Jill Eisenstadt

How did you become a writer?

I believe that I was born with a brain wired for words. My very earliest memories revolve around things said, the impact words had on me to confuse, deceive, put pictures in my head, produce strong emotions. Gradually, I became aware of the way my words affected others and how I could modulate their reactions by choosing carefully when to speak or changing my tone. From there, becoming a writer was just a matter of learning to read and write.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Below are the first (among many) that come to mind.

Books: Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh), James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl), From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basel E. Frankweller (E.L. Konigsburg), The Princess Bride (William Goldman), The Member of the Wedding (Carson McCullers), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Black Tickets (Jayne Anne Phillips), To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf). Writers (along with the above and so many others): Sam Shepard, Denis Johnson, Grace Paley, Wendy Wasserstein, Don DeLillo, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Alice Munro, Anton Chekov, D.H Lawrence. Teachers: my high school English teacher, Ms. Rossi, my college teachers, Joe McGinniss and Nick Calabro, my grad school professors, Stephen Koch and Robert Towers.When and where do you write?

When and where do you write?

I write daily but too often too little. When I force myself to sit down and really focus, I’m at a white desk in the corner of my clean bedroom. Otherwise, I might be anywhere, in or out of my house.

What are you working on now?

Something new.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Always. For me, this takes the form of re-writer’s block. That is, I get stuck rewriting obsessively instead of moving forward.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Best advice given to me directly (and which I still struggle to follow): “You can’t polish a mess.” Stephen Koch. Best advice I’ve read: “Write what you don’t know about what you know.” Weirdly, this seems to be  attributed to both Eudora Welty and Grace Paley.

What’s your advice to new writers?

The above, plus: Get some exercise to help you sit still.

Jill Eisenstadt is the author of the novels, From Rockaway, Kiss Out (Knopf), and Swell (Little, Brown). Her non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, Bomb, Elle, Town and Country, Lit Hub and The Boston Review, among other places. Jill has been a teacher at The New School’s Eugene Lang College and an editor at BKLYN Magazine. She co-wrote and produced the feature film, The Limbo Room along with her sister, the director Debra Eisenstadt. Jill is a recipient of a Columbia M.F.A writing fellowship, a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Teacher Award, and a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in Fiction. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.