Michelle

Tea

Memoirist & Fiction Writer
2021 Guggenheim Fellow
Travels from: Los Angeles, CA

“Author, poet, tarot legend, and organizer Michelle Tea has long been known as a fairy godmother of the millennial queer set, and in this blazing new memoir, she approaches the subject of parenthood (and all the poking, prodding, jaw-dropping expense, and nosy questions that it can entail for LGBTQ+ parents) with her signature verve.” — Vogue

Michelle Tea is the author of over a dozen books of memoir, fiction, poetry and children’s lit — including her latest, Knocking Myself Up. Her memoir Valencia won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction, even though it was obviously all true. It was also made into a sprawling, feature-length art film using nearly 20 different directors and different Michelles. Her recent-ish essay collection, Against Memoir, was awarded the PEN/America Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. She is also the recipient of the legendary Rona Jaffe Awards, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow.

In addition to her writing, Michelle has instigated many cultural interventions aimed at increasing access and visibility for queer writers and artists. She is the founder of RADAR Productions, the Bay Area literary non-profit, and worked as Executive Director for over a decade, running a monthly reading and conversation series at the San Francisco Public Library, organizing a free, queer literary retreat in the Yucatan, operating an annual poetry chapbook contest, and many other events. Michelle’s last move as ED was to conceptualize Drag Queen Story Hour, the kid’s lit event that has since become a global sensation. She is the co-founder of the international performance tour Sister Spit, and founding editor-at-large for the online parenting zine Mutha.

Tea created and edited the Sister Spit Books imprint at City Lights Publishers, putting out work such as Lennelle Moise’s PEN-award winning Haiti Glass, and the best seller  Rad American Women A-Z. She went on to establish the Amethyst Editions series at The Feminist Press, an imprint which continues to bring out award-winning work by  queer voices.

Michelle produces and hosts the mystical Spotify podcast Your Magic, and fronts a weekly live tarot show on Spotify Live. Her 30-plus years as a tarot reader is encapsulated in her popular how-to book, Modern Tarot.

Forthcoming Books:

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Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My (In)Fertility

Dey Street Books |
Memoir

From PEN/America Award winner, 2021 Guggenheim fellow, and beloved literary and tarot icon Michelle Tea, the hilarious, powerfully written, taboo-breaking story of her journey to pregnancy and motherhood as a 40 year-old, queer, uninsured woman

Written in intimate, gleefully TMI prose, Knocking Myself Up is the irreverent account of Tea’s route to parenthood—with a group of ride-or-die friends, a generous drag queen, and a whole lot of can-do pluck. Along the way she falls in love with a wholesome genderqueer a decade her junior, attempts biohacking herself a baby with black market fertility meds (and magicking herself an offspring with witch-enchanted honey), learns her eggs are busted, and enters the Fertility Industrial Complex in order to carry her younger lover’s baby.

With the signature sharp wit and wild heart that have made her a favorite to so many readers, Tea guides us through the maze of medical procedures, frustrations and astonishments on the path to getting pregnant, wryly critiquing some of the systems that facilitate that choice (“a great, punk, daredevil thing to do”). In Knocking Myself Up, Tea has crafted a deeply entertaining and profound memoir, a testament to the power of love and family-making, however complex our lives may be, to transform and enrich us.

Scorpio: Berry Intense

Dottir Press |
Children’s

Dealing with jealousy and competitiveness plays out in a funny and perceptive Astro Pals take on being a Scorpio.

Scorpio’s been holding a grudge ever since Aquarius called them “too intense.” Now, not only are they competing in the same Annual Autumn Schmoogleberry Pie Baking Contest, it looks like they’re competing for the same best friend, too Will Scorpio defeat this best friend-stealer, or will they learn a lesson about not letting jealousy win the day?

Libra: Decisions, Decisions

Dottir Press |
Children’s

The first episode in Michelle Tea’s emotionally wise Astro Pals series features Libra and a lesson about how friends can help you when you’re stuck.

Trick or treat Scorpio’s planning a Halloween party, and the Astro Pals can’t wait. Everyone has their costume ready, except for poor Libra, who just can’t decide It can’t hurt to tell a little lie and say she can’t come to the party after all, right? But what happens when Aquarius and Gemini find out?

Castle on the River Vistula

McSweeney’s McMullens |
Fantasy

When Sophie Swankowski surfaces from the freezing waters, she finds herself in an ancient castle in Poland–and in the center of an ages-old battle. Even with her magic powers, the strength and wisdom she learns from her companions in Warsaw, and the help of her gruff mermaid guardian, Syrena, how can one thirteen-year-old from scrappy Chelsea Massachusetts, really save the world?

