ewein2412: (e vane)
My latest YA novel, The Pearl Thief, was released in the USA on 2 May by Disney Hyperion and in the UK on 4 May by Bloomsbury. To celebrate the UK release, we had a belated launch so close to home that we were able to walk to the venue. Mark and our neighbour Betty came along with me and Helen – my college roommate to whom the book is dedicated, who’d travelled up from London for one night so she could be there – it was a gorgeous evening for walking. Tim joined us when he got home from work. (Poor old Sara the film student was stuck in Salisbury.)


Helen & E Wein

The event was held in the Perth Museum. The Pearl Thief, a mystery and a coming of age novel featuring the title character from Code Name Verity, is set in rural Perthshire, and it felt most appropriate to connect the living and real local heritage to the fictional cultural landscape of the book. There was a little reception gearing up when we arrived at the museum – Lizz Skelly and Charlotte Armstrong from Bloomsbury Kids’ had set everything up ahead of time with cooperation from the museum and Waterstones. At this point a ton of people I knew began to arrive – other writers, SCBWI folks, my book group from Perth, friends and neighbours, bell ringers – and Jess Smith, my co-star.


Left to right - a true assortment of guests: Alex Nye (author), Bess (student & reader) & her mum Lara Haggerty (Keeper of Books at Innerpeffray Library), Joan Taylor (Secretary for Friends of Innerpeffray and Mark & Sara's voice teacher), me, Gavin Lindsay (Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust), Lizz Skelly (Marketing, Bloomsbury), and Jess Smith (author & Traveller)!

For the launch, we’d dreamed up a panel event framed as a conversation between me and Jess, whose many books and whose background as a Scottish Traveller had proved invaluable to me in the creation of The Pearl Thief. Held in the museum’s lecture hall, the event was moderated by Gavin Lindsay of the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, whom I’d met as a result of volunteering at the Moredun Top hill fort dig in September 2016. Jess and I had spent literally hours on the phone last year, but we’d never met in person, so this conversation in front of an audience filled with our friends and family was the first time we’d ever spoken face to face! We had complementary slide presentations – Jess’s showed photographs of Travellers in the past, and mine showed contemporary Perthshire landmarks and vistas. The soundtrack to Jess’s images was her poem “Scotia’s Bairn,” a lyrical tribute to a Traveller childhood in its difficulty and its beauty. We talked about history, and landscape, and the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction. Jess spoke of the prejudice she’d been subjected to as a child, and to which Travellers today are still subjected.

The conversation was thrown open to the audience toward the end to invite questions, and I was struck by the comment made by a cousin of Jess’s, about how the cultural legacy of your heritage can affect you even when you aren’t raised in the traditional circumstances or land of your ancestors.

Afterwards Jess and I both signed our books and were given many floral tributes from well-wishers and from Bloomsbury – I feel obliged to single out fellow writer and SCBWI member Sheila Averbuch. Not only did she grow her bouquet it in her own garden, but she has now been shortlisted for Scotland’s Gardener of the Year. She included lilacs specifically with Rose’s VE-Day lilacs from Rose Under Fire in mind. Sheila, incidentally, wrote a very thoughtful blog post of her own after the event, bringing together threads from her recent reading and themes that came up during my discussion with Jess.


Sheila's flowers

The thing about the launch that really, really appealed to me in a million different ways was how self-referential to The Pearl Thief it was – often in ways I wasn’t expecting. Gavin, who’d just begun reading the book, told me in such a deadpan voice that he’d driven over from Brig O’Fearn that I almost didn’t catch that he was talking about a place I'd made up, having so accustomed my own ear to the place names of my imagination (the real village is called Bridge of Earn). Through a series of coincidences, one of the guests who came along was Lara Haggerty, the Keeper of the Innerpeffray Library – the oldest free lending library in Scotland (circa 1680) – and the one on which I based the imaginary Inverfearnie Library of the novel. (Also, coincidentally, Lara featured in one of my slides). And, in another complete coincidence, the Carpow Bronze Age log boat – on which the significant log boat of The Pearl Thief is based – had returned to the Perth museum for the first time in five years, where it is now on permanent display – Jess and I posed for many pictures in front of it!


E Wein, Gavin & Jess with the Carpow Bronze Age log boat

I am so grateful to Bloomsbury, the Perth Museum, Waterstone’s Perth, the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, Jess and Gavin and Lizz and Charlotte for pulling it all together – to Helen and everyone else who came to enjoy the buzz and the banter – and to Debby Harris and Elizabeth Kerner Ewing for wearing their pearls.

I really couldn’t have dreamed up anything more appropriate if I’d been 15 years old again and wishfully imagining my future as a Scottish author.
ewein2412: (Default)
I am incredibly lucky to have Disney Hyperion as a publisher. Someone once described them as giving you the attention and care of a small publisher – backed up by the juggernaut that is Disney Publishing Worldwide. (I use this as an excuse for my love of Disney animated films and The Lion King stage play: “Disney owns me!”) One of the ways they continue to support me is that they’ve sent me on tour during the launch week for each of my last three books.

The Pearl Thief came out on Tuesday 2 May 2017, and for the rest of that week I did a whirlwind sweep across half the USA – starting in Washington, DC, taking in the suburbs of Boston and Chicago, and ending in Austin, Texas, on Friday 5 May 2017.

The wonderful bookstore Politics & Prose in Washington was the starting point for this tour. They have hosted me before, and this time indulged me in serving up birthday cake for my aunt Susan during a book signing. When I came in and introduced myself to the staff, the first thing they said to me was, “Your college roommate’s parents are coming!” I said, “You know The Pearl Thief is dedicated to my college roommate!” and they said, “We know! Her parents are so proud!” Fortunately Betsy and Ron Sanders arrived a little early so I was able to chat with them (Helen, who lives in London and wasn’t able to be there in person, had called them that morning to encourage them to go)!

And there was a mother/daughter team who’d just finished listening to Code Name Verity in the car that day. The girl was 13. Probably the greatest pleasure I get out of these visits is discovering people who share my books – and in meeting young people who love them. Encounters with 12 and 13-year-olds who’d read and enjoyed Code Name Verity turned out to be a hallmark of this trip.

Tuesday was a marathon, with a flight from Washington to Boston at 6 a.m., two school visits in the Wellesley area courtesy of Wellesley Books, and then a flight from Boston to Chicago at 6.10 p.m. But it was well worth the effort – talking to a group of middle school English and history students at Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton MA about women’s roles in World War II and the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück, and then addressing a large group of 7th and 8th graders at Wilson Middle School in Natick MA.


Nashoba Regional High School students

Some of the Wilson 7th graders had read and worked through Code Name Verity together and were anxious to ask questions about it – “Why did you use such a complex narrative structure?” and “Did you get confused trying to keep the plot and the timeline straight?” Plus a few more curious questions I hadn’t heard before! “How old is Anna Engel?” and “What was the significance of Theo and Kim Lyons?” (For the answer to that, read my short story “Something Worth Doing” in Firebirds Soaring!)

These kids had done a great project on suggestions for working through problems in learning and reading comprehension, relying heavily on discussion and encouragement from others. I know, from previous experience, that Code Name Verity is a difficult book, but I have also learned that one passionate reader can often change the entire group’s experience of the text. It was inspiring and gratifying to hear and see this very young audience working hard at understanding and appreciating a complex read, and I told them so. They said, “Thank you! Thank you! It is so great to be appreciated as intelligent readers!” (Man, I LOVE middle school readers. I really do.)


YaY! This upbeat little cartoon summarizes the 7th grade CNV book group's reading efforts.

The following day I visited two schools in the Chicago area: Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove IL, and Quest Academy in Palatine IL. The Harter School was having a Career Fair for the 7th grade and I was presenting as the Author (I am not sure who all the other presenters were, but I know that the Naperville Sheriff was there because there was a SWAT vehicle labelled “Sheriff” parked out front, as well as a travel agent and someone dressed in scrubs!)

