Can you Name that Villain?

QUIZ — The Guardian asks what you know about Villains in literature, from Hannibal Lecter to Nurse Ratched.

Take the quiz

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Chris Hadfield’s 45,000 photos from space

Well, not ALL of them, but check out these wonderful ones. How very alien our world seems to be, seen through a camera lens from space. Everything takes on… a different dimension. You can see foreve

On a clear day you can see forever (or at least from Havana to Washington, D.C.).(Chris Hadfield/NASA)

 

An article in Quartz reports that when Hadfield asked people what they wanted him to take pictures of, “The resounding answer was, ‘I want a picture of my hometown, of where I’m from.’ …(people) have an ache and a desire to see how they fit in with everything else. It’s a dawning self-awareness…”

Read the article

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Speaking of space…

NASA posts a huge library of space sounds

At Create Digital Music, Peter Kirn reports that: “In addition to the requisite vocal clips (‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’ and ‘The Eagle has landed’), you get a lot more. There are rocket sounds, the chirps of satellites and equipment, lightning on Jupiter, interstellar plasma and radio emissions. And in one nod to humanity, and not just American humanity, there’s the Soviet satellite Sputnik (among many projects that are international in nature).

Sounds in space

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The big-eyed children
Margaret KeaneMargaret Keane at home in Napa, California. For years, she painted portraits of big-eyed children for which her husband took the credit. Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian

Jon Ronson tells the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud

In the 1960s, Walter Keane was feted for his sentimental portraits that sold by the million. But in fact, his wife Margaret was the artist, working in virtual slavery to maintain his success.

Read the article

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10 Things You Might Not Know About J.R.R. Tolkien
tolkienImage credit:  Open Culture

For example, Brian Gottesman writes at Mental Floss:

He felt many of his fans were lunatics: Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien’s attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn’t believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose! He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he thought incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

R.L. Stine Writes Short Story On Twitter

‘What’s In My Sandwich?’

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What women faceOn the street

Street Harassment Video

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Quote of the Day

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better. ~ Anne Lamott

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Alma Alexander
My books

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A Bookish Halloween

Where the Wild Things arebehance.vo.llnwd.net

Where the Wild Things Are
A 2-part jack o’lantern of a beloved children’s book. (Carved by Maniac Pumpkin Carvers)

18 Literary Pumpkins for creative carvers

Celebrate Halloween and literature at the same time

See the others

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Costume ideas from famous authors
Oscar Wilde costumeSee more

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Chuck Wendig offers us:

Ten Things To Never Say To A Writer

“You Know, I Wanna Write A Book Someday”

They say this to you with this wistful gleam in their eye, as if writing is just a hobby, like it’s just some distant silliness that they’ll get to when they manage to win the lottery. “You Know, I Wanna Write A Book Someday.”

They say this to you with this wistful gleam in their eye, as if writing is just a hobby…A worse (the worst, even) version of this is: I have a book in me.

Your response: “I don’t come down to your job and tell you, ‘I wanna be a janitor someday.’ You have a book in you? Well, you better do what I did, which is take a long hard squat in front of a computer or a notebook and force that story out, because that’s the only way this thing gets written….Don’t write a book someday, write a book today. That’s what I did.”

Read the article

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The 31 Most Pointless Things Of All Time

Everything is pointless, Hannah Jewell of BuzzFeed says, and we should all just give up. She offers proof.

I can’t decide which is the worst — stairs and ramps to nowhere, doors one-story up, benches on a lawn which must not be walked on, an official sign that reminds me of the time in Florida when I couldn’t get a marriage license until I first read a pamphlet on how to get divorced.

But I suppose this security gate is my favorite:
Security gateimgur.com

See the others

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Rebecca Meacham offers us

12 Haunting American Short Stories to Read This Halloween
ScaryWhat makes a ghost story “American”? Let’s ask a ghost: “An American ghost does something quite different, because the people of the present are very mobile, the executives are constantly thrown from city to city, dragging their families with them.”

