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Erika Dreifus talks about ‘Quiet Americans,’ poetry, and social media.

March 6, 2012

Erika Dreifus is the author of Quiet Americans, a short story collection about Jewish-American experience during and after World War II. Her blog, Practicing Writing, is dedicated to connecting writers with the publishing world.

You run a blog/e-newsletter devoted to helping writers find opportunities. What do you feel is the value of social media in writing and promotion?

Well, I hope that the people who read my Practicing Writing blog and Practicing Writer newsletter, and/or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, find the information that I share to be valuable for their writing. Social media applications unquestionably make it easier to share all kinds of information–resources for others and news about one’s own work. The major investment is time, both the time needed to provide content and the time required for participating in the exchanges and conversations that build relationships online. But the ability to reach many people easily and inexpensively is immensely valuable, not only for discovering new ideas and audiences, but for simply for getting to know wonderful people, including other writers, one might not otherwise have “met.”

Does living in New York City give you an extra connection to the world of writing and publishing?

It certainly could. If I had the time and energy, I could attend readings or panels pretty much every day and night of the week, many of them for free. But I have a “day job,” which happens to be outside writing/publishing, and I need to run the rest of my life, too. You know, I have to do laundry, run errands, and so on. And I have to guard the time that I do have for writing. So I’m by no means as plugged-in to the literary world as I could be. But I appreciate every opportunity that I do have to meet and learn from others in writing and publishing, and those opportunities do, I think, occur more naturally and frequently here in New York.

You’ve been working on poetry recently. What inspired you, and do you have plans for a collection?

I think that two factors converged. When I moved to New York and started my full-time office job here, after having spent several years teaching and freelancing, I’d nearly finished the final story that ended up in my collection, Quiet Americans. I was looking for something new to do, writing-wise. Plus, my new schedule was especially conducive to online study, so I began taking poetry courses online. Some of the same themes inspire my poetry and prose. For instance, the experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s, are essential to my story collection, and they have inspired several of my poems, too.

I’ve been lucky to find homes for about 15 of my poems so far. The newest publication is a Passover-themed poem, “Dayenu,” which appears in the March-April 2012 issue of Moment magazine. (I haven’t even seen it in print myself, yet, but I see my name listed in the online table of contents, so I’m pretty sure that the poem is there!) I’d love to publish a poetry collection someday. I hope that that will happen.

Quiet Americans focuses on issues of identity and- in particular- Jewish identity. Do you think that you will continue to work in that theme in the near future, or do you plan to explore some other venue entirely?

Jewish identity is a theme that I expect will remain intensely important to me. But I’m open to all kinds of ideas.

What was your favorite story from the collection, and why do you like it?

It’s hard to cite a “favorite” story, but there is one that’s very special to me. My paternal grandmother’s influence is all over this collection. She was my last surviving grandparents, and she passed away in early 2002. I’d recently shown her an early version of “Lebensraum.” That’s the only story in the book that she read, and she loved it. So that story has a unique place in my heart.

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