Karen Greenberg: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Elke Weiss: I grew up in Manhattan Beach, in Brooklyn. I now live in downtown Manhattan by the Hudson River. I really like living by the water.
What do you do for a living?
I am finishing a Masters in Urban Affairs and a law degree at New York Law School. I’m looking for a job in policy, but I do dream of a fiction writing career.
How did you get started in writing?
I was born talking, as my mother would say. I always had something to tell others, and deeply felt everyone was entitled to my opinion. My parents hooked me on books to help me shape my opinions. I would read amazing stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Wrinkle in Time and I would make up stories where I had joined those adventures. I soon realized that I could write those stories down and it grew from there. When I was little, I wrote a poem that made it into my school paper, and I decided, this was the place for me. Journalistic writing and essays followed. I think the amazing part of being a writer is being able to reach people I never met.
What types of readers do you hope to reach?
I hope to reach young Jewish teenagers. I remember how lonely and confusing being a teenager was, and I want to give them the advice I wish I had known. Besides that, I have a lot of interesting readers, from grandmothers to young professionals to my wonderful cousins in the Israeli army whom are nice enough to pass my articles around.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? What message do you want to send?
My message is pretty simple. There is so much to learn about oneself and that is the greatest joy in life; to change to become the best person you can be. I’m still finding that out for myself and I am happy to share the journey with others.
What do you usually write about for The Jewish Press?
I just give advice and thoughts from my heart; in my writing I try to speak to people they same way I would in person. I write about what is close to my heart – finding one’s place in college, choosing a major, dealing with internships, etc.
I do write about Israel quite a bit, because it’s an enormous part of me and I think it’s a cause every person should know about, and hopefully embrace. I’m a third generation Zionist. My incredible grandfather, Jack Mikulincer, fought in the War of Indpendance and liberated Afula. My parents marched for Soviet Jews to have the right to make aliya. I’m taking a stand against anti-Israel bigotry.
After I graduated from high school I asked Mrs. Mauer if I could cover a rally. She has been a great mentor since, always encouraging me in my writing. I share her vision of constant self-improvement and a love of Israel and she has been wonderful in letting me develop my voice.
Do you have any plans to write a book?
I do plan on writing fiction books, in both history and fantasy. I am currently working on a series of short stories, as well as a historical epic. If I wasn’t already doing law school, graduate school, Hasbara work, seeing friends and family and volunteering for student organizations, I’d have already finished one.
Have you gotten any reactions/ feedback about your writing? How has it been?
I have gotten a lot of amazing feedback from my writing, which touched me so deeply, expressing how much my articles meant to them. I treasure each e-mail and hope my readers feel comfortable being in touch with me through The Jewish Press with questions, comments or for advice. I adore hearing from readers!
Do you plan to continue to integrate writing into your life in the future?
I will always be a writer, until the undertakers nail the coffin shut. Whether it’s blogging, writing fiction, contributing essays or writing legal briefs or proposals, I’ll always have something to say and will be putting it down on paper. My next big project is a play about Israel, which I hope will be bought or published.
Did you feel you had to work on your writing skills before submitting material for publication?
Immensely, and I still feel like I have to improve each time. I always try to be more succinct, more interesting and use the right words. I had a lot of confidence when I first submitted, and was sure my work was art. Sadly, my first works were clunky, with excess verbiage and poor grammar. I still shudder when I read it. I cried buckets when I opened the revisions – they looked like murder victims with all the red ink from my wonderful editors’ corrections. I’ve learned that writing requires a very thick skin and I have learned to take criticism with a smile. If I wanted to get better, I had to keep going.
Even now, I am blessed with work with Chumi Friedman and Jennifer Hanin of Act for Israel and my amazing parents who all read through my sow’s ear writing and helped me turn it into a silk purse. Writing is a hard skill; it’s like dancing. Everyone thinks they can do it, but it takes a lot of effort to do it well. I try to write something every day and send it for critique to friends and family. I still have a long way to go, but I won’t stop.
Do your family and friends play a role in your writing? Do they provide feedback and suggestions?
My writing is a testament to the love my friends and family shower me with. My mom, dad and my grandfathers are my biggest fans. They really hold me to high standards and they expect the best, and I always feel gratified when I see their smiles of approval. My friends are just as precious to me, they read my writing and give me feedback, they allow me to chat with them and bounce ideas, and they encourage me to keep writing when I doubt myself. I am surrounded by talented people who push me to continuously improve.
What is your favorite part about writing? What do you enjoy about it?
The best part of writing is creating. I have so much inside me and this allows me to connect to others with my thoughts. I enjoy telling stories and giving opinions and just exploring ideas. I would always write but I am grateful for the chance to be able to submit.
About the Author: Karen Greenberg lives in Queens, NY. She attended the Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central) and spent her year in Israel studying at Midreshet Harova. She is now a junior at Queens College with a major in English and a double minor in business and secondary education. This article was originally posted at www.cross-currents.com.
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