Worship of Writers

business-of-ferretsBusiness of Ferrets – Image credit: Michael Lyons

50 Collective Nouns to Bolster Your Vocabulary

Collective nouns may seem like quirky ways to describe groups, Lucas Reilly writes at Mental Floss, but 500 years ago, they were your ticket to the in-crowd. As silly as some sound today, the phrases were formal and proper descriptions designed to help gentlemen-in-training avoid the embarrassment of “some blunder at the table.”

Some have achieved widespread currency and acceptance, like a “flight of stairs,” “a board of trustees,” and a “school of fish.” Others, like a “murder of crows,” barely hang on.

Most are little known, but some should be more popular. I mean, how could “Worship of Writers” go out of style?

50 collective nouns HERE

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Is longer better?

The Off the Shelf staff offers 7 Great Big Novels

Have you ever spent eight months reading a single book? How about a year? While such a commitment may seem daunting, there is nothing comparable to getting lost in a long, sprawling novel.

For example:
Miss-MacIntoshMiss MacIntosh, My Darling, by Marguerite YoungOne of the most ambitious and remarkable literary achievements of the twentieth century, it might be called the Arabian Nights of American life. In prose that is poetic, incantatory, and extraordinarily rich, Marguerite Young takes us on a search for reality in a world of illusion and nightmare, touching on subjects as varied as drug addiction, women’s suffrage, murder, suicide, pregnancy (both real and imagined), schizophrenia, love, gambling, and perfectionism.

 

See more at:

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12 Books That End Mid-Sentence

Books have long been messing with the heads of readers by daring to not use a period as the last typeset keystroke on the very last page, Gabe Habash tells us at Publisher’s Weekly, and offers 12 examples. He asks help in adding to the list, and notes that the lack of books by female authors is because he couldn’t find any, not one, in hours and hours of searching.
A Sentimental JourneyA Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne (1768)

The Ending:

–But the Fille de Chambre hearing there were words between us, and fearing that hostilities would ensue in course, had crept silently out of her closet, and it being totally dark, had stolen so close to our beds, that she had got herself into the narrow passage which separated them, and had advanced so far up as to be in a line betwixt her mistress and me–

So that when I stretch’d out my hand, I caught hold of the Fille de Chambre’s–

Why?

At the end of his rambling journey, Yorick finally ends up at a roadside inn. Because there is only one bedroom, he shares it with a lady and her chambermaid, under the condition that he not speak. Of course, he breaks this rule and gets the chambermaid heading toward him. It’s possible, grammatically, to read that Yorick stretches out his hand and catches hold of the chambermaid’s hand. But, given that this is Sterne, the dirtier option (and the fun placement of the word “end” in the sentence) is a lot more enjoyable.

See the rest HERE

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Paradise Lost: The Hippie Refugee Camp

Let me tell you about a place called Taylor Camp, a tropical ocean-front utopia without rules, politics or bills to pay“, MessyNessy writes.
Taylor camp Anti-establishment all the way, clothing was optional and decisions were made according to the “vibes”. It was the ultimate hippie fantasy. Taylor Camp began in the Spring of 1969, with thirteen hippies seeking refuge from the ongoing campus riots in America and police brutality. Having fled their homes, they headed for Kauai in Hawaii, then a very remote and unspoilt land with just a single traffic light on the island.

Read the rest HERE

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If fiction is the art of invention, memoir is the art of selection and arrangement

Will Boast’s standout memoir, Epilogue, about the death of his mother, father, and brother, is both a wrenching exploration of grief and a moving story of remembrance.

It took me nearly three years of trying to cram my subject matter into a novel manuscript, Boast writes, before I understood that the story I wanted to tell would fit better into nonfiction. It took me another five years to finish the manuscript that became Epilogue. As provisional and context-specific as they may be, here are a few lessons I learned along the way:

Writing a Memoir tips HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Memory thrives on storytelling.

How do memory champions accomplish their miraculous feats? They get really good at telling memorable stories to themselves while weaving in what they’re trying to remember. Because the human brain is built for storytelling. The more things you can link together into a narrative, the more readily you’ll be able to recall them later on.

I’m not surprised.

More about memory HERE

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DesolenatorCreators of the Desolenator are crowdsourcing development money for a device turns sea or heavily polluted water into clean water.

You can help HERE

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Wedding name combos so bad they might want to call the whole thing off

Would you believe MacDonald-Berger? Hardy-Harr? And much much worse!

