upcoming bay area events!

all are free and will almost certainly be fun.

 

APRIL 30, 7pm

Long Haul Infoshop, Berkeley CA (facebook event page here)

 

MAY 5

Good Bellies Variety Show

Shared feature with Alexandra Naughton, who will be reading from her book “I Will Always Be Your Whore–Love Songs to Billy Corgan” (!!). At Good Bellies café in Temescal/North Oakland at 8pm. Open mic! FB event page here.

 

MAY 6

San Francisco Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room

6pm. Radar Reading Series! With Ariel Gore, Shawna Kenney, and Andrew Demcak.

 

MAY 21

Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco, CA (24th st between florida & Alabama)

7pm! Just me!

this is why: a non-poem.

i started writing this book eight years ago,
in a cheap bedroom in philadelphia. i was afraid
to leave the house. i rode my bike for money, $4 an hour plus tips
risking my life for other people’s pizza. on good days i was stoked
that i got paid for writing my bike. on bad days i felt the knowledge deeply within my bones

that all it would take was one un-flicked turn signal, one sip of a latte
in a SUV beverage holder–and my bones would be crushed. the pizza cold.
i was only 24. i hadn’t done anything yet, not really.

i felt so expendable.

so i started writing: to make my girlfriend laugh. because i didn’t have
money to go out and do anything. because i was hungry,
not just for food but for connection. because i wanted to shoplift
this book from barnes & noble, wanted to read it and learn something
about myself, about my people, about the wild life that we all lived,
the struggle and the beauty, the gorgeous potential, rotting away,
but it didn’t exist yet. and it wasn’t going to exist,
unless i did the work.

i started writing because when i left the house, i was threatened. if i smiled,
that was an invitation. if i didn’t, i was a fucking dyke bitch, or worse, a faggot.
my life had already been threatened twice. twice i escaped and i didn’t know how,
besides luck, besides some vague notion that i wasn’t done yet–

i wrote because when i left my house, i put on what i called my game face.
took off my skirts, put on carharts. wouldn’t allow myself to think of anything funny
because smiles were invitations. eye contact was invitation. existing was invitation.

i wrote because i needed somewhere to be vulnerable, to laugh, to feel,
and i wasn’t getting it anywhere back then,
besides on my trashpicked futon, giggling in my girlfriend’s arms,
and curled up reading books that almost got it,
and writing, writing, writing. i needed to make a new world
because the one i was in was terrible.

i wrote because when axi died i promised her i’d do some of the stuff she didn’t get a chance to do.
because, a few months later, i read this line in the zine “emergency”
and it made me cry until i gasped. it burned itself into my brain
and, even years later, i had to pull a receipt out of my pocket
and scrawl it, and hand it across the bar to arthur
when we were drinking & talking about our dead loves
because i couldn’t say it without crying
and i was too embarrassed to cry in front of people back then.

the line was this:
“there are things that only she could do,
and now that she’s gone they won’t get done.
you don’t understand.
she was non-negotiable.

for years, i was too overwhelmed by the enormity of this promise.
i felt completely unequipped to fulfill it.
and it’s true, there are things that won’t get done
because she isn’t there to do them.

but i wrote because i wanted to get started.

now let’s flash forward to the future. i will be 32 tomorrow.
i live in oakland, california.
i didn’t die, not yet.
i make $20 an hour doing work that is hard and scary
but that i love deeply.

after four years of writing, and four additional years of self-doubt,
this book is in the realm of the physical
because i made it happen. & because enough people supported me
and believed in me, donated money for the first print run.

yesterday at work, one of my co-workers told the clients that
i’d written a book. i usually don’t talk about it with them
because i want them to talk about them, i want it to be about them
and as an aries i struggle every day with the notion that it’s not all about me.

but the word was out, and they were excited.
two of them asked what the title was, and i told them,
and i wandered away to find them looking at my book blog (this!) on a smartphone.
they were so excited,
so happy for me,
despite everything that is going on in their lives.

it was so fucking touching.

this is not a happy ending.
i am still fucked up
that line still makes me cry
every day i see the residue of racism, transphobia, homophobia, poverty, addiction and the prison industrial complex
played out in the lives & bodies of people i love deeply
and there is nothing i can do but be present, and listen,
and it’s something; but it’s not enough.

