Saturday, December 10, 2011

From FIGMENT.COM








It’s official: the 90s are back in vogue. You know that Figment has recently published Dream School, the sequel to Blake Nelson’s 90s classic Girl, about Andrea Marr: grunge rock princess turned elite liberal arts student. As Andrea faces college–preps, professors, parties, and all–she’ll struggle to find her own path to cool. You can read an excerpt of Dream School for a limited time on Figment here, and you can read more about Blake’s inspiration and style below.

How did you come up with Andrea, the main character in Girl and now Dream School? How much did you know about her before you started writing, and how much did you discover along the way?

Originally, Andrea was just there to tell the story of Cybil, who shaved her head as an artistic/rebellious statement. But then as I continued the story, Andrea started to talk about her own life, and especially her relationship with a senior boyfriend when she was just a sophomore. This relationship, which I just threw in there to give her something to talk about, became the main focus of Andrea’s story at the beginning. Eventually, it took over. Soon the the whole book was about Andrea’s transition to indie coolness, which was actually more interesting than Cybil’s, because Andrea was a more ordinary person. She had farther to go.

You’re a guy writing from a girl’s perspective. What are the challenges in that? Did you ever hear, “You’re doing it wrong!” from female readers?

It has been pretty effortless for me. I really like doing it. I find that girl characters can be a little more honest than boy characters, since boys only really think about a few different things: Call of Duty . . . food . . . girls’ body parts. I feel freer when I am writing from a girl’s perspective.

Any advice for other writers looking to take the gender-bending leap?

If you feel lost or you don’t understand your character, start over using a different person. I feel like everyone has an alternative gendered person that they can talk through. You just have to find that character. Also, try writing from the perspective of someone you would like, or fall in love with. In fact: let yourself fall in love with your character. That’s probably the best way.

Girl was made into a movie. Do you picture your characters differently after seeing them on the silver screen?

Yes, that’s why I didn’t see Girl (the movie) until after I wrote the sequel. But I think it’s up to the movie. Like in Paranoid Park (another of my books that was made into a film), that actor did such a good job that I always see him in my mind when I think of the book. The Girl movie didn’t stick in my mind quite so much. And I only saw that movie once. So it hasn’t affected me that much.

Describe Dream School in four words.

Cool kids at college . . .

Andrea has a lot of fun in college—did you draw on your own college experiences in writing it?

Yeah, I was like her, but I was in bands instead of being a film maker. But my favorite part of being in college was when my band traveled to all the other colleges to play gigs, and that’s what Andrea and her friends do. Andrea’s adventures in college are very close to mine.

We can’t help but notice that Dream School ends on a bit of a cliffhanger–any chance of another Andrea adventure?

My Figment editor, Dana Goodyear, brought that up, and we talked about what would happen to Andrea if she got her book published and went to New York and was part of the literary scene there. That would be really fun to write about. And make fun of!!

What does your ideal writing set-up look like?

Couches are my favorite. I like to put my feet up and balance my laptop on my lap. And then balance my coffee cup on the cushion beside me or on the arm of the couch, which drives people insane because they’re sure I will spill it, though I never do. I like having a lot of things balancing all around me while I write. I also listen to music. Often, a certain record or band becomes the sound track of a book, though I never really plan it. And interestingly, after a long period of never writing in public, I have found recently that I like to write in coffee shops and libraries and places like that.

For those Figment users who were barely conscious in the 90s, what are the 5 most important things to know about the decade?

1-It was a feminist period. Meaning that girls took themselves seriously as a group and a gender. They held themselves aloof from boys. Girls who were preoccupied with boys and getting a boyfriend were considered superficial and sort of lame.

2-People wrote letters. I wrote tons of letters, and got tons of letters. It was almost like a side career. They were long and super fun to write. You would spend a whole night writing someone a letter . . . especially if you were away somewhere, like in a foreign country.

3-The world was pretty dangerous. You didn’t tool around with a stroller in Brooklyn in 1991, unless you wanted someone to steal your baby.

4-You could still be gloomy. A lot of the art and music of the 90s was very dour and “miserabilist.” Nowadays everyone’s more cheerful. At least on the surface.

5-I was young and unknown in the 90s and was just starting my career and that’s generally the funnest part of your life!

NAOMI FRY !




NAOMI FRY'S PIECE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES "T" MAGAZINE. (T stands for STYLE, for some reason)


The touchstones seem to be everywhere these days: the plaid-wearing, goateed bicycle messengers of “Portlandia”; the grunge heiress Frances Bean Cobain’s recent Hedi Slimane photo shoot; the chortling return of “Beavis and Butthead” to MTV. Yes, the ‘90s are totally back — so much so that some culture observers are probably busy deciding at this very moment that they’re already over again. And there’s no doubt that “Dream School” (Figment), Blake Nelson’s sequel to his beloved 1994 teenage bildungsroman, “Girl,” owes its publication, at least partly, to our current fascination with that halcyon age of mix tapes and Doc Martens. Nelson himself said, “I finished writing the book in 2000, but nobody would publish it, so it sat in my drawer for 10 years.”
Blake Nelson, author of “Dream School.”

Quite apart from the fickleness of retro-focused trends, and regardless of Nelson’s own nostalgia for the ‘90s (“I miss Feminism! The whole culture is so 1950s right now, so conservative and conformist”), “Dream School” is first and foremost an enduring account of what it looks, feels and sounds like to be young. While “Girl” told the story of the Portland, Ore., teenager Andrea Marr and her adventures in the Pacific Northwest’s indie rock music scene, its sequel follows her east to Wellington, a snooty liberal arts college modeled on Wesleyan, which Nelson also attended. Parts of “Girl” were published in Sassy, and the passages gave readers a first-person voice so realistic they might have had to remind themselves that not only were the excerpts fiction, but also fiction actually written by an adult man. Were the oft-missed magazine around today, it might have serialized the new novel as well, which is told in an equally convincing voice.

Despite the gender switch, “Andrea’s experience in college is very nearly identical to mine,” Nelson explained. Before he went to Wesleyan, he had “never dealt with entitled people before, and I didn’t fit in.” From its first chapter, in which Andrea arrives at Wellington and internally compares her ordinary luggage to her fellow students’ “nice” bags (“it wasn’t the most embarrassing thing ever, but it was pretty noticeable”), “Dream School” establishes its protagonist’s outsider perspective. She sees her classmates as “very eastern,” who seem “used to airports and being picked up and going to new places.”

Though Nelson’s uneasiness in college may have been spurred by his peers’ socioeconomic privilege, the book isn’t overtly political. Much like the author himself, “Andrea’s not ideological. She’s an observer.” Yet what “Dream School” may lack in pointed critique, it makes up for in Nelson’s spot-on, often tongue-in-cheek renderings of the minutiae that fill Andrea’s college experience: the pretentious girl in the creative writing workshop who keeps using the term “metafiction”; the eyeliner- and leather-coat-wearing, sexually confident dorm lothario; the forever cooler, laconic friend who makes an experimental film about ecstasy.

If “Girl” was a book read mostly by teenagers but still considered, Nelson said, “a very adult book, in the sense that people hid it from their parents, marked its dirty parts and frequently shoplifted it,” then “Dream School” straddles the same fine line between young adult and just plain adult. For one thing, it thankfully lacks the often heavy-handed moral arcs that so much teen fiction insists on. (Andrea experiments with cocaine but doesn’t need to go to rehab; she practices non-monogamous sex but doesn’t get an S.T.D.) What’s more, as the book ends, Andrea is in her early 20s and, much like Nelson at her age, is feeling the pull of Manhattan. Could there be another sequel in the works? “I’ll definitely think about it, if ‘Dream School’ does well,” Nelson said.

