Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Kim Chinquee Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #248 Shya Scanlon

Shya Scanlon was born on July 29, 1975 in Augusta, Maine, and spent the first ten years of his life on a rural commune. This was the happiest time of his life: sheltered, idyllic, with nothing but fond memories. When he was ten, his family moved to Seattle, which was surreal and shocking, and he wasn’t prepared for the reality; he felt betrayed, and began to take it out on his brother Colin, these acts becoming his biggest regret. He was always very physical, until a mountain bike accident at 15, when he suffered a concussion and tests found a birth defect in his vertebrae. Surgery failed to correct the problem, and he wore a neck brace. He became more bookish, falling into an alternative crowd and writing, reading, doing drugs and smoking, petty crime: leading to a path of self-destruction. He felt above-the-law and kept spiraling. He dropped out of high school at the beginning of junior year, and when his parents were away on vacation, he broke into their car and drove to San Francisco, bought drugs, then drove to Rhode Island to sell them and make enough to fix the car, the excursion landing him in a juvenile detention center in Wisconsin. His parents’ response was a wake up call—Shya wasn’t in trouble, and he realized the impact he had on people he cared about, especially his brother, and he wanted to turn himself around. He eventually attended an alternative school, which provided him with the kind of opportunity he needed. He attended college in Indiana, but felt isolated and moved back to Seattle, where he studied German. He spent six months in Germany, but felt depressed and isolated, so eventually went back to Indiana and finished his degree at Earlham College. He picked up writing to be part of a girlfriend’s world, mostly poetry. At the end of college, he moved back to Seattle, stopped writing, then quit his job to write a book. He decided to move to New York, which meant for him a commitment to writing. He applied to Brown, lived in NY for a while, then met his girlfriend, Erin, who worked for Jane magazine. He was accepted to Brown, moved to Providence, and when Jane folded, Erin moved to Providence with him. He couldn’t deny the truth: her “amazing force of good,” her joy, and the vitality in everything she does. He lives with her now, and in NY again, where he writes and does freelance editing. He’s most proud of his decision to reorient his life path, and of his book Forecast, and hopes to someday make a living from his writing.

[Shya Scanlon’s website and his YouTube channel.]

[Note: You can read Kim Chinquee's postcard life story here.]

Robert Thinks Bill Murray

I have an interview with Zachary German up at The Faster Times. We talk about his new book, Eat When You Feel Sad, autographs, the use of "about," and what the main character does, thinks, and says.

More interviews @ The Faster Times: Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, Rachel Sherman, Laura van den Berg, Ben Tanzer, Brian Evenson, Robert Lopez, Samuel Ligon, Dylan Landis, Joseph Young, Andrew Porter, Padgett Powell.

The PRISM Index

The PRISM index, Issue #1, is now available for pre-order. It's 80 pages/88 min DVD/72 min CD and has a huge list of contributors, including me: Belly Boat, Jeffrey Bowers, Jeffrey Brown, Jeff Brush, Castanets (Ray Raposa), Diane Cluck, William Fowler Collins, Josh Cotter, Jay Duplass, Jeremy Bradley Earl, Robert Earle, Theo Ellsworth, Steve Emmons, Fantastic Magic, Grant Falardeau, Chema Garcia, Golden Ghost (Laura Goetz), Lisa Hanawalt, Chadd Harbold, Trent Harris, David Heumann, Brent Hoff, Michael Hurley, Azazel Jacobs, Hermann Karlsson, Michael Kimball, Mike Kuchar, Michael Langan, Robbie Lee, Julia Marino, Daniel Martinico, Charlie McArthur, Colin McDonald, Gavin McInnes, Brian McMullen, Carson Mell, Mi and L’au, Adam “Meadows” Mitchell, Mr. Leg, Louis Munroe, Annelies Monsere, Ormo, Parker Paul, Bill Plympton, Bhob Rainey, Brett Eugene Ralph, Luke Ramsey, Dan Reeder, Jay Rosenblatt, Mick Rossi, Chris Schlarb, Chriss Sutherland, Justin Taylor, Thee More Shallows (Dee Kesler), Dustin Thompson, James Jackson Toth, Schon Wanner, Sarah Warda, Virgil Widrich, Women & Children (Kevin Lasting), David Zellner, Nathan Zellner.

