Valencia with Leslie Vincent and Michelle Tea

Hello!

Today we meet Leslie Vincent and Michelle Tea!

We’re talking about the book that saved Leslie’s life: Valencia by Michelle Tea.

As a music maker, Leslie Vincent performs jazz and the great American Songbook. She released her new album About Last Night earlier this year.

Michelle is a writer, Guggenheim Fellow, founder of Drag Queen Story Hour, and host of the podcast Your Magic with Michelle Tea.

Valencia is the fast-paced account of one girl’s search for love and high times in the drama-filled dyke world of San Francisco’s Mission District.

Connect with Leslie and Michelle

instagram: @leslie_della_vincent
website: lesliedellavincent.com
facebook: facebook.com/LeslieVincentMusic

website: www.michelle-tea.com
instagram: @michelleteaz
twitter: @TeaMichelle

Buy Valencia

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Buy Valencia directly: https://bookshop.org/a/82376/9781580052382

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Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith
Patreon Subscribers: Stephen D., Stephen Flamm, Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.
Permission to use “Laura” and “Stars Fell Over Alabama” provided be Leslie Vincent.
Permission to use the film trailer to Valencia provided by Michelle Tea.
Permission to use Your Magic with Michelle Tea provided by Michelle Tea.
Music credits: visit thiqueerbook.com/music

Quatrefoil Library

Quatrefoil has created a curated lending library made up of the books featured on our podcast! If you can’t buy these books, then borrow them! Link: https://libbyapp.com/library/quatrefoil/curated-1404336/page-1

Transcript

[theme music]

Hey everyone. I’m J.P. Der Boghossian. I’m a Lambda Literary fellow and an essayist, writing about queer life. And you’re listening to the podcast where LGBTQ guests share the queer books that saved their lives – with the authors who wrote them. Why? Because with all of the book bans and “don’t say gay” bills, I think that it is important to share our queer stories and to say gay over and over and over again. I believe that through these life-giving stories we’re connecting to this exciting, and messy, and sometimes scary, but loving queer world of ours. Welcome to This Queer Book Saved My Life!

[theme music ends]

[Vocal music: “Laura” from the album About Last Night]

J.P. Der Boghossian: You’re listening to the song “Laura” from the album About Last Night. Isn’t it great? I don’t know why but jazzy intrigue reminds me of Old Hollywood. Which I’m a sucker for. Cary Grant in a white sport coat holding a classic martini. A sparkling Lauren Bacall leaning on a piano. About Last Night released this year. I’m going to read the album’s description for you because it definitely tracks with what we’re talking about today. It charts the course of an evening – from the playful sensuality of dressing up and going out, to the highs of falling in love, followed by late night regrets, ending with the beginning of a brand new day to start all over again. About Last Night was recorded by this week’s guest: Leslie Vincent.

Leslie Vincent: I’m Leslie. I go by she/her. I live in the Twin Cities. I’m a music maker. And I live with my wife in a in a small town with our dog and our garden.

J.P. Der Boghossian: As a music maker, Leslie Vincent performs jazz and the great American Songbook. When I got to know her through our interview, and heard her magnetic laugh, I could tell right away why folx call her powerhouse vocals with old school sparkle. And yet, Leslie didn’t start out as a singer.

Leslie: I was a poet. I went to poetry school. That’s where I started and I sort of had a false start coming out. I came out to my high school boyfriend. He was like, no way. So I went back in the closet, re-came out right around the time where I decided to leave poetry school and pursue music. So I fell in love with a girl named Carly, told her she definitely didn’t remember because she was very drunk. Then I had my heart broken and I moved back in with my parents. So, I went from Boston back down to D.C. and I spent this very strange summer where I hadn’t really come out to anybody and was kind of working through that process. and I wasn’t sure what to do, and so I would get a ride with my dad to DC every day. We lived in Maryland, and I’d get a ride to D.C., and I’m sure he’ll listen to this, and he has no idea that I did this, but I would just go to this gay bookstore in Dupont Circle in D.C., it’s now closed, and I would just stand around all day hoping a girl would hit on me. I would just kind of hang out, look cool. I had no friends in the queer community.

J.P.: But it was there, in that book store, that Leslie found the book that saved her life: Valencia by Michelle Tea.
Leslie: I’m sure that I picked up Valencia because of the cover and I’m sure that I just was like, “I’m gonna figure this out.” And so I bought it and I read it and it was my first, like they were my first queer friends.

J.P.: First queer friends. God I love that. Because it’s so true. All those emotional entanglements we have with people in books. And Valencia is filled with friends. On the book jacket, it’s literally called Michelle’s year lived in a world of girls. There’s knife-wielding Marta, who introduces Michelle to a new world of radical sex; and Willa, Michelle’s tormented poet-girlfriend; and Iris, the beautiful boy-dyke who ran away from the South in a dust cloud of drama; and then there is Iris’s ex, Magdalena, to whom Michelle turns when Iris breaks her heart. Valencia is one girl’s search for love and high times in the drama-filled dyke world of San Francisco’s Mission District.

