DIY White statement necklace

This was a fun necklace to make, but it was finished too soon – sometimes I like that it takes hours and hours to sew a piece.

I used so many bigger beads (two old broken bracelets that I found at a flea market), there just wasn’t that many beads to sew.

I like this nuance of white. And this particular red.

The round white beads were from a necklace, and the flat white ones were from two different thrift shop-necklaces.

A fun necklace to make, and to wear! I was feeling really fancy on the cruise in my retro gown and DIY-necklace!

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Writing Excuses Cruise – my dream vacation

I find myself thinking back on the cruise we went on, and all the special moments that we had. And I realize that my brain being what it is, I will start to misremember things, so now it’s time to write things down for my own future self to look back on.

This was such a momentous journey for Niklas and I, with both of us looking forward to it – Niklas looking forward to being away from home and the kids for a while, and completing his mission of tasting all the desserts on the ship, and I was so filled with emotions about getting to meet my idols – the hosts of the Writing Excuses Podcast. Not only that, we would meet other writers and instructors as well, and people that would become our friends.

I was really nervous when we arrived in Kiel, but there was nothing to be scared about – everything was handled to perfection by the team behind the retreat, and retreat veterans were encouraged to help us newbies, and that they did! We felt so well taken care of, and safe. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an event that was this well planned on all fronts, and with the comfort of the participators as the main focus.

Before we boarded we were divided into groups. Hi, group!

It was so nice getting to know people in this way. I had no need to feel anxious after this Quest (we were the only Finns on the cruise, and didn’t know anyone beforehand, so I was a bit nervous!), because it immediately felt as if we knew some people. Which was one of the points of the exercise.

Each group got an quest that started when we got on board the ship.

We were team Science Fiction and I was the chief engineer – just call me Ms LaForge!  

It took a while for us to solve the first riddle, but then we finally found the right bar and the people sitting in it, giving us the next clue: Jasper Fforde (who had the most amazing inspiring talk!), Kathy Chung (who I wish I had had time to talk to, but there wasn’t time to talk to everyone unfortunately…) and Piper J Drake (thanks for the writing sprint and the individual critique! I think about you every time I sit down to write my novel <3 )

Next stop, the Cyber Library where Dan Wells and his daughter Audrey gave us the next clue together with Aliette de Bodard. We had a funny incident at the SciFi bookstore in Stockholm when Dan and his family walked in and the girl at the counter got really starstruck! That was one of the highlights of the cruise – getting to brag to a fellow geek!

Ken Liu (so much fun! And the best short story writer ever) and Howard Tayler – one of my idols from the podcast.

Some of the clues were trickier than others. But our team came through, and we got to go to lunch eventually! 

Before that we met with John Berlyne (thanks for all the advice!) and Sandra Tayler (thank you too! It was so helpful, I felt so at peace after talking to you, and got great ideas for writing at home.)

Then onto the bar where we spent most our time – listening to instructors or writing, because – geeks! Here we met Wesley Chu (who has awesome taste in movies!) and Kenna. Last, but not least Thomas Olde Heuvelt (nice talking to you about translations and also seeing you at WorldCon!) and K Tempest Bradford, who we had an amazing day with at the museums in Copenhagen.

These were just some of the instructors, and I so wish there were more hours to the day when we were on the cruise because everyone was just so interesting and interested and just awesome! We had so many wonderful conversations and I came back with new confidence and lots of happy memories. And luckily new Facebook friends, so that I can get my cruise-fix afterwards as well!

 

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The Writing Excuses Retreat 2017 – my two cents

This was such an life-changing experience for me and my spouse Niklas – I don’t think I can do the retreat justice, but apparently now ”I am a writer!” so I’ll try.

”This is real. This is really happening!”

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses-podcast religiously for the last two years. Whenever I get stuck on something in my own writing, I google an episode about where I am in the process and after listening to it I always get inspired to keep writing. The instructors on the show are so encouraging, and just as much if not even more in real life!

