The Lithuanian Writers’ Association: Seven Decades of History

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    In 1998, writer Stasė Petersonienė was the first woman elected as president of the organization.

    For the first time in the Association’s history, in 1998 a woman became president of the Board of Directors. The new board elected Stasė Petersonienė to the post on May 30 of that year. Secretary Daiva Karužaitė, treasurer and archivist Stasys Džiugas, Aušra Kubiliūtė-Daulienė – contact person with Lithuanian writers publishing in English, Nijolė Jankutė-Užubalienė – responsible for information, and member-at-large Alphonsas Šešplaukis-Tyruolis completed the Board.

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    Article by the LWA board president about its goals, published in the daily “Draugas” on July 25, 1998.

    The new board informed the Lithuanian-American public about its main goals in an article “An Outline of the Lithuanian Writers’ Association” published on July 25, 1998 in Draugas’ “Science, Art, Literature” culture supplement. The president identified seven key objectives that the new board intended to achieve: to promote literary events in local communities; to encourage writers to publish their own works; to put the LWA archive in order; to create an archive of literary award winners; to encourage Lithuanians writing in English to join the organization; to select the best book of the year; to seek new members and to continue cooperating with the Lithuanian Writers’ Union and other literary groups in Lithuania.

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    Greetings from LWA president Petersonienė to the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, November 19, 1998.

    Keeping her word to maintain close relations with writers in Lithuania, the new president sent a letter to the Lithuanian Writers’ Congress in Vilnius on November 19, 1998, with wishes for a creativity-filled year.

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    Program of the 1997 Literary Award event – the recipient was Dr. Alfonsas Šešplaukis-Tyruolis.

    While the former president Jurkus noted in one of his letters that Petersonienė’s board of directors “has undertaken to cast its net wide,” the very active president showed the energy and determination to pursue her goals. From the very start, the Association planned numerous literary events, particularly in the Chicago area, not limited to the traditional literary award and “Poetry Days.” As a note, under the leadership of Petersonienė, the LWA award went to writers for their lifetime contribution to Lithuanian literature, not only the best book of the year.

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    Draft of a joint letter to the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Andrius Kubilius, from the LWA and LWU, March 17, 2000.

    During the visit of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union chairman Valentinas Sventickas, in Chicago in March 2000, the LWA and the LWU decided to appeal to the government of Lithuania, asking it to lower postal rates for shipping books out of the country. Arūnas Bėkšta, the Minister of Culture, responded favorably to the appeal. Yet, in one of its review issues, the Board of Directors states: “unfortunately we’ve heard nothing concrete thus far.”  

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    Letter to the LWU from the LWA president Petersonienė informing them about the $1,000 gift.

    The LWA started to more actively support Lithuanian Writers’ Union activities financially. In 2004, the president of the Association sent a $1,000 check to the publishing house of the LWU. In her letter, Petersonienė noted that “that the writers living outside Lithuania support a strong Lithuanian word, particularly in fiction.” In another letter the same year, addressed to Vytautas Spečiūnas, the editor of the Lithuanian History department at the Science and Encyclopedia Publishing Institute, the head of the LWA wrote that the Board of Directors had decided to purchase two sets of the Lithuanian Encyclopedia (Lietuvių enciklopedija) published in Boston and to donate them to the Institute.

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    The covers of Vincas Auryla’s two-volumes of “Lietuvių egzodo vaikų ir jaunimo literatūra” (Kaunas: Šviesa, 2002 and 2003), the winner of the LWA Literature Award of 2005.

    The Association’s literature award of 2005 went to a work published in Lithuania – the first such event in the history of the LWA. Prof. Vincas Auryla received the award in 2006 for his two-volume book Lietuvių egzodo vaikų ir jaunimo literatūra (The Literature of Lithuanian Children and Youth in Exile).

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    Ruta Sepetys, one of the winners of the 2015 Literary Award with Stasė Petersonienė, president of the LWA. Photo by Audronė Sidaugienė

    The LWA, led by Petersonienė, who on March of 2016 celebrated her 100-th birthday, is still active. Its latest event, the Association’s 2015 Literature Award was held at the Lithuanian Heritage School at the Lithuanian Youth Center in Chicago on February 6, 2016. The winners were two Lithuanian-Americans, Ruta Sepetys, whose English-language novel Between Shades of Grey has received world-wide acclaim and journalist and author Raimundas Marius Lapas, who has been contributing to Draugas on varied topics for a number of decades.