A Lithuanian-Australian writer Kristina Dryža is better known in the world of business and management as one of the most influential futurists, trend forecasters, and business consultants, who worked with companies such as Virgin Group, Microsoft, and British Sky Broadcasting. Kristina says that many still do not know that she is also the author of the novel Grace and the Wind released in 2014. I asked Kristina a few questions about writer’s craft, her first book, and future plans.
– How did you become a writer?
I always loved
to write as a teenager, mainly in my journal, kept from my parents’ prying
eyes. I didn’t really enjoy writing assignments at school or essays at
university. I didn’t like writing to perform, to prove, to justify – for
results. I had more fun crafting messages in Christmas and birthday cards for my
friends, and sharing my overseas travel experiences in postcard form, when
writing postcards was de rigueur in
the pre-internet era.
Why is it important to bring
diaspora authors together? Or perhaps not only diaspora authors but Lithuanian
writers who live in Lithuania and Lithuanian writers who live in diaspora?
The Arts thrive in community. In isolation, an author can push
themselves to create, yes, but to truly realize their full potential they must
be challenged in an inspiring way. The more diverse the ideas that the artists
and writers discuss when they come together, the more intriguing ideas bubble
up – instead of just beer, you get champagne. Writers of the diaspora see
Lithuania from a different perspective, from a bit of distance. Do you know the
fable about the elephant and the blind men? One saw a wall, one saw a rope, one
saw a tree, and one a spear? Only by adding this all together could they
discover an elephant? It is both challenging and inspiring to hear about how
other writers work, where they find peace, how they get through writing blocks,
what themes and ideas matter. There is something about being in a room full of
people who care as much about the perfect word as you do – and then discovering
that person lives across the globe from you – and yet you have similar roots,
you both know the blue of a cornflower, you both remember some adult showing
you as a child how to get to the sharp, bitter scent of a rūta by crushing one
leaf between your thumb and forefinger, you both know the savory taste of dill.
It pulls the world closer, like a drawstring. And what you keep in that secret
sack—that is up to you, but it is nice to know that everyone is carrying some
memories that are all tied together.
Jackie Kennedy was one of the most special women I was privileged to know in my life. I do not mean her position in society: I mean her intelligence, a very special intelligence with a deep sensitivity, and her elegance, her style, her generosity, her simple, straight, magic human quality. I could go on and on.
This event took place the very first time I visited Jackie in her Fifth Avenue home. Somehow the talk turned to John F. Kennedy and movies. “You know,” Jackie said, “just a few months before he died somebody gave him as a present a little 8mm movie camera. He always carried it in the pocket of his raincoat. You know, as I am thinking now, it must still be there.
She went to the closet and found a beige raincoat and there it was! In the raincoat pocket there was a small 8mm movie camera! She brought it to me. I regret I do not remember now the brand of the camera.
“He did some filming. But he never finished the roll. It’s still in the camera,” she said.
She put the camera back into the pocket of the raincoat.
A dance with Fred Astaire / Jonas
Mekas ; [edited by Johan Kugelberg, Jonas Mekas, and Sebastian Mekas]. – New
York : Anthology Editions, 2017, p. 319
On September 12, a book The Story of BATUN—Baltic Appeal to the United Nations (1966-1991), published in 2018 by Estonian-born Sirje Okas Ains was presented at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. BATUN is the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian movement founded in the US in the late 1960s, which main goal was to seek independence for the Baltic States and their membership in the United Nations.
A collection of
documents presents the historical narrative of the Baltic States and the successful
collaboration between the three nations. The author Sirje Okas Ains offers an
interesting narrative based on documents, photos and personal insights. The book
also contains a collection of archival documents which include not only documents
testifying to various BATUN’s activities, but also organization’s correspondence
with ambassadors, materials distributed and produced by the organization, and
examples of the BATUN’s newsletter.
Sirje Okas Ains
is an artist and a longtime member of BATUN. She grew up in Argentina and
graduated from the University of Buenos Aires. In 1968, she moved with her
family to the United States, where she studied arts at New York University. In 1969,
she became actively involved in BATUN becoming a member of the board. Later she
was delegated to the United Nations missions and the UN Human Rights Committee.
In the early September,
the Lithuanian Minister of Culture, Mindaugas
Kvietkauskas, visited New York and Chicago. In New York, the Minister met
with the director of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Jonathan Brent. They discussed the cooperation between the
Institute and Lithuania and other relevant issues in preparation for next year’s
commemoration of Vilna Gaon (born Elijah ben Solomon Zalman) and Lithuanian Jewish history.
The Minister participated
in the Litvak Days organized for the first time in New York and Chicago on the
initiative of the Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania in NY. The event
included a public lecture and three debates. In New York, Kvietkauskas, along
with writer Tomas Venclova and Prof.
Saulius Sužiedėlis participated in
the discussion “Challenges of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Lithuania.”
While in New
York, Kvietkauskas also visited one of the world’s largest American avant-garde
film archives, Anthology Film Archives, founded in the early 1960s by
Lithuanian-American Jonas Mekas. The
Minister participated in the opening of the exhibition of the Lithuanian
American artist Vytautas Ignas and met with representatives of the Lithuanian
Alliance of America and the Lithuanian National Foundation.
Kvietkauskas paid a visit at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Poetry
Foundation in Chicago, and met with the leaders of the Lithuanian World Center
in Lemont. At the UIC, where students can learn Lithuanian language as part of
their academic curriculum, the Minister participated in a discussion “The Narratives
of Pluralism: Lithuania’s Past and Present” and met with the students of the
Lithuanian Culture course.
On August 2, 2019
a group of Lithuanian heritage school teachers visited the Martynas Mažvydas
National Library of Lithuania. Teachers, who teach Lithuanian as a heritage
language outside Lithuania, came to Lithuania to learn more about the new
Lithuanian language teaching methods and share their own experience.
Teachers from Egypt, United States of America, Austria, Finland, Luxembourg, Russia, Estonia, and Belarus were welcomed by the director general of the National Library of Lithuania, Prof. Renaldas Gudauskas and the head of the library’s Documentary Heritage Research Department, Jolanta Budriūnienė.
A very rich one-day program was organized by the staff of the library’s Lithuanian Studies Unit. Valdonė Budreckaitė and Matas Baltrukevičius presented the traveling exhibition “Foreign Professionals for Lithuania” and the game “To Lithuania.” Dr. Ina Ėmužienė prepared a presentation about Lithuanian education in Lithuanian émigré radio programs. Prof. Dainius Vaitiekūnas, the head of the Lithuanian Studies Unit, shared his insights on the role of the media and the traces of intermediality in Lithuanian education.