[theme music from the podcast Your Magic with Michelle Tea]

Michelle Tea: Hey! You guys! You girls! You genderqueers! Hi! I’m Michelle Tea. I’m with Your Magic. We are a Tarot people. We do podcasts. We’re developing a Tarot app. I’m here today to just tell you about some of my tarot decks, to give you a little tour of them.

J.P. That is Michelle Tea, author of Valencia.

Michelle Tea: I’m a writer. I’m a Guggenheim Fellow. I founded Drag Queen Story Hour. That’s one of my favorite things to say. Yeah, and I read tarot cards!

J.P.: Now, when Michelle says she founded Drag Queen Story hour, she means that in 2015 she literally founded what we know today as Drag Story Hour. Michelle lives in Southern California with her family, along with a dog, cat and a lizard. I got nervous interviewing Michelle, because she is one of those people that in the first five minutes of getting to know her, you’re immediately like, “do you want to be my friend?”

Also, let’s go through a check list of amazing things. Publish 15 books? Check, Michelle’s done it. Co-found Sister Spit a Queer feminist collective which hosts weekly open mic nights in San Francisco? Check. Win the PEN / Diamondstein-Spielvogel Award for Art of the Essay? Check. Win a Lambda Literary Award? Check. And for Valencia.

I asked Michelle how did Valencia come to be?

Michelle: I wrote Valencia when I was probably about 24, 25 years old. And I wrote it almost in real time. I’d moved to San Francisco when I was 22 or 23 and I really quickly fell into a very vibrant, open mic poetry world that was happening. And I always knew I was a writer, but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t go to college, I didn’t know people who wrote. My family read Stephen King, who’s amazing. But you know, it just was very, I’m like, this thing is in me, but I don’t know what to do with it. And then suddenly, this path appeared because it was so democratic. Anybody could get up on the stage, say their poem. And because I finally had an outlet, I started writing really prolifically.

J.P. And then the poetry poured out of Michelle, as she wrote a variety of vignettes shining a light on what she was living through. Yet, at the same time, she felt she didn’t really know what she was doing. Could it be a collection? Was there a book here? I really appreciated that honesty, because I’ve dropped a lot of words on a lot of pages and then looked at it and gone “oh no, what have I done here?” Not that I’m anywhere near the same universe of writing as Michelle. But that’s what you’re going to love when you read Michelle’s work and listen to her podcast. She’s so down to earth. Funny. Authentic.
So, I want to fast forward in time a bit, to a City Lights bookstore in North Beach where Michelle comes across Chelsea Girls by Eileen Miles. And that book changed everything. Chelsea Girls is a memoir; it’s written in a series of vignettes, with each chapter like a short story. And for Michelle, it was the validation she sought in writing Valencia.

Michelle: It’s real, what I’m doing is actually a real thing. Like somebody else has done it, somebody even published it, okay. And at that point I was hosting the Sisters Spit Open Mic. So I had my own open mic and I had my own sort of like weekly venue to bring things and to read for a little longer. So I started reading all of these vignettes. And again, just writing really prolifically because I suddenly realized I had, I knew what I wanted to write about. I had something to do with the writing, which always sort of like confounded me, you know, when I was younger. And after a point, I amassed a bunch of writing and I sort of looked at where the gaps were and I looked at what other stories I felt like were in me that I hadn’t written yet. And I just kind of barfed them out. But you know, it was, it was practically in real time that it was written. And I had a friend who had published with Seal Press. And I knew that the book was a little like, I don’t know, like dirty or something. Like I felt like I was a feminist, but I didn’t know if like a feminist press. Seal was an overtly feminist press. I didn’t know if they would like. What kind of feminists were they? Would they think I was like bad and gross and dirty or like, I don’t know, holding back the movement. I don’t know, I had all these kind of concerns but they loved the book and I was so grateful for that and they published it.

[music]

J.P.: And now, here’s my conversation with Leslie and Michelle.

J.P.: Well, Leslie, I want to know more about this queer bookstore in DC. First of all, I just love the idea of going to a bookstore and getting picked up. Like, that’s the dream, isn’t it?

Michelle:
Yes!

J.P. Der Boghossian: But could you take me back to that moment, particularly because I always feel that books call to us. So take me to that bookstore and how was Valencia calling to you? Why did you pick it up? What was it about it?

Leslie:
Okay, the bookstore was cute and DuPont Circle at the time was pretty, now it’s really much more commercial, but at the time it just was a lot more queer, at least in my memory. And I’m sure that the book called me because the cover was really sexy.

J.P. Der Boghossian:
Can you describe the cover?

Leslie:
It’s just really sexy. It’s like a girl. Like a bleach blonde girl leaning with her head against a wall. She looks really sexy and gorgeous. She’s wearing some kind of black outfit. Like a leather maybe. Oh my gosh, this is very deep in my memory. But I remember being like, I don’t know if that’s the girl I want to be, but that’s definitely the girl I want to be with. So let me read this and maybe it will help me figure out where she is and I’ll get to her. I don’t even think I read the back cover honestly. I think I was like this this picture is enough for me just to buy it and I’ll

Michelle:
That’s amazing.

