Monday, December 30, 2013

Lovely Links 12.29.13 - 01.04.14

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The first post of every month is going to be dedicated to extraordinary links I've gathered from various places on the Internet. Most of the links will have but one thing in common: they will be related to reading or writing. Other than that, who knows? Here's what we've got this week:

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post by Matt Thompson: Hacks Are Immortal

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A few weeks ago I was asked by the esteemed owner of this blog if I’d like to do an interview to help promote my new book. As an independent author it was an opportunity I readