Autobiography: “This is my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

Memoir: “This is my story.  No, wait . . . this is my story.”

kim against screw cab lighter

Hi, there! I’m Kim Fairley, a memoirist.

My journey began when I wrote stories for my children so they would understand their father, who had passed away when they were young. Once I started writing, I realized these were universal themes that people relate to and felt it was important to share the stories, especially ones nobody wanted to talk about.

I am fascinated by the countless ways people tell their stories (tattoos, graffiti, fashion, architecture, art, and live storytelling, to name just a few).

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I come from a family of storytellers. My parents were both traveling sales representatives who mastered the art as part of their sales strategy. As kids, we would sit at the dining room table and take turns interrupting each other with details of what had happened while they were away.

With a charismatic extrovert for a father who could tell a great story and a mother who provided unwavering support for our creative pursuits, storytelling has always been a part of my life. Even as a young child, I made art about my life and family history.

My first book, Boreal Ties: Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition, began after grad school. I had been creating collages about my great grandfather’s Arctic expedition in 1901 and decided to compile the written material that had been handed down in the family. Extraordinary images of icebergs and the Inuit, taken in the Thule region of northern Greenland at the turn of the century, fill the book.

The making of Boreal Ties inspired me to begin the process of telling my own story. My first memoir, Shooting Out the Lights, is my real-life mystery story. It takes place the first summer of my marriage. I was twenty-five, pregnant, living in Hillsboro, a scenic town in southwestern Ohio, and the arrival of a disturbed young boy threatened to tear apart our marriage. The book has been published by She Writes Press.

I have a BFA from the University of Southern California and an MFA from the University of Michigan. I recently finished my second memoir, which is about my childhood as a swimmer during the early years of Title IX. I am currently working on a series of short nonfiction pieces.

I am a member of NFAA (Nonfiction Authors Association), NAMW (National Association of Memoir Writers), The Authors Guild, and the Ann Arbor Area Writers.

You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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Boreal Ties

"Photographs and Two Diaries of The 1901 Peary Relief Expedition," University of New Mexico Press, 2002

Kim Fairley, Writer

Exploring northern Greenland in search of the North Pole in 1899, Robert Peary lost seven toes to frostbite but refused to cut his exploration short to seek treatment. When his wife learned of his condition, she and their seven-year-old daughter set off in July 1900 to find Peary and persuade him to come home. The 1901 expedition documented in this book was organized to deliver supplies to Peary and to search for his wife and child. It combines the annotated diaries and photographs of two participants in the expedition, Clarence Wyckoff and Louis Bement, close business associates and friends from Ithaca, New York.

Wyckoff and Bement envisioned themselves hunting wild game, admiring and photographing magnificent scenery, and escaping the stresses of their lives as businessmen. The scenery did not disappoint, as the photographs assembled here testify, but the stress of sailing in polar seas was worse than the travelers imagined. They endured maggoty food, head lice, and hives. The ice and the incompetence of the ship’s crew threatened their lives on more than one occasion. In addition to the drama of the journey and the magnificent Arctic scenery, this travelogue is a valuable record of the American explorers’ encounters with Inuit people, many of whom are identified by name.

 

Kim is the great granddaughter of Clarence Wyckoff.

Silas Ayer is the grandson of Louis Bement.

Kim Fairley, Writer

“The photographs and journals provide insights into the personalities and values of individuals who would later become some of the most famous Arctic explorers or backers in the world…Anyone interested in the history of Arctic photography and polar exploriation will be excited by these materials.”

—Professor Susan A. Kaplan, Director, The Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum

“While I was writing Between Two Worlds, I returned again and again to the stunning photographs in a gorgeous book called Boreal Ties: Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition, edited by Kim Fairley Gillis and Silas Hibbard Ayer III. Its panoramic shots of the towering cliffs and massive ice floes of the Greenland Arctic set me in the mood to write. And best of all, the book’s informal shots of both Inuit and Westerners offered me a rare chance to view my main characters: Inuk girl Eqariusaq, also known as Billy Bah; Robert E. Peary’s wife, Josephine; and his daughter, Marie.”

— Katherine Kirkpatrick, author

“Boreal Ties is a stunning book worth seeing just for the photographs and the layout. The story the men have to tell is interesting especially as it resonates with comparisons with Ithaca: Icebergs as large as Treman Brothers Hardware Store-that building at the northwest corner of the Commons-for example. What this book does best, however, is awaken a keen interest in knowing more about the race to the pole.”

— Carol Kammen, author

 

Kim Fairley, Writer

"The photographs and journals provide insights into the personalities and values of individuals who would later become some of the most famous Arctic explorers or backers in the world...Anyone interested in the history of Arctic photography and polar exploration will be excited by these materials."

—Prof. Susan A. Kaplan, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center

“The chapter on racial perspectives sheds some necessary light on the prevailing ideas on race at the beginning of the 20th century. For example, in both diaries, the Inuit are referred to as “Huskies” and it appears Wyckoff and Bement reflect the white man’s view of race in 1901, but between the lines one can read the respect they undoubtedly had for the Inuit, their culture, abilities and way of life in the harsh landscape of coastal Greenland.”

—Paul van Peenen, The Arctic Book Review

"Boreal Ties should be a welcome addition to the scholars bookshelf."

—Robert M. Bryce, The Polar Record

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Swimming For My Life

In my earliest memory, I was at the Jersey shore, watching the waves when my father stubbed his cigarette in the sand and handed my mother a bathing cap. “Get her ready, Beej.”  A few minutes later, he was hurling me into the ocean yelling, “I’ve got you, Butch. Hold on.” 

I couldn’t have known then how this experience and my Dad’s out-sized personality would drive and shape my life, plunging me into the pressured, dysfunctional, even abusive, competitive swimming world of Cincinnati of the 1970s. Swimming for My Life explores the complicated mix of tumultuous family life and the often hidden underside of competitive swimming.

It will be available in the fall of 2022.

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