Missive from Abroad
Wherein I eat humble pie after soaring to new heights
Hey! Can you hear me all the way over there on the other side of the world?
I’m in Lithuania. If you’re interested in photos of my six hour layover in Finland and my nearly daily photographic diary of Vilnius, head on over to my Facebook author page and browse the last week of posts. While you’re there, go ahead and like/follow the page too! Then you won’t ever miss my wacky photography. I see some things:
I don’t know where to begin this week, but since this technically is supposed to be my newsletter thingy where I update you on my writing, I guess I should tell you that I’m here for the second Lithuanian Writers of the Diaspora Forum (the inaugural one, which I also attended) was in 2019.
There are about 20 writers here, representing 13 countries, all of them either writing about Lithuania or writing in Lithuanian. Very cool! There was a fancy parliament speaker at the first event. You’ll know him by his superfancy pin and tie and coat jacket. It is 87 degrees and there is not a breath of breeze. The air is cloudy with humidity. We are cheek-to-jowl in an 17th century gorgeous historical building and the heat is actually coming IN through the windows to try to escape the horrible unseasonable weather. But this guy? He recites an essay full of poetry, full of the love of writers and writing. He calls us Word-maestros. In Lithuanian, it sounds good and feels great.
Although I am now sitting in a three inch pool of my own sweat, I am feeling rejuvenated! Excited! This guy announces that the government of Lithuania has a mandate to open its doors to its far-flung writers, that we are to be commended for keeping ties with the Old Country and that our work should be supported!
The Lithuanian Institute for Literature has just published an anthology (the day before - it is actually literally hot from either the press or from sitting in someone’s car overnight) called EGZODIKA 2 and they wryly note that they were so unsure they would get funding for this second Forum that the design for EGZODIKA 1 did not have the number 1 anywhere on the cover.
I sense that the government of Lithuania, like all governments, makes very fancy and appealing speeches but rarely has funding to back it up. But that won’t matter at all if America’s factories ramp up their pollution content. Everyone here will die of heat stroke.
But okay - at least the speeches are wonderful! After this meeting and a lovely lunch, we went on to the Lithuanian White House by invitation of the First Lady who is an avid reader. Here’s my write-up of that tour on Medium.
On Thursday, I read aloud from the book EGZODIKA II. Felt really weird to read aloud in Lithuanian and even weirder because it was poetry. But the room was extraordinary (the whole building is the Lithuanian Writers Union in Vilnius. It’s staggering.
And FRIENDS: I have publishing news!! I was just informed that a project that has been brewing since I think 2015 or 16 has at last launched! My short story is included in the brand new anthology A FIRE TO LIGHT OUR TONGUES by TCU Press. This press is a member of the TAMU Consortium. If you know Texas, you’ll know that the town where I grew up, College Station, is the home-town of Texas A&M University (i.e. TAMU) — so you know, that’s just all random cool coincidences. You can get the anthology for 20% off with the code TCU20 through this link. The anthology is of Texas writers who write nontraditionally on the theme of spirituality.
Speaking of Texas, a guy from Indiana at the international Lithuanian writers conference sat beside me and we got to talking and it turns out he was born in San Antonio! This is the only other Lithuanian-Texan Writer I have ever met in my life! (He moved to Indiana at 2 years old so doesn’t really say he was born in Texas—but I know better!) We had such fun talking!
Oh right - I promised you a humiliation. When I got home from the Lithuanian White House tour, I came back to my Air B&B (above the “Border Control” in the singular Republic of Uzupis) to find this email in my inbox from my former agent:
This is a literary assistant at XXX Literary Agency. We are currently looking for manuscripts from promising or professional writers. We encourage you to share this message with your writing group, literary newsletter, or online community.
THIS IS A PUBLIC MESSAGE FOR WRITERS
Friends, this was an email from my agent. Yes, really. I split with her two years ago in a polite and businesslike manner. Dear Writer, please get us more clients?
Geez. What a let-down.
And lest we think that anything in our inboxes is actually important, I remind you that in Ukraine this is the situation.