I owe a lot to the Rumpus—specifically, the Self-Made Man column and the writing community I met there. Self-Made Mancame about because I moved from San Francisco to New England a few years ago and started my transition the next week in terms of hormones. So pretty immediately I was in a space where I felt very alien because I had left a whole life and community in San Francisco and moved across the country. I had a major transition physically and socially and it was just a lot to deal with at once. One thing that was really hard when I started my transition was that normally in that kind of situation I would look online or in books and find myself reflected back to me but I was having trouble finding that. I wasn’t seeing a lot of stories about people who transitioned after 30, but I was also interested in having a different kind of conversation about not just transitioning but about gender in general. I’m a really spiritual person and a universalist so what I was experiencing was a lot of points of connection. I was really connecting to pregnant women who were also going through massive changes physically and who weren’t sure what their identities would be on the other side. I was also talking to people making massive career and life changes. I was talking with people who were coming up against ideas about what it means to be a man or woman in the world and navigate the world socially during huge life moments and I was finding a lot of solace in those connections in real life, but I wasn’t seeing that reflected in larger narratives about my experience. In general, I was seeing a lot of cleaving, othering narratives about being trans. I started Self-Made Man because I wanted to write about what it was like to go through a real-time transition, and navigating the world from a place of finding connection with all kinds of people and exploring that in a meditative way. Everyone at the Rumpus was really great about all of it and got behind me the whole time. The whole community connected to the Rumpus is wonderful and it’s such a labor of love. Everyone writes for free which I think is why everyone is so committed to everything that goes on the site and the relationship with the site and each other. The concept of the column was that these connections exist and transcend our bodies and that’s what my experience of the community at the Rumpus has been.

The Rumpus Interview With Thomas Page McBee


by Zoe Zolbrod and Martha Bayne

Way back in the 1990s we, Zoe Zolbrod and Martha Bayne, decided to publish a zine. For months we zipped editorial ideas back and forth on our brand-new AOL accounts, and then, shortly after Martha emigrated from Brooklyn to join Zoe in Chicago, we produced our first issue: a hot-off-the-presses publication called Maxine, with a print run of 500 that emptied our meager bank accounts. We put out five issues at the rate of about one a year before the burden of designing and printing and dealing with distribution and throwing illegal loft parties to pay for it all started to outweigh the thrill of publishing. In the years since, as we’ve watched would-be zinesters and journal editors establish online literary communities, we’ve often volleyed what-ifs. Respectively, we’ve each been busy with things like writing novels and cookbooks and organizing community food projects and doing theater and having kids and working jobs and talking to each other, but we haven’t worked together on anything. We missed it.

So you can imagine how excited we are to take over as Sunday editors of The Rumpus from the inimitable Gina Frangello, who has done such great work here that it is taking two of us to replace her. Gina and The Rumpus have offered us both homes for some of the recent writing we’re each most proud of, like this piece of Martha’s on an unexpected pregnancy and this piece of Zoe’s on loving Chicago . We can’t wait to share the work of others with this community, starting with this week’s essay by Amy Jo Burns, whose new memoir Cinderland caught our eye right away and is out from Beacon Press this month.

The next Letter In The Mail is from Self-Made Man columnist Thomas Page McBee. You can subscribe here.

At least twice a month you’ll receive a letter, in the mail. In the first three months letters went out from Stephen Elliott, Margaret Cho, Marie Calloway, Dean Haspeil, Lorelei Lee, Matthew Specktor, Rick Moody, Aimee Bender, Padma Viswanathan, Sari Botton, and Matthew Zapruder. Some of the letters were typed, others handwritten. Some included illustrations, one was a comic, all were signed. We then photo-copy the letter and send it to you.

Future letter writers will include Dave Eggers, Tao Lin, Janet Fitch, Nick Flynn, Lidia Yuknavitch, Cheryl Strayed, Marc Maron, Elissa Schappel, Wendy MacNaughton, Emily Gould, MariNaomi, and Jonathan Ames. Think of it as the letters you used to get from your creative friends, before this whole internet/email thing. Most of the letters will include return addresses (at the author’s discretion) in case you want to write the author back. And it’s only $6 a month, cheap!

Here are some profiles of Letters In The Mail from The New York Times and USA Today. Here’s Stephen Elliott talking about it on the CBS Morning Show with Charlie Rose.


We’re hungry for more writing from Rumpus readers, so we’re now accepting submissions for our next Readers Report!

This time, we want you to tackle the theme “Missed Connections.”

Please send your submissions, maximum 400 words, to Susan Clements, silentjoy2001 AT yahoo.com. We’ll choose the best ones to run as a feature on the site.

All submissions are due by midnight on Thursday, April 10th.

Join Us!

The Rumpus is looking for volunteers:

If you like to write: we need 3 volunteer bloggers to help out with the Rumpus blog on an ongoing basis, and one SF-based blogger to carry on the Notable San Francisco torch.

Send a brief email with relevant experience and a sample Rumpus blog post tomarisa@therumpus.net.

If you like to read: we need volunteers to read Weekly Rumpus fiction submissions. Email marisa@therumpus.net with relevant experience and the title of your favorite short story for more info.

Sign up for The Rumpus Book Report, a monthly newsletter edited by Books Editor Brian Hurley with Poetry Editor Brian Spears. The Book Report will give you a summary of all the book coverage that month on The Rumpus. Free!

Episode 9 of Make/Work is the second of a sub-series where host Scott Pinkmountain interviews couples in which both partners are artists, addressing some of the unique issues that may arise in those relationships and talking about the challenges and benefits of building a life with someone who’s also engaged in a creative pursuit.

This week, Scott talks with musician Jon Bernson and actor/director Jennifer Welch. Bernson performs mainly with his groups THEMAYS and Exray’s and Welch runs the Tides Theater, located in the heart of Downtown San Francisco’s theater district.

In Episode 8 of Make/Work, host Scott Pinkmountain talks with painter and critical writer Nora Griffin. A lifelong New Yorker, Griffin is the daughter of animated filmmaker George Griffin and grew up surrounded by artists.

She speaks about what it was like being raised in a loft that was half-home, half-film studio, and how it was almost inevitable that she become an artist.

For better or worse, I’ve always felt like [being an artist] is doable… Art is almost a language. The way other parents teach their children Spanish, I was taught the language of art.