“Dream School” by Blake Nelson, $10. Go to powells.com.


FROM http://sarahspy.com/

Interview with Isadora Schappell-Spillman @ TEENAGE FILM




Why did you choose to revisit Andrea and write a sequel?

Weirdly enough, despite ending GIRL with a total sequel-suggesting ending, I never really thought about writing a sequel. And then many years later, I was sitting around and I just started writing it, mostly for fun, and to see what it would sound like. And then the first chapter turned out really good. So I kept going.



How do you write so convincingly in the voice of teenage girl?

I don't think of them as a teenaged girl. I just think of them as a person, who is in this one particular situation, dealing with the things they deal with. I think, in the privacy of our own heads, we don't have an age, or even a gender. We just are. So you start with that, and work your way outward.



Dream School deals with Andrea's realization of herself as an artist/writer, have you always felt like you were an artist or was there a specific time or place that encouraged you to become a writer?

I started to know when I was about fourteen. At first I was a musician and I did that for a long time. But something about that never felt quite right. And I was worried that I would age out too soon as a musician. I had to do an art form that you can do all your life. So when I was twenty-two, I quit music and switched to being a writer. Which was scary at first, because by then I was a good musician, but I could barely write at all. But I knew I had an artistic calling or whatever, a vocation, and in the end it wouldn't matter what medium I was in. It might even be better to do something that would take me a long time to get good at.



What was your college experience like?

Pretty much exactly like Andrea's in Dream School. I met a lot of cool people. But i was a little out of my element being at an elite college. I wasn't prepared for the "entitlement". But it was something I had to learn about, if I was going to live in New York City and live a life in the arts. So I got through it.



How do you feel like today's teenagers are different from when you were Andrea's age?

I think this current generation of parents is much more invested in their children than the parents of the nineties. The reason 90s Do-It-Yourself culture existed, was because you had to do things yourself because nobody was going to help you. Today's kids get lots of help. I don't know what that means down the road, but I think todays kids are generally healthier mentally then Andrea's gang. And better adjusted, and more positive and trusting and willing to give of themselves. They still have all the usual kids problems. But just in the most general terms, they seem happier and less introverted and sulky then the generations before.



What are some of your favorite books/movies/tv shows about Teenagers?

I love the book King Dork. I love the movie Splendor in the Grass. I don't really watch TV too much. I appear to be the only person in the world who didn't particularly like My So Called Life.




Why does so much of your work focus on the experiences of teenagers? I.E. what can you express through the voices of teenagers that you could not otherwise express?


I like teenagers. That's the main thing. I never get bored with them. They're so funny, and so wise, and their brains are like new cars. Don't let adults tell you otherwise: you are never smarter than when you're eighteen.

Another thing too.....the buddhists talk about keeping a "beginners mind", like trying to stay young mentally, keeping the world fresh, not getting stuck in habits or prejudices in the way you view the world. I think putting myself in the heads of teenagers, helps me do that, it is a form of doing that. Teenagers have the ultimate "beginners mind" and going there, refreshes my own perspective, it makes everything new again, which gives my writing a sense of exploration and discovery, and also just makes for a nice life for me.

--Izzy

I HEART DAILY INTERVIEW

I Heart Daily: What inspired you to write a sequel to Girl?
Blake Nelson: On impulse, I stuck a cliff-hanger, sequel-hinting ending on the end of Girl. I don’t remember why. I guess to force myself someday to write a sequel? I hadn’t really thought about what she would be doing… I just knew she would not be a typical college student, she would definitely have some sort of indie-alternative-artsy experience….

IHD: What was it like for you to follow Andrea to college?
BN: It was fun. And a little bit sad. And really interesting. It was like I was going back to college myself, remembering all the little details of that first day, first week, first month. I had never been anywhere when I left to go to college. It was a huge moment for me.

IHD: You say F. Scott Fitzgerald has had a big influence on your writing. How so?
BN: He did everything I want to do. He was romantic, but also coldly realistic. Also, his characters were so clearly the cool-kids of his time. The “fast” girls, the crazed overly romantic boys, the ambition, the class striving. My favorite of his books might be his obscure second novel The Beautiful and the Damned… the title kind of sums it up.

IHD: Are you surprised that the Young Adult genre has gotten so popular?
BN: Yeah, I am. And it’s also interesting to watch it struggle under the weight of that popularity. It seems to lurch around from one trend to another. First Vampires. Now Dystopia. I would like it a little better, if it wasn’t such a gold rush. But so many amazing books have appeared during the YA boom, you can’t complain. And there’s a lack of pretension that I really appreciate.

Monday, November 28, 2011

ROOKIE INTERVIEW





For a certain subset of readers, the story of Girl's publication, first as excerpts in Sassy magazine, is the stuff of '90s alt legend, but for those of us who were in single digits at the time (or not yet born!), can you tell a brief version of how that came about, preferably using early- to mid-nineties slang?



Girl was my first novel and it was about a suburban teenager discovering the alternative music scene in the 1990s.

When I finished it, I sent it to publishers and they were like: “We don’t understand this.” The rejections came pouring in.

So then I tried sending it to Sassy magazine. Of course, they understood it and published several chapters.

Meanwhile, there was one book editor who was still considering Girl. But she couldn’t decide. She kept saying: “But who’s the audience? Who’s going to buy it?”

So then Christina Kelly, at Sassy called and said: “We’re getting all these letters from readers who like your novel.”

So I ran up to the Sassy offices and got this stack of hand-written letters from thirteen year old girls in places like Oklahoma City, and I ran across town to that last editor’s office and put them on her desk and said: “Here is the audience! These are the people who will buy it!”

And that’s how it came to be published.



When did you decide you wanted to write a sequel? Did you ever worry about messing with the sanctity of the original story?


I wasn’t worried, I thought if the sequel sucks, I’ll just throw it away.

It was about six years after Girl when I wrote Dream School. Since she was now in college, Andrea had to be more mature, less chatty then she was in Girl, but I still thought she was interesting, and it was still fun to follow her around and see what she did.

Also describing college was fun. I was really pleased with that. Dream School shows what college is like for smart people. It’s so lame how people portray college as just sororities and guys with beer cans strapped to their heads. College can actually be really great.


Now a lot of your work, including Girl, Dream School, and your other new book, Recovery Road, can be found in the Young Adult section of a bookstore, but I've read that you didn't necessarily begin with those intentions.


It’s true. I didn’t intend to be a Young Adult writer. And a lot of my books fall into a middle ground, of not totally YA and not totally not.

But that’s okay. The books find their way. Recovery Road which I worried was going to be too extreme for the YA crowd, has been embraced. And rightly so, because it’s the best kind of YA book, not preachy, not “message-y” but still a solid story that’s honest and real.


When did you start writing and what were some of your early influences?

I was a musician in my teens and early twenties and most of my energy went into that. I wrote a lot of songs, which was good training for writing fiction. I learned how to keep trying even if your first attempts are terrible!

I didn’t start writing seriously until after my band days, which was my mid-twenties.


What did you read as a teenager?

I read stuff like Jaws or The Doonesbury Chronicles. Just whatever I happened to pick up. Then when I was in bands, I had a lot of free time. That’s what happens when you’re a musician, you sit around a lot. And people started turning me on to better stuff: Kerouac and Henry Miller and Tom Wolfe.

I also re-discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s been the biggest influence on my career. You could take any F. Scott Fitzgerald story, replace “flappers” with “punk rockers” and you have a Blake Nelson story.



When did you realize that you were good at writing for teenagers?


When Girl came out I got a lot of mail from teenagers. I guess I thought the audience would be a little older. But the letters were great. I was so impressed by them.

I hadn’t planned to write YA books but after that it made sense to. And plus, I like teenagers. I like thinking about that time in my own life.

