Archive for the ‘BOOKS BY KATHLEEN ERNST’ Category

Writer-In-Residence, Week 1

October 11, 2021

I’m all settled in at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the month.

Wondering what a writer-in-residence actually does? Curious about the park? Let me provide a peek!

The park encompasses 4,000 acres at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

This photo was taken from Jefferson’s Rock in WV. The Shenandoah flows on the right, with Virginia on the far shore. It meets the Potomac River, which flows from the left and on under the bridge.

The Harpers Ferry historic district has been beautifully preserved.

Some old buildings have been restored inside to provide a glimpse of earlier days…

…and some house formal museum exhibits.

Although the park is perhaps best known for John Brown’s 1859 raid and Civil War events, there are layers and layers of fascinating history here. Park historians, educators, and volunteers have been developing new programs to share additional stories. I’ll be helping with research into a lesser-known period while I’m here.

My residency is supported by the Harpers Ferry Park Association and the park itself. The HFPA helps the park in many ways, including funding educational programs, managing the park shop, and occasionally publishing books about the park and its history. The HFPA has been very supportive of me since my first book, The Night Riders of Harpers Ferry, was published.

The National Park Service curator and rangers have also been generous with their time and knowledge. Highlights of my first week included a lantern tour of the Lower Town (historic district)…

…and a three-hour tour with a certified guide.

Guide Chris Craig did a superb job of sharing the area’s broad-ranging history. We’re on Bolivar Heights, considering how the landscape shaped events.
Cathy Baldeau, Executive Director of the Harpers Ferry Park Association, also joined the tour. Why yes, we did have a great time!

I’ve been coming to Harpers Ferry for over 50 years, but the overview tour made my realize how piecemeal my approach has been. I’m excited to get a better sense of the whole.

I’m soaking everything in as I learn from experts, walk the ground, and scribble in my journal. I’ll provide an update next week!

Meet Hanneke Bauer!

September 9, 2021

I’m so happy to introduce you to the protagonist of my new Hanneke Bauer historical mystery series! The first volume, Lies of Omission, will be published on November 30, 2021 by Level Best Books.

I’ve actually been getting to know Hanneke for a long time.

When I accepted an interpreter position at Old World Wisconsin in 1982, I was assigned to the German Area. I loved working in all of the farms there, but was particularly fascinated by an extraordinary house once owned by the Schulz family.

The Schulz House, restored to its 1860 appearance.

I baked many loaves of crusty rye bread in the brick bake oven inside the Schwartze Kuche (Black Kitchen), and learned to spin and weave there.

Weaving linen cloth, 1982.

After spending so much time walking the floors, working through seasonal domestic chores, and thinking about farmwife Auguste Schulz, there where times when I almost glimpsed the hem of her skirt as she disappeared into the next room.

That’s when I knew I wanted to write a book about a Pomeranian immigrant.

This image of an unknown German woman helped me imagine Hanneke.

Other projects kept me busy. Finally, about fourteen years ago (while my agent was shopping around the first Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Old World Murder) I began working on the Pomeranian story. I was half-way through a rough draft when the Chloe series sold, and that kept me even busier. I was only recently able to finish the project.

Lies of Omission takes place in 1855, and begins just as Hanneke arrives in Wisconsin. Intelligent, capable, and strong-willed, she is looking forward to joining her new husband at his farm near Watertown. (Things do not, of course, go as well as she’d hoped.)

Tremendous numbers of German-speaking immigrants were settling during the state in this period, which prompted a backlash of anti-immigrant sentiment in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The nativist movement provided some good material for a mystery! And fictionalizing the Schulz Farm created a setting I can see clearly in my mind’s eye.

After all these years, it’s a special pleasure to see Hanneke emerge on the printed page. I hope you enjoy meeting her as much as I enjoyed creating her! I’ll share more insights about the book as publication day approaches.

(Chloe fans, never fear. I’m already working on her next adventure!)

Exciting Discovery

August 30, 2021

After the special event at the Hanka Homestead on August 21, Mr. Ernst and I made a detour so we could visit the Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center in northern Wisconsin.

