Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

The Faster Times: Writers on Writing

The Faster Times has been laying down a ton of nice coverage of books and everything and I've just started an interview column there called Writers on Writing. The first interview is with Gary Lutz and it's called I Am Not a Camera. It's pretty incredible.
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Little Burn Films: I Will Smash You


Luca Dipierro and I have been working on I WILL SMASH YOU for a while now and it's finally ready to show. We previewed part of it at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore (which was followed by a smashing). And we have screenings set up for September 24th at the PPOW Gallery in New York City and October 3 at the Windup Space in Baltimore. We also have a new website for Little Burn Films with stills and trailers and other stuff, plus a second film, 60 Writers/60 Places in the works.
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#149 Christopher Bowles: Getting On With It

Christopher Bowles’ biological mother and father had an affair in 1964 (she was single; he was married; he told her to have an abortion and they never saw each other again; years later, Christopher found and became friends with both of them). That was how Christopher Douglas Bowles was born with the name Christopher Sean Snoad. Christopher’s adoptive parents kept the name Christopher because his adopted father’s life had been saved by a guy named Christopher during WWII. Christopher was born just west of London, a place called Isleworth, and then the family lived in Richmond. When Christopher was 4, his adoptive father died. For days after, all sorts of different women looked after Christopher, taking him to the zoo or the movies or anywhere. One afternoon, Christopher arrived home from one of these outings to a kind of party and found out it was his father’s funeral. After that, Christopher and his mother moved to a village on the outskirts of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire to find work and a place to live. When Christopher was 16, his mother died, which was awful; she'd been sick for a long time and Christopher went a little off the rails. After that, his stepfather (who Christopher acquired when he was 8), kicked him out of the house so he could sell up and move to Essex to marry some woman he'd known before he knew Christopher’s mother. The day after Christopher’s 18th birthday, he packed a bag, walked out of his life in Gloucestershire, and climbed on a coach. Eventually, he arrived in London in the summer of 1983 with 40 pence in his pocket. He slept rough for a week or so, then found some friends who let him sleep on their floor. Eventually, he got a bedsit in East Sheen, which was just a ½ mile from Richmond, where he'd left at 4. He got a job in a record shop and then a boyfriend. They moved to and around East London for years. In 1993, Christopher went to University, where he studied communication and visual theory, though he wishes he’d studied English literature. In 1998, with no job, and no home, Christopher split from his boyfriend and went to stay in a friend’s spare room in Kensington, a brief stay that turned into 5 years. He worked at an art gallery and, eventually, bought a house with the ex-boyfriend, but only as friends this time. Last year, the art gallery sacked him based on a false accusation of theft, which was pretty devastating, especially since it wasn’t true. At 43, Christopher is a single, gay man, with no steady job. He feels he should be more uncertain or depressed about his future, but he isn’t. Christopher is going to start all over again and get on with it.

[UPDATE: Christopher is now working for the local government and the last year has taught him the importance of real friendships and how a person can overcome so much with the love and support of true friends. Also, having his postcard life story written inspired Christopher to start writing again, after a very long gap, which you can see at Bowlesy Online.]

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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.

[Update: Lynn has two new website--(1) Full of Crow, which is poetry, fiction, flash, reviews, interviews, zines, all kinds of stuff; and, (2) Blink|Ink, which is really short fiction.]

More Lynn Alexander
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Joe Young: Eleven

Randall Brown has a bunch of nice things going on over at flashfiction.net and one of them is this thing where a writer interviews a reader about the writer's writing. Joe Young let me choose one of his micro-fictions (even briefer, flashier, than flash fiction) and asked me some questions and I did my best to answer them without going on and on.
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#209 The Amazing Life Story of Julie Riso