One thing about me: I didn’t hate high school like some people. I was an odd kid and suffered the usual miseries, but I never got too worried about it. I’d get a big zit and I’d see it in the mirror and I’d laugh. I’d be like: “I’m a teenager! I got a zit!”

I would do things like kiss girl’s hands when I was introduced to them. I seemed to be living in several different centuries at once. I was weird. But I enjoyed my youth.



Sort of in the same vein: Who is an ideal reader for the stories of Andrea, as in what age, gender, and sensibility? I gave my little sister (who I think is very different than me in a lot of ways) Girl as a high school graduation present, but I've been too nervous to ask her what she thought of it, or even if she read it...


Yeah, it’s hard to know who’s gonna like what.

I told one group of high-schoolers the other day: “If you think Keds are cool and Uggs are not, you will like Girl.”


You and Andrea share a lot of biographical details (hometown, college, profession): Is she you? If so, why not just make her a dude?


I did write about boys around that same time. But the 90s was a very girl-oriented time. People really wanted to know what was up with them. “What do teenaged girls think about?” That was the question that was in the air. “Why are girls so cool?” “Have girls ever been as cool as they are right now?” It didn’t seem like they had.

A lot of that was the flowering of feminism, and just the way things worked out. Generation X got screwed in a lot of ways but we had amazing girl-culture. Kathleen Hanna, Sassy, all the great zines…. I was just exploring the same things as everyone else.


How did you inhabit the head of a young woman for the first time and how did you get back into that mindset to write Dream School?


I just tried it. That’s what you do as a writer, or any kind of artist. You try things.

With Girl that female voice just instantly worked. It was so fun to get Andrea talking. She had so much energy, her sentences would loop around and reconnect to things, or end in these funny non sequiturs, or just tail off into total confusion. Her voice felt exactly right. It was thrilling.



If I was hoping to get my brain to a place like that, besides reading Rookie, I would be way into the blogs of teenagers on websites like Livejournal and Tumblr. Girl and Dream School have a real diary quality to them that might remind people reading them today of what they see their peers do daily on the internet. Do you ever find yourself going down the teen blog rabbit hole? What do you think of the pro-sharing culture outside of fiction?




I love to read teen blogs. I go on scouting missions to Lookbook and from there find interesting blogs that I check back in with. Tumblr is great, but it’s so visual, there’s not as much writing, but that’s okay. I love how certain blogs just set a mood. Young people are so inventive and interesting, especially if they are left to their own devices….




Are there any parts of Girl or Dream School that women have taken issue with? For instance, Andrea's first orgasm, or other parts you biologically or emotionally could not have experienced? Did you do research or reporting for stuff like that?

No research, I just made it up. And I got a lot of it wrong I realized as I got older. But one thing I’ve noticed is that people are insecure about sex so if a female character says: “Whenever I kiss a boy, my ears tingle”, the female reader thinks: “Oh no! Why don’t my ears tingle?” Instead of thinking: “That doesn’t really happen! This is a guy writing this, not a girl!”

Also, I think in some cases, if you have a good story going, people will go with it. It’s like when you hit a wrong note as a musician. If you’re really tearing it up, nobody cares if you make a mistake.

Surprisingly though, I still meet people who have never seen my picture and think that “Blake Nelson” is a girl. That’s weird.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christina Kelly and I talking about SASSY and GIRL



CHRISTINA: I first met Blake Nelson in the early 90s, when I was back at Sassy, and we published excerpts from his awesome first novel, "Girl." That book is now beloved by an entire generation. It tells the story of a suburban girl named Andrea Marr who discovers punk rock and alternative culture.

Blake had an amazing ability to write in the voice of a teenage girl, even though he was a 20-something hipster guy. He has gone on to write a total of 12 books, which is both impressive and gives me book envy. Finally, in December, "Dream School," the sequel to Girl is coming out. It’s about what happens when Andrea goes off to college.

You guys, it’s really good! I recently asked Blake many annoying questions about his books and writing, which he graciously answered ....



Christina: I've been thinking about how we first found "Girl." An intern, Christine Muhlke, who used to screen all the fiction that came in, put it on my desk with a note that said "Evil Genius." I read it and loved it. That much I remember. What I'm more hazy on: Did we run your stories as they were, or did we edit them? Do you remember? Was I a bitch? I hear that I was a bitch back then.

Blake: You were not a bitch, you were a taskmaster, and you had to be, because you were suddenly at the center of the hipster universe. Everyone wanted a piece of Sassy, which you seemed to find amusing but also very stressful. Your overall response to the pressure seemed to be: EVERYTHING HAS TO BE GOOD. And of course everything isn't always good, so I'm sure you had to disappoint a lot of people, hence you are a bitch....

But backing up to how we met: I was of course a huge fan of Sassy. So I wrote a short story called "Cybil Shaves Her Head" and sent it to you. You rejected it, but you called me in Portland and told me that in short stories for magazines: "The character has to change."

So then, since you'd actually called me, (CHRISTINA KELLY CALLED ME!), I thought I might have a shot with an excerpt, and when I finished the book, I went through it and found sections I thought could stand alone as stories, and had "people changing" and I sent them in.

Your editing was very light. I understood the parameters. It was really effortless, which made it hard to drum up excuses to come to your offices, but I still managed go there a lot. I had huge crushes on all of you guys. And I loved your grimy offices. Every time I walked out of there, I was like floating on a cloud.

And then the best part of the story: When the excerpts ran, you got a bunch of letters from readers and you gave them to me -- it was a pretty good stack -- and I was down to one book editor who was still considering the book, so I took the letters to her and that convinced her to offer me a contract.

I still tell young writer types: "Christina Kelly once told me: The character must change."

Christina: Yes, I think it is coming back to me. I remember you visiting the offices, and I remember once going to a Roger Manning show with you and some of the other staff. I didn’t know about the crushes though. So, why did you choose to write in a girl's voice? How did you know what goes on inside a girl's head?

Blake: It started with "Cybil Shaves Her Head" which was supposed to be an updating of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." So I thought one of Cybil's friends should tell the story. A girl. In that first story, I mostly made fun of the dumb suburban mall girls, and how they talked. It was very satirical and pretty unkind to the girls and teenagers in general.

I found though, as I continued with my more serious attempts at literary fiction, that I kept thinking about Cybil and her gang. They were such lively, fun characters. They had really come to life. So I went back and continued their story.

As for knowing what girls think about, that has never been hard. In the midst of the first draft of "Girl," I asked a room full of women from the bookstore I worked at, "What did you think about in high school?" They all, in unison and unprompted, said: "Sex!" I think I more thought about “boys.” But I was very innocent.

Generic author picture of Blake until he wakes up and sends us a better one.

Generic author picture of Blake until he wakes up and sends us a better one.

Christina: Is there anything of yourself in Andrea?

Blake: Oh, Andrea is me. Totally. I mean, the "boy" parts of my character are my worst qualities. I'm egotistical, competitive, selfish ... So Andrea is like me with all the good parts and none of the bad. Which really freed me to let her be herself in the story.

She didn't have any demons really. She's a genuinely good person. And her "journey" is very similar to mine too. Starting off in boring suburbia, discovering, incrementally, that there's this bigger, more interesting world. Taking those first steps into going to your first "show," wearing your first thrift store clothes. It was really fun to relive that stuff. And as a writer, if you're having fun writing it, the reader is going to have fun reading it.

Christina: How much of "Dream School" is based on your own college years?

Blake: A lot. Especially the beginning, that first year or two of college, that's pretty much my experience exactly. I was pretty out of my element at a fancy college like Wesleyan (Wellington, in the book). But probably most people feel that way.

