Join Gina de Vries, our interviewee below, me, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and Carol Queen, Melissa Gira and Donna George Storey tonight at Cafe Royale, 800 Post St at Leavenworth, San Francisco, 7-9. There will be hot readings and free cupcakes!
Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.
I’m a queer writer and activist, Italian-American and very connected to the Italian side of my blood family, and a San Francisco native. I cut my writing and activist teeth on queer youth organizing
and riot grrrl zines in the early 90’s, and my community and politics influence my creative work pretty heavily. I write a lot about sex, queerness, gender, race, class, spirituality, and desire — fiction, non-fiction, and sometimes more experimental pieces. Currently, I blog for the national LGBT blog bilerico.com, curate shows for San Francisco in Exile, and work at the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at a groovy progressive divinity school. Sometimes I teach writing workshops for queers and transfolk. Creativity, spirituality, and community are all really important to me. I’m also a really huge nerd.
What inspired your story “The Next Thing” and how did you decide to tell it in the present-tense, urgent tone you chose?
I try to write how people talk. “The Next Thing” is very much a story that the narrator is *telling* — to the reader, and to Lola — so I wanted it to have that sense of realness and urgency, like we’re
sitting in the car with her while she’s talking about Lee. I wanted it to be urgent but sexy, a little lost, a little hyphy, a little sad, but with some hope behind it. I wanted to convey being stuck, but
being on the way out.
What emotions do you hope readers will feel after reading your story?
To be totally corny: A sense of hope and, above all, possibility. A feeling that bad situations and times when we’re stuck — in life, in love, in work, in sex — can and will change.
Like the opening story in Dirty Girls, Marie Lyn Bernard’s “Fucking Around,” place is central to your story, and Massachusetts and San Francisco are set in stark contrast to each other. You write, “They don’t have gayboys in Western Mass like they do in San Francisco,” and “I am in fucking Massachusetts, San Francisco is my escape, and like any good emo girl, I romanticize my escape to its fullest. San Francisco is the city that I fly to every time I whack off. I come hundreds of times in dreams that are always set in this city, my city, home.” What does the city of San Francisco offer you in terms of sexual community? Can that sexual community be recreated elsewhere, or is this something specific to San Francisco, in your experience?
I believe that sexual community can exist anywhere, if you’ve got the right people at the right time — and especially having lived in Western Mass and being less bitter about it than my narrator, I do
want to make clear that there’s radical sexual community there, not to mention tons of other awesome places.
That said: San Francisco has sexual community and history — especially in terms of the queer and trans communities — like I’ve never experienced anywhere else. That’s a big part of why I chose to
come back and make my home here after growing up here, and after living other places. There’s a sex community here that’s amazing — extremely diverse, very pansexual, very genderfluid, very kinky, and very very queer. It’s certainly not perfect, which I allude to in my story — hipster-ism and authenticity battles and silly little dramas abound, as they do in any community — but for the most part, it’s a pretty amazing community to be in the center of. I have amazing and beloved friends and lovers; I’m very blessed.
What do you see as the connection (if any) between feminism and erotica and/or queer activism and erotica?
I could go on about this for hours, but in short: I think that part of what makes people so uncomfortable about queerness is eroticism and sexuality, and especially a sexuality that is different or foreign. A lot of mainstream “lesbian and gay” activists would probably argue with me about this, but: I believe that being queer *is* at least in part about sex, and that that’s completely wonderful. So being honest, authentic, and unafraid about our erotic desires as queer people is, to me, a kind of activism.
What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?
Both, actually. Deadlines help keep me writing, but I’ll also jot things down when the mood strikes.
What do you think makes a good erotica story work?
Authenticity, surprise, tension, real dialogue, character development, humor, and perhaps a little bit of scary-ness or skating on an edge. All the elements of good stories in general, really. Also, not repeating porn cliches. Like, don’t use the word “throb” or “pant” or “member” unless it’s absolutely the best word for what you’re trying to communicate, you know?
What are you working on next?
I’m writing up a storm, starting to teach writing workshops with more frequency, and trying to finish a book about riot grrrl and the early 90’s queer youth movement that’s a mix of fiction and
non-fiction. I’m also doing a San Francisco in Exile Show for the National Queer Arts Festival on June 7th in San Francisco.