i still feel hopeless and overwhelmed
my grief and trauma still affects nearly everything i do
a man spit at me on the street just last month

but

when i was twenty-four i could not have imagined this:
this city, this job, this level of support.
this notion, deep in my bones, that my life is not expendable.
that i have done something with it.

this book took eight fucking years
it will probably not sell more than a thousand copies
but that’s okay. because i dance in my kitchen
to my Song Of The Moment (“the food” by common)
and yell along with him (well he doesn’t yell it,
i’m the only one yelling):
“slow motion better than no motion!”

and it’s true
he’s right.
even when everything felt so hopeless
i was still moving, slowly
so slowly
and eventually, eventually, i wound up here.

this is what it feels like.

being a writer is definitely like working two jobs. hint: writing is the one that you don’t get paid for. it’s the one that other people doubt and judge. it’s the one you feel awkward about claiming. if you claim it, it’s after some intense soul-searching and self-validation. and unless you are in very specific circles, the first question people ask is, “oh, what have you published?”

i have been writing forever. FOREVER. and it’s something i’ve gotten attention for my whole life, even when people did not like anything else about me. and a very tiny fraction of it has been published by other people. i have been doing zines since 1996, and my first book just came out, also by my own hand. AND IT DOES MATTER. it sucks that i work 42 hours a week at a great-but-draining job in crisis mental health, and then come home and do more work, not the life-saving, nurturing, love-of-my-life of ACTUALLY writing but the dull work of promoting, emailing, formatting. i haven’t written a single word besides blog posts and letters and journal entries in about six months, if not more, and that’s sad. i am often overwhelmed by the sense that i have absolutely no idea of what i am doing, which is rarely a feeling that i get when i am writing. writing feels like coming home. i just wish i had more time–

(and this is coming from someone who says, to people who say, “oh, i’d like to write a book but i don’t have any time,”: you have ten minutes a day. you have twenty minutes a day. i wrote most of this book when i had three jobs. when i was broke. when i was terrified that i was dying and that my wrists were going to give out at any second. when i was wracked with pain. you can take ten minutes away from facebook and write something. you can take ten minutes away from something, something, something. people write books in solitary confinement. they write with no hands, typing with a mouth stick. if you want to write a book, you will write a book. ) (okay, i don’t usually say all that. but i think it, i feel it.) (i need to take my own advice)–but i know that’s no excuse. and i need to go, go, go.

i remember, nearly a year ago, on an overnight shift, i had a long talk with one of my favorite clients ever about writing (i don’t know where he is. he left under bad circumstances and i’m pretty worried that he’s dead.) and i told him, and i didn’t realize it until i said it aloud, “you don’t have to have your shit together to write a book!” you really don’t. you can be crazy, grieving, uneducated, uninspired, in great physical and emotional pain. you can have a shitty computer, or no computer. you can utterly believe that you are incapable of writing a book. you can believe it until the second you realize you know the ending, until you type it, until you look at the page count and realize that it’s over 180, look at the word count and realize that it’s 75,000. you can believe you can’t but if you keep going, keep going, one day you will have done it. it may take ten years, it may take eight years (it did for me). it may take twenty-seven years. but that’s okay, most of you probably won’t be dying any time soon.

two different selfies, two different moments.

brandnewbook babybook

the photo on the left was taken in february 2014, in a tiny apartment in oakland, CA. it was on february 20th, a day that’s significant to me because it’s kurt cobain’s birthday (which is not really all that important to me anymore, but once was, so i note it, the way i’d note the birthday of an ex-friend or an anniversary with a long-discarded lover–feeling its presence on the calendar; thinking of it and then moving on) and the 13 year anniversary of living on my own. i woke up and knew that my book was finally coming this day. i just knew it. it couldn’t not come. 

i went to a training in downtown oakland about trauma informed care, with two of my co-workers. it was a good training (and also a good reminder that a 9-5 office job wouldn’t make me terribly happy, something i tend to romanticize during my crisis-laden 13-hour workdays). towards the end of the day, i got a phone call from the woman who runs the printing press that i chose to use. she happens to live 2 blocks from me and offered to drop them off because she knows i don’t have a car. isn’t that nice? anyway, she called to set up a time, and i practically skipped back into the conference room. 

a few hours later, she gave me a call and i went running downstairs. only one box was ready, but she handed it off to me, laughingly. i hauled it upstairs as quickly as i could (puffing a little, it weighed about 50 pounds) and sliced open the tape and there it was. holy crap. i held it in my hands. it smelled so new. finally, finally, finally.