See the others HERE

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A government ban on which prohibited prisoners in England and Wales from having family and friends send them books, has been ruled unlawful.

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE Joan Didion~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Why fiction?

The Forgotten Perks of Reading Fiction
reading perksThe Digital Age has heightened the habit of skimming everything we read, Soli Salgado writes at Utne. But, he suggests, we lose something invaluable when we do.

Books, especially fiction, “introduce you to places, characters and events that would take years, maybe lifetimes, to experience in reality. Within a few books, you’ve become a citizen of the world, exposed to countless alternative realities.”

He cites a study that showed that the brains of readers reacted the same way to events in a novel as if it were truly occurring in their own lives. “You’re not just digesting text, but actually living the story.”

And besides, “reading a captivating book for as little as six minutes can reduce stress by 60 percent.”

Read the article

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What is it about bookshops

UK historical crime novelist Sara Sheridan shares her favorite things about bookshop:

I was introduced to the library when I was six or seven and that was a shock. I  thought my love of reading was unusual…and I blithely assumed that there were, I don’t know, perhaps a hundred books in the world…Walking into the library I felt quite overwhelmed at first. I’d read every book we had at home – but this was going to  take longer.

…my top ten favourite things in bookshops:

1 a comfortable chair to curl up in
2 somewhere to wander – shelves that go round corners or up stairs
3 …..

Read the article

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Modern Beauty in the Natural World
Keeping-the-WildIn response to those who claim that wild nature is no more, and that human-caused extinction is nothing to be concerned about, Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of the Earth (Island Press, 2014), edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler, presents essays from scientists, writers and activists who have a powerful point to deliver about the importance of nature.

Read the article

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No coffee?!? I’ll never write again!

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change

Coffee2

As worsening drought and extreme weather devastate crops, you may begin seeing global warming when you open your fridge.

 

Missing could be…

 

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10 Words Every Book-Lover Should Know

The word for a book-lover is a ‘bibliophile’, first used in 1824. Alternatively, there is the more ancient word, ‘bookworm’ , which dates back to 1580.

But what words should every good bibliophile and bookworm know? ‘Interest Literature’ offers some of their favorites.

Including: BIBLIOBIBULI, H. L. Mencken’s word for people who read too much. (Is there such a thing as reading too much?!)

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THATearth 'n moonThe Earth And The Moon, In A Single Frame

Read the article

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Self-Penned Obituary:Walter George Bruhl Jr. …is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker…His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe...”

Read the rest

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE F. Scott Fitzgerald~~~~~
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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Spoiler alert!

Can you guess these classic books by their one-line spoilers? Alanna Okun asks at BuzzFeed.

She gets hit by a train

He never shows up

The dogs die

She was lying

Everything was predetermined

She doesn’t live forever

The dog dies. So some other folk

There’s a hurricane, a rabid dog, a shooting, and an acquital

She buys the flowers herself

& more

Here’s one book; can you match it to the spoiler? Do you want to?

Tuck Everlasting

Spoiler alert

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Poems Everyone Should Read

Must poemsKrystie Lee Yandoli and the BuzzFeed staff have some suggestions:

Maya AngelouStill I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“The first time I read this poem I was still a young girl, trying to figure out who I was and frankly what the hell was happening to my body. Maya Angelou made me feel like who I was becoming — a woman — was something very special, ancient, and wonderful. I physically remember breathing out and sitting up just a little bit taller because of her words.” —Ashley Perez

Jelaluddin Rumi“The Guest House” by Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

“I heard this poem at the end of a yoga class a couple years ago. I had just moved to New York, on a whim, after a failed six-year relationship and dealing with a lot of sadness and thought, Fuck, now what? My uncle was also losing his battle to cancer and my family and I were dealing with the inevitable. This poem helped me through that time and still continues to resonate in my life today. I hope it brings peace to some else out there.” —Chris Ritter

Life Changing Poems

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50 Essential Books of Poetry

Emily Temple of Flavorwire weighs in with this selection of whole books of poetry “that everyone should read.”

Metamorphoses, OvidMetamorphoses, Ovid

Despite him being like, so old, Ovid is funnier and sexier than you think. Plus, he’s the original architect of surreal, mythic ch-ch-ch-changes. Can’t beat him.

There’s something for everybody here, from the deeply established canonical works to riveting, important books by newer poets, from the Romantics to the post-modernists, from the goofy to the staid. This list can only reflect personal taste, chance meetings, and wild subjectivity.

