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: (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: (osprey hair)
Sara (the 16 year old) is making fun of me because I am sitting here wearing my Twilight Sparkle Stealth Bronie hat as I type. ’Cause she spent all summer watching My Little Pony on her iPod and decided that I needed to watch it too, and as a sort of cultural phenomenon it is curiously addictive, and while Pinky Pie is my favorite, I relate most to Twilight Sparkle – the writer, the scholar, the resident alien. (On the other hand, I really detest Spike, her hideous sidekick house elf slave baby dragon.) Sara said, “You should write, ‘Today what I’ve learned about friendship!’” – as though I were filing a report to Princess Celestia … and you know, I feel like that is kind of what I am doing.

It is really a half-baked report on my weekend at the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Midwinter conference in New York. I helped run a day-long “Plot Intensive” workshop, including 16 synopsis critiques and a session on alternative plot structure, and I gave a keynote speech (my first!) on Authorial Responsibility, because I am pompous earnest like that. Lee Wind wrote a very nice summary of that speech for the SCBWI Midwinter blog, here. In a surprising aside that really delighted me, Susan Brody also gave a riff on my speech called “Practice What You Preach” on her own blog, “The Art of Not Getting Published.”. I’d met Susan last September at Children’s Book World in Haverford PA, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi to her again at this conference. But MY GOSH it was big! There were over a thousand participants. I don’t think I’ve EVER given a speech to a thousand people before.

So, that was the working part of the event, but the really wonderful part was the networking (hence “Friendship is magic!”). First there was the Illustrator’s Showcase cocktail party on Friday night, then the Gala dinner party on Saturday, and trust me to find myself a sort of afterparty event on Sunday night, hanging out with a small group of extremely kind and welcoming Regional Advisors and the stellar Ellen Hopkins (who has the dubious honor of being the most-censored author in America). In fact, it feels to me like I spent the entire weekend crashing parties, including being taken to lunch at the Yale Club. This is what the SCBWI is all about, people – making these wonderful connections. If you have any aspiration to writing children’s books whatsoever, I highly recommend joining this vibrant and helpful organization. Here’s their website: www.scbwi.org. And here’s their website in the British Isles: britishisles.scbwi.org. Conference recaps are here.

I also went to see a wonderful exhibit of Antoine de St. Exupéry’s manuscript pages for The Little Prince at the Morgan Library. This is terrifically curated and made me sob for a number of reasons. I highly recommend it for WWII buffs, pilots, and children’s book writers, and fans of The Little Prince! It’s on till 27 April 2014. Alas, there is no printed catalogue for the exhibit, but there are a number of related lectures coming up (details on the website) which I would go to hear if I were in New York. Being a desperately adoring admirer of St. X as I am.

I should also mention my visit to the Bank Street Center for Children's Literature, where I received possibly the warmest welcome I've ever been given in a literary context. I spent three hours chatting, eating lunch in the school cafeteria, drinking coffee and tea and eating more lunch with members of the Bank Street Children's Book Committee, and then had a tour of the Bank Street Library. PEOPLE. If you ever get a chance, GO VISIT THIS LIBRARY. It is totally devoted to children's literature and contains a subcollection of elderly classic children's books that have been pulled from the main shelves for various reasons. "Do you recognize any of these?" they asked. "Do I recognize these!" It was like time travel. It was like being transported back to 1976 and standing in the beautiful old Walnut Street library in Harrisburg. EVERYTHING I read as a child was there.

When I looked up the library link I was charmed to see that they have mentioned my visit in their website notes.

And I went ice skating in Rockefeller Center.