In other words, says the narrator of Anne Sexton’s “The Ghost,” American ghosts belong to people, not places.

It’s a theory, anyway. It’s hard to argue with a ghost.

What’s certain is the power of these short stories, which fret the strings of human connection. Some tales are terrifying, others absurd. And like good (American?) ghosts, this devil’s dozen will stay with you long after you’ve turned the page.

Read the article (a couple are clickable)

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Quote of the Day

QUOTE Wodehouse~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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Global warming = more girls

BabiesGlaciers are melting, oceans are rising, and the male population is dwindling as temperatures continue to increase—at least in Japan, a new study shows.

Japanese researchers found that in the hottest recorded summer, 2010, there was a dramatic increase in female births, whereas the coldest winter, 2011, produced more baby boys, Soli Salgado reports in Utne.

Read the article

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50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked

In Hollywood films, writers are the low man on the totem pole, the person banned from the set, the guy who wrote the Great American novel drinking himself to death in Los Angeles, rewriting dumb scripts.

There are a lot of bad movies about writers out there, Elisabeth Donnelly tells us, so Flavorwire came up with “the definitive list of the 50 Best Films About Writers of all time.”

One of my favorites, Finding Forrester, made the list, albeit as number 49 out of 50 with some silly disparaging remarks and a dumb suggestion that a scene I scarcely remember has become a meme. I’d pick any of a dozen other scenes myself.

And their gushing love of Woody Allen movies? Well … never mind…

What do you think of their choices?
Finding ForresterFinding Forrester...This film is pure cheese, one of the infrequent films to feature a black protagonist as a writer, and its most memorable moment is a writing scene — a writing scene! — that’s become a meme, with Sean Connery cheering the young writer on as he types on a typewriter in his inimitable burr, “Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes, yeeeessss! You’re the man now, dog!”

Read the article

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The secret emotional lives of 5 punctuation marks

From the angry period to the dramatic asterisk…
doing-okay-budDoing okay, bud? (iStock)

Punctuation is the homely, workaday cousin to the glamorous word, Arika Okrent writes at The Week. It works quietly in the background, sweeping up and trying to keep the information flow tidy, while words prance around spilling thought, meaning, and feeling all over the place. Punctuation marks accept their utilitarian roles, but they too carry feelings.

The Week takes a look at the secret emotional lives of five punctuation marks, especially in social media.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

‘YOU’ Poem Goes Viral

See the video

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The Force wasn’t with them

Every On-Screen Death In The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy, In Under 3 Minutes

See the video

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Telepathy is here, well sort of

Read the article

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San Antonio Airport offers Digital Library Kiosks which allow patrons to checkout ebooks. In addition, the kiosks serve as rapid recharging stations for mobile devices.

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Quote of the Day
Joss Whedon~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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Women on Mars?

Women on Mars.Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

Is an All-Female Mission to Mars the best way to go?

Medical studies at the start of the space race showed that women have stronger hearts, could better withstand radiation, and coped better than men in isolation. And because of their size, they’d be cheaper to launch and fly than men.

That didn’t cut any ice in the macho 50s during the all-male moon missions, but now?

Well, NASA has done some new studies, Kate Greene reports in Slate, that verify much of the earlier tests. And with the astronomical costs of a Mars Mission, maybe we’ll take another look at the value of an all-women crew?

I’m not holding my breath.

Read the article

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If NASA had believed in merit: The terrible injustice of Jerrie Cobb,

The first American astronauts, dubbed the Mercury 7, were certainly well-qualified, but the best candidate was constantly passed over — and for all the wrong reasons.
Jerrie CobbWhen the space race began, Jerrie Cobb, 26, seemed like the perfect fit for astronaut. Thirteen American women — today known as the Mercury 13 — were selected to participate in the three phases of testing as astronauts. Cobb was the only one who passed them all.

Not only did she pass, her scores placed her in the top 2% of all candidates, meaning that if the same criteria that were applied to the Mercury 7 were applied to her as well, she would have been selected. But without official NASA backing, the testing and training programs for women were shut down. Cobb never made it into space.