Leslie:
I was so hungry for anything. I mean I think it’s so hard to remember that at this time I didn’t, there was no, like, there was nowhere to look, there was no list. I’d had no real internet. So I just was, and I didn’t want to, I was way too embarrassed to ask the store clerk. You know, that was mortifying to me. So I just sort of like hung around and then I was like, well, this seems like a good place to start, you know?

J.P. Der Boghossian: So as you got going, what was it that kept you reading the book? Specifics please!

Leslie: I think it’s so important to note that I was raised Catholic and like even still, I still struggle to like converse on some of these things. But I mean, I also had like no exposure to queer sex. So like, and then the book like starts with fisting. Like it starts

Michelle:
Ha ha.

Leslie:
with bondage. It starts with whips. You’re like, oh yeah, like let’s- there’s no like tenderness. Like, oh, like these sweet high school sweethearts like in the no it’s like let’s go there’s bondage there’s like there’s all these things and like i just so I didn’t i know anything. so it’s like okay latex gloves okay this like I’m not kidding you: I even put an ad on CraigsList.

J.P. Der Boghossian:
Oh, no way!

Leslie: Yes I did! I’m sorry Dad! I did! No one answered it. But it was sort of like, I’m sure, I don’t know if that, I’m sure that you did not intend it to be like a how-to guide, but I interpreted as a how-to guide.

Michelle:
That’s incredible. I did not interpret it to be that, but I really love that. I mean, I feel like I learned how to live from books too, so I get it.

Leslie: Yeah, and when you don’t know!

J.P. Der Boghossian: So as I was prepping for the interview, I read your email to Jim, our executive producer, where you said that the characters from Valencia were some of your first gay friends. And we actually had a guest in an earlier episode who talked about a character standing in as a friend. And actually as I think about it, I think he said an older brother and how it helped him. So how are these characters being friends for you?

Leslie:
I just wanted to live their life, basically. Like imagine if you’re so lonely and you have no one to talk to and all of a sudden it’s like, well, who is she? Well, who’s Iris with now? Well, how is this girl wearing this jacket? Why would she be wearing that? You know, it’s like it just fed that part of me. So it wasn’t like it was like wholesome friendships for like, you know, we did each other’s hair is more like. the gossipy kind of friends, we were like, how could they? And I just imagine like one day I’ll have those friends and I’ll have those conversations and they’ll be so dramatic and like, you know, it was like, just like almost in a very weird way, like a big sister, like if you watched your big sister grow up and like do all these things and you’re like, I know one day I’ll be in those shoes, kind of vibes.

Michelle:
Oh my gosh, that’s incredible.

Leslie: The other day I was, I was like, I listened to it this time because I thought that’d be fun and like the photo shoot with like the film, like this like film strip that you like stick in your pussy and I’m like, yes, that was my dream at 18 to be like that.

Michelle:
Totally.

Leslie:
And I never, and I never did it. Like that’s the really sad part is I was like just so straight edge. I’m so like. I just didn’t do enough drugs, I think, is the problem.

Michelle:
I mean, drugs really made a lot of those things happen.

Leslie:
Yeah, it’s like you just need that catalyst. But I still have plenty of adventures, just not… I don’t know, I’ve been reflecting a lot too about like the difference between the 90s and… I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to do it. like the later 2000s and like I think a lot changed and I feel like I just got to the party really late and maybe everyone was like tired of drama or maybe like I don’t know. I don’t know. I just felt like a lot of my experiences were just more chill in a way. Like still very satisfying and still like a lot of fun but not the like raucous rave that I kind of imagined would unfold.

[rave music and then it ends]

J.P. Der Boghossian:
Yeah, I want to follow up on that. You said a few minutes ago that you were going to these bars and people were thinking you were a straight girl. And I had the exact same experience. I was in LA and I finally started, you know, it took me a while and I finally started going to the bars and like, everyone was just like, who’s this straight dude? And I was like, are you kidding me? Like everybody codes me as queer. Everyone outside this bar. And then inside the bar, everyone’s like, so you’re straight. Like what’s going on? I’m like, come on. So what was that for you as you were getting there, you had these characters, they were your friends and you’re going into these bars and everyone’s thinking you’re straight?

Leslie:
Yeah, I mean, it, you know, I had, so I had a really good girlfriend in college. Well, I asked her out and she turned me down. And then, but she was like, well, we can be friends, right? So we would wing women for each other. So we’d go to phase one, which was. like is sadly closed, but was like one of the oldest lesbian bars in the country and was amazing and so like small and intimate. And again, like the kind of place where I just showed like this fake idea and they were like, come you poor baby, like, come on in. Like these are like, I’m like, my first time ordering a drink was there. Like the bartender just make a shot because we were just so young and they were like, whatever. So and my friend was like. She just got hit on all the time and I remember being so jealous. And so I’d be like, what is wrong with me? Like, why can’t I? And honestly, it probably was because I was so young and people were like, um, I don’t want to date this 19 year old kid who’s like not even supposed to be in here.

And I, I have so I have no chill. Um, and I was like a little too shy, not even shy, but I was like, I didn’t know how to ask out anyone. And I was such a. Diva that I was like, well, they’ll just ask me out. And they didn’t.