At Quest Academy I did a presentation to a Language Arts and Social Studies class of 7th graders, but I also got to experience a cross-section of the rest of the school – the 4th grade was so excited about the idea of meeting an author that they were allowed to come and bombard me with questions during lunch (“Where do you get your ideas?” My standard answer to this is always ”Star Wars,” which cracks them up). And I got to see the pre-schoolers present their engineering play! My guides for the day were a gracious pair of 7th grade readers, Shambhavi and Allison, who together made a pretty amazing presentation to their class about my life and my books.


With Quest Academy guides Allison and Shambhavi

In the evening I gave a talk at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville IL, who provided the books for the area school visits. This was fun because it ended up being very informal and intimate, as we all sat around a table together and discussed various literary matters (mostly relating to Code Name Verity). I was delighted to meet In Real Life a person I had done some online role-playing with ten years earlier! Drew Shilhanek, the Language Arts and Social Studies teacher who’d invited me to Quest Academy but who hadn’t been able to be there that day, came along to this event; there was also a school librarian who shared with me that she’d used CNV as a means to convince the history teacher that young adult fiction had a valid place in the classroom. There were a pair of 13-year-old CNV fans here, too, a brother and a sister, whose presence – as always – made the whole event worthwhile.

I know it is kind of considered the kiss of death to have your book “taught” in class, but I have heard nothing but GOOD things from educators and students alike who are able to use fiction as a jumping-off point for learning both history and current events. And I think it is wonderful, wonderful that young adult literature is seen as such a valuable resource – and also that classroom readings, encouraged by open-minded educators, give kids a chance to engage with a book on their own terms. (Consider this tedious discussion of last August. Yeah, right, whatever. 7th grade readers are the front line in this battle, and it looks to me like YA is WINNING.)

Friday’s events all took place at The Book People in Austin TX – starting off with a wine & cheese book club meeting where the book being discussed was (you guessed it) Code Name Verity. The group leader Meghan and her team had set up discussion stations labelled with different aspects of the book to get people going, but everyone kept congregating around me to hear the Official Line on “Is Maddie & Julie’s relationship romantic or not?” and “Who switched their identity papers?” (both questions I don’t have an official line on, because I love the debate and engagement it engenders to keep them open-ended). Eventually we gave up on the stations and just sat around in one big group until it was time for the public event in the main bookstore. There was another teen reader, Xander, at the book club meeting, and we’d met before on my Black Dove, White Raven tour in 2015!

The main bookstore visit took the form of a virtual tour of Scotland via PowerPoint. Questions were asked (including : “What do the Scots think of Brexit?”) and books were signed, but the best part of the evening for me was when my high school friend Kristyn Leftridge turned up with my annual order of Girl Scout cookies! We then sat in the Book People café until closing time – catching up on everything, until we had to leave and continue our conversation on the balcony of my hotel room until half past midnight.


E Wein & Kristyn, another YaY.

And the next morning I was on my way back to Scotland!

I’m now recovered from my jet-lag and looking forward to the launch for Bloomsbury’s UK edition of The Pearl Thief, which will be happening in the Perth Museum on Thursday 18 May 2017. You can register for this event here. My college roommate Helen is going to be there too. <3
ewein2412: (Default)

This year my novel Rose Under Fire was chosen as Central Pennsylvania’s “One Book, One Community” read across a six-county region including over 90 libraries. The program is described in detail here. It’s essentially a great big geographically-organized book club, based on an idea that originated in Seattle in 1998. In Central PA, the campaign really got off its feet in 2004 when a couple of two-county groups combined their readerships. This is the twelfth year for a collaboration of library systems in Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York Counties, along with several college libraries and the Pennsylvania State Library.

Needless to say, to have any book be chosen for this initiative is a phenomenal honor – and if I’d been able to wish this for any of my books, it would have been for Rose Under Fire. TELL THE WORLD! That was what the doomed prisoners at the Ravensbrück concentration camp shouted to their surviving companions as they were dragged to the gas chamber. Tell the world: the need to tell the world is what kept Ravensbrück’s victims of Nazi experimentation from despair in their darkest hours of imprisonment. Rose Under Fire is my own small attempt to tell the world what happened at Ravensbrück, and One Book, One Community has amplified my voice – and by extension, the voices of all the women, living and dead, who were imprisoned at this often-forgotten Nazi concentration camp.

During the first week of April 2017, I went along to a number of events connected with OBOC in Lebanon, York, Dauphin, and Berks Counties. Part of what made this mini-tour so wonderful was the fact that I was in my home territory – like my character Rose, I grew up in Central Pennsylvania. Rose’s fictional hometown is a thinly disguised Lebanon, PA. No doubt this hometown connection was part of the attraction for area readers – so in the Q&A I’d get really localized questions like, “Why did you include the paper box factory?” and “Who was your instructor at Reigle Airfield?” And my favorite comment: “This is the first book I’ve ever read that mentioned opera fudge!” In fact opera fudge doesn’t get mentioned in the book – that was either a test to see if I really am a local girl who knows what opera fudge is, or I did my job so well that the reader is lulled into the false impression that I sneaked opera fudge in there along with the Lebanon bologna, shoofly pie, fasnachts, and Cope’s dried corn.

The two big events of the week were an author talk at Congregation Beth lsrael in Lebanon, and a Readers’ Celebration held at the Reading Regional Airport. The Beth Israel talk was organized by Judith and Joe Clark, who’d invited me to appear as their annual speaker. They were superb hosts, taking me and my aunt and uncle to dinner at the Lebanon Country Club and putting me up for the night in the nearby Patriot House bed & breakfast in Annville – which just happens to have been built and owned by my great-great-great-grandfather, the town’s nineteenth-century carriage maker. He raised 13 children there - it is a very big house! My great-great-grandfather and grandfather grew up here, and my grandmother celebrated her birthdays here (a local girl for sure).

Patriot House B&B, Annville, PA

At Beth Israel, there was a beautiful reception ahead of my speech, which included as a lovely touch of bunches of pink and yellow roses - Maddie’s wedding flowers from early in the book.

The really wonderful thing about this talk, and indeed about every talk I gave over the week, was that so many people had actually read Rose Under Fire. They were engaged and prepared and interested. I got asked about Americans in Ravensbrück, about prisoner escapes, and if I’d ever had any former prisoners or relatives of prisoners contact me as a result of reading the book. We talked about why the book is considered young adult fiction. (There were not many young adults in the Beth Israel audience, but there were a few.) We talked about how I use my academic training as a folklorist to enhance my fiction writing!

In between the big events, there were some friendly little ones – lunch with Karen Hostetter of the York Library system, who was instrumental in planning my visit, and Mary Ann Heltshe-Steinhauer, Community Relations Manager for the Lancaster Library System, who coordinated the events and liaised with the OBOC Committee.

Gift basket of local York County-made products!

There was a private reception at the Martin Library in York, where Chris Reilly, the York County Commissioner, welcomed and thanked me; the Mayor of York, Kim Bracey, sent me apologies and a "white rose" lapel pin! I spent an unscheduled hour with the Annville Free Library staff; had dinner with three of my favorite teachers from Harrisburg Academy, where I went to high school; and enjoyed a meal out with the staff of the Midland Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, and a signing there afterward. There was another big bunch of roses waiting for me at the Midland Scholar that had been sent by my fourth grade teachers from Steele Elementary School in Harrisburg, Miss Golob and Miss O’Brine!

Midtown Scholar Bookstore

The final event of the week, the Readers’ Celebration, was a full afternoon in the departure lounge of the Reading Regional Airport (there were no departures going on but it felt faintly illicit to walk straight past airport security without anybody caring whether you opened your bags or kept your shoes on). Entertainment for forty or so guests included a lunch buffet, a slide show about Ravensbrück and the background to Rose Under Fire, informational displays and period and wartime artifacts, re-enactors in 1940s costume, and a silent auction – wow. When the Q&A and signing were finished, many of the visitors (including me and my aunts and uncles) drifted across the airfield to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum for a tour.

