Ninette Bahne

creating and inspiring in my little corner of the world

Our trip to Ireland & Worldcon

It was an eager pair of travelers who set out for Dublin in the middle of August – myself and my 16-year old son, both first timers to Ireland.
We stayed at an airport hotel, and the next day we met with the rest of the gang.

Our first stop: the waterfalls near Powerscourt – much more impressive in person than it looks like in my pictures! The water falls from the cliff sides in a valley that looks like straight out of a fairy tale – green and luscious and so, so beautiful. Definitely a must see in this region!

We had lunch at Powerscourt, indoors as it started pouring. There were so many rain showers when we were at Ireland – no wonder they have stories about rainbows and Leprechauns!

Onwards to our castle,  Wilton Castle

This was such a lovely place, quiet and peaceful and perfect as a writing retreat.

I want a shed like this in my garden! (there’s a wheelbarrow inside the shed/tower)

A castle of our own would also be nice!

Boardgames, impromptu disco, walking at Glendalough, lots of conversations and happy times

People brought with them specialties from their home countries. We brought Fazers Blå, Finnish milk chocolate. One of the Americans treated us to chicken & waffles – a real meal, despite how outlandish it sounds! Fried chicken with syrupy waffles…!

The castle was just perfect for a large group of people.

Some people even got some writing done! (not me!)

We went and saw Hook Lighthouse – saw this odd shed there ”Detonator store”. Kind of want one of those in my garden too! Would be nice to blast away at roots or something 🙂 (need a bigger garden for that though! And not live in the city! But a girl can always dream…)

…and we saw so many rainbows!

Then off to Bunratty Castle – which was so small some of us first didn’t even believe we were actually seeing the real castle! Noel and I decided to skip that so we just sat and had some tea and cake at a nearby pub.

Then onto the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s number one tourist spot. And boy, were there many tourists there!

Too many people for my taste – you can’t perhaps see it in this picture, but all those tiny dots along the ridges are people!

Many cows too – I love that there was cattle almost everywhere we went!

The cliffs look really beautiful in the pictures, but in reality we had to stand there with thousands of other people.

Then we were off to Inis Mor – one of the best parts of the trip.

The landscape there was just amazing!

Rugged terrain, the wind, the sound of the ocean – it was a place that soared through your soul and made its mark.

We stayed at a lovely B&B with lots of cows nearby!

One of the sitting rooms.

Dun Aonghasa was just a short walk from the B&B – an amazing fort.

Then a bus ride and a train ride later we were in Dublin.

I love the design of this bridge, the Samuel Beckett bridge – it looks like a harp!

The CCD, the convention center where WorldCon was held.

We attended as many panels as we could – and the rest of the time we stood in line, hurried between places or went looking for a place to have lunch.

The AirBnB that we stayed in was really lovely – a small apartment right in the Temple Bar district. I thought the noise of the nighttime revelers would disturb my sleep, but nope – it turned into background noise after a while, and became really comfortable.

The pub next door.

The Temple Bar district was really lovely. We didn’t have that much time to enjoy it though – most of our time was spent hurrying to or from the CCD.

The most Irish of scenes – the unloading of a Guinness truck!

Then it was time to go back home after a great trip to Ireland.

Bye, bye Ireland! Hope to see you again!

Hook Lighthouse – the oldest still working lighthouse

On our visit to Ireland, I went on a small excursion to Hook Lighthouse, the oldest still manned lighthouse in the world.

The lighthouse looks modern on the outside, but on the inside it looks kind of like the old churches where I live – it’s from the 13th century, just like those buildings, and was built using the same techniques.

The nature around the lighthouse is simply astounding! Ragged cliffs hollowed out by the salt water and the winds, with just a few dots of wild flowers here and there. 

It was breathtakingly beautiful and such a balm for the soul to stand there, listening to the wind and the waves!

The view from up the lighthouse was amazing as well – notice the rainbow! We saw so many rainbows while in Ireland, which is not surprising – the weather could mainly be described as ”four seasons in one day”.

The view from above was spectacular

You would never believe the lighthouse has been around for so many centuries!

The landscape had a stark beauty that really appealed to me.

