Interview With Ali Liebegott, Michelle Tea and Laurenn McCubbin (March 2005)

Catching Up With the Rent Girl and Beautifully Worthless Tour
by Susan Chenelle

There are times when I wish I did live on the West Coast, like when New York gets hit with snow and freezing rain three weekends in a row. Or when three awesome women artists like Michelle Tea, Ali Liebegott, and Laurenn McCubbin team up to show off their fabulous new books, and Boulder is as far east as they’re going. Sigh, but at least I was fortunate enough to catch up with them via email before they hit the road, and now you can too. To find out more about their work and how amazing they are, click here.

How did this tour come about? How did you plan it?

Tea: Me and Laurenn needed to hit some more of the country in support of Rent Girl, and I’ve been dying for Ali’s book to come out so I could tour with her again!

McCubbin: Michelle is totally in charge of the planning—she is a tour booking monster.

What is your primary mode of transportation?

Liebegott: Well, we were going to take Laurenn’s fabulous Dodge Dart, but I think we’re going to rent a car now, because the Dart wasn’t feeling good enough for a long trip.

McCubbin: We are renting a car. We were going to drive my car Molly, which is a 1972 Dodge Dart … but for SOME REASON, Michelle had doubts about Molly’s ability to make it across country. It could be her proclivity for blowing up. Molly’s, not Michelle’s.

What advice do you have for anyone planning a tour?

Liebegott: Either be a practicing alcoholic with practicing alcoholics or a sober alcoholic with sober alcoholics. And bring lots of books to sell.

McCubbin: Laurenn: Have Michelle book your tour. (heh) Bring lots of water, and Emergen-cees. Moisturize. Wear sunscreen.

Tea: Um, just stay on top of it. Don’t be afraid to annoy people, to stay in close touch with them. Also, it doesn’t matter if someone is a good performer if they’re too mentally unstable to travel in close quarters with.

Michelle, Laurenn: The words and illustrations in Rent Girl are so well matched. How did your collaboration come about and how did it work?

Tea: It was Laurenn’s suggestion and I really loved the idea of doing an illustrated book, especially with her illustrations! She really hooked the whole thing up for us. I had thought I had enough outtakes from my novel to fill the book, but as it turned out I only had like two or three. So I wrote my ass off and sent them to Laurenn and she did the illustrations–a very intense process I’m sure she’ll tell you all about!

McCubbin: Michelle and I had worked on a couple of small things before RG, and I really wanted to work on something longer. When Michelle said that she had a bunch of short stories that were outtakes of her books Valencia and Chelsea Whistle, I saw the opportunity to put them all together.

Collaborating with Michelle was really easy—she is not very demanding. She did have concerns about me drawing her family, so we left them out of it. Also, she really wanted to make sure that I didn’t make sex work look too “glamourous”—this is not “Pretty Woman,” after all. It was hard to not over-glamourize—I mean, when you are drawing a lot of girls in lingerie, how can they not look pretty? But think we did a good job of balancing the glamour with the reality—the words and images have an excellent tension.

Ali, please tell us about your new modern road epic in verse, The Beautifully Worthless. Was it at all influenced by your touring experiences or has travel always inspired/influenced you?

Liebegott: No, not at all. It’s really about being alone on the road, which is completely different than being on the road with a bunch of fabulous women. I’ve driven across the country several times alone. But the book is an actual trip I took to Idaho.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?

Liebegott: I’m just finishing a novel, The IHOP Papers, which is the mad diary of a depressed virgin pancake waitress, and I’m 3/4 of the way through an illustrated novel about a post-September 11th compulsive duckfeeder.

Tea: I’m almost done with my first novel, Rose of No Man’s Land. It’ll be out February 2006 on MacAdam/Cage. Also I have a screenplay that something might be happening with, there are producers sniffing Rent Girl‘s butt for a possible film option, and me and Laurenn are working on another project, a graphic novel called Carrier.

McCubbin: I am working on a piece with Stephen Elliott for the upcoming anthology Politically Inspired. Also, I am starting on my own book, Baby Girl Bollenger, a comic that I am writing and drawing for Image Comics.

What are the three things you can’t go on tour without?

Liebegott: Q-tips, meds, watercolor and sketchbook.

Tea: Valerian for sleeping, a book to read and facial moisturizer!

McCubbin: My laptop—I am ALWAYS working. My iPod—Michelle likes it when I play her new music. Books, newspapers and fashion magazines, so Michelle will read to me while I drive. She has promised to read me the new Vogue on our way to LA—SO! EXCITED!

What’s the first thing you do when you get home from the road?

Liebegott: Play playstation and play with my animals.

Tea: Go straight to Radar, a series I curate at the San Francisco Public Library! I’ll be cutting it wicked close; I think Laurenn will be dropping me off at the library front door!

McCubbin: Take a looooong bath, then take a nap with my neurotic cat, Trixie.


Ali Liebegott‘s poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. In 1999, Liebegott was the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and in 1997 and 1999, she read her poems and stories nationwide with the notorious Sister Spit’s Ramblin’ Road Show. All that said—her favorite things in life are feeding ducks and teaching adults GED and ESL. She currently lives in San Diego.

Laurenn McCubbin is the creative director for Kitchen Sink Magazine. She is also the illustrator of Rent Girl by Michelle Tea (published by Last Gasp), Quit City by Warren Ellis (published by Avatar), and she is the author and illustrator of the self-published XXX LIVENUDEGIRLS. Her work has been featured everywhere from the New York Times to On Our Backs. You can see more at

Michelle Tea is the Lambda Award-winning author of Valencia, The Chelsea Whistle, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, The Beautiful and Rent Girl with Laurenn McCubbin. She edited the essay collection Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class. Michelle also co-founded the infamous Sister Spit Ramblin’ Road Show.


Author: schenelle

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction in Jersey City, NJ. Co-author of Using Informational Text to Teach literature series. Doctoral student in Teacher Education and Teacher Development at Montclair State University.

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