Random Rzeczy (things)

Cobblestones have a super-cool look, but if you walk on them too much your feet will hurt.


The Polish language does not have the letters Q or V. (The W sounds like an English V, and really, why does any language need a Q?). Nevertheless, if you attend a football match at Stadion Gdansk, you might be seated in Section Q.


I have three house keys, but one is my favorite. I love my long fancy key.


In Gdansk the bikes are more like pedestrians than cars. In many places, they have their own trail (in red) that borders the pedestrian sidewalk. When crossing streets as a pedestrian, it’s important to look both ways before crossing the red bicycle trail, even before getting to the road. If there isn’t a designated bicycle lane, cyclists use (at least what I’ve noticed) the wide sidewalks and don’t join cars on the streets, as is expected in the US.

Exploring Gdansk

For the first few days in Poland, we didn’t have internet in our apartment and our phones didn’t (still don’t) have service. This makes exploring a little awkward. Our only “map” is the memory of the maps we looked at before we got here. Still, we wanted to explore.

On Wednesday, we decided to head in the direction of the Baltic Sea. We were pretty sure which direction to head, and we didn’t think it was too far. The catch, though, was that we didn’t want to take too many turns so that we couldn’t find our way back to our apartment.

We discovered some cool buildings and parks–I wish I’d taken pictures. After walking for about 2 hours, we were tired, our feet hurt, and the coast didn’t seem very close. So, we turned around and made it home.

Later, when we could check the internet, we saw that we had headed in exactly the right direction (totally Andy), but just didn’t travel far enough. It was farther than we’d thought.

Today, we decided to take a train to the old part of Gdansk. We have internet now (still no phone service), so we could map out our route. We also hoped to find a tourist information area where we could get paper maps. These are not as easy to find as they once were!

Success! I have several maps now. Also, I remembered to take pictures. Here are some of the beautiful sites in the old town of Gdansk:

The highlight of our day, though, was our visit to the Solidarity Museum. If you are ever in Gdansk, I highly recommend it.

The red-rust building in the background is the Solidarity Museum. The top of the Memorial for the Fallen Shipyard Workers is cut off in this picture because I wanted to get these words.

These are the demands of the striking shipyard workers which were written on two large wooden boards and then placed at Gate #2 of the Gdansk Lenin shipyard in 1980. The strike was initiated in defense of a 30-year employee who had recently been fired. This gate was a symbol for the shipyard workers because in 1970, the army shot two and injured several others in trying to stop an earlier a strike.

The Solidarity Museum is amazing and inspirational. My eyes watered more than once. There are placards and signs outside the museum which talk about the current struggles of Belarussians who have been killed, arrested, or forced out of their country by the current oppressive regime in that country.

After walking around the museum and most of old town, we were ready to sit and eat a meal. At one intersection we became confused, and a Polish gentleman offered to help us. It turns out that he gives tours in German of the old town. He walked us to his favorite restaurant: Gdanska Restaurancja. It is incredibly beautiful inside. Visit the website to see. I took pictures of our delicious Polish meals. I had beetroot soup with cream and a pork cutlet with vegetables and potatoes. Andy had a local beer and pork roast with potatoes and cabbage. Highly recommended!

Well, that’s all for now. The Polish national men’s volleyball team is in the finals of some international tournament. We’ve been watching them on television the past few nights. Very exciting! Volleyball appears to be a very big deal in Poland. The tournament is happening in Poland, and the crowds have been amazing. Me, I’ll watch and enjoy any sport.

Do widzenia!

Packing for Poland

Many people have asked me about how to pack for a 10-month “trip.” Well, I like to travel light. I’m not into clothes and shoes and all that stuff, so it’s pretty easy for me to limit what I bring. We get one free checked bag (Kelty), one carry-on (red wheelie suitcase), and a personal item (backpack), so that is what I’m bringing.

A few people offered to loan me a large, wheelie suitcase to check, and I thought about it. There would be more space, and the wheels could have been helpful. In the end, I decided to stick with Kelty. How could I leave her behind? Kelty is a hiking-traveling backpack-suitcase (in the middle, above). When you want to travel on a plane, the back zips up to hide and protect the straps that you can wear when you are hiking or walking from bus stop to apartment (shown below).

This isn’t the first time Kelty has traveled to Europe with me. In 2007, Andy Felt and I led the UWSP study abroad trip to Munich, Germany. I brought Kelty on that trip, although I neglected to take any good pictures of her while we were there. Below are my best attempts to find her.

I’m holding several bags: is one Kelty?
Or maybe here, at our Waldurn youth hostel. Is that Kelty on the ground next to me?

