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“How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead”

Throughout the years I’ve read plenty of books on writing. These days, I write more than I read about writing. Unless you count blogs on writing. Of which there are, oh, many.

One book that stands out is How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. I imagine that is the goal for many of us who tinker with words and language every day, whether it’s through blogging, writing essaysfeature articles, social media marketing, business profiles, or wherever the written word is preferable to other forms of communication. 

How to Become a Famous Writer… was written by Ariel Gore, founder of literary zine Hip Mama, the “original alternative parenting magazine.” While I can’t say I practiced the art of alternative parenting, I liked what she said in her book about writing.

To master the craft of writing, Gore isn’t militant about how often you write – other than you have to write. In spite of “never having time,” she writes at traffic lights, in the morning before everyone is up, and afternoons when her daughter is otherwise occupied. Sometimes she doesn’t write, even when she has time.

She writes best when she has deadlines – and finds that’s the single best motivator to write. (So do I. Write best when I have deadlines.)

When it comes to getting and keeping work, Gore says editors would rather work with good writers who produce decent writing on deadline than great writers who don’t.

Gore also suggests writers use blogs, zines, anthologies (where the competition may be “less fierce” than established magazines and journals), websites, columns, and PTA newsletters to rack up pub credits. And she finds no shame in self-publishing books either. (Note that her book was published in 2007, and that today, there are plenty of writers who proudly self-publish their work.)

In spite of her classic introverted writer personality, and frequent bouts with stage fright, Gore epitomizes the scrappy “lit star” writer willing to do anything to promote her work. She organized her own promotional tours and read her work for audiences in bookstores, cafes, bars and galleries. (Too bad so many bookstores have gone out of business.) When crowds were small, she entertained by adding music and funky costumes, and inviting other writers to join her onstage.

Gore includes interviews with famous writers such as Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and comedienne Margaret Cho, and counsels writers to get over rejection, and get noticed by journalists and PR folks.

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead is a fun, fast read with lots of useful information and supportive advice especially if you one day aspire to write – and sell – The Great American Novel.

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