Six books in as many years, countless readings, constant benefits, and a weekly astrology column — local author Michelle Tea is notoriously prolific. Add to that the fact that Ms. Tea's schedule never seems to dampen her enthusiasm for charming and bizarre fashion statements, and you're looking at the kind of crazy-busy homegrown celebrity any city would be proud to call its own.
But while successful artists sometimes retreat into ego and self-involvement, Tea has gone the opposite route: As a tireless promoter of other people's talents, each month she presents a panel called the “Radar Reading” series. Queer-oriented, wide-ranging, and consistently populated with entertaining, gifted writers, the events are a sure bet for literary enthusiasts. The readings, described as “a showcase of emerging and underground writing and performance,” are structured like academic panels, with each author presenting work and then engaging in a question-and-answer session with the audience.
To keep things lively, Tea offers a very unacademic treat: Since it's hard to get people to ask questions, she bakes cookies, and offers them to anyone who pipes up with a query for the writers. Like she doesn't have enough to do already? The cookies are excellent.
This month, the readers are Grope author Dayvid Figler, Washington, D.C., poet Natalie Illum, and up-and-coming writers Rebecca Cooper and Amra Brooks. You may never have heard of them, but that's part of the point — the series exists so that audiences can meet four new people every month, as selected by the author of Valencia and Rent Girl. Touring zinesters, locals with an ax to grind, and veteran scribes have all been seen at recent “Radars.” Anyone baffled by new names at the bookstore would do well to become a regular, since many of the presenters are or will be on the “New Fiction,” “New Nonfiction,” and “Staff Picks” tables one of these days. And don't be shy: Ask a question, get a cookie, and help keep Michelle Tea on the run.