ewein2412: (Default)

 

“I loved yesterday,” said Sara on 12 November, and she was talking about the Remembrance Day Service at Dunkeld Cathedral on 11 November 2018. In the UK, the Armistice is traditionally marked on the 11th, as it used to be in the USA – it is not a holiday. At 11 a.m. during the normal workday, whatever the day of the week, a two-minute silence is held nationally to remember the Armistice that ended World War I, and to remember those who served throughout the past century. There is a worship service held on the Sunday closest to the 11th, known as Remembrance Sunday.

Coincidentally, this year Remembrance Sunday fell on the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, and it was marked nationwide and throughout Europe. (The ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, with world leaders gathered side by side, is AMAZING. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRFRsX-KhWE)

Because it was such a special moment in 1918 when the church bells in the UK rang out to mark the end of the war, there was an effort to ring bells wherever possible, and that was where we came into things. We rang “half-muffled” before the service at Dunkeld (muffles on the clappers cause every other stroke to sound quietly, as an echo, a symbol of mourning), and with the bells open after the service (the muffles off, the bells in full voice, ringing for life and joy).

I am sure there is no place I would rather have been than Dunkeld Cathedral in Scotland on this particular day. For the service, the choir started off singing “They Shall Not Grow Old” and then a piper began “The Lament,” left the church, and as the sound of the pipes faded into the distance, it was eleven o’clock, a hundred years on from 1918. Complete silence in the old cathedral for the customary two minutes, eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a hundred years to the day and minute that the guns stopped.

It made me sad – makes me sad – (“Don’t say it!” Sara exclaimed, when I began to tell her this. “Of course twenty years later –”) Of course it is nearly twenty years since I first went to a Remembrance service at Dunkeld, in Scotland, and the veterans are all gone.

They were eighty and ninety when I first came here and now they are gone.

But it was a lovely service. They structured it around readings of stories by local people about local boys who were killed in the war – very focused on the First World War. Someone’s grandfather, someone’s father. A former headmaster read aloud the Headmaster of Breadalbane Academy’s address from 1921 on the dedication of a memorial plaque to former pupils. “Some day these will just be names, but to me they are individuals, young boys I knew.” One woman had inherited a box of letters from her grandfather, killed before his child (her parent) was born, and his fiddle, which he’d taken along with him to the battlefields of France. She’d had the fiddle restored, and a local musician had written a piece for her grandfather and played it on that fiddle there in the service.

And it was incredible. Because a musical instrument is a voice, not just an object that spoke in the past, but that spoke for someone - and still speaks. This fiddle was that dead soldier’s voice. It was there in the trenches and it is here now and it spoke there and it speaks here.

The tune was like a traditional folk tune – a Strathspey – and it was just beautiful.

When it was done, nobody knew what to do. There was a ripple of scattered applause. It quieted down. Then behind us, someone began to clap loudly and everyone joined in.

After the service, we bell ringers rang a quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles, and then we all had lunch together. And in the evening we watched Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, in which original footage from the trenches has been colorized and speed-corrected – and to complete the documentary, there is a voice-over soundtrack of actual veterans, recorded some years ago when they were alive as old men. The immediate urgency of the restored and enhanced film was stunning.

Here's the list of ringing events connected with the Armistice Centenary - quite impressive:
https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/event.php?id=9128

And scroll down here for a map showing ringing-related events throughout the UK:
https://armistice100.org.uk/events/


Amphibious

May. 23rd, 2018 02:29 pm
ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
 Tim had an invitation from his instrument-flying instructor, Stewart Houston, to “mount in his hydroplane” (as Fitzgerald puts it in The Great Gatsby), and asked me if I wanted to come along.

Well, of course I wanted to come along. But throughout the weeks of scheduling, I did not really take on board that I was going to be the one doing most of the flying. This became abundantly clear when we got to the airport and Stewart made Tim pump out the bilgewater in the floats while I was told to familiarize myself with the instrument panel.

