36 Books Blog: Kimberly J. Brown

Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.

Interview with Kimberly Brown, author of The I-35W Bridge Collapse: A Survivor’s Account of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure

Category: Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

I’m thrilled. To be a finalist, in the company of so many talented artists and authors, is an honor.

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.

When the book launched in summer of 2018, during Q&A, a member of the audience stood and took the microphone. He was a bridge engineer. He said, “Thank you for writing this book because those in the civil engineering community are afraid to speak out against the NTSB.”

As a citizen who was unfamiliar with bridges, I wanted to understand why the bridge fell beyond the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determination of cause that blamed the collapse on a “design error.” This was not what the research revealed.

One in nine bridges in America are structurally deficient. We have fallen behind. We might not realize it because bridge physics are complex and the nature of decay is invisible. It is my hope that August 1st of 2007, the day the 35W Bridge collapsed, will be a turning point and an eye-opener.

Additionally, by telling my story, my aim was to illuminate the path toward recovery, to repair from the consequences of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. That day, in 13 seconds, 145 people were injured and 13 people died. It is my hope that with knowledge, we can prevent unnecessary future injury and loss of life.

Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?

My path to writing began in seventh grade when I would handwrite poems into a 3-subject notebook that I nurtured and built like a book. Books, literature, poetry, and memoirs have called to me since I learned to read.

Minnesota is often ranked highly as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

As a native Minnesotan, I think our four seasons play a role. Winter, especially, the snow and the cold, makes a good book an ideally enjoyable way to relax, escape, and expand the mind. The presence of dedicated institutions and resources that value literature also play a role from degree programs at our state’s colleges and universities, to booksellers and of course, libraries.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

I actually really enjoy organizing. Clutter makes me crazy. A well-organized room, closet, or cupboard makes me glad! In a sense, this spatial arranging has an indirect overlap to my writing. In a sense, learning how to organize (or structure) a story or an essay or a poem is another form of organizing. Both can be a rewarding challenge.

What do you love about libraries?

Everything! My entire life, libraries have been essential—like a dependable friend. I’ve leaned on them for entertainment, knowledge, to feel less alone, and to gather resources beyond my place in the world. Libraries unite people and communities and are a great equalizer, allowing people of any age, creed, color, or economic background, to access resources and information.

About Kimberly J. Brown
Kimberly J. Brown is an IT Technical Writer and the author of The I-35W Bridge Collapse: A Survivor’s Account of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure (Potomac Books, 2018). She is an MFA candidate at Hamline University and a 2010/2011 Loft Mentor Series winner in creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol; Queer Voices: Prose, Poetry, and Pride; Sleet Magazine; Recovering the Self; A View From The Loft; and elsewhere. For more information about the author and her work, visit www.kjbrown.com.