Archive for the ‘HISTORIC SITES’ Category

Writer-In-Residence, Week 2

October 19, 2021

My time at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is flying by, and I’m enjoying every minute.

My second week here focused primarily on research. The park library is in a great old brick building near the confluence.

Although I have identified a specific era and themes to explore, I’m also leaving lots of room for discovery. I’m grateful to curator Mike Hoskings for helping me access materials.

(Am I the only person who wanders about libraries idly scanning the shelves? I think not.)

Some park collections are only available on microfilm. The old reader is noisy and creaky but gets the job done.

Among other things, I’ve been scanning old newspapers. They provide a helpful snapshot of everything from local gossip…

to public announcements…

to advertisements. Tiny details are very helpful for creating a sense of place and period in stories.

As always, the process of exploring new story topics and events is sometimes meandering. If a historical event intrigues me, I think about how it might work in a novel.

Early on, I got excited about two past events that overlapped. They would mesh perfectly in a novel. I was excited.

A few days later, while digging deeper, I discovered that the two events didn’t overlap quite as neatly as sources had initially suggested. Back to the drawing board.

One wonderful thing about being right here is the ability to balance my research hours. When my eyes get too squinty, I go out to a peaceful spot to spend more quality time with my project journal.

What will the next week bring? I’ll report back!

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!

Virtual Historical Fiction Workshop

October 4, 2021

I am happily settled in as Writer In Residence at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park!

Although I won’t be doing any in-person events during my four-week stay, I am providing an online workshop: Writing Into The Past: Crafting Historical Fiction on Wednesday, October 20 or 27, 2021, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m Eastern Time Zone.

Storytelling is one of the most rewarding ways to explore history. Workshop participants will begin creating (or further develop) a piece of historical fiction set in Harpers Ferry or another location of choice.  They will engage in a variety of short, guided writing activities to explore the genre’s unique rewards and challenges regarding setting, character development, and plot. Students will also consider a variety of approaches for conducting research and finding inspiration. Both beginning and more experienced writers are welcome!

Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. These workshops are hosted by the Harpers Ferry Park Association, a fabulous organization that has supported this special place for 50 years!

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!)

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!

Hanka Homestead Tour – Save The Date!

April 8, 2021

Would you like to explore the historic site featured in my 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge? I’m delighted to announce a special event for readers!

I invite you to join me on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Pelkie, Michigan.

You’ll enjoy a view of the site from Chloe’s perspective. I look forward to showing you where the action took place, and chatting about how the story developed.

Plotting murder and mayhem on one of my research trips.

My special guest will be Alan Pape, who launched the monumental group effort to restore and preserve the abandoned Hanka buildings in the early 1980s. Alan served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983, and has a special affinity for—and knowledge of—Finnish log structures. Hearing from Alan will be a rare treat!

Alan at work on one of the Hanka buildings, c. 1983.

And, experienced Hanka Homestead guides will be leading tours, telling stories about Finnish immigrants’ heritage and experiences, and showing you some special artifacts.

Oscar, one of the knowledgeable volunteers.

This event will be free. (Donations to the Homestead will be greatly appreciated.)

I’ll have more details later, but I wanted to give you a chance to plan ahead. The site is in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, with limited accommodations in the vicinity.

(Covid note: I’m proceeding with the expectation that conditions will be much better in August, but of course will keep an eye on the situation.)

Come see for yourself why I found the Hanka Homestead so inspiring!

Finnish Rag Rugs

March 11, 2021

Most Chloe Ellefson mysteries celebrate a folk art relevant for the featured ethnic group. When I chose to focus on Finnish immigrants in the 11th book, The Weaver’s Revenge, I wanted to spotlight the tradition of weaving rag rugs.

Practical weavers collected worn clothing, cut the fabric into strips, sewed the strips together, and used them as weft. Although this craft was widely practiced by people of different origins, scholars note that Finns have been most successful at maintaining the tradition.

Some “hit and miss” rag rugs reveal a largely random approach, with irregular pinstripes.

(The National Museum of Finland)

Historically, most American rugs were created this way. However, the skills Finnish weavers brought to the New World included color and design. The two examples below show controlled stripes and gorgeous palettes.

(The National Museum of Finland)
(The National Museum of Finland)

Many traditional weavers went further by creating more complicated designs, such as twill, rosepath, and tabby.

Rag rugs for sale in Puutori in Turku, Finland, 1955. (Finnish Heritage Agency)

The photo below provides a closer look at a spectacular rug.

