The Authors Words: An Interview with Author Birute Putrius

The Authors Words: 

Birute Putrius is a Lithuanian-American writer who was born in a refugee camp in Germany, grew up in Chicago and now lives in Los Angeles. Her fiction, poetry, and translations have appeared in a number of publications, including, Spectrum, West/Word, Segue, New Digressions, Story One, Amoskeag, Lituanus, Storyglossia, Citadel, Banyan Review, The Smoking Poet and in anthology, Bless me, Father. Two short stories were optioned for short films by Columbia College Chicago. Her novels, LOST BIRDS and THE LASTBOOK SMUGGLER, have been published by Birchwood Press.

Hi Birute!  Thank you so much for doing this. I am fascinated with your story.  ~JD

How did I start writing?
In elementary school, I used to write fairy tales while my best friend wrote murder mysteries. By seventh grade, I was keeping a journal and writing about each of the boys I had a crush on. The entries were like top secret cryptic codes so that no one who casually read it would know that I longed to kiss Eddie Mulvaney. I kept the journal going until I seriously got into writing in my 30's.  First I started taking classes in screenwriting because I was such a movie fan, but I didn't enjoy the structure needed to tell a story that way. So I switched to short stories and found I loved writing them.  My professor urged us to send out our stories to literary journals, so I did and found that two journals wanted the same story.  I felt like I had hit the jackpot.  I've been writing ever since.

The book, THE LAST BOOK SMUGGLER, is based on your grandfather, who was a book smuggler. Tell us what a book smuggler is and how it led to this book?  
Yes, this is based on my grandfather who used to smuggle books into Lithuania during a 40 year period when it was occupied by the Russian Tsar who started a brutal Russification period between 1864 to 1904. The Tsar was forced to rescind that policy because there was a whole underground army of book smugglers willing to risk their lives to teach their children the Lithuanian language, one of the oldest spoken languages in the world, rather than Russian.  So my book starts in 1902, when one of the book smugglers, is now disillusioned by his many years of struggle to bring the books across the German border past the border police and to distribute them to friends and family. It's also a double love story.  It's got it all---political thriller, romance, page turner, historical novel, full of the folklore of that part of the world.

LOST BIRDS is your first book. Who are the characters and tell us more about it?
This book is a series of linked stories that follow Irene and her friends as they come to America as youngsters and try to discover what it means to be American, and what it means to their war-torn parents and neighbors who can't seem to let go of the lives they left behind. It sounds a bit grim but, actually, it's often funny.  Two of the stories were optioned for movies.

Are there parts of your life that are in this story?
Lost Birds

Yes, I think there must be, though this isn't a memoir.  There are elements of my life and the life I saw growing up in Chicago in this book. And the characters come from the people I remember seeing in the neighborhood.  The story covers a period of 40 years and shows how America went through some upheavals from 1950's to 1990's.  The country changed, as did the characters. 

Early on, what author or authors influenced you?
Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Lagerkvist, Sigrid Unset, Isaac B. Singer, Amy Tan.

What advice do you have for other writers?  
It's very simple: read as much as you can and write as much as you can.  You can only learn writing by doing it.  Then find a group of like-minded friends and form a writing group so you can try your pieces out on them and get some criticism (which every writer hates, but it's your best tool for learning what works and what doesn't)

What are you writing now? Part two of The Last Book Smuggler, which picks up the story a few years later. It's called Winter Flowers. I've just started it.  

Where online can people find you and your books? My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Kindle, Nook, Apple.
Other links for Birute Putrius and her books:

Thank you so much, Birute.  ~JD

Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Bothered, Part 2

girls and flags2 WARNING: violence.

Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Bothered, Part 2 

by JD Holiday
     ©May 2018. All Rights Reserved.         
practice2 Shortly after that, I joined a drum and bugle corps. It was a teen group for thirteen to seventeen-year-olds. My friend this time with Kathy Donahue. Her older brother, Mike was a drummer. Kathy was thirteen too, so she and I are joining together. Girls were in the Honor and Color guards. We would be in the newbies. That was where girls learn to carry the flag and twirl them in nice patterns to go with the instrumental music the boys made with the drums and brass horns. The girls in the newbies would join the Honor and Color Guard the following year when the older girls turned eighteen and would be leaving the corps. 
mountain field 2              So Kathy and I and about another ten to twelve other girls would spend that spring in training, and the summer would be our first time marching in parades starting on Memorial Day right behind the Color Guard and in from of the brass horns and drum sections.   In good weather, the corp would practice on the community ball field across from the clubhouse, a VFW post. At eight AM this one Saturday morning, the newbies gathered in the baseball area of the field. The Honor and Color Guards were already turning their flags in the outfield. The band played on the basketball court loudly performing their signature instrumental, Sentimental Journey in the shadow of Garrett Mountain. The brass horns and beating drums were hammering the song home across the field and ricocheting off the mountain and back again throughout the South Paterson neighborhood.
         Our group leaders shouted our instructions over the music where we stood by the bleachers since it would be impossible for us to hear them out in the field. When we were told to line up and march to third base where we would be going over our drills I saw that my sneaker was untied. The others had run out into the field while I sat to tie my sneaker.
bleachers              I saw the older black guy who had left the corps now that he was eighteen sitting on his bike not far away. I remembered I finished and was getting up when I was grabbed from behind and pushed down onto the bleacher again. I felt my blood pounding in my face as I struggled to push him away but the guy came around and over my body to sit straddle my legs. It was the guy with the small bike. He started saying, “I’ll show them. I’ll show them,” over and over again while pushing me down with a hand on my collarbone.
              I fought hard and I turned looking for help. I glance toward third base but my group had their backs to me. No one else was near. I kept fighting to get him off pushing at his chest as the music continued and even sounding louder as it vibrated. With his other hand he began pulling at the snap of my jeans trying to open them. He was much bigger and I was powerless to get him off me.
              Then the blaring music ended. And silence. Or I thought it was until I heard screaming echoed through the air. I was screaming.
              We continued wrestling until there was movement around us. Then the weight was lifted from me. Pete, who I knew was one of the drummers was there, and then the two of them were a blur as they fell to the ground and seemed to scrambled away from me. Some older girls came to me and dragged me off the bleacher toward the batting cage. Breathing seems hard. But I was already feeling some relief that it was over but I couldn’t focus on what was being said to me.
batting cage              Many adults came from nowhere it appeared to me. Faces around me were frowning with concern. I glanced in the direction I came from to see my attacker up against the chain-link fence surrounded by male group members and adults.
The woman who ran the drum corps came and wrapped her arms around me. She pretty much dragged me off the field. I heard her saying the guy was troubled.
Someone else walking with us across the street to the clubhouse added how he had behaved about having to leave the corps because he had reached the age limit and his fight with the group managers over it.
              Inside the clubhouse, I sat while they all talked. Some stared at me and I have to look away having so much attention paid to me. Things began to sink in as they asked questions and I nodded a lot. They asked what happened, what did he say, what did he do. And I started murmuring that I was alright a few times and had to turn away from them wishing that were true. I didn't want to be here anymore.
              My attention sharpened when I heard them mention talking to my parents. While I was glad to be going home, I didn’t want to have to tell them about this. And at the same time, just wanted it to be me who told my mom and dad. But the adults had to tell my parents, to explain the situation to them.
              At home, my father was the one who opened the front door. Somehow they all went inside, while someone asks me to stay on the porch. What was said I suddenly didn’t care. I wasn’t in the middle of all the attention anymore. I sat on one of the Adirondack chairs. What thoughts I had I couldn’t tell you, though relief was setting in. Home, I would find, was were I would always come to be out of the storm from here on.
porch              Once the club members left, most of the women giving me a hug before going, my mother and father came to the door. They had a short talk before my father stepped out onto the porch where I still sat by myself.
              “Are you all right?” he asked in the doorway.
              I glanced his way before turning back to watching the afternoon traffic on Madison Avenue. My father looked thoughtful.
              “Yeah,” I said, not wanting to talk about it.
              Looking back, I’d say he knew me better than I did when I was thirteen years old, for he said, “You don’t want to be bothered, I take it.”
              “No,” was all I said as I realized my breathing was normal now and I wasn’t hurt. I was all right, at least for the moment.
              He nodded, then he went back in with my mother leaving the door open a little.
              It never dawned on me at that time if the kissing incident being brought up at school had anything to do with the boys being black and the girls being white. I did find out weeks after from Leslie that the two boys involved were in a bit of trouble that night but for Leslie and me being their alibis.
              So you know, my parents never said anything about the kiss incident. And my parents never talked about race to us. Knowing them as I did, they thought there was no need to. Black people came to our house to have their taxes done all the time. And, over the years I’ve thought about that guy on the bleachers wondering if anyone had ever bothered enough to care about him.