This lovely jumped-up Cessna 172 – registration G-DRAM (LOL), complete with variable-pitch propeller and retractable amphibious landing gear, doesn’t actually belong to Stewart. But he’s one of about half a dozen licensed seaplane instructors in the UK and has an arrangement with the owner. And you know… there really isn’t a better way to spend a sparkling May afternoon in Scotland than practising your water landings on a couple of remote lochs in Ayrshire.

Prestwick, where G-DRAM is based, was from 1941 the Eastern Terminus of the North Atlantic Ferry Route during World War II. I have a collection of fairly amazing (and random) personal associations with this airfield. In addition to setting off on commercial flights to Paris and Oslo and Malta from Prestwick, Tim and I once had to use it as our diversion airfield when cloud prevented our small plane, packed with small children, from reaching our planned destination on the Isle of Mull. On that occasion we landed after a vintage Lockhead Super Constellation which just happened to be finishing up an incredible transatlantic journey at the exact moment of our arrival. (I remember the ATC dude making a once-in-a-lifetime radio call to us with great enthusiasm, “You’re number 2 after the Constellation.” And we were like… What on earth does he mean? OMG! IT REALLY IS A CONSTELLATION!)

 

I also once made a solo flight from Perth to Prestwick in a Cessna-152, landing here on my cross-country qualifying exam for my pilot’s license. That gave me a great talking point for reminiscing with my uncle’s Uncle John, a D-Day transport pilot who lived to the ripe age of 100 – he, too, had once landed at Prestwick. His flight was a bit more dramatic than mine, having crossed the war-torn Atlantic, and been greeted in the air by an escort of Spitfires when he arrived!

So this month I got to take off from Prestwick in an amphibious plane with a variable-pitch propeller. These technicalities are in fact all dauntingly out of my league. But Stewart did most of the monitoring and let me concentrate almost entirely on learning how to take-off and land on water.

Which I did! We flew (I FLEW) first to Loch Doon, and then to Loch Bradan, over some lumps of rock in between. Both the day and the scenery were incredibly beautiful. We had to (I had to) do a lot of flying very low over the lumps of rock, to which I was paying more attention than to the beauty.

(The little attol in the foreground is the former site of the castle in the background, which was moved when they flooded the glen with a reservoir in the 1930s)

I made five water landings in all. I don’t feel I can write about it adequately – it is a very physical thing, feeling when the plane is “porpoising” on the water and pulling back the controls a little to ease that off – the release you feel in the split second you become airborne.

After we landed on the second loch, we had a go at “sailing” – with the engine off – using the tailplane as a surface to catch the wind.

Then Tim and I swapped places (he’d been in the back seat as ballast), which meant climbing out on the floats in the middle of the loch, which was jolly good fun. Then Tim also got to have a go at taking off and landing on water.

Finally, Tim flew us back to Prestwick and I was very glad it wasn’t me doing the runway landing. There is no give in the undercarriage and the plane is so nose-high on the floats that it’s difficult to judge the flare as you touch down. But we made it in one piece.

You know what is awesome about seaplanes? It combines flying with messing about in boats!

 

(The blue line is my actual flight track from the surface of the water on Loch Doon to the surface of the water on Loch Bradan)

ewein2412: (e vane)
Today I ground up the last of my Kalamazoo Coffee Company peaberry that was part of the Portage Library bag stuffed full of gifts which was waiting for me on my bed when I arrived in Michigan exactly four weeks ago, reminding me that I really ought to write a blog post about my wonderful visit there before it becomes ancient history!

When Olivia Pennebaker, the Teen Services Librarian at the Portage District Library in Michigan, got in touch with me a year ago about using Code Name Verity as their 2018 CommuniTEEN Read title, I couldn't have been more delighted. I'd just come back from a week discussing Rose Under Fire as Central Pennsylvania's chosen One Book, One Community read, and I'd pretty much decided that there is nothing more satisfying in life than talking about your own story with a bunch of excited people who have read your book and want to bombard you with questions.