But my relationship with Kelty goes back farther than that fun time in Germany. In 1992, before we had kids, Andy and I went on a 4-day, back-country hiking trip in Glacier National Park. Obviously, Kelty was the perfect choice for hauling my clothes and gear.

Taken before digital cameras or phones that fit in your pocket.

Did I buy Kelty for that backpacking adventure? No, no, no. I bought Kelty in 1986, before I moved to Strasbourg, France and my junior year abroad. Do I have any pictures of Kelty speaking French? I wish! I did find a picture of my dorm room in Louvois 3. I kept Kelty under the bed (not pictured).

Sorry, for the bad picture of a bad picture.

So, Kelty and I go W-A-Y back. How could I leave her at home? She’ll be accompanying me on this adventure, and I’m excited that you, gentle reader, are too.

Pisze ksiazke ?

(Am I writing a book?)

Gdansk. Port city on the Baltic coast of Poland.

Am I writing a book? In Polish? Maybe…

Well, not in Polish but maybe in Poland!

My husband and I are moving to Gdansk, Poland for a year. On a Fulbright grant, he will teach math and computer science at the Gdansk University of Technology. I will teach composition (part time, online) for the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point on a laptop in our apartment.

I may also work on my writing. Or not. I’m keeping an open mind.

Ja nie mowie po Polsku bardo dobre. (I don’t speak Polish very well.) I am trying! I’ve been using Duolingo for almost a year. My vocabulary is small, and my accent probably atrocious, but I’ve always loved learning languages and being surrounded by people speaking in words I cannot understand. Am I crazy? Maybe. It is hard for me to express how totally excited I am about this adventure. I know it will be practically impossible for me to understand Polish at first, but I’ll give it my best shot. I can only improve, right?

We leave in early September and won’t return until July 2023. To be honest, I could use a break from the U.S. There’s nothing like living in a strange place to make you appreciate things you never even noticed about your home.

I’ll post updates about our adventure here. My husband Andy Felt is in the process of creating his own blog, Finding Myself in Poland, so check that out too.

Gdansk University of Technology

More to come!

Traveling by Book

winter seaThe Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (published as Sophia’s Secret in the UK) is one of my all time favorite books. When we decided to holiday in Scotland, I knew I would want to see Slains Castle and walk in the steps of protagonists Sophia and Carrie.

My husband and I spent two nights in Cruden Bay at St. Olaf’s Hotel, the inn and restaurant that fictional author Carrie visits for fish and chips. It was also the hotel where actual author Susanna Kearsley stayed when she was researching The Winter Sea. I neglected to take a picture of the hotel, but I did take this  cell-phone photo from my room. The view of Slains Castle out my window had me hopping up and down.

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Slains Castle was every bit as incredible as I thought it would be. The castle features prominently in The Winter Sea, and it is also listed as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Here are some pictures of us exploring the ruins.

 

me at slains

In Kearsley’s novel, Carrie and Sophia go for many walks along the cliffs above the North Sea. My husband and I took a bus to the small town of Boddam, located seven miles north of Cruden Bay, and walked back. We took the Eastern Coastal footpath, part of which included the well-kept trail of the Longhaven Cliffs Wildlife Reserve. It rained for most of our walk, but we anticipated the Scottish weather and were well prepared with good raincoats. Even with the clouds, the views were spectacular.

 

I was especially excited to see the Bullers of Buchan, an interesting geologic formation that Carrie and Graham visit in the book.

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Bullers of Buchan

We had a wonderful time in Scotland, and my favorite part was our walk along the eastern coast. Surprisingly, many of the guides about visiting Scotland make no mention of this area. It can be our little secret–or, perhaps we should say we discovered Sophia’s Secret.

My Scotland Adventure

To celebrate our 25 years of marriage, my husband and I traveled to romantic Scotland. Although we spent about two weeks there, we did not visit many places. Rather than running around and seeing everything, we like to get a feel for what it would be like to live in the places we visit.

We spent 5 days in Inverness, the “capitol” of the Highlands. We stayed at the Bluebell House, a lovely bed and breakfast on Kenneth Street. Inverness is more town than city, and in our time here we learned to get around without a map and find our favorite places. I explored some residential neighborhoods to discover where the protagonist of my next novel would live and walked frequently along and across the River Ness, where some exciting events will take place.

Here are some pictures of the lovely Inverness:

 

 

Caledonia Canal
The Caledonia Canal

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Great Glen Way footpath

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Great Glen Way footpath

 

As you can see, not your normal tourist photos. Still, there were some tourist-y type things we had to do. We visited Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns.