And the cliffs!

The lighthouse was definitely worth a visit, both for the environs and from the view from above.

The weather was really lovely all the time, rain or sunshine or inbetween!

Inis Mor & Dun Aonghasa

On our trip to Ireland, we got to visit Inis Mor – one of the Aran Island. It was amazing!

We arrived in the harbor and rented some bikes. Noel and I both got mountain bikes, and we were so grateful for that! The paved roads were fine for any bike, but the smaller roads were really rocky and hard to traverse.

We set off biking and took a wrong turn, and accidentally happened to get almost to the Black Castle! The views there were spectacular.

The landscape on Inis Mor is definitely something else, almost out of this world. Long, flat cliffs, eroded by winds and the water from the Atlantic.

I thought these cliffs were just as amazing as the Cliffs of Moher, if not more, because here we were almost alone in nature!

You can hear yourself think a lot clearer when not surrounded by hundreds and thousands of people (like it felt when at the Cliffs of Moher). Or rather, you can almost not hear yourself think, because the noise of the waves and the wind was so loud!

It was amazing to hear the sound of the waves coming from far away, to see the spray extend all across the edges of the cliffs tens of meters up into the air!

We left our bikes further away from the cliffs – it was nearly impossible to bike all the way out to the ledge, and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to! It felt a bit scary to stand there so near the edge and a huge drop into the cold Atlantic, with harsh winds throwing us this way and that.

The landscape on Inis Mor is really pretty with old rock walls everywhere, I’m guessing both aiding to know which property is whose, and also shelters the cattle a little bit from the wind.

Lots and lots of these lovely rock walls!

We met quite a few donkeys and horses along the way!

The main roads are paved and easy to bike on – except when the winds in your face, trying to push you back to where you started from!

Nice horsey, looked content to stand there and stare at everyone who biked past and took pics. There were quite a few of us! Inis Mor has about a thousand inhabitants, and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year!

We finally arrived at the small village where our B&B was located. The shops open and close when the owners feel like it!

Kilmurvey house – definitely worth a recommendation! The lady who owned the place was so nice, and our room was great and breakfast excellent.

From Kilmurvey house, it was just a small trek up the cliffs to visit Dun Aonghasa – a very impressive looking Stone Age fortress.

We walked up to the fort in very windy conditions – if I ever come here again, I’ll wish for a tad bit less wind! It was so windy, we almost thought we would fly off into the Atlantic Ocean!

According to Wikipedia, the holder of all knowledge, the fort was originally built 1000 meters away from the ocean.  The sea levels lowering means us nowaday-people get a whole other experience of the fort!

The cliffs are about 100 meters high here – and with the very windy weather we actually had sea spray hit us from down below!  The waves hitting the cliffs were huge, and the sound was just amazing. It was such a rush!

The stuff of nightmares, and also of so much inspiration -it’s no wonder Kilmurvey House sometimes houses Writer’s retreat! The location is just brimming with inspiration for all kinds of art!

The fort itself mainly consists of rebuilt rock walls, fitting on this particular island!

The next day we biked back to the harbor and the ferry leaving for Galway.

This time we took the low road, and saw a lot of cattle, horses, donkeys and birds – there’s a really lovely little lake along the road that has a lot of wild birds.

All the signs are in Irish on Inis Mor, which is part of the Gaeltacht,  the places where Irish is still spoken as a mother tongue (rather like ”Svenskfinland”, I imagine, the parts of Finland where Swedish is predominantly spoken).

Then it was back to the harbor and the ferry back to Galway.

Inis Mor and Dun Aonghasa was amazing, and I so hope to visit the island again some time in the future!

 

Wilton Castle – I want to live there!

The first few nights of our trip to Ireland were spent at Wilton Castle, Wexford, an amazing location in the Irish countryside.

The castle usually caters to weddings, I think. We were really fortunate that we got to rent the whole castle for our stay! It was the perfect place for a writing retreat, not that I got much writing done! (I managed to write zero words – a record for me! I usually compulsively write something every day, but this time I decided I would take a vacation)

My firstborn and I shared this lovely room! The castle had several renovated suites of rooms – all of them so lovely and luxurious!

