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Meet Sami Rohr Prize Finalist Rebecca Schiff

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 | Permalink

Jewish Book Council is proud to introduce readers to the five emerging fiction authors named as finalists for the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Today, we invite you to learn more about Rebecca Schiff and her book, The Bed Moved, a collection of twenty-three short stories about the experiences of women.

A warm congratulations to Rebecca and the other four finalists: Paul Goldberg, Idra Novey, Adam Ehrlich Sachs, and Daniel Torday. Join Jewish Book Council on May 3, 2017 at The Jewish Museum for a discussion with the authors and announcement of the recipient of the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature! Register for free tickets here »

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

The most challenging thing about writing fiction is facing the fact that sometimes--often--you're going to write badly. The challenge is to trust that the good stuff is going to come.

What or who has been your inspiration for writing fiction?

Most of my inspiration for writing fiction has been the work of authors I admire, authors who take risks, who are hilarious and strange. Their books make me want to write fiction.

Who is your intended audience?

A teacher I had told us to "Write for the smart people." I take that to mean you should trust your audience to get what you're doing. But the intended audience is a projection, a fantasy. Any person can pick up your book. Some of them are going to hate its guts.

Are you working on anything new right now?

I'm working on new stories.

What are you reading now?

I'm reading 10:04 by Ben Lerner (a previous Sami Rohr finalist) and Assisted Living by Gary Lutz.

Top 5 favorite books

Oy, I feel bad about everything I'm leaving out, but here goes:

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

I Would Have Saved Them If I Could by Leonard Michaels

Venus Drive by Sam Lipsyte

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

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

I was in third grade when I first decided to be a writer. Our teacher had us hand in a new short story every two weeks. Deadlines are always helpful. I also remember revising one of my stories after school in my parents' bedroom. It was the first time I noticed that I cared about sentences.

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

I first thought this was a question about my favorite mountaintop. There are so many great ones! But writing-wise, if I get to keep publishing the books I write, that is success.

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

I know people have hats and wristbands and coffee and routines. I don't really have any of that. I like to write when I first wake up or right before I fall asleep.

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

I want them to feel. And laugh.

Rebecca Schiff is the author of the story collection The Bed Moved, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize's Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her fiction has appeared in n+1, Electric Literature, The American Reader, Fence, Guernica, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, and Lenny Letter, and will be anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2017. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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