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Culloden battlefield

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Culloden battlefield: the moor

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Clava Cairns

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My husband Andy at Clava Cairns

 

We also visited the Isle of Skye, which has exploded with tourists–so much so, that the roads cannot handle the increased traffic. Potholes and the smallness of the lanes make for dangerous driving. Fortunately, we booked a Happy Tours guide who took us along Loch Ness and to the Isle of Skye, so we didn’t do any driving that day.

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Me, Andy and our tour guide Wullie in Portree, Isle of Skye.

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Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

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Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

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Eilean Donan castle, located on the confluence of three lochs and on the road to Isle of Skye

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Isle of Skye

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Isle of Skye

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Isle of Skye

From Inverness, we visited Pitlochry and Aberdeen, then traveled to Cruden Bay and Slains Castle, the setting of one of my favorite novels.

My next blog post will be about that visit and what it is like to see places you’ve read about in a favorite story.

Research in Scotland

Hello Friends,

It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog. I’ve been busy! For the past year, I was much busier at school than normal, teaching more classes and doing a lot of committee work. Thank goodness for the summer!

In a few days, my husband and I will be visiting Scotland! I’ve wanted to visit this country for a long time. Last year was our 25th anniversary and we waited up to travel this summer. While there, we will be seeing sites, getting to know the natives, visiting key scenes in Outlander and The Winter Sea, and I will be doing research for my next novel.

When the trip is over, I will share pictures and talk about the trip here. If you are facebook and/or instagram friends with me, you will likely get more recent updates and pictures. If you aren’t social media friends with me, please friend me–or wait until I post another blog to learn about my Scotland adventures.

 

Author Interview: Callie Bates

callie batesToday I welcome Callie Bates to my series of author interviews. Callie is the author of the soon-to-be-released The Waking Land, a young adult-crossover fantasy novel. Her book release party will be in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, on June 27th at the North Lakeland Discovery Center. I was lucky enough to read parts of The Waking Land in a critique group a few years ago and was not at all surprised when Callie sold the book to Del Rey Books. I’m so excited to read the whole story!

Elizabeth: Callie, welcome! Can you tell my readers about The Waking Land?

callie baties bookCallie: Thank you so much for having me! The Waking Land is about a young woman who’s raised as a hostage for her father’s failed rebellion—but when she’s framed for murdering the king, she has to go on the run. Meanwhile, she struggles to understand her repressed, forbidden nature magic. Basically, it has intrigue, romance, revolution and, hopefully, lots of fun!

Elizabeth: How did the first idea of the story come to you?

Callie: I’ve been tinkering with Elanna’s character for years, and she has evolved enormously over that time! I wanted to write a story about a girl forcibly raised away from her home, but who still possesses a deep and undeniable connection to the land and people she comes from—and who, at the same time, is determined to forge her own identity. But, because I didn’t really know what I was doing, it wasn’t until after I wrote a rather long and rather awful multi-point-of-view manuscript that I realized she could have a solo story in her own right. And that I might even be able to figure out how to write an ending for that!

Elizabeth: In what ways is Elanna like you and in what ways is she different?

Callie: We are both stubborn and snarky! However, Elanna is infinitely more hotheaded than I am, has PTSD from childhood trauma, and is much more attached to her perceived truths. (In case anyone wonders: I do not have Stockholm Syndrome!)

Elizabeth: How has living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin influenced this story?

Callie: If I gave Elanna anything of myself, it’s my love of the natural world. I’m deeply rooted in the place where I live. Here, trees outnumber people, and it’s easy to see the land as a character in its own right. I have always been baffled by people who put human needs before the needs of the environment, especially in the era of climate change, instead of seeing us as an interdependent whole. Elanna’s magic is an attempt to unite the experience of being human with the living experience of the land itself.

Elizabeth: How did you get your agent, and how long did it take you to get published?

Callie: Quite simply, I cold queried, and I’m here to tell you that it does work! My agent asked to see a revision of The Waking Land in 2014 and, because I am nothing if not thorough, I took my time and completely rewrote the manuscript in a different voice and tense. Fortunately, she loved it and offered representation. That was in early 2015; we sold the manuscript a few months later. So, it’s been 3 or 4 years since I first wrote this book. However, since I’ve been wanting to publish since I was 11, you could say it’s taken me almost 20 years to get there!

Elizabeth: Congratulations! I am shocked that a cold query worked! Good for you! Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Callie: I draft by hand in a notebook, then move on to working in Scrivener and Word. My drafts are often too short and skimp on some important moments, so I am often adding word count even in late edits. (Which is not what most writers recommend, but it seems to be how I roll.)

