Happy Wednesday everyone! Today I’m excited because we have a very special guest on WHAT TO READ WEDNESDAY! Today we are featuring author Bryna Kranzler. Bryna is sharing an amazing true story about her grandfather based off the diary he kept during the Russo-Japanese War when he was a Russian soldier.
So please join me in welcoming Bryna!
Thanks for joining us on What to Read Wednesday. I’m excited to have you here. Tell us 5 facts about you the person and not the author.
- The building that used to be the hospital where I was born – Cedars of Sinai – has since become the headquarters for the Church of Scientology
- When I was about 5 years-old, Carl Reiner wanted me to have a recurring role on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Little Richie’s friend and next-door-neighbor
- I have an abysmal sense of direction, and my mechanism for accommodating it is no better. Typically I remember the color of the car that I park next to, but this has not proved to be a reliable way of locating my car again. (It’s even worse when I’m driving a rental and don’t even know the color of the car I rented).
- I love to experiment in the kitchen. When the writing isn’t going well or I can’t focus, I bake something to send to my children in NY and Miami. I try to come up with healthy variations of things they like, though for special occasions, like Thanksgiving, I’ll make something very decadent. My son is currently visiting for 2 weeks of R&R, and today the two of us had fun with a molecular gastronomy kit I had bought. We made balsamic spaghetti. Tomorrow we’re going to make goat cheese spheres to serve with it.
- One of my recent procrastination efforts turned into something bigger than I could have imagined. I started wondering whether there might be other women named ‘Bryna’ on Facebook; perhaps I’d start a group for the 4 or 5 us in which we could chat about the origin of our shared name. I found more than 3 or 4 others; in fact, I found over 1700 other Brynas on Facebook, alone. Now The Bryna Brigade has 122 members, each one of whom has said, “I never met anyone else with the same name.”
I love that you experiment in the kitchen, I enjoy that too! And I especially love that you started the Bryna Brigade. I remember when we met I mentioned to you that I really liked your name Congrats on finding other Bryna’s out there! Lol Now back to our interview…I get sidetracked so easily Where is your favorite place to read?
On the beach, in a lounge chair, with a lot of ice water with lemon nearby! But practically speaking, I do a lot of my reading on the recumbent exercise bike.
What’s your favorite snack food?
Nuts! Mostly almonds, though I like all healthy nut, seed and raisin/cranberry mixes
Almonds are delish! What genre (s) do you write?
- Essays and OpEds
- I’m currently trying to write song lyrics
You have so many interesting facets Bryna Describe your writing space.
Look for the most cluttered space in the house, and you’ll likely find me buried beneath it. My elbows rest a few inches off my desktop, because I haven’t seen the surface in a while. I briefly used the kitchen table (except that I couldn’t see the screen of my laptop during the day time), and for a few years, worked at a Starbucks and Panera because I realized that whenever I got to a tough spot in my writing, I heard the laundry or dinner calling me to attend to it.
Share the blurb from your latest release.
Latest press release? “Anarchy and Teamwork Win USA Best Books 2011 Awards.” After I formed my publishing company, Crosswalk Press, I took in two other authors and we formed an LLC Partnership. This press release refers to the fact that both of our books won awards in the USA Best Books of 2011 competition: Hers, in Cookbooks: General, and Gift and Specialty Books categories, and mine in Biography: Historical. I tried to come up with a catchy title for the press release.
Let’s play LUCKY SEVEN…Choose 7 words that describe your story.
- War diary
- Eastern Europe
- Black humor
- Russo-Japanese War
I know the behind the scenes story as to how you came about writing this book, will you please share it with our readers visiting today?
