Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Justify Every Sentence

I have an interview with Laura van den Berg up at my interview column for The Faster Times, Writers on Writing. We talk about What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, mythological creatures, endings, and what it means to justify every sentence.

More interviews @ Writers on Writing:
Gary Lutz
Blake Butler
Rachel Sherman
Comments

Mountain Bike, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Just in time for Halloween, I tore up my calf while out on a mountain bike ride. My shoe was squishy with blood loss by the time I made it home. I cleaned it up in the hopes that I wouldn't need stitches (the doctor laughed at this idea and said it would take at least a month to heal without them), but it was pretty gruesome and wouldn't stop bleeding.

The gash: 3cm wide x 9cm long. The number of stitches: 12.
Comments (3)

#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.

[Update: Gérard Rudolf's first collection, Orphaned Latitudes, is just out from Red Squirrel Press.]
Comments

Two Film Things Coming Up

Friday, November 13th, Dear Everybody (the short film) is going to be part of Creative Alliance MovieMakers (CAmm), which is an evening of shorts that also includes Travis Mays' adaption of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, Ryan Thomas' premiere of The Debt Collector, as well as shorts by up-and-comers Hunter Nesbitt, Dankwa Brooks and Matthew Hahn.
Q & A follows. Doors/ bar open at 7pm. 8pm. $10.

Friday, November 20th, there will be a screening of I Will Smash You, part of a Shattered Wig evening at the 14K Cabaret that also includes Blaster Al Ackerman, Ingrid Burrington, and Sweatpants
Comments

#222 Alan Carroll Reese: Romanticism and Melancholia

Alan Carroll Reese was born in 1950 in Sayre, PA, a sleepy railroad town on the Susquehanna River. The running water and train whistles were some of the first sounds that Alan ever heard and this informed his early romanticism and then his general melancholia. When Alan was 9 months old, he had a severe asthma attack and turned blue in the car on the way to the hospital, which might explain certain bizarre behaviors. A tracheotomy relieved the asthma attack, and, later, an incident that involved grave robbing cured him of any bizarre behavior. Besides that, Alan’s childhood resembled a Leave It to Beaver episode in many ways. Growing up, Alan spent a lot of time digging for dinosaur bones, sleeping in tree forts, having epic snowball fights, and playing baseball in an abandoned field. But there were also David Lynch elements to Alan’s suburban childhood. For instance, his grandfather liked to pretend that he could swallow his tongue. Also, when Alan was 9 years old, 3 neighborhood boys tied him to a tree and threatened to eviscerate him. They were just playing, but the trauma was real. About 10 years later, Alan was sitting on a bench outside of Woolworth’s when a friend invited over a woman named Alberta who then made funny faces for Alan, which made Alan smitten. At 19, Alan married Alberta and then, on their wedding night, they drove all night to Provincetown where they lived for 2 years. Alan loves that Alberta lived life as a comedy and that she had an unmatched capacity for selflessness. Over the years, Alan and Alberta had 3 children—Camille, Jesse, and Joshua—and none of them are sociopaths, which was a kind of relief. Alan is most proud that each of them is a distinct individual with a great sense of independent spirit and thought, and that each of them is also bound by compassion. Once, Alan met William Burroughs, who made him a cup of tea. Also, Alan has worked as an extra in 6 John Waters' films. Further, Alan cannot recall a time when he didn’t share living space with a dog. In 2002, Alberta died of a sudden heart attack and Alan woke up that day into a different world, a Twilight Zone version of his life. The places resembled the world he used to live in and the people behaved in familiar ways, but there was the distinct sense that it wasn’t right. There is no next for Alan. There is only now. Someday, though, Alan might find a mountaintop cabin to live in and, from there, he will send internal weather reports to the survivors of the oil wars and watch the beautiful glow as cities begin to burn.
Comments (1)

What People Do When No One Is Watching


I have an interview with Rachel Sherman up at my interview column for The Faster Times, Writers on Writing. We talk about LIVING ROOM, the third person, a beautiful sentence, loneliness, and touching.