Julie Riso remembers being born, the light and noise. It was her first escape. She grew up in small towns in Michigan, the oldest of 5 kids, and she always knew she was different. For instance, her young artwork had talking flowers, which her Catholic schoolteachers found unacceptable. Also, Julie wanted to be an archeologist and she escaped her loneliness by going on expeditions in her backyard (which turned into Egypt, China, Easter Island). In 3rd grade, her teacher repeatedly verbally abused her, leading to a nervous breakdown, but Julie didn’t tell anybody about it. After that, her dad quit drinking, thinking that was the problem, and her parents bought her a guinea pig. Her dad started going to church again, which made the family happy, but then he turned zealous and thought himself a prophet (and believed God gave him permission to kill people). After that, Julie’s parents separated. Julie’s mom got a job as a waitress and Julie watched her brothers and sisters after school. Julie went to a big public high school, which felt like a do-over after the tiny Catholic school. In 9th grade, Julie started smoking pot, but the stoner girls didn't like her because she was too thin, and they started rumors that she was a slut, so the rest of high school was pretty difficult. After Julie’s mother tried to kill herself, Julie stole sedatives from her mother and did a lot more drugs. She barely remembers her senior year. Julie left home after high school. Then she drove out to Los Angeles alone, but it was overwhelming, so she moved to Palm Springs, worked as a waitress, and went to junior college. Julie was doing great, but began to feel suffocated, and then things got worse and stayed that way for years. She kept moving around Southern California, but could not escape her bad memories. Julie became exhausted from trying and moved back to Michigan, but felt like a failure. Not long after that, her dad died from lymphoma. After that, she had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself. Luckily, Julie got herself back together and moved back to LA. At 24, she went back to college to become an anthropologist. She didn’t have any money, so she became a stripper. She was a terrible stripper and mostly hid in the back, but the other strippers accepted her, and that was the first time Julie felt like part of a group of women. Then Julie left college again, worked in Guam a few months, then lived with Stone Age tribes in Papua New Guinea for a few weeks (where few female travelers had been before). That was how Julie realized she mostly liked anthropology in an armchair way. What she really wanted was to travel. At 27, Julie moved back to Michigan, worked in a big travel agency, and traveled the world. But the agency closed and her boyfriend became a copy of her dad, so she left Michigan again. She went back to Guam and this time she met Pascal, a Frenchman from New Caledonia. Julie married Pascal and they lived on the island for 7 years, which was when she wrote her first novel, which is about strippers. Julie still felt claustrophobic, though, so they moved to Poland. After 2 years there, they moved to Hungary. Julie has been to 39 countries so far, and, for the first time, she is content. Now, Julie is writing her memoir and it will be a relief when she can stop writing it.

J.D. Riso @ Goodreads
A piece of travel writing by J.D. Riso
Flash fiction by J.D. Riso
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Five Star Friday for Stacy Muszynski

Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) won a Five Star Friday award for one of the best blog posts of the week, this for the postcard life story of the wonderful Stacy Muszynski.
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Featherproof iPhone App

Featherproof Books has launched an iPhone app with 333-word stories. I'll have a piece out with their September launch, as will Amelia Gray, Blake Butler, Matt Bell, and a bunch of other fine writers.
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#74 Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos: Being Sick Almost All the Time Doesn't Stop Her

Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos was born in the tropical country of the Philippines in 1979. Growing up, she was a hospital kid—diagnosed with different illnesses that doctors didn’t understand or couldn’t treat. Often, all her family could do was pray for her. Luckily, it always worked. In school, Lanie became fascinated with writing and sports. Despite her illnesses, she was named Athelete of the Year in sixth grade—for her excellence in volleyball and swimming. Unfortunately, the health problems continued and when Lanie was 16 years old, her left breast had a discharge. The tests for cancer were negative and Lanie lived on. She met her husband a couple of years later in college and they were just friends at first. They didn’t realize how much they liked each other. Lanie was already pregnant with their first child when she got married. She had to drop out of college and her husband had to get a job to support their new family. It was such a bumpy journey in the beginning and then Lanie had a second child. After this, the doctor found that both of her ovaries were polycystic. The tests were negative for cervical cancer, though. Later, Lanie also had to be tested for colon cancer, which was also negative. Despite these difficulties, Lanie and her family are very happy and her husband can make the whole family laugh. Lanie writes--haiku, free verse poems and short stories--while her kids play. It lifts her up and lets her forget the pain that she lives with every day. Being sick almost all the time doesn't stop her from writing and now she has published a book called On Our Way Home, and two anthologies--Another Morning and Child Cancer: Fighters and Heroes. Lanie’s doctors are currently concerned about her lymph nodes, but the results of these tests will be negative as well.