Luckily, Sophie won’t be alone. As she connects to other girls around the globe who have been training, just like her, for this very fight, she begins to think she just may become the hero she’s meant to be. But when she has to face the pure source of evil alone, using all the strength she has to keep it from destroying everything, how easy it would be to simply give up and join the other side…

Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms

Amethyst Editions |
Memoir

The PEN Award-winning essay collection about queer lives: “Gorgeously punk-rock rebellious.”–The A.V. Club

The razor-sharp but damaged Valerie Solanas, a doomed lesbian biker gang, recovering alcoholics, and teenagers barely surviving at an ice creamery: these are some of the larger-than-life, yet all-too-human figures populating America’s fringes. Rife with never-ending fights and failures, theirs are the stories we too often try to forget. But in the process of excavating and documenting these queer lives, Michelle Tea also reveals herself in unexpected and heartbreaking ways.

Delivered with her signature honesty and dark humor, this is Tea’s first-ever collection of journalistic writing. As she blurs the line between telling other people’s stories and her own, she turns an investigative eye to the genre that’s nurtured her entire career–memoir–and considers the price that art demands be paid from life.

Winner of the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

Eclectic and wide-ranging. . . . A palpable pain animates many of these essays, as well as a raucous joy and bright curiosity. –The New York Times

The best essay collection I’ve read in years. –The New Republic

Modern Tarot: Connecting with Your Higher Self through the Wisdom of the Cards

HarperOne |
Nonfiction

Beloved literary iconoclast Michelle Tea reinvents tarot for a new generation in this guide to using the Tarot as a twenty-first-century tool for connecting with our higher selves.

Long before Michelle Tea was winning awards for her poignant memoirs, she was a scrappy misfit on the streets of San Francisco, supporting herself by giving eerily prescient tarot readings. As her reputation as a writer grew, she stopped publicly reading the Tarot, though she never stopped doing it privately. Based on over twenty-five years of experience and a deep and abiding love of the cards, Modern Tarot brings the full force of Tea’s unique insight, inviting pop sensibility, and wicked humor to bear on the tradition of the Tarot in a fascinating journey through the cards that teaches us how to use this tradition for radical self-growth.

Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool seeker or a digital-age skeptic—or a little of both—the power of tarot is open to you. Modern Tarot doesn’t require you to believe in the supernatural or to focus narrowly on using the tarot as a divination tool. Instead, it offers fiercely insightful descriptions of each of the seventy-eight cards in the tarot system (each one fully illustrated by Amanda Verwey) and specially designed rituals to guide readers on a path toward transformative personal growth.

Grounded in Tea’s decades of tarot wisdom and personal experience, this is a guide that beginners will fall in love with and experienced readers will learn from anew. With her trademark one-of-a-kind insight and wit, Tea shows how tarot offers moments of deep, authentic connection during a time when “connection” is ubiquitous but rarely delves beneath the surface—and how the affirming and personal nature of the Tarot offers a spiritual experience that is gentle, individual, and aspirational.

Black Wave

Amethyst Editions |
Fiction

This metaliterary end-of-the-world novel is a Gen-X queer girl’s version of the bohemian counter-canon (New York Times).

Desperate to quell her addiction to drugs and alcohol, disastrous romance, and nineties San Francisco, Michelle heads south to LA But soon it’s officially announced that the world will end in one year, and life in the sprawling metropolis becomes increasingly weird.

While living in an abandoned bookstore, dating Matt Dillon, and keeping an eye on the encroaching apocalypse, Michelle begins a new novel, a meta-textual exploration to complement her vows to embrace maturity and responsibility. But as she tries to make queer love and art without succumbing to self-destructive impulses, the boundaries between storytelling and everyday living begin to blur, and Michelle wonders how much she’ll have to compromise her artistic process if she’s going to properly ride out doomsday.

Girl at the Bottom of the Sea

McSweeney’s |
Young Adult Fiction

Sophie Swankowski is the hero from the stories she’s been hearing all her life: she’s the girl who will save the world. Or so she’s been told. Now she and her unlikely guardian?the gruff, filthy mermaid Syrena?must travel the pitch-black seas from broken-down Chelsea, Massachusetts, to Syrena’s homeland in Poland. Along the way, Syrena will reveal the terrible truth about her past, and teach Sophie about the ages-old source of her newly discovered power. But left behind in Chelsea, without Sophie to protect them from the dark magic she’s awakened, what will become of Sophie’s friends and family?

