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Is it hard to be a fiction writer who also has Twitter?

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My joke is that I only seem to be able to handle being a writer and being on Twitter when my progesterone is high enough. So I'm pretty hormone dependent when it comes to tweeting. But even when it's low and I'm just a voyeur, I get so much inspiration from Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Elissa Washuta, and Mariame Kaba.

How do you feel about the phrase "lesbian fiction"?

What first comes to mind is Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet and the fisting scene at the end of the book, and Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name after she gets her period and she is working garlic and spices with the mortar and pestle, and Sarah Schulman's After Delores when the main character is talking to this hot femme who has long nails except for the pointer and middle finger on her right hand.

How do you feel about the word "lesbian"?

I used to be so afraid of it because I was so internally homophobic. But now I think it's pretty great. It's kinda like a lizard, and what's not to like about lizards? Ooh, lezzie. Dyke is a good word, too. Queer dyke. Hard femme. Androfag. I love all the words.

What does the title We Had No Rules refer to?

The danger of nostalgia and the ways that we all (but in this case, the lens of the queer community) try to find the world we want to live in by creating rules to break or follow, when in reality we can't help but slip into the systems of oppression waiting for us, like in my story "The Wallaby." We may want liberation, but we can't stop being cruel and avoidant to each other as individuals. When I was writing the book, I kept finding how so many relationships end or exchange harm because there are these unspoken assumptions about how things should go. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and family abuse, I am personally aware of how little I know about the difference between abuse and care. I would find myself asking: What are the rules? Because it seems like I don't know them. The rules that helped me survive as a child DO NOT work as an adult. My suspicion is that many of us are in this boat, and it's that mix of assertion and grasping that I'm curious about.

What's your favorite story in the book?

All of these stories are very special to me. I found my authenticity and honesty with these stories. But my favorite is "The Only Pain You Feel," because it's the most autobiographical and was the most painful to write.

What's the greatest sadness you've experienced as a writer?

Years ago, I received feedback on a novel that it was going to isolate mainstream readers and be put in the LGBT genre category. I had a huge awakening where I realized that I was actively trying to write a mainstream novel, and had been holding back how I really wanted to write, and I failed anyway. I was really sad because I realized I didn't know what it meant to be authentic in my writing, to be free, and to be truly honest. But then I sat down and I typed: "Oh fuck it. I'm writing lesbian fiction." And the story "Gay Tale" came to me from beginning to end in one sitting.

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What's the greatest happiness you've experienced as a writer?

At the last AWP conference, I interviewed writers about desire and longing outside of the conference center, and those conversations and moments of connection were thrilling. This month, I just read over an early draft of a book I'm working on about family abuse and Italian American assimilation. I was so lonely while I wrote it, but suddenly, in reading it, I felt less alone. What a gift to find connection, even when sometimes it's to yourself through time.

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