The OBOC Readers' Celebration team - Mary Ann and Karen are on the right.

The whole package was undoubtedly the most moving and exciting celebration of my writing I’ve ever experienced – the combination of me and my character both being local girls was a bonus, but the real reward was without a doubt the enthusiasm of everyone who participated in the OBOC read.

I am so, so privileged and grateful to have been able to share this week with so many friends, family, and dedicated readers. Thank you, One Book, One Community!

PS We sent written invitations for the Readers’ Celebration to all our senators and representatives from the six or so inventively-shaped PA congressional districts represented by the OBOC community. None of them turned up.

PPS Here’s an odd little feel-good story from Berks County – at the end of this video clip there is evidence of the small but far-reaching reverberations of how One Book, One Community helps to Tell the World.

ewein2412: (osprey hair)

SCOTLAND!

My husband Tim is in the computer games industry, and since computer games are, yanno, a form of film art, he's joined the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, aka BAFTA. It is, incidentally, a charity; and they give out the British film awards. As a member Tim got tickets, kind of just for fun, to the Scottish BAFTA Awards, which were held last night.

I knew it was going to be black tie, which meant putting Mark in a suit (his first), and digging out one of my long-disused EVENING GOWNS (last worn in 2001, I believe). But I think we clean up rather well.



I'd kind of glanced over the list of nominees without taking any names in and I certainly didn't expect to spot Peter Capaldi (for those of you who don't watch: Dr. Who) straight away. Which just goes to show you how unprepared I really was.



Mark spotted Steve Moffat about 5 minutes later (again, for those of you who don't watch: he's the Dr. Who writer, and writes for a bunch of other BBC shows including Sherlock. Well I wouldn't have recognized Steve Moffat!). At which point Tim mentioned that Peter Capaldi and Sam Heughan were both nominated for Best Television Actor and I was like...

Well, those of you who know me as an Outlander fan can guess what I was like. And then it turned out that Catriona Balfe was nominated for Best Television Actress, and suddenly I was ALL OVER this evening, which I had previously assumed was just going to be fun but that I wouldn't know or recognize anybody because I never go to any movies or watch any television and apparently the Scottish BAFTAs are sort of looked down on for being "provincial." AYE RIGHT.

It turns out - why had I not realized this? - that basically all my favorite actors are Scottish!

And they were ALL THERE - either receiving awards or presenting them or both.


Catriona Balfe & Sam Heughan


same, because they are essentially EYE CANDY #jamie


Catriona Balfe accepting her Best Television Actress award


Peter Capaldi as presenter


Steve Moffat

Moffat was a great presenter, funny and personable, and said a lot of excellent things about how writers don't get enough credit in the visual arts business because WE ARE THE BEST. ;)

OH LOOK WHO TURNED UP NEXT AS A PRESENTER, AS IF ONE #JAMIE WASN'T ENOUGH:


James McAvoy

The funny thing was, neither Tim nor Mark knew who most of these people were (apart from Dr. Who), so every time I had another flip-out over who was up on the stage, they were a bit baffled.

So, you'd have thought I'd have already had a great evening, right? No, look who was ALSO HERE PRESENTING AWARDS. Oh, you don't recognize her? MAYBE YOU'D RECOGNIZE HER VOICE.


Morven Christie #julie

Morven Christie happens to be the Scottish actress who voiced Julie for the audiobook of Code Name Verity.

I'd had absolutely no idea she'd be there and I couldn't have been more excited - if NONE of those other people had been there, meeting Morven Christie would have absolutely made my evening.

So of course after the awards were over I had to go introduce myself. She was lovely and just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. She told me how much she'd love CNV, how she'd read it in one day the first time, and then when she was reading the audiobook it was like Julie was speaking through her, like she was reading her own words aloud -

And then we both had a huge rant about Brexit and the American election.


Morven Christie & E Wein!

(There was a lot of Brexit-bashing. The most sustained round of applause all evening, indeed, was when one of the awards acceptance speeches included the line, "Up yours, Brexit!")

The full list of awards is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-37893926

It was an absolutely fabulous event in so many ways. And I am SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY I LIVE IN SCOTLAND.

ewein2412: (osprey hair)

With fellow CABA honorees Nnedi Okorafor, Elizabeth Zunon, Miranda Paul and (partly visible) Sean Qualls

It’s been a wonderful month for Black Dove, White Raven. It’s nearly a year and a half since its publication in May 2015. It was shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Award but has otherwise been a quiet book for me, so it’s sheer delight to have experienced the sudden burst of love for it that was the Children’s Africana Book Award festival.

Sponsored by Africa Access and a number of university African Studies centers, the festival was based in Washington, DC, and for me consisted of three days of school visits and book talks, including speaking at the Library of Congress Young Readers’ Center and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on the National Mall. The schools I spoke to included the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts, the Washington School for Girls, and Northwood High School. Every student at these events was given a copy of Black Dove, White Raven by An Open Book Foundation, an amazing charity whose remit is to “promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the Washington, DC area” as they work to bring authors and their books together with students and readers.


With students and staff at Richard Wright, as well as representatives of An Open Book Foundation

I think that for many listeners the highlight of my Richard Wright performance was when I responded to one of the teachers in Jamaican patois! (I was as surprised and delighted as anyone.) For me, the highlight was the poise and technical skill of the young people who filmed an interview with me for their video channel, a testament to the success of the Richard Wright School’s focus on journalism and media.

The Washington School audience was warm and sensitive – one of the girls asked me if my parents were proud of me, and I had to confess that they’d both been dead for 30 years. But, I said, I felt sure that my mother in particular would have been proud of Black Dove, White Raven, more so than of anything else I’d ever written. And all the kids burst into spontaneous applause.


Northwood's cool photo collage!

At Northwood, for the first time ever I actually had a sprinkling of native-born Ethiopian students in the audience. It made my slide images of Ethiopia so much more engaging to have kids there who recognized the sites and ceremonies I was showing them. There was a student whose mother had worked with one of my travelling companions in Ethiopia and recognized his name when I mentioned it. It was pretty wonderful to feel such a strong connection with an audience.

Black Dove, White Raven was one of the two Children’s Africana Awards Best Books named in the Older Readers category – the other being the charming Who Is King? by Beverly Naidoo. The winners and honorees in all categories were feted at a gala dinner at Busboys & Poets in the center of DC. As well as me, there were five other authors and illustrators able to attend: Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini, one of the winning author/illustrator teams in the Best Books for Young Children category for Chicken in the Kitchen; Kathy Knowles, who wrote Nana and Me, one of the Young Children Honor Book winners; Sean Qualls, the illustrator of the Young Children Notable Book Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson; and Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon, the author/illustrator team behind the Young Children Notable Book One Plastic Bag. In addition, the elegant and eloquent subject of One Plastic Bag, Isatou Ceesay, had travelled from The Gambia to attend the ceremony. (Most unfortunately, Edmund Opare, the Ghanan illustrator of Nana and Me, was refused a visa at the last minute.) Part of the joyful ceremony included us each being honored with hand-woven kente cloth sashes made by Chapuchi Ahiagble. I was shyly thrilled to have Isatou Ceesay place mine around my neck.

(I overheard a pretty funny conversation among a bunch of award-winning authors recently, comparing their literary trophies, and I felt quite proud to be the possessor of a CABA kente cloth sash.)

I loved the intimacy of the awards dinner – the familiarity of the CABA representatives with each other and with many of the attendees, the informal yet elegant atmosphere, the multicultural mix in attendance – and it was wonderful to know and recognize people there, too. I sat at a table with librarians who worked with an old bell-ringing friend of mine – I’d taken one of them punting in Cambridge, England, at a conference in 1998!


With Brenda Randolph and Harriet McGuire...

