Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#76 Deborah Ling: The God Gene

Deborah Ling has the God gene. Her life-long pursuit of God started on the farm where she grew up and where she would have mystical interactions with other planes—particularly the earth, animals, and rocks. She has always known how to get along with the earth. Once, she had an interaction with beings from another planet, but knew enough, at her young age, to not tell anybody. When Deborah was 10 years old, her father died unexpectedly and Deborah felt abandoned and angry. Her mother’s mental illness got worse and Deborah started studying survivalism: she knew that she would have to take care of herself. Deborah married young, but this was mostly so her mother would disown her, which she did (her mother re-owned her years later). In the midst of her divorce from this brief abusive marriage, Deborah met her second husband at her sister’s wedding. There was an undeniably connection, but they weren’t ready for each other yet. The second time Deborah saw her second husband was a year later at her sister’s house. The fifth time they saw each other was on their wedding day. Now they’ve been married 34 years. Deborah used to work as a therapist, but now she earns her living as a spiritual director and practices shamanism. She is a healer and a servant to others. She is somebody you can tell things that you have never told anybody before, not even yourself. She gives so much to other people, but loves her husband, her two kids, and her dog even more, which is kind of staggering, that amount of love. She is most proud of channeling her two children into this world, in part because they are both working artists. There isn’t anything that either of her children could do to make Deborah stop loving them. Deborah also loves playing the drums, especially the way that the rhythms change her brain waves and allow her to connect to the different planes of being that surround all of us.

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Micah Ling

DEAR EVERYBODY in Sunday's LA Times

This has been a great first week for DEAR EVERYBODY. Closing it out, today, there's a wonderful review in the Sunday LA Times. Matt Bell closes the review with this line: "There is a whole life contained in this slim novel, a life as funny and warm and sad and heartbreaking as any other, rendered with honest complexity and freshness by Kimball's sharp writing." I'm really happy for DEAR EVERYBODY.
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The Playlist for DEAR EVERYBODY at Largehearted Boy's Book Notes

The playlist for DEAR EVERYBODY is up at Largehearted Boy's Book Notes (an author creates and discusses a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published book). Largehearted Boy's David Gutowski says: "Dear Everybody is a cleverly constructed book that balances pathos and humor exquisitely, and proves Michael Kimball to be a master storyteller."

Gregg Wilhelm gave a very nice plug to DEAR EVERYBODY on WYPR's Maryland Morning: “quite a literary feat … the character of Jonathon Bender is stripped down to his emotional core.”

#75 Moose: Feral Cat to House Cat

Moose’s father abandoned him before he was born. His mother took care of him for a few weeks, but then she abandoned him too. He wasn’t given a name for the longest the time. Moose was on his own, which he was fine with, but then he got sick. Then he didn’t feel like he could move anymore. Moose curled up under the bushes next to a house. Luckily, the man noticed him and made noises with his mouth. Moose opened his mouth and tried to meow, but he couldn’t make any noises come out. But that’s how the man knew he was sick. The man took little steps toward Moose and held his hand out to him. Moose was scared but too sick to move, so he let the man catch him. What could Moose do? The next thing Moose remembers is being inside a little cage and the outside moving by too fast. Then Moose remembers being inside a building for the first time in his life. The two people with long coats did things to Moose that he did not like – lifting his tail, putting their fingers in his ears, poking him with needles. Everybody but Moose was surprised by how small Moose was (2 lbs.) because he had such long fur, which everybody admired, and that made him look full-grown. The man took Moose away from the two people and Moose was grateful for that. Every morning for a week after that, the man made noises with his mouth and gave Moose tuna covered with pink sauce in a China dish. That made Moose feel good enough to run through the dry leaves in the bushes next to the house, which was really loud, but Moose was letting everybody know that it was his house. Moose got big enough to catch birds and squirrels. He broke their necks and tore their heads off. He ate nearly everything but the feathers and wings -- or nearly everything but the legs and fluffy tails. Sometimes, he saw his mom crossing the street, but then she was hit by a car and died. Now Moose throws up whenever he has to go anywhere in the car. Eventually, it got cold at night and the man made noises with his mouth and Moose followed him inside the house. Now Moose lives inside the house all the time and he runs up the front stairs and down the back stairs. He watches the birds and the rats from the 3 stories of windows. He could catch them—he could catch anything—if the man would just let him outside.

Moose Between Editing Projects

Moose Doing Yoga
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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.