Lyn Hejinian

My Life, Lyn Hejinian

Hejinian has the uncanny ability to turn the ordinary observation or idle musing into the profound. Her landmark work is a poetic autobiography, a gorgeous, funny tableau of experiences and memories, a life in fragments. After all, “only fragments are accurate. Break it up into single words, charge them to combination.”

Do you have anything to add?

50 poetry books

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An Imaginary Town Becomes Real, Then …

Robert Krulwich reports on the town that wasn’t, then was, then wasn’t again.

The vanishing town

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Daily Routines

In the right-hands, daily routines can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of limited resources… a solid routine foster a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies…” Mason Currey, author of the inspiring book Daily Rituals

Maya Angelou

Created by RJ Andrews, infowetrust.com

Creative routines

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Quote of the Day

Of all the things which man can do or make here below, by far the most momentous, wonderful, and worthy are the things we call books.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome. What do you think?

Can we stop Armageddon?

Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” is a novel about butterflies, about a messed up migration of monarchs which could lead to oblivion. It was a kick in the gut to read that book, to think about that possibility, to think about the final beat of a butterfly’s wing, to see that moment frozen in time. It’s terrifying.

And it’s happening. When I read that the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico is slowing from a flood to a trickle, I began to realize how bitterly bitterly close to reality Kingsolver’s fiction is, could be. That was no light reading, that was an apocalyptic warning.

 Monarchs aren’t able to survive colds winters and migrate hundreds or thousands of miles to winter in warmer climates, most famously in a few a few acres in Mexico where they hibernate in fir trees. Very few acres. They used to stop in a 50-acre site. Last year, that had dwindled to less than 2 acres.

Migrating monarchsThey hibernate on the same trees each year

There are a number of reasons the population is crashing. One study has linked the monarch’s decline to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide. (link below)

That connection is unproven, others say (link below), but loss of milkweed is a major factor and a massive replanting is needed to save the monarch.

 There’s a new book out about how humans are causing the sixth great extinction in the history of our planet. What are we going to do when we wake up one day and realize that the richness of our biosphere exists only in memory?

Extinction is forever.

 

 

Killing the monarch

Not GMOs, but milkweed

It’s our fault

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Whale of a tale of awe & wonder

 Bryant Austin’s life was transformed by a literal tap on the shoulder from a whale, Richard Whittaker and Anne Veh write in the Daily Good.

eye to eyeAustin is an experimental multimedia artist whose lifelong passion has been exploring the possibility of connecting humanity with the greatest minds in the water. His drive comes from a deep desire to understand over five million years of evolving culture and communication in the largest brain ever to exist on Earth.

 In a stunning interview, Austin shares stores of his extraordinary journey and mission to use photography to recreate the transcendent sensation one experiences floating an arm’s length away from the eye of an inquisitive whale. He explains how his experiences with whales have given him glimpses of the vastness of the cosmos, helping him to shift from his personal perspective of reality to a grander “earth perspective” of reality.

 Whale of a tale

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The diver and the blue whale

 The diver and the bue whaleA British diver swims near a blue whale, SCUBAZOO / BARCROFT MEDIA

An image taken on 28 March 28, 2011 is the first ever to show a human and a whole blue whale in the same shot together, The Telegraph reports.

 Many have battled hard to achieve the feat, but due to the size of the whales have only come up with shots showing divers and parts of the animals. Team members of Scubazoo – a British dive company based in Malaysia – spent 200 hours diving eight-hours-per-day for 25 days trawling the ocean around Sri Lanka in order to capture the scene.

 Roger Munns, from Cornwall, was photographed by Jason Isley, from Essex, making contact with the giant of the seas at around 10 metres depth. Roger said:

 ‘It was amazing. It was murky so we didn’t see the whale until the last minute, and it travelled so fast. The encounter only lasted about 45 seconds and then it was gone. But all those hours waiting were worth it.

The diver and the blue whale

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It was just a joke, Isabel Allende says of her ‘mystery’

 Allende, better known for magical realism, has angered the crime fiction community after admitting that “Ripper”, her first foray into mysteries, was written as “a joke” – and that she is “not a fan” of the genre, Alison Floodreports in The Guardian.

