Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: One Writer’s Summer To-Do List

North of the equator, we’ve just begun summer. Although I’m still going to be working 40 hours a week in my day job, still running the usual errands, still partaking in the same family responsibilities (and joys), I’m also hoping to accomplish certain writing-related goals before we merge into fall.

After all, for six weeks this summer, my 40 hours at the office will be recalibrated: heavier on Mondays-Thursdays with “summer Fridays” off. I hope to use those Fridays wisely. And I hope that I can use the general light and energy of the summer to help infuse some projects under way and others that I hope to start.

Herewith, items on my list of writerly hopes, plans, ambitions, and commitments for the season.


  • Continue promotion for Quiet Americans; track progress of new (non-Kindle) versions; calculate and send Q2 contribution to The Blue Card.
  • Complete work on new short story and figure out if it may be a novel chapter; begin new story/novel chapter.
  • Write at least one new poem; revise existing poem drafts.
  • Draft Israel-related essay.
  • Check where submissions are outstanding; follow up if appropriate; send out new submissions.
  • Research/apply for short-term residencies for winter-spring 2012.


  • Practice and deliver presentation for Manhattanville Writers Week session on “Social Media Strategies for Writers”.
  • Research and write article due to The Writer on August 1.
  • Prepare Q&A re: The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai.
  • Prepare Q&A re: Rethinking Creative Writing, by Stephanie Vanderslice.
  • Prepare Q&A re: The Little Bride, by Anna Solomon.
  • Peruse fall/winter catalogs for possible titles to review and monitor reviews-in-progress (track ARCs, read, write, etc.).
  • Prepare and distribute July/August/September issues of The Practicing Writer.
  • Consider if I want/need to seek additional fall/winter assignments.


  • Research and purchase new computer.
  • Have “writing dates” with friends.
  • Make (and keep) annual appointments with ophthalmologist and optometrist. (Considering how much time I spend squinting into screens, taking care of my eyes seems more and more important.)
  • Get apartment windows washed (and other household tasks). (It’s nice to have a clear view once those eyes are checked.)
  • Read, read, read.
  • Catch up on movies/go to museums/attend concerts & readings. Art feeds off other art! (And I live in New York City, for crying out loud! I’m practically tripping over all of these opportunities!)
  • Get to the gym or go for a jog 2-3 times a week. (Sure, more would be nice, but let’s be realistic here, given my schedule and my usual response to heat and humidity.)  Exercise energizes the body and helps clear and focus the mind.

And what about you? Have any of you made summer writing to-do lists? Care to share what’s on them?

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: New Project, Old Questions

Last week, by sheer force of discipline, I managed to start my day earlier and NOT fritter away the extra time working on this blog, catching up on Facebook or Twitter, or indulging in any one of a number of other distractions. What did I do with this “extra” time?

Reader, I wrote. Even more wonderful, I wrote fiction.

Over the course of a few days, I wrote what could be a short story. Or it could be an opening chapter in a novel. Or perhaps it will end up as one of several “linked” stories in another collection (the characters and their histories are very closely related, if not identical to a few characters in some published stories that I did not include in my first collection, Quiet Americans).

These uncertainties–Am I beginning a novel? Am I writing a discrete story?–are familiar. At least, they’re familiar to me.

True, sometimes the work’s form seems utterly clear right from the start. The day in July 1996 when I discovered the archival documents that inspired my (agented-though-unpublished) novel, The Haguenauer Line, I recognized at once that I’d found the seeds of a novel. Several of the stories in Quiet Americans–“Floating” and “The Quiet American, Or How to Be a Good Guest,” for example–always seemed destined to grow into and be published in story form.

But for a long time, I thought–yes, I hoped–that the book’s closing story, “Mishpocha,” would turn into a novel. And given that a few of the other stories feature some of the same characters, I’ve been asked if I considered novelizing their storylines and/or writing a full-fledged book of linked stories in which those characters would provide the connective tissue.

For me, finding the “right” fictional form sometimes presents real challenges and can take a long time. I’ve long wondered how other writers make these decisions (or if they find there are even decisions to be made).  I’m still wondering, and I’d love to hear what other practicing fictionists have to say.

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Seeking Suggestions

Three weeks from today, I’ll be presenting a session on “Social Media Strategies for Writers” at the Manhattanville College Summer Writers’ Week. (I’ll be using a hard-earned vacation day from my day job to do this, and that’s always a sacrifice, so I’m especially eager to make sure that the session adds something valuable to the conference attendees’ experience and leaves me feeling as though I’ve lived up to my own high standards, too.)

The conference director and I have agreed that at least part of the session will focus on the virtual book tour that I planned for my short-story collection, Quiet Americans, and how social media contributed to its success. But I also want to provide an overview of “social media” (starting with a decent definition of the term itself).

I have 90 minutes, total, so there’s no way that I’m going to be able to provide individualized, detailed how-tos for each and every form of social media that’s out there. But I do hope to hit the key tools and techniques (you can bet that Facebook and Twitter will be among them).

I’d appreciate some guidance from all of you practicing writers out there:

  1. How do you define “social media”?
  2. How have you created your own “social media strategies”? Any resources that you’ve found especially helpful?
  3. What do you consider to be social media’s most significant benefits for writers? (Speak only for yourself, if you wish, or opine more generally.)
  4. What do you consider to be social media’s most significant pitfalls for writers? (Again, please feel free to share a general impression or speak directly from your experience.)
  5. Which social media sites that are specifically for writers do you frequent? What appeals to you about said site(s)?

