SLS Lithuania Alumni Experience — Marion Mitchell

Marion Mitchell joined us for the 2009 SLS Lithuania Program. Read her thoughts about her experience there:

“Thanks for a wonderful SLS writing experience.  After I left you and the amazing people I met in Vilnius, I spent a full week exploring Klaipeda’s old city (my mother’s birthplace); bright mornings biking through the fresh pine forests of the Coronian Spit, afternoons sunbathing on its white sandy beaches, and early evenings swimming in the refreshing Baltic Sea.  Especially meaningful, I spent quiet nights writing about my experiences in Vilnius.

There was a bit of magic in spending a committed period of time in Vilnius while studying with skilled writing professors who were also intimately familiar with Lithuania’s complex history.

My professors taught me much about writing.  But they taught me much about the city too.  Vilnius is beautiful.  Fine examples of Gothic, Renaissance, and abundant Baroque architecture are present at almost every turn.  Churches, castle ruins, and myriad city sculpture tempt the writer’s eye.

Vilnius is also a city of great tragedy.  Through horrific wars and dictatorial occupations, the Jewish and German cultures were completely annihilated or expelled.  The city was destroyed and rebuilt several times.  As a result of its tumultuous history, Lithuania’s culture had changed again and again and it continues to evolve.  Today, the possibility of political upheaval and ensuring threats of conflict, destruction, poverty and death are everyday concerns of the people.

What better setting for a writer?  A place of deep tragedy and great beauty.

The magic of the SLS experience comes through in my writing; a renewed creativity that looks at human experience through a different lens and commits to paper a bevy of opposing concepts such as those of tragedy and beauty.  My travel journal is filled with the seeds of future writings thanks to SLS.

I am grateful to Laima Vince, my travel writing teacher, for her many gifts:  the amazing field trips, history and writing lessons, her book, Lenin’s Head on a Platter, translations of her poetry which appear in An Echo of Vilnius, and mostly for her gracious and generous spirit.

I am also grateful to Antanas Sileika, my fiction writing teacher.  I had arrived in Vilnius armed with his book, A Woman in Bronze, a perfect text to accompany Antanas’s class.  It deepened my understanding of the people, the land, the history and the politics of Lithuania. (It was also a great read.)

Lastly, the Seminar allowed me to meet many people and make a few new friends, even one from my home town, Philadelphia.  The opportunity to gather with like-minded people for a dedicated period of time is both stimulating and comforting. ”

– Marion Mitchell, SLS Lithuania 2009 Alumnus

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