Girl at the Bottom of the Sea is the follow-up to Michelle Tea’s beloved Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, a refreshing breath of air in the world of YA, equal parts eerie, heartbreaking, and fantastical.

How to Grow: Up A Memoir

Plume |
Memoir
“A gutsy, wise memoir-in-essays from a writer praised as ‘impossible to put down’”—People

From PEN America Literary Award-winning author Michelle Tea comes a moving personal essay collection about the trials and triumphs of shedding your vices in order to find yourself.

As an aspiring young writer in San Francisco, Michelle Tea lived in a scuzzy communal house: she drank; she smoked; she snorted anything she got her hands on; she toiled for the minimum wage; she dated men and women, and sometimes both at once. But between hangovers and dead-end jobs, she scrawled in notebooks and organized dive bar poetry readings, working to make her literary dreams a reality.

In How to Grow Up, Tea shares her awkward stumble towards the life of a Bona Fide Grown-Up: healthy, responsible, self-aware, and stable. She writes about passion, about her fraught relationship with money, about adoring Barney’s while shopping at thrift stores, about breakups and the fertile ground between relationships, about roommates and rent, and about being superstitious (“why not, it imbues this harsh world of ours with a bit of magic”).  At once heartwarming and darkly comic, How to Grow Up proves that the road less traveled may be a difficult one, but if you embrace life’s uncertainty and dust yourself off after every screw up, slowly but surely, you just might make it to adulthood.

“Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant.” —Elle 

“This compulsively readable collection is so damn good, you’ll tear through the whole thing (and possibly take notes along the way).” —Bustle

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek

McSweeney’s |
Young Adult Fiction

Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, has a story too worn to repeat?from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they’re somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there’s one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one about the girl who will be able to take their twisted world and straighten it out. The girl who will bring the magic.

Could Sophie Swankowski be that girl? With her tangled hair and grubby clothes, her weird habits and her visions of a filthy, swearing mermaid who comes to her when she’s unconscious, Sophie could be the one to uncover the power flowing beneath Chelsea’s potholed streets and sludge-filled rivers, and the one to fight the evil that flows there, too. Sophie might discover her destiny, and maybe even in time to save them all.

Valencia

Seal Press |
Memoir

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. Through a string of narrative moments, Tea records a year lived in a world of girls: there’s knife-wielding Marta, who introduces Michelle to a new world of radical sex; Willa, Michelle’s tormented poet-girlfriend; Iris, the beautiful boy-dyke who ran away from the South in a dust cloud of drama; and Iris’s ex, Magdalena Squalor, to whom Michelle turns when Iris breaks her heart. Valencia conveys a blend of youthful urgency and apocalyptic apathy.

Rose Of No Man’s Land

Harper Perennial |
Fiction

Fourteen-year-old Trisha Driscoll is a gender-blurring, self-described loner whose family expects nothing of her. While her mother lies on the couch in a hypochondriac haze and her sister aspires to be on The Real World, Trisha struggles to find her own place among the neon signs, theme restau­rants, and cookie-cutter chain stores of her hometown.

After being hired and abruptly fired from the most popular clothing shop at the local mall, Trisha befriends a chain-smoking misfit named Rose, and her life shifts into manic overdrive. A “postmillennial, class-adjusted My So-Called Life” (Publishers Weekly), Rose of No Man’s Land is brim­ming with snarky observations and soulful musings on contemporary teenage America.

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A Seat at the (Kid's) Table

With the legalization of gay marriage and the increased accessibility of artificial reproductive technologies, increasing numbers of LGBTQ individuals are finding their way towards family-making. In this talk, I share my experience – funny and frustrating, inspiring and thought-provoking – of being both a queer mom and the founder of Drag Queen Story Hour. I’ll discuss why LGBTQ+ family has long been such an important issue in our culture, and share possible paths forward for queers and allies.

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All Good Witches

Witches get a bad rap. Yet, in spite of a smear campaign that has spanned millenia, bringing us everything from the ghastly Salem Witch Trials to the Wicked Witch of the East, the practice – a non-hierarchical spiritual practice that honors nature and the unknown – has been having a major renaissance, in particular among women, young people and LGBTQ+ folks. What does it all mean? In this talk I will take us back to the beginning – a global history of earth-based magic – ’til today, when a popular interest in self-care has led to a willingness to embrace once-spooky practices such as tarot, astrology, crystals and energy work. With humor, pop culture and wild history, this talk aims to reveal reveal the contemporary interest in folk magic to be not a passing trent but the reclaiming of an enduring human tradition.

