Ruins of Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany

Visiting the ruins of Hanstein takes us back to medieval times - Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany in 2012 More »

Vietnam War protestors demonstrate - Wichita, KS, 1967.

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Solingen, Germany after the bombing, November 1944. - Stadtarchiv Solingen

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My grandmother Grete with her sisters in the early 1920s in Germany.

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B17 Bomber above German Airfield in WWII

U.S. Bomber flies above German airfield in WWII. More »

 

Category Archives: Schreibwerkstatt

‘How I Got Here’ or The Rocky Road of Becoming an Author

In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their experiences during WWII. They’d been kids, then youths in the post-war era, had met and fallen in love. But that’s not what I want to talk about here, I want to tell you about the first time I realized I loved writing.

A middle aged woman with books on a tableAfter that three-week task of recordings, I went back to the U.S., and little by little wrote down my parents’ memories in longhand. I decided to make a little story out of the horse slaughter, my father had suffered through with his friend, Helmut, as a fifteen-year old. It was a Saturday morning and I was typing on a laptop, finishing the draft, when I took a break. In that moment I noticed how good it felt to write and express myself or rather express what I imagined my characters doing and feeling. This must’ve been sometime in 2004 or 2005. Little by little I added to the stories, studied books about writing, attended classes and conferences.

A First Manuscript

In 2009, I finished the first manuscript of that WWII story, which would later become “Surviving the Fatherland.” But I was nowhere near ready. Of course, I didn’t know it. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. In few industries does it become as obvious as in publishing. With self-publishing there are no longer barriers, just little hurdles of formatting and understanding software. Having mastered that, it takes just minutes and not a cent to publish a book. Any book.

Quality Historical Fiction Takes Time

But that was never my goal. I always wanted to create quality stories. And to do that meant to ‘pay my dues’ and spent an easy 10,000 hours and hundreds of thousands of pages—in actuality a lot more—writing fiction. Which meant many drafts, craft studies, book research, workshops, conferences, pitching, and my wonderful writing groups. It also meant paying professional editors and cover designers.

As Artists we create art because we must – not because we get rich or famous.

Bottom line is that despite the publication of ten plus books with the exception of the year 2017 I earn very little—certainly not enough to make a living. In the end it doesn’t matter. Nothing is more fulfilling than to complete another great novel or to hear from my readers how my book, my story has made a difference. That’s what counts, my friends.

books by annette oppenlanderWhat’s Next

And so I continue researching and writing. For my English language readers I have not yet decided which story to pursue. In the running are

  • the post-WWII biographical novel of my grandfather Willi who spent eight plus years in a Russian gulag
  • the true story about a nun who single-handedly kept the French Army from destroying her beloved cloister (Kloster Säben in Northern Italy)
  • and one or two ideas too fresh to share

Book cover Buch von Annette OppenlanderFor German Readers

My second WWII story, “When They Made Us Leave,” will be published in German in April 2020. “Erzwungene Wege: Historischer Roman” tells the complicated love story of two teens who are send to separate youth camps (Kinderlandverschickung) and must overcome horrendous obstacles to find each other again. This story is based on dozens of eyewitness accounts of participants. The German version ebook can be preordered now.

 

A Great Reading and Upcoming Books

woman standing next to treeLast weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the fifth ‘Literary Hike’ in the beautiful Vorwerk Park in Wuppertal. Under cloudy but dry skies eight authors and their roughly twenty guests walked and enjoyed beautiful settings together. At various picturesque sites throughout the park authors presented stories and poems.

Since the German translation of ‘Surviving the Fatherland’ called Vaterland, wo bist du? will be published this month, I read a section from the new book. We also had the pleasure of listening to Michael Völkel’s music and ballads, both entertaining and fun.

A New Novel Set in WWII

book title

New Cover

When Hitler decided to mass-evacuate Germany’s children in 1940, he had a lot more than their wellbeing in mind. He had a purpose for those kids, particularly children eleven and older. Sold to parents as ‘vacations to protect from bombs and nourish their minds,’ the real goal was to train boys as future soldiers and girls to become mothers. Many camps were strictly organized and schedules began before seven am and lasted all day, strapping children into tightly regulated timetables. School time was restricted to four hours a day—less later in the war because of lack of teachers—and afternoon activities increased to include war games and competitive sports.

I wrote an exciting novel with two youth protagonists, fourteen-year old Hilda who is in love with her neighbor and best friend, fifteen-year old Peter. Here is a little intro:

When They Made Us Leave tells the heartwarming love story of two teens who are separated when they’re forced to attend separate evacuation camps. Each confronted with terror and cruelty as well as unexpected kindness, they must rise above to survive the war and find each other once more.

book cover german

New Cover German version of ‘Surviving the Fatherland’

Both characters have deep wounds and secrets they must work through while dealing with the ever-increasing threats of war and the atrocities they encounter in camp. I’ve also worked in some great historical info I found while researching the dozens of books, magazines and other resources.

VATERLAND, WO BIST DU? Available now in bookstores!

The new German version of SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is now available in bookstores and online.

I’ve also been working hard preparing the publication of Vaterland, wo bist du? in paperback, hardcover und eBook. Expected publication will be later this month. Because of language, this edition targets the German language market. I’m hoping to do a number of readings and presentations.