Amber Gayle

WHO: Amber Gayle, who lives in Southern Oregon, publishes the zine My Evil Twin Sister, with her twin sister, Stacy Wakefield. She'll read from Notta Lotta Love Stories on Thursday, May 2, at Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak, 274-1449.

Amber's writing is very personal and intimate, with much integrity, while still being vivid and descriptive with her surroundings. The excellent and universal Notta Lotta Love Stories details relationships Amber has had with men, and the void that kept her from loving them.

What made you decide to write about the "not love" stories?

A couple reasons. One is that I found my true love, which really caught me off-guard, because I'd been around the block a few times, and I thought I knew all about it. I'd decided that I could only be in open relationships because I would never find the one right person who could be all that, etc. And then when I started hanging out with Erich, my whole worldview had to rearrange. When I was a kid, before I became world-weary, I had faith in true love. And then here I was experiencing it, and I thought, maybe that wasn't bullshit I picked up from politically incorrect fairy tales--maybe that was intuition, knowing where I was actually headed.

I reconsidered all the affairs, relationships, lovers, romances, and flirtations I'd had over the years and, in retrospect, it seemed so clear why each of them had come to an end, or never began, although often at the time it was just weird and confusing. As I said in the prologue to that zine, I was fascinated by the power that draws us to people so strongly, even when later we realize we didn't belong together for very long. And I wondered why, if my early intuition was accurate, and I was headed for this encompassing, marriage-like connection, why I got drawn down all those other paths.

One human experience you don't read about much (or at all in classic and early 20th Century literature, which is mostly all I read) is a woman who is relatively free, who can choose her lovers, sexual identity, whether or not to marry or have kids or be monogamous at all, but still be part of society, not totally stigmatized or shut out. This experience is so common among my generation and cultural affiliation--I think we take it for granted. But because it is relatively new and uncommon globally, I get really curious about what this means for a person. I think we learn an amazing amount about ourselves by being in relationships. And women haven't been learning in exactly this way for very long.

Is it ever painful or difficult to write so openly and honestly, especially in the parts when you touch on very raw, personal subjects like self-control and self-flagellation?

When I began publishing in my early 20s, I didn't think about that at all. I think I felt ignored, like my voice was buried under all the static and bustle of mainstream bullshit and violent cultural phenomena and etc.

Now that people read my zines, I feel heard, and that's more of an issue. I don't want to yell so loud. Personal, intimate writing, however, is what I like to read, and it's how I want to communicate, and I know there's an audience for it. So it's what I do, but I'm careful about which book, if any, I give to people I know from contexts outside of the zine, art, music worlds. Also, people I hang out with wonder what I'll end up saying about them!

In some ways, I think this seems like such a contemporary phenomena, the number of people writing zines and novels in which they are not hiding their own role in the story, but really, I think this is something writers have always dealt with. Tolstoy, George Eliot, DH Lawrence, and so many others had issues in their lives because they wrote directly from their lives in intimate ways that freaked some of their cohorts out.

Have you learned anything from so many years of self-publishing?

I think I've worked in ever facet of the book industry now, and I guess I know it pretty well at this point. I am now distributing Index Magazine on the West Coast and Gynomite: Fearless Feminist Porn, things I was able to take on because of what I've learned from distributing our books myself.

This tour through the Midwest and now in the Northwest with Abram (who has sold 15,000 copies of his self-published novel Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing) has made me see even more possibilities for making self-publishing work. When I finish my novel, I may try to shop it around to bigger publishers, because I think a novel is the hardest thing to self-promote. I can't even imagine the joy of getting a check for a manuscript, getting paid just for writing something.