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Welcome To Your Big Queer Lifethrough

LGBTQ+ youth today are entering a world unlike any their predessors have seen, a world simultaneously rife with positive media representation and political gains, but also with shocking backlash and attempts to roll back progress. In this talk I use my own experience coming of age as a queer person to share what I have learned about being a good queer citizen; using humor, I give tips and tricks for navigating challenges specific to queer life and individuals, and I use examples from LGBTQ+ history to dazzle and inspire. A pep talk disguised as a stand-up set, the real point of this talk is to help queer young people know they are not alone – not now, and not through history – and that theur queerness is a gift, both to them and to our world.

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I Went to the Zine Revolution and All I Got Was This Lousy Self-Confidence

Finding Self-Confidence Through Personal Expression

Although ‘zines – self-published magazines filled with whatever the creator’s heart desires – have mostly given way to more high-tech modes of personal expression, they remain a touchstone of youthful self-expression and are having a renaissance. In this talk I share my personal experience discovering and creating zines in my early 20s, and talk about how the self-confidence and creative inspiration I found in both the form and the DIY community paved the way for the literary career I have today. A motivational speech disguised as a cultural history lesson, the real point of this talk is to help young people embrace their unique voices, and inspire them to work creatively to have those voices heard. This could include an actual zine-making workshop.

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I Was A Teenage Alcoholic | Sober. Curious.

We don’t know why some individuals can dabble, explore and emerge unscathed, and why others find themselves in over their head – the grip that alcohol and drugs get on some of us is confounding, mysterious, heartbreaking. I know, because I’ve been there. In this talk I share the wisdom and experience of both my twenty-five years of sobriety and my teenage years, which were spent finding confidence and community around drinking. Drinking means different things in different subcultures, and the way creativity, celebration, rebellion and outsider-ness has been codified by the myth of alcohol is a powerful one. I challenge these myths while affirming why young people feel the need to chemically check-out or augment their personality in the first place. Down-to-earth and full of humor, this talk aims to give young people real information about the psychology and the effects of alcohol and drugs as well as usable tools for self-care.

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It's All About You

Although many fiction writers load their novels with people, places and things they actually experienced, memoir writers bravely put their own life in the front and center of their work, owning the truth of their story. In this workshop I draw from thirty years of experience wrestling with the fears, doubts and vulnerability native to the genre, and work with students on how to work with the various challenges unique to personal narrative. In addition to the tricky issues of privacy and revelation, I will also share what I have learned to be the best craft practices for creating a memoir that draws a reader into your world as only you can. This can be a one-day workshop, lasting 2-5 hours (with break), as well as a multi-day workshop with sessions being about two hours long. Curriculum that is working with memoir, personal essay, critical writing, diary traditions and even thinly-veiled fictions could be easily connected to this workshop.

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Raising Misfits

Most parents presume that our offspring will be, more or less, like us – that they will check many of the same boxes, align with our tastes and values, want what we want. In this talk I lean into my experience as both a misfit daughter and the misfit mother of an exceptionally ‘normal’ child to talk about what happens when parent and child seem to come from parallel universes. Coming from the tradition of Non-Violent parenting, I will weave story, anecdote and theory to affirm the misfit – and the rule-follower – in all of us, and show how supporting individuality is the foundation for a healthy parent-child relationship, all done with humor and humility.

CBS Mornings | Author Michelle Tea on new book, “Knocking Myself Up”

NYLON | Welcome To ‘Witch City’ With Michelle Tea

PEN America | Michelle Tea Wins the 2019 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award

Podcast | Your Magic with Michelle Tea

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Loghaven Artist Residency Fellow, 2022
Guggenheim Fellow, 2021
PEN/America Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, 2019
California Library Association Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award, 2019
San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artists Commission, 2007-2013
Center for Cultural Innovation, 2012
The Creative Work Fund; 2005, 2009, 2012
CEC Artslink, 2010
The Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists Award, 2008
23rd Zale Writer-in-Residence; Tulane University, 2008
The James Irvine Foundation, 2007
The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, 1999
San Francisco Bay Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Award, Literature; 2000
Lambda Literary Awards; Best Lesbian Fiction; 2001
The San Francisco Bay Guardian Best Local Writer, 2006
San Francisco Weekly Best Local Writer, 2006
Cable Car Award; Best Critic, 1997

Media Kit

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