Michelle:
Hahaha

Leslie:
So, yeah, we would just we’d go to this bar and I have a really vivid memory of like we I don’t know why we were like we wanted like a good seat. So we’d get there super early, like nine o’clock. And one time it was so early that we took a nap. Like we just slept on this in this booth.

Michelle:
Oh my god, that’s amazing. I can’t believe they let you do that.

Leslie:
It was like it’s very, very small. Me neither.

J.P. Der Boghossian:
Ha ha.

Michelle:
They’re like, oh, these, they’re like, these poor children are maybe homeless. Let’s just let them have a snooze at the bar.

Leslie:
With their Scooby Doo snack little shot. You know what I mean? It was so fun though. And then yeah, we would just, it was like we’d go there and then we would just pick girls to fall in love with. So like, oh, this girl is so beautiful. I’m gonna ask, I’m gonna see if she’ll dance with me. And there were one time I was really getting some traction and I was dancing with this girl. I could still see her face, she was so cute. And then she just got up and left. and I ran after her and then I realized I didn’t know her name. And all I knew about her was she worked at a grocery store. So I was like running down these streets and I was like, “Grocery store girl! Grocery-”

J.P. Der Boghossian:
Oh my god.

Leslie:
“store girl!” And then she didn’t turn around.

Michelle:
Oh my god.

Leslie:
So like, that’s basically what I did was just kind of hang in this bar and you know, there were like a lot of like, there were a lot more queer spaces, but they were so like male dominated, right? So this was the kind of only space that was like mostly women and just had that, it just had a different vibe. And you know, it was just more of a chill vibe too. It was like, there was a pool table, there was a very small dance floor, but it wasn’t like a club or, you know, it was just kind of a place to be. And I just, I don’t know, I loved being there. I was there every weekend, just hanging out, meeting people. What

Michelle:
I want to read that book.

Leslie:
Oh my gosh.

Michelle:
It’s like you’re really painting a portrait. And I feel like it’s very relatable kind of time, right? When you’re like very at the beginning and you don’t have your community and it is so lonely and kind of anxious, but it’s also so exciting. Like it’s so, like there’s so much possibility, you know, cause you know you’ll find people at some point, right? And you’re just waiting for them and you’re like, are they gonna drop out of the sky? Where are they?

Leslie:
Mm-hmm. And I feel like there’s something so sweet about just like the vulnerability of youth of like, I just feel like I put myself out there every weekend and I fell in love every weekend. And even if I was heartbroken, like on a Sunday, then like the next Saturday I was like, all right, let’s go. Like, and I would just keep trying like always again and again and again and again. Like it never. I don’t know, just that resilience is wild to me.

Michelle:
What sign are you?

Leslie:
I’m a Leo. Yeah.

Michelle:
Oh, there you go. Yeah. Ha ha ha.

Leslie:
What are you?

Michelle:
I’m an Aquarius, but I have a Leo rising, and I have a Sagstellium in the fifth house, which is Leo. So I have a very Leo-y personality.

Leslie:
Okay, I love that.

Michelle:
Yeah, me too.

[laughter]

[music]

J.P.: Stick around. Quick break that I really need you to check out. And then see you on the flipside.

[music]

J.P.: On This Queer Book Saved My Life, we have seven fantastic Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Ollila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shea, and Sean Smith. By the end of Banned Books week, which is October 8th, we need 3 new Associate Producers to join the team.

Associate Producers provide on-going financial support at $20/month that helps pay for a variety of technical services, including episode transcriptions and podcast distribution.

On a quarterly basis, we bring together our Associate Producers as an advisory group who provide feedback on the design and direction of the podcast and to support guest recruitment.

We believe in the life-saving books we feature on the podcast and we’re strategically expanding our reach to share these books, both into rural parts of the U.S., but also internationally with our audiences growing significantly in Canada and Australia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and New Zealand.

To build out our Associate Producer group and support this expansion we need you to go to patreon.com/thisqueerbook and decide if you want to be one of our new Associate Producers. I really looking forward to working with you.

[music]

J.P.: Our indie podcast has an indie bookstore through Bookshop.org. We have new releases, current bestsellers, the books we feature on the podcast, and the most anticipated LGBTQ books for the upcoming month. Almost all of our titles are on sale right now. Get started at thisqueerbook.com/bookshop.

[music]

J.P.: In the premiere episode of This Queer Book Saved My Life, I had a conversation with Nancy Agabian and Carmen Maria Machado. And we talked about Point of View. Point of view is basically who is telling the story. Whose perspective are we getting? First person point of view is from the main character’s point of view, “I saw this and because of it I felt this way and I had to go on and do that thing.” Third person is more traditional. For example, “J.P. hosted an LGBTQ podcast, and, ironically, he had to record it in his closet because that was where he was able to record the best audio.” Which is true, actually. Now, all of this sounds really technical, right? But what fascinated me was how Carmen shared with us that to make her memoir In the Dream House work, to be able to tell that story, she had to write it using second person point of view. Yet, for Nancy, with her book The Fear of Large and Small Nations, she could have written it as a memoir, but to get the distance she needed to be able to write it, to get the level of objectivity she needed from the events she had lived through, she chose to write it as autobiographical fiction, using the third person point of view.