I spent my last two days stateside visiting Gramma in Mt. Gretna. It was extremely picturesque in the snow. (I might have sung “Let It Go” till the Frog Pond echoed… literally… hoping I was alone in the woods… Just sayin’.)

mt gretna dining room 2014

Dining room in Mt. Gretna cottage with Gramma at the table!

mt gretna former ghost house 2014

Maple Lodge in Campmeeting (formerly The Ghost House) (not our cottage)

mt gretna frog pond 2014

Frog Pond

mt gretna lake 2014

Mt. Gretna Lake (that is our very own canoe, the Millennium Flocken, on its side)

mt gretna library 2014

Mt. Gretna Library! (to end where I began, on a literary note)

And finally. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed how I keep boasting that Eve Muirhead, the captain of the British women’s curling team, is a local girl? Well now I have the photo to prove it. EVE MUIRHEAD AND MARK. She and her coach came to show off their Olympic bronze medal at Dewar’s Ice Rink in Perth!

eve and mark
ewein2412: (Sara)
My "aftermath" post is 4 days late because Life, nevermind racing, interferes with LiveJournal. Can I just say that yesterday was Mark’s last day of primary/elementary school, my last day of a 10-year-long association with Viewlands Primary School, Sara’s last day of her beloved Guides/Scouts troop who are now DISBANDED because they are all too old, AND our 12-year-old goldfish died. The goldfish was as old as Mark, possibly older, and we have had it since we moved to Scotland. When I left the house to meet Mark at the end of his last day of primary school, Fizz was breathing - when I came home, Fizz was dead. Definitely, all things considered, the end of an era.

We have also been to Mark’s "Leavers’ Assembly," Sara’s senior school play, cricket practice, the supermarket, and the shortlist launch for the Scottish Children’s Book Award. Which Code Name Verity is on, along with (in the Older Readers category) The Prince Who Walked with Lions by Elizabeth Laird and The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison. (I am so pleased to have finally met Elizabeth Laird, author of The Garbage King and Crusade. Given that The Prince Who Walked with Lions is a book I wish I’d written - so much so that I actually have a folder labelled "Alemayehu" in my work-in-progress folder - I am extremely pleased about sharing the list with Elizabeth Laird. Also, we had an awesome rushed Ethiopian experience swap and we think she probably crashed overnight with my aunt & uncle (Susan & Rog) in Woldia in 1968.)

But I digress!

Yes, Sara and I completed the Race for Life without incident - the weather was only marginally more cooperative than last year, and I didn’t end up carrying Sara’s hoodie and water bottle like I did last year, either. I finished in 38 minutes and Sara in 34. So we were both slower than we were a year ago. I wasn’t really expecting to be faster as I was much more cautious about training this year, due to an achy knee which I do NOT want to encourage.

[livejournal.com profile] lauradi7 discovered that we are in Photo 23 on the Dundee Courier website - we are the woman in blue and the teen in the navy sweatshirt!

But here’s a couple of close-ups.

race for life 2 race for life 1

Here's our cheering section. The beak is from his school play parrot costume from last week:

race for life 3

Late donations still gratefully accepted - our online donation page is here:

ewein2412: (snowicon)
Meanwhile, back in the land of the Immortal Haggis…

Burns Night has come and gone and so has Mark’s P7 Burns Supper, which they held on 30 January. They are 11 years old and the two classes put on a REAL Burns Supper - it lasted THREE HOURS, beginning at 6.30 p.m. with a small string orchestra and the whole school brass band playing a selection of Scottish songs including ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’ and ‘Scotland the Brave.’ Then, not quite but nearly the highlight of the evening, the entire P7 year recited the whole of ‘Tam o’ Shanter.’ The way they did this was for each of the 60 kids to recite 4 lines of the poem - they took turns coming to the front in rows of half a dozen to have their say.

Mark doing his part. Yes, he is wearing a sporran. The table decoration is hiding it.

And then they sang a couple of Burns songs including (appropriately, since it was the day before the UK taxes were due), ‘The De’il’s Awa’ wi’ th'Excise Man.’ Also, ‘Scots Wha Hae,’ essentially the Wallace fight song. WHICH MAKES ME CRY. (Well, to tell the truth, ‘Scotland the Brave’ does too. But I am a little strange that way. Of course it is not for the same reason that ‘Highland Cathedral’ makes me cry. The sound of five dozen earnest young voices singing their hearts out for home and beauty always makes me cry.)