Meg Pokrass Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #245 Tiff Holland

Born Tiffany, Tiff says her mother was expecting a pole-dancer. Tiiff considered sexual reassignment surgery but legally changed her name to "Tiff" instead. Her childhood was, in her words, something like a mix between a Roald Dahl book and the Robert Earl Keen song “Christmas With the Family.”

 Tiff's eccentric and spirited family plays a significant part in her poems, flashes and short stories. One of the strangest incidents involved finding out that her brother was actually her uncle (she now calls him her "brunkle"). Tiff's choices sometimes happen like this: she was an education major for one day. Her advisor signed her up for a course in constructing bulletins boards. Tiff immediately marched across campus and switched to Philosophy. A high school jock, Tiff was an Army ROTC cadet in college. She joined to prove a point to her first husband who had left the service. “You like it so much; you join,” he’d told her. Tiff's poet friends couldn’t believe it when she showed up at poetry readings in BDUs. Tiff has worked at a library in Hawaii overlooking Pearl Harbor, as a 911 dispatcher, as foreman of an automotive transmission ring packaging plant, as an insurance adjuster and English instructor. She says the most amazing thing she ever saw was while she was living in Hawaii: a "moonbow" a shimmering silver rainbow. While swimming in Waimea Bay she suddenly felt rain on a beautiful clear-sky day and opened her eyes to discover she was actually feeling the spray from a spouting whale less than fifty yards away. She started writing fiction while at the University of Southern Mississippi. Tiff refers to her first short story as a "mulligan," but says Rick Barthelme looked at it and pointed to a place in the first section and said: “This part is really good. This works." It was an "aha" moment. Tiff met her husband, Bill, when dispatching for the parking division at Kent State. Bill was the responding officer when an angry student attempted to break into the office after his car was towed. Tiff's favorite things about Bill: he always knows what to do in an emergency, is terrific with their young daughter, and is one of the only people in the world who can "call her bluff." Bill found Tiff while she was having the stroke, just about two years ago, and thanks to his emergency training and cool head, he knew just what to do. He later nursed her through two years of absolute hell. He’d sit on the bed when everything she saw was spinning and bouncing. He’d talk to her while waiting for her vision to normalize. Their daughter, Tori, is funny and smart and manages to sing in more than one key at a time. Tiff's dog, Tuck, kept in contact with part of her body darn near every second of the day while she was recovering from the stroke. Tiff calls Tuck her "Siamese dog-twin." Tiff is a prolific writer who has no personal knowledge of writer's block, and her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart. She is putting the finishing touches on a short story collection and is also working on a novel. Her work is both funny and heartbreaking.
 For fun, she watches "Cash Cab" while playing Scrabble on Facebook. For the most part, Tiff writes about just about everything in her life. The question is always: what parts are true? And she's not telling. Tiff says she has only one big, real secret. She's keeping it.

[Note: Meg Pokrass also wrote the postcard life story for Ethel Rohan and you can read Meg Pokrass' expressive life story here.]
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Double Feature Snow Date: February 21st

There's a really nice write-up on 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES in City Paper. Bret McCabe says, "60 Writers is a wonderful example of literary thinking becoming a visual language." He calls both "Smash" and "60" "disarmingly engaging" and that both films "subtly acc[rue] an emotive force." Plus, he describes me as "a tall man of almost instant affability."

Plus, the good Aaron Henkin (aka The Voice) and I talk about both I WILL SMASH YOU and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES in the last segment of WYPR's The Signal.

The snow date for the double feature at the Creative Alliance is Sunday, February 21st (doors at 6:30, screening at 7:30). I hope to see you there.

Guest Lecture Series #2: Keeping Going

Lecture #1 is about openings. Lecture #2 is about ways to keep the fiction moving forward. Thank you, HTMLGIANT for letting me be your guest.


There's a really nice write-up on 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES in today's City Paper. Bret McCabe says, "60 Writers is a wonderful example of literary thinking becoming a visual language." He calls both "Smash" and "60" "disarmingly engaging" and that both films "subtly acc[rue] an emotive force." Plus, he describes me as "a tall man of almost instant affability."

Plus, the double feature at the Creative Alliance (this Friday, the 5th, doors at 6pm, screening at 7pm) is a Critic's Pick.