It was amazing walking along the long corridors, peeking into room after room elegantly furnished and renovated.

The castle burned down in the 1920s, but a huge part of it has been beautifully restored since. I loved the way they managed to mix the old ruins with the newer – you always had this feeling of history, despite all the new materials, which I loved!

I especially loved the little reading nooks that were found throughout the castle. Not that I spent that much time sitting in them! I mainly watched the cows through the windows, or admired the nook on my way to the dining room to play board games or have dinner with our fellow travelers.

The castle has a charming narrow staircase, that reminds me of a lot of English period dramas! I wonder what it was like ”back in the day” – did they have another staircase for the downstairs people, or did they too use this one?

I had googled Wilton Castle so many times before our trip, wondering if it looked as great in real life as it did in the pictures – and it did! Or rather – I thought it was even more impressive in person than in the pictures.

You sort of can’t take in the impression the surroundings make on you as you come to the castle – narrow roads bordered by stone walls and hedges, that resemble green tunnels, and cattle everywhere!

The environs were so tranquil and lovely – this is an ideal place for a bigger group for anything, in my opinion! I wouldn’t mind living here myself!

Look at the lamps! I really liked all the lamps in the castle. 

 

Yup, this might well be our dream home! (or one of them – Ireland turned out to be filled with lots of our dream homes!)

 

Greetings from Ireland!

That was an intense 10-days and nights spent in Ireland! My firstborn and I joined a gang of writers (most of whom I met on the WXR two years back) to travel the Irish countryside and attend Worldcon 2019 in Dublin. What a rush! It was such a great trip and I’ve got so many impressions running through my mind all the time now, that I kind of need some time to process everything.

I’m leaving you with a sneak peek at our trip – it was such an amazing time!

My battle to overcome a sleep disorder – 6 tips

I think I used to be able to sleep at night, sometimes, once upon a time. The first time I had trouble sleeping was while I was pregnant a little over 15 years ago, when I had undiagnosed preeclampsia symptoms that made it impossible for me to sleep more than an hour and a half at most. After the baby was born, I was able to sleep for about 3 hours at a time which felt like heaven back then, but there was a period when I still had sleep problems mainly because of the PTSD that I got as a result of the whole giving birth and almost dying-episode.

After that it was smooth sailing for a few years, despite having two small kids who didn’t always sleep through the night.

Then we got the kid with his own sleep disorder, and that’s when I first really understood what not sleeping at night meant.

Having one kid who sometimes woke up at night, or two who could sometimes cry several nights when they were sick – that was nothing compared to a child who at most slept for 30 minutes. All day and night long. 30 minutes almost to the clock, and then bing! wide awake. And if he managed to sleep, he had already developed a habit of making noises to himself to comfort himself (this is common in kids at orphanages, even really little kids like ours were). Either he was awake, saying nothing, which made me anxious, or he was awake and making noises, which also made me stay wide awake.

After about 5 years of this, we were simply so tired all of us, and my sleep was really taking a toll. We of course tried everything we could to ease his sleep (including signing up for a sleep study through a hospital – with no results). The first time he ever slept through the night was after sleeping in a tent together with his big sister and his dad. It was a red tent and the mood inside it was rather like being inside a womb, and I’ve later heard that they sometimes use tents like these when treating kids with adoption or foster care issues, but we sort of stumbled upon it by accident. After that we took baby steps together to make his sleep improve even more, and now at 11 he sleeps really well.

But I don’t.

I sort of stayed sleep disordered, because of a lot of factors. In reality if I had had a job, I would have been on sick leave a loooooong time ago, but because I am a stay at home parent, I don’t ever get sick leave.

There have been lots of issues in the last few years that have made me be on full alert all the time, until my body simply said enough. My sleep went bad, from falling asleep at night to waking up every night at 3 o’

clock, to finally not sleeping at all. I’ve twice gone through not sleeping for three nights, and it is definitely and experience. You sort of feel as if you’ve got a hangover, shaking and headache, but without having had any fun the night before. And you are definitely not as sharp as you think after not sleeping.