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Even More Shanzyra

#73 The Ancient A.F. Rützy

A.F. Rützy (pen name) was born Ari Rytsy in Joensuu, North Karelia, which is considered to be the treasure chest of Finnish folklore, especially ghost stories about dead Russian soldiers wandering the old battlefields. Later, A. added a second name (Feodor) to honor his paternal grandfather, who he never met. He stole the last name from his uncle (RIP) who immigrated to the U.S. The only part of his name that is his own is Ari, which is Hebrew for lion, Armenian for brave, Hindi for sin, and Japanese for ant. The first year of his life, A. lived in a old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with his mother. His father visited on the weekends until the whole family moved to Helsinki. As a kid, A. had episodes of sleepwalking and weird premonitions. Once when A. was five or six years old, he was riding his bike and suddenly had this strange need to fall down, which he did off to the side of the road, which saved his life from a large truck that came blasting down the road. Years later, A. broke his nose during a sparring session, which made him realize that physical pain can't compete with inner demons. Along the way, A. worked jobs from sales to quality management to bodyguarding (once for a Saudi Arabian prince). He now works as a freelance writer (see: End Credits), which is almost the same thing as being a bodyguard—doing something for somebody else because they can’t do it for themselves. Meeting his girlfriend Galina and becoming a father has forced A. to admit that there are beautiful things in this world. He works hard to support his family. He’s currently working on what may be the perfect novel—not a bestseller, but a novel that will help people to handle the perpetual craziness that surrounds us. He’s currently 36 years old, but he feels much older. When he’s drunk, he feels ancient.

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Josh Maday Says Really Nice Things About DEAR EVERYBODY at New Pages

I'm happy to say there's a really nice review of DEAR EVERYBODY by the wonderful Josh Maday at New Pages. I was trying to figure out how to just quote a tease line, but I couldn't. Here's the whole last paragraph:

"Kimball writes with such deep emotion and crafts his sentences with such mastery that he sweeps away his own footprints and allows the reader unhindered access to the story. The fragmented nature of the book makes it an addictive read, giving the reader regular breaks while at the same time drawing them along. I often found myself thinking, 'Just one more letter. One more diary entry. One more interview,' until it was time to go back to the beginning and start over. With Dear Everybody, Michael Kimball achieves the perfect balance of form and content, comedy and tragedy – all without sliding into melodrama or sentimentality, instead evoking genuine emotion that will remain with readers far beyond the last page."

Also over the long weekend, Rafael Alvarez (one of the writers who made THE WIRE great) writes a profile in the Sunday edition of The Examiner. It's about the cross-country trip I took to revise the first draft of THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY.

And an interview went up at Urbanite that covers a lot of ground--everything from my first novel to DEAR EVERYBODY to what I eat for breakfast.

Plus, there was the rave by Michael Miller in Time Out New York's Fall Books Preview: "Michael Kimball Reinvents the Suicide Letter." Here's a little bit of it: "In addition to writing stunning prose, Kimball evocatively hints at entire physical and emotional worlds lying just behind his story’s surface. In many cases, the author’s verbal compression both amplifies and dampens the tragic clamor of Jonathon’s letters ... they harbor such a strange emotional power that you’ll find them hard to forget." Here's the whole thing.

#72 Cheering for Karen Hood

Karen Hood’s family moved eight different times while she was growing up and she thought her family was destitute. Everybody else’s house seemed bigger than hers until they moved from New Jersey to Michigan. Karen brought her big hair and bright-colored clothes with her and the other kids at Waverly High School thought she was a rich kid. Karen used her beautiful voice to sing in the school choirs and to be a cheerleader. She has always liked the idea of helping other people to do better. After high school, Karen went to the University of Tennessee and majored in journalism. She started acting in TV commercials and do voiceover work on the radio. After college, she drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile around the country for a year. She was in lots of parades and tried to get in traffic jams (so they would mention her vehicle on the traffic reports). Karen had a series of jobs in marketing and public relations, but mostly stayed in Tennessee—in part because of the many early moves, but also because her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she wanted to spend as much time with her as she could. Her mother struggled with cancer for almost five years before passing away. After this, Karen hung onto other relationships to the very end. She was afraid of losing everybody. Years later, Karen struggled with her own difficult illness and she wished that her mother could have taken care of her (Karen’s mother was her cheerleader). Still, Karen found great comfort in the forty different friends who took turns staying with her for weeks after her surgery. Coming through all of this, Karen found a new kind of confidence and became her own cheerleader. Now she is finishing her Ph.D in marketing and will be moving to wherever her first academic job takes her. Everybody is cheering for this job to be wherever Karen wants it to be.

[Note: Karen and I went to high school together. It was great to get to know her again 23 years after we graduated.]