When Brenda Randolph, founder and Director of Africa Access and Chairperson of CABA, and Harriet McGuire, Vice President of Africa Access, introduced me to the gathering, I spoke of how proud my idealistic and charismatic young mother – who died at 35 - would have been of this book and this award. Her younger sisters Susan and Kate, who in many ways have filled her place for me, were both present as my guests. My last two books were dedicated to them, Rose Under Fire to Kate and Black Dove, White Raven to Susan. Susan served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia for two years, and it was she and her husband Roger who sparked my own interest in this intriguing and beautiful country* and who took me there in 2004. After the ceremony several people wanted pictures of me and my aunts. I was so happy to be able to share this celebration with family!


...And with my aunts Kate and Susan.

The following day was the Children’s Africana Book Awards Festival at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art – there were a number of projects and book-themed activities going on, as well as incredible performances by young drummers and dancers. The day’s events finished with a panel of authors and illustrators discussing their work and an exchange of ideas with a diverse and invested audience.


Balsa airplane projects at the CABA Festival

I really can’t say how proud and happy and humbled I am to have been part of this celebration.

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Five days later I was in Providence, Rhode Island, speaking at the Lincoln School and at Seekonk High School in Massachusetts in conjunction with the Rhode Island Festival of Books and Authors at the Lincoln School. I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Martha Douglas Osmundson, whom I’d met at NCTE in November 2015, and who asked me if I’d ever consider coming to Rhode Island (of course I said yes! In a heartbeat. Has no one figured out that I am always willing to play?)


Elizabeth Wein selfie with Lincoln School student Elizabeth Wein!

I gave two presentations at the Lincoln School. One was a talk to attentive middle-school students who asked excellent questions, and one was a workshop on structure to 9th graders who had all read my short story “The Battle of Elphinloan” in Taking Aim, edited by Michael Cart. That was fun because I was able to show them some of the scenes that had inspired me – the village of Pittenweem in Fife, with its concrete tidal swimming pool, castle and dovecote.


With Morgan Hellmold and Suzanne Larson at the Seekonk School



The event at Seekonk High School was sheer pleasure. The students there had read Code Name Verity as a “Whole-School Read,” so we had all the high school English classes gathered there and the event was set up as a conversation between me, library media specialist Suzanne Larson, and English teacher Morgan Hellmold, with students able to ask questions as well. There was lots of time given to pick apart plot-points and character and moral issues that I’m not usually able to address without giving away spoilers.


The Seekonk students had done a project to come up with appropriate code names for themselves!

Afterwards, the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors geared up with a signing session on Friday night. Author and illustrator talks and more signings took place all day on Saturday, and young readers came from all over. There was a wide range of books available – I noticed that a LOT of people ended up going home with copies of A Tyranny of Petticoats.

I had quite possibly the most wonderful book-signing experience of my life that day.

The reader was a sixth-grader named Lionel Wolfe. It was the day before his 11th birthday, and he’d discovered the link to the RI Festival on my website and asked to be taken there for his birthday. The whole family came all the way from New York, including mother, father, and big sister, 18-year-old aspiring novelist (and Code Name Verity fan) Lauranne. Lionel, who told me that Black Dove, White Raven was his favorite book, had made (for a school project) the most amazing model bi-plane whose wings folded like a book – the wings were decorated with an origami white raven and a black dove, and a booklet containing an in-depth analysis of Black Dove, White Raven.



It was a joyful exchange and held up the signing queue a bit, as we all exclaimed and took photos and professed our mutual inadequately expressed admiration for each other for quite some time. But everyone else in line was just as excited and enchanted by Lionel’s enthusiasm and ingenuity as I was! The woman next in line was actually in tears by the time the Wolfe family departed, much to her teen daughter’s embarrassment. When they finally got their turn she said, “I’m not crying! These are old tears.”


with Lionel...


...and with the rest of the Wolfe family.

It was… Just. So. Wonderful.

And you know, it is moments like this that remind me why I do what I do. I know that I, like many of my fellow authors, find myself frustrated at the lack of media attention, the indifferent sales, the disparities in the industry and the ignorance about the value of writing for young people. The real lure of events like these is the opportunity to meet readers and writers – both young and old, both published and unpublished, both aspiring and successful, in many different aspects.

The evening finished with an elegant farewell dinner at the Rhode Island School of Design, hosted by Chris and Lisa Van Allsburg. I owe so much gratitude to them, and to organizers Meagan Lenihan and Colleen Zeitz for inviting me to the festival!



And my month of literary excitement isn’t over yet. Still to come in October: the West Scotland Heat of the Kids Lit Quiz, and school visits in the Western Isles in connection with Faclan, the Hebridean book festival. Because I am always willing to play.

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*A sombre note: As I write this, Ethiopia is imploding. In the past two weeks it has entered a state of emergency. It has been heartbreaking to watch this happening from a distance while celebrating its history, people and culture.
ewein2412: (sara for obama)


Ever since Tuesday’s #VoterRegistrationDay in the USA, the YA community has been partnered with Rock the Vote to launch a week or more of #firstvote16 videos. John Green and Hank Green have been very vocal in encouraging and educating young voters – Hank Green has a huge video project going in which he explains how to vote in all fifty states – Thank you, Hank @hankgreen!

Here’s Hank’s intro video

And here he explains how to vote in every state.

And here, also, is John Green, responding directly to his viewers’ comments saying why they might not vote and encouraging them to do so.

I too encourage you to vote! You can register to vote here. It's easy!

For those of you, like ME, who aren’t currently at home on US soil, you can register to vote by absentee ballot HERE through the Federal Voter Assistance Program. It’s really easy these days – you can opt to receive your absentee ballot electronically. (I used to have to put a note on my calendar twice a year to remind myself to send them a formal snail mail letter requesting an absentee ballot!)

If you’re already registered, make your own video about your first time! Just tag two friends, link them to www.rockthevote.com/register-to-vote, and use #firstvote16.

I’m tagging Ashley Hope Pérez, author of the devastating Printz Honor book Out of Darkness, and Amber Lough, author of the YA fantasy novels The Fire Wish and the The Blind Wish.



And if I could, I’d tag my grandmother Betty Flocken, who barely missed an election in her 80 years of voting. The picture is from her book Maggie: Adventures of an Airedale.

Vote! It is your duty as an American! :D
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
Letter from a teen reader, received 25 August 2016, posted here unedited (with the writer's permission).

Dear Elizabeth,

I'm writing simply because I just want to say how much your book has affected me. This is the first book written by you that I've read and, since receiving it as a Christmas present last year, I've read it nine times! No matter how many times I read it, though, a new element hits me and surprises me. I don't think I can remember the last time I could connect to a character as well as I have with Rosie or have read such a hard-hitting book telling about life in a concentration camp in such detail. Your book inspired me to conduct more research into these "rabbits" and ravensbrück to the point where I plan to give a presentation in the coming school term for my English speaking exam. The poems and use of them are incredible, I have learnt all of them off by heart! I particularly loved "like taut wings fly" and "kite flying". I used to be an avid reader but was forced to stop due to having such a full timetable but Rose under fire has rekindled my love of books and reading. Really, I just want to thank you for writing such an incredible book and imprinting the memories of the 150,000 women into my, and so many others' minds. This is not a book I will be letting go of any time soon. So again, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Yours.


ewein2412: (osprey hair)
Sometime last year, Sheila Averbuch and Louise Kelly, in their role as organizers for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) SE Scotland Network of the SCBWI British Isles Region, asked me to represent the SCBWI at an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). I was flattered and pleased and of course I blithely accepted, with absolutely no idea of what I was getting myself into.

The event, chaired by Daniel Hahn, was premised on Anthony McGowan (author of The Knife that Killed Me, Hellbent, and Henry Tumour among others) saying controversial things about young adult literature and me responding in my role of ruling “middle-aged white woman who writes YA” – while waving a sheaf of oft-misquoted and under-interpreted statistics.

