"Does this mean we won't be seeing another novel?"
"The book I'm working on right now is a graphic novel -- an illustrated novel, I guess.
" The thought of writing another straight-forward novel seems awful, somehow. It's called The Crumb People. It's about a post-September 11 obsessive duck feeder. It's also about being stuck listening to the radio and that kind of every ten-minutes news-report obsession with media after September 11, and then also it's about this relationship that develops at the local pond."
"Will you be illustrating as well as writing?"
"Yes. It's crazy because they aren't a strip, but are full page illustrations -- and there are over 150. They are all pen and ink and watercolor, and it's taking forever. I'm thinking after I get back from my book tour, I'll work on it some more."
"What are your plans for promoting the book?"
"I'm going to be doing a few readings in March, then, during the month of April, I'm going to be on tour. In the late '90s, there was a group of women called Sister Spit. They were this bunch of dykes who got in a van and went across the country and read their work. A couple of them had books, but mostly they were unpublished. It was a very punk-rock do-it-yourself kind of thing. I did that for a couple of years in the '90s.
"One of the founders, Michelle Tea, is starting it up again, and I'm going along for the whole month of April. They're calling this one 'Sister Spit, the Next Generation . '"
"Where are you going first?"
"We start in Seattle. The official schedule hasn't been posted yet, but it should be up very soon. The web address is www.sisterspitnextgen.com."
"Who else will be traveling with you?"
"Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea, myself, and a bunch of younger emerging writers that were part of the anthology, Baby Remember My Name that Michelle edited. I've done several tours of the Unites States, and they were some of the best times I've ever had.
"It's so scary to have a book come out after working with it for so long. It was great and illuminating to be working with an editor and an agent, and I learned so much, but after all that work it's difficult to have it go out there.
"My first book sold four copies, and my mother bought three of them, so this is just such a different experience. The IHOP Papers was reviewed in Entertainment Weekly . Can you believe it?
"I had an old roommate whose best friend had a book reviewed in The New York Times Book Review . It got trashed. I think the first line was, 'Pity the author who doesn't know what he wants to write about.' Then it went downhill from there. But there were, like, four words in the review -- 'Clearly he has talent.' When the guy's agent called, he was all excited about the review, while the author was devastated. The agent said, 'No. Don't you see? Every book you ever publish from now on can have a quote from The New York Times Book Review that says, 'Clearly he has talent.' What a crazy business!"
"I understand you teach writing at UC San Diego. What do you teach?"
"Well, it's very fun. I've been an adjunct there since 2003, teaching a couple of classes a year. I've taught the novella, short fiction, epic poem, and poetry. Right now, I'm teaching an elegy class -- discussing public grief and poetry and the places where they fit together. It's been an interesting class -- for me, at least. I don't know if any of the students are enjoying it.
"I also teach every day at an adult school on the border of Mexico and California. I teach basic skills to adult learners -- things like basic math and basic reading and writing. I've taught ESL and GED preparation and stuff like that.
"I cohost a monthly performance series with my girlfriend, too. It's funny. All these people will come out, but you don't really know where they are the rest of the time. When I lived in Brooklyn, you'd actually see interesting people walking on the streets -- San Francisco, too. Maybe it's the car thing -- everyone's always in their car or their house, so you just don't see them here like you do other places."
"Were you a reader as a little kid or did you come to it later?"
"No, I wasn't, really. For Christmas my parents would buy us books because they thought we should read, but I don't remember being crazy about books. I started writing when I was a teen. A lot of the first books I bought were poetry collections because that's what I was writing at the time.
"I just bought Justin Chinn's new book of poetry called Gutted. I also love Lynda Barry, Arundhati Roy, and Randall Kenan -- he wrote this great book of stories called Let the Dead Bury Their Dead.
"Usually, when I'm leading a class, I don't have a ton of time to read other stuff because I'm immersed in whatever it is I'm teaching. I've been reading a lot of poems right now because I've been teaching a lot of poems. I'm also reading a ton of student poems, because I was just one of the judges for a poetry contest."
"Is San Diego a safe place to be gay?"
"I guess so. It's very conservative, though. I guess it's as good as any. As far as feeling safe, yes, I guess I feel safe. But as far as queer art and queer culture, I don't think there's a great selection now.
"If I could get a job in Brooklyn tomorrow and move back, I would. On the other hand, I'm sitting in my yard out in the sun right now, and it's so beautiful. I'm trying to remember that."