I especially enjoyed writing about those first months when every little detail matters. When you're noticing what kind of watches people have and how they organize their dorm room. And people are reading The Economist and you're thinking, "Oh my god, I don't know anything about the world." Also the loneliness of it, and that sense that "your life is starting." You are truly on your own. It's a real test. It's a real "rite of passage" moment, especially if you didn't already go to boarding school or Exeter or whatever

Christina: When did you write "Dream School"?

Blake: I wrote it somewhere between 1998 and 2000, I think. I don't actually remember. I wrote it at the exact wrong time, in terms of getting it published. It was too late to do a series type sequel and it was too early to do a retrospective type thing. I must have had a lot of faith in it though, because when I dug it out years later, I though, "Oh, I'll have to fix this up" but it was actually very polished and solid and ready to go.

Christina: How did the Figment serialization come about?

Blake: I met a woman named Lauren Cerand who is a very sharp book person and when I told her in 2008 that I had written a sequel to "Girl" that was in my drawer, she got very excited. She thought we were coming into a cycle where people would be very into that. She thought about it, and encouraged me to think about it, and then the Figment people, who were also very smart, appeared and they started thinking about it. And slowly we hatched a plan.

My Figment editor and I are already discussing a third book. Andrea goes to New York and gets her first novel published. I think that would be great. I want to read that.

Christina: In general, do you plan out your books in outline form or do you write them off the top of your head? I write off the top of my head but maybe that's why I can't finish any book. Blake, how do you do it??? How are you so prolific? I need help.

Blake: No, I'm not a planner. It's the characters for me. Finding a character who is interesting enough to hold the readers attention, (and mine), and then introduce that person into various situations or conflicts. I have been getting better at plots, but I don't care that much about plot.

Christina: I don’t care about plot either. Boring! Am I right that "Girl" was not written specifically as YA fiction? Back then YA was not the healthy publishing category it is now. It was more of a ghetto, as I remember.

Blake: Yeah, "Girl" was not YA originally. I didn't even know what YA was at the time. I thought of it as more like "Less Than Zero," or something like that. Or like F. Scott Fitzgerald, that's actually probably the biggest influence. "Girl" has struggled as a YA book, actually. It is a hard sell to paranormal fans and the kind of romance-y type fiction that plays well at the moment.

I have found it an interesting sociological experiment watching today's readers react to it. We are in such an escapist period right now. And very sheltered. I am always warning parents about it. I'll be at a reading or something and some 12-year-old girl will pick it up and I'll have to snatch it away and say: "It's for older teens." Of course, a minority of smart kids really love it, it's like an oasis of something. But a lot of kids don't even understand what the point of it is.

One woman on Goodreads said she would recommend it: "Only to people who like frozen yogurt and casual sex."

Christina: So, like, everyone, then!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Got to see my favorite graphic novelist/zine person NICOLE GEORGES last night, talking about her work at the super fun Hollywood (Portland) Public Library. Oh my god, she is so awesome.

Martha Grover was her co-presenter, reading from her zine SOMNAMBULIST, her piece was the minutes of her family meetings during a period when her whole family was basically living together, as adult children or whatever. It was really funny. And then it turned out that these three cute women in the back, were her family, the people we had just heard about.

So yes, this post is mostly just an excuse to put up a drawing by Nicole, her pet portraits are amazing, but I am going with the self portrait....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

WHAT DOES ANDREA MARR LOOK LIKE?

So everyone is gearing up for the big release of DREAM SCHOOL, the long awaited sequel to GIRL.

One of the fun questions that comes up is what does ANDREA MARR actually look like?

No cheating, the movie doesn't count, though I thought Dominique Swain was about right, minus the bizarre pseudo-90s hair they stuck on her, that no one in the 90s actually had, except for the weirdos on MY SO CALLED LIFE, who when we look back now, look so fucking ridiculous, it wrecks the show.

Needless to say, in my mind, nobody had hair like that. They all had normal punk rock nineties hair which was just bobs and color or longer or bangs, or weirdo bangs or whatever....

This is what one person thought, and I think this is pretty good too .... black hair, that was the one thing I always had pretty clear in my mind ... other than that it is pretty open to interpretation ....

Friday, September 23, 2011

PORTLAND ! ! !

Heading up to Portland in a couple weeks for AWESOME wordstock festival. Oct. 8 and 9. My favorite Book Festival. Come by, say hi!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

DREAM SCHOOL

Oh my gosh, here comes DREAM SCHOOL, the sequel to GIRL. In beautiful Trade Paperback form!

Publication date is December 2011. So a good present for any GIRL fans you may know!

Very Excited to be working with Jacob Lewis, Dana Goodyear at figment.com as well as the illustrious Lauren Cerand as we gear up to promote it, and spread the word, etc.

For instance, check out http://herewegirlagain.tumblr.com/

I remain so touched how much people relate to GIRL and how it is still around and still finding new readers even now.

In short: I AM PSYCHED!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ryan Trecartin

videoOh my god, so I read the review of Ryan Trecartin in the New Yorker and went to his PS1 show expecting the worst, how often is anything with good reviews actually good? The great Chris Archangel show at the Whitney which was also highly touted turned out to be nothing much ...

So I get to PS1 and I go into the show and I have no idea what the hell it is. The review couldn't really tell you. It appears to be some idiot girls yakking away in high pictched squeals into their cell phones.

Anyway, it was great. Now watch big chunks of his videos DAILY. I can't live without it. the only thing that seems to confirm for me what I think I am seeing daily. No, I am not crazy. Another person sees it too!

Anyway, here's a tiny clip.

Ryan Trecartin

Friday, June 24, 2011

Symphony of Berlin

Just got back from a week in Berlin, hanging out with my mom and mostly doing tourist stuff. Saw interesting film SYMPHONY OF BERLIN, at the Neue National Galerie.

Hung out with a writer from TAG DE ZEIT and distinguished myself by not knowing anything about American Politics. Not even knowing who was running for president. She said people in Germany don't do anti-depressants, they drink. "It is opposite in your country?" she added.

Funnest stuff was just walking around. I lived here for a month in 1984. During the wall days. Thought about pitching someone an article, something like BERLIN REVISITED, or whatever, "then and now" but found I just liked thinking about it and didn't want to spend a week trying to figure out how to accurately portray myself twenty-some years ago. Impossible anyway. All I could think to say about myself was how I dressed then. Black everything, slicked back black hair, chain smoking, so Berlin was a good place for me back then....

Also in Berlin in 1984 I used to copy people's conversations down in notepads. The english conversations. One time this couple at the youth hostel were having a pretty serious love spat and I was sitting nearby scribbling along, and the guy turned to me with annoyance said "Are you getting all this down?", and I said, "I'm up to the part where she said: You never ask me how I feel."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DAY THIRTY FOUR: SISTER SPIT: CHICAGO

Pictured (sigh), the last set list (or one of the last set lists) from Sister Spit 2011.

So we headed back from Minneapolis, heading sound again, trying to escaped the snow and the bleakness, though I will forever hope to return to Minneapolis again to revisit the Seward Cafe because I think it changed my life, I think from now on I am going to become a partial foodie just because I realize that foodies are the most interesting diners, and it's just time for me to get on board this food stuff.

As Michelle Tea said about several things over the course of the trip: "You don't want to be on the wrong side of History" meaning your little jealous corrupted brain full of prejudices and preconceived notions and what not, cannot always be trusted.

I didn't like foodie-ism because I didn't feel like it fit in with my curmudgeonly view of myself, but it's time for me to adjust and change and try something that might stretch my brain.

This is why I quit smoking in 1989. Because I sensed that the smoking days were over. Smoking was going to change and become alienating and expensive and uncool. I was not going to want to be smoker in 1999. And I was right about that one.