Now when researching Valenica, I found something that really intrigued me. Some people called it a memoir, but others called it a novel. It even won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian fiction. I found an interview Michelle gave and her response was, “well, it’s me, but if it makes the reader more comfortable for it to be fiction, that’s cool too.”

Now, why does all of this matter? You may not be an author, nor planning to write. However, you do tell your story. As queer people, we all do. And sometimes it’s tricky to tell that story. We can actually shift points of view when we share our stories with another person.

If we can learn from authors how they use it, why they choose one POV over another, that can help us be more intentional about how we tell our own stories.

So, of course I asked Michelle about the choices she made about point of view and what it unlocked for her.

Michelle: It just poured out of me. You know, I think that I was very stuck prior to doing that, prior to just kind of like writing in the first person about my own experience, because I kind of knew, I knew I was a writer ever since I was a kid, but I did think of writing as like you wrote fiction, you know, and so I would try, sit down and try to write, like make things up and make people do things and put quotes around their dialogue. And it just felt so stiff and strange to me. It was not inspiring at all. And then when I tried just doing it the way that I then did it, where I’m just telling the story right out of my mouth, I’m playing with the structure of the dialogue, it just came out of me. And that was how, the poetry world that I was a part of prior to writing prose. was very I, I, I, you know, so-called confessional poetry. So I got real comfortable with that voice and with that point of view and like owning my opinions. And it is really bold and it is sort of in your face. And I loved the idea of prose being like that too. And then, you know, the longer that I stuck around in San Francisco, I found other people who were also doing that. And some of those people were like a generation or so older than me, you know, finding Eileen Myles’s work obviously, and then the work of Dodie Bellamy, the work of Kevin Killian.

J.P. Der Boghossian: Do you still, as part of your writing process, like read things out loud then? Does that help you in your process?

Michelle: It has helped me a lot and when I teach, I always really urge people to read their work out loud because you just develop an ear for things that work or don’t work in a different way. Sometimes you can overlook something on the page, but then when you read it out loud, you’re like, oh, that’s really clunky or clumsy or funny. I don’t, I’m not as much part of a… thriving spoken word community today. So I don’t, I go where I’m invited. If I get invited someplace, I go and I read. And it’s really great. I love getting to hear if it’s something that’s in progress, like is it working? How does it feel to read out loud? So it is really, it’s really important.

J.P. Der Boghossian: If you hadn’t rent Valencia in the late 90s, but wrote it today, would it be different in how you approached it?

Michelle: Oh God, it would suck if I wrote it today.

J.P. Der Boghossian: Oh really?

Michelle: It would.

J.P.: Why do you say that?

Michelle: Oh yeah. Cause that’d be all like looking back on my youth, you know, and it would just be like, I don’t know. There’s like a lot of books like that and many of them are amazing. Like I’m not, you know, dragging that as a type of book. But I think the thing that made Valencia feel special and new in that moment is that there wasn’t a ton of writing that was from that immediate first person as it was happening. You know, I think that there’s a weird bias in literature, especially around memoir, that you’re supposed to not attempt to write a memoir until you’re 80 years old and looking back on your life. And it just, you know, that’s so silly. It’s like, that’s a type of book, but there’s all kinds of books. I mean, the idea that you haven’t lived enough, a five-year-old could write a memoir, had they the skills. They could write a gripping book about their day at preschool, and it would be amazing. And that’s our jobs as writers, is to make whatever we’re putting our focus on, whether it’s… fantasy world or like what we ate for breakfast that morning make it engaging make it really interesting.

When I when I look back at Valencia which I do every now and then I’m really astounded by how like I don’t even write like that anymore not for any reason it’s just you you’re writing changes you know for better or worse I think artists are always changing and shifting and the particular perspective I just don’t even have those perspectives anymore, like our opinions, you know? Like there’s things that I did in that book that like, you know, now I’m like, oh, maybe I probably shouldn’t have done that, you know? And so I don’t know that I would have written about it the same way, right? I’m like, I was probably really annoying, but like I didn’t think I was annoying. At the time I was like drunk a lot and had a lot of bravado and just like maybe a little bit of delusions of grandeur and it all shown through to good effect, I think.

J.P.: In 2022, Book Riot listed Valencia as part of the 100 most influential queer books of all time. How do you feel about that?

Michelle: I mean, that’s amazing. That’s a huge honor. It’s an enormous honor. I mean, I really feel like I wanted to be a writer because I love books so much and I wanted to be part of the party. You know what I mean? Like I wanted to, I just wanted to be in the mix with all these people who were doing this incredible thing which was writing books, you know? And I love that books just stick around forever, you know? And you never, they have their own life. Totally independent of you. I remember like the first queer book I read, I found. in the, I found it The Salvation Army in the, in the books shelves at The Salvation Army. And it was a book of poetry by Alana Dykewoman called You Will Know Me By My Teeth.