By now I’ve tried most things that there are to try to get my sleep back in order, and the next big thing I’m really looking forward is the Oura-ring that I pre-ordered in January (and still haven’t gotten, but fingers crossed it will be in the mail within the next few weeks).

The main thing that has wrecked my sleep is my stress levels, so I’m putting my focus on lowering them.

And finally, finally, it is starting to have results. I still can’t sleep without medication, but I’ve noticed that the quality of my sleep is slowly getting better.

Since my kids are now all three of them thriving, both in school and outside of it, I can now concentrate more on myself and on getting healthier. Unfortunately I can’t crochet or knit for longer periods of time (because of back problems), or enjoy photographing and mountain biking as much as I want (because of eye problems) or even sing (because of chronic laryngitis, that is slowly getting better), but I try to work my way around the obstacles and work with what I’ve got.

…and I’m only drinking chamomile or ginger tea now. No caffeine at all for me at the moment!

Here’s what I’ve done recently to lower stress further:

  1. Cleaned up Facebook

Turns out, a lot of what was stressing me out was my Facebook feed. I solved that problem by unfriending a lot of people that live close by, that mostly are also friends with Niklas, so if they have a reason to contact us, they can always contact him. I kept my international friends, but other than that about a hundred people were deleted from my account. For no other reason than that I wanted to clean up my feed.

I also unfollowed a lot of pages and groups. Many of them were anti-racism groups, but I can only stand a certain amount of those on any day now that I’m recovering, so they unfortunately had to go. I also unfollowed a lot of groups with a lot of negativity.

Nowadays my feed is mainly statuses from my writer friends, news from interesting sources and bunny videos. Which gives me energy, instead of taking from it.

I also have hardly any notifications on my phone, and since I stopped getting those I forget to use Instagram and a lot of things that unnecessarily took me out of the now. I mainly use it as a camera, for listening to audiobooks and for the mediation app Calm.

  1. Stopped listening to the radio

I wanted to stop listening to morning radio. There is a correlation between listening to bad news and feeling bad for many hours afterward. I kind of started with this after Trump was elected, but then it spread, and now we never listen to the radio at all (or watch TV for that matter). I still get important news, but now I control when I get it and how. I am much more relaxed if I read about idiotic things that politicians say, than when I actually listen to their own words from their own mouths.

  1. Exercise

In a form I can do, which is mainly walking. As a typical ENTJ, I love getting an adrenaline rush every now and then, but because of my eye problems I can’t go mountain biking at present, so I’m going for 5 km walks every day, and also do some Tai Chi at home when the mood strikes me

  1. Playing games

We have a fun D&D game going on with a couple of friends that give so much energy. We try to have game nights with those of our friends that are into games, but other than that I’ve recently after a break for 15 years (sort of coincides with having kids!) started playing Civilization again (Sid Meyer’s Civ 6). This time together with my teenage son, which is so much fun! You don’t know what competing is until you’ve seen two ENTJ:s play a strategic game! He is winning by a landslide right now, but I don’t care – it is so much fun, and so relaxing.

  1. Romance books

Ever since I started writing Fantasy & Horror, I have really been struggling with reading books in genres I used to enjoy. My editor brain can’t shut up most of the time, unless the book is really compelling (like Map of Times by ) or if the book is in a completely different genre. Romance is the thing for me, I’ve noticed. I had lots of prejudices against the genre, but after having the Audible Romance Package for about ten months now, I have really found many authors there that I love. I love character driven stories, and I love knowing that most of the time there will be a happily ever after, if I’m listening to a book while I’m falling asleep or at night when I can’t sleep.

During the day, it’s horror and fantasy for me. But at night – romance all the way. I like finding a narrator with a soothing voice, and a story that hasn’t got too much bad things happening. I’ve found many regency novels that fit that description. And also romance stories that are really dark, that I have to listen to during the day when I’m out on one of my walks.

  1. Taking the time to write

Last year on the Writing Excuses cruise, I talked to both Sandra Tayler and Emma Newman about the hardships of being a mother and a writer. They were both so supportive, but it was still difficult to come home and try and take the time to write, because just as they both guessed – I feel selfish when I take the time to do something for myself. Writing is such as selfish hobby/occupation. You get to wallow in whatever it is you want to wallow in, to really explore all the depths of your mind and every little whim and fancy.