When our guides took us into the tool shed, I spotted an old handmade loom reed hanging on the wall.

In the 11th Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge, Chloe finds just such a reed in the Hanka family’s trash dump. Look at the craftsmanship!

Here’s the scene:

Chloe was about to turn away when something snagged her attention. She shoved some loose barrel staves with a foot to get a better look…and caught her breath. “Oh!” She was looking at a loom’s reed, the wide tool with evenly spaced gaps weavers used to keep warp thread spread consistently. It was filthy, the teeth caked with dried mud, but she pulled it free and regarded it with wonder. Someone in the Hanka family had been a weaver.

Chloe thought about one of those Hanka women weaving rugs for the family in that once-cozy home. She thought of her own Lake Superior rug, which she’d locked inside the Pinto that morning for safekeeping. And she thought about the immigrant women who’d brought their weaving experience with them from Finland—whatever their grandmothers had taught them about weft preparation and warp tension, about color and balance and design. Had they known that the tradition, unlike so many domestic arts, would persist through coming generations?

I used the reed in the story because of what it could suggest or reveal about the person who once used it. I wasn’t able to view one while writing the book, so this made my day.

The Center also owns a fabulous loom made entirely from a single tree. (Learn more about tree looms/root looms here and here.) It’s a thing of beauty, and educators are using it to teach the art to weaving students.

I’ll do a full blog post about the Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center later, but I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of these artifacts as much as I did!

August Newsletter

August 8, 2021

Why am I sharing a photo from 1996? Catch up on the latest news and announcements here.

Folk Arts, Fjords, and Fiddles – 2022!

July 14, 2021

Let’s try this again!

After a pandemic-caused delay, I’m thrilled to announce new dates for the Chloe Ellefson-themed tour of Southern Norway.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, I chose the area that enchanted me most. In partnership with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society, I invite you to join me in May, 2022, on a trip to the land of Chloe’s ancestors!

Click the image below to see what we have planned.

We have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information—hotel and destination links, a schedule of Constitution Day festivities (we’ll be in Bergen for the holiday), and more.

Quick Links:

Full Trip Brochure
Travel Insurance

We’ve forged a relationship with Borton Overseas for our 2022 adventure. (Our original travel agent, who did so much to develop our plans, is enjoying a well-earned retirement.)

Borton Overseas began in 1894 as Sunden, Vanstrum, and Co., specializing in steamship travel for Scandinavian immigrants coming to the U.S. We’ll have over a century of experience supporting our trip!

For more information:

amy@bortonoverseas.com
1-612-661-4634
800-843-0602

Discounts are available for members of Sons of Norway, Swedish Institute, Danish American Center, and Norway House.

Note: If the pandemic presents any unexpected challenges for 2022, we will immediately contact you to discuss options. At this time, we don’t know if the Norwegian government will require vaccinations.

However, for the safety ad peace of mind of all, the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society kindly requests that travelers be vaccinated against Covid-19 to participate in this tour. Please keep this in mind when registering. The most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements will be provided as we get closer to our departure.

I’m dreaming of Norway. You too? I hope you can join us!

Logistics for the Hanka Homestead Tour

July 11, 2021

I’ve had some questions about carpooling and lodging relevant to the special Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum Tour on Saturday, August 21. This evocative historic site is the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum is located in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Here’s a map.

Lodging is limited in the vicinity, so if you’re searching online for accommodations, you might need to cast a wider net than usual. The event doesn’t start until the afternoon, so you’ll have some time to travel that morning.

If you’re interested in attending and would like to share the driving with someone, let me know where you live and I’ll do what I can to help facilitate connections. For starters, a friend in the Madison, WI area is hoping to find a companion for the trip. Contact me if you can help.

For more information about this free program, visit my event registration page. It’s going to be an awesome afternoon!

Widow of the Grasses

June 18, 2021

That’s what some people in Finland called a woman left behind when her husband immigrated to America.