The floor was then opened to the opinions of a truly glittering array of YA and Middle Grade writers including Jenny Downham, Christopher Edge, Patrice Laurence, Annabel Pitcher, and Philip Womack (who gate-crashed the event but was a very welcome addition). This phenomenal crew was seated, rather unfortunately, in the front row with their backs to the audience rather than on the stage – however, the arrangement was set up to allow anyone who was participating in the Festival’s children’s programming to attend and participate (the five authors lined up there featured in other events as well).

So Anthony McGowan got up and ranted for ten minutes and I responded with a counter-rant, after which we had mini-rants from the other authors, and then the audience was allowed to throw in a few rants of their own. I don’t believe anything new and exciting was revealed, but everyone enjoyed ranting. Many teens were given a voice, which was wonderfully welcome, as they’re clearly the readers on the front lines here.

Here are some interpretations of the event:

Ann Giles (Bookwitch)

Sophie Cameron

Anthony McGowan’s own take

Barrington Stoke blog

Barrington Stoke’s blog entry… Well, gosh, I think it was me who said the “YA Debate” was getting old, which seems to be their sum total of my counter-rant! Of all the quotables to be picked up on. Their response “well we're still interested” feels like yet another misinterpretation. I didn’t mean YA isn’t worth talking about. Yes, yes, of COURSE we want to talk about it. But do we really need to continue to perpetuate these myths about it?

Let's BUST SOME OF THEM.

Myth 1): Most readers of YA are not teens.

I’ve written about this before.

That post is a bit outdated now, but people are still quoting numbers from the articles I’ve referenced in it, and other numbers such as the Publishers Weekly article referenced below. I cannot believe how often I hear people chirp “80 percent of people reading YA are not teens” when the statistic they are actually quoting is “80 percent of people buying YA are not teens.” You can draw your own conclusions by going to the source. (It doesn’t convince the MMR vaccine naysayers to go to the source, so if you’re convinced that more adults than teens read YA, no amount of arguing from me is going to change your mind.)

Publishers Weekly report on last year's Nielsen Summit

Bear in mind that most teens DON’T SPEND THEIR MONEY ON BOOKS. Ask a teen if you don’t believe me! They get books from the library, from educators, from parents, as gifts, and they do a LOT of borrowing from friends. I don’t hear anyone complaining that “100 percent of people buying board books are not babies.”

Basing your assumption of who reads YA on con attendance is simply and obviously erroneous. Most teens do not have the wherewithal to travel to London or wherever and stay in a hotel for three nights.

Also, WHO CARES if adults are reading YA? Really… who the heck CARES? I’ll read what I feel like reading.

Myth 2) YA is tripe, lacks depth and beauty, and always has a happy ending.

It’s lame, I guess, to counter every argument with your own books, but I do feel I have some modicum of legitimacy in responding with three words:

Code Name Verity.

“A part of me is broken off forever. A part of me lies buried in lace and roses on a river bank in France. A part of me will always be unflyable, stuck in the climb.”

Just… whatever.

Myth 3) (MYTH DU JOUR!) YA is stopping readers from moving on to adult [ie, worthwhile] fiction.

Yeah… whatever. Keep kicking the anthill, peeps.

Myth 4) YA has only been around for 20 years.

I actually spent quite of a bit of time researching this before the event, with the help of Jenny Kristine Thurman (@jennygadget on twitter), and can link you to some interesting articles tracing the history of YA from its origins 200 years ago to its acknowledged existence and value in the early 20th century:

“200 Years of Young Adult Library Services History” complied by VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

A useful chronology of Young Adult Literature by Ernie Bond of Salisbury University.

“The Value of Young Adult Literature” by Michael Cart, a white paper issued by YALSA (the Young Adult division of the American Library Association), January 2008. Also contains useful historical context.

“What Does Young Adult Mean?” by Jen Doll in The Wire

“The Surprising, Short History of Young Adult Fiction” by N. Jamiyla Chisholm in Real Simple

“A Brief History of the Young Adult Services Division” by Carol Starr on the YALSA website

Yada yada yada.

---------------------

I think the reason I feel this so-called “debate” is getting old is because people just seem to be so. damn. eager. to ignore the facts, to skip the research that would back or disprove their arguments, or to read ANYTHING in the oeuvre other than the current bestselling titles.* So we have John Green held up or reviled as the single example of a literary luminary in the field. Sally Gardner’s name did not come up in our debate; nor did those of Francesca Lia Block, Cornelia Funke, Virginia Hamilton, W.E. Johns, Katherine Paterson, Gene Stratton Porter, Jason Reynolds, Marcus Sedgwick, Steve Sheinkin, Rosemary Sutcliff, Robert Westall, or Jacqueline Woodson, to name a few at random off the top of my head – over a century’s worth of male and female, black and white prolific authors of fabulously readable fiction and non-fiction and poetry, accessibly told with intelligence and elegance.

It’s an exciting time to be writing for young adults, that’s for sure. I guess that my ennui regarding the “debate” and my lack of ennui in the field is based on the incredible feedback I continue to get from teen readers. During the signing after the EIBF event, I was told twice by readers that “Code Name Verity is my favorite book of all time.” I’ve lost track of how many teens have told me this. Honestly, an author can get no higher praise or greater incentive to keep going – whatever the media says.

Incidentally, all my major breaks in children’s publishing came about through connections made because of the volunteer work I’ve done for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). If you’ve any intention of writing for children, I urge you to join.

SCBWI website

SCBWI British Isles website

*(This is where I feel the YA Debate resembles the MMR vaccine debate. Why are we still debating it? THERE IS NO DEBATE. YA is worth reading, is read and loved by teens, has been around for 200 years, and is not going anywhere. Get your kids vaccinated and give them a book and stop listening to the anthill-kickers.)
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
For the past 18 years, Scottish Friendly Assurance have sponsored a series of week-long book tours in cooperation with the Scottish Book Trust, bringing authors and illustrators directly into schools: four per year in Scotland and two each year throughout the rest of the UK. I was lucky enough to be asked to tour as a Scottish author in Norfolk, England, this year.


Old school selfie – camera on timer! Beth, E Wein & Tom in King’s Lynn

With a pair of phenomenal representatives from the Scottish Book Trust, Beth Goodyear and Thomas Jefferson, I visited nine schools throughout Norfolk and managed to squeeze in a presentation to three more at the University of East Anglia’s FLY Festival of Literature for Young People in Norwich in the middle of the tour.

To start with, though, I got to meet with and enjoy a relaxed meal with Calum Bennie, the communications manager with the tour’s sponsor, Scottish Friendly. He is a dedicated supporter of the tour himself and stayed on to attend my first event. Later in the week we shared another evening and much book talk with the vibrant Mandy Steel of the Norfolk School Library Services, who was responsible for organizing and coordinating the events. It is fantastic to see so much enthusiasm and effort made to encourage young readers in these VERY TRYING TIMES. I was hugely impressed with Norfolk’s libraries – the old one at King’s Lynn is grand. But the
Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library
, where the FLY Festival was held – WOW! So many events and services, including a Polish club for children and being home to the 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial Library – a beautiful working space well used.


King’s Lynn Public Library


Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

Our Monday visits included a virtual tour of Ethiopia for enthusiastic participants at Cottenham Village College and a workshop on structure for the eager and diligent writing students at Downham Market Academy; Tuesday’s visit to Iceni Academy’s keen readers in Thetford combined aspects of both. I was so pleased with the students’ interest, their intelligent questions, and their hunger for books! This enthusiasm couldn’t have manifested itself more appropriately than it did on Tuesday afternoon, when we were surprised to see a familiar cover featured in the promotional banner for St. Clement’s High School:


St. Clement’s High School banner


Close-up of that banner… presumably taken during the Carnegie Shadowing 2013!

Beth and Tom had researched venues for both lunch and the evening meal each day, and on the drive between schools I basically sat in the front passenger seat taking pictures of windmills, pointing out items of interest with the aid of 25-year-old Ordnance Survey maps, demanding side-trips to places like Oxburgh Hall and Norfolk Lavender, and being stuffed with an apparently limitless assortment of comfort food that Beth had stashed in the back of the Scottish Book Trust minivan.