But this is what I need to do to feel better. Every time I’ve finished a first draft, I feel as if a weight has lifted, and I have really started to enjoy editing as well now that I give myself permission to focus on writing.

I also try to let myself be and not do anything important at all. If I want to spend a whole day listening to MBTI lectures and doing some Hama beads projects, then I try to let myself do that. But most of the time I try to fit in something a bit more objectively productive as well, like gardening for an hour.

 

That’s mainly it. Other than that, I try to limit what I have in my calendar. Preferably nothing in the mornings, because if I do, I almost know for certain that I won’t be able to sleep the previous night. Slowly, slowly, my stress levels are becoming lower. I’m not there yet, but I can almost see the light in the end of the tunnel now.

 

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Silver & Bone – a zombie western!

When we came home in August from the Writing Excuses cruise, my to-be-read-list had grown extensively and I was looking forward to reading loads of new books all year long. But then I just couldn’t! Every book I picked up I started analyzing, or my mind wandered off inventing new magic systems or I was trying to figure out the foreshadowing all the time.

It felt as if I had broken my brain! Suddenly reading wasn’t as pleasurable as it used to be, but I struggled through it. Lots of my reading this last autumn was for the Writing the Other-course, which meant a bunch of books mostly on writing. But then something happened during Christmas. I decided that no, I was not going to read through my tbr-list in the order I had bought them – I was going to read just for pleasure.

I started with Oliver Altair’Silver & Bone – a pulpy fun western, that was just my cup of tea at that point of time. We met Oliver on the cruise and he is such a lovely person, and it was such a treat to read his book! I love westerns and I love pulp fiction, fiction that doesn’t take itself too seriously all the time, and that was just the perfect book for me to get back to enjoying reading.

Magic, cowboys, and zombies. Welcome to Souls Well, Colorado.

After an avalanche decimates the population, it’s up to sheriff Tiberius Tibbetts to keep his remote, mining town from falling apart. But it won’t be easy. An infamous outlaw is terrorizing the streets. A snake oil salesman is bamboozling the townsfolk, aided by his seductive assistant. On top of all that, the dead are disappearing from their graves.

When murder comes to town and a mystical power awakens beneath the rumbling mountains, Tiberius will have to race against time to save Souls Well from a terrible cataclysm. His only chance is to open his mind to the ancient art of alchemy: an arcane magic that can lead him to his victory… Or his doom.

Oliver Altair’s Silver & Bone is the first installment in American Alchemy: Wild West. The series offers a new twist on the American epic. From a graveyard under the moonlight, through the forests of the San Juan mountains, to the tunnels of an abandoned mine, Silver & Bone will take you on a ride you’ll never forget.

If you’re a fan of dark, historical fantasy and enjoy Weird Westerns like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower , HBO’s Westworld or DC Comics’ Jonah Hex, you’ll love Silver & Bone.

Ever since I’ve been reading whatever books I have gotten my hands on, and in no particular order. Chicklit, YA, literary fiction – whatever strikes my fancy. At the moment I have a pile of westerns awaiting me – no zombies and fantasy elements in them though, but when I need my fix on that front, I’ll just pick up the next one in Oliver’s series!

 

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Writing the Other

I’ve been blogging almost constantly for many years now, and what happens when I do a writer’s course? I stop writing. Or not really, I’ve only stopped writing the blog – I’ve been reading and writing more than almost ever before, and these past six weeks doing the course Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K Tempest Bradford.

I met Tempest on the Writing Excuses Cruise, and we spent a day at the museums in Copenhagen. She was so supportive of my writing and answered all my uninformed questions, and also told us on the cruise about this course that I then signed up for. I am so glad I did! It’s been so enlightening, and just as Tempest wrote in the last e-mail of the course – it is a safe space where you can confront your prejudices and learn things you didn’t already know about whoever is the Other for you.

The best thing about this course was getting to work on your work in progress while thinking about these things. I had already planned a lot about my world and done a lot of worldbuilding, but this really took it to the next level.