The Foodie thing though I have been wrong about, and too cheap to indulge in and will probably remain so, but I am now officially interested in it or at least looking at the people who are .... which is a long way of saying I think I like the vibe of vegan restaurtants now .... I sure liked Seward Cafe.

So anyway. Back in the van. We land in Madison. The space is small, a cool little collective, sort of grungy and Portland-esque. Everyone was ill or something so poor BESSIE our host had to do everything herself, including setting up the chairs which I re-spaced for her because people often don't know the secret to setting up chairs is SPACING. Nothing worse than stuck in a chair with no room in front of you.

So we dicked around and got food at this super comfort food diner called Monty's that was Queer friendly, or at least had a queer waiter, and a highly eclectic menu. We came stumbling out of there late and got back to the space and had that wonderful SISTER SPIT occurence of A TOTALLY PACKED HOUSE. As a writer and goer to of writer things I have never seen anything literary consistently PACK THE SPACES like SS. Anyway.

So all went on. We killed. The standing room only crowd gave us a standing ovation!!!

Afterward I met Kelly from STACKED.COM which is a cool book site .... that interviewed me. That was fun. And some other fans. I never quite got the hang of hanging out after the show, I often hid in the back room, but whenever I did I always seemed to find several fans milling around. GIRL lives on, which is so cool, and so flattering.

The next day it was on to Chicago for our final gig. Things started slow as we all stood outside in the freezing cold waiting for the SUBTERRANEAN CLUB to Open. This was in trendy Wicker Park. Michelle was shaking with cold. They let us in finally. Things looked bad at first and there was a big blow up with some club people. But everything got done, as happens...

So then the show. We KILLED. AGAIN. It was great. I read the final scene in RECOVERY ROAD where Maddie tries to talk to Stewart and I CRIED !!!!!!!

Well I didn't actually shed tears but I kept having to step away from the mike and re-compose myself. I finally told the audience: "I'm sorry. I'm a cryer." I don't know if they were won over by that. They seemed to be with me though, in terms of the story. I did achieve that great thing of total silence from the crowd which is hard to do in a bar. But that scene is good and heartbreaking .... anyway, so that was the end of the tour and the end of the book and everything kind of wrapped up nicely.....

I am so glad I went on this tour. It was so fun and so interesting in so many ways. And I will never forget my crew!!!! What a great time. I am sad it's over but feel exhausted in a good way, in the best way. I LEFT EVERYTHING I HAD OUT THERE!!! Awesome!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

DAY THIRTY-ONE: SISTER SPIT: MADISON, WI

Ali Liebegott, one of our fearless leaders, was alas not able to pass through Wisconsin without paying a price for culinary crimes....

MARYS! We only have two more dates on the tour!!! Everyone is so sad!! It's been SO FRICKIN' FUN!!

"Mary", by the way, is what everyone calls each other in the van. It is one of those spontaneous slang things that happens in such group situations.

One can be addressed as "Mary". "Can you hand me those cheese balls, Mary?"

One can express things to the Gods in the form of Mary. "Mary, is it ever going to stop raining?"

And one can simply say the word to oneself as a kind of protection from all human trials and tribulations. "Mary!" And it works.

BACK TO THE TOUR: So we left Bloomington and drove up to Ann Arbor where we had PHOEBE GLOECKNER as a guest performer!! MARY!! We are all INSANE fans of hers. The gig was weirdly not packed--we are spoiled--but it didn't matter and created a loose fun, whatevs kind of atmosphere which I like.

Phoebe went on last and told us about her knew project and she was a little tired but spoke interestingly about her life as an artist. It was more like a big conversation really, all of us chirping in, asking questions, etc. And then we had a great dinner after, paid for by the awesome gay bookstore COMMON LANGUAGE who helped put on the show.

Then back to one of the less nice hotels, but comfy for us as we all have gotten used to each other and don't mind stepping over each other's underwear on the way to the bathroom ... etc....

Then to Milwaukee where I found the greatest bookstore ever. RENAISSANCE BOOKS, in Milwaukee, google it, go there, make a special trip.

It is like Powell's used to be before it was online, and there was still crazy first editions of your favorite books, hidden behind a stack of UFO books. Plus it was HAUNTED. Plus NOBODY SEEMED TO WORK THERE. And then when you did find an employee they couldn't really talk to you because they were busy listening to Crystal Castles on their headphones. When I first walked in I thought I had walked into some crazy HORDER nightmare but everything turned out to be meticulously in place and findable. The whole experience was just extraordinary. I wished I had more eyepower left to read and poke around there, I lasted about three hours but your brain gets fried on tour and your eyes go ....

The Milwaukee gig was fun, it was in a nice newer bookstore called Boswell's. I read a piece from my memoir about meeting and hanging with Courtney Love in Portland when I was a wee little Portland scenester. I thought the local queer kids might notice who I was reading about but they didn't seem to, having been born after the whole Kurt and Courtney era. And probably not caring anyway, despite the HOLE-worship still practiced by Tavi and her ilk. (Self Constructed Freak)

Then it was back into the van and onto Minneapolis which holds an important place in my history and yet which I have never been to! Also F. Scott is from here and Garrison Keillor. Mostly I think of it through F. Scott's eyes though, but of course the world of rich kids riding around in motorboats on the lake is not anywhere I am going to be. Isn't that always the case? You go to some famous spot that is so alive in your mind only to realize, Truman Capote's New York is not on the subway....it's no where you can get to .... that's why people love it so much .... inaccessible ....

We did get to see a little bit of rich kid cool at Seward's Cafe though which is the trendy foodie hipster restaurant that Sister Spit frequents on all trips to the Twin Cities. I don't go to such places usually, but I have to get over that because this place was full of such interesting people, the Volvo/Oberlin/Crafter crowd as far as I could tell. Beautiful young women in their Minnesota Woolen Chic. MARY! I was dying with envy and falling in love with everyone. Why do I have such little interaction with this world? So nice. So cultured. So FOODIE FRIENDLY. Why can't I be a normal person!!?? I want to be like these people. Saturday brunch with friends! Everyone equal and happy and well adjusted and having good jobs and having just graduated from excellent liberal arts colleges. Oh I am such a mess compared to these people. But perhaps I am comparing "my insides to their outsides" which is never recommended....

Oh yeah, the gig. We sold out Bryant Park Theater, or whatever it was, in the Uptown section of Minneapolis. It had a bowling alley/bar/restaurant/theater. I'm totally serious.

And it was fucking cool. We packed it. Kicked it. KILLED IT. We were great. The people loved us. Then we hung out all night until the wee hours. Kirk Read and I bowled. More beautiful kids .... hanging out ... on dates ... with friends ... smoking cigarettes outside the club in their $400 MARMOT down coats. Maybe F. Scott's dreams are still alive here. Despite the strange feeling at times that no matter how hard we row, "We are boats being born backward, ceaselessly into the past."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Karaoke

Michelle sings Fleetwood Mac ...

Sister Spit @ UMASS

Big crowd at UMASS.

HOTEL TIME

An hour of work time in a hotel seems to be worth about two hours of work time anywhere else....

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: SISTER SPIT: LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY -- BLOOMINGTON INDIANA

We just got to Bloomington in time to catch the Lil Wayne show. But we all fell asleep ....

Here's a shot (pictured) of us doing a little Sister Spit Yoga, ("from each according to his ability, to each according to their needs")

We finished at College of William and Mary and all piled into the van and drove 11 hours to Louisville, Kentucky which was very fun even though we got caught in the middle of a monsoon.

A local spoken word group opened the show at Louisville. they were called S.H.E. and it was interesting to see them, because it made me realize how just doing the tour had kind of forced us to hone our skills. Not that the S.H.E. kids weren't good, they just weren't quite as individualized as we have become. But a great experience for them I'm sure and for us to see what they're thinking about and writing about ....

