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: (stella potens et mira)
A frustrated Sara, not finished wrapping her presents, complains tearfully at 10.15 p.m. on Christmas Eve (as we rush out to Dunkeld to ring the bells for the Watchnight church service): "I should have started earlier and I've run out of paper!"

E. Wein, without sympathy: "WELCOME TO MY WORLD."

Mark: "That sounds like Sara's quoting from Code Name Verity!"


truth to tell, our garden has looked like this for a solid month now.

CNV is a theme we cannot escape. Among my presents I have received a wind-up toy that flies little die-cast Allied aircraft, a book about the SOE and another about how to make "Allied Sabotage Devices and Booby Traps," and a thing called The Black-Out Book which has all kinds of exciting games to play with your family when you're sitting in an Anderson shelter with nothing to do. Here is a close-up of this year's gingerbread "men":

It is *wonderful* ringing for the watchnight service at Dunkeld--could not be more magical, this nearly 1000 year old cathedral all lit by candles, and the moon shining on the snow which is now regrowing itself as crystallized hoarfrost. But it was -6 C / 21 F in the ringing room!
ewein2412: (snowicon)
There is not a single flake of snow on the ground in Perth, but you don't have to go far to find some--it starts on the other side of the ring road. I went cross-country skiing in a place called Wester Glen Almond, off Newton Bridge in the Sma' Glen. This dramatic scenery is like a little miniature Highland landscape and is only about 15 miles from Perth.

I am RUBBISH at cross-country skiing--as long as it's flat I can stay on my feet. This was hard work, too, as you had to balance yourself between the semi-ploughed driveway and the field boundary or riverbank. However, it was worth it for the scenery. I went about 4 miles total.

I saw five other walkers and one other skier, but of course the farmer who I'd passed earlier corralling sheep 300 feet up the mountain (sound really carries in the snow in the glens: "GET IN THERE YOU F***ING B******S!!!") happened to drive past in his Landrover JUST after I'd fallen on my butt taking a picture and got my skis tangled. He stopped to make sure I was ok. ONLY MY PRIDE WAS DAMAGED

pictures are here!

and a description of the walk is here
ewein2412: (snow)
It has taken me a long time to actually load these. But there are some photos from this snowy weekend at Mt. Gretna here.
ewein2412: (snow)
we had an EVENTFUL trip. You could say we were "impacted" by snow.

We were the first plane out of Edinburgh into newark after the snow--arrived half an hour early at Newark, picked up our rental car and got out of newark with no trouble at all, the roads were completely clear, a beautiful day--temp. in the 40s F (about 6 C), sun shining. On the Delaware River bridge between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylania Turnpike a huge chunk of snow and ice fell off the steel girder bridge and smashed our windscreen! We pulled over at the toll plaza and sat there for 1) half an hour waiting for a state cop to come file an official Accident Report, 2) another 40 minutes on the phone (mostly on hold) with Hertz trying to find us a tow truck who would venture onto this no-man's land of highway between the 2 turnpikes (it is called the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway), and 3) waiting another 40 minutes for Hertz to give the tow truck its official authorization to take us away. Then the tow truck drove us to Philadelphia to 1) deliver the dead car to the snowcovered graveyard of dead Hertz rental cars... they all wear little plastic hats (like lampshades) in different colors denoting the nature of their damage (ours had a green and a black hat, for glass and roof damage), 2) to deliver us to Philadelphia Airport to get a new car.

Up the Blue Route, a quick stop at Peter J Camiel service area on the PA tpke to feed weasels who had not eaten since sara threw up on the plane 7 hours earlier, and on to gretna. Got here about 7.30 p.m. having arrived at Newark at 11.30 a.m.

No one hurt! full insurance coverage on rental--and Mr. Chapman who lives behind gramma had dug me out a parking space with his snow blower. (I was upgraded to a "full size" at PHL, there are no SUVs anywhere). There is about 2 1/2 feet of snow here I think but it is melting--the icicles on the house next door are about 5 feet long, really amazing! we have some too. I will take pics.

Mr. Chapman has also said I can use his wife's skis!

hope I don't have any more excitement like this.

smashed windshield from driver's seat

and the view from the passenger seat

from the outside!
ewein2412: (Default)
There are no children in the house for the first time in over 3 weeks! Curiously, these interminable school holidays (it was the same in October) have not seemed to hamper my productivity. I suppose panic sets in and helps spur me on. (I am still very good at messing about.)

