Interviews · Writing

An H and five W’s with Ariel Gore

Without further ado, An H and five W’s with Ariel Gore. This amazing woman’s writing has been an inspiration to me. When I was frustrated and tired of fighting the good writer’s fight, I came upon her book, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Her book smacked me upside the head and got me back to work. (In fact, my recently completed short story had a lot to do with that smack upside the head!) So here you go. Meet Ariel, and after you’ve read the interview, check out her BOOKS!

 Ariel's newest book!

How did you become a writer? 

I was always a writer, maybe.

Both of my biological parents were visual artists, and I was pretty young when I got the message that I “couldn’t” draw. In my earliest happy memory, I’m sitting with my mother at the round wooden table in the converted garage where we live—and I’m dictating a story.

I was four years old. I knew how to write my name, but I didn’t know how to write whole sentences or stories, so I spoke my stories aloud and my mother wrote them down in a black hardbound sketchbook. I drew painstaking and messy pictures with felt-tip markers to go with my stories, and as simple as that—my stories existed outside of me. No editing. No rewriting. No worries about genre. My stories were fiction or nonfiction or fairytale. It didn’t matter. They were just stories told and recorded.

As I grew up, I kept writing. I learned to edit things. I learned to rewrite. I dropped out of high school, but I went to college and graduate school and I learned to be a journalist. I learned to take genre seriously. The difference between fiction and nonfiction and fairytale suddenly mattered a great deal. I learned rules. I learned what makes for good writing and I learned not to overuse the verb “to be.” I still loved to write, but sometimes I felt anxious and afraid, like maybe the things I wrote weren’t good enough. Like maybe if people read them they’d find out I wasn’t smart enough or important enough to be a writer.

I wrote articles. I wrote stories. I wrote a book. I wrote lots of books. But I always missed that feeling I’d had at the round wooden table dictating stories to my mother when I was four. Feet not yet touching the floor. Just making up stories. Telling the truth or pretending. Stringing words together like daisies in a chain. Drawing pictures of dragons and blue-headed girls with my felt-tip markers.

Who is your biggest literary influence? 

Different folks at different times. Whoever I am reading! The brave people like Anais Nin and Gertrude Stein and all the zinesters I know who don’t rely on traditional publishing to make or break their ability to do what they do. My writer-friends like China Martens and Katherine Arnoldi and Michelle Tea and Jim Munroe and Susie Bright. People who are not afraid. Or who don’t seem to be.

What made you want to write How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead?

Part of it was that I wanted to interview all those writers! Part of it was that I teach a lot and I got tired of telling my students the same things over and over. I figured if I put the basics in a book, we could go from there–

Ariel Gore
Ariel Gore

Where do you get your inspiration? 

From everyone and everything. I get inspired to do something that will make a little money from collection agents (and my abiding desire not to get a real job), but of course it’s better not to worry too much about the bills when I’m writing. It’s just a weird obsession, maybe, writing. Wanting to record things and tell stories and share them with friends and strangers.

When is your best time to write?

When the baby is asleep.

And most importantly: WHY are you a writer?

Um. See above?

Thanks, Ariel! For more info about her, check out her website at


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