The annual Portage CommuniTEEN Read program is relatively new; I was only their third speaker. Essentially, it is a collaboration between the Portage District Library, Portage Central and Portage Northern High Schools, and Bookbug Bookstore in Kalamazoo. The high school students read a chosen title together, discuss it with each other and with their families, and finally get to meet and talk to the author. Some readers went a lot further than this and used Code Name Verity in their written English projects, or to inspire sculpted artwork, and even as a theme for their sewing and knitting clubs (World War II inspired skirts and Queenie's scarf!).

I got to engage with the students and community even before I got to Michigan, with a Skype call to a packed auditorium at Portage Central High School, in addition to phone and email interviews with students and a local radio station (those interviews are online here and here and here). But the real fun started when, for three days in March 2018, I got to visit Portage in person.

My visit began with another interview, this time with Midwest Electric, one of the CommuniTEEN sponsors, for their company newsletter. We met up at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo and I seem to recall talking a lot about flying bombs - put it down to jet lag! At last I got to meet Olivia Pennebaker and her colleagues Sara Brown and Jeanna Walker, the Media Specialists at Portage Central and Portage Northern, and when the interview was over we all went together for a tour of the Air Zoo - the fantastic air museum that had agreed to let us host a public event related to Code Name Verity in the same week.

with Olivia Pennebaker, Jeanna Walker, and Sara Brown
Ready for take-off in a Ford Trimotor. With Olivia Pennebaker, Jeanna Walker, and Sara Brown.

Afterward I got to meet the CommuniTEEN Committee in a very pleasant and informal meal at OneWell, a local brewpub. Considering that it was pretty much snowing half-heartedly the whole time I was in Michigan, the warmth of my welcome by everyone I met definitely made up for the weather.


Part of a welcome banner from Portage Northern High School!

Wednesday, March 14, was the day of the nationwide school walkout in memory of the Parkland shooting victims and in support of stricter gun control across the USA. I live in Europe and write freelance - what are the chances of me working as an educator in an American school on this day of all days? I was so happy and proud to be able to join the Portage Northern students in their own rally and was moved to tears by their eloquent speeches. We went straight from that walkout into the auditorium for my first CommuniTEEN presentation, and I had to start off by telling the students how inspiring they all were - and apologizing for dumping this burden on their generation. No, when I was in high school, I did not have to hide in the toilets because I was scared I'd be shot at a pep rally. WHY SHOULD THEY????

Then we talked about Code Name Verity and fighting Nazis. And how fiction and history are SO. VERY. RELEVANT to our own lives.


With students from Portage Northern High School


Each of my school visits consisted of a speech to an auditorium full of kids, and then a more intimate discussion with a smaller group. At Portage Northern, this was an International Baccalaureate English class who'd read Code Name Verity instead of Anna Karenina! I was EXTREMELY FLATTERED to be considered a worthy substitute for Tolstoy.

The evening event at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo was wonderful. There was an audience of close to 200 people, a really mixed group of ages including teens and seniors - as well as a former commercial pilot and a Penn graduate who'd studied with MacEdward Leach (Penn folklorists take note!). There were even a few kids who'd already heard me speak earlier that day, coming back for more! I had to stand in the shadow of a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (which can fly from London to New York in an hour and a half) to give my talk, which was kind of cool. Bookbug was there selling Code Name Verity and - appropriately - Taking Aim, a collection of stories about teens and guns edited by Michael Cart, in which I have a short story. And there was A.MAZ.ING. artwork on display by the students who'd done their sculpting projects on Code Name Verity.


