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Michelle Tea and the Sister Spit literary tour hit Olympia

MICHELLE TEA: She’s like a rock star of memoir writing. Photo courtesy Amos Mac

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Memoirist, poet and spoken-word artist Michelle Tea will visit Olympia next week with her Sister Spit literary tour - and a free workshop at Timberland Library aimed at helping writers learn more about the art of writing about themselves.

Don't let the term "literary tour" mislead you. For starters, the tour's Olympia stop is at Le Voyeur, and although many of the performers will read from their work, this cabaret-style evening of readings, performances and visual art - much of it exploring queer culture, feminism and politics - won't be anything like most English classes.

"I always select people whose writing leaps off the page, and they are catching it as they perform it," Tea says. "It's a very lively literary reading. I emcee, and I try to keep it funny in between readings."

"Kirk Read and Ali Liebegott are hilarious," says Sarah Adams of Olympia, who has twice toured with Sister Spit and will perform with the show on Tuesday. "It looks like it's going to be a really funny show, and I'll definitely contribute to that vibe."

Liebegott, a Sister Spit veteran, is a poet and novelist, and Read is a performance artist and gay activist.

And there are visual artists on the tour, too.  "We have Amos Mac, who is a photographer," Tea says. "And we have Mari Naomi, whose first graphic novel, Kiss and Tell, just came out; it's about every relationship she's been in since she was a kid. She reads those, and we show the panels on the screen. She does quirky, cute, funny things with word bubbles. It's really charming."

Adams, a filmmaker and performance artist, is working on a comedy piece about the counter-protests she's been organizing outside Olympia's Planned Parenthood. You know, the place where anti-abortion activists not only congregate with signs but also park a van painted with an enormous picture of a fetus.

"We've been having fun providing a positive counterpoint with smileys and hearts and love for the patients and the doctors," she says. (For details on the protests, look for "Oly Loves Planned Parenthood" on Facebook.)

"I have so much good material from standing on that corner with a sign."

If it's funny, it's also serious.

Sister Spit shows began in the '90s, a group of unknown writers getting their work out there the same way unknown bands do it.

Adams remembers her first experience seeing Sister Spit in 1998, when she was in her first year at The Evergreen State College.

"I was blown away, just blown away by the idea of women writers touring together," she says. "I was blown away by their freedom, their jokes, their sexuality, their gusto.

"At a Sister Spit show as a woman, or as a queer person, you suddenly realize, ‘Oh, my stories are important.' And that is a very powerful thing."

Tea is best known for her memoirs, and although her workshop at the library is called "It's All About You," her current work has taken her on a detour from autobiography.

She's written a memoir about punk singer-songwriter Beth Ditto (of the Gossip), currently in the fact-checking stage, and recently completed both a science-fictional memoir and a young-adult fantasy called A Mermaid in Chelsea Creek.

"I wanted to play with being more imaginative in my writing," she says. "I wanted to make up creatures and magical systems.

"I probably couldn't write a commercial adult book," she adds. "I don't understand how adults live in the world, but I felt I could write a commercial young-adult book because I relate to people that age."

But she says her fiction is still pretty much about her.

"I don't think you can write something without having your own emotional center in one of the characters - or maybe it's divided. The whole story is your emotional landscape being pulled out."

Olympia Timberland Library

“It’s All About You,” a writing workshop with Michelle Tea, Tuesday, March 29, 4 – 5:30 p.m., free, please call to register as space is limited, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.352.0595

Le Voyeur

Sister Spit: The Next Generation, Tuesday, March 29, 10 p.m., $8-$10, 404 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.5710

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Comments for "Powerful stories" (1)

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Harrison Fart said on Mar. 30, 2011 at 11:53pm

I'm sorry, but Ms. Gilmore might want to look up the definition of "memoir."

A "memoir" is, by definition, an autobiographical work.
You cannot write a "memoir" about someone else.
And you absolutely cannot write a "science-fictional memoir."

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