I’d love to incorporate your advice in my presentation–I’ll cite you by your name if you leave it.

Thanks in advance for your assistance!

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post

Last weekend, I attended my 20th college reunion. I brought promotional postcards with me (although I hadn’t had the foresight–or chutzpah–of a fellow classmate-author who’d somehow managed to get postcards of her book inserted into every attendee’s registration packet).

And friends old and new expressed genuine interest in my short-story collection, Quiet Americans. One friend whipped out his iPhone on the spot and immediately purchased a copy from Another ordered a signed copy via my website almost as soon as she got home. Classmates who’d already read the book praised it to others. All of this meant so much to me.

I was also quite moved to learn from two other classmates, in separate exchanges, that they, too, are grandchildren of refugees from Nazi Europe. I wonder how many other such grandchildren may be among the 1600 of us in the Class of ’91. I may have to pose this question on the class Facebook page….

In other news: While I was away, my friend Anne Fernald posted thoughts about Quiet Americans on her blog (which has been part of my blogroll as long as I’ve had a blogroll). And she had lots of complimentary things to say. But she also shared some reservations, specifically about the way she perceived two of the stories dealing with “political” issues. I value honesty, so I appreciate all of Anne’s  analysis–even the criticisms (not that I necessarily agree with them, of course…;-)).

And right after I returned from the reunion, Fiction Writers Review published a wonderfully generous (and, as always, gorgeously designed) feature. The teaser: “In conversation with Anne Stameshkin, debut author Erika Dreifus shares true stories that inspired her collection, Quiet Americans; wonders when it’s kosher for authors to write characters from backgrounds they don’t share; explores how reviewing books makes us better fiction writers; and recommends favorite novels and collections by 21st-century Jewish authors.” The interview: here.

Finally, this week brought us the beginning of June, and with it, the latest issue of Shelf Unbound. Click here to peruse the issue, which features a Q&A about Quiet Americans and an excerpt–a full story–from the book. (I’m not going to reveal which story. I’ll let you be surprised!)

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Self-Interview Re: The Jewish Book NETWORK & Meet the Author Programs

Q. Erika, what is the Jewish Book NETWORK?

A. Well, Erika, according to the Jewish Book Council’s website, “The Jewish Book NETWORK is a membership organization of close to 100 participating sites, JCCs, synagogues, Hillels, Jewish Federations and other related organizations that host Jewish book programs. Through this NETWORK, the Jewish Book Council is able to provide extensive resources to the program coordinators, including introduction to authors interested in touring Jewish book festivals, advice from experts on topics that affect a book program, and a chance to learn from the experiences of others in the field. “

Q. And what is “Meet the Author”?

A. Again, right from the source: “Each year the Jewish Book Council sponsors a conference for all Jewish Book NETWORK members and their lay leaders in conjunction with the annual BookExpo America. This conference begins the new season of book festival planning. In addition to workshops and networking among the NETWORK members, the annual conference includes a program called Meet the Author. Through this event, authors are invited to speak to the members of the Jewish Book NETWORK in the hopes of touring and visiting with the Jewish book programs that are represented.”

Q. So what does this have to do with you? Your book? (more…)

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: What I’m Learning About Quiet Americans

A few months ago, debut novelist Ellen Meeropol (House Arrest) wrote about what she was learning about her own book from others, from those readers who had written pre-publication reviews and blurbs. “I didn’t expect to be surprised – and humbled – by readers’ insights into my characters and their story,” she wrote, detailing several examples of unanticipated illumination.

My story collection, Quiet Americans, received much less pre-pub attention than Elli’s wonderful novel did, but as reviews and comments have come in following the January release, I have been struck time and again by similar sentiments.

Earlier this month, for instance, I was wowed by two takes on the book. First, as part of his Short Story Month celebrations on the Emerging Writers Network, Dan Wickett devoted a detailed blog post to an analysis of the book’s title story: “The Quiet American, Or How to Be a Good Guest.” Dan focused on the use of second-person narration in this story and speculated as to why I might have chosen to employ it. His surmise made me think about this choice in an altogether new way.

Then, the Englewood Review of Books, a publication I learned about only when my publisher was contacted for a review copy, featured an extraordinarily comprehensive analysis of Quiet Americans by reviewer Rebecca Henderson. This review does so much. Not least impressive to me is the fact that the reviewer mentions every story in a substantive way.

But apart from the excellent summary and generous praise embedded in the review (I’m compared with Jhumpa Lahiri!), I found this exceptional observation, which I’d truly never considered:

In fact, five of the seven stories in Quiet Americans deal with pregnancy and birth, making this a major theme of the book. Dreifus uses the birth motif to show the undying connection between the generations of a family, the hope of new life in the face of sadness and death, and the frailty of human existence in a fallen world.

This observation impressed me as particularly interesting, because I’d certainly never set out to write a book whose “major theme” would be pregnancy and birth. It surprised me very much–pleasantly–to see that a reader engaged with the text on its own terms, and on hers, and discerned this thread on her own.

And that she showed me that it’s there.