Tommy “Teebs” Pico is the driving force behind birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that publishes art and writing. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in [Pank], Barrelhouse, theTHE poetry blog, and Bomb magazine. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn.
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What was the process of becoming a writer and editor like for you?
I first started writing in kindergarten, when my teacher asked us to make book marks with drawings on the front side and words on the other. I drew mermaids, and on the back I just wrote words that I knew, which were “THE AT IS THE THE THE.” I became an editor in fifth grade when I asked friends and cousins of mine to draw comic strips for me, which I copied and bound and sold as “Tommy Gunn Comics” for a dollar. I don’t know why I added the extra “n.”
How are you inspired when writing? Who and what have been your influences?
I am most inspired by film, because it’s this thing that starts and finishes in an hour and a half, whether you are paying attention or not. At the moment my primary influences are Sherman Alexie, Ariana Reines, and Jean Seberg.
How did you decide to organize Birdsong Collective? How has the experience been so far?
I started Birdsong because I knew (and know) a lot of really talented people who were (and are) making a lot of really incredible work, and I wanted us to be making it together. So far it’s been like a souffle or something. It’s really delicate and it keeps rising and I want to be careful and make sure it’s just right.
In what ways is your work feminist?
Honestly I don’t know, I’m not incredibly reflective about my own work. But personally I think being conscious of misogyny and fighting it has the only trickle down effect that I actually believe in. Being gorgeous to women at all times is the key to making a better society. Hopefully that is reflected in the work?
What is your sense of the media’s portrayal of queer-identified writers? It seems like there was a dearth of networks for LGBTQ-identified authors? Is that changing?
I think tumblr is a great way to address a dearth of networks for LGBTQ identified writers. It’s been so much more dilating than anything else.
How do your different identities affect your writing?
My identities– reservation-born Indian, gay, hipster, listmaker, etc– have a formative affect on my writing, and occasionally an aesthetic one. It’s weird because sometimes I feel like I’m just another schlub throwing my hat in the ring, and other times like I’m a representative for an entire group of people in perpetuity throughout the universe. The load changes, it makes the writing lighter and heavier at times.
Which projects are you working on currently?
Oy. Right now I’m working on a kickstarter to make a magazine for a zine/art collective I founded called “birdsong.” I’m also trying to get the word out about a reading we’re doing at the end of the month as a last big push for it, under the auspices of promoter Earl Dax’s new “FAMILY & FRIENDS” series NYC. Also I’m curating a night of short film adaptations of short stories and poems for Brooklyn’s Northside Festival in June. And of course promoting the release party for the kickstarter that same week in June. Also putting the finishing touches on the second iteration of my poetry zine “Hey Teebs” for the end of May. And beyond, I am working on a short film-thing that I am writing in the wee hours of the dawn. And a few other things. I love. love. being busy.
What feedback do you have for aspiring writers?
I just read Mindy Kaling’s book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” at the behest of a cute boy (which is the only way I get things done [jk]) and my take away from that book was when she said, “write your own part.” That is advice I wish I could claim that as my own, but it’s advice that I’m more than happy to pay forward.