"The kids are gonna be a mess, half the moms are gonna be single, and no 'experts.' All the writers are gonna be in the trenches." That's how Ariel Gore, then a college student and single mother herself, envisioned her senior project, a new zine. Fourteen years later, Gore's Hip Mama is arguably the culture's leading voice for alternative parenting, and Gore is a widely reviewed author. Besides books on parenthood, she's published a memoir (Atlas of the Human Heart) and a novel (The Traveling Death & Resurrection Show). Gore will read from her new How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead (Three Rivers Press) when she visits Pittsburgh with fellow writer-mamas China Martens, of Baltimore, and Annie Downey, of Vermont. Gore spoke with CP from her home in Portland, Ore.
What's your new book about?
It's a very DIY approach to writing and getting your work out there.
What are living but obscure writers doing wrong?
I think many of us either focus too much on making things marketable, and let ourselves forget why we wanted to write in the first place, or we just hunker down in our little writing caves and allow the world of published writers to mystify and intimidate us. We have to write for ourselves, first off, and then we have to write for our friends. We don't need to write for some big faceless "market."
Where does publication come in?
Writers have to reimagine themselves as both artists and entrepreneurs. We have to create the context in which our work matters and makes sense. If you think of the Beat writers or any creative community, they didn't wait around for some publisher to say, "Hey, this might fit into a new little sub-genre I've been thinking about."
What's your tour like?
We're all from the zine world. China does a zine called The Future Generation, which is a long-running punk parenting zine, and she's just put out her first book, which is a compilation of about 17 years of that zine. And Annie Downey's book is a novel, called Hot and Bothered, and the protagonist is a single mom.
You're calling this The Super-Pregnant Tour.
I'm actually not due until August. I just look super-pregnant.
Why have another kid now?
[Laughs.] It just sort of slipped my mind how much time was passing. My kid is 17, and I'm 36, so I just have in mind, "Well, if I'm going to have a kid I better do it now."
Why are we still contending with visions of women Having It All, or being Super Moms?
There's also been a huge push for women to give up their careers or be stay-at-home moms. And yet since mother-work is in no way respected, it's like you need to be this perfect mother and serene all the time -- as if you have to stay home for the sake of your children, but it isn't any trouble.
I think a lot of the attention that celebrity moms have gotten in just the past five or so years [contributes to that misconception]. Because all those nannies are hidden. At some point you put your pretty baby on your hip, walk down the street, and it's a cute accessory, and in some ways very sexy. I love to see motherhood portrayed as being sexy. But at the same time, it's like: Come on -- somebody's changing that kid's diaper!
Aren't we also inculcating women to have kids later?
The women of my generation in particular were so pressured to wait. It was presented as this almost retirement phase: You've found the man; your career is well-established; you're living happily ever after, so why not breed?
People I know are having their first kid at 40. Some of them are in just as chaotic situations as I was when I was 18, and they were turning their nose up at me and saying, "I'm waiting."
Ariel Gore, China Martens and Annie Downey read. 7 p.m. Mon., April 23. Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2705 E. Carson St., South Side. Free. 412-381-3600 or www.josephbeth.com
- Who's your momma? Ariel Gore, author.