Read Part 1 at:

Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Bothered, Part 1

Truth, As Strange As Fiction: Bothered, Part 1

by JD Holiday

©May 2018 Copyright by J.D. Holiday. All RIGHTS RESERVED.

staircase            When I was thirteen I was called out of my class by the principal, Mr. Carrolio. The principal led the way ahead of me into the main stairwell. We were probably going down to his office. I thought, isn't that where you ended up if you've done something wrong, and where the principal can yell at you, you hope, without others hearing it. This was embarrassing.
              But this was even worse for me. Mr. Carrolio was not only the principal but was a friend of my aunt and uncle's. This was not a good thing to be happening, especially since I didn't know what I had done. I was mortified.
              As far as I knew no one had ever been pulled out of my class by the principal before. But it happened to me.
              He was ahead of me in the stairwell, and halfway down he stopped and turned to look at me.
              "Where you out with Leslie last night?" He said though he used Leslie's last name too.
              I was glad we weren’t moving down the stairs because I was sure I would have stumbled and fall down them just then. And I didn’t know if I gasped out loud at the question though I thought my mouth opened and some sound came out. How did he know I was with Leslie last night? My knees quivered in fear and my nose began to run. I had to wipe it with my hand.
              I was always willing to do whatever a friend wants to do for the most part. I wasn’t looking to get in trouble. I never liked it when my parents were disappointed but when Leslie said we were going to kiss boys that was exciting to me. I had never kissed a boy before. I needed the experience.
               I didn’t think we did anything wrong. Yet Mr. Carrolio asking about it seem to imply it was. How did he learn about it, I wondered while not being able to turn away from his stare. After all, he was an adult. I was taught to respect them.
              I shakingly said, “yes,” to his question was I with Leslie last night.
              “Did the boys kiss you?” he asked watching my face. The boys he was referring to were two black boys from the eighth grade. Now, my brain screamed; maybe my parents wouldn't want me kissing boys. Though I didn’t know for sure. I never talked to them about that kind of thing. Then I thought, if he tells my parents, or worse, tell my aunt, she would make a bigger deal of it, I would have to have that conversation with them. Even more humiliating.
TSP 1960 Chatham              Last night after dinner I met Leslie, but the excitement vanished with a kiss. We met the two boys under the overpass along Route 80. It was a deserted place with the only sounds were of the vehicles above racing along on the highway. It turned out to be a crude experience. First, there were some weak hellos with the boys on one side and Leslie and me facing them. Then, with some shuffling back and forth by all, the boys just leaned forward to kiss the girl opposite. The one kissing me crushed his lips to mine for maybe ten seconds, and that was it. I hadn't yet formed an opinion of kissing when that boy declared, “She doesn’t know how to kiss.”
              Leslie gave out a short giggle. And the boys turned and walked away. From excitement to dismal now, I just wanted to go home. Leslie said nothing about it and I was thankful.
              From five years old, until the Beatles came to the USA, I was in love with Johnny Mathis. We owned one album each from Johnny Mathis, The Ink Spots, The Platters, Frank Sinatra, and after November 1963, one album of speeches by John F. Kennedy. I would put Johnny's on the record player playing it over again until my mother said to stop. She never told me Johnny was black.
              I stammered, “yes,” to his question about the boys kissing us feeling sick.
              “Were you petting?” he asked.
              “What’s that?” I was frowning.
              “Did they touch your body?” he inserted.
              “No,” I said, why should they was my next thought. And anyway, it was early fall and though not so cold I was wearing my heavy winter coat because my mother said it was going to get colder. It was a hand-me-down red duffle coat a give away from one of my father’s more wealthy tax clients who thought his five children needed more clothes than we could afford. My father was an accountant. He charged every one seven dollars no matter who they were. Companies paid fifteen dollars. But, anyhow, touching would have been hard to do with that old coat over my slight build.
              Mr. Carrolio just stared at me for what must have been a minute, I think, before he said, “You can go back to class.”
              I bolted back up the stairs. My classroom was the first room on the left at top of the landing. As I entered the classroom I felt on display. Every one of my classmates turned to stare at me like they knew all about it. Mr. Tamorino paused a second then went on talking as I slipped back into my seat, my face hot.

