaudry and me as voices.

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#154 Margaret Funkhouser Doesn't Have to Curate Herself

Margaret Funkhouser grew up year-round on Cape Cod. For fun, Margaret and her friends would climb on the roofs of giant summer houses. Sometimes, a window would be left open and they would spend hours inside someone else’s vacant home. Sometimes, it was dark outside. Margaret’s older brothers had left for college by the time she was in 6th grade, so she wore a lot of oversized, baggy shirts that they left behind and she read a lot of their old National Lampoon and Heavy Metal magazines, which were both scandalous and habit-forming. Around age 12, Margaret started doing a lot of community theater with a lot of Alcoholics Anonymous members (when she thinks of My Fair Lady, she thinks of coffee and cigarettes). In high school, Margaret wrote poetry and she took one poetry workshop in college (eventually, receiving an MFA in poetry from Washington University in 2002). By the age of 23, Margaret felt quite old (much older than she does now at 35). At the time, she was living and teaching at an all-girls private boarding school in rural Connecticut. Right before she was supposed to start her second year, she quit and moved to San Francisco so that she could know what it felt like to be young again. It worked, at least for a while. Three years later, Margaret moved back to Cape Cod for a while, which was the last time she did community theater. It was a kind of sanctuary hiding out in her hometown for a year. At some point, Margaret met Jason Stumpf on the fire escape at a party. She got to know him while writing an essay on the poet James Merrill for the rare books library where Jason worked. She fell in love with him because she doesn’t have to curate herself inwardly or outwardly when she is around him. Now, Margaret once again lives on the campus of a boarding school. She writes poems, studies vintage cookbooks, and raises her 1-year-old son—Jonas Funkhouser Stumpf—and takes care of her 10-year-old cat, Dashiell Hammett. She often jokes that when she pictures her son in the 1st grade, she pictures herself sitting in a desk right next to him. One day, Margaret would like wake up in the morning and feel well-rested. And at 60, she would like to be able to do a cartwheel, a good one.

[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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Questioning William Walsh About Questionstruck

I interviewed William Walsh about his new book Questionstruck, which is made up entirely of questions, which is why I asked Bill to answer my interview questions with more questions, the result of which is this interview at Word Riot.
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#152 Gérard Rudolf Is Not as Dark and Moody as People Think


Gérard Rudolf was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1966, but Rudolf is not his real surname (which was dropped, mostly for professional reasons). Gérard spent most of his childhood in Cape Town and it was dreamy, secure. When he was a kid, he was utterly convinced the world had been monochrome before he was born—all the photographs in the family albums, the old movies on TV, all of it black and white. He spent hours trying to figure out how and when the world changed to color. He roamed over the neighborhood with friends creating strange worlds in empty lots—all cowboys and Indians, and Star Wars, also some Huck Finn. Gérard studied the usual subjects, but school bored him. He stared out the windows. His head was never where his body was. It still isn’t. Gérard’s teenage years were in Johannesburg, and he played rugby to please his father, but never had any great interest in sports. At 15, he faked a neck injury to get out of playing rugby and that might be considered the beginning of his acting career. After school, Gérard joined the army for 2 years because it was compulsory and his family didn’t have enough money to send him into exile. When he was 18, he did a tour of duty in the Angolan War, and, one night, came under heavy fire. Everybody else scrambled for cover and returned fire, but Gérard just lay on his back looking at the stars. A warm feeling of tranquility washed over him. He had no interest in shooting at strangers. After that, Gérard resolved never to wear a uniform or take up arms again. He studied acting and became a successful actor in South Africa. He loved the collaborative nature of acting, all the oddballs and geniuses, and that no two days were the same. In 1993, his older brother died suddenly and that shocked Gérard into the realization that we only have right now. In 1998, Gérard founded a professional acting school in Cape Town—he wanted to give something back to the industry that had saved him from the 9-5. But in 2002, Gérard found himself burnt out and having a nervous breakdown. He thought Cape Town had fallen out of love with him. He walked around talking to himself, unable to understand his life was burning down around his ears. He felt as if he were sitting in a deck chair with a cold beer watching everything go up in smoke. Gérard quit acting, got divorced, and moved to the UK 2 days later. He is still trying to piece it all together. Gérard started writing to orient himself on the map and now he writes fulltime—his first book, Orphaned Latitudes (2009). He met his current wife, Hermarette (“H”), a psychiatrist, at his ex-wife’s art gallery in Cape Town. They were friends for a long time before things got so complicated years ago and his entire life imploded. He loves her heart and her kindness, her generosity and her intelligence, her dignity and her sexiness—also, her cooking and that she doesn’t take his crap. In 2006, his father died and Gérard became even more aware of his mortality. But Gérard is not as dark and moody as people think. He blames his face for this misconception.

Gérard on Facebook and on MySpace.
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The Trailer for DEAR EVERYBODY

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A Man Who Needs No Introduction

A nice, short article by A. Jarrell Hayes @ examiner.com.
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#153 The Coolness of Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., but raised in upstate New York. His father was a painter and his mother a psychotherapist; both were Jews from the Bronx, advocates for peace and the intellectual. As a kid, Ben read books at the dinner table even though everybody else talked. Ben hated little league, but played soccer for years. He wrestled until he broke his leg skiing. He ran track and cross-country throughout high school. Once, at the drive-in on a date, Ben was kissing with his eyes open when he saw a glowing, white cylindrical UFO hovering above the drive-in. In the local paper the next day, it was reported that other people saw it too, but it couldn’t be explained by anything military or weather-related. Ben didn’t study much until college, but he studied obsessively in college and was a double-major—English honors and psychology. The first time Ben saw his wife, she was doing aerobics in the basement of their freshman dorm. Ben vowed to meet her and did when it turned out their roommates were secretly dating and he found himself needing somewhere to sleep one night. They have now known each other longer than they have not, which is pretty cool. One thing Ben regrets about college is not going abroad and being too focused on grades, substance abuse, sports, being cool, and getting laid. One morning, toward the end of college, after another long night, Ben looked out at the dreary upstate morning and tried to think of the farthest place from there. He moved to San Francisco one month after graduation, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. So was marrying his wife in 1996—and have their two kids (he hopes both of them soon begin to sleep through the night). And so was deciding to become a writer around his 30th birthday, something he had been thinking about for maybe 10 years. In 2007, he published his first novel, Lucky Man, which was great—not just getting published, but also meeting all sorts of wonderful writers and artists. In 2008, Ben published his second novel—Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine—as well as the story collection, Repetition Patterns. Right now, Ben is the director of strategic communications at the national office of Prevent Child Abuse America (he received his masters in social work in 1996). It helps that Ben has a great ability to listen to others and ask them questions about themselves. What else? Ben still runs and reads compulsively. Plus, would love to find more down time to be lo-fi and low-key with his wonderful wife. And, at some point, he will learn how to surf, how to play guitar, and how to break cement blocks with his forehead—all things that would make Ben even cooler than he already is.

This Blog Will Change Your Life (starring Ben Tanzer)
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