i thought i’d be happier than i was in the right-hand picture, taken in november 2010. i wasn’t. i mean, i am happier in general than i was then, but it was more exciting to type the final sentence, to hit print, to twiddle my thumbs and load paper and fidget excitedly as all 180-something pages printed, and then to hold it in my hands for the first time. the weight of it, the possibility. things were so different then. i lived in pittsburgh, in a two-bedroom house that is about three times the size of my current space for a fraction of the cost. i was wasting away at a meaningless job, in an unfulfilling relationship. stagnant and bored, but here was this one thing that made it worthwhile. i took this picture in my pink bathroom, and then danced around the house. (you can’t really tell, but i’m wearing my “bad day outfit”–an outfit i still wear, although less frequently. it’s a fuzzy pink tunic that i put on after work when i’ve had a bad day. it makes me feel better. i had covered it up with a cardigan, because pittsburgh is chilly and i couldn’t really afford to heat my house very well back then.)

this life on the left doesn’t match the life on the right. i didn’t think this book was very going to happen. i trudged through so much doubt and self-hatred and lies and depression and apathy. and this isn’t the end. still waiting for the rest of my books, still figuring out my life, still nervous about what to do with the 400 copies that weren’t pre-sold, still trying to hatch a plan. this is just two tiny moments out of the millions it takes to create a work that feeds you; something that lasts.  

 

on what actually happened.

i feel like a lot of writers (mostly female-identified, although not always) compare the act of writing a book to that of birthing a baby. i feel a little weird about claiming that, as i am not a mom and have no aspirations to be one. i have no clue what it’s actually like to be a parent (and i am not particularly keen on finding out.)

but. the book-makin’ process definitely does have some odd maternity parallels. such  as that of knowing something so well because you’ve put so much work into it; the irrational love for this book above all other books; the endless fascination with it. and choosing to self-publish, after trying to get published via more traditional methods, makes me have more understanding as to why older single women self-insiminate. why they take on all that extra work and trouble: because you spend your life feeling like you are meant to do this thing, but your life hasn’t led you that way. so after a period of angst and questioning, you decide to take your life into your own hands. it is scary but generally works out. or at least, gives you that wonderful feeling you get when the traffic jam finally lets up and you start moving. when you stop waiting.

i tried to get this book published–not very hard, mind you. i queried a few agents and gave up after a few rejections. i tried every non-mainstream publisher i could think of that seemed interested in the lives of queer people. rejected from all, some with encouraging letters, others not. one said they’d consider it if i essentially wrote the entire book from a viewpoint that didn’t feel real to me. i spent four years writing this book and four years lazily writing pitches, synopses, queries. but, to be honest, my heart wasn’t really into it. it felt bad and wrong, but i kept at it because, well, didn’t this fit into the narrative of what i wanted my life to be? i always thought that one day i’d be plucked from obscurity by a publisher. but that just didn’t happen.

it’s only been a few months–since late september?–when i got my final rejection and decided, fuck it. by coincidence, i got drunk that afternoon with my roommate at the time and then drunk-researched printing presses, sent emails to friends who’d self-published to see what they thought, i set a schedule for myself–spend october and november doing a final, super-nitpicky edit, spend december fundraising and laying it out, and get it to the printing press by january 1 (or as soon as they’re open post-holiday). hopefully it will be done by the time maranda’s in the bay and we can have a book launch together! (second week of february). i’ve been doing a pretty good job of sticking to this timeline, surprisingly, considering how the past few months have held several upsets in my personal life, re-starting psych meds after a year and a half off, moving, working a lot to pay for said move, etc.

my sweetie got me a copy of adobe indesign and my friend ari who works at MRR taught me the basics of how to use it. i got a book from the library to cover the rest, and damn, i must say it is looking good. i’m glad that i didn’t have the money to pay anyone else to do this, glad i had to learn myself. i’ve lost track of the hours spent–30? 40? more?–but having control of every single paragraph indent, every single italicization, has helped me know my book, my baby, on another level. every typo in there is my fault. (hopefully there aren’t any!) it can always be improved upon, be edited within an inch of its life, but it’s been eight years and i think it’s time for me to release this into the world. i have high hopes for my book, but at the same time, i understand it’s a tough world. it might get ignored, or misunderstood, or hated. i hope not, but i gave it a good home and now i am letting it go. it’s all up to you now, dear readers.

on fundraising & money & making one’s dreams come true.

