Sketching Out Blog: Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics, and Highland Park, New Jersey

Writing Interview with Ilana-Davita

If ever you wondered if you can make a friend online, Ilana-Davita is a true friend. I love visiting her little town in France by visiting her blog, where she shares her thoughts on Judaism, her tales of Europe, her photos, cooking and warmth. I am honored to have her answers to my writing interview.

books photo by Ilana-Davita
Books, photograph by Ilana-Davita

1) When did you realize that you like to write?
I realized that I liked to write when I started reading whole books. At the time, I also began to write stories that nobody read, except my parents maybe, in a small school notebook.

I was eager to write at school and, at age nine, even asked the teacher when we would start writing short narrative essays (the French term for this school subject is “rédaction”). She acquiesced but obviously was not too happy with what we wrote since she never gave us another writing assignment.

Obviously I then spent years writing essays of all sorts but not always with pleasure. Since I started blogging, however, the pleasure has returned. My blog began as a sort of experiment: I was not quite sure I was doing it and what I was going to write about but it seemed like something I might enjoy. It has brought me more satisfaction and enjoyment that I had anticipated even if writing is a bit tough at the moment.

2) When did you realize that you like to read?
When I turned seven our next door neighbor gave me a Noddy book by Enid Blyton. I was a little awed at the perspective of reading a whole real book by myself but the experience was awesome and I have not stopped reading since.

3) Which authors influenced you in your youth? Which authors or writers influence you now? (influence of style or in life choices or both)
My first influence was Enid Blyton. A year or two after Noddy, I discovered The Secret Seven and above all The Famous Five. I found these series wonderful and read 13 out of the 15 Secret Seven books, all of The Famous Five stories and a lot of other novels she had written. At that time my dream was to become the new Enid Blyton. She has been much criticized for her lack of literary talent but this did not matter to me as a child. I had found an activity I adored, this was enough.

During my adolescence I read extensively but can’t remember being influenced by one author in particular.

After high school graduation, I spent a year in England and discovered English (and American) literature. I then went to college in France where I studied English (language, literature and civilization). I read the Brontes, which I loved, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. My favorite however was Jane Austen. I thus read Pride and Prejudice overnight. I liked her style and her wit. I still do. Her fine dialogues have few equals in English literature.

At present one of my favorite novelists is Chaim Potok and, as some of my regular readers may know, I have named my blog after one of his characters. I love how he conveys his love of Judaism while presenting his readers with some of the issues observant Jews are confronted with. His characters experience religious dilemmas but, in the end, manage to remain faithful Jews in a manner I find honest and coherent.

As far as life choices are concerned, my main influence is Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and his emphasis on Jewish ethics. To anyone intersted in what he has written on the subject I’d recommend first: The Book of Jewish Values and then A Code of Jewish Ethics, volumes 1 and 2. I also find Rabbi Jonathan Sacks inspiring.

4) Have you ever taken a creative writing course?
No, this existed neither when I was at school nor at college. Unfortunately French education encourages formal learning rather than creativity.

5) Have you ever studied journalism?
No, there again I wished I had. Interestingly enough, my mom studied journalism but never practiced her trade.

6) Do you find writing or talking an easier way to express yourself, or are both writing and talking similar vehicles of self-expression for you?
I suppose it depends on the circumstances and what I have to say. I find talking easy in a meeting when the topics discussed are professional rather than personal. When the issue is closer to home I find it harder and would never share with my colleagues or even acquaintance the thoughts and ideas I share on my blog. Things are of course a bit different with the people that are very close.

7) Have you written short stories or poetry (or would you like to do so)?
Apart from the little stories I wrote when I was 8 or 9 and a few poems when I was in my early twenties, I have not written anything creative. I have some regrets but also believe I am better at expressing thoughts than emotions.

Please add a favorite quote.

הַֽעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַֽחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ בַּֽחַיִּים לְמַעַן תִּֽחְיֶה אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ

I call this day heaven and earth as my witness: See, I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Now, choose life so that you and your children may live. -Deuteronomy 30:19
(in memory of RivkA, z”l)

For more interviews:

I have one more writing interview coming up next week.

A few of the many posts in memory of RivkA:

Raizy says

Great interview, excellent subject.
I feel like I have learned a lot by reading Ilana-Davita's blog.

Leora says

Thanks for the first comment, Raizy! Yes, she writes well, informatively and with such warmth and friendship.

Mrs. S. says

Thanks, Leora and Ilana-Davita, for a wonderful interview! I feel the same way about blogging - namely, that it's put the joy back into writing.

And what an excellent quote. The pasuk perfectly encapsulates the many posts which have been written about RivkA z"l over the past few days. May her memory be for a blessing.

James says

Another wonderful interview, Leora!!! Although, I am a tad bias because you have interviewed bloggers that I admire. :-) I total agree with you on the friend part, Ilanadavita is a true friend!

Keep up the good work!!!

Cosmic X says


Thanks for the link. It's amazing how those couple of minutes with RivkA made an impression on me. May her memory be a blessing!

Jew Wishes says

Thank you, Ilana for sharing with us, and thank you, Leora, for posting this great interview!

Ilana-Davita says

Thank you Leora for providing me with an opportunity to express my thoughts about writing and reading and for the warm introduction.
Thanks to Leora's readers for your kind words.

Leora says

With pleasure.

"I was eager to write at school and, at age nine, even asked the teacher when we would start writing short narrative essays...she never gave us another writing assignment."
I am glad you are a teacher - you understand the necessity of not squelching that creative spark. This seems to happen too often to young people, the discouraging: it's not good enough, and so the person stops trying.

Frume Sarah says


A great interview. I read Ilana-Davita's blog so this was a great way to get to know her even better.

And thanks for linking to my post about RivkA, z"l.

Baila says

Thanks Leora and ID, I really enjoyed that.


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