In 1905, my grandfather – a Jewish soldier, and later officer, in the Russian army during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), began keeping a diary documenting the many ways that the Czar had let down his own people. This included equipping some of the men with weapons, but completely different men with ammunition; making no provisions to feed the soldiers or provide warm clothing to survive winter in Manchuria; learning absolutely nothing about the enemy they were sent to fight (since the war was launched to distract the population from thoughts of revolution); and generally not caring that 99% of the population was starving and hungry while royalty and the nobility held all the power. The incidents my grandfather recorded in his diaries supported his decision, after the war, to get involved in overthrowing the Czar (for which my grandfather earned his 3rd death sentence, which he also evaded).
Give us 3 reasons why you think we should read your book.
- The book is about a little-known (in the U.S.) period of history which changed the balance of world power (Russia lost its superpower status, while Japan emerged as the first Asian nation to defeat a European nation).
- It shows how it is possible to survive the unthinkable by having a sense of humor, and being devoted to friends. And this aspect of my grandfather’s personality makes the book very funny.
- And it illustrates that hatred is not a survival skill; it is possible to treat one’s enemies with honor (even after they’ve proved they don’t deserve it) and still survive; in other words, without sacrificing one’s soul.
What was the hardest part of the book to write?
The hardest part was coming up with a narrative structure in which I could tell my grandfather’s story as a continuous story, and then organizing the elements to make sure they were in chronological (historical) order. There were several incidents that were similar but made the same point, so I consolidated those stories into a single incident. There were also other, wonderful stories that didn’t fit with the new narrative structure that I unfortunately had to omit from the book, but I published them on my blog so that they wouldn’t be lost (This is one of the stories: http://xsnerg-accidentalanarchist.blogspot.com/2009/12/samurai-of-vishigrod-and-very-small.html.)
The easiest part, surprisingly, was getting into my grandfather’s voice to write the parts I needed to create, fill in or flesh out.
Please share an excerpt of your book!
Let me set the scene: Following the Russo-Japanese War and my grandfather’s escape from Siberia (his third death sentence was commuted to ten years of hard labor in Siberia followed by permanent exile), he returned to Poland where he joined the Polish Revolutionary Underground (to free Poland from Russian control). This is how my grandfather described his first assignment as an ‘agent’ for the Polish underground:
“One morning, I was summoned to the Bristol Hotel. This, to be frank, was a place ordinarily a little out of my class. Its lobby, I saw at a glance, was so densely populated with Czarist agents, you could throw a stone in any direction and not hit one person who still spoke Polish, let alone Yiddish. My assignment was to make contact with someone holding one end of a broken match; I would carry the other half. After confirming that our pieces fit together, the man was to say to me in Polish, ‘Excuse me, sir, can you give me a light?’ To which I was to reply, ‘What brand of cigarettes, sir, do you smoke?’
“It did no good to point out that such a dialogue would be hard to mistake for a casual exchange between two normal human beings. To make things worse, I had been given a piece from the wrong match, meaning that both of us would arrive carrying a half with no head on it. My handler agreed there may have been a slipup, but it was too late now to alter the arrangements.
“So picture, if you will, two shabbily dressed strangers circulating in the crowded lobby of this elegant hotel, stooping over from time to time to gaze at what another person may be holding between his fingers.
“After sweating through I don’t know how many minutes of this little minuet, my contact and I finally noticed each other’s peculiar behavior and sheepishly flaunted our headless matches. We then recite our stilted passwords and manage to walk out together, all without for one moment arousing the suspicions of our excellent police force. Or, at least, without being arrested on the spot.”
Having thus met his ‘handler,’ my grandfather received his first assignment:
“In the street, my fellow-plotter, a jittery young man with bad skin, kept looking over his shoulder. Half a block away, feeling it finally safe to talk, he said, ‘Are you prepared to go on a mission?’
“At first I wondered if this were yet another password, or possibly a trap. But he repeated himself so impatiently that I assumed he wanted a straight answer, which was, ‘I don’t know. What kind of a mission?’
“He yanked me into a doorway. ‘I can’t tell you.’
“‘Then I’m not going.’
