Lit Fest 2023 Preview: Q&A with Michelle Tea

Lit Fest 2023 Preview: Q&A with Michelle Tea

Editor's Note: In advance of the March 11 deadline to apply for Lit Fest Advanced Workshops, we've asked the 2023 Visiting Authors for a preview of their workshop style, what they're reading, and more.

What's the most surprising source of inspiration for you lately? The most surprising source of inspiration for me these days is my new Substack, Dear Diary! I started it as a way to get an essay I wrote about an artist friend out into the world, but it swiftly became a source of literary joy! As I work on a couple of possible new books, I was finding myself cramped and stifled by the thought that gatekeepers would be reading it—even benevolent gatekeepers like my literary agent! I felt I was writing it for 'them'—people who would be evaluating it to see if it was commercial. And that need to make it commercial goes against my writing inspiration pretty majorly. Writing this weird and wacky Substack, which is just for myself and any other weird and wacky readers who might be interested in my thoughts, has super loosened me up, and recalibrated my process. Set me back on track, I guess. Now, as I move forward on projects that I, too, hope will be commercial, I don't feel oppressed or like I'm trying to convince anyone of anything. I'm just doing what I do—writing in the only voice that is mine to write in.

What are you working on these days? Besides my beloved Substack, I'm working on a follow-up to my book Modern Tarot, a Modern Magic, that features essays about my ongoing magical practice as well as spells people can try at home. I'm working on a second essay collection called, for today, the title keeps changing, Sex and Death. It's about sex, and also death, and the ways these two major human things intertwine in a human psyche, especially my own. With the artist Nicole J Georges I'm working on a tarot deck of queer ancestors, and with the team that created my Your Magic podcast I'm working on a tarot app. I'm working on two other podcasts. Historical Sluts is a very fun podcast I'm doing with the writer Vera Blossom, where we lovingly gossip about the wild sex lives of ladies from history, and Slayed, which is a true crime podcast I'm doing with the writer Brontez Purnell, one of my favorite writers and humans, where we discuss truly horrible crimes committed by queer folk. Dark! I'm also pitching two different television shows, one a tarot-based reality show and the other a tarot-informed/inspired scripted dramady. I think that's it! If you wonder how I have the time, I will tell you I don't! Something is always being neglected.

How would you describe your workshop style? I believe everyone has their own inherent literary voice, and it can be fed and honed and inspired, but not so much taught. I also believe voice is everything—you can write an incredible memoir about taking out the garbage each day if the voice is strong! I really love helping people discover and add to their voice. My workshops are super supportive, which is not to say that critique is not offered, it most certainly is. But what I try to do is get to the heart of what a writer is aiming to express, and help them express it in the clearest, most interesting way possible. I think that people leaving my workshops have a fresh belief in themselves as writers, and a renewed commitment to their work. And that's everything!

Which writer or artist whose work you love should more people know about? I have already mentioned two writers I love, Vera Blossom and Brontez Purnell. Brontez's books are available everywhere. Vera's newsletter, How to Fuck Like a Girl, is something you can receive in your inbox. I'm plowing through all of Anais Nin's diaries right now and find them very inspiring as far as living a writer's life. Keep your eyes out for a book called Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis—I have an early copy of it and it's blowing my mind. It will be out in May.

Michelle Tea is teaching Weeklong Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: My Little World. Learn more here. Apply via Submittable.