(Edited with new content on 7/8/19.)
I represented New York City in Vilnius, Lithuania at the inaugural Lithuanian Writers of the World Forum! There were 33 attendees from 15 countries. It was a magical experience, and one that really drove home how important it is for writers to have a community of like-minded peers.
Our group subdivided into those Lithuanians born outside of the country and those who emigrated and had been living in a foreign country for more than ten years. The first group, to which I belong (both of my parents were born in Lithuania and they raised me bilingual in Texas) had troubles getting local Lithuanians to accept us as Lithuanian, no matter our fluency or subject matter. We were considered outsiders. The second group had it even harder. Those who emigrated and never returned were considered traitors.
So the work was cut out for the organizers of the forum. Night after night we discussed these issues and how to address them, what we could do to raise the visibility of all first and second generation writers, what to call them. It was fascinating.
The Insititue that sponsored us also published an anthology of our work, which they had translated into Lithuanian. Here's the cover. it's called EGSODIKA.
The Institute of Literature and Folklore is a magical building! It is a mansion from the 1920s that had been built by a railroad mogul for his wife and their six kids so that he could work from home! Visit this link to see photos of that venue.
And there are several interior shots from the Lithuanian National Writer's Union, which hosted the public readings and the book launch. Exciting to meet Lithuanians from as far away as Mexico, Australia and Mali.
We also visited the National Library of Lithuania and I was amazed. The building is a full city block and has a full-floor children's section where unaccompanied minors do everything from study in a "quiet room" computer lab, to participate in a free "makers" class in the largest maker-room I have ever seen. There is also a vast section of international literature in both the original language and Lithuanian translation. It's spectacular. (Not to mention, there is free child care for kids 3-5 for up to three hours so that parents can actually USE the library).
I liked it so much that they interviewed me on their official website (this link is in Lithuanian.)
The Forum was May 5-7, 2019 - and the following day, the Minstry of Sport, Education and Science sponsored a few of us to speak to local high school students. This too was an enlightening day. First of all, every student in each of the four high school classes I visited spoke passable English. Second of all, their questions were wonderful. My two favorites were: "When you have no inspiration, what action do you take to get back on track?" and "Do you write from a place of pain or a place of love?"
Here is a short article I wrote about one of my takeaways from that day.
It was a wonderful event. Here are the promised photos.