I want to share some wisdom from the SOE Secret Operations Manual with all you writerly types out there. This is from the section on "Concreteness" from the "Propaganda Presentation" chapter, and I love it because it exactly describes How I Write Fiction (or try to, anyway).

a) Avoid abstract words like the plague, because:

1. Such words as "democracy", "patriotism", "freedom", have become platitudes without significance.

2. Even where abstracts are not yet platitudinous, they can never affect a reader's self-interest so powerfully as concrete words. E.g.:

For "patriotism" say "Love of France."

For "hunger" say "empty bellies."

For "The Peace Loving Dutch nation are now resisting German oppression" say "The Dutch people, who once grew tulips and made cheese, are now stabbing Germans in the back."

oy vey... a little context is necessary to appreciate their examples. The book is a teaching manual for agents about to be parachuted into Nazi occupied Europe.

For "Germany's death-rate is rising in Russia" say "German corpse is piled upon German corpse among the blood, the bone, the twisted tripes and scattered bowels of the Russian battlefield."


You get the idea. But it is something that I do very consciously. I was in a writing workshop once where my virtuosity was outclassed by someone else's very simple description of a hand smeared with wet dye from a colored Easter egg. The leader of the workshop (I think it was Philippa Pearce) called me out. "This is better than yours. Do you know why?"

I did. You could weigh that egg in your hand. The image, though not the words, has stayed with me for more than 15 years.

There is a good example in The Winter Prince where instead of "You are walking on thin ice" Medraut says "You are hurling your slight weight against a very thin scale of ice."


OH, AND SPEAKING OF ICE! On Sunday we walked across the frozen Loch Leven to the castle there--about a three mile walk in total, by the time we'd messed about and visited all the islands. It was one of the most awesome things we've ever done. Apparently the ice was over 7 inches thick and had been declared safe by the police (though we blithely walked across it without knowing that)--unfortunately it was not smooth enough for curling or skating, being covered with 4 inches of snow.

I took just so many wonderful pictures that I got to grips with Photobucket and uploaded them all here, if anyone's interested. I am not, I repeat, not a photographer. It wasn't even my camera. But it has been almost impossible NOT to take a pretty picture around here lately.

Our snow is melting, but the grass in our front garden is still covered. This has also been going on for more than three weeks (like the children's holiday), wholly unheard of for my ten years in Scotland (ten years this month!). It is foggy and drippy now but still white. GOTHIC, some might say.
ewein2412: (Default)
Mark: "It's not my fault I fell in the snow. But it is my fault Sara fell in the snow."


[livejournal.com profile] steepholm asked if there was any chance of a Frost Fair. Not quite yet.

These pictures were all taken between about 3.15 and 4.15 this afternoon.

The pictures above were taken from the Queen's Bridge, looking upstream toward Perth Bridge (built 1766). I like the first picture better but the second gives a better idea of the extent of the ice. The river really is solid ice between the bridges (it's backing up against the Queen's Bridge). Here's the pile up at the Queen's Bridge, looking downstream:

Several times, in flood, I've seen the river reach the top of the arches.

The next picture is downstream of the Queen's Bridge:

The light really was gorgeous!

So then we crossed the river via the railway bridge and circled back up river via Perth Bridge. This one is taken from Perth Bridge, looking towards Perth, about an hour after the first pictures were taken:

And this one is of Perth Bridge itself, a little upstream of the ice. The reason it got so dark is not just because the sun went down--also the haar came in. (That's what they call sea mist all up and down the north coast of Britain. It's a Dutch word, I think.)


Me and Sara wanted to pay tribute to my awesome snowflake gingerbread cookies so we arranged them as a map of Great Britain!

(The little comet at the top is Orkney.)


the rant continues!

snow poem

Jan. 7th, 2010 09:05 pm
ewein2412: (Default)
It has not actually snowed in PERTH since 27 December (not more than an inch or so, anyway). It is just incredible how the snow misses us. However, there is still about 8 inches of snow out there because the temp has not got much above -5 C / 23 F for three weeks (and is set to go down to -11 C / 12 F again tonight).