(Sorrow, Albert Edelfelt, Finnish National Gallery)

Sadly, it was not uncommon for desperate poverty to force families to separate. Some men planned to earn what was needed to send passage money to their wives. Others planned to work for a while before returning to Finland in better financial shape. Although it often took years, many families were reunited.

Some women, however, never saw their husbands again. Letters stopped coming, the promised wages never arrived, and they were left alone to wonder what had gone wrong. Effectively widowed, these women were sometimes ostracized by their neighbors, or blamed for their husbands’ departures.

(Solvieg, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki Art Museum)

Another term for the women left behind was Amerikan Leski, or America Widow. In 1905 one such woman, Elisa Valkama, published a song warning other Finnish women about men who left their wives behind. Here are the opening lyrics:

Since you left me, that two-timing husband, I have no pangs of sorrow. It’s a well-known thing in these here parts, an America Widow.

If you are a good upstanding wife or a happily engaged young girl, never never let your husband take to the road, or go traveling to the new world.

Many couples are no longer happy, it’s all because the man’s gone away. America’s call has captured men’s hearts, while he left his wife there to stay.

Do not say it’s America’s doing, there’s all too many wives left behind. Ignominy places them in a prison, there to face censure unkind.

To read the full lyrics, and hear the song, click the image below.

At least a few  Widows of the Grasses managed to make their way to America and search for their husbands. In 1905, a local newspaper  reported  that a woman arrived in Red Jacket, Michigan, in search of  her missing husband, Herman. She found him living with a woman he’d presented as his legitimate wife.

The abandoned woman must have been outraged, but she needed Herman to provide for her and their six children. Herman agreed to leave his illegitimate wife in favor of his lawful one. (Wife #2  responded by promptly emptying their bank account.)

Whether happily reunited with their husbands or not, it’s painful to imagine how difficult the situation was for all the women left behind in Finland—and the men who felt they had no other choice.

I decided to explore this topic in The Weaver’s Revenge in honor of all those who found themselves in that situation.

First, Second, Fortieth

June 2, 2021

I’m excited to announce my first book of poetry, my second release of 2021 (with one more to come), and my fortieth book! 

If you’ve enjoyed the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries or my non-fiction A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through The Seasons, I think you’ll like this collection as well. Here’s the scoop: 

The poems in Balancing were inspired by the experiences of women who, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, sought new homes in the Upper Midwest. Few women recorded their struggles and satisfactions, but by juxtaposing research and imagination, Kathleen Ernst breathes new life into their forgotten stories.

Balancing will be released on July 1st by Little Creek Press.

Please join me for the virtual launch party!

The party begins at 7 PM Thursday, July 1st, 2021. My beloved local independent bookstore, Mystery To Me, will host. Attendance is free but pre-registration is required.

I’ll share a few of the poems, and the stories that inspired them. Celebrated poet Andrea Potos will have some questions for me as well. 

I will be happy to sign and personalize copies of Balancing pre-ordered through Mystery To Me.

I’ve been reading immigrant diaries, letters, and reminiscences for forty years. These poems were inspired by details and moments that touched my heart.

I hope they touch yours as well. 

Two Virtual Programs This Week

May 26, 2021

No matter where you live, you’re invited!

If you missed my launch party for The Weaver’s Revenge, you have a second chance to see the program. Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI, is hosting an author visit on Thursday, May 27, at 7 PM Central. Participation is free but registration is required. You can register online here.

Then on Sunday, May 30, at 10 AM Central, something different! The Free Congregation of Sauk County, WI, is hosting my presentation about A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons. This program is free and does not require preregistration. To learn how to tune in, click here.

I’d love to see you at either—or both!

Launch Party!

May 10, 2021

I invite you to join me for the virtual launch party for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge! The event is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 12, at 7 PM US Central time.

It will be hosted by Mystery to Me, my local indie bookstore. I’ll show slides of some of the people, places, and the past that inspired me to write the story.

This online event is free, but you must pre-register

I’ll also sign and personalize books for anyone who orders from Mystery To Me.

Although I miss in-person events, I’m delighted that geography won’t limit anyone. I hope to see you there!