Read the article

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Mercury 13There’s a commemoration poster in the honor of the Mercury 13, the women selected for astronaut training in the early days of space exploration., that contains an excerpt from a poem of mine.

For the first incandescent moments when NASA asked if the could use my poem, all I could do was sit and stare. And then I screamed. And then I cried. And then, after I tapped out a permission slip, it began to sink in for real.

NASA WANTED TO USE MY POEM.

I was, at least vicariously, finally going into space.

Read the article

See the poem here

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Writer’s tics

My first reader and editor (aka husband) often exclaims “Weasel Word” as he gleefully slashes from my copy such modifiers as “sort-of”, “probably”, “perhaps”.

Sometimes, I concede, he’s sort of got a point.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich admits that she has a writing tic: colons.

I love colons. A colon is more emphatic than a comma, tidier than a dash. It’s a tiny drumroll that tells the reader: Get ready. Something important or shocking is on the way. Because I love colons so much, it pains me to acknowledge that my attraction to them borders on addiction.

She asked several other writers “What tic (or call it a habit) would you like to change in your writing?”

Gillian FlynnShe got some fascinating replies, including one from Gillian Flynn, author of the phenomenon known as “Gone Girl:
“I’m trying to wean myself off my very Gen X abuse of the word ‘literally,’ ” she said. “Gone Girl contains at least 33 uses of the word, which is 32 more times than any single novel needs. … I basically (literally) use it instead of an exclamation mark.”

Read the article

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Must reads for Feminists

The other day we talked about the books by women that all men should read. Now Emma Cueto at Bustle gives us:

13 Contemporary Novels All Feminists Should Read
Feminist booksFeminists and books go together, Cueto says. Whether feminists are writing books or reading them or both, the literary world has long been a place for women to tell their stories, in both fiction and nonfiction. It’s been a place for women to do so on their own terms, not through male intermediaries. And in today’s literary landscape, that is more true than ever.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

The Literary United States: A Map of the Best Book for Every State
Book mapillustration by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Read the article

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The 10 Best Mark Twain Books

Read the article

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11 of the Most Chilling Book Covers Ever Published

Turn of the ScewRead the article

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Quote of the Day

I would give my life to fly in space. It’s hard for me to talk about it but I would. I would then, and I will now.” ~ Jerrie Cobb

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Werewolf DNA


The genetic basis of the Were Creatures

There is science fiction and there is fantasy, and never the twain shall meet. At least, that is the silly notion adopted by so many SF writers, readers and reviewers.

Personally, I find the StarTrek world, which I dearly love, to be one of the greatest fantasies in fiction. Beam me up, Scotty? Really? Warp nine, Geordi? Sure. Just let me reverse the polarity…

The distinction, as best as I can see, is that science fiction sometimes involves spaceships and uses pseudoscience as a basis for the magic of faster than light travel, teleportation and other marvels.

One way I’ve heard that particular hair split is that science fiction is the genre of things that could conceivably exist somedayonedaymaybe  but just haven’t happened yet, and fantasy is the genre of things that can simply never be without positing some sort of secondary-world factor. A bit of a distinction without a difference, if you split the hair far enough.

There is a new world out there, a world of Werewolves and Wereowls and Weremice and Werecats. I know all about it, because I created it. Welcome to my new series, The Were Chronicles.

But is it fantasy? You might say it is purest fantasy because there IS that “secondary world” touch to it all  And besides, Werewolves have been the stuff of fantasy – and nightmares – for eons, always conjuring up images of howling murderous mindless beasts.

But what if I can show you there is a genetic science underlying that world? Would that make it science fiction?Random blurbRandom, the first book in my new series, The Were Chronicles, is due out imminently.

I set out to develop a genetic basis for the “being Were” thing, which is touched upon in Random, and is more fully developed in the next two books, Wolf, and Shifter.

