Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kim Church

Kim Church's short stories and poetry have appeared in Shenandoah, Mississippi Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prime Number Magazine, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received fiction fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center.

Born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, Church earned her B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her J.D. degree from UNC School of Law. She has taught writing workshops in a variety of settings, from college classrooms to death row. She lives with her husband, artist Anthony Ulinski, in Raleigh, where she divides her time between writing and law.

Byrd is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Church's reply:
I’m anxious. And I like toy monkeys wearing striped pants and holding cymbals (“Musical Jolly Chimps,” they’re called), like the one on the cover of Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. Which is why I picked up the book. I’d never seen a memoir of anxiety. This one was supposed to be funny—“surprisingly hilarious,” according to People, though if a book’s cover announces it’s hilarious, isn’t the surprise over? Oliver Sacks “broke out into explosive laughter again and again.”

I didn’t, though I did chuckle a few times, like when Smith compared his anxious mother to a squirrel. Squirrels are funny.

Most of the book is a painstakingly detailed description of Smith’s symptoms, which are more extreme than any I’ve ever had or imagined. That he can joke about them at all earns him an A for effort. That the jokes aren’t very funny makes them more endearing somehow.

Monkey Mind is a good traveling companion for the anxious. You’ve got to believe that if someone as nail-bitten and sweat-soaked and generally rattled as Daniel Smith could find the wherewithal to write a book—a bestseller, no less—then there’s hope for us all.

Next up: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, a writer who can make me care about absolutely anybody, and Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn’s first novel—a creepy pleasure.
Visit Kim Church's website.

--Marshal Zeringue