"Fly the Plane, Maddie," by Matthea Lenardson of Portage Central High School


"Code Set from World War II" by Ally Griffin of Portage Central High School. It is life size - all in clay! (a "wireless set in a smooth and pleasing case")


"Kiss Me, Hardy" by Tana Neeb, Portage Central High School


On Thursday, I visited Portage Central. Here, I did another interview, this time with Karen Woodworth for K-12 360, a program reporting on local schools. (You can see my part in it here) After being made welcome and presenting to the students there - in large and small groups - the visit finished with a prolonged, relaxed and happy lunch in the staffroom with organizers, educators, and librarians.

I really hated for the visit to come to an end! But the good news was that now I got to spend the weekend in Washington DC with family and with my friend Amanda, to whom Code Name Verity is dedicated. We visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and went to Great Falls, where we attempted to recreate this picture we found on the information board at the scenic outlook. Notwithstanding our photographer didn't quite get what we were trying to do and that the season is all wrong, at least we are all wearing cool hats.


"Two women sit on rocks overlooking the Great Falls of the Potomac circa 1920" and 2018

As I said in one of those interviews - I am so lucky to be able to have a job that I love.
ewein2412: (Default)
Ballade des Neiges

This a spectacular foe:
Winter profounder than memory,
snow stalling imagination.
Memory lied. In a temperate climate
I listened to wind through ill-fitting windows
in a thin room shared with my sister
and whistled a call for cold Christmas
in a frenzy of midwinter longing,
lost school nights conjuring snow
which never appeared.
Where was the waste we remembered,
the twelve days and twelve nights of blizzard,
the birches borne low by December,
the ice-banded end of the year?
Memory lied. It was warm
in our winter of icicled imagination.
This is the ice-spell complete:
The road ending in a blind canyon,
the copper pipes frozen,
the dreaded next slaughtering storm.
Memory hums the old schoolgirl question:
Where are the snows of yesteryear?
The groan of dammed river and eaves,
the splinters that fall in the forest,
pilled sleet through dry oak
and the plow's distant thunder repeat:
We are here,
we are here.
ewein2412: (fiction writer not detective)
Because The Pearl Thief made its debut in the middle of exams last May, we’d postponed doing a school tour in the UK until September, and I’ve just returned from a sweeping visit of Northeast England and the Midlands – three days, three cities, six schools, and around about 1500 teen readers. Most of the travel was by train, which is one of the things that is so awesome about living in the UK. I walked to the station in Perth, changed trains in Edinburgh and Newcastle, and arrived in Sunderland four hours later. VERY CIVILIZED IF YOU ASK ME.

Lizz Skelly, Bloomsbury’s lovely Children’s Publicity Manager, met me at our hotel on the Sunderland seafront, where we arrived in the midst of a howling gale. But it was bright and cloudless over the North Sea the next morning – I had exactly fifteen minutes on the beach before we headed to our first school! I need to share this picture of ACTUAL DOG FOOTPRINTS in the sand – dogs clearly have so much more fun than humans.



But humans know how to have fun, too. At St. Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy we met Mariana Mouzinho, a dynamo of a bookseller representing Blackwells and extremely knowledgeable about the area schools. (Our taxi driver told us that Sunderland is bigger than Newcastle, and Mariana is responsible for both in terms of school book sales, so that’s saying something.) At St. Anthony’s we were welcomed by the school librarian Marguerite Jackson – I do enjoy a chance to encourage a roomful of girls to write and fly!


Mariana’s amazing book set-up at St. Anthony’s, Sunderland

At Thorp Academy in Ryton, we had a school dinner (quite a good one!) with our host, the Learning Resource Centre Manager, Beth Khalil. Then I got to entertain and be entertained by a big group of very enthusiastic Year 7s and a few Year 8s. Here, one student asked me if I’d ever been pearl fishing myself. I haven’t, so I told Hilary McKay’s pearl fishing story instead:









Thank you, Hilary!


