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.

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Introducing Jane Roper & EDEN LAKE

I know. By now, you may be accustomed to Thursday posts about my story collection, Quiet Americans. But today is special for Last Light Studio, the collaborative micropress that published my book in January. And that’s because today is Pub Day for the next LLS book: Jane Roper‘s novel, Eden Lake.

I was lucky enough to read Eden Lake in manuscript, and I snagged a signed copy of the finished book a bit early when I was in Boston just about two weeks ago. I recommend it to you especially as we approach summer and you start thinking about your summer reading list. It’s a lively, engaging story that takes place at a summer camp in Maine, and it’s bound to bring back some of your own summer-camp memories. It’s also a story about a family.

Here’s a more “official” description:

In 1968, newlyweds Clay Perry and Carol Weiss founded Eden Lake, a utopian children’s summer camp. Thirty years later, their marriage is long over and the camp has become a pricey playground for entitled suburbanites. When tragedy strikes, the Perryweiss children have to decide what role Eden Lake—and all that it stands for—will play in their lives.

Abe, the eldest and heir apparent, has never been able to commit to a career—or a woman. Jude, entangled with a married man, must confront her turbulent relationship with her past. Eric, the youngest, who has never strayed far from Eden Lake, stands at the precipice of a new life. Idealism and infidelity, childhood memories and the hard truths of adulthood collide and coalesce in the summer of 1998 at Camp Eden Lake.

Sounds juicy, doesn’t it?

It has been a pleasure to follow along as part of Team LLS in these months leading up to Eden Lake‘s debut. One of the pre-pub elements I’ve most admired is the Camp Eden Lake website. It does such an excellent job building on the book’s premise, characters, setting, etc., that you may want to sign your kids up for a summer there right away (or enroll yourself)!

Congratulations to Jane on her novel’s pub day. I know that Eden Lake is going to be a big success! And here’s the icing on the cake: If you become a Jane Roper fan now, you won’t have long to wait for the author’s second book. Her memoir “about the ups and downs of her first three years as a mother of twins” will be published by St. Martin’s Press next year!

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: A Busy Time for Quiet Americans (and Its Author)

Signing Books at Cambridge Book Party

As I’ve mentioned, I spent last weekend (an extended weekend) in Massachusetts, where I used to live. On Sunday, one of my Cambridge friends generously hosted a “book brunch” to celebrate the publication of my story collection, Quiet Americans (thanks again, A!). It was a lovely gathering, and once again, I felt blessed to have so much support and friendship in my life.

The latest issue of CUNY Matters (my employer’s newsmagazine) was released just before I left for Massachusetts, and I was gratified to see Quiet Americans mentioned in the issue’s books section. (Download CUNY Matters here and scroll to the side column on page 9 to see the shout-out.)

Meantime, the reviews continue to come in. I’m humbled whenever I see that someone has spent precious time writing about my book. Here is one recent review that is especially detailed and comprehensive.

I’m also honored to learn that Midge Raymond is providing a copy of Quiet Americans as one of her Collection Giveaway Project offerings (Midge is also spotlighting Becky Hagenston’s Strange Weather and Lori Ostlund’s The Bigness of the World).

So it has been a busy week for Quiet Americans! Who knows what next week may bring?