Time Out New York: "Michael Kimball Reinvents the Suicide Letter"

There's a very nice profile of DEAR EVERYBODY by Michael Miller in Time Out New York's Fall Preview: "Michael Kimball Reinvents the Suicide Letter." Here's a little bit of it: "In addition to writing stunning prose, Kimball evocatively hints at entire physical and emotional worlds lying just behind his story’s surface. In many cases, the author’s verbal compression both amplifies and dampens the tragic clamor of Jonathon’s letters ... they harbor such a strange emotional power that you’ll find them hard to forget." Here's the whole thing.

Also, there was an early review of DEAR EVERYBODY (pub date is September 1) in the Greenpoint Gazette. Here are the last three sentences: [Dear Everybody is] "inventive and often extremely funny, but it will also break your heart. Michael Kimball is one of the most talented and original writers in America today. You should read his books."

Plus, here are a couple of other nice things that people have said:

“Dear Everybody has the page-turning urgency of a mystery and the thrilling formal inventiveness of the great epistolary novels. Jonathon Bender's magical letters to the world that never wrote to him are at once whimsical, anguished, funny, utterly engaging and, finally, unforgettable.” Maud Casey

“Michael Kimball's wise-hearted epistolary portrait of an endearingly honest, suicidal depressive is by turns hilarious and haunting--and always thrillingly deep, surprising, and pitch-perfect. Dear Everybody confirms Kimball's reputation as one of our most supremely gifted and virtuosic renderers of the human predicament. It's as moving a novel as I have read in years.” Gary Lutz
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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.

More Sean Lovelace (check out the vs. pieces)

#70 The Happiness of Elizabeth Ellen

Elizabeth Ellen’s mother claims that she got pregnant on her honeymoon. She also claims that Elizabeth’s alcoholic father beat her and that was why she left him on their honeymoon in Europe without telling him. Elizabeth’s mother filed for divorce after returning to the US and because of this Elizabeth has no memory of her father before she was 8 years old, when she started spending part of every summer with him. After that, Elizabeth was rich in the summer (when she stayed with her dad) and poor the rest of the year (when she stayed with her mom). She was an only child, overweight, unsocial. She read a lot. She lived in a different house or apartment nearly every year until she was 18 years old, when went to college and majored in English. That first year, she was put on academic suspension and then things got worse. She tried to go to classes, but had panic attacks and stopped. Her grandmother continued to send her checks for her tuition, though, and she lived off those with her boyfriend for a couple years. A few years later, Elizabeth met her husband at the strip mall where they both worked and they got married a month later, though they didn't tell anybody, in part, because her husband feared that one of his friends would steal her. A year later she got pregnant. The eight-year marriage was incredibly stifling and emotionally stressful on a daily basis, but the divorce was amicable. It was an exhilarating time after that. Elizabeth and her daughter could do whatever they wanted and the simplest things brought them great joy. Around this time, she bought her first computer and began writing seriously for the first time in her life. She had always thought the greatest thing one could be is a writer and now she is the greatest thing. After that, Elizabeth met Aaron Burch online and they dated long-distance for a year before he moved across the country to live with her and her daughter, who is crazy about Aaron too. Elizabeth has a very full, very happy life with Aaron, Andromeda, and Heather (her step-daughter who stays with them some weekends), co-editing Hobart, and writing her own books. She never imagined that she would be this happy.
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#60 The Fully Formed Kim Chinquee

Kim Chinquee was three weeks late being born and she was a big baby when she finally arrived. She started reading before anybody else in her class and was the salutatorian of her middle school, but her parents divorced when she was 14 and Kim stopped studying in high school. She preferred sports, boys, and parties. When she graduated, she didn’t go to college. She couldn’t afford it and nobody had told her about financial aid. She was going to join the Navy, but the recruiter wasn’t there, so she joined the Air Force instead. She didn’t want to fly planes, but she didn’t really want to be a medical lab technician either—it was her 10th choice. She married another lab tech and they had a son a little over one year later. Technically, they were married for 7 years, but they were separated for the last 4 years of their marriage because her husband wouldn’t sign the divorce papers. He couldn’t believe that she actually wanted to leave him. The divorce finally became official and Kim left the Air Force too. She joined the Reserves, but the next few years were a difficult time. She was a single mother working multiple jobs, taking classes toward her college degree, and paying for food with food stamps. She took her first creative writing class because it filled a general education requirement and has been a writer ever since--though she never admitted that fact until she won the Henfield Prize and the 5K dollar award that goes with it. Now she is a creative writing professor at Buffalo State College and has published a great book of tiny stories called OH BABY. She may have started her writing life a little late, but she has arrived fully formed.


More Kim Chinquee

Kim Chinquee’s OH BABY
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