What kind of a literary tour stops at a bar best known for drag shows, karaoke and wild dancing? That would be Sister Spit: The Next Generation, a quirky group of women who are taking their words off the page and on the road. The "sisters," who stop Friday in Olympia, are a second incarnation of the '90s literary tour Sister Spit's Ramblin' Road Show.
"According to Ariel Gore, a writer from Portland, Sister Spit made it mandatory that poetry readings be fun and entertaining a nd never again boring," said Michelle Tea, the tour's co-founder. "I don't know if that's tr ue, but I like thinking we had a hand in it.
"We make room for topics that are heavier and for work that has a quiet sensibility, but it's book-ended by pieces that are irreverent and raucous and really loud."
Tea, the author of several autobiographies and the novel "Rose of No Man's Land," is responsible for the tour's new incarnation as well.
After editing "Baby Remember My Name: An Anthology of New Queer Girl Writings," she decided it would be fun to take a new generation of women writers on a journey just like her own.
These days, Tea has gone on more traditional book tours to promote her work, but a decade ago, she and her fellow writers weren't exactly well-connected.
Bands that tour on a shoestring inspired the do-it-yourself literary tour.
"We had a lot of friends in punk bands that would go around the country on these little tours," Tea said. "I was envious. I had this faith that if these punk bands could scrape by, then we could. A musical act is going to be limited by genre. What we d id transcended genres and aes thetics. Who doesn't like to hear a funny, compelling story?"
The new tour features 20- something women from the anthology, including Cristy C. Road of New York City. Also along for the ride are original sisters Ali Liebegott ("The IHOP Papers") and poet Eileen Myles, although the latter won't appear in Olympia.
Road, who is an artist as well as a writer and produced her own zine beginning at age 13, will be reading excerpts from the book she's currently working on, "Bad Habits," which will be her third. She'll also show slides of her artwork.
"I'm going to be showing images that correspond to what I'm reading and are all parts of the new book I'm working on," Road said. "It will be basically like an audio comic book."
"I am truly excited to be surrounded by all these authors," said Road, whose previous experience with performing her work has been at local readings in New York. "I feel like that is going to help me build what I do. I really don't interact all that much with other authors.
"Going on this tour is not go i ng to make me this media hog, which I don't think I'm capable of being, but it will make me more level-headed and more able to equate what I do with a career because I'll be with other people who are making a living with it."
Tea, who'll emcee the events and read from "Rose of No Man's Land," definitely grew on the earlier tours - and so did the underground literary scene.
"It made the idea of touring and traveling as a writer feasible," she said. "It made it a real option. ... I'm not talking about when a book comes out and a writer's publisher sends her on a press junket.
"It made writing look really fun and really glamorous and really successful. It helped peo ple who toyed with writing realize that they were writers or that they could be writers if that's something they wanted to do."
For her, involving a new generation of women is the natural next step.
"In the '90s, Sister Spit happened at a really great moment. Spoken word was the really cool thing that people were suddenly interested in. Now, I'm not sure what that is. I think it might be electronica dance parties.
"But there are always writers in every scene, so we're just go ing to collect those people and take them on the road."
Tea is pleased, though, that the original sisters are remembered for their work, not just by the likes of Gore but by women who were only teens when it happened.
"Last year, I was on a tour for my novel, and I was doing Q&As at book stores across the country," she said. "I was surprised how often people were asking about Sister Spit. I thought it was cool that this had made a deeper mark on the culture than I'd re alized."
It was those memories that led her to name this tour after the original.
"I kept trying to tell them about this other tour I was working on, and then I realized, this is Sister Spit. So it just made sense to christen it that."
So she's on the road again, with maybe just a little difference.
"We have different standards now," she said. "The first Sister Spit tours, we would come into towns and have no place to stay. We'd announced that on the mic and go home with a kind stranger. That was super exciting, but it's going to be really nice to be staying in hotels."
Michelle Tea and Cristy C. Road are among writers on the Sister Spit: The Next Generation punk-style literature tour, which stops at Jake's on 4th at 7 p.m. Friday.
-Molly Gilmore [The Olympian]