I was born Kali Jo White on January 20th, 1975, which makes me an Aquarius or a Capricorn, depending on the source of the horoscope. Another anomaly about me: I lived in the same house from birth until I left for college at the age of 18. I grew up on my family’s large dairy farm outside a southern Iowa town called Bloomfield (known for its beautiful courthouse) and spent many hours playing in creeks and trees with nothing to entertain me but my imagination, planting, it seems, the seeds of my future vocation.
My parents regularly delight in telling people that I started talking and telling stories at an abnormally early age and haven’t shut up since. I’ve also always been a voracious, fast reader. My path to writing was not a direct one, though. I was a fabulously average student in school and went on to become equally average student in college. A bit indecisive in my university years, I attended Indian Hills Community College (liberal arts), the University of Northern Iowa (a special education major for one term), Des Moines Area Community College (can’t even remember what classes I took there), and finally Upper Iowa University (Bachelor’s in Human Services/Psychology.) I married a handsome Dutch boy at the ripe old age of 21 (thus creating one of the most difficult names on the planet to pronounce, Kali VanBaale. It’s kal-ee, like “rally,” and van-ball-ee, like well, nothing), and went to work as a county case manager for mentally disabled adults and children post-graduation.
Over the years, I took many creative writing classes in school, pecked away at one bad story after another, and harbored a secret dream of publishing a novel some day. Finally, with the birth of my first child in 1999, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom and make a real go at the writing thing in my spare time. (My husband must’ve been crazy. Sure honey, let’s give up your salary so you can write a book…)
Fast-forward six years. Numerous writer’s groups, retreats, workshops and classes, two failed books, a pile of rejections, and buckets of frustrated tears later, I finally got my big break in 2005 when I submitted my novel to the Fred Bonnie First Novelist award and won. I’m hard at work finishing another novel and teach creative writing and literature part-time for Drake University in Des Moines.
I live on an acreage outside Des Moines with my husband and three children—two boys and a girl who all give me equal amounts of pure grief and pure joy. I spend most of my workdays at a laptop in my office, surrounded by my beloved books, with a view of my neighbor’s horse ranch just across the road. Above the door, where I can see it from my desk as I write, I painted the wise words of Michelangelo:
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Words to live, and write by, indeed.