Erika Dreifus is a “writer’s writer,” and I have long admired her work and contributions to the community of creatives. Erika is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio), a multi-award-winning book. She an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Erika is also the editor/publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free e-newsletter featuring advice, opportunities, and resources on the craft and business of writing for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction. Countless writers have discovered opportunities from Erika’s newsletter. I’m delighted for the opportunity to learn more about Erika and her work.
You write in so many genres – fiction, nonfiction, Judaica, essay, poetry, etc. How do you keep the writing process fresh?
Well, these days, I’m not writing in quite so many genres. I haven’t written fiction lately, for instance, although I remain open to returning to that genre if the right idea comes my way.
I find writing prompts and exercises to be enormously helpful. So many of my poems originate with prompts.
And I read a lot, and I seek out learning opportunities that enlarge my knowledge-and-inspiration base. For the past several years, I’ve been engaged in what I consider an ongoing process of continuing Jewish education; so much of what I read and do in that context fuels new work.
Many writers appreciate your newsletter, The Practicing Writer, which provides a plethora of information about current writing opportunities. It’s truly a gift to writers. I can imagine that compiling this information on a regular basis is a time-consuming endeavor. Can you tell me a bit about how and why you started the newsletter?
Thank you for the kind words. I started the newsletter in early 2004. I’m a researcher by nature (and by training—I have a PhD in history), and I seem to collect information. It made sense to me to share the writing-related news and resources that I was discovering, and people seemed to appreciate it. At the time, when I was doing a lot of freelance/adjunct work, the newsletter also helped me publicize my own writing classes and services.
In 2007, I returned to a full-time office job, so the self-promo motivation dissipated. But I still enjoyed assembling the newsletter; I still received grateful feedback; and I began to view the project as a sort of service to the literary community. So I continued to produce it.
In addition to all your writing projects, you have also worked in publishing. What did you learn from the “other side” of the business that has helped you as a writer? Is there advice you have for writers that might shed some light on the publishing process?
Hmm. Most of my work in publishing was publicity-related, so my view of the “other side” isn’t necessarily all that expansive. That said, I did work for a small company, so I was able to glean something of an overview.
I suppose my experience confirmed the truth of what writers routinely hear: Publishers’/editors’ tastes can be highly individualized. Just because you aren’t offered a deal doesn’t necessarily mean that the work lacks merit.
At the same time, it’s equally true that writers really should make certain that they understand a press’s mission and send the most appropriate, polished work for consideration. That’s assuming, of course, that the press will consider submissions made directly by writers. But similar advice applies if you’re trying to connect with an agent, first.
Thank you, Erika!
If you’d like to learn more about Erika’s work, please visit ErikaDreifus.com.