Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview with Erika Dreifus, author of Quiet Americans

I am so excited to have Erika Dreifus as a guest on my blog today! I first discovered Erika through her extremely helpful newsletter The Practicing Writer, and was blown away by her moving and beautifully nuanced collection of short stories Quiet Americans. I am delighted to have her here today to talk more about her fiction and her own writing journey.

Erika is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio), which is a 2012 ALA Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding Jewish literature. Quiet Americans was also named a Notable Book (The Jewish Journal) and a Top Small-Press Book (Shelf Unbound). 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, and she wrote the section on “Choosing a Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing” for the second edition of Tom Kealey’s Creative Writing MFA Handbook (Continuum, 2008). 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.

Tell us about Quiet Americans. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book? 

First, Dallas, thanks so much for your interest and for the opportunity to "meet" your readers. Quiet Americans is a collection of short stories. It’s a book of fiction, but most of the stories are inspired in some way by the histories and experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, and by my awareness of this legacy.

How did you get started writing? 

I was a reader, first. An early and enthusiastic reader! Words, stories, and books simply grabbed me. My first bylined publications were brief poems that were published in my elementary-school newsletter. I haven’t stopped writing since then.

What is your writing process like? 

My process isn’t fixed. It can vary by genre or assignment, and it has definitely changed over the years that I’ve been writing (computers weren’t always an option!). These days, most of the writing I do these days is, in fact, on a computer. But sometimes I really enjoy returning to a notepad or notebook, especially if I’m working on a shorter piece or just beginning something new.

What are some of your favorite books? 

A few years after those poems were published in my elementary-school newsletter, I read Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time. That novel became and remains one of my favorite books. And I’ve studied French history and literature fairly extensively, so there are several French books—like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary—that mean a great to me, too.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

Don’t give up!

Erika has generously offered to give an ebook copy of Quiet Americans away to one lucky blog reader!! All you need to to do enter is leave a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, August 17.

(The ebook will be through Kindle, but readers don't need to own a Kindle device to read Kindle e-books!

Connect with Erika:
Erika loves to share writing resources with others. For starters, check out her Practicing Writing blog and Practicing Writer newsletter. Her website also features an extensive resources section. You can follow Erika on Twitter (@erikadreifus) or via Facebook (


Debra Quarles said...

What a great interview! Fingers are crossed I'm a lucky winner.

Karen Cioffi said...

Dallas, wonderful interview with Erika. It seems most writers start out as avid readers early on. Best wishes for Quiet Americans.

Dallas Woodburn said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Karen & Debra! I pulled a name out of a hat, and Debra you're the lucky winner! Could you send me your contact info to and I'll send you a link for the ebook!