Coming full circle

That's me, churning butter at the Schultz house back in 1982

That's me, churning butter at the Schultz house back in 1982

In 1982, I went to work for an historic site called Old World Wisconsin.  It is an amazingly wonderful site–over fifty historic structures moved to a sprawling tract within the Kettle Moraine State Forest, in southeastern Wisconsin.  I was hired as Second Lead interpreter in the German area, which at that time consisted of three fully restored farms.  Later I moved behind the scenes, and ultimately served as Curator of Interpretation and Collections.

I worked at Old World Wisconsin for twelve years.  During those years I developed my writing skills, as well.  What better training could someone writing historical fiction ask for?  After I left Old World, I often relied upon memories as I wrote historical novels.  Did one of my characters need to warp a loom, harvest heirloom cucumbers, bake in a brick oven?  Check.  Did I need to describe the feel of flax fibers, the shadows in a room lit by an  oil lamp, the taste of currant kuchen, the rattle of a threshing machine?  Check.

Over the past decade, I’ve written eight historical mysteries for young readers.  A few years ago, I decided to write an adult mystery set at Old World Wisconsin.  My fictional protagonist, Chloe Ellefson, is Curator of Collections.  The year is 1982.  Old World Wisconsin came back to life in my mind as I wrote the book.  I started visiting the site again, and remembering how much I loved working there.

The book took a long time to finish because I was under contract for other projects, and had to work around those deadlines.  But I did finish it.  And I’ve been offered a contract for it.  So now, I’m looking forward to returning to Old World Wisconsin–in print.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about historic sites in general.  The stories they tell.  The stories they inspire.  Hence the blog.   I hope you’ll visit often!

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19 Responses to “Coming full circle”

  1. Hilda Demuth-Lutze Says:

    Congratulations on the new book, Kathleen! What a labor of love this must have been for you. I look forward to revisiting the sights and sounds of Old World Wisconsin in those pages.

  2. Alice Trego Says:

    What great news, Kathleen! Glad to hear that The Book of Your Heart is finally going to be in readers’ hands soon. I’ll be one of the first in line to purchase your new book.

    I also enjoy visiting historical places — invariably, I always come away with an idea for a story.


  3. Gayle Gresham Says:

    Congratulations on your book contract! How fun to write a book using your memories of such a meaningful place for you. Enjoy writing your blog, too! I’ll be back to visit.

  4. Penny Says:

    I like the photo of you in period clothing churning butter. All the blues in that photo make it very artful. This is an attractive blog — and I plan to visit again and again to read your posts. You are a wonderful writer. Best wishes.

  5. Cynthia Becker Says:

    Congratulations on the new book and the crisp, clean new blog. You’ve made me want to bake kuchen again. I look forward to following your posts.

    I remember visiting a similar site of restored historic farms in the Netherlands. I carry in my mental memory album the image of living quarters in a particular house/barn with its simple furnishings and small sleeping closets. I came away with a deeper connection to ancestors who had been just names and dates on paper charts. Seeing how they lived made them real people. Thank you for raising that memory for me on this cold, damp morning.

  6. Susan J. Tweit Says:

    I love the idea of you coming full circle and using the knowledge and experiences you gained in more than a decade at Old World Wisconsin as the basis for this mystery. Will this be the first of a series?

  7. joyce4books Says:

    Nicely done, Kathleen. Old World Wisconsin looks like a wonderful and interesting place for history buffs … and for writers! — Joyce

  8. Irene Bennett Brown Says:

    There is a saying “love what you do and success will follow.” That surely must be true now as your past experience at Old World Wisconsin comes alive again in your new mystery. Congratulations and much good luck!

  9. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Many, many thanks for the good wishes! I do plan for a series, and am quite excited about having the opportunity to get my protagonist/curator to other historic sites.

  10. Char Shirven Says:

    Can’t wait to read the book. Can we put it in the hat?? What fun that would be!

  11. heidiwriter Says:

    Congratulations, Kathleen! I love the pictures of you in period costume!

  12. Ilona Fridl Says:

    Loved your new blog! That brought back many memories. Can’t wait to read the mystery!

  13. sally Says:

    How cool is this – your own writing blog, as if you don’t have enough writing projects to do – and a neat book set at OWW as well…I can’t wait to read it.
    congratulations and good work on the birth of another project!

  14. Rita Lurvey Says:

    Kathleen , the blog is great. I have good memories of you when we work at OWW together. you taught be so much and i thank you for that.

  15. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Hi Rita! It’s wonderful to reconnect! I have wonderful memories of those OWW years also, and I look forward to visiting more often.

  16. Barb Jatczak Says:


    Sorry to miss book club, but was under the weather,. Love your blog site and also am excited about your new book to come.

    You certainly have accomplished a lot…loved the poem too. Congrats. Barb

  17. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Thanks, Barb! We missed you, and I hope you’re feeling better. I picked up a copy of the new book and am determined to finish before our next gathering.

    And thanks for your interest in the new book…I’m excited too!

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