Sorry, have I mentioned that the dress code was what we call ‘Touch of Tartan’? Essentially this means you can wear whatever you want, but you have to include something Scottish in your outfit. Most of the boys were in kilts. (It just kills me that when my children go to a party, as many boys as girls are wearing skirts.) The girls were in shiny, skimpy party dresses with tartan sashes over their shoulders. The parents all had tartan ties or shawls (one woman was wearing her son’s boyscout troop neckerchief!) I had my silver thistle kilt pin with the Cairngorm amber flower, which I bought in the Portobello Road market in 1984.

The 120-some parents were seated around tables which had been cunningly arranged by Mark’s math class to provide everyone with a clear view of the stage as well as giving fire access (Mark, as one of the MC’s, was responsible for the ‘safety announcement’ which included a word for word recital of what to do in the event of loss of cabin pressure — that’s my boy) — and also to provide a clear path for the Piping in of the Haggis!

This was the highlight of the evening. Honest to glory, I really cannot do this justice in mere words.

A pretty, [understandably] blushing young dinner lady clothed head to toe in white came marching out of the kitchen carrying a haggis on a paper plate. She was PROPERLY accompanied by a piper, the real thing, playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ again on the bagpipes and dressed in kilt and Jacobite shirt (the casual look—the kind of shirt that laces up at the collar). The piper was in his mid-teens, a cousin of one of Mark’s classmates. Marching with them were the three or four kids whose duty it was to Address the Haggis.

Note charming collection of haggis pompoms...

They marched round and round the assembly hall about three times and then up on the stage, where the kids recited the WHOLE of the Address to the Haggis — ‘Great Chieftain o’ th' Puddin’ Race’ — and plunged a knife into it, and then marched back into the kitchen, and then we got served a full meal of haggis and neeps and tatties, followed by coffee and shortbread decorated with a thistle motif and made by Mark’s teacher, with our children waiting on us. They cleaned up afterward, too.

During coffee the kids performed ‘The Immortal Memory’ where they detail Robert Burns’s life. They had all researched and written these pieces themselves. The entertainment took a nosedive (or an upturn, depending on how you look at it) after that with the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ and ‘Reply from the Lassies’ which got VERY. SILLY.

And then there was dancing.

Scottish country dancing, of course — it was in the gym hall and was also rather silly, but UTTERLY charming. The two classes took it in turns to demonstrate each dance and then to dance with their parents. I am devastated to have to admit that when Mark and his father were dancing together, my camera was in Tim’s pocket. Grrrrr.

Mark dancing with his mother

The evening finished with all 180 of us holding hands in a circle and singing Auld Lang Syne (why yes, Auld Lang Syne makes me sob too! I might have to take a break from Scottish narrators for a while).

Sara disdained to come along to this event and Mark was fairly happy not to have his older sister heckling him, so I had to go next door when we got home to collect her from the neighbors’. When they heard I’d been at a non-alcoholic Burns Supper they were, at first disdainful. Then the questions started coming:

‘I bet they didn’t pipe in the Haggis.’

‘They did! They piped in the Haggis and marched with it round the hall three times! And then they did the whole of the Address to the Haggis from memory!’

‘But they didn’t actually serve you Haggis, did they?’

‘Yes! And neeps and tatties and the children all waited on us!’

‘Did they have other entertainment?’

‘They had a string orchestra and a brass band and dancing and they did the whole of Tam o’ Shanter!’

Everybody wished they had been there.

It was the Best Burns Supper EVER. ever ever.

You know, the kids did the whole thing themselves - all the entertainment, arrangement, table decorations, menus, programme, planning, 'hire' of piper and kitchen staff, set-up and clean-up, figuring the cost and giving out the tickets, and I just have to say hats off to the teachers and the school and the Council and the Scottish Government. This was really the Curriculum for Excellence and Cooperative Learning at their shining most successful, I think!

