Cutting Floor Excerpts: Childhood Antics Or Growing Up a Poor Jewish Kid in Kraków During WWII.

Some of the antidotes from THE ALTERED I had to be cut out entirely, but this one, like so many, was always a favorite of mine. It’s about how Joe would ride the tram to see a young friend. This sounds like a simple enough action, just get on a tram and go see a friend. But this was during Nazi occupation in Kraków, Poland and Joe was a little Jewish kid who wasn’t allowed to ride a tram. He wasn’t allowed to do anything he previously had done: sit on a park bench in a beautiful park called the Planty and watch the swans swim in the lake, go to a library, buy anything from a store, ride a train, or be out on the street after curfew. Joe was precocious. He got around these rules. He tried to pass himself off as Aryan, or at the least a Polish citizen. In some cases he succeed, and in others he had some close calls. These were scary times, especially if you were Jewish.

So I give you this short excerpt:

V & T Train

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad Steam Locomotive.

“My parents were very preoccupied during this time, trying to survive and keep their heads during conditions that were more dangerous and desperate to live with. However I continued with my childish lifestyle and behavior. To my way of thinking it appeared as if Mamusia and Tatuś encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. They never said no to me, and whatever I decided to do that day I simply accomplished it.

I lived in my own fantasy world, often pretending to be one of those trains I greatly adored. I walked the streets like I was a train. Whenever I was free to roam the streets I moved like I was a train. When I encountered a corner on the sidewalk I slowed down, then chugged around it like it was a mountain pass. Then I increased my speed having successfully made the  turn onto the straight-away. My world was fantasy trains and trolley’s, characters in my favorite Karl May action books, and of course movies. Movies were another joy I was prohibited from because I was a Jew. But, this didn’t stop me, or any of the other kids who ran wild on the busy Kraków streets. Often we sneaked in at great risk of discovery. But, I loved movies so much it was worth the gamble.

The V & T Steam Locomotive

I became friendly with a Jewish kid who lived across the street, with hair so blond it looked snow white. I called him Biały, Polish for”white”. He was an exact miniature of his father who had the same white hair. Whitey was a mean kid, but I liked playing at his apartment. His father and mother seemed to like me and I always felt welcome there. Whitey’s father was indulgent and his mother was a mouse. She was nice, but without a backbone at all. Whatever her son wanted he got. Mousey’s father was a very religious bearded older man. He lived with the family, praying all the time. Whitey and I loved to play nasty tricks on him while he was in one of his deep prayers. Usually, as the grandfather prayed, his daughter, who I called Mousey, would pour him a cup of coffee and leave it on the table in front of him. We did whatever thing we could think up to his coffee, we added salt, or pepper, whatever was on the table. Another time I dipped the tip of an umbrella in it, swirling the cream around. This resulted in a big mess with a puddle of coffee on the table, but he was so deeply involved in his prayer he didn’t notice the antics going on right under his nose.  After his prayer he would take a gulp of coffee with great gusto, but then to our delight, splutter with disgust and spit it out in a long arching spray. Mousey, hearing the ruckus, shuffled in and squeaked, “Get out of the kitchen and leave grandfather alone.” It was halfhearted at best because I could see she was trying to hold back her own laughter.

When we weren’t pestering the poor praying grandfather, we played one of the myriads of Whitey’s games. Monopoly was our favorite. Ours was a Polish edition with the street names from the city of Warsaw. Unfortunately for me, Whitey and his family moved out of the Kazimierz. They moved far out of town beyond the tram line. Whitey’s father saw that I wanted to keep visiting his son so he arranged for me to have a tramway pass, valid for one month. This pass allowed me to ride any tram without paying the fare. I was so happy even though I had to walk about two kilometers by foot, but we could continue our Monopoly game anytime we wanted.”

Photo credit: Michelle Staryos, The Rusty Curio (Etsy)

Photo credit: Michelle Staryos, The Rusty Curio (Etsy)



What’s So Great About Publishing Anyway?