Thorp Academy Year 7s asking questions


Matthew, Year 8 at Thorp Academy, waited patiently for the queue to die down so he could get this picture with me. :D

Lizz and Mariana and I parted ways at the Newcastle rail station – Mariana on her way home, Lizz back to London and me on to Leeds. The taxi driver and I learned something from each other. I told him how I learned random facts from books, and used as an example the origin of the road name “Green Lane” – how it turned up in Dodie Smith’s The New Moon With the Old and turned out to be an old cross-country byway from village to village, now preserved only in the name – and the cabbie said that he thought it must be the origin of a sport he’d just found out about called “green-laning,” where you drive all-terrain vehicles off-road. (He was a great guy. He explained that he likes his reading short and sweet. No time for hooptedoodle.) (Actually, it was my use of the term “hooptedoodle” – which I believe was coined by John Steinbeck, for poetic filler in your text – that made the cabbie leap into the conversation.)

On Wednesday morning I was collected from my hotel by Debbie Moody, the Youth Librarian at the Leeds Central Library, who took me to the Roundhay School. There we were welcomed by Nazia Ansari and the librarian Emily Corley. They’d put together a fantastic display of my books and even presented me with a bunch of flowers for my efforts. The students I spoke to here were mostly Year 8s, a wonderfully attentive and lively group. Rory O’Connor of Orinoco Books gamely provided the book sales for the day’s visits.


Roundhay readers

If I remember one thing from this trip ten years from now, I hope it is the Roundhay student who was too shy to speak to me himself – I had to get him to whisper his comment to his friend who spoke aloud for him. I’d asked if the kids had any experience with Travellers or of living without a fixed home. This boy turned out to have travelled to the UK from Syria.

When I heard this, I said, “WHOA. So I guess you know something about difficulty and living on the road – you must be very – ”

I paused, struggling for an appropriate, inadequate word, and the kid from Syria supplied: “Unstoppable!”

And I said, “YEAH! UNSTOPPABLE! That is exactly the right word. Keep on going!”

What an amazing, wonderful thing it is that he is sitting in class, in school uniform, in Leeds. The absolute BEST of Britain. And I got to meet him.


Flowers from Roundhay

Rounday have got a blog post about the visit here.

Debbie took me to lunch in a little café in Otley, West Yorkshire, before our next school, which was Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley. This was a group of Year 9 students. The school has the distinction of having the best A-Level results in the Leeds area. Smart kids!


Speaking to Year 9s at Prince Henry's Grammar School, Otley

Ruth Wyss, the librarian there, enjoyed the coincidence of spotting a Spitfire – the kind with four wheels, not two wings – after one of the students asked me what my favourite World War II aircraft was and I’d waxed lyrical about the iconic beauty of Spitfires.


The kind with four wheels - wouldn't mind flying one of these, either!

So then I caught the train to Birmingham, where I spent the night, and after fighting our way through the commuter traffic the next morning, met up with Phyllis Gaunt of the Solihull Group of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. Phyllis was my guide and bookseller for the day, which we started by meeting Eileen Clitherow of the Lode Heath School. There, I spoke to two groups of Year 9 students in a couple of all-too-brief presentations, since there were too many students to bring together in a single session. Lode Heath also kindly provided us with sandwiches before we moved on, in a downpour as ferociously torrential as the one I’d started the week with in Sunderland.

Our final school of the trip was in Chelmsley Wood. Vera Gardner, the incredibly vibrant Learning Resources Manager at John Henry Newman Catholic College, welcomed us to her fantastic library and then I spoke to a group of about 300 Year 7s – among whom, for the first time, were half a dozen or so students who actually identified as Travellers. I was really delighted to hear that none of them felt any kind of social pressure because of this.

I got to meet a specially selected group of Year 9s afterward, and drink many cups of tea, and John Henry Newman even blogged about the event themselves.


With Year 9s at John Henry Newman in Chelmsley Wood

And then Phyllis dropped me at Birmingham Airport, the only leg of the whole trip not made by public ground transport, which I think is kind of cool.

We flew along the west coast the whole way from Merseyside and Manchester to the Clyde before turning east to Edinburgh, through a clear sky and a glorious glowing sunset, and I knew where I was the whole time, which I also think is kind of cool.