NEXT time on Truth, As Strange As Fiction: 
Bothered, Part 2:  More Teenage angst, WARNING: violence.

JD's Site:

The Authors Words: An Interview with Children's Author, Patricia A. Moore

Patricia A. Moore is a children's book author of: Please, Miss Gooding, 
First Winter
THE ANGEL WITH ONE WING, JUST A SERVANT, First Winter, and the short stories for children: SILENT SHEPHERD and The Babies Are Hungry. She is also a 3 time winner of the Writer's Digest Writing Competition for children.
Patricia became interested in picture books when she worked as a preschool teacher. Like children who really liked his books Patricia especially enjoyed Dr. Seus, too. With her own children, she spent a lot of time cuddling on the sofa reading picture books to them. She has been writing picture books for over 20 years. Four of her picture books and a story coloring book are on Amazon.
Patricia also writes for adults and poetry, and has been published in Leaves Magazine and The Journal News. Her stories and poems for children have been published in My Light Magazine.
 employees of a twenty-fourth century time travel business.

Hi Patricia!  Thank you so much for doing this interview. I'm glad we had this chance to talk.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I worked as a preschool teacher and there I found my interest in picture books. Some of the children at the preschool would be waiting to see what picture books I brought in that morning. Once I had children, we would spend hours cuddling on the sofa listening to me reading them picture books. When my children were young, I began making up stories. One of the stories I told them, The Babies Are Hungry, is on my website: 

When did you realize you were a story teller?
Just A Servant
I always liked my English classes, but I remember when I wrote a creation story and the teacher praised it. She was not an easy grader. 

What is your latest book and what is it about?
My book that will hopefully be released in September is La Toya's Downtown Days. La Toya lives in the Greens, a rough neighborhood of Chicago, she longs to go on an adventure to downtown Chicago with her mother. She is so excited when they have saved up enough money to go downtown. La Toya has one adventure after another downtown.

What are your other books about?
Please, Miss Gooding! is about the relationship between Jimmy and his favorite teacher, Miss Gooding. He sends her a pregnant mouse and the craziness begins! His intentions are good but chaos follows Jimmy. Just A Servant is a religious picture book. Marciper, a servant, longs to see Jesus in the marketplace. He wants to know if Jesus is the Messiah or just a skilled magician. His life is changed when he encounters Jesus. The Angel With One Wing is about the love between two angels, Joshua and Tommy. Both angels can't wait to announce the birth of Baby Jesus to the shepherds. Joshua loses his wing in a cloud and is unable to fly. Tommy gives up his wing to his friend but how is Tommy going to go to Bethlehem now that he can't fly? First Winter is about Brian the Bear who loves playing basketball. When he finds out that bears sleep all winter long, he is not happy. Will he choose being with his family or playing basketball? My latest currently published book is First Winter.

What is the best part of writing for children?
One of my best moments was getting a letter from a boy who enjoyed Jimmy in Please, Miss Gooding! It made my week!

Thank you so much, Patricia.  ~JD

Find Patricia A. Moore's books at:

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