Reading The Altered I at Sundance Books and Music

I had to clear up some misconceptions some of my friends had about the business of publishing. Perhaps I was in a sour mood, or I was tired that day and didn’t want people having fantasies about the wonderful world of publishing. I don’t know. At any rate, I told them that the business end of writing a book was not as glamorous as they thought it was. In fact, it’s a lot of work and worry and time spent trying to figure out where or who your target audience is. Publishing for a writer is more than good formatting, perfect editing and a pretty cover. Part of the work involved is distribution, making your book accessible to the readers, and before a reader can get their mitts on it, the bookstore owners need to see it in a catalog and order it. It can be frustrating, and sometimes daunting.

But then, as I usually do, I cheered myself up with some positive thoughts about publishing. Without getting a book published, whether traditional or self, I wouldn’t hear what people thought about the book, the topic, the writing, or any of it. And when it comes down to it, that is the fun part, the real glamorous part, in my opinion.

Nevada Humanities recently invited me to participate in their inaugural Literary Crawl in support of Reno’s Artown project. It was the most fun I’ve had promoting the book. It was one of the shortest times I’ve spent, but the most gratifying in that all I had to do was read a passage to some book lovers. There was no big two hour long presentation with power point, or sitting at a table hoping some people interested in my genre would stop by and talk to me, or maybe want a signed copy of the book. I was scheduled third to read at a local bookstore, but there were twenty-two authors scattered about mid-town at various locations doing the same thing.

As I arrived I saw a large crowd of people. I wondered if any would stay to hear my reading. After the poet ahead of me finished with her reading, people took off for the next reading on the list, but some stayed and some new arrivals joined the waiting audience. I was so nervous. Probably because several of my dearest friends showed up to support me. I’ve been publicly speaking, and reading, and signing books for several months, so I didn’t need to feel nervous, but I was scared out of my mind! Also, reading in a real brick and mortar store just sent me over the moon!

I read from the Prologue, which is not too long and not too short. Although, I’ve been toying with the idea of adding more to the reading, like a small section of the first chapter, or just jumping to a more tense section of the book. But, for this venue, the Prologue was about right. Then there was a question and answer session, which I always love. My total time was a mere thirty minutes, but people stayed after to talk a little longer.

One college aged boy stopped by and said he had picked up the book mark for the book somewhere (I suspect one my library presentations), and he had been using it to hold his place for every book he had been reading. It was funny, because on the book cover is a large blue eye, and that is the section of the book mark that stuck out of the book, the eye just watching everything.  Then he told me he saw the advertisement for the Literary Crawl. Featured as one of the books to be read on the crawl was the cover from my book (which matched the book mark!) and he just had to come to the reading, where he purchased the book.

Another young lady remarked on the byline of the book. It is rather unusual. It doesn’t say “by author so-and-so” rather it says “As told to” because in all truth, the story was told to me. I translated that story into the written word, and hopefully added enough descriptive language to enhance the reading experience. The young lady remarked that she liked that it was “as told to” because “You aren’t saying you wrote it, it’s his story,” she said. I took that comment as a compliment. I try to be humble in what I’ve done, and take myself , as the author, out of the story and make room for Joe to tell his story.

Those are the beautiful things about being a published author, sharing the story by reading parts from it, giving presentations to school kids, or library folk, and hearing what readers have to say about it. That’s the great part about publishing. The rest is numbers, charts, and graphs–business as usual.

reading - 5

THE ALTERED I: MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR is available at Amazon, Google Play books, and LeRue Press.

Megan Cyrulewski’s Book Blast: Who Am I? How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again

Today I am doing something new for this blog. I’m hosting a new author in celebration of her book, a nonfiction about how she overcame tremendous obstacles in her life. So I will let Megan take it away and tell you in her own words about herself and her book WHO AM I? HOW MY DAUGHTER TAUGHT ME TO LET GO AND LIVE AGAIN.



Who Am I?  How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again, by Megan Cyrulewski

Megan’s book, Who Am I?  How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again, is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, stays in the psych ward, divorce, emotional abuse, domestic violence, law school, how she managed to graduate from law school and a beautiful little girl who emerged from all of this chaos.

