2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Dreifus: Thank you for those kind comments, Shaunna. I'd say that I've been writing full-time since 2003. That was also the year I completed my MFA degree.
Q: You are a busy writer! In addition to writing numerous articles for the Web, you teach and run your own Web site. How do you manage your time?
Dreifus: You know, I think that here (as in many other areas) I'm lucky to have the example of my parents, both of whom excel in time management/organization. Looking back, I realize that I grew up learning how to plan ahead, note deadlines and so on. I also think that my background in academia—where to a considerable extent you are responsible for your own schedule and yet still need to meet certain obligations—helped sharpen those time management skills.
Q: Congratulations on starting www.practicing-writer.com in 2004, along with your free newsletter. Has it expanded or helped your freelance writing business?
Dreifus: Thank you! Yes, I think it has helped. The newsletter was launched at the end of January and by October we had 500 subscribers. I think it's also been useful to be able to refer prospective editors/employers/clients to the Web site in my cover letters/e-mails.
Q: You have an impressive resume, including your extensive studies at Harvard University, where you also taught. How has this shaped you as a writer?
Dreifus: How has Harvard shaped me as a writer? That's a really interesting question, and there are so many ways to answer it. I think I spent 11 years as a student there (undergraduate and graduate), and seven years teaching (some of those years overlapped). I taught history, literature, and expository and creative writing. That's a lot of time, with lots to remember.
But one of the influences on my writing would have to be my studies themselves. When I was in an MFA program elsewhere later on, for example, I found myself often thinking back to my college courses. As an undergraduate I'd majored in a combined "History and Literature" program (where I later taught). I read a lot of European literature, in particular, and did a lot of research and writing (that certainly continued in graduate school). That background has proven to be extremely helpful. The teaching experience I acquired at Harvard has also been very important, notably for my work teaching and advising other writers.
And then, I have found so many encouraging, generous teachers and friends at Harvard. Along with my family, they've been staunch supporters of all my writing efforts. In fact, my professors/advisors still ask about my writing (and are interested in reading it) and my friends from college and graduate school (I trust I'm not breaching any major privacy issues here!) are among my most loyal newsletter subscribers. So Harvard, in multiple ways, has helped shape my writing life, and I'm grateful.
Q: With four popular e-books about writing, you must have some favorite marketing techniques. What are your most effective ways to promote your work?
Dreifus:We've just launched "The Practicing Writer's Guide to No-Cost Literary Contests and Competitions" for 2005. Interested readers can learn more about it at the Web site, http://www.practicing-writer.com .
A Web site is surely one very effective way to promote one's work. I also take care to keep business cards with me, and those include the Web site's address. And I'm a big believer in press releases.
Previews of most of my e-books are available for download; the hope is that the quality of the preview may entice readers to wish for more! I've also published excerpts from the books in writing e-zines and similar venues.
Q: Your writing has earned many prestigious awards, including first place in the 2003 David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Contest for “Homecoming.”
Congratulations, again! In your opinion, what was your greatest achievement? Did it give you satisfaction, monetary compensation or status?
Dreifus: Again, Shaunna, thank you. Winning the Dornstein Contest in 2003 was indeed a tremendous honor, and certainly one of the highlights of my writing life to date. The contest honors the memory of David Dornstein, who worked for the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, the organization that administers the contest; he was killed in Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The story "Homecomings," is one that holds special meaning for me. It's set largely during the 1972 Munich Olympics, an event I'd wanted to write about in some way for awhile. It also happens to be a story that encountered considerable difficulties in the workshop setting, so I confess that its ultimate recognition—including publication in the winter of 2004—did give me some satisfaction. And yes, there was monetary compensation, which was also nice!
Q: What or who inspires you the most?
Dreifus: This is another intriguing question. To an extent I suppose I'm easily inspired, at least where article ideas are considered. Often I do gravitate toward topics with some instructional component. I like to learn, and I want to learn (or maybe re-learn) something in the process of researching and writing an article, while also, ultimately, helping the reader learn. I believe that we often read because we're looking for information—well-written, well-presented, well-crafted—but information nonetheless. The topics that I'm most interested in investigating these days seem to be related to writing and publishing, family history and genealogy, education and travel. But I'm always open to other areas and new topics.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years? Do you have an ultimate goal?
Dreifus: I'd really like to continue helping other writers. As the Practicing Writer's mission explains, "supporting the craft and business of excellent writing" is important to me. That happens in ways I can't always predict, and depends on what my students' or subscribers' or readers' own goals may be. For example, the other day I received a letter from another fiction writer who had read one of my articles in a literary journal and found some reassurance/encouragement in it for her own work. For me, that was an accomplishment, and it was wholly unexpected.
One of my personal goals is to see my first short story collection published. Another is to complete my second book-length fiction project.
Q: You offer several workshops, classes and resources for writers at your site, concentrating mostly on fiction. How can we learn more?
Dreifus: Please visit the Practicing Writer Web site. There's a "News and Events" page that lists current workshops and classes. There will be several new courses in 2005, including an online class for those interested in exploring freelance book reviewing.
My monthly newsletter, which you've mentioned before, is also a good resource for this information. You can subscribe at the site, and again, it doesn't cost anything.I also post frequent bulletins about writing resources and opportunities at my Practicing Writing blog. You'll find the most recent posts at http://www.lulu.com/erika-dreifus .
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts or comments, Erika?
Dreifus: I'd just like to thank you for your time and interest, and wish all of us well with our writing practices!
Shaunna Privratsky has authored over 200
articles, including pieces in The Writer, FundsForWriters, Write
Success and Absolute Write. Her new book "Pump Up Your Prose" was
released November 15th. Check out her acclaimed writer's e-book series and FREE
newsletter at The Writer Within at
http://shaunna67.tripod.com Learn her money-saving secrets at
The Discount Diva while you're visiting.