 Isabel AllendeReaders took issue with Allende’s “snotty elitism”, and advising the author to “stick to what she knows [if she] sees the genre as being beneath her”. Sookie Stackhouse’s bestselling creator Charlaine Harris took Allende to task on her blog for comments which “translate … [as] I’m so amazingly ‘literary’ that condescending to write a genre novel is incredibly funny … I considered buying it. But having devoted my professional life to genre literature, I don’t think I will,” wrote Harris.

Allende mystery a joke

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Quote of the Day

 “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

 Email me

 Comments welcome. What do you think?

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Can books cure your depression?

Can you read your way to psychological health? Britain is finding out, Leah Price reports in the Boston Globe.

Biblio therapyWhat if a scientist were to discover a treatment that required minimal time and training to administer, and didn’t have the side effects of drugs? In 2003, a psychiatrist in Wales became convinced that he had. Dr. Neil Frude noticed that some patients, frustrated by year-long waits for treatment, were reading up on depression in the meantime. And of the more than 100,000 self-help books in print, a handful often seemed to work.

This June, a program was launched that’s allowing National Health Service doctors across England to act upon Frude’s insight. The twist is that the books are not just being recommended, they’re being prescribed.

The book cure

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Books Vs. Films:

Books vsfilmsLovereading.co.uk has created an infographic called, ‘The Ultimate Showdown: Books Vs. Films,’ Dianna Dilworth reports on Galleycat, which explores the question, ‘Which is better the book or the movie?’

The graphic explores of reviews of both books and movies over the past two decades and compares the critical reception of both books and their movie adaptations to decide the winners.

Book or movie?

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25 million readers

GoodreadsLast year the reading platform, Goodreads, not only nearly doubled in size, it added 294 million books.

An infographic shows the milestones for 2013. What was the most popular book? Most popular quote? How many pages were read?

Goodreads infograpic

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How can you really help your favorite writer?
    
“Back in 2009, when my career as a novelist went into a nosedive,” Sarah Monette blogs, “somebody asked me what my readers could do to help.”

She didn’t really have an answer then, but five years later, she does and is offering it up  “not merely on my own behalf, but so that you all, as readers, know how to help the career of any writer whose work you like. And, as it turns out, the answer is simple.:

There are three major things any reader can do to support a writer, she says:

Help a writer

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She read her way around the world

Reading around the worldBritish journalist Ann Morgan has accomplished a big goal as a reader, Dianna Dilworth reports in Galleycat, she read a book from every country around the world. That is 196 books from authors from Swaziland to Nicaragua.

She came to the decision after she realized that most of the books on her bookshelves were written by British and American authors. To help find titles from various places around the globe, she set up a blog called A Year of Reading the World and got many suggestions about good reads from readers and writers around the worlds.

Reading around the world

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Artist Creates illuminated copy of The Silmarillion

The SilmarillionArtist Benjamin Harff created a 400 page hand-illuminated copy of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Silmarillion for his exam at the Academy of Arts.

All of the initials, calligraphic pages and illumination were drawn by hand using a steel pen and indian ink as well as brushes and watercolour. Harff also created the goat leather binding himself, with some help from a professional bookbinder.

Illuminated Silmarillion

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Quote of the Day

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. ~ Saint-Exupery

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome
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Susan After Narnia

ink-splotch asks: Can we talk about Susan’s fabulous adventures after Narnia?

After Narnia
The ones where she wears nylons and elegant blouses when she wants to, and short skirts and bright lipstick when she wants to, and hiking boots and tough jeans and big men’s plaid shirts when she feels like backpacking out into the mountains and remembering what it was to be lost in a world full of terrific beauty— I know her siblings say she stops talking about it, that Susan walks away from the memories of Narnia, but I don’t think she ever really forgot.
…..
A lion told her to walk away, and she did. He forbade her magic, he forbade her her own kingdom, so she made her own. Susan Pevensie did not lose faith. She found it.

After Narnia

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Kelly Barnhill on “Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me”

feminist_takeoverI wrote a post about a children’s movie with some pretty gross lady-hating themes, and I’ve managed to catch heck for it. There are people who are seriously mad at me for pointing out that the movie was, in addition to being a crappily-animated, source-text-destroying, dreckish disaster of a movie – it was also grossly antifeminist.

The most troubling statements are the ones that suggest that I, as a children’s author, have no right to call myself a feminist. … There is a special kind of venom for the feminism.

The curious thing for me, though, is the sense of ownership. I write children’s books. I tweet. I keep this blog. … I get notes from readers – both men and women – saying … please keep your feminism to yourself. “No one cares about your politics,” one woman wrote me. “The next time you want to air your grievances, just keep your yap shut.”

