Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Thinking About Sam S.

There are many reasons that I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately. For starters, I’m hard at work on a talk that I’ll deliver next week for a conference here in New York on “German-Speaking Jews in New York: Their Immigration and Lasting Presence.” If you’ve been following my book-related blog posts for awhile, it’s probably not a surprise that I’ll be speaking about two German-speaking Jews in New York who meant a great deal to me: my paternal grandparents, whose lives and stories provided much of the inspiration for my story collection, Quiet Americans.

My grandfather, in particular, has been on my mind because he passed away fourteen years ago this week. This means that at Sabbath services this weekend, his name will be read from the yahrzheit list, which reminds us of these anniversaries. He will be remembered as “Sam S. Dreifus.” In the family, he was frequently and affectionately referred to as “Sam S.,” with the invented middle initial serving as a reminder that his original first name, back in Germany, was “Sigmar.”

Like the character of Josef Freibug, who appears in several of the stories in Quiet Americans, my grandfather had an unenviable childhood, and, for that matter, a not-so-easy life after that. He was  a “quiet American” in multiple respects. What seems most remarkable to me is that he never spoke about the challenges that he’d faced basically from birth. Which may help explain why I, blessed with a much more privileged set of life circumstances, have been so drawn to imagining fuller pictures of my grandfather’s background and experiences based on the available true-life details. (Some of this I’ve also written about here.)

I suspect that some of my grandfather’s “quiet” was innate, but it seems likely that his reticence was at least partially due to his having begun learning English relatively late, as an adult who lacked a formal education even in his native language. Still, as I think you’ll see in this photo, which was taken during Thanksgiving a few months after I graduated from college twenty years ago (yes, that’s a graduation photo taped to the kitchen cabinet behind us), my grandfather’s goodness and love shone through even without words. (What you can’t see is that the exception to his quiet came in his singing, especially when he chanted the Hebrew blessings, prayers, and songs that he loved so much.)

We miss you, Grandpa!

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: FWR’s Short Story Month Collection Giveaway Project

UPDATE: Congratulations to Frume Sarah (Commenter #5 below) and Becky Wolsk (Commenter #6). You are collection giveaway winners! I will email each of you with more information shortly. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile may recall two salient facts. First, around this time last year, I offered a special giveaway: two short-story collections (by Susan Perabo and Margot Singer), in conjunction with the Collection Giveaway Project, an initiative coordinated by Fiction Writers Review (FWR) in celebration of Short Story Month (May). And second, I’m now a contributing editor for FWR, and it’s in that capacity that I am once again promoting the CGP as well as participating in it.

First, the promotion part: You can find details about the 2011 CGP on the FWR site, and I very much hope that plenty of you will choose to take part on your own blogs.

Second, the participation part: This May, I will once again award two short-story collections, one each to lucky commenters who shall be selected at random. This year, the collections I’m spotlighting are Midge Raymond’s newly reissued Forgetting English and my very own Quiet Americans.

I have been a fan of Midge Raymond’s work for years. In fact, I reviewed the first edition of Forgetting English for FWR back when the collection was published by Eastern Washington University Press as winner of the Spokane Prize. In its 2011 incarnation, hot off the presses this spring, the book includes two new stories. You can read an excerpt here. (By the way, Midge is also an instructive and engaging blogger, especially on writing-related topics, and definitely worth following on Twitter, too. First, though, make sure you read the guest post she shared with us right here on Practicing Writing last week as part of her virtual book tour.)

At this point, I don’t think you need much more introductory material about my story collection, Quiet Americans. After all, you’ve been reading pre-publication and post-publication posts for months. But I am very happy to have an occasion to offer another giveaway of my book. Now that Quiet Americans is available for Kindle, I’ll be able to award either a paperback OR e-copy, so please keep that in mind should you emerge as a giveaway winner. (For now, it seems that only the previous edition of Forgetting English is available for Kindle, so the choice there will be between the new edition in paperback and the older one for e-reading.)

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me about one collection you’ve read since last year’s giveaway. Title, author, press, and a line or two about what’s most memorable about it for you. The Collection Giveaway Project and Short Story Month more broadly are intended to celebrate short stories and the people who read and write them. So let’s get a big discussion (and reading list) going.

Comment anytime up to 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. At some point that day, I’ll turn to the trusty random number generator to select and announce our two winners. Please remember that I do have a day job, so I may not get to make the announcement until evening. Thanks for your patience—and for your participation!

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Summing Up The Past Several Days

It has been an eventful several days indeed. Some of what’s been happening was pre-scheduled and already happily anticipated. For instance, last Sunday evening I had a wonderful time when reading in the Sunday Salon series here in NYC. I was the first of four readers, so I was able to relax and enjoy everyone else’s very considerable talents (including musical talents). I read one story from my collection, Quiet Americans: “The Quiet American, Or How to Be a Good Guest.” I find that it’s a terrific story to present “live,” in part because it takes me just under 15 minutes to read in its entirety.

Then, on Tuesday, I spent my lunch hour immersed in energetic conversation on Twitter as a guest of the Jewish Book Council’s Twitter Book Club. So many of you helped spread the word about this event online, and I’m so grateful! (If you weren’t able to join us online, you can check out the transcript and see the discussion there.)

One happy surprise this week: Quiet Americans was named a Frugal Kindle Reader Book Pick of the Day! Many thanks to Jan Zlendich for the nod on April 10! (If you’re looking for still more Kindle titles to read, take a look at Jan’s blog.)

What will the next week bring?

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Update on Reviews, Giveaways, Events & The Blue Card

It’s been busy lately, and here’s some of what’s been happening with my story collection, Quiet Americans, in recent days.

  • Reviews and ratings continue to accrue (thank you!) on the book’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. Yesterday, I discovered an especially lovely Amazon review that was posted on April 5. (And no, I do not know the reviewer personally!)
  • The giveaway that I announced last week to mark the release of the Kindle version (which, by the way, can be read even without a Kindle device) ended yesterday. Congratulations to the winners (you can see who they are in the giveaway post’s comments section), and thanks to everyone who entered for the helpful feedback.
  • I’ve been practicing the portion of Quiet Americans that I plan to read this weekend in the Sunday Salon series. If you’re thinking of attending, I promise you that I will stick to my time limit! (I may even have a minute-and-a-half to spare.)
  • And I’m really looking forward to next Tuesday’s online chat with participants in the Jewish Book Council’s Twitter Book Club. (Will I “see” you there?)
  • Most important, now that we’ve entered the second quarter of 2011, I’ve sent The Blue Card its first “cut” of the book sale profits/royalties. It’s a not-insignificant, three-figure sum, and I hope that I’ll be able to do even more next quarter. Thank you all for making the contribution possible. (Extra thanks to the friends and family who have made contributions independently, in honor of the book’s publication. You are exceptionally classy–and generous–people!)
  • Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: The Kindle Version Is Here! And I’m Giving Two Copies Away!

    Was it only two weeks ago that I was blogging about the Quiet Americans ebook conversion? That post generated so many helpful comments–thank you again! (Please click here to see the price that was ultimately selected.)

    Yes, just two weeks later, the Kindle version of Quiet Americans is complete and available! And to celebrate, I’m going to offer two “gift” copies to you, dear readers.

    To enter this giveaway, please comment below, with a suggestion or piece of advice to help me promote this new version of the book. (Promoting a print book is something I think I can do; I’m less confident about the promoting the ebook.)

    The trusty random number generator will select our two winners, but please don’t let that stop you from offering the very best advice you can! You can comment right up to 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.

    Good luck, and thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions. I truly appreciate them!