And I was like, just coming out, like, just coming out. And I’m like, Alana Dykewoman? What? You know, like, is that real? You know, and I’m like, oh my God, yeah, this is a book of lesbian poetry. And I opened it up and there was like a flower pressed inside. And I was like, oh my God, that’s a poem in itself. Like who had this book before me? Like why they pressed the, where’d the flower come from? Like, it just felt like a holy sacred object to me, this book. And then amazingly, you know, moving to San Francisco and years, many years later, I got to know Alana Dyke woman who, you know, we lost. She died a few years back, but you know, she was, I was part of a larger sort of queer writing and community in San Francisco with her. So. Yeah, it’s really, it’s incredible just to get to be among my heroes, basically.

[sounds of film projector, the audio of a film clip begins]

Michelle, played by actress #1: (talking into a phone) I can’t come in. I’m sick. No! Like really sick. (Fake coughs)

Co-worker: (talking into a phone) Yeah, Michelle. You’ve got to come in. Your job is seriously in jeopardy.

Michelle, played by actress #1: (sulking) Okay. I’m on my way.

Michelle, played by Actress #2: (talking to audience) I wasn’t going to work. I was an artist. A lover. A lover of women. Of the oppressed and downtrodden. A warrior really. I should have been somewhere leading an armed revolution in the name of love. No. I was not going to work.

[rock music]

Michelle, played by Actress #4: (speaking at an open-mic night) The female function is to cruise. To get drunk and get high with other girls. Get fisted. Whips. Get tattoos. All with love.

Audience member: Tell it sister!

Michelle, played by Actress #5: If nothing matters and everything matters none of us can ever fuck up.

[rock music as film clip ends]

J.P. Der Boghossian: Can you share with us about the film? I was blown away that you turned it over, not to one, but to 20 directors, and there were 20 actors playing Michelle. I guess my questions are pretty basic here. How and why?

Michelle: Well, like every writer, I want my book to be turned into a movie. But you know, it’s really hard, you know, for that to happen. It doesn’t happen for most people. And Valencia is such an outlier of a book because it is punk and weird. And, you know, in Hollywood is Hollywood and all that stuff. But I have a lot of friends who are filmmakers. And while none of them were in a position to be able to shoot a feature, nor would I ever have like the gall to be like, hey, will you? make my book into a feature film, you know, like can you fundraise like hundreds of thousands of dollars for me please? I mean, that’s like, you know, but I did feel like I could ask them all to make a short. And the more I thought about it, the more charmed I was by the idea. And it felt really punk. And it felt like one of those moments where, you know, lack of resources actually turns into an aesthetic, which is punk, right? And I just embraced it. And I just reached out to a bunch of of filmmakers that I knew and everyone was mostly like, yes, and they were enthusiastic. And they referred me to other filmmakers and it was really an incredible experience. It was amazing. It was, yeah. And I have since made my own short film and I see what it takes and I’m even more in awe and grateful that like people said yes, because even though I’m making it sound like, oh, they couldn’t do a feature, but they could, you know, dash off a short. I mean, making a short. Arguably might as well make a feature, you know, it’s not that much less money or work always So it was a ton of work for people and I’m just I’m touched, you know still that that people put their work into You know something that I was that I made like that’s awesome. And I love the Michelles.

J.P.: Absolutely. That’s amazing. Leslie, do you have questions for Michelle?

Leslie:
I guess like what literature inspires you today? Like what are you, what are you reading?

Michelle:
I’m reading, what am I reading today? I’m reading a book, hold on a second because something happens to me when I get asked this question. I feel like my mind goes blank and I get nervous like I’m gonna mispronounce someone’s name or say their book title wrong. But this is a really great book. I wanna get it right. So I’m making sure I get the exact title correct. You’re on the edge of your seats right now.

Okay, it’s a collection of short stories by Luke Danny Blue called Pretend It’s My Body. And they’re these great, weird, cool stories about being like, just kind of like a dirt bag or being genderqueer or trans. And sometimes they’re sort of futuristic and they’re set in the future and really uncanny things happen in a lot of them, which I love. So it’s like queer black mirror stories sometimes. And then the one I’m on right now at the end. is very much just like this sort of lost, sort of like transmask person who’s just sort of like scamming a Greyhound bus ride across the country and you’re just like, oh, I love it so much. So I’m reading that.

I’m very lucky, I get a lot of galleys in the mail where people send me books a little bit before they come out and my agent sent me one. And it’s very much the opposite of the environment of uh, Luke Danny Blue’s book, but let me see, can I find it? Yes, it’s a book called Mrs. S by a writer named K. Patrick and it’s gorgeously written and it’s basically about this like butch who is hired to work at this all girls school that seems like it’s shut away somewhere in the woods of, of England and the UK and there’s a famous, a famous author once lived there and kind of bequeathed the school and it’s very proper. And then meanwhile, This butch is like slowly but surely fucking the headmaster’s wife, Mrs. S. And it’s so hot and it’s so dirty and it’s so atmospheric. It’s a great, great book. I love it.

And I’m reading Eileen Myles’ new book of poetry called A Working Life, which is just amazing. It really harkens, it has a vibe similar to Not Me, which was their first book of poetry that I encountered. So it feels like a weird revisiting of an energy that’s been very enjoyable.

