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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Unreliable Narrators-interview & The Vessel of Ra

So many things I want to write about, so little time. I came home from the Writing Excuses cruise in August filled with ideas for millions of blog posts. But there is just not enough time for me to sit down and actually do the blog posts, other than in my head at times when I’m far away from the computer. There’s just been so much writing this fall – first I did the Writing the Other-course, and then it was almost time for NaNoWriMo (which I’ve already won, yay!). I’ve haven’t even had time to read all the wonderful books that I bought on the cruise, but as I finish them I will post about them here on the blog.

My time this fall has been spent

1. trying to learn how to see with my new glasses (I still have double vision)

2. going for long walks trying to get rid of the headaches caused by the glasses

3. writing

4. listening to podcasts about writing

…and then family stuff of course! It’s been an overwhelming period, mainly because of the health issues I’ve had all fall, but now it feels as if I’m on the better side of that. I even have a sort of Christmassy feeling already – and I almost never look forward to Christmas, so this is really huge!

Anyway, when we were at the cruise, Niklas and I were interviewed by the lovely Catherine Schaff-Stump and Chris Cornell – you can listen to the interview here (we’re 24 minutes in, I think).  It was so nice meeting you guys, and spending that day in St Petersburg with Chris! I hope we’ll meet again sometime, if we ever get the means to get on another writing cruise or something similar. Their podcast is called Unreliable Narrators and you can find it here.

We had dinner with Cath on the cruise, and talked about how much I love reading YA and Cath was nice to send me her new novel The Vessel of Ra.

It’s YA, set in the 1800s about magical families in Venice involving Egyptian Gods – that’s a nice mix! Catherine is an accomplished writer who definitely knows her way around sentences, and her characters are so interesting. Plus magic, in Venice – one of the most magical places on earth!

Go check it out here.

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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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Changing my bucket list

You have to be in a certain state to have an aha-moment, and I definitely was when we were on the cruise. Which I am so grateful for.

“Other people salted away money for their old age, but Nanny preferred to accumulate memories.” – my favourite Terry Pratchett quote, and also why I went as Nanny Ogg on Costume Night on the cruise

I’ve been trying to find out what I want to do with my life for my whole life. I started out wanting to be an archeologist when I was little, then I wanted to be a researcher, but then some grownup (rightly) told me how little money there is in research. Then I wanted to do something with arts, but I couldn’t decide on what – becoming a sculpturist (but there were no programs for that), a photographer (the studies seemed boring), interior designer (no programs for that either) or an architect (too much of the job seemed to be designing office buildings). All of them felt fine, but not great. Not like something important enough that I would like to spend the rest of my life doing.

I went to an occupational psychologist  and she looked at my profile and asked me: ”Have you considered becoming a psychologist?”

That was the first aha-moment that I can remember, because it felt as if all the pieces of the puzzle just clicked.

Of course I was going to be a psychologist! I would get to use all my creative and academic abilities and also help people, and the art thing – I could do that as a hobby. I put all my effort into getting into the program, and succeeded on my first try.

Then life happened. I got my psychologist’s license and a teaching degree on the side, because teaching was what I then loved most, and my husband and I both tried to get jobs after graduation. We told ourselves that we would move to the place where the first one of us got a job, and started looking for jobs outside Finland. Niklas (who has a degree in business administration) got a consulting job soon after that in Copenhagen, a real stroke of luck, and only a couple of months after we even talked about going abroad we were living in an apartment in Österbro, the northern part of Copenhagen.

I knew that it would be difficult for me to get any jobs in Denmark because of the language barrier, but I didn’t mind. I was happy going to museums and looking for an apartment and then later renovating that apartment. I tried half-heartedly to get into art school, but that was mainly to get all the relatives off my back about me being a parasite who was just living off my husband… I didn’t get in to my great relief, and then we surprisingly got a child. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because we were in fact trying insemination at a private clinic (for free! Denmark has great health care, or had), but neither of us thought it would succeed.

I had to rearrange my whole life now that I was pregnant, and lay all my career plans on hold. I was to try and get a job and then later on we would adopt a child, but now the child was in fact growing inside my body.