I wrote this poem in 1996, but it's really about the winter of 1994. It comes to mind now as all our neighbors' pipes freeze and we haven't seen the ground since before Christmas. I went sledding with Sara and a friend of hers this morning and realized afterward that for the first time in ten years we had to quit because we were exhausted--but not wet. It is too cold for anything to melt.



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: (Arthur of the Britons--if looks could ki)
Front page of the Perthshire Advertiser:


"...Dr. Stewart Templeton, who lives in the South Street, phoned the PA after navigating the icy pavements.
"He said: '...Absolutely nothing has been done to the pavements...if [the Council were prepared to pay adequate overtime] there would be people willing to go out and shovel the snow.'
"One housebound PA reader, who declined to be named, added, '...the ice and snow-covered pavements [are] a death-trap. It's a disgrace.'
"He suggested, 'Back in the '50s, the town council got men on the dole to shovel snow off the pavements - it's an idea that should be considered again!'"


Or they could move to Germany, where as [livejournal.com profile] estara informs me, it is illegal NOT to do it yourself.

Or they could move to Kenya, where my husband assures me no one has ever had to shovel any snow.


My husband also tells me Not to Read the PA before I've had any coffee.
ewein2412: (christmas)
It is still snowing. We have not seen the ground for two weeks. I have lived in the UK for 15 years and this is an all-time first.

Also, the Tay is starting to freeze. HOW COOL IS THAT.

We walked into town yesterday, New Year's Day, to look at it. All the shops were shut. It was exactly high tide and the river was absolutely still--I've never seen it before that the water wasn't moving very rapidly, high or low. Perth Bridge, the stone arch bridge that is a couple of years older than the United States of America, was perfectly reflected in the water. (It was too dark to take a decent picture.)

A Little Snow Rant. )

We had our New Year's Eve in the summer house with a bonfire in our fire basket; and Lebkuchen and popcorn and pink champagne and fireworks. We tried to make the maple sugar candy on snow and FAILED AGAIN! But it was a very good party. I skied up to the reservoir under the blue moon and there was a layer of fog hanging in the Tay, absolutely magical. I bought my cross-country skis in 2001, the last time we had snow on the ground for a week, and haven't used them much since. But this is the first time I have been able to ski down the middle of our street a week after the snow actually fell.

Tim and I were married on New Year's Day in 1996. We have now been married for 14 years, 1 day, and about 18 hours.
ewein2412: (stella potens et mira)

hahahahahaha Scotland DOES grind to a halt when it snows more than 4 inches!

It was -11 C / 12 F here this morning--really unheard-of cold for these parts. Fortunately all five of our guests and visitors have arrived and depart by train.

We spent all day Sunday (the morning after this stuff got dumped on us) building with it. It was PERFECT for packing. This barricade was made to protect the baby apple and pear trees from our toboggan run, but it was Mark's idea (of course) to turn it into a GIANT CATERPILLAR:

Meanwhile me and Sara were building an igloo:

We did not finish it because the next day every single drop of moisture had been freeze-dried out of the left-over snow and it had turned to powder--we could no longer pack it. I have never seen fallen snow change its nature over night like this.

So I could not make Too-Ticky's snowball lanterns as I'd intended, but managed to excavate a row of runway lights in the haha at the bottom of the back garden:


My recorder group went busking on Christmas Eve and we all had ICICLES hanging off the ends of our instruments. Fortunately after about an hour and a half of this torture, a trio of bagpipes set up down the street from us and turfed us out.
ewein2412: (stella potens et mira)
Q: "Why doesn't Scotland grind to a halt when it snows?"

A: Because it doesn't ever snow more than 4 cm. When it does, Scotland DOES grind to a halt.

I know the guy talks about a nearly 2 metre drift in a railway cutting back in 1947 or something, but in my ten years here the most snow I have ever seen is about 8 inches. And we had to drive 80 miles north into the Highlands to find it.

We get about 2 snowfalls a year, max 10 cm, lasting max 6 hours. By the time the kids are out of school and on the sledding hill, they are sledding in slush.

No, the really exciting weather that we get here is WIND. The 50 mph winds for 3 days, now THAT'S weather.


ewein2412: (Default)

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