So it felt like a once in a lifetime-opportunity when the WXR came to the Baltic Sea. Niklas and I scraped together the money for it and just went for it. All in, in all ways possible. I tried to read everything I could find on blogs about people’s experiences of the retreat, and then I took their advice.

I printed business cards (they did come in handy lots of times!), I read books of almost all the instructors (didn’t have time to read them all). I wrote down questions for the instructors. I prepared my texts. But nothing could prepare me completely for what an amazing experience it would be, in spite of everyone on the blogs gushing about it.

You need some context to really understand what I am trying to tell you.

First of all, I am from Finland, and in spite of being extroverted I still feel anxious when I meet new people and wonder what  kind of impression I leave. I have had many bad experiences over the year with people not liking my personality, which makes me a bit apprehensive when I meet new people. I had no idea what to expect from the cruise.

Secondly, Niklas and I haven’t been on a proper vacation for more than fourteen years! We went to the Mediterranean a few times when our youngest was still a baby, but at the time I was in so much pain from giving birth (I almost died) and the following surgeries, that they didn’t feel as much as vacations as a form of recovery trips, with me going back a bit more rested but still with the same ache and PTSD as before. Then we had the two little ones (who are not so little anymore! They are both 10 at the moment) and we just never had the opportunity for a proper vacation. Our private economy went belly up along with the rest of the world, and the kids were traumatized and needed stability and having parents who stayed with them 24/7.

Thirdly, I’ve actually never spoken English for more than a few minutes at a time. I listen to English every day, I read almost conclusively in English, but speak – just a couple of times for more than the short while it takes you to buy fish and chips.

And fourthly, I felt this was an opportunity to get a confirmation that I am on the right track writing-wise.

 

So  when say it was a life-changing experience, I mean life-changing.

 

We came back from the cruise well-rested and relaxed, and I have, wonder of wonder, been able to keep that sense of relaxation with me ever since (fingers crossed it remains!). I’ve slept well for the first time in more than ten years. I’ve met new friends that are my crowd, a place where I don’t feel as the odd one, but just one of the guys, one who can contribute.

There was no threshold for talking to people. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, even the most introverted souls on the retreat who probably were more anxious than even I was.

I’ve learned so much about LDS and Mormons (I used to be a teacher and taught religion, so I had a lot of questions that I finally got answered, like why are there so many Mormon craft blogs). I found out I speak a bit like an American when I try to speak, in spite of the school systems effort to make me sound British. I also didn’t know I had such huge blind spots when it comes to Americanisms, and had no idea a lot of Americans pronounce Copenhagen the German way (we always say ”Copen-HAYgen” when we speak English). I got to feel like a European. Haven’t felt like one since we were in South Africa, but now I suddenly identified as one, and that was a fun thing to ponder.

I love thinking about cultural differences, and on this cruise I found many likeminded individuals.

I also found people to talk pop culture with, who dig my kind of pop culture (Star Wars and Star Trek, all the SciFi on Netflix etc – you know, all the geek stuff). I didn’t feel the need to dress up if I didn’t want to – this was definitely the crowd who would have loved our 14 year old’s Doctor Who T-shirt or his Deathnote notebook! By the way, he was so jealous he didn’t get to go on the cruise! And he would have loved it.

Every night people brought out the board games or sat at tables discussing writing or awesome books or awesome movies and TV-shows. My type of crowd! I even found people who loves etymology as much as I do, which hardly ever happens.

We discussed grammatical differences and the third pronoun in Swedish, and got so many book recommendations that my reading list is about ten times as large as beforehand.

nobody got my Ann Boleyn reference btw! Not many Brits around and with them I talked other stuff… The necklace is my version of Ann Boleyn’s B-necklace

 

I felt really overwhelmed in the middle of the cruise and talked to some of my new friends who told me to go and talk to Emma Newman, and then I did just that. She was so supportive, and after that I felt relaxed and had new confidence.

I am on the right track, I can do this, I just have to stop pushing myself so hard and allow myself to go to the progress at a pace which my body also can accommodate.