#199 Luca Dipierro Never Felt Italian

Luca Dipierro was born in Merano, in Northern Italy (near Austria and Switzerland), but Luca never felt Italian. Growing up where people speak Italian, German, Ladin, and many different dialects made him feel as if he didn’t belong anywhere. His childhood was mostly made up of two things: sports and books. Luca went skiing in the Alps every Sunday and he read books on the balcony for hours. He had loving parents and a kind of happy childhood, but somehow he always felt trapped. The family’s apartment was small and he had to share his room with his two brothers. In his teenage years, music became a way for Luca to define himself and he started to play drums in punk rock bands. He loved the do-it-yourself aesthetics and the extreme compression of the form. In high school, Luca did classical studies at Liceo Classico, which was for people who wanted to be a teacher or a critic, but Luca wanted to become a writer. When he was 18, Luca moved out of his parents’ house. Within a year, he had no money and was thrown out of his apartment. For a while, he stole food from a supermarket and slept in the park for a while. It was rough. It made him feel as if anything could happen to him—that he could go down and down and never stop going down. In college, Luca studied literary theory, which changed the way he looked at books, but college also made him insecure about his writing. After school, Luca taught Italian literature, but never enjoyed it. Over the years, Luca has worked all kinds of jobs—movie projectionist, factory worker, radio show host, bookstore manager, restaurant manager, translator. Over the years, Luca has had a lot of relationships that didn’t work out, but now he is with the woman he will spend the rest of his life with. In 2005, Luca moved from Italy to the US. The move didn’t change Luca, but it allowed him to focus more on what he is and what he wants to do. He realized that making art is the most important thing in his life and that it's the only way he can be happy: to write, to draw, to paint, to make films. Luca loves to touch people and things, to use pens and brushes, to eat things and put things in his mouth. Hands, mouth, stomach—that's what Luca is. His family and his Italian friends might be surprised to know that Luca doesn't miss Italy. At first, it surprised him too (but not anymore). Luca is happier in the US, even though he doesn’t know what is going to happen next. But he believes in divinatory art and the way that the Etruscans could read the future in the pattern of lightning or in the shape and color of a liver. Luca believes in that. Every morning, he tries to read his future in the bottom of his cup of coffee.

[Update: Since I initially wrote Luca Dipierro's postcard life story, he has completed two documentaries -- I WILL SMASH YOU and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES -- that are being screened in various cities in the US, UK, and Europe. Plus, his first solo art show, All Around My Hands There Is Darkness, has been traveling throughout Italy. ]

[Luca Dipierro's website and films and art.]

4 Best Ofs for Everyday Genius

I guest-edited Everyday Genius back in August and part of September and I'm very happy to say that four of those pieces -- (1) How To by Aaron Burch; (2) What We Tell Girl to Do With Us Brothers If We Ever Stop Making Mud by Peter Markus; (3) Penumbra by David McLendon; and, (4) Modern Love by Stephen Graham Jones -- were selected for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010. Way to go, Everybody. And, thank you, Adam Robinson, for letting me edit genius.

Plus, I did a guest-editing gig at Lamination Colony in early 2009 and Josh Maday's piece from that issue, Ashes to Undermine the Smell, also won a Dzanc Best Of.
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60 Writers/60 Places w/ I Will Smash You @ Creative Alliance

The good Aaron Henkin (aka The Voice) and I talk about both I WILL SMASH YOU and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES in the last segment of WYPR's THE SIGNAL. The screenings are Friday, 7pm @ Creative Alliance.

[Click on the flyer to make it full-size.]

#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.

[Update: Jessica Anya Blau's wonderful second novel, Drinking Closer to Home, will be published February 2011 by Harper Perennial.]

Jessica Anya Blau and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties.
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Double Feature @ Creative Alliance

The two films that I made with Luca Dipierro -- I WILL SMASH YOU and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES -- they are going to be a double feature at the Creative Alliance on February 5th, doors at 6, screening at 7pm. There's more information, plus stills and trailers, at Little Burn Films.

[Click on the flyer to make it full-size.]

The good Aaron Henkin (aka The Voice) and I talk about both I WILL SMASH YOU and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES in the last segment of WYPR's THE SIGNAL.
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