Apparently, for both children and children’s authors, silence is golden. Or maybe it’s not authors. Maybe it’s women. Maybe women saying things online makes us itchy. Or maybe women saying things at all.

On anti-feminism

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How Educated Girls Could Save The World

For many, many girls around the globe education ia just a dream they must fight for every day, Melissa McGlensey reports on the Ms Blog.

And education is vital. Take child marriage, for example. Girls with secondary education are 6 times less likely to be married as children, and if all girls had a secondary education there would be two-thirds fewer child marriages. And in developing countries, the #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. Maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds if each mother completed primary education.

Recently, Ms. Blog sat down for a conversation with young rural women in South Africa who are part of a mentorship program for talented, disadvantaged youth. These young women were eloquent and enthusiastic testaments to the power of educating girls.

ZinziZinzi

Zinzi: If I hadn’t joined Imagine Scholar, I think I would’ve been pregnant by now. I had bad friends and they would pressure me to do bad stuff and I would usually fall into their traps. I was really that dumb to believe them. (This program) made me view myself as a woman and say This is what I want to be. I took ownership of my life, became the independent woman I want to be and with that I can go places, because I’m me, I’m a woman and I believe that I can still be that leader that I want to be.

Educating girls

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Oh, when did we stop looking up to the sky and dreaming about the future…?

The Loneliness of the Long-Abandoned Space Observatory

Space observatories are among some of the most magnificent buildings devoted entirely to science — because their windows look out on the universe, Vincze Miklós on io9. And their distinctive shape makes them into poignant ruins. Here are some observatories whose views onto space have been lost to time.

MohonThe Mohon del Trigo, built in 1902 in the Sierra Nevada, Andalucia, Spain. Abandoned since the 1970s

Abandoned observatories

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All The Things That Are Wrong With Your Screenplay In One Handy Infographic
What's wrongJoe Berkowitz at Co.Create tells us about an anonymous professional scriptreader who read 300 screenplays for five different studios, all the while tracking the many recurring problems. The infographic he made with the collected data offers a glimpse at where screenwriting goes wrong.

Many of the actual issues they list on these slides are pretty much things that plague many, if not most of, beginner manuscripts of any ilk, not just screenplays as such.

Beginner writers often begin before the beginning (or too late after it) and don’t know when they’ve reached the end so they carry on writing long after their story is complete.

But all that… is after you get past the first slides. the ones showing the discrepancy between male and female WRITERS. And then the ones showing the discrepancy between male and female PROTAGONISTS. We have to start somewhere. Why not here? Write for humanity, not just the half of it with testosterone. We’ll all be better off.

Your screenplay has problems

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I’ll go see it, gritting my teeth. I want to see the barrel escape brought to life. I want to see the dragon. But I am under no illusions that I will be seeing something called “The Hobbit”. Because that… that just isn’t there. Sigh.

The Hobbit, as written by Peter Jackson

In ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, Jackson leaves Tolkien behind, Andrew O’Hehir says in Salon.

“His middle chapter features Elvish girl-power, a love triangle and other made-up stuff. But it’s fun. Jackson has now departed so far from Tolkien’s “Hobbit” that the original work is still there, essentially untouched, for those weirdos who want it. In exchange we get a movie fueled by bunny-power, sparrow poop and Elfland’s original riot-grrl. Take it or leave it.”

The Hobbit?

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When Salinger Spoke Out: A Rare 1959 Public Letter Against Life in Prison
 
Lost in all the controversy around J.D. Salinger this year, Nicolaus Mills writes at the Daily Beast, was the few times he chose to take a public stance as in this 1959 letter against life imprisonment without parole.

2013 has been a year that the late J. D. Salinger would have hated. With the highly publicized release of Shane Salerno’s documentary film, Salinger, a companion book by Salerno and David Shields, and three unpublished stories leaking, Salinger’s life has been subjected to the kind of scrutiny he did his best to avoid once he became a well-known author.

But Salinger did not always think it essential to keep his personal views to himself.

Salinger on life imprisonment

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Quote of the Day

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ~ Rumi
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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me:
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What is the Word of the Year?

If you said ‘selfie’, forget it; Merriam-Webster says it is ‘science’

Word of the YearImage credit: ThinkStock

What makes a word the word of the year?” asks Arika Okrent in Mental Floss.