I found the pervasive prevalence of Irn Bru in the decor, as a representative of All Things Scottish, quite hilarious. There was no Irn Bru served at the meal. But it was There In Spirit.

last week

Nov. 28th, 2011 03:59 pm
ewein2412: (harriet writing (text))
I give you guys so little of how I actually work, and I would really like to do a better job. But I am just so darn disorganized. Here is an actual page (two pages, really) of text that I wrote last week. It is from the middle of what is kind of an unrelated sequel to Code Name Verity, with a fresh main character who doesn’t appear in CNV.

ETA: It has been pointed out to me that this picture ought to come with a spoiler warning. So: SPOILERS EXIST in this picture. If you zoom in and get out your magnifying glass and your decoding pen, a determined reader may find it possible to read this. And then you will wish you hadn't. (Now you will all be tantalized. I can't win. RANDOM ANNOYING SPOILERS! just admire it from a distance! I'm sorry.)

The bit in the middle of the right-hand page says, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I was capable of writing in the CONVENTIONAL WAY - from left to right and top to bottom down ONE SHEET OF PAPER??

This page is making me laugh.

I bet that’s the last time this particular part of the story makes anyone laugh!

I went flying last Tuesday. I had a real flying lesson for the first time in FOUR YEARS, which is really too long. Time and money have been scarce and the local flying club has become more expensive and less convenient, and although I have renewed my license and kept my medical up to date, I just haven’t logged any hours.

Part of the “sell” for CNV is connected to my own authenticity, if you will, as a pilot, and with the publication date looming (6 Feb 2012!) I am starting to feel a bit fraudulent. So I decided I was determined to start fitting in at least one flight a month. Three weeks after I’d made this decision I still hadn’t done anything about it and November was beginning to creep away… Got to get some kind of motivation going. If you were an Air Transport Auxiliary Pilot, you were given a 2 oz bar of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate for every successful aircraft delivery you made. So I am rewarding myself with a Dairy Milk every time I go flying.

I am doing 2 things - going over all the handling and emergency drills with an eye to taking a test to get my "certificate of experience" up to date (my license is valid but not my certificate of experience), and I am doing it in a different plane (slightly bigger and more powerful, a 4-seater PA-28 rather than a 2-seater Cessna 152) to get a new "type rating." Unlike Perth, where I trained, Dundee has got actual commercial flights operating out of it from time to time, so it is a bit busier and more professional and I hope will help me build my ridiculously low radio confidence.

It should take me about 5 hours' flying to get the type rating and pass the test, and then I can rent a plane and go where I like and take passengers (ahahahaha).


Also last week was Thanksgiving, of course, and many whoopie pies were consumed:

These are vanilla. They are a lot like homemade Nilla wafers, so we don't bother with filling. Pumpkin whoopie pies were also available.

I thought people might also be entertained by these Evacuee Day photos... one of me and my boy, and one with fellow mad mums:

And finally, Mark’s Junior Brass Band won the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championship on Sunday. He plays trumpet. I am very proud of them!
ewein2412: (verity text)
I have a new website. It is really just a cheap-and-cheerful google website. But I needed something a little slicker looking, I think, than the old one, which was put together in WORD for pete’s sake. And also something I can update more easily. So. It is not the shiniest site on the planet, but for now, it will do the job.

It is here.

“Make do and mend,” ahahahahahaha!

This is the House of World War II at the moment. I am struggling to write a book about V1 bombs and the Ravensbrück concentration camp (*cough cough cough*) (why do I choose such light, easy topics?), and Mark is deeply immersed in his World War II unit in school. They have all made gas masks. Apparently, the first time their teacher played them a recording of an air raid siren, they all spontaneously dived under their desks (because Mark’s class is LIKE THAT).

Here’s me, sitting at the dinner table reading a document entitled “V-1 (Flying Bomb).” Here’s Mark: “That looks like a doodlebug.” OMG HOW IS MY 11 YEAR OLD ABLE TO RECOGNIZE A FIESELER FI-103???

And of course the Gatland household has for the past two years lived under the wing, as it were, of Code Name Verity.