Some of the exercises reminded me of things I learned while studying psychology and philosophy. We had many courses where we analyzed movies or texts, and in philosophy class we debated and learned to really look at an argument – what is said, what is left unsaid. The same thing goes for being a psychologist: your job is often to analyze the person in front of you. Which words are being used, what do they tell you about the person. What emotions do they elicit in you, and are those emotions yours, or are they just a reaction to the emotions that the person in front of you are feeling?

Being a psychologists, being a debater – both are skills that overlap being a writer. The funny thing is, while I studied so many people at parties and acquaintances thought psychologists went around analyzing everyone all the time, and that they sometimes manipulated people because of their superior knowledge about the human nature (wrong on so many levels). But the thing is – the people who really do this, analyze other people and try to manipulate the emotions – those people are called writers!

Writing is art and entertainment, and the point of both is to evoke emotions. And to do that you need to understand human nature. To do that well you need to write convincing humans of all kinds.

To write inclusively, you need to really look at your prejudices. To know where you come from, and to realize your blind spots and to do something about it. That is what this course was so great for. I really got to read and write and think about these things intensely for a few weeks, and it shows in my writing and in my thinking.

In an ideal world every writer would do  this course! Or rather, every human being, because we all need to confront our prejudices, and learn about people who are Other than ourselves, and learn how to treat them with respect.

 

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Interview with Niklas about what it was like to be a spouse on the Writing Excuses Retreat

So how was it like being a writer’s spouse on the cruise?

It was fun to see you are not as odd as I’ve believed! There are plenty others that are crazy just like you!

 

What about the programs for the spouses?

It would have been nice with more programs, but on the other hand I had time to myself (i.e. eating half of the desserts on the boat on our balcony)

And the content of the programs?

”Supporting the writer” was almost a bit sexist in my eyes, because most who gave their talks were female spouses who supported their male spouses, with more traditional values i.e. women taking care of the kids and the man having the career.

There should be some middle ground where supporting the other doesn’t mean that one part takes care of the whole family thingy, and the other one has the career which in this case is writing. There should be a balance to things, where both can support each other’s life choices, and sometimes that means compromise.

I would have liked to have a male perspective on the same issue, where their spouse is female.

Something else you want to add?

The culture of discussion at dinner table was different than what we’re used to. It was fun to even talk religion and politics at dinner table! We as Finns are not used to especially talking about religion.

The cruise was superfun! Both for your sake, and for me personally. It was well arranged, you were obviously psyched and it was nice to talk to people with the same areas of interest.

 

 

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Writing Excuses Cruise – tips and tricks

What I did that worked:

Before going on the cruise I tried to read as many of the authors as I could. That turned out to be not all of them, because we were simply so busy trying to get the kids prepared for us being away for ten nights and all the other arrangements we had to have in place.

I quickly found out I wouldn’t have time to read full novels by all the instructors, so I opted to instead read short stories (many short stories can be found online for free). And that was so great, because it also gave me tons of inspiration for my own short stories!

I was deliberating which short story to send to my short story critique with Mary Robinette Kowal, and ended up sending the one that wasn’t already polished to my satisfaction, but that I felt needed more feedback on. And I’m so happy that I sent it, despite it not being finished, because the feedback that I got was great. There was almost no surprises, which just confirmed that I am on the right track, and thanks to the workshop I now think I know how I can transform the story from a good one to a great one. I am not there yet, that I know how to fix everything, but I can see when things are not working properly and if I get the right Beta reader’s they can help me identify the problem.

I was so nervous beforehand to attend the critique group, not to receive the critique (I have a teenager. I get critique for my stories!) but to give the critique to the other parties. I was the only newbie in the group, but they took great care of me.

If I had known beforehand just how great everything would run, I wouldn’t have been so nervous going on this trip. Whodonit Productions are just great, and all the instructors and everyone involved in the retreat went to great lengths to make it a safe and encouraging environment. And they totally succeeded!  I think all us anxious newbies felt welcomed and if you went by the sound level during dinner – everyone definitely hit it off. Big thanks to all the people arranging the retreat and the encouraging talks in the beginning (like encouraging the veterans to take care of us newbies – that definitely worked!).