(The National Museum of Finland)

In Chloe’s time—the 1980s—some scholars considered rag rugs too commonplace to warrant study. When I learned that, Chloe’s boss Ralph Petty popped to mind. In The Weaver’s Revenge, when Chloe wants to research both patterns and the social implications of Finnish American rag rug weaving in the Upper Midwest, Petty is not impressed:

“I told you not to waste time on that ridiculous proposal, did I not?”

“You did,” Chloe allowed, “but I still want to help the Rankinen interpreters by learning more about–”

“What’s there to learn? Rags were made into rugs. End of story.”

There was, of course, much more to the story. Finnish American immigrants wove rugs that were practical and beautiful. Weaving helped women cope—sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally. The practice was and remains an important aspect of cultural identity.

Loom at The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum

Most old rugs received hard use, so few have survived. The tradition, however, endures. Here are two recent prize-winning examples from Finnish country in northern Wisconsin.

And if you visit a site devoted Finnish heritage, it’s easy to imagine how much cheer these works of art brought to log homes.

Rug on display at Little Finland, Hurley, WI.

You can gain much more insight into the Finnish rug weaving tradition by reading the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. Coming soon!

Why the Hanka Homestead?

February 25, 2021

Whenever I write a new Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I have the fun of choosing a new historic site or museum to feature in the book. The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Michigran’s Upper Peninsula provides the setting for the forthcoming 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

Click the image above for my video introduction to the site.

Readers are often curious about how I choose settings. It’s a complicated process, so let me share some of the reasons that this site reached the top of the list.

First, a potential setting must appeal to me on a personal level. Between researching and writing a book, I spend a lot of time—physically and mentally—in this space. My first visit to the homestead convinced me that I’d be happy immersing myself in this place and story. (And I knew Chloe would feel the same way.)

No matter how much I love a particular site, I can’t use it as a setting unless it has enough “geography” to support a murder mystery plot. I need room and opportunities to get characters into trouble. The Hanka property is remote, with no phone service. It includes ten buildings, including a couple of specific structures that hadn’t been featured in any earlier books. Perfect!

The Hankas were Finnish immigrants, so choosing this site allowed me to celebrate a new-to-the-series ethnic group. I was excited about the opportunity to shine a little lamplight on Finnish stories, heritage, and folk traditions.

Birchbark shoes on a woven rag rug.

At best, a Chloe Ellefson mystery represents a collaboration with site staff and local experts. I always talk with site hosts before committing to a book project. (If anyone expressed concern, I’d move on. It hasn’t happened yet.) The volunteers involved with the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum, and representatives from Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center, were enthusiastic about the idea. They’ve been extraordinarily helpful through the research and writing phase.

Some the energetic people who provided a warm welcome during my first visit to the homestead.
A private tour on a misty day. Evocative!

And, it was nice to spotlight a wonderful site that is run entirely by a small group of volunteers. Such people make the museum world go around!

As the series has progressed over the past decade, I’ve planned ahead, thinking a lot about where main characters Chloe and Roelke are in their emotional journey. I like to choose settings that permit the book’s plotlines to reflect challenges Chloe and Roelke are facing at that moment. In The Weaver’s Revenge, they’re trying to figure out exactly what their marriage will look like. I won’t share any spoilers here, but that broad issue is mirrored in a number of elements from the Hanka/Finnish story used in the novel.

The earliest museum brochure, about 1985, designed by Alan Pape.

Finally, I had an added bonus. The man who originally started the Hanka Homestead restoration/museum project, Alan Pape, was a former colleague who served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983. He was generous with his memories, knowledge, photos, and other records from the 1980s when the restoration got underway. My mystery plot is fictional, of course, but Alan’s assistance made it possible for me to root it firmly in real events.

That’s me at the homestead with Alan, on the right, and Professor Emeritus William H. Tishler, another vernacular architecture expert. I spent a fun weekend with these two, cruising the backroads looking at old Finnish buildings and listening to their stories.

I hope you enjoy exploring the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum as much as I have!

The Weaver’s Revenge will be published this spring by Three Towers Press. I’ll let you know when it’s available!

Setting Reveal – The Weaver’s Revenge!

January 14, 2021

As series readers know, curator Chloe Ellefson visits different historic sites and museums in each mystery. There’s been a lot of speculation about the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge, which features Finnish heritage.

Over the course of the series I’ve often featured large and/or famous sites. It’s also important to shine some lamplight on lesser-known sites, where a small group of dedicated volunteers is preserving something special.

That’s what I chose to do this time. Click the photo below to view a video introduction to Chloe’s next destination, Michigan’s Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum!

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour! I’ll have a lot more to share about the Hanka Homestead in the coming months.

(The book is slated for a spring, 2021 release. It is not yet available for pre-order. I’ll keep you posted!)