Afterward, we went to a girl named Lex's house and karaokeed and were invited to hot tub with some people in their underwear, which none of us managed to do. .... they were super nice though and their house was filled with the signifiers of indie queer-ness: cool Bratmobile poster. Joy Division poster. Fever Ray on the stereo. Tons of interesting books to look at. Generally I'm finding college kids to be a bit more clueless than I expected but these Louisville people seemed kind of awesome.

Also Louisville itself kicked ass, being older than I expected and just having a real sense of character and history. Many of the tour people expressed this. Who would have thought?

We ended up that night in a gross rooming situation and Beth Pickens the road manager, got us out of there and into a super nice hotel downtown for super cheap. What a deal. The place was amazing and right downtown and had WEIRDLY NICE ECCENTRIC people working there which is the mark of greatness as far as I'm concerned when it comes to hotels.

I started saying a couple years ago that as you get older and you don't want to go to clubs anymore, you will go to Hotels to meet people and hang out. I LOVE HOTELS. I should have stayed in my band. I would have got all the hotels I wanted....

Anyway, so now we are in a gross Super 8 on the freeway by Bloomington, INDIANA which was FRAT PARTYING out all around our show. Nice though to be in the midwest. I have some weird connection to it too. I know I keep saying that. But it's true, my dad is from iowa and I dress just like him, and so when I'm in the midwest, I look around and see millions of versions of myself. American Prep. I think I would like to live in the midwest.

If you run a writing program in the mid-west and need me to teach there for a year, get in touch.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The College of William and MARY!!

This is not an actual Sister Spit gig but this is what they look like.

Tonight I am back in the fold and we're rocking William and Mary College in beautiful colonial Williamsburg ....!

DAY TWENTY THREE: UMASS - HOUSTON

At Colby Sawyer College, after the show, we hung out with some co-eds from there who told us about school and what they were studying. There were several Women's Studies majors and they were telling us about feminism and rape culture and stuff like that, a lot of which sounded very similar to the stuff we talked about when I was college.

So the next night I decided to bust out my Details article "HOW TO DATE A FEMINIST" at the UMASS show. (This instead of reading the part in RECOVERY ROAD about UMASS-- Maddie goes there when she can't get into SMITH, even though she's from Oregon and it doesn't make sense to go that far to go to a big state school, but you have to read RECO ROAD to understand ....)

Anyway, I have never read HOW TO DATE A FEMINIST in public. It was considered pretty controversial when it came out, making gentle fun both of feminism, and the kind of dumb men's/women's glossy magazine articles about how to date different stereotypes. Anyway, it went over big, and got a lot of laughs and though it was clearly dated in some of it's references, ("doc martins") pretty much all the points were still perfectly valid. "Almost all smart women are feminists, but not all feminists are smart".

The rest of the show was great, including the finale in which a witch put a spell on all of us ... and the best part there were like 500 people there. We filled a whole BALLRROOM!!

And I came to like UMASS too, despite what I said about it in my book. It is a HUGE state school, but it is very Massachussettes, meaning it is just a little smarter than your average state school, and not pretentious and full of nice little nooks and crannies to hang out in and work in and nod off, and drink coffee. They had a PEOPLES MARKET thing in their student union that was some sort of student run co-op, full of that distinctive Western Mass kind of hippy kid/queer kid vibe that seems familiar to me.

At one point we also went to Emily Dickenson's house where Ali Liebegott dazzled the tour guide. When asked if anyone was a fan of Emily Dickenson, Ali pulled up her shirt sleeve and showed the older woman her full arm tattoo of Ms. Dickenson's portrait. The woman--thus energized--was great, full of gossip and conjecture. The best kind of tour guide. And we got to see Emily's white dress, goddess like and ethereal. Dresses are so awesome.

Then on Friday i got on a plane and flew to Houston for a TEEN BOOK CONFERENCE that was super interesting and held in a huge contemporary public high school which was brand new and full of nice kids. A night out of TEX MEX that night completed the fun. There were a bunch of cool people on hand but Stephanie Perkins and Lindsey Leavitt and I closed the bar, or at least the shuffleboard game thing, new friends, yay.

Then onward, back to meet the SISTER SPIT crew back in William and Mary tonight!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DAY EIGHTEEN: SISTER SPIT TOUR: BARD COLLEGE (Yeah Yeah Yeah!)

Holy crap, so we show up at Bard and it's like ... our gig is on the back porch of a barn ... outside ... in the freezing rain ... at night! ... next to woods which Kirk Read who is our resident gay redneck hunter/outdoorsman, wanders out into ....

But no it turns out it's a garage... a garage with a really crappy skateboard ramp on a muddy road just outside the maintenance compound where they ought to maybe pave the street they are on. We're all like, okay, this is cool, as we step through the mud in our useless California shoe wear .... (I'm wearing white vans... good call!)

So we set up our crap and then someone lets us in to the main garage area which actually turns out to have a stage and such, so not as weird as it first appeared. All of this running like an hour behind so that weird cool Bard people started appearing and disappearing and wandering around. One awesome girl with a WENDY O haircut, brilliant, and the weirdest coolest face ever, should have tried to chat with her but why ... they are just kids the college kids ... you talk to them and there just isn't anything there yet.....

I mention this girls' haircuts because I think that YEAh Yeah Yeah's were formed at Bard, or partially at least.

And also because HAIRCUTS MATTER. And a cool haircut by a single audience member makes a "medium" gig into a "good" gig. And this girl had a cute dress too. Wear cool clothes people so that I can have something to live for!

Anyway so then my friends Sally and La showed up and we had a reuninion and Sally got to meet everyone from the TOUR and La kept driving off somewhere because his wife teaches at Bard and needed a piece of pizza for some reason. La was a struggling photographer when Sally found him, now he is a big shot at the New York Times and married to a brilliant beautiful magazine editor ... The Sally Effect. In her effortless way she attracts the best and the brightest ....

So we did the Bard gig and hung out and the Bard kids were awesome and cute and strange and quiet. I spent a lot of time standing on the nearby Lacrosse field trying to channel my beloved dead grandfather in the darkness. He coached high school sports for forty years in New England. I am I suspect more New English than I really know. There's a strange sense of home for me there. I love kids too. Though I am constantly complaining about them (see above).

So we drove the next day to Colby Sawyer college in New Hampshire and had another subdued gig which was nevertheless fun and we went ape-shit at the college cafeteria in any event. I had ALL the dinner options. Meatloaf. Fettucine. Hamburger. And just kept eating until I couldn't move because I LOVE INSTITUTIONAL FOOD OF ANY KIND. (A food fascist I must be. I want my cottage cheese contained and supervised and not "free range".)

During my performance, I read a bit of RECOVERY ROAD which went well though I started to get choked up reading about the tragic love of Maddie and Stewart. I almost started crying!!! On Stage!!!! You get a little raw emotionally on the road.

And Michelle read a great piece about rad-ass teenagers from her Rose Of No Man's Landwhich I love hearing from. I love all the books people have been reading from. Everyone on the tour is a great writer, which makes it fun no matter what the weird circumstances or varying crowds....

Monday, April 4, 2011

DAY SIXTEEN: Sister Spit Tour VANCOUVER BC

Yeah, so we got out of Seattle, which was so great and drove up to Vancouver, where I have never been as an adult, and don't know much about except Doug Coupland is from there and D.O.A. was from there, D.O.A. containing Chuck Bisquits who famously tried to steal my friends drums stool when they played together when we were all in high school.