i am currently in the midst of fundraising to get this book published. it’s been both amazing and nerve-wracking. amazing because of who’s come out of the woodwork to support me: my best friends and family members (when i say “family” i’m referring, of course, to both blood & chosen fam), to old schoolmates who i haven’t heard from in years but who send a note to say that they remember my writing from way back in the day and are super excited for this book to come out, to complete and utter strangers.

writing is both the least and most lonely activity in the world. when i am in the thick of things, when i am truly inhabiting the world that i create, when i am feeling this golden energy flowing through me, as though the story is being dictated by some large and luminous force and i am merely its delighted vessel–i am the least lonely person in the world. for real. but that’s not all the time, and the truth is, a lot of time it is just you & your desk, ignoring people that love you, a lot of times you are just writing things and wondering if it’s any good.

i get some validation pretty much every time i read in public, and that feels really good, it definitely keeps me going through the hard, confusing times. and this fundraising feels even better, in a way, because people aren’t just saying things to me, they’re backing it up, with money that they earned–through toil or through disability–that they could spend on any other thing. a lot of the people who are pre-ordering live in dire economic straits. i know this, and they know i know, and still they help me out. this generosity warms my heart. it feeds me.

but the fundraising is also a major source of stress. it’s hard for me to ask for help, especially financial help. and i am facing the very real possibility that i won’t make my fundraising goal. the book is still happening, no matter what–i’ve raised enough that i can at least do SOMETHING. if i don’t make this goal, all of my options are not super good ones. i am in the midst of applying for my very first credit card, which i may not even get because, although my credit is still good (excellent, in fact) my income is very low. my current plan is to put whatever shortfall i have on the card and work lots of extra shifts at work to pay it back asap. this plan, i suppose, could be a lot worse. i am fortunate to have a job that i love, and although it’s fairly low-paying, i can work all the overtime i want. i work with mentally ill homeless people, most of whom i care for very much. it’s an intense job with a high burnout rate and i try to work as little as possible and just live frugally, so that i don’t get burned out, so that i don’t stop caring, so that my grief at the circumstances of the world, especially the world that most of my clients deal with–these sweet funny resilient people who have been handed such steaming piles of shit–does not overwhelm me to the point where i can do absolutely nothing.

anyway, it’s also hard for me to ask for money because art is so devalued in our world, because we’re supposed to give it all away for free, because if we ask for money for our art we’re tainting it somehow. my friend maranda wrote a good blog post about how to support artists, and eloquently stated what’s been brewing in my mind but that i’m too afraid to ask for:

Most workers get paid for their labour; we frequently do not. We accept writing and art-making as our full-time/overtime job with little to no pay, no benefits, no vacations, no holidays. Many of us work psychically destructive jobs to pay the bills and we make time outside of those jobs for art; others of us, myself included, are on social assistance, and struggle to pay the rent and get some food; we’re lucky indeed when we’re able to buy books, zines, and other arts from our friends and community members, and we do it whenever we can. Money is complicated; we struggle to make our art available at a price that is both fair and worthwhile to us as creative creatures, and fair and accessible to you, our oft-broke friends, acquaintances, and lovers of words. Many writers and other artists whose works are online, including myself, have a donation button on our websites – if you’v got the cash and you’re feeling generous, donate! I like to think of it as online-busking; here I am, sharing my words, hoping for some spare change as you pass by. When you pay us for our words, we write more! When you pay us for our illustrations, we draw more! Spend your money with intention and care; make your art with intention and care.

so. this is my reality right now. i am going for broke making this book come out. i am doing it because i believe in my book, because i love it, because i think it’s good, because i think you need to read it. i am doing it because in order to make art in this day & age, you’ve gotta hustle. i am honestly a pretty bad hustler, but i’m a good writer, a good worker, and a good survivor. i will make it through; i’ll make it happen somehow, some way.

if you can’t afford to help me, i understand. if you’re waiting for the e-book version to come out because it’ll be cheaper and you can read it on yr phone, i understand, with some reservations–i don’t have a smartphone and don’t read e-books and will always love print forever, but i understand that the world has changed and i need to be at least somewhat accommodating. if you have already helped me out, whether it be by donating money, reposting my campaign, sending me an email saying that you believe in me, or reading my words, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. it means so much.

my campaign ends in 13 days. if 40 more people buy my book, it will be fully funded. maybe you’d like to be one of them? let’s do this. together.