“‘Delivering supplies,’ he said grudgingly.
“‘Supplies of what?’
“Scowling with annoyance, he mumbled, ‘Ammunition,’ in a tone that let me know I had no business asking such an idiotic question.
“You might say that this task should have sounded harmless enough to someone of my background. But I knew of several comrades who were arrested while transporting such goods, and with very little fuss, sentenced and shot.
“But my contact allowed me no time for reflection. He snapped, ‘Wait here,’ and vanished across the street.
Trapped, I loitered in plain sight of the Bristol, straining to look invisible and braced, at any moment, for a heavy hand to fall on my shoulder.
“Instead, I saw a tall young woman make her way daintily through the traffic. Flustered, she stopped near me and looked around. This, I assumed, was my new contact since one would had to be blind in both eyes not to have spotted her instantly as a man in a poorly fitted horsehair wig. Nor was he too cleanly shaven.
“I tried to lose myself among the passing pedestrians, hoping this person would not be able, in his pavement-trailing skirt and high-heeled boots, to follow me.
“But the creature in the wig, having spotted me, caught up with me. Smiling through smudged lips, he motioned coquettishly with his finger. Resigned, I allowed him to capture my elbow and summon a droshky. We climbed in, and he directed the driver to a certain number on Shliska Street. The driver cracked his whip, giving no sign of having noticed that his orders came from a woman with a rather hairy voice.
“We pulled up at a shoemaker’s cellar where my guide/contact, with all the nonchalance of a commercial traveler on an expense account, ordered the droshky to wait, just as though we had not been warned time and again that some cab men also served as police informants.
“A minute later, I staggered back out into the street hauling two valises so heavy one of the handles promptly came off in my hand; my load crashed to the pavement.
“At this, the shoemaker turned white and then became hysterical. Hopping up and down, he cursed my clumsiness and consigned me to the seven depths of hell. I realized I was not carrying mere bullets but a more nervous kind of merchandise, like dynamite or even homemade bombs, the kind we cozily call ‘dumplings,’ some of which had been known to go off at inconvenient times.
“Still in his wig and padded dress, my guide ordered our driver to take us and our luggage to a windowless shack deep in the woods outside the city where, to my relief, a refreshing businesslike couple took delivery of the goods.”
What’s a memorable line from your book that you’re proud of?
I am most proud of the opening, which took me almost a month to get right: “I have no excuse, save for the ignorance of youth and a desire for grandadventure, which may have been one and the same thing. Consequently, the seemingly minor decision I made to end my education before the age of thirteen led me down a path from which each future choice was misdirected by the previous foolish one.”
What surprised you the most about becoming a published author?
That the really hard work was only beginning!
LOL…Love that…so true! Would you like to share a hint as to what your current WIP is?
There are several projects that I’m juggling at the moment: An essay I’m writing based on a speech I’d like to give at a Tedx conference in San Diego; homework for a class I’m taking toward earning a certificate in Copyediting; preparing a presentation that my partners and I plan to give at SXSW (South by Southwest), if our panel is picked. (Voting is open till August 31. Please vote for us at:
a href="your panel URL"><img src="http://sxsw.com/sites/default/files/PP_VOTE_IDEA_SXSW2013.jpg" width="186" height="57" alt="" title="" /
Our presentation is: “The Cook, The Bitch and The Anarchist: Lessons Learned Between the Sheets, Beyond the Covers.” This is a panel presentation by my publishing partners and I about the business of self-publishing. Conveniently, this ties in to another one of my projects, which is writing an ebook about self-publishing, with a particularly emphasis on everything I did wrong because I didn’t know any better.
And finally, where can we find you and your book(s)?
So glad you asked: On my website: www.TheAccidentalAnarchist.com, where one can order a signed copy; at Amazon.com and BN.com; and at select bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
Thank you for joining me today on What to Read Wednesday Bryna, I’m honored that you shared your story with us and so glad you visited!