After that talk I felt as if this was the best trip ever, the best vacation, the best …anything. But then amazingly it got even better!

On the last night I met not one, but two women who could totally relate to my personal story, and we had so much to talk about that I feel so sad that the trip ended that quickly, and I so hope we get to meet again in the future some time!

I’ve gone for 14 years without anyone understanding what I went through with almost dying while giving birth.

I’ve gone for 14 years without anyone understanding what it’s like to have chronic pain in your pelvis, and have your husband always having to help you with stuff.

And now suddenly, here they were – women who completely got it! I cry when I type this, because it was just such an amazing experience. I’ve googled my symptoms so many times, have tried to find support groups etc, but then I find support there on the Writing Excuses Cruise! It was just amazing.

And that maybe tells you a bit of what you can find when you are writing. Writing is not just an academic exercise, as I thought beforehand (I tried telling my brain it wasn’t, but I didn’t believe myself). Writing is art. Writing is about emotions. Writing is about finding what is hard in your life and to talk about those things.

Writing changes people, and it changes me.

I feel like I am in the perfect spot now that I am middle-aged and have all these experiences, and maybe, just maybe I can help someone through my writing and use them for something that adds to society.  Even while writing dark fantasy, because dark things happen to people and we need to read about them to process them.

 

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Everyday life (or am I still dreaming?!)

It feels so odd to be back home from the cruise! Yesterday it felt as if we were still on the trip, and as if this house and home were just a dream. Today I am having the opposite experience. Maybe because I still feel the long waves beneath my feet (and I miss the not cleaning up-part and the not having to prepare food-part…)

It felt as if we were away for much longer than ten nights. And it turns out my kids are really fun to be around – who knew?!

So many memories to unpack! We had such a great time – this was the best vacation we’ve ever been on, on so many levels.

It felt huge to have a sign like this that says ”Writer”. ”So what do you write?” was an obvious question to ask anyone with these yellow pouches. My answer: ”Dark fantasy, YA”. I have actually been writing constantly for two years now, a couple of kid’s books, a couple middle grade novels, two fantasy novels that need serious editing and now I’m on my third draft of the novel that I feel most comfortable with. I’ve also written six or seven short stories, and submitted one for Mary Robinette Kowal’s workshop. It was amazing getting feedback from other writers, and especially from Mary who is an expert on short stories.

Niklas is reliving the cruise by drinking coffee from his unicorn mug! He bought it in Kiel and used it on the cruise. We were so happy that we got to do some shopping already in Kiel, because the kids were definitely expecting presents, and we didn’t have either the inclination or the time to do any shopping after that. We managed to pick up a few things, but most of the stuff we bought in Kiel (which seems to be a big shopping city) and at Hamburg Airport (which was one of the worst airports we have visited – more on that later).

The kids welcomed us with homemade bouquets.

They had made their own Welcome Home-cards as well, or the two youngest had – our fourteen old was totally fine with us  being away for so long, and didn’t feel the need for any cards!

I love it when the kids make their own bouquets.

The garden has fared well while we were away, not that I had any thoughts about it while we were away.

My parents even had the kids join and chop wood one day! So it was really nice to come home to a clean house and not that many chores that needed to be done.

Yay, we got to see the agapanthus bloom for the first time!

The house still stands, and now we even have electricity in all of the house. When we came home the sockets in the lower floor didn’t work, but we were so tired so we used extension chords until today when we got an electrician to fix the problem.

The pond looks lush, just like the rest of the garden.

Nice to be home when you are feeling relaxed! I need to do this more often.

Our daughter was happy with the earrings that we brought her.

This is our youngest. He collects band aids, and now he got some German ones!

Clothes hanging to dry everywhere.

Some of our son’s collection

Our fourteen old who has been busy playing board games with his friends ever since we came home. He was so jealous he didn’t get to go on the cruise!

Our lovely black bunny is also happy to be home!

And I? I still feel unreal. This cruise was such a life-changing experience, and we hope we get to see some of our new friends at Worldcon later this week!

 

#wxr2017

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