I wanted Weres to be real. I want the reader to start glancing nervously at the person sitting next to them on the bus or the subway and start to wonder whether that strange fox-faced sharp-featured woman or the pig-nosed broad-featured guy dozing in the corner actually turns into the things you think they might be turning into, when the moon is right.

I realized that the way to do that, to make them that real, was to develop a genetic basis for Were creatures. And I was just the woman to do that. After all, I do have a a MSc in Molecular Biology and Microbiology and even, briefly, worked toward getting a PhD in the field.

It all started when I sat down to write a wildly fun short story about Were-critters. The short story stopped being “short”, in any sense, very quickly. And started being a lot more solid, a lot darker, a lot more sophisticated…and I heard once again a still small voice I had not been listening to for years.

My long-gone youth, glittering with science, was speaking to me once again. And so I set out to do what is, likely, flatly impossible. After all, if Were had a “true” genetic basis, they would probably already exist. That did not stop me, however, from sitting down and working out how it would all work, if they did exist.

I was faced with the problem of a question of  science in a head-on collision with fantasy. ‘High Science and High Fantasy walk Into a bar…’

The crash was spectacular, the debris on the story road was fascinating, and putting everything back together again in a new and never before seen shape…was exhilarating.

I develop these thoughts a bit more in an SF Fiction article which you can read HERE:

Meanwhile, Random is due out from the publisher, Dark Quest Books, very soon now and you can pre-order it HERE:

or from Amazon HERE

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of Random by clicking on ‘Free Story‘ in the menu at the top of the  blog.

it’s all real, the Were world. There is science behind it. Honest.

Were logoCome join my world, meet all the Were creatures. You’ll never look at your neighbor the same way again.

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Quote of the day

If you’re only reading the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ Haruki Murakami

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Must Reads for Men !

Flavorwire asked a number of “Feminist Writers” to recommend books “Every man should read.”

My opinion wasn’t solicited. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not considered the card-carrying feminist that my husband says I am. But I’m in favor of the exercise, which came about because a men’s publication made a list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read” that had only one female writer on it.

Do I believe that girls are just as entitled to adventures as boys? Hell, yeah. We don’t want to stay at home and stare longingly at the blue and distant mountains and yearn. Is that feminism? Is writing stories about that carrying a card? If it is, then I have one. I’m one of those girls who set out for the mountains – how could it be otherwise?

Personally, if I had been asked, I’d have recommended the same book that Sonia Saraiya, Salon’s TV critic did — ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ by Ursula K. LeGuin.

It so effortlessly dismantles gender norms that it’s kind of shocking the world is still standing,” Sonia says.

Right on, I say.

Instead of getting mad about that men’s magazine list, Elisabeth Donnelly writes, “We here at Flavorwire wanted to counter that vibe by asking our favorite feminist writers what they think “every man should read.” The results were funny, smart, and a true reflection of the complex lives that we all lead. Expand your mind, and find your next favorite book, below.

For example:

Ashley C. Ford, who writes essays, interviews, and profiles recommends ‘An Untamed State’ by Roxane Gay:
An Untamed State

There is a line in this book, “It is often women who pay the price for what men want.”

Gay writes brilliantly to this point, revealing how even the good guys are accustomed to getting their way by any means necessary, and how often women are the “means”. Read this to understand what you may never know otherwise: women can be marked by men’s desires, but we can not be defined by it.

 

 

Read the article

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Read whatever the hell you want!

Should adults be reading books supposedly aimed at children and teenagers? Elizabeth Minkel asks in The New Stateman. According to the literary establishment, she says, this is a question fraught with difficulty. “But is it really as hard as all that?” she asks.

Of course it isn’t. Why are we still even talking about it?

Young adult is a marketing term, no more. I write both “Young Adult” and adult books and I think you would be hard-presssed to tell me how they are different. I don’t write down to young adults, don’t use simpler language, or present a simpler world.
Worldwavers ReaderMy Young Adults are for ‘Readers’, period.