[Update: Lanie recently found out that she has a blood infection that cannot be cured by any medication. Still, Lanie continues her job as a mom and a wife, plus it inspires her to write more poems. No one knows what will happen next. but the illness will not stop her from doing all the wonderful things she loves to do.]

More Shanzyra
Even More Shanzyra
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#71 Sean Lovelace: Running, Reading, Writing

Sean Lovelace was born in a clinic, not a hospital, which may explain why he later became a nurse and worked in a hospital. His biological father left when he was 1 year old and his mother was going to put him up for adoption. He didn’t know this then, but he felt abandoned, angry. Luckily, his grandfather adopted him and his uncle became his best friend. Then his mom remarried and Sean moved back in with his mother and his step-dad, who was great. The whole family would run together and read together. He often saw his parents reading and he thought that this was what he was supposed to do too. He also used to read the encyclopedia cover to cover until he found something interesting to make or do. Despite this, many of his childhood memories are of pain—hitting himself with a bolo, impaling himself on a tomato stake, that kind of thing. He went to the best schools, but was a middle class kid, so he overcompensated by writing hyperbolic stories about his classmates. When he was 14 years old, his dad challenged him to read War and Peace, which he did, but Sean didn’t really know how to use commas until he was 18 years old. Years passed. Sean kept running faster and faster. Running is the closest thing to religion for Sean. He can feel the earth moving through his body with each step. Sean read more and more books. He became a psychiatric nurse, which is how he met his wife--at the hospital (she wasn’t a patient). She is a therapist and Sean loves her heart and how much she gives to people. Sean loves their two kids, though he feels as if he abandoned his patients when he became a writing professor. His patients were thankful for everything that he did for them, though, and Sean is glad that he still makes a difference in people’s lives, which he does in many different ways—including when people read his stories and are somehow transformed.

[Update #1: Sean Lovelace's chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs is now available from Rose Metal Press.]

[Update #2: Sean is now the head editor for The Broken Plate, so, you know, send him something.]
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60 Writers / 60 Places

Luca Dipierro and I shot a bunch of 60 Writers / 60 Places in NYC over the weekend and I love this still from Leigh Newman/Living Room. We had set up the shot and then we were giving a bit of direction.
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#206 J. A. Tyler: Thoughtfully and Honestly

J. A. Tyler was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. J. A.’s child was good, normal, solid. There was no divorce. There were no massive events. When he was in elementary school, J. A. wrote a choose-your-own-adventure book and, at night, he used to read by the light from the hallway when he was supposed to be asleep. In high school, J. A. read The Catcher in the Rye and then he couldn't stop reading it and then he did a presentation as Holden (in his voice). Also, J. A. acted a bunch in high school and then in college too. In college, J. A. studied English liberal arts. In graduate school, he studied composition, literature, and theater. He has always loved to read and to write—it’s mesmerizing—so that made sense. J. A. watches tons of movies and loves the non-chronological aspects of film; it’s kind of like a time machine where you can go and do whatever you want, whenever you want. J. A. met Aime when they were playing brother and sister in a production of Father of the Bride and, then, some time after that, they got married. Aime is J. A.’s opposite—kind, loving, and playful—and she is a child at heart. It is phenomenal to see. She will order whatever new thing is on the menu. She is taken in by ads for breakfast cereals. J. A. and Aime have one son named Eddie who they could not love more and they have another son on the way. Eddie is amazing and funny and clever and smart and out of control; for instance, sometimes Eddie corrects people when they read to him; also, for a while Eddie named himself Eddie Rhino Johnson. Their dog is a Yorkshire Terrier named Sunny that barks at everything, but everybody loves her anyway. J. A. teaches high school language arts, theater, and film, which he does, in part, so that he can talk about literature and books and art all day. It should also be mentioned that a lot of people have died during J. A.’s lifetime and that the older he gets the more he thinks about it. It is frightening that we are always aging. But J. A. is proud that he made a person and that he is raising a person, that he made a book and has a handful more coming out. He tries to live thoughtfully and honestly. J. A. doesn’t know what’s next, but if he did he would rebel against it.

More J. A. Tyler
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