I was so scared being pregnant, so unhappy about not knowing how things would turn out or if I would do something to make the baby not have the best possible start in life, but I tried to have my private little moments with the baby when there were just the two of us in a sauna at the nearby swimming hall. In spite of that, he turned out to have a pre-birth defect that made his birth more difficult. And I got preeclampsia and had to be induced. And I almost died afterwards because of complications that the doctors hadn’t foreseen. And the doctor made a hasty judgment that injured me for life. And I got PTSD and didn’t get any help for that, in spite of my first words after surgery being that I wanted to talk to a psychologist to prevent PTSD.

(Here’s a tip: don’t go to hospital during the summer months when everyone’s on vacation!)

This was now my new life. Three surgeries to remove scar tissue from my vagina (we’re grown people here, right? I get tired of euphemisms sometimes…). Constant pain killers for many months in spite of me breast feeding my son. I was almost not able to walk, and still through all of this I did physical therapy with my little baby that had to train his neck every day for the first five years of his life and always be careful not to injure his spine or he could die or be paralyzed from the neck down.

I had no thoughts of any career at this point, but after finding a physical therapist who helped me (Birthe Bonde, phys. ter. and also a sexologist) I could finally see a bit more clearly without constant pain. I also went to a great therapist specializing in PTSD and paid for it myself, and after that I was finally able to watch TV or talk on the phone again and not relive the same day over and over again.

I could breathe a little bit again and have actual thoughts.  I found out playing and talking to a restless child was not what I wanted to do 24/7, so I found a great little Kindergarten with just a few kids and lots of members of staff, and started studying economics.

Then we had our daughter through adoption. And then we had our youngest son. A surprise adoption, which almost never happens, but it happened to us.

I still can’t remember what I said in that one phone call, but it was life-changing, that’s for sure!

Suddenly we were a family of five, with the eldest being only four, and everything felt so overwhelming. We decided to scrap my plans of having a degree in economics. We scrapped the plans of moving to Sweden, and instead we moved back to Finland to be nearer to relatives and hopefully get some help with caring for the kids.

I really regret not living in Copenhagen anymore, but I don’t regret the kids getting to grow up here! The schools are great, the health care is excellent and the kids get to grow up sheltered with nature all around them. Now our family was on the right path with lots of help from both physical therapists and psychotherapists, and my husband found a job that he loved.

But what about me? Where did I fit into this narrative?

I had no idea. Suddenly I was adrift in a life that had tossed me in all kinds of unforeseen directions, and sometimes even because of a decision I had made. I had the life I had dreamed of, but I hadn’t come there by the paths I had thought I would take, and the paths had made me a different person.

I was home with three little kids and felt as if I was going a little bit more crazy for every day, so I started a blog. I thought: ”There probably isn’t that much money in blogging, but at least I can get some other things out of it like a sense of not just being a stay-at-home-Mom, and who knows – maybe a new path will show itself because of the blog?”

And it did. Many paths. I was encouraged to DIY our home, and we had our home photographed for many magazines and even a British book (the author came all the way here just to take pictures of my DIY:s!). Even our garden became interesting enough that many magazines wanted interviews about it.

I also made a craft book with a friend, and because of it got to make craft articles for a Finland Swedish monthly magazine, which I loved. I came in contact with so many new people through the blog, and got new friends (mainly before the smart phone revolution back then when people still commented on each other’s blogs).

This all would have been almost enough, if not for the fact that our personal economy tanked for the second time because of some bad choices that my husband made. This time I had more time on my hands when the kids had started school, so I thought  – now is the time to start with the whole writing business that you’ve always had in the back of your mind ever since you were five years old. The blog is not making you enough money, and how hard can writing be? you know how to put together a sentence. You have read thousands of books, and are always a critical reader.

I started writing and writing and writing. And listening. To podcasts, to lectures, to everything at least twice, doing all the exercises that they recommended. I did NanoWriMo twice, and while I was working away our economy got slowly better and I didn’t have the same pressure to submit anything, which was great because I still haven’t felt that anything I have written has been polished enough for submitting.

While doing all this – writing, trying to keep a damaged family together, trying to keep order in the household – I started doing my bucket list. I hadn’t made one in ages, and realized so many years had gone by without me even noticing that I wasn’t looking forward to anything. So many years spent taking care of others and trying to keep my head above water, that somewhere in all that I lost sight of myself and the part of me that defines me.

I wrote a bucket list and it contained only one item.

And that item was there only because I remembered it being on the bucket list from ten years ago. Not that I really wanted to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, but because I felt I ought to have more items than zero on my bucket list.