“NOW THAT THINGS ARE BACK TO NORMAL, I CAN GET SOME REAL WORK DONE.”
- Harriet (Welsch, not Vane)
(Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy)
ewein2412: (osprey nest)
SCOTLAND seems to be a hot tourist spot for writers on vacation this summer, and I am kind of stunned and flattered at the luminaries who have purposefully put “Connect with E Wein” on their itineraries. Or maybe the word is leaking out that I am an excellent tour guide, having had previous experience as the “Infomistress” at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire over a quarter of a century ago (I wish I had paid more attention to the rivalry between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots that was the theme that summer).

ANYWAY, here’s who’s come to see me in the space of two months:

Kim Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor winning author of The War that Saved My Life was here at the end of May – her husband and son were golfing at Gleneagles, so I whisked Kim and her daughter Katie away for a single delightful morning to Stirling Castle. It was Kim’s desire to see the reconstruction of the Unicorn Tapestries that were made there and now hang there in the restored state rooms. We also had tea and cake in the Stirling Castle café. Much discussion of current projects occurred, and Katie was gracious in putting up with the Writers’ Craft stuff.

Then in June I had a much-anticipated and all too brief visit from Ellen Kushner - of Tremontaine & Riverside fame - and Delia Sherman, most recently the author of The Evil Wizard Smallbone, both of them old friends and mentors in many ways. Ellen and Delia, who had a bit more leisure time than Kim, got a proper afternoon cream tea at the Gloagburn Farm Shop and then a tour of Huntingtower Castle (both just outside Perth) - Sara came along for the authorly banter. And before they took the train back to Glasgow, they got served an actual evening meal by yours truly IN MY OWN HOUSE, something of a wonder, and in addition to catching a glimpse of the elusive Tim and Mark, they even got to meet my father-in-law! And they left a souvenir pencil from their 20th anniversary party, which I did not discover until this week. I very stupidly did not think to give them the Francis Crawford Tour of Perthshire (it was pouring), though we did whiz past John Buchan’s birthplace in the car.

In July, I spent most of a day with rising star (or maybe just plain old STAR) Emily Kate Johnston who’s probably most famous for her Star Wars young adult novel Ahsoka but is most recently the author of That Inevitable Victorian Thing and writes something ridiculous like 10,000 words a DAY. SHE got whisked away for lunch at the Winter Garden of the Crieff Hydro, then a tour of Drummond Castle Gardens (where they were selling small but perfectly formed fruit from the walled garden hothouse, including grapes off a vine that is certainly 100 years old), and then a trip to the wonderful Innerpeffray Library, c. 1680 and appearing in The Pearl Thief as “Inverfearnie,” which is currently my Favorite Place In Perthshire. Sara and Mark joined us for our final tour venue of the day, Elcho Castle. All this within 20 miles of home - we never left Perthshire.

And finally, last week I had dinner in Edinburgh with Steve Sheinkin and his family – partner Rachel and their two young children. Steve’s awards and honors for non-fiction are too numerous to mention here (his latest book is Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team) and I do kind of feel like I am in the presence of genius when I’m around him – modest, friendly, dedicated genius. We ate at a restaurant on the Royal Mile, walked up and down a ton of stairs and closes, and rode the Ferris Wheel in Prince’s Street Gardens. Rachel filmed us as Steve interviewed me for his occasional “Walking and Talking” feature on School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 Production blog. Ok, that was really hard work because I was JUST SO SELF-CONSCIOUS and in awe of Steve and his many talents and also I was trying to do my Edinburgh Tour Guide thing AND not be boring to the kids. I hope he pulls it off because I reckon that being made into a comic is true immortality.

A feature of these visits was the children in attendance – plus or minus theirs or mine. Coincidentally, none of the Author Children ever managed to meet each other. Everyone will have to come back.
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)


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.

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

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.”





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.

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

*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.

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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 )

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