Last month, Oxford Dictionaries crowned “selfie” the word of the year because it was “judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.”

Merriam-Webster takes another approach, starting not with an assessment of the general cultural zeitgeist, but with a look at the number of look-ups on its online dictionary. This year, the word with the greatest increase in look-ups—176 percent—was science.

Word of year

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A couple of stories on Christmas gift giving. But first may I remind you that there’s no better gift than a book; you know that, right?

Mother Jones offers 7 Simple Tips for Guilt-Free Holiday Shopping

Your gifts don’t have to support horrific working conditions in distant garment factories, Dana Liebelson reminds us.

Last month, I reported on the “sumangali girls” in India, workers who are lured to textile factories on the promise that they will earn enough money for a dowry or higher education—but instead end up working long hours for little pay in exploitative conditions.

Since the story came out, many readers have asked how they can support fair labor with their purchases. Here are seven tips to keep in your pocket during your holiday shopping:

Check the labelCheck the label

Guilt-free shopping
 
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Then there are some tips from Naomi Kritze.

Gift Shopping for People You Hate: the Passive-Aggressive Shopping Guide

Those who used to follow my blog over on LiveJournal may remember that for several years now I’ve done a list of suggested gifts you could give to someone you didn’t like very much, but had to buy a gift for anyway.  I’ve actually never run into this problem myself, but I know an awful lot of people who seem to have it, and as an unfailingly supportive and sympathetic friend, I wanted to be helpful.

There are a couple of principles that hold true every year.

1. Subtlety!  If you want an open declaration of war, or if you want to insult them and have them KNOW they were insulted, that’s easy and you don’t need my help to come up with that one.  You want them to feel totally disappointed, but like they still have to say “thank you, it’s lovely.”

Pie in a jarnuf said

Gifts for people you hate

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And for the kids?

Top 10 comic books

Comic book creator Robin Etherington, author of Monkey Nuts: The Diamond Egg of Wonders, chose his top 10 graphic novels for the Guardian.

I’ve always liked making top ten lists. During my time here on planet earth I’ve happily categorised my favourite books, films, games, sports, foodstuffs, road kill, enemies, colours, credit cards, teeth and spam email, to name but a few. And to be honest they were all pretty easy (all except for movies, which I had to break into innumerable sub-divisions, from Thrillers Featuring Log Cabins to Comedies Featuring an Amusingly Small Dog).

But then we reach comics; my achilles heel. Where does one start? To pick just 10 titles from the oodles of awesomeness that fill the shelves of book stores and comic shops the world over, well, it seems a shame.”

Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes

Best comics

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World’s leading authors say state surveillance of personal data is theft

More than 500 of the world’s leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance.

AuthorsClockwise from top left, eight of the people who have signed the petition: Hanif Kureishi, Björk, Arundhati Roy, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis

In a story in the Guardian, Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins report that the authors warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people’s digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.    
 
Authors speak out on spying

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Quote of the Day

Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~ -Eleanor Roosevelt
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Alma Alexander

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Who would leave that in a library book?

From heart-breaking love letters and heart-warming thank you cards, to notes veering on creepy.
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Curious Things Found In Library Books

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Ann Patchett on the Post, in the Post

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, author and bookseller Ann Patchett offered a somewhat friendly if wary welcome to new Post owner Jeff Bezos…and ended with a bit of bookseller-to-bookseller advice:

“Since it’s safe to assume that Bezos is reading the Post thoroughly these days, let me offer a piece of advice that will benefit us both: Expand the book review offerings. Nothing beats newspaper reviews for selling books. And bookselling, after all, is one of the businesses we’re both in.”

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5 Forgotten Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm’s collection of household fairytales. While Jacob and his younger brother Wilhelm weren’t only interested in folklore — they published works on history, ethnography, lexicography, and law — it’s the fairytales that we remember them for, Mental Floss reports.  

“For every Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White or Rapunzel, there are literally dozens of much more obscure and certainly more bizarre Grimm fairytales. Like the one about the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage. What about these tales didn’t quite capture the imagination the way the others did?”

Some of the weirder, more bizarre, and odd Grimms’ tales

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Top 10 descriptions of food in fiction

From Roald Dahl’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight to Enid Blyton’s magnificent picnics (with lashings of ginger beer), Guardian children’s fiction prize-longlisted author Katherine Rundell picks her favourite fictional foody descriptions”

Katherine Rundell’s top 10 descriptions of food in fiction

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