There's also an amazing interview with Gary Lutz there. And there's a thing where Blake Butler and I talk about acoustics. In the next few weeks, there will be interviews with Brian Evenson, Laura van den Berg, Ben Tanzer, Joanna Howard, and Robert Lopez.
Comments

#221 Effie Alean (Groves) Gross: He Never Left Her

Effie Gross was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1944—the baby of the family (3 brothers, 1 sister). The family never had much money and Effie wore hand-me-down clothes or things her mother sewed by hand out of flour sacks or other cheap material. Her mother didn’t allow alcohol in the house, but her father was an alcoholic. Sometimes her parents would argue and her father would hit her mother. That’s when Effie’s sister would hold her and comfort her. Some of her happiest memories are going to the Grand Ole Opry with her mother and sister. In school, Effie always got good grades and she went to the library every week for more books. Every Sunday, Effie’s mother sent her to a Baptist church on a Sunday school bus. When she was 13, Effie realized she was a sinner and went forward in the church service and Jesus saved her. He has never left her. Effie got married at 16. She didn't have to get married, but Roland Gross was in the US Army at White Sands Missile Range and the only way they could be together was to get married, so they did. The first thing that drew Effie to Roland was his gentleness and she thrived with his love for her and their family. Over the years, Effie worked for the IRS, her husband's electrical contracting business, and was a freelance writer. Effie loved working in the family business—doing everything from accounting to pulling wire—and the family got to have a lot of lunches together, which was nice. Effie and Roland had two biological children (Mynita, an accountant; Kendahl, a pilot and then a photographer) and also adopted a son (Jonathan, who now runs the family business)—and, eventually, their three children gave them eight grandchildren. It was during this time that Effie decided to get her formal education—a BA in English and Education and then an MA in English from Drake University—but by the time she had her degrees, there weren’t any full-time jobs in high schools, so she taught as an adjunct at a community college (she loved the students—adults with a life outside of college), and has since taught English at many colleges and universities. Besides English, Effie has also taught Israeli folk dance. Plus, she has written, acted in, and produced plays. She loves the theater. Effie also loves the ocean, but she’s not much of a swimmer. And she loves Catalina Island, the RMS Queen Mary, and horses. Mostly, she loves the Lord and the Bible is her favorite book. It is prophetic and we have been told so many marvelous things. In 2004, Roland died suddenly of a heart attack. They had been married 43 years and he had never been sick. It was unbelievable. Effie prayed and read the Bible. She knew that she had to go on without Roland. The loneliness is the hardest part. Nothing is the same anymore. Right now, she’s writing a WWII novel called, Foxtrots and Foxholes. Writing is her passion and she’s started a new writing venture, Life Lines Legacy, where she teaches people how to write their own life story, one memory at a time. Someday, Effie will see her dear husband again in heaven. That is a comfort.

Comments (1)

Everybody Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)

A former preacher told me he believed that writing postcard life stories for people is my calling. I'm not sure about that, but I can't imagine an endpoint for the project. I thought that I might eventually run out of requests, but it's now clear that isn't going to happen. So I decided the goal of the project should be to write the postcard life story of everybody. Of course, I can't do that by myself so I'm hoping you will help me. (After all, the project has always been collaborative; it wouldn't exist if people didn't tell me their life stories to begin with.) If you would like to write somebody's life story (on a postcard), then please leave a comment here or email me at postcardlifestories [@] gmail.com. This has already happened a couple of times. The great Sam Ligon wrote my life story (on a postcard) last year. And a bunch of other fine writers are pitching in.
Comments (2)