Elizabeth Minkel discusses all this in a very thoughtful article which concludes:

So here’s a directive, to anyone who feels like the type of book – or any individual book – is being unfairly attacked: please stop making a case for what you like by putting down what other people like. Stop imagining that the conversation you hear is the only conversation being had. And if you feel like your beloved book is under attack, hit the attacker back with as much positivity as you can manage.

I’ll stand by Harry Potter not because it can be read by a child, but because it can be read by children and adults alike, how it’s a bazillion pages full of little spaces or big ideas to explore, how I fell in love first with the characters on the page, then with the sprawling conversation they inspired. I won’t put you down if you don’t enjoy them – I’ll just invite you to join in.

Read the article

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10 Science Fiction Authors Whose Books Just Kept Getting Stranger

A lot of authors tend to become more conventional over time. At io9, Charlie Jane Anders gives us 10 science fiction and fantasy authors whose books only got weirder.

e.g.
J.G. BallardJ.G. Ballard was a key part of the New Wave of experimental, literary science fiction of the 1960s and 1970s — but he kept pushing the envelope throughout his career. His late novels, starting with Cocaine Nights, examine the relationship between violence and consumerism, and conclude that the former is an inevitable consequence of the latter.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

16 brilliant paintings that will shake your faith in humanity
Red carpetSee all the paintings

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10 great women street artists
street artLady Aiko is a Tokyo-born, New York-based artist who incorporates elements of Pop Art, abstraction, graffiti and traditional Japanese imagery into her playful depictions.

See them all

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22 Literary Halloween Costumes For Duos
June-AnaisAnaïs & June, Henry and June
June: Long blonde hair, sexy dress — Anaïs: Shortdark hair, sexy dress, stack of notebooks, Mae West eyebrows

Halloween literary costumes

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Quote of the Day

If you enjoy reading something, read it.” ~ S. E. Hinton in The New Yorker on the YA debate

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Riddle me this!

Literature’s most fiendish head-scratchers

For all of you out there with time on your hands and no codes to crack, The Guardian offers a selection of riddles from literature. Get pondering…

e.g. #6:
“Why is a raven like a writing-desk?’” – the Mad Hatter to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Solve the riddles

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Kerouac’s On The Road turned into Google driving directions

Jack-Kerouac-On-The-Road

 

Gregor Weichbrodt, a German college student, took all of the geographic stops mentioned in On the Road, plugged them into Google Maps, and ended up with a 45-page manual of driving directions, divided into chapters paralleling those of Kerouac’s original book. You can read the manual — On the Road for 17,527 Miles– as a free ebook.

Go On the Road

 

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“My List of Writing Mistakes”

Best way of learning: do, and fail. Next time you’ll do better. Howard Andrew Jones keeps a list of mistakes he made already so that he won’t repeat them. This strikes me as wise.

e.g.
When you’re stuck moving the plot
           Introduce character with info
           Send in the ninjas

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

10 Insane Buildings
HelixVincent Callebaut Architectures
Coming in 2016, Taipei’s double-helix-shaped Agora Garden Tower will split the difference between man and Mother Nature. The twisty, 20-story luxury residential building will be green in every sense of the word, with balconies on each floor to support gardens, and state-of-the-art sustainable features including solar cells and rainwater recycling.

10 Insane Buildings

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The Color of…
Burnt brandyBurning brandy. The color, flame-of-burnt-brandy, was described in 1821 by one ladies’ magazine as a mixture of “lavender grey, pale yellow, and dark lilac.”

Other equally evocative names dating from the same period include dragon’s blood (a deep purplish-red), d’oreille d’ours (a rich brown, literally “bear’s ears”), elephant’s breath (steel grey) and flamme de Vesuve (“the flame of Vesuvius,” or the color of lava).”

19 Colors You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

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Poetry can help students learn in ways that prose can’t.

Why teaching poetry is so important

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10 of the oldest surviving books in the world
etruscan-gold-bookThe Etruscan Gold Book is estimated to be 2,673 years old.

The oldest books

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE Victor Hugo~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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