Although Haven Kimmel presently lives in Durham,
North Carolina, she spent a majority of her life living and
writing in east central
Indiana. She was born in 1965, in Mooreland, Indiana, where
she stayed until she attended Ball State University in nearby
Muncie. She graduated from Ball State with a bachelor's degree
in English and creative writing. Later she attended Earlham
School of Religion in Richmond, but she left the seminary
and moved to North Carolina where she studied at North Carolina
Kimmel has focused on
poetry for a majority of her life as a writer. In 1992, under
her former married name, Haven Koontz, she published a poem
in The Sycamore Review entitled "Heartland."
The poem describes a rural landscape in Indiana, specifically
discussing Mooreland at the end:
Exactly alike, each flat field
bordered by a finger of woods,
sometimes a stream of smoke rising
at a neighborly distance...
Each street I know as well
as the dip of my husband's throat,
and the alleys overgrown by wild garlic...
This poem depicts a typical Indiana countryside,
and the type of landscape in which Kimmel grew up.
Kimmel has begun writing and
publishing prose, although she says her first love has always
been poetry. Her first book, A Girl Named Zippy:
Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
(2001), is a memoir of her life as a child in her
hometown. In it she discusses elements of nature that affect
a small-town Indiana life such as tornadoes, mid-summer nights
and Indian summer afternoons, peaceful Easter sunrises and
clear Christmas nights.
She also references a few close experiences with
nature, such as finding and nursing a sick woodpecker. Later,
her father, a non-church-goer in a religious town, takes her
to his version of church in a nearby campground. This "church"
is simply a clearing in the woods
with a makeshift cross. Zippy points out that his church is
not proper, due to the lack of a preacher, an altar, and other
people. Her father disagrees:
in the woods
"What does the bible say about
two or three gathered together?"
"'Where two or three are gathered
together, there I am also'...."
"Are there two or three of something
out here?" he asked, gesturing around us. I nodded.
"There are two or three trees...
bugs ...flowers. And us of course."
"Then this is where God is."
It was a nice place. It was peaceful.
I was glad that Dad had found a church of his own somewhere.
Soon after, her first novel,
The Solace of Leaving Early (2002),
was published, as the first part of an intended trilogy. Set
in Hopewood County, Indiana, The Solace of Leaving Early
is about a young woman who returns to her small Indiana hometown
after abandoning her doctoral studies. While Solace
would typically be considered more theological than environmental,
there are a few short environmental references. While discussing
some of the town members, including the main character's family,
she mentions their agricultural
habits: "Her father, for
instance, had never expressed any excitement over pesticides
and her mother's own garden was organic, and yet her dad drove
to work everyday and loaded his Jo-Gro truck with toxic chemicals
and sprayed them on the fields..." (38). In fact, her
father works at Jo-Gro, a pesticide plant. Spraying these
chemicals is more of a paycheck to her father than a moral
Kimmel's books can help the
reader experience the character and landscapes of small-town
Haven Kimmel. 11 Nov. 2002
Kimmel, Haven. A Girl Named Zippy:
Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. New York: Doubleday,
---. The Solace of Leaving Early.
New York: Doubleday, 2002.
Koontz, Haven. "Heartland."
The Sycamore Review. 4.2 (1992): 24-25.
Conversation with Haven Kimmel