Erika Dreifus lives and writes in New York City. Her story collection, Quiet Americans, was published in January 2011 by Last Light Studio Books. It is inspired largely by the experiences of Erika’s paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s; Erika is donating a portion of book sales proceeds to The Blue Card, which supports U.S.-based survivors of Nazi persecution. In addition to her full-time staff job at The City University of New York, Erika is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine and Fiction Writers Review and an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Her writing practice encompasses fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Erika is also the editor/publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free (and popular) e-newsletter featuring advice, opportunities, and resources on the craft and business of writing for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.
Q (Meg Pokrass): Please talk about the role mentors and mentoring has had in your life…
Mentors have played significant and enriching roles in my life: intellectually, culturally, and spiritually. But for fiction-writing, specifically… I’ve had remarkably few benign—let alone constructive—experiences as a “mentee”. One notable, happy exception developed through a series of workshops I took with Sands Hall at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival back when I was just starting to write fiction.
Now that I’m working full-time in a staff job instead of teaching, my personal mentoring takes place in the form of trying to advise and assist writers online, more or less en masse, via my website, blogs, and newsletter. I am also proud to say that I am the family go-to source when it comes to encouraging reading and writing proclivities among the little ones.
Do you know what you are going to write about when you sit down to write?
Typically, I have some idea. There’s some situation or circumstance that I want to address (I’m insufficiently character-driven for my own good). But, with very few exceptions, I tend not to know the end of a story before I’ve written it. Endings usually find me.
What good habits are helpful daily for creative energy?
Many of my best ideas strike when I’m walking or jogging.
What is new in your writing world?
So glad that you asked! My book, Quiet Americans, is a short-story collection inspired largely by the experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, and by my own longstanding preoccupations with that family legacy. I’m donating portions of proceeds from book sales to The Blue Card, an organization established in the 1930s that continues to assist survivors of Nazi persecution today.
The book launched on January 19, and I’ve been really gratified by the response it is receiving. There’s much more information about the book and The Blue Card (and, in line with the mentoring question above, plenty of resources for other writers) at my website, http://erikadreifus.com.
What current challenges do writers face when promoting their own work?
This is an excellent question. The somewhat intimidating news is that challenges do exist: navigating the ever-changing social-media landscape, attracting attention in an increasingly inundated literary marketplace, and overcoming any natural reluctance to self-promote. To name just a few.
What is improving for writers in promoting their own work?
First, it’s relatively easy to find knowledgeable resources online (for just one example, I’ll point you to Dana Lynn Smith [“The Savvy Bookmarketer”]). Second, more books and authors may be vying for attention, but there are also so many new venues where they can do so. And, finally, the world of networks (like Fictionaut) can provide a lot of support and camaraderie for new writers who are just embarking!
The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday — and over the holidays, every Saturday — Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is the editor-at-large for BLIP Magazine, and her stories and poems have been published widely. Her first full collection of flash fiction, “Damn Sure Right” will be out in February from Press 53. She blogs at http://megpokrass.com.