Yeah, what are you reading right now?

Leslie:
I’m so similar. I actually am reading a lot. I just like, I like to read a lot of different things. So this is the nerdiest answer, but I’m reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time.

Michelle:
Oh my god, that’s so cute!

Leslie:
Yeah, my best friend, just, she really liked the mini series that came out on Netflix and she was like, will you read this book so that we can watch the mini series together? And I was like, I will do anything for you. So I’m reading Anne of Green Gables. Never read it.

Michelle:
That is so sweet. Like that whole story is so sweet. I love that.

Leslite: And then I’m reading Haruki Murakami. Dance, Dance, Dance. Which I just, I just love. I could read him every day and always just enjoy. I just, I love like kind of weird off the wall things. And really I’ve been thinking about like How can music, like is there such thing as like magical realism music and like what would that look like?

Michelle:
Oh, that’s such an interesting questions. Yeah. What would it look like?

Leslie: Right? I want to try to make it. I don’t know.

Michelle:
Would it be in the form of the music or would it be in the lyrics or the vocals?

Leslie: Or both?

Michelle:
Or all of it?

Leslie:
And like, could you set up like a realistic premise and then twist it in just a song?

Michelle: I saw Iggy Pop yesterday at a music festival here in California and he has the artist, Noveler is she’s like a she’s a musician of her own accord, but she’s playing in his band right now. But he gave her this like spotlight or she took it and she opened his set playing a guitar like a cello.

Leslie: What?

Michelle: I was like, what the hell is going on here? Like I was walking into the kind of the fairgrounds and I could see, I could hear it. It was very ethereal and strange and I was seeing the big video monitors. I was like, that’s not Iggy Pop. Like, wow, what’s going on up there? But yeah, it was very cool. I just like downloaded a bunch of her music because I wanna know more about her.

Leslie:
That is so cool. Yeah.

Michelle:
I know, right? I’m like, is that magical realism? What is that? You think it’s a guitar, but now it’s a cello.

Leslie:
And how, yeah, I think that’s really cool. How could instruments be used in interesting ways? I just finished an album, and the impetus for the album was, so I sang jazz, kind of the opposite of punk. I do love punk a lot. That’s probably another reason why I love this book.

Michelle:
I think they actually have a lot in common, actually.

Leslie:
Yeah, maybe not like in chord progression, but in their historical context for sure. But the whole reason this album started is because there’s an old song called “Stars Fall on Alabama” and my bassist, upright bassist, was like, everyone covers this song but no one puts star sounds in. Like what would it be like to put in the sound of shooting stars? And so we kind of crafted this like weird version of it where like it kind of plays with time and memory and like… recording something that sounds like shooting stars is really hard and for a long time it just sounded like kids screaming like just high-pitched like So that we plan to play with that but I just ever since and I’ve been fascinated with like I don’t know almost like genre bending or like And it was just cool like you’d always like pull his His bow out and play it and then we just started getting weird like the pianist we get up and play like the strings of the piano and then One point the drummer took his keys out, which is like banging his keys.

Michelle:
Oh, that’s so fun!

Leslie: And these rich people that came to see it, and this is not what they came to see. They came to see like, you know, good old swing tunes. But I was like, but come on, like what? Let’s get weird. Let’s make something that that that hasn’t existed.

[“Stars Fell Over Alabama” performed by Laura”]

J.P.: You can stream Leslie Vincent’s new album About Last Night wherever you listen to your music or you can purchase it through her website lesliedellavincent.com. For her upcoming shows you can follow her on Instagram. She’s @leslie_della_vincent. She’s also on Facebook. Of note, I recommend her upcoming Halloween Extravaganza at the Granada Theater Theater on October 21st.
Michelle Tea’s recent memoir Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of my Infertility is now available in paperback edition. You can purchase it through our bookstore and it is currently on sale. Links in the show notes and on our website. Follow her podcast Your Magic with Michelle Tea wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can find Michelle on Instagram. She is @michelleteaz. She is also on Twitter, @TeaMichelle.

[theme music]

J.P.: That’s our show for today. Stay tuned after the credits for bonus clips where we talk about the film Valencia as well as…foley art?
I’ll see you back here in two weeks for our next new episode. I will sit down with therapist, mentor, and author of Raising LGBTQ Allies: Chris Tompkins to talk about the queer book that saved his life: The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs.
Our podcast is Executive Produced by Jim Pounds. Our Associate Producers are Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Ollila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shea, and Sean Smith. Our Patreon subscribers are Stephen D., Steven Flamm, Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.

Permission to use the songs “Laura” and “Stars Fell Over Alabama” provided by Leslie Vincent. Permission to use clips from Your Magic with Michelle Tea provided by Michelle Tea. Permission to use the Valencia film trailer provided by Michelle Tea. Our soundtrack and sound effects were provided through royalty free licenses. Please visit thisqueerbook.com/music for track names and artists.

Our music was provided through royalty free licenses, please visit thisqueerbook.com/music for track names and artists.

We’re on social media, though Jim is better at it than I am. You can find us on Facebook. On Instagram we’re @thisqueerbook. And we’re on Twitter, @thisqueerbook, but I honestly can’t tell you how much longer we’ll be on that transphobic nonsense site.