My iPad had problems, but we were able to fix it while still in Kiel. I am so grateful we went to Kiel with time to spare. We got the main part of the shopping done (the kids expected gifts when we came home) and we had time to fix my keyboard.

We packed a rucksack and that came in use all the time. Both on the boat and on the excursions.

I usually have problems when being in spaces with AC, and this was no exception. I am so glad I brought my eye drops and antihistamines, they helped a bit.

What I should have done:

I should have brought more pens.

I packed four of my favourite pens, and they all broke! My plan B (to visit a stationary shop in Copenhagen) also backfired because we were in Copenhagen on a Sunday, but we luckily got a free pen that I used on the whole cruise.

I should have brought an empty water bottle. We ended up refilling a bought one, but a proper sports bottle would have been better.

I should have taken pictures of our dinner companions every night, and not just the few nights I remembered. We talked to so many people, it is difficult to remember with who on which night. I should at least have written down the names of the people we had dinner with, but we were always so tired when we went to sleep, I totally forgot.

I brought a couple of books for some of the instructors to sign (which they did very gracefully, thank you!), and then in Stockholm we went to the Science Fiction Bookstore and bought books by almost all the rest of the instructors. We had some books on Kindle, but looking back I wish I had bought all the books beforehand in paperback instead of Kindle (because I love signed books, and not signed Kindles!). I am happy I got over my Nordic shyness and asked everyone for their signature, despite myself yelling inside my head ”No you fool, stop bothering these people – they don’t want to be disturbed right now when they’re on this fantastic cruise.” I am so happy I didn’t listen to myself!

I am happy I made the most of the cruise.

I talked to so many people, and would have loved to talk to everyone some more.

Every day we met new people on the cruise, even after we were certain we had talked to everyone, and I know there were some we never got around to talk to. That part was the best – to find your own tribe, people who like the same things you do, who think in the same way and that are so helpful and encouraging.

I asked all the questions I wanted to ask of the instructors. I asked the dreaded ”Am I on the right path, and do I have what it takes to be a successful writer?”.

I showed my first three pages to one of the instructors (Thank you , Piper!) and didn’t die on the spot. I even got some great feedback so that I now feel I know what to do with the novel.

I even asked a question in front of the whole group without the ship immediately crashing into a suddenly appearing iceberg, or me having a massive heart attack. I did have a muscle in my face that twitched suspiciously immediately after asking the question without anyone pretending to notice. Later on two guys came up and talked to me about that very question and gave me some great advice, so I am so happy I found the courage and said something.

I even did cosplay, my first real cosplay if you don’t count one Halloween when I went as Madame Vastra and our then-not-teenager was the Doctor where not one of our friends (we were only a handful of families at our house) knew who I was! This time I really put an effort and went as my favourite  spirit animal at the moment – Nanny Ogg, from the books of Terry Pratchett. I need to be more like her, not minding what anyone thinks and just collection memories instead of trinkets. This was definitely a cruise she would have loved!

…and not many people knew who I was cosplaying as, which was also funny!  Plus Niklas won a medal for best prop, which was superfunny!

I also, after talking to Emma Newman (we all love her – she is the best!) took the rest of the week off writing, and we decided not to go to Tallinn in spite of having already booked a tour. We took the day off and sat in the hot tubs, had massages and had really cruisey drinks and took selfies and pretended we were on the Love Boat (Yes, we are middle aged and that old!), and tried to make everyone on Facebook jealous without succeeding (thanks Mum and Dad for the likes!). Because it was just that awesome to be on a proper vacation after so many years, knowing the kids were great and everything was taken care of.

Advice I want to give myself If I could time travel to before the cruise:

Don’t fret. It will be great – everything is taken care of, and if there are glitches the people arranging the retreat will fix it

Don’t think you will remember everything – come on, you are trying to be a writer. Write a journal!

Do make the most of the cruise, and try not to be so anxious – you are with like minded people, and almost everyone is as anxious as you are, if not more. These are your people, remember that!

 

 

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