#217 Sarah Black Likes to Do Things Her Own Way

Sarah Witte’s family moved every 2 years, so it was always a new school, new people, a new chance (she’s now lived in 14 states). By the time Sarah was 8, she already loved books and reading. She also loved pretending to be a nurse and bandaging skinned knees, which led to college at Old Dominion, where she became a registered nurse (and then, years later, a nurse practioner). After college, Sarah joined the Navy as a young ensign in the Nurse Corps. She loved belonging to a unit, but never stopped moving. At 25, Sarah met a young lieutenant commander and knew after 5 minutes that he was it. The first time she took his hand, Sarah could see their child’s face. Maybe they lived past lives together (though Sarah doesn’t believe in that). Regardless, the whole wonderful and heartbreaking affair seemed inevitable. He was married and a serial adulterer, but she forged ahead anyway. 7 years later, they had a baby. It was much harder than Sarah expected and that doesn’t even take into account her son, James. When James was 7 and failing in school and every interaction, Sarah quit her job, sold everything, and started driving west on a camping trip with him. Sarah likes to do things her own way, so she took James off all the meds and tried to figure out what was going on with him. It would have worked beautifully, but 6 months in they were broke. So Sarah drove onto a Navajo reservation and talked a small clinic at a boarding school into taking them both—a package deal. It was during this time (when she turned 40) that Sarah took on the last name Black and started writing. Sarah Black liked that the name was all hers. She discovered literary fiction, abandoned genre with almost no regrets (she has written romance novels and gay sleuth murder mysteries, but now she writes flash fiction), and started a publishing house for illustrated flash fiction chapbooks (Bannock Street Books). Sarah stayed at the reservation for 6 years, but eventually started taking long drives over the red dirt roads and thinking about Alaska. She wanted another adventure, so she found a small Inuit village on the Yukon River (no roads in or out; you get there by small plane). The clinic was next to the school, so she was right there if James needed anything, but Sarah hated it and only lasted 6 months. She left with James, but without a job, a vehicle, or a place to live. Now James is 17. He has autism, but not classic autism. He interacts with the world in his own particular way, but he’s a lovely person—full of affection, ready to help anybody. When it’s just the two of them, Sarah and James are a happy family. Now Sarah works as a nurse practioner at a community health center for the homeless in Boise, Idaho. She’s happy working there (and she becomes unmoored when she’s not working). She loves making people feel like they can change for the better.

Bannock Street Books
Comments (2)

Shattered Wig Press

Rupert Wondolowski has been getting it done with Shattered Wig Press for years and he has just put out a new book, The Elements from The Tinklers. I thought you should know.
Comments

#131: Tao Lin Will Never Get Another Real Job for the Rest of His Life

Tao Lin was born in Flagstaff, Arizona. He had a very busy childhood that involved practicing the piano a lot. When he was 5, Tao remembers writing little books and selling them to his mother for $0.50. When Tao was small, his neighbor had a rabbit farm and sold them for money. Being near that changed Tao, and, because of it, he talks less shit about people publicly and makes fewer grand pronouncements. Growing up, Tao played kickball and baseball and basketball in the neighborhood, but not at school. When he was 10, he was playing poker with his neighbor and bet his entire coin collection. The neighbor won and Tao picked up his coin collection and ran back to his house and locked the door. The neighbor knocked a lot and said things like this: "Just give me half. I won't be angry." Tao kept practicing the piano until he no longer owned a piano that worked. Then, at New York University, he studied journalism, but he would have studied creative writing if there had been a program. His sophomore year, he broke up with his girlfriend and it was after that that he decided to focus really hard on writing. After that, Tao wrote and published you are a little bit happier than I am (poetry), Bed (stories), Eeeee Eee Eeee (novel), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (poetry). As Tao has noted in interviews, his writing expresses crippling loneliness, severe depression, and the arbitrary nature of the universe. Also, Tao enjoys repeatedly looking at statcounter, salesrankexpress, facebook, myspace, gmail, and bloglines. When a number changes, he feels like something has happened. His job is to promote himself to ensure that money will come to him 2-3 years from now, and then even after that. Everything is just some thing that Tao does. It can be either good or bad depending on the way he thinks about it. Once, Tao thought about peeing in an empty FYXX energy drink bottle and selling it on eBay. Another time, after he ran out of money, Tao sold 10% shares of his second novel, Richard Yates (2010), to six different people for $2,000 per share. But he has not sold shares for Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009). He will never get another real job for the rest of his life.

[Update: Tao Lin just published a new novel, Shoplifting from American Apparel and he has a band.
Comments

Dear Everybody (Or: When a Poet Writes a Novel)

There's a really thoughtful review of DEAR EVERYBODY up at The Lesser of Two Equals. It says, in part: "Kimball’s background as a poet is apparent in his ability to isolate and frame small moments of a particular character’s experience. Fine attention to detail is exercised both as an art and as a special effect ... It has a surprisingly strong dark humor for being about such a serious topic, his observations are keen and quirky, and he knows how to let imagery make a scene swell." And I liked this bit about Jonathon's suicide letters: "This writing spree has all the highs and lows of a drug binge."
Comments
See Older Posts...


Share/Save/Bookmark

Subscribe



© 2008-2011 Michael Kimball