So we get up there and we're staying in this hotel complex/outpost out in an outlying pretty area....it is a trendy ACE-like hotel, a restaurant, a hair salon and a big theater underneath. A very interesting place, very Euro in it's concept. The people that worked at the hotel were a little useless, but we have been spoiled and when you're doing the hotel thing you kind of need things sometimes from the people and it sucks when they are busy buying shoes on Zappos.

Anyway we had a couple hours and I got restless and walked into the city, a long walk through Vancouver's skid row and then along the docks where some shady dudes pulled up beside me and tried to interest me in a home entertainment system and also some artsy kids on bikes were doing a photo shoot in Vancouver's very interesting alley system. They put all their electric wires down them. It all looks sort of cool and skeletal ....

So then when I got to the city I ended up under the city in this strange parking lot tunnel thing. And then I couldn't get out. And it was dark and scary and deserted down there and people were drag racing. The same sci-fi Masarati kept driving by. I could not make heads or tails of this. And got deeper into it. And the one person I could find could not help me and finally another tourist, a young woman, came upon me and she and I were both bewildered and lost and we finally found a trap door in a parking structure and then had to hike five floors up and opened a door and found ourselves in the middle of downtown Vancouver's central square. Very weird. But it was cool. I really loved the city. Interesting people walking around and I eventually found this big strip where everyone shopped and hung out and it was awesome. Reminded me of Hong Kong, which is apparently where about half of Vancouver is from now, since that was where all the Chinese business people from Hong Kong fled to when they turned it over to Communist China.

But I digress. The city was really fun and cosmopolitan. Miles better than Seattle. Interesting to see the Pacific Northwest done up right. Seattle and Portland seem so grim and depressing lately. Maybe because I am contemplating moving back for a period. whenever I think about returning to this area I sort of freak out.. And yet I continue to do my best writing there. My best writing spot in the world remains my parent's kitchen table in Hillsboro OR and the couch next to the TV in the living room....which is where I wrote RECOVERY ROAD. my newest and seemingly best book since GIRL.

We turned around from Vancouver and drove all day and did another show at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. Some friends showed up including Kevin Sampsell and Barb and Kari Luna and some others and we all hung out, though you tend to be so fried it's hard to always have an intelligent conversation with people, even though you are SO GLAD to see them.....

Then back in the van for the eleven hour drive to SF and then onto a plane and now I am sitting in a hotel near JFK, waiting for our ride up to Bard for our first East Coast gig.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

KING KONG THEORY

Riding in the SISTER SPIT van from Vancouver to San Francisco, and getting bored, you start rummaging around for stuff to read ... picked up KING KONG THEORY that one of my comrades was reading and had my mind quietly blown. It's by Virginie Despentes, a french feminist writer who is apparently famous for a book and movie she wrote called RAPE ME, which I had not really heard of.

Wow, this was a fun read, maybe the first feminist text I've ever read smiling through every page ... it never slowed down ... interesting ... funny ... compassionate thoughts on the the men's side of things... reflections on her punk rock life ... her rape ... the weirdness of being famous as a feminist author/film maker and the shit storm the inevitably rains down upon you ....

And it also reminded me eerily of my own book DESTROY ALL CARS which also has a rythym of strident manifesto, then quiet personal reflection. Kind of like Kurt Cobain's guitar style, stepping on and off the SUPER FUZZ pedal. Just when you don't want any any more bone crunching declarations you are suddenly hanging out with the 17 year old author, going to punk shows, drinking beer....being young and kind of out of place in the pretty girl world ...

Loved it. Total recommend. This is one of the fun parts of Sister Spit being kind of immersed in stuff I used to follow more closely than I do now. And getting a chance to check it out again ....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

DAY THIRTEEN: SEATTLE - HUGO HOUSE -

So we drove to Olympia and had what seemed like a week there. It rained. It felt like Eugene. Wet. Cold. Grimey kids in the street with dogs on ropes. We stayed in a cheerful hotel called The Governor where the people all seemed to hesitate for a moment before addressing us in their cheerful hotel tones.

(PICTURED: Amos Mac, publisher of Original Plumbing Magazine.)

The show was at the Voyeur. Very nice staff. They fed us. They had cool shit on the stereo (Flipper "Sex Bomb Baby") and unrelated 80s videos playing on various broken TVs.

Audience was rain-soaked. Standing in the back of the club it felt like a not very responsive crowd but when I got to the front and stood at the mic I found myself surrounded on all sides by a carpet of floor-sitting queer kids, I realized how full it was... and though they didn't say much, they were weirdly attentive and there was a lot of love in that room. Magical even though quiet and subdued. I read from GIRL, the relatively subdued Chapter 17 about Cybil playing soccer. Not trying for anything. And it kind of worked. Reminds me of my music days. Some days the audience doesn't want a show... they just want the music ....

Afterward sitting around in the dining area, watching college-aged Olympians drinking Rainer Beer and shooting the shit and being cute and young ... not a care in the world.

We make fun of the gold mining pioneer look that is popular out west right now. Much of what we see is somehow related to McCabe and Mrs. Miller.


Then into the van and up to Seattle. Checked into the Roosevelt Hotel which is nice... then up to Hugo House for the gig. Oh the cute Seattle-ites. The show shaped up nicely. Hugo house was cool. Nice literary folk running things. Girl at the front desk, NOT wearing low rise jeans but some other kind that sat way high up her waist, and looked AWESOME. Not that I spend my days looking at girl's jeans or anything. But I hate low rise, always have .... and am eager for next thing.

Then the show started and we suddenly realized we had THE PERFECT AUDIENCE. Don't know why. They loved EVERYTHING WE DID. We were standing around in the back, looking at each other with bewilderment, what had we done to deserve this? Everyone KILLED. We could do no wrong. People were laughing, making out, crazed screaming at the stage. By the time we were done people were exhausted, wrung out, high on life. The best show yet, it was called. And it was!

As a people watcher and youth culture watcher it was also one of the best shows too. Loved the people. The cute dykes. The old-timey young dudes with their bushy beards. Imagining what it would be like to be young and to have moved to Seattle, from Bumfuck, USA. Wearing weird shit. Drinking coffee. Talking about poetry. The BIG CITY! Great fun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DAY ELEVEN: PDX - STUMPTOWN - GOLD RUSH TOWN

So we survived SANTA CRUZ but just barely. Naturally, some raver, satan worshipping, drunk twenty-somethings ended up in our hotel, THE TORCHLITE, (avoid) so there was some problems there. Nothing KIRK READ couldn't handle though.

So then we packed up our crap and got the hell out of there and went to beautiful ARCATA California, home of Humboldt State College, where we performed for a movie theater full of locals. This is the legendary POT BELT part of the country. I don't know where the buckle is or where exactly the belt part goes, but Humboldt county is famous for it's pot and the hotel smelled of pot and the town smelled of pot and the people we all met all appeared to be high. It was weird small town-esque. But nice.

I started having some sort of physical reaction as we continued north toward Portland. The cold the damp the rain the sadness of the sky, I just couldn't take it and started having seasonal disorder depression almost as soon as we drove over the border. And of course whenever I see woolen wearing older men get out of their mudsplattered pickups I think it is my dad for a second who has passed away but lives on in the black earth of the oregon woods....

But then we did our Holocene show and it was GREAT. Packed room, as per usual. Kirk started us off dressed as an insane leopard. Everyone was killing it, as the crowd was right with us ...

And then my favorite part of the night: NICOLE GEORGES! (pictured) I love her stuff so much. She just IS something, she represents something, I can't say exactly what, our times, our world, Portland, whatever, and then besides doing that, her writing is so sharp and fun and dead on, her cartoons at the show were of her doing substitute teaching and her interactions with stoner boys and bimbo high school girls were so fucking funny and right. I was in heaven. She could have gone on and on.