That is not a good sign, my friends. As a psychologist, I knew all the danger signs were there, but there were so many factors in my life that I had no control over. So many stressful things that I just had to endure.  But we muddled through somehow, and my husband finally found a psychotherapist that he liked and got to work on his issues, which lead to us becoming a better team taking care of the kids, and also the kids grew up and their brains matured, and they finally started enjoying school a little bit more,  and finally I had some space to breathe again.

I watched SKAM and remembered what I was like before life happened. When I was young and ambitious and wanted to change the world, be a positive force in the world.

I found a part of me that wanted to feel alive again, and I started on my YA-novel with new energy.

My narrative was still: ”I need to make a living out of writing so that I also have a place in the grown up-world”, and that didn’t sit right with me, not really. It was what I was telling myself and also others, but that never felt like the real story. There were still layers underneath that statement.

Then suddenly on the cruise I got my aha-moment. Emma Newman had had a lecture about fear and writing, and so many emotions ran through my body. It felt as if layers of skin peeled off and the raw me emerged, and she was filled with lots of other explanations for wanting to write than the more analytical side of me.

Emma told me ”You are coming from an academic background, and are seeing this as an academic exercise – but it’s not. It’s art, and art hurts.”

And that was it! My aha-moment. The second moment in my life when I felt that the pieces of the puzzle that was me fell into place.

I realized a few nights later that my narrative had changed. I was telling people I want to be a writer because I want to use all the experiences that I’ve had, all the education, all the difficult periods in my life and make that into art that can help people. I want to be my teenage-self again, she who wanted to make the world a better place, if only a little.

That talk about making money – that had only been a superficial argument, because if I had analyzed myself more completely (which I usually do, but this was my blind spot apparently) I would have seen that I have turned down job offers, because they would interfere with our family life, which always takes precedence. I’ve turned down queries about ads on my blog, haven’t written sponsored content almost at all, and turned down lots of little doses of well-needed money because I felt they would cause me more pain than gain in the long run. They would have chipped off a bit of what I felt was me.

And that is why ”I want to make money writing” is not the complete picture. That would be great, but that is not my main reason for writing. My main reason is to be truthful. To be part of the community. To get to tell stories that make the world a better place for my kids. To write stories for my adolescent self, she who was fed up with girls not getting to go on adventures in books or not getting to be anti-heroes.

To be that idealist that my husband and the rest of the world thought was a bit crazy, and not grown up enough. But that is who I am, deep inside, and that is what I want to be when I grow up. This crazy, idealist woman, who inside is still a teenager feeling everything in deep colours, and who wants to use all the impulses and inspiration that she gets from everywhere in art. In writing.

My new bucket list is very Prague-oriented – luckily we live just a cheap plane flight away from Prague, so this feels like something we might actually do some day!


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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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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!



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Back home from the Writing Excuses Cruise

We’re just back from the Writing Excuses Cruise, and what an experience it was!

We’ve had so much fun, and just as all the blog posts I read beforehand said (because I’m a compulsive planner!) the main thing about the cruise was the networking. Getting to know new people, getting to know your tribe – people who are creative geeks who love writing, history, spec fic and just geeking about things. I’ve always felt as the odd one out, but on this cruise I was surrounded by likeminded people! I’ve had so many fascinating discussions about pagan rituals in Europe, etymology, obscure history, diversity and different cultures. It was amazing to talk to people who just completely got you straight away!

I will do a lot of blog posts about the cruise, with pictures from all the stops and also tips if you are going on a cruise like this (the cruise ship – meh, the WXC – Amazing!). Niklas and I already miss all the new friends we met on the cruise, and hope to meet you all again in the future! Hopefully when we’re all famous writers 🙂

Two really nervous Finland Swedes on their first ever cruise, and first ever writer’s conference – one of them will learn how to live with a writer, and the other one will learn how to use the falling tone, ”I am a writer!”

P.S. I’ll be doing lots more blog posts in English from now on. I need to practice my language skills, and also get over my perfectionist hang ups, so bear with me – they will have grammatical errors, and stuff like that.

Jag kommer att skriva fler blogginlägg på engelska från och med nu – skriver kanske lite på svenska ibland också, men vi kom just hem från en författarkurs på engelska så jag behöver lite öva mig på det. Men det blir nog pysselinlgäg i framtiden också!