Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Our fourth install­ment of Words from our Final­ists”…Alli­son Amend

Allison…meet our Read­ers

What are some of the most chal­leng­ing things about writ­ing fiction?

The most chal­leng­ing aspect about writ­ing fic­tion is actu­al­ly writ­ing it. Some­times sit­ting down at that desk (or stand­ing; I have a stand­ing desk) and pound­ing it out seems a Her­culean task. I find great excus­es not to write: I have to alpha­bet­ize my sock draw­er, pick a fight with my broth­er, defrost tomorrow’s din­ner, research water­proof mail­box­es, clean my make­up brushes….

What or who has been your inspi­ra­tion for writ­ing fiction?

I am a writer because I love to read. I love the way a book can trans­port you to a dif­fer­ent time, place, cul­ture or even body. On my best days, I escape myself and suc­ceed in see­ing the world from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, in ques­tion­ing the cat­e­gories the world creates.

Who is your intend­ed audience?

My mom. She is a 60-some­thing, high­ly edu­cat­ed avid read­er who belongs to mul­ti­ple book clubs. She reads and pays atten­tion to the New York Times and theNew York­er book reviews, and, best of all, she buys hard­cov­er books. She is also a fierce sales­per­son for Sta­tions West. I once saw her cor­ner a man in an inde­pen­dent book­store and prac­ti­cal­ly force him to pur­chase my book.

Are you work­ing on any­thing new right now?

I am fin­ish­ing a nov­el that com­bines art forgery and human cloning. It was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to be dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed to Sta­tions West—set in the future with­out overt Jew­ish themes — but of course the plot has been tak­en over by Holo­caust sur­vivors attempt­ing to recov­er art stolen by the Nazis. You can’t escape your inter­ests! I’m also work­ing on short sto­ries, screen­plays and Jew­ish children’s books for the PJ Library. It’s good to have a project that you’re cheat­ing on by work­ing on oth­er projects.

What are you read­ing now?

I like to read my peers’ work — I’m read­ing the oth­er Sami Rohr Prize final­ists’ excel­lent books, and I find I’m in great com­pa­ny. Oth­er recent favorites include A Vis­it From the Goon SquadThe Thou­sand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetWhat the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves UsSome­thing Red

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

I have always want­ed to be a writer, ever since I gave up my dreams of becom­ing a princess or a super­hero, or Princess Super­hero. I didn’t know you were allowed” to be a writer, though, until I attend­ed grad school at the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop and met peo­ple who had ded­i­cat­ed their lives to the craft. I knew I want­ed to be among them. But I think my par­ents are still hold­ing out hope that I’ll go to law school.

What is the moun­tain­top for you — how do you define success?

The moun­tain­top” is a good metaphor for suc­cess. I know from hik­ing that often you reach false peaks” — where you arrive at the top only to find a high­er peak fur­ther along the ridge. I think being a writer feels like that. There’s always some­one more suc­cess­ful than you. I imag­ine some famous writer say­ing, Yes, I won the Pulitzer, but I still don’t have a Nobel!” I feel so proud to have my words in print; get­ting rec­og­nized for the Sami Rohr Prize is grat­i­fi­ca­tion galore. To extend the hik­ing metaphor — I’ve reached a love­ly spot. I think I’ll have my lunch here and enjoy the view for a while.

How do you write — what is your pri­vate modus operan­di? What tal­is­mans, rit­u­als, props do you use to assist you?

Most­ly I need a good ergonom­ic set up, lots of cof­fee, and few dis­trac­tions. That’s not very sexy, I know. Writ­ing is not a sexy job.

What do you want read­ers to get out of your book?

In Sta­tions West, I’m try­ing to reclaim the myth of the Old West and show the extent to which Jews helped form that his­to­ry. We’ve roman­ti­cized the Wild West, but it was an unfor­giv­ing place, quick to judge, slow to accept. In a larg­er sense, I want to record how the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can Judaism is emblem­at­ic of the his­to­ry of Amer­i­ca in gen­er­al. Plac­ing the very con­tem­po­rary strug­gle of assim­i­la­tion and iden­ti­ty in the past hope­ful­ly sheds light on our own strug­gles, and helps us to nego­ti­ate our dai­ly lives. But what I love to hear most is that it’s a good read. My favorite books keep me up all night read­ing; I’m thrilled to think that I’ve con­tributed to lit­er­ary insomnia.

You can read more about Alli­son Amend by vis­it­ing her web­site: http://​www​.allison​amend​.com/

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.