Author Bio

Megan Cyrulewski has been writing short stories ever since she was ten years old. After attending Grand Valley State University, Megan eventually settled into a career in the non-profit sector for eight years. She decided to change careers and went back to school to get her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. While in school, she documented her divorce, child custody battle and postpartum depression struggles in her memoir. Megan lives in Michigan with her 3-year-old daughter who loves to dance, run, read, and snuggle time with Mommy. Megan also enjoys her volunteer work with various organizations in and around metro-Detroit.


Buy links

Who Am I?  How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again is available in paperback from all good booksellers. eBook versions will follow.


On January 18, 2012, we all convened in the courthouse for the Motion for Parenting Time hearing. My dad and I arrived with my attorney, but Tyler loved an audience so he brought his dad, step-mom, and his new on-again off-again girlfriend, Heather. Tyler walked in with his posse in tow, cocky as hell. It took all of two minutes for the judge to knock him off his feet.

The Judge addressed our respective attorneys. “Why are we here?”

“Your honor,” Tyler’s attorney began, “my client has clearly been denied his parenti—”

The Judge didn’t even let him finish. “How?” She turned to my attorney. “Don?”

“Your honor, as you can see in the divorce decree, there was supposed to be a review when the minor child turned twelve months old. The Defendant has ignored that review.”

“I–if I may, your honor,” Tyler’s attorney sputtered.

“I see the review in the decree. It’s here in black and white,” she told Tyler’s attorney. “What is the problem? Why didn’t you understand the review? Your client signed the divorce decree.”

Tyler’s attorney tried again. “But your honor—”

The judge cut him off. “There is to be a review conducted by the Friend of the Court referee assigned to the parties. Until then, the Defendant will continue his parenting time schedule as agreed upon in the divorce decree. Dismissed.”

And that was it. After eight police reports and numerous harassing text messages, phone calls, and e-mails, we won. As Don and Tyler’s attorney went to speak with the clerk to file the necessary paperwork, Don told us to wait for him outside the courtroom.

As we exited the courtroom, the hallway was so packed with people that my dad and I were only able to find enough space to lean against the wall. We were talking about the court proceedings when we looked up at saw Tyler and his new girlfriend standing right across from us.

“Why do you lie about everything?” Tyler screamed.

Heather walked up to me and stood about an inch from my face. “As a mother myself, you should be happy that Tyler is the father of your child.”

My jaw dropped. “I’m sorry but I don’t know you.”

She smirked. “Well you’re going to get to know me, bitch.”

Tyler made a big show of pulling her from me like I was going to punch her or something. By this time, everyone in the hallway was watching us. We were pure entertainment.

Heather continued her rant. “Two times in the psych ward, Megan? What a great mother you are.”

“Where is your mom, the real mother of our child?” Tyler screamed. “She’s the one who takes care of Madelyne.”

My dad and I tried to move away from Tyler and Heather but they followed us.

“Do you have to take a Xanax because of your anxiety?”

“Go take your Xanax and sleeping pills, you drug addict,” Tyler shouted.

Finally, Don emerged from the courtroom and pulled us into a quiet corridor. He explained that I needed to call our referee to set-up a meeting to discuss a visitation schedule. I told Don about the verbal assault by Tyler and Heather. Don said he would call Tyler’s attorney to let him know that Heather would not be allowed in my house.

Upon leaving the courthouse, Heather screamed, “See you on Sunday, Megan.”

I turned toward her and said calmly, “I don’t know you, but you are not welcome in my home.”

That night, Tyler sent me multiple texts attacking my mothering skills, my supposed drug addictions, how he was going to fight for joint custody of Madelyne, how Heather would be accompanying him for his visitations, and a barrage of other insults:

  • “Get a life already.”
  • “Don’t you have something better to do than wasting your parents’ money?”
  • “Go take your pills and relax, oh yeah, then your parents would have to watch our daughter. Oh yeah, they already do.”
  • “Go talk to your friends. Oh yeah, you don’t have any because of how crazy you are.”
  • “Interesting to know you’ve been to the hospital a couple of times. You really need to get it together.”
  • “Better go call your lawyer and make up some more stuff about me.”
  • “Don’t be mad at your sorry life.”
  • “I am sure living with Mom and Dad the rest of your life will be fun.”
  • “When you get a job, then you can pay me child support. Fun.”

I finally had to turn my phone off at midnight.

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