She’s been called alternative, a Hip Mama, the Indiana Jones of the literary world. But I call Ariel Gore my teacher.
Back in early 2008, after only half a year or so of studying in Portland, I signed up for one of Ariel’s famous memoir writing classes. At first I was overwhelmed by all the stories. Fifteen of us sat in a circle, one by one reading our work out loud, with Ariel jotting down notes in blue ink on each draft. There’d be a pause, a stillness in the room, and then Ariel would give the group her reaction. These moments were like Christmas presents, instructive and illuminating on so many levels.
I learned over the ten weeks of the class that there was something in everybody’s work to laud. Even if a draft was really rough, there was still something behind the story, some reason for it, and it was only a matter of considering how best (or even just how better) to bring that story to the page.
Ariel was like a mechanic, looking under the hood of each little photocopied tale, assessing the situation, checking for leaks, for wear and tear, then giving the owner a frank, fair assessment. Many of the vehicles brought in were roadworthy, but perhaps needed new wipers. New tires. New interior trim. A good detailing on the inside and an exterior wash and wax right before publication.
No matter how rough or polished, there was always something to think about and work on.
After all, is a piece of writing ever really finished?
One morning in March 2011, after years of editing stories for other writers, I woke up from a dream. In it, I was holding a print magazine in my hands with a periwinkle cover, and across the top, the word Penduline. What the hell is a penduline, I wondered. Why did I dream that? Over cereal and coffee, the dream still nagged me, especially the periwinkle color and the name.
It took me less than a day to make a decision to start up Penduline Press. Sarah Horner-Olson came on board with her eye for clean lines and stark color. Jessie Matanky worked hard to design and develop our site, and to make Penduline first and foremost an electronic magazine. We’d love to go to print on demand with a paper version, and are working on that. For now, we’re instantly available to anyone with Internet access and a computer—and that’s not so shabby, considering our international readership.
When I told Ariel in March that this was my sudden dream, to found and edit a literary magazine, I also said I would make it happen this spring. June is now here, bringing with it the first ripe Hood strawberries and the last belching of diesel exhaust from Portland’s yellow school buses. Alice Cooper’s song is being played. And Penduline’s Issue 1 is complete. It’s filled with the spirit of Ariel’s work ethic, her challenge to all of us writers to take our work up several notches. It’s filled with her inspiring, positive energy, and the flames from her creative spark.
We don’t ever get to thank our teachers enough, but by dedicating Issue 1 to Ariel, it’s a small thank you for her light, her contributions to art and literature, and her careful guidance of writers in many places around the world.
—Bonnie Ditlevsen, June 14, 2011