Lunch in King’s Lynn

Alderman Peel High School in Wells-next-the-Sea was a large group – ninety strong - who were focusing on heroism and its ramifications, and clearly just as eager to get stuck into a story of spies and pilots as the more intimate gathering in the lovely bright library at Dereham Neatherd High School in East Dereham. We couldn’t believe how many copies of Code Name Verity got snapped up that day. They were all gone by the end of the trip.


This bucket was full of books before our visit to Sprowston!

It was at Sprowston Community High School on Thursday morning where I learned that Edith Cavell, one of the heroic women mentioned in Code Name Verity, is a Norfolk native. The ensuing discussion of “famous last words” turned about to be an unusual way to hook new readers.

After the FLY Festival Event at the fabulous Millennium Library on Thursday afternoon, we finished the week with a visit to Caister Academy in Great Yarmouth, and had an entertaining and animated discussion with the year 9 English students at Thorpe St. Andrew School (I made the mistake of telling them not to blow their noses in my silk escape map. A lot of fake sneezing ensued). The Caister year 7s had all done amazing research projects on the women of the Special Operations Executive and put together a fantastic display of the results. I was disappointed I didn’t have time to read them all.


Caister Academy SOE project


Caister Academy readers

I ended up the week by myself in Peterborough, overflowing with images, names, faces, scenery, libraries, and youthful enthusiasm as I waited for my train home the following morning. What a lot of preparation went into this tour by so many different people, and how lucky I am to have been able to participate in it! It was hard not to feel a bit blue now that it was all over. I spent the evening glued to the BBC and Twitter as the results of the EU referendum were discussed all around the world.

I had one last outing before catching my train: Peterborough Cathedral. It turns out to be the first burial place of Mary Queen of Scots, before her body was moved to Westminster Abbey by her son James I (James VI of Scotland). It made me feel curiously at home to see the Saltire hanging there so unexpectedly after a week in deepest England.


Former burial place of Mary Queen of Scots in Peterborough Cathedral

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What we didn't indulge in:


ONLY because it was closed.


And this is probably the best of the 420 pictures of the moon I took early in the week. Unretouched!

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Note to Americans: almost all British kids wear school uniforms.
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
I BECAME A BRITISH CITIZEN TODAY!



You know, I have lived in the United Kingdom for over 20 years. Cumulatively, I have lived in the UK for longer than I have lived anywhere else in my entire life. Osprey-like, I raised my children here. Now, OFFICIALLY, I am as much British as American. (It was bound to happen some day!)

Of course I did this for a bunch of practical reasons as much as, and maybe more than, deeply emotional ones. The process was such a grind – my friend Tina and I have been going through it together, comparing notes and interviews, helping each other with forms, etc. We started filling stuff out in February and YES, we had to take the “Life in the UK Test,” which incidentally I think is easier than the one they make you do for US citizenship – it’s kind of like the Great British Pub Quiz, and indeed, I have been calling the whole process the Great British Scavenger Hunt, because it’s required trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, and ultimately Perth, as we gather signatures and official stamps and pass certificates.

So the very last thing you have to do is make a pledge of loyalty to the Queen, and I had kind of just viewed this as another Scavenger Hunt Item, and was TOTALLY unprepared for how much fun it was.

For a start, I’m so glad it happened in Scotland. I ended up having a private ceremony, to expedite it, as they only do them once a month in Perth and I wasn't going to be here for June or July. They do it in the Old City Council Chambers, in a beautiful Victorian high-ceilinged room all wood-panelled and with ornate stained glass windows overlooking the Tay.







They got out the Saltire & the Union Jack and a portrait of the Queen up on the altar where they usually do weddings.



Because it was private, I was allowed to invite random guests – the Council actually sent me invitations, which was lovely, and I was “attended” by my great friends and (both of them) former next-door-neighbours Betty and Kathryn. Tim came too (Sara is still in Salisbury finishing up her first year at university and Mark was at his Duke of Edinburgh award qualifying weekend on a 50 mile hike). Betty and Kathryn were UBER-EXCITED and got all dressed up and brought presents. Kathryn got tearful while I was doing my pledge of allegiance! “Accustomed as I am to public speaking,” I, you may know, managed not to tear up.



At the end we all had to stand up while they played the national anthem. I loved the speech about diversity and making a contribution. I do try.



Afterward the Council gave us coffee and shortbread and the presiding official, Rhona, revealed that she’d been at a Girl Scout camp (as a Guide leader) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, near Ephrata, in 2011. So that was a funny coincidence. Later, Betty and Kathryn and I had a girly lunch in the sun in St John's Square in Perth, while Tim ran away to nurse his latest round of dental anesthesia (he had already been to the dentist in Edinburgh and to Ikea by the time he met us at the Council Chambers at 11 a.m.).

“Do you feel different?” someone asked me.

I do, kind of. It feels right. It was time.

The Recall

I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night -
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years -
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.


--Rudyard Kipling

ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
This was our Sunday afternoon excursion on 8 May. I was kind of charmed by the pictorial record including our flight path! I did most of the actual flying, but not the take-off or landing – or indeed, any of the radio work. We were amused by the French accent that called in to let Edinburgh know they were going to put “a wing” into their airspace. (Just one!)



We took off from Glenrothes in Fife and headed for the Forth bridges. We followed the M90 and the M9 nearly the whole way. The plane’s path tracks to the right of the motorway going out and back on the flight map! And see how nicely I can hold my altitude?

It was a very hazy day and I’ve had to touch up the photos for brightness and contrast, but you’ll get the idea.

Here are the bridges from the ground, taken on our walk across the Forth Road Bridge last January:



And here they are from the air, two weeks ago. The Queensferry Crossing is really starting to look like a bridge! It is scheduled to open to traffic later this year.



It’s not all scenic, but it’s jolly impressive even when it’s not scenic. Here’s Grangemouth, a bit further inland:



And what’s a tour of the M9 without a glimpse of the Kelpies, “the largest equine sculptures in the world”?





The water visible in the photo is where the Forth & Clyde Canal meets the River Carron, just before the Carron enters the Forth.



A couple of minutes (by air) beyond the Kelpies, the Forth & Clyde meets the Union Canal via the Falkirk Wheel – “the only rotating boatlift in the world.”







(I LOVE THE WAY SCOTLAND ALWAYS HAS THE BIGGEST OR THE ONLIEST THING IN THE WORLD OF ITS KIND: “World’s narrowest hotel” “Fastest mascot dressed as fruit” “Largest open air salt water Art Deco heated swimming pool in the world.”) (NOT MAKING IT UP.)

We headed back the way we’d come, but as we approached Fife Airfield we were informed that there was a parachute drop going on. You don’t really want to come anywhere near that in a small plane, as humans are actually very difficult to see in mid-air. So we set the GPS for Dollar and took a detour to find Castle Campbell. We’d been there in October:





And this is what it looks like from the air – it’s the shining roof in the center of the wooded valley, right in the middle of the photo. The castle was originally known as Castle Gloom, apparently from an old word meaning “chasm.”





That killed exactly the right amount of time. We flew back over Loch Leven, which is just the other side of Vane Hill from Fife Airfield, and buzzed Loch Leven Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567/1568, during the time she was forced to abdicate.





Last October (not quite 550 years after Mary Queen of Scots escaped dressed as a servant girl) I had my birthday picnic here with my friend Kathryn.



This could have been a Mary Queen of Scots tour if we’d thought about it, as she once stayed at Castle Campbell, and we also flew right over her birthplace at Linlithgow Palace. But we were distracted by poor visibility and Edinburgh air traffic control at that point and forgot to look down!

ewein2412: (harriet writing (no text))
Apparently my OWN CHILD checks my blog hopefully for new posts and is always disappointed.

So I am going to try to rectify the situation by giving you a single week’s update. A Week, a typical one (last week). Because I kind of take these events for granted, but looking at them from the angle of Not Me, some of them are pretty cool.

