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E Wein
07 November 2016 @ 11:16 am

SCOTLAND!

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

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



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



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

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

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

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


Catriona Balfe & Sam Heughan


same, because they are essentially EYE CANDY #jamie


Catriona Balfe accepting her Best Television Actress award


Peter Capaldi as presenter


Steve Moffat

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

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


James McAvoy

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

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


Morven Christie #julie

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

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

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

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


Morven Christie & E Wein!

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

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

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

 
 
E Wein

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

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

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


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

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

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


Northwood's cool photo collage!

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

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

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

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


With Brenda Randolph and Harriet McGuire...

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


...And with my aunts Kate and Susan.

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


Balsa airplane projects at the CABA Festival

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

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


Elizabeth Wein selfie with Lincoln School student Elizabeth Wein!

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


With Morgan Hellmold and Suzanne Larson at the Seekonk School



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


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

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

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

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



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


with Lionel...


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

It was… Just. So. Wonderful.

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

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



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

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*A sombre note: As I write this, Ethiopia is imploding. In the past two weeks it has entered a state of emergency. It has been heartbreaking to watch this happening from a distance while celebrating its history, people and culture.
 
 
E Wein
29 September 2016 @ 05:16 pm


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
 
 
E Wein
12 September 2016 @ 09:01 am
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.


 
 
E Wein
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.)
 
 
E Wein
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.
 
 
E Wein
03 June 2016 @ 06:29 pm
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

 
 
E Wein
22 May 2016 @ 05:41 pm
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!

 
 
E Wein
25 April 2016 @ 02:36 pm
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-windednessCollapse )

 
 
E Wein
17 September 2015 @ 11:14 am
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