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Callie: I’m just finishing up the second book in the trilogy, The Memory of Fire! It jumps to a new narrator—and, for the most part, a new part of the world—though I can’t say too much without giving spoilers for The Waking Land

Elizabeth: What book(s) have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Callie: I’m currently reading two I love—The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which is a wonderful middle grade fantasy, and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, which is the culmination of an epic trilogy. I highly recommend both!

Elizabeth: I love The Girl Who Drank the Moon! I’ll put A Conjuring of Light on my TBR list. Tell us more about yourself.

Callie: Aside from writing, I’m also an occasional harpist. I play the folk harp, and I’m also a certified harp therapist, trained to play one-on-one or in group settings at hospitals, nursing homes, and the like, to facilitate the healing process. Unsurprisingly, I’m an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel, too; many of my better story ideas come to me while I’m ambling around somewhere new. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, studied creative writing in college, and stubbornly persisted until I had a book ready to go out into the world.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Pizza or salad?

Callie: Pizza!

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Callie: TEA. Black, milk, no sugar.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Callie: Both?

Elizabeth: Tree house or doll house?

Callie: Tree house!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Callie: Violin!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Callie: Darcy…but Heathcliff is more exciting…

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Callie: Loooooove scene!

Learn more about Callie from her social media sites:

Website: calliebates.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/calliebywords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calliebywords

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15986018.Callie_Bates

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/calliebates

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/callie_bates/

You can pre-order / buy a copy of The Waking Land here:

Barnes & Noble

Penguin Random House

Amazon

Amazon UK

SCBWI WI Fall 2016 Conference

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Green Lake, Wisconsin

Last weekend I was at the fall conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Wisconsin Chapter, held in beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin. It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend. My picture doesn’t do justice to the vibrant fall colors and clear blue skies. The weather was amazing: sunny days that were cool and fresh without being cold. Wisconsin at its best!

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The Roger Williams Inn

I stayed at the historic Roger Williams Inn and ate at the Kraft Center. Between the two buildings is this delightful sculpture of children playing. A perfect piece of art for a group of children’s book writers and illustrators!

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Sculpture of children playing

The faculty for the program were amazing and included nationally recognized editors, agents, authors and illustrators.

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Varian Johnson and me

Author Varian Johnson critiqued the first ten pages of The Stepsisters, and had some helpful advice about my prologue. Johnson is the author of The Great Greene Heist middle grade series. (Purchased, signed and now in my TBR pile.)

OK, I know you all are wondering about my costume. I was going to be Mary Poppins and had cobbled together some pieces from the UWSP costume shop. However, the skirt and jacket were uncomfortable, the hat too small, and my umbrella recognizably modern. When a pre-conference email encouraged people to bring masks (MASKS!) and explained that we would have the chance to make masks (MAKE MASKS!) at the conference, I eagerly returned the costume. . .

having forgot that I wear glasses. Glasses and masks don’t work well together. Of course, necessity is the mother of invention (as someone once said.) So, I invented a comfortable, glasses-friendly mask. But what character from children’s literature was I? Sadly, I was without an identity– until a writer suggested that I could be the clock from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. So, here I am, the clock from Hugo Cabret:

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                The clock from The Invention of Hugo Cabret

It was a fun weekend, and now I am inspired and with a clear plan of attack for improving my manuscript. Just in time for NaNoWriMo!

A Bad Navigator

I’ve always loved maps. I’m good at reading maps. If you give me a standardized test that has map questions, I’ll get them all right. No problem.

I love studying maps. Fictional maps, real maps. Where I want to go. Where I’ve been. My husband loves maps too. We have maps all over our bedroom walls of the places we’ve been.

But give me a map while I’m going somewhere, and ask me questions, and I’ll get all messed up. Often, I mess up east and west. I’ve always thought this was because I’m a slow thinker (like molasses). I’m especially slow when under-pressure. Recently, on a trip to Minneapolis, I discovered that my real problem is something a little different.

I read too much.

I read more than 100 books a year. I probably read more than two or three hours every day. My eyes are used to traveling left to right. Moving through a page in a certain direction. The past, where I was, what just happened, is on the left. I’m moving toward the right. What is going to happen is on the right side of the page.
Maps only work this way if you are traveling from west to east. If you are traveling from east to west, you are “moving” across the map opposite of the way you read a book.

If I look at a map and I’m not in that place, I totally get the map. No confusion at all.

If I look at a map and I’m in that place or moving through that place, my brain wants the left side of the paper to be where I was and the right side of the paper to be where I’m going.

I only just figured this out. I haven’t tried to navigate anywhere since discovering this about myself. Perhaps I will become a better navigator now that I can fight my brain’s impulse to put myself on a map the way I put myself in a book. Perhaps not.

I’m curious if anyone else has this problem. You avid readers out there. Does this ring true for you?