Is it TWO YEARS already? I started writing it in October 2009. The UK edition comes out on 6 February 2012. I have permission to post the UK cover on my website, so I’ll post it here, too:

The US and Canadian editions come out in May 2012. There are separate publishers in each country.

The book I am writing now is hard work. CNV was easy. I feel kind of like I am writing a “second novel” all over again, ten years after I wrote my second novel.
ewein2412: (snow)
he has been explaining to me that he has made up a catchphrase to describe what it's like when you make a come-back, or pull through to unexpected victory as a dark horse:

"I call it, Last one down the stairs, first one out the door."


We had this conversation over breakfast:

Mark: Is it racist to call someone pink?

E Wein: No, it's a political slur, not a racial one. It means "a bit red," so with some very liberal or even Communist political political views. Communist countries get called "Red" because their flags are red.

Mark: What's a Communist?

E Wein: A Communist government tries to share out everything so there aren't any rich people or poor people, but it doesn't usually work that way.

Mark: What's a Gossip Communist?


After I had finished laughing, and explained what a gossip columnist was, Mark added:

"Speaking of Communism, what was the problem with Calvinism?"


he is 10.

Indeed, musing upon it, I suspect that the term "pink" in whatever context he heard it may have been a SEXUAL slur rather than anything else... And I am pretty sure that whatever he knows about Calvinism he picked up by reading the introduction to one of my Calvin & Hobbes collections.
ewein2412: (E Wein age 7)
I put this project on hold 9 months ago because I couldn't find any 3x3 inch frames that cost less than £40 each. Today, in my neverending quest for ancient ballpoint pens, I came across a couple of vintage frames EXACTLY the right size, in the Dog Shelter Charity Shop, and they cost 30 p each (about 45 cents). So now I am inspired to post the pictures here, too. This is Gramma and Grampa in, I believe, the summer of 1959, which makes them 43 years old. My age (actually, a little bit younger).

I have 2 comments:

1) I have not been able to hula hoop since I was about 25. Gramma is amazing.

2) My grandfather was the HANDSOMEST MAN IN THE WORLD.

I am sure he is drinking a gin & tonic and reading the New York Times Magazine.

At the same time I scanned these photos I also did this one:

This was taken in 1943. It is four generations of Saylor/Berger women. The baby is my mother, Carol. Gramma is on the left, at 27. Next to her is Rosie, her grandmother. Gramma's mother, Mae, is on the right.

I love love love this picture.


when I showed it to my brother-in-law, the first question he asked was, "Where are the men? Are they all at war?" In fact none of them are at war. I come from a family of draft-dodgers on both sides, although to be fair to my grandfather and great-grandfather, etc., most of them were way too old to be going to war, and my grandfather was a minister. He applied for his army chaplaincy a bit too late to actually have to go. My brother-in-law's comment: "Well, he should have done it 5 years earlier when the war started, shouldn't he?"

I smiled sweetly. We are AMERICAN, after all.

God's truth, I HADN'T MENTIONED THE WAR. I don't go LOOKING for these fights.
ewein2412: (Alderley Edge by Manon)
It is my father's 70th birthday today. He was 48 when he died.

I wrote this for him 25 years ago.

Guy Fawkes Night

My father used to play with fire
and would burn anything at hand:
candles, coal, kindling wood, Catherine wheels,
incense in strange brass lamps,
bitter dry nettles and uprooted sedges.
His splendid proud bonfires danced
taller than me and as high as the hedges.

In the fog, in the rain, in the thick Cheshire dark,
my father used to play with fire:
with silver and crimson and indigo sparks
he lit all our faces with glittering light
that burnt and flared and spilt apart
confounding the wet, black night.

In a brown city of shadowed streets
my father lives now in dimlit rooms
surrounded by old lamps and candle ends
and mirrors the color of the moon:
pale shades of the brilliance that he believes gone.
But still through the deep, wet Cheshire gloom
the flames that he kindled blaze on.


ewein2412: (Default)

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