Cut for long-windedness )

ewein2412: (verity text)
I wrote this 15 years ago today - before I'd learned to fly, before I'd written anything other than The Winter Prince, ten years before I wrote Code Name Verity. We hadn't been in Scotland for a full year. It seems appropriate to share it this week, 75 years on from the Battle of Britain.

We went to the Leuchars Airshow yesterday. It was fun - Sara went on a bunch of fairground rides, we watched lots of noisy flying displays and incredible team aerobatics, Mark and Sara took turns in the backpack. But the best part was after we left - old Lancaster bomber, a Hurricane & a Spitfire swooping in and out of the air show. They kept making these long circles, parting and coming together again, over the golden stubble of the mown corn fields, in the long northern afternoon September light. No sound but twittering birds and the low whirr and chug of the aeroplanes, swooping low over the yellow fields, the old warriors, the survivors, remembering sixty years ago.

"...and the old men still answer the call
But year after year
the numbers get fewer...
Someday no one will march there at all."

But this, I think, we should not forget. It scares me that we may forget.

-E Wein, 17 Sept. 2000




Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Leuchars Air Show, 2010

ewein2412: (e Wein)


It’s been a couple of weeks since our trip to Dorset, and I am a lame blogger. So here’s kind of a photo essay to give you a taste of the highlights.

The trip was Sara’s idea. Apparently she is a dinosaur fanatic and has always wanted to see the Jurassic Coast. The Jurassic Coast, FYI, is a World Heritage Site of 95 miles’ worth of coastline in southern England boasting an amazing amount of geological cross sections and fossil remains. It’s been noted by geologists and palaeontologists for about 200 years. This was not a very organized holiday for us (like we are ever organized, um), and we planned it very quickly, and it was great.

Cut for many pics )
ewein2412: (maddie as WAAF)
Our children have been embroiled in a school production of Fiddler On the Roof, meaning they were out of the house at 8 a.m. and not home till 10.30 p.m. all week long, so we’ve been taking advantage of a relatively empty nest. Also, IT IS SUMMER, all glorious three days of it, with cloudless skies and temps hovering around 20-25C – or as the Guardian called that in 1969, “The sizzling seventies.” Tim and I went flying yesterday afternoon. Tim flies a lot more than I do, mostly during the week when he’s in Kent – I still don’t have a current rating, so have to take an instructor and do some training. Anyway, yesterday we hired a plane together from Tayside Aviation in Fife.

“Where do you want to go?” Tim asked. “To the Bridges, to the Kelpies, along the Fife Coast?” All twenty-minute jaunts and very pretty.

I said, “How about Bamburgh?” Because I know it isn’t far, especially in the air, and the coastline is wonderful and it is my favorite holiday destination. We have now had a week-long winter holiday there three years running.

“Great idea!”

So that’s what we did, Tim doing the flight planning and the radio calls and all the hard work getting around Edinburgh’s airspace, me doing nothing. As we approached Berwick-on-Tweed, twenty miles north of Bamburgh, he handed me the controls and said, “You can fly us there.”

And as I took the controls I remembered this, from Code Name Verity.

Maddie on fabric wings flew low over the long sands of Holy Island and saw seals gathered there. She flew over the great castle crags of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh to the north and south, and over the ruins of the twelfth-century priory where the glowing gospels were painted, and over all the fields stretching yellow and green towards the low Cheviot Hills of Scotland.


Holy Island and Lindisfarne


the causeway to Holy Island... tide is out


That passage is, I think, the most oft-quoted of length from all of Code Name Verity – to my utter surprise and delight, as when I wrote it I worried it was going to be considered such hooptedoodle that I’d be asked to edit it out. And then I remembered that Maddie also dreams about flying over the sands at Holy Island, later in the book, with Julie. And then I got kind of choked up.

Fly the plane, Maddie.

So I did. I let Tim take all the pictures, because he takes better pictures than me anyway. This meant that I did all the flying the rest of the way down and all the way back. Afterward Tim said, “I’m sorry you were doing all the flying – you didn’t get the best view!” and I was like… “DUDE. I DID ALL THE FLYING. I flew over Holy Island and Lindisfarne Priory and Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. I was HAPPY.”


Bamburgh, looking north toward Budle Bay


(I mean, a little bit of choking up is manageable in flight. I honestly didn’t think about the CNV connection until I was approaching Holy Island with my hands on the controls.)

Nothing to be afraid of, nothing to battle against, just the two of us flying together, flying the plane together, side by side in the gold sky.


the cottage we stay in is at the right of the little square near the center - Sandham, Armstrong Cottages


PS At least one reader on my twitter account connected flying to Bamburgh with Code Name Verity FASTER THAN I DID.

ewein2412: (maddie in headset)
This is what. I went to the 60th Anniversary conference of the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA). That is such an understatement in terms of the emotional roller coaster the event put me through. It was held at White Waltham airfield, the home of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), and where the BWPA was founded by half a dozen ex-Air Transport Auxiliary pilots in 1955.


Clubhouse at White Waltham


The thing is, White Waltham airfield is also the home of the West London Aero Club, and long before I’d ever heard of the ATA, for five years this was my flying club. My husband kept a plane at White Waltham. I had my first flying lesson here. I took a flight in a Tiger Moth from White Waltham, and looped the loop in an open cockpit over Henley-on-Thames. I was on the airfield at White Waltham when I went into labor, ten hours before giving birth to my daughter, my first child. She had her first flight five weeks later, also from White Waltham, in an Antonov AN-2.


That's me and Sara on the right! Tim is next to me. He flew this thing under instruction from the pilot in the pink shirt in the center - an ex-Concorde pilot. As a result of this flight Tim has a taildragger rating. 0.o


It is more than 15 years since I last set foot on White Waltham airfield, so just being there was a huge nostalgia trip for me. But of course, since then, I have written two novels about ATA pilots. I know the names and faces of the women who flew there seventy-some years ago. When people use photos of ATA pilots to make Code Name Verity fan art, I can identify “Maddie” as played by Pauline Gower, or Joan Hughes, or Maureen Dunlop.


Original ATA flag in the West London Aero Club clubhouse. The flag is on permanent loan from the ATA Museum in Maidenhead.


The West London Aero Club logo incorporates a pair of ATA wings with the ATA’s motto – “Aetheris Avidi” – eager for the air. I didn’t notice this on the souvenir mugs in our kitchen until after I’d written Code Name Verity, ten years after we’d left White Waltham. Now I have this whole other level of historical interest and association with White Waltham – in many ways, just as emotional as the personal association for me.

The BWPA conference this weekend was a delight, inspirational and informative and convivial. I met one of the first members, Muriel Tucker, which was a thrill; I caught up with people I knew from other aviation events; I met older women who have achieved dizzying firsts and younger women struggling to build hours. Pilots, poets, historians, adventurers, astronomers – men and women both – all turned out in their evening wear for the gala dinner on Saturday night. I was SO glad I went!




We got a display from a visiting Spitfire!


And Saturday was just so darn gorgeous, with unlimited visibility, that it would have been ridiculous not to go flying. So I paid for what was essentially a “trial lesson,” but was really part sightseeing and part familiarization – my last logged flight in control of an aircraft was three years ago. Highclere Castle – aka Downton Abbey – was definitely the highlight of the trip. I said to the instructor, “OK, you have to fly so I can take pictures. You have NO IDEA what this is going to do for my street cred back in the States.”


Highclere Castle


Greenham Common and Berkshire


The highlight of the conference, for me, was probably Candy Adkins’s talk about her ATA pilot mother, Jackie Moggridge (nee Sorour). Candy had brought along a ton of her mother’s memorabilia – her original logbook was amazing. For fans of Code Name Verity, here’s the page where she first flies a Lysander – there are “Puss” flights (as in Puss Moth) also on the page! (I took a ton of pictures of entries in this log book.)