Now on up to Legendary OLYMPIA, today .... one of the fun things about SISTER SPIT is it kind of vibes you up. Like since it's mostly women, and people with extra amazing radar (Michelle Tea) it makes you extra sensitive to weird IN THE AIR shit, that you might not be picking up on ... is any of this making sense .... just to say that hitting olympia on this tour will not be like stopping there for a cup of coffee....and it is sort of world historic anyway, as the two great focal points of a certian kind of nineties youth cultural flowering ... or whatever you want to call it ... DC being the other place ....hmmmmmm .... we'll see.....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DAY NINE: BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ

So we drove home from "The Sac", and then did a big show at ELBO ROOM, which was killer.

Then back on the road and down to LA to Pasadena City College. It is becoming clear there is no predicting which gigs are going to be amazing and which are going to be merely good and fun.

At PCC we were late. We called ahead to tell them and they were very worried about us, and we got the idea right then that this was going to be a special show.

As we drove around looking for the proper parking lot, we spotted some queer students jumping up and down on the corner waving at us. Then they ran down the sidewalk wildly pointing us into the proper parking lot, sacrificing themselves for the good of the others, since now they would have to run all the way back to the student center. It was a profound act of personal bravery and selflessness.

Inside the PCC crowd was huge to bursting and very into it and great energy. Simon our brilliant and oh-so-British liaison guided us through various obstacles with his sharp wit and impeccable organizational skills.

They were so EXCITED to have us there. I was deeply moved by it all.

We then hit USC the next night, it was a terrible rain storm which I think dampened the crowd a bit, also it was a huge room so despite having a respectable turnout it felt a little defuse.

I did have a fun moment asking a USC student what the essential nature of USC was and without blinking she offered something like: "It's a school of privileged entitled white kids spending four years partying on their parent's credit cards ..." I love it when people say stuff like that. I hated everything when I was in college. Including my college.

The following afternoon we went back to PCC to hang with the queer alliance which I skipped, which was a total mistake as the PCC kids were just so into shit and I should have known not to miss this but I did but they gave me one of their awesome t-shirts anyway ....

Then we drove to LONG BEACH and checked into the the Queen Mary and had a great gig at a coffee shop in Long Beach where Gerbz is from and so she had a big crowd and sold a million of her cool new chapbooks that Kevin Sampsell sent down from Portland. (I love it when my old friends are the publishers of my new friends. We're all one big family it turns out, unlike what I thought in college when I thought the world was evil, and my only chance for survival was to destroy everything)

The Long Beach gig was in a great homey coffee-shop that was awesome and PACKED and everyone sold a lot of crap at the merch table. How did my band survive without a merch table back in the eighties? It's where you make all you money apparently.

Kirk Read read his response to Myriam Gurba's wildly popular new piece: "I Would Be a Better Lesbian If:" with his own: "I Would Be a Better Queer if:" Kirk often writes amazing poems on the spot, and performs them like ten minutes later. It is fun to see him furiously pounding something out at the last second....

Some GIRL fans cornered me and got me to sign a VERY OLD copy of GIRL. "I've read it many, many times," the fan said. The cover was literally about to fall off. That was really nice.

Then a night of hi jinks running around the Queen Mary which was great retro fun and seriously impressive as a physical object. We build miraculously tiny things now, (microchips or whatever), in those days they built miraculously HUGE things.

Then a long drive through the endless END TIMES style rain storms hitting the west coast. And tonight a big show at BOOKSTORE SANTA CRUZ. Gonna be good I think ....

Monday, March 21, 2011

DAY FIVE: SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER

On DAY 4, we hit the Echo in LA. This is a big cool rock club on the East Side that always has good bands.

Weird to arrive in a city that I supposedly live in but which looked very alien and new to me. LA has such a strange otherworldly vibe to it. I still don't understand it. I am so not a Californian ....

BUT THE SHOW. IT WAS GREAT. The other Spit veterans said it was the best LA show Sister Spit has ever done, and it did indeed rock. There were some great guest performers, Raquel Gutierrez and Amber Benson, plus we were all especially good for some reason. Michelle Tea read from Rent Girl which I am now reading in it's entirety--you know a reading is good when you go running for the book ...

The next day we hid out in our hotel, as it was freaking out outside weather-wise... then we cruised up to Sacramento in an unbelievable monsoon, where a theater full of locals braved the weather and came out to see us. So impressive how SISTER SPIT draws no matter what. The place was nearly full!

I read from DESTROY ALL CARS and cracked myself up, being a little giddy from the long van ride, but the crowd seemed to enjoy my lack of professionalism.

Then back in the van and cruised home in the wee hours of the night. Amos Mac had the genius idea to get a hot chocolate out of a rest area vending machine. Vending Machine Hot Chocolate is the best!!!! I will remember to get one myself in the future.

Tonight, (in a couple hours) is the Elbo Room in the mission. This is where Lauren Cerand and I saw our first SISTER SPIT show last year, and it KILLED. Hopefully we will be worthy of that show! Anyway, it is ground zero for Sister Spit. Right in their backyard. Should be a great crowd ....

Thanks to Mari Naomi for the picture! And her awesome livejournal diary is here

Saturday, March 19, 2011

LA TIMES REVIEW FOR RECOVERY ROAD



The LA Times, (my hometown paper now, I guess, though who reads papers?), gave RECOVERY ROAD a great review today, see the whole review here.

Here's the beginning:

We live in a society filled with temptation, where drugs and alcohol are illegal for minors but still easy to obtain. They're so readily available, in fact, that 11 million American youths need treatment for substance abuse, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Yet few teen addicts get the help they need. And those who do are likely to relapse before they truly recover.

It's these hard truths that are tackled in two new books for young adults, each of which handles the subject slightly differently. Blake Nelson's "Recovery Road" is a fictional account of 16-year-old "Mad Dog Maddie," whose rap sheet includes drinking alcohol, downing OxyContin, smoking hash, snorting coke, stealing a car, getting arrested and being thrown out of her home and sent to a halfway house.

DAY THREE: SISTER SPIT TOUR OAKLAND, CA

This is the awesome, super adorable ROCK PAPER SCISSORS collective we did our show in tonight.

When I enter places like this I feel like I am entering a humble monastary of perfect girl essence. They had sewing machines, and fabricy stuff and textures and on the wall a great photo piece of local kids in various degrees of hanging out....and everyone present is (and becomes upon entering) super gentle and kind and polite and I always feel like I am some sort of peasant in the face of such cultural excellence and generosity, and I seem always in such places to have a little moment of grace of: "wow, look where I am."

There was a whole upstairs with a shockingly huge library of zines including my favorite COMETBUS where Aaron discusses the ways that Portland resembles a bad mood.... What was I thinking not doing some serious Cometbus reading before I even came down to the bay area? Someday there will be high schools in the East Bay named COMETBUS. Not in our lifetime maybe ... but someday ....

But I digress.

RSP was great and it was of course, packed, cute sister spit girls piled up on the staircase, sitting on the floor, packed on the couch. Really a great audience. Myriam "Gerbz" Gurba was especially good tonight. I had a little panic about what I was going to read, I am going to have to figure this out ahead of time in the future.

Babbled about skinheads when I went on. Like what is the contemporary equivalent. Is there any subculture that is scary and bullyish now? Except like oil companies...?

Riding back in the van someone mentioned the west coast might be evacuated while we are back east, my brain commences to spiral into disaster ....

BACK in SF, I had to help load some PA equipment into a sex club which had nicely lent it to us. That was fun for me, having never walked through the showers of a gay sex club carrying a PA speaker before. Ah, the bucket list slowly fills!

Anyway, good night, good gig, everyone in good spirits. Off to LA first thing tomorrow!