As always you can connect with us through our website: thisqueerbook.com And if you want to be on the show, fill out the form on the home page!

Until our next episode, see you queers and allies in the bookstores!

[theme music ends]

BONUS CLIPS

J.P. Der Boghossian:
I don’t want to put you on the spot, but is there a particular or one or two or three of the films that you felt most resonated with you?

Michelle: Sure, yeah, I mean, they’re all really, really amazing. There’s one chapter that’s by Lores Feliciano that’s really great, and it’s this like Michelle at the, I’m just gonna third person myself, bear with me. It’s like a, you know, it’s a weirdness of memoir. But Michelle’s like at pride, you know, and the actress playing Michelle is Annie Danger, who’s a performance artist who I really admire, who I’ve taken on Sister Spit, and she’s. you know, a great actress, so it was really great. There’s a filmmaker, Jerry Lee, and Michelle in that is the drag queen, Little Miss Hot Mess, and she was just campy and fantastic and is also like my sperm donor, so I just like extra love, you know, love her. One film, one chapter was made by Peter Peetzee, who’s an artist who’s also my longtime best friend, and he cast, he’s in the book. I mean, that was another funny thing, is some people who… made films were actually characters in the book. So Peter Pizzi cast his Michelle as a trans man, which was great. I mean, people were just like doing what they wanted, which I thought was really cool. Like that’s what I wanted to happen. Silas Howard, who’s an incredible director and filmmaker, his chapter is amazing. And Heather Axe plays Michelle, and she does an incredible, incredible job.

Who else? Jill Soloway did one. It’s super fun and beautiful. Oh my God, the production values on that one is really nice. We’re like, oh, we got a real, not real, but you know, we’re like, somebody’s got some resources. This is really beautiful.

What other one? Oh, Kerry Cronenwet is a filmmaker and he made a chapter, he made the chapter that he’s actually in as my friend. So that was super interesting. And it’s the chapter where Michelle puts the film in her pussy because they’re making a film. So it’s like a film within a film. And that Michelle’s really cute too. Oh, and there’s this great, oh my God. Okay, so there’s this filmmaker, Bug Davidson, who’s a genius and he did it. He did the space girl chapter where Michelle falls in love with this girl who’s saying she’s been contacted by aliens and Bug cast space girl as this trans man who has to be the most fucking charismatic, gorgeous person I’ve ever seen. Like when I saw this chapter, I was like, oh my God. Who is this guy? I have to move to Austin, Texas and make him fall in love with me. Is it too weird that I have a crush? Like, he’s so hot and you’re like, yeah, this person’s clearly kind of deranged and like, but you are like, yes, you would fall in love with this person because they’re just, they’re so hot and just sort of like confident and weird. So yeah, I mean, gosh, I could go on.

J.P. Der Boghossian:
That’s amazing.

Michelle:
So, yeah, oh my God, and, duh, Clement Goldberg’s is a really stunning one because Clement, who, well, I’ll say a couple things about Clement, but first of all, Clement’s piece is when Michelle takes a mushroom trip and Clement is a self-taught animator and like taught themselves how to do like claymation animation and had the mushroom trip turn into this claymation, wild psychedelic things are happening and then there’s, and Michelle becomes a buffalo because like she’s looking at the buffalo in Golden Gate Park, I’m getting chills. It was like, next level. And actually, you know, it was really hard to find a producer for this, somebody to help me actually put it together. I’ve never done that before. And people just kept saying I was crazy, wasn’t going to work, it’s going to cost a million dollars, all stuff that weren’t true. And Clement stepped up and was like, I’ll produce this with you. And so, you know, they’re with they’re an amazing producer as well as an amazing artist. So yeah. I probably just talked about way too many. You’re like, give me one or two. And I’m like, I can’t, there’s like 21

J.P. Der Boghossian:
No, I know. That was an unfair question. I knew that going in.

[laughter fades out]

BONUS CLIP

Michelle:
It’s like you guys became like Foley artists or something.

Leslie:
And I’d die for Foley. Like I would give anything.

Michelle:
It’s so weird and cool.

Leslie:
I could just be a Foley artist. It’s so weird and cool. Right before the pandemic, I was supposed to do a show where I was a character and then a Foley artist. And I was like, I could just not be the character.

Michelle:
Right. Like, you’re just going to be over here scrunching cabbage into a microphone or something!

Leslie: Absolutely. Like give me, they brought me a bin and I’ve never been happier. I was like, let’s go. What do we want to make?

Michelle:
Oh my god, so cool.

Leslie:
Yeah, and the irony too is like my wife is a performer and she makes the best sound effects so she does a lot of theater that um, there’s no like props or sets so she does she’ll do like the sound of the car or driving by or seagulls or a door or whatever all these things and so she’s actually like the foley artist of the family, but I don’t know. I think I think like kind of shifting those parameters is cool.

Michelle:
I do too.

Leslie:
We’ve taken this down such a weird road, JP.

Michelle:
I know! I love it though, it’s so great. Who knew we’d talk about foley art?

[laughter fades]