Candy told a wonderful story of how her mother used to give her “Spitfire flying lessons” under the duvet before bed. “Now hold the controls and close your eyes – just think you want to turn right. Just think it, and you’ll turn.” When her mother died, Candy – not a pilot herself - was given the opportunity by Carolyn Grace to scatter Jackie’s ashes from the Grace Spitfire, which has dual controls. Halfway through the flight, Carolyn said to Candy – “Hold the stick now – you have control! Just turn her gently right – ” Candy said, “I thought of those lessons under the duvet, and I just held the stick and thought… I want to turn right. And I did.” When they landed, Carolyn said to her, “You certainly are your mother’s daughter.”

It was much, much later in the day that I remembered why the name “Jackie Sorour” – Jackie Moggridge’s maiden name – is so familiar to me. She inspired an accident and an incident in Rose Under Fire. She is the ATA pilot who, while ferrying a Tempest, encountered a V1 flying bomb in mid-air and went after it – though she failed to get close enough to tip it before it detonated and destroyed a village.


Jackie Moggridge, nee Sorour


ewein2412: (fiction writer not detective)
The YA Dash is now finished and the winner is Melissa P.!



I think my writing owes a lot to the mystery genre. A slow build in the beginning, introducing a lot of characters and setting the stage for later - sprinkling red herrings to lead the reader down the wrong path on purpose - then thundering breakneck action in the last third of the book - are all features of my own style. I think I construct my novels this way because I really love the pacing of mysteries. So here are two truths and a lie about my mystery history.

(If you participated in the YADash, you’d have had to find my hidden clue in the sentence that contains the lie. By linking back to my website author biography page, and the book page for Black Dove, White Raven - links provided below - you can discover what is truth and what isn’t! A full retrospective of the YADash is here.)

I lived in Jamaica from 1970-1973, and my mother used to buy me a Hardy Boys book each week at the grocery story. I’d read it, and she’d take it back the following week and say, “Elizabeth’s already got this one - can we exchange it for another?” (You can read more about my early life on my author biography page, here.) Inspired by the Hardy Boys, a friend and I devised a series called The Churcha Girls, and, amazingly, when we were 7 years old, we actually wrote a Churcha Girl book. The Hidden Treasure wasn’t novel-length, but it filled a notebook. It had red herrings and captures and rescues and closure.


Me at 7 in Jamaica with neighbors Madge Henriques and Patrick Taylor

I left Jamaica soon after, but I did not lose sight of my desire to be a writer. When I was 14, I completed an even longer mystery called The Green-Eyed Beauty, about the supposed kidnapping of a glamorous teen who was actually a spy (yup, even then). My own best friend described this as “the stupidest book I have ever read.” She was probably right. I have got better at titles since then, too.

Black Dove, White Raven, which is published novel Number 8 for me (and the one associated with the YADash prize – read about Black Dove, White Raven here), is not a mystery. And yet it follows that same structural pattern of the slow build with menace and tension which explodes into violence late in the book. It’s set in 1935, as Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, and focuses on an American teen brother and sister settled in Ethiopia as we did in Jamaica, who get caught in the storm as war erupts around them.



What am I working on next? It's a mystery.

---------------------

A total of 10 suspense and mystery authors were involved in the YADash. You can check out their blogs and books here:

Susan Adrian
Lindsay Cummings
Lee Kelly
Y.S. Lee
T.A. Maclagan
Valynne Maetani
Diana Renn
Laurie Stolarz
Mary Elizabeth Summer



Rafflecopter giveaway


ewein2412: (Dancing Creme Egg)
[The giveaway connected with this post ended on 5 April 2015. The lucky winner was Sophie Jordan.]

Hi there from your itinerant online friend E Wein! And for those of you coming here from other blogs who don’t know me, I’m Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and just this month, Black Dove, White Raven. I'm reviving my half-dead blog so I can participate in an online treasure hunt organized by author Teri Terry to introduce readers to a wide range of Young Adult authors writing in the United Kingdom.

Our lucky winner has received a fabulous grand prize of signed books by over thirty young adult authors[ who write and live in the United Kingdom. As a participant, I’ve donated a set of the UK editions of all three of my recent books, signed and personalized.

3_ElizabethWein_Rev

Although the egg hunt is now over, you should still be able to follow the links at the end of our posts for the blog hop and explore a variety of UKYA authors.

I’m American by birth, but I’ve been living in the UK for over 20 years, and in Scotland for the last fifteen of those. I have been here so long that I now qualify not only as a UK writer, but technically and specifically as a Scottish writer. I really love this. In times of yore, when I was a more dedicated blogger, I did a lot of posting about what it’s like to be an American living in Scotland. So just as a taster, here are some photos taken this month. It really is this beautiful. (Even when it's raining.)

Glen Quaich

Glen Quaich


dead phone box

Abandoned phone box, Kenmore




crannog on loch tay

Crannog on Loch Tay


snowdrops at scone palace

Snowdrops, Scone Palace, Perth




snowdrop cookies

Snowdrop Tea at Cambo House, Fife


The UKYA Egg Hunt closed at noon (UK time) on Sunday, 5th April 2015 (yeah, Easter day), but here’s the link to the next UKYA blog if you're interested in exploring – meet Clare Furniss, author of The Year of the Rat, which has just been shortlisted for the prestigious UK Literary Association Book Award. The UKLA book award is fondly known as the “teachers’ Carnegie” and honours excellence in literary fiction aimed at children. Jump to Clare's blog at clarefurniss.com/blog.

You can find out more about me and my books on my website at www.elizabethwein.com. I tweet far more regularly than I blog. My Twitter handle is @ewein2412.

So enjoy meeting some awesome UKYA authors and their books!





ewein2412: (osprey hair)
25 June 2014 is the release date for Nome in Codice Verity!

There have been quite a few foreign language editions of Code Name Verity released in the last year or so, and often as not I know nothing about their distant existence after I sign the contract. Sometimes I sneakily buy myself copies through some continental bookseller in Euros. I haven’t figured out how to find a copy of the Chinese editions (the publisher will some day send me a few, I hope.)

However, sometimes there is a little more fanfare. As part of the Mare de Libri (Sea of Books) Festival of Young Readers held this year in Rimini 13-15 June 2014, there is an annual competition for students to create a book trailer for forthcoming books in Italian. The competition is organized by three major Italian publishers including Rizzoli, the publisher of Nome in Codice Verity, who invite participation from readers in all the schools of Italy.

By happy coincidence, the winning video for this year’s competition, by Sofia Rivolta, is for Nome in Codice Verity. It is beautiful and utterly haunting.




The 6th place video, by the Sagrado school group, is also a CNV trailer. It looks like this one is accompanied by original music – “Tango Verity”! I am so amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of these kids, though I probably shouldn’t be!



Another cool thing about the Italian edition of CNV is that the kind and conscientious translator, Giulia Bertoldo, got in touch with me regarding a number of subtle queries about the nuance of words used in the book. We talked a lot about the faint difference between “radio operator” (radiotelegrafista) and “wireless operator” (marconista), in addition to “radio” and “wireless set”. Giulia ended up consulting a blogger named Andrea Lawrendel on the site Radiopassioni (“Radio Passions”), who suggested the term “sanfilista” (from sans fils, without wire), and also recommended some relevant reading material for her. She finally went with “operatrice radio” for Verity, noting that “the term operatrice leads to the idea that she was in a way a sort of ‘puppet master,’” and “controllore di volo” (air traffic controller) for Maddie, which is a more modern term but an accurate description of her job.

Andrea Lawrendel has now published a kind review of Nome in Codice Verity on Radiopassioni, as well as wishing the best of luck to both translator and author.

What a great way to celebrate my debut in Italian!
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
Rose Under Fire has been given a makeover for the U.S. paperback edition and I've been given the go-ahead to show it off! What do you think?

RoseUnderFire_PBK_CVR for web


I love how it echoes the look of the Code Name Verity paperback without being too heavyhanded about the imagery.

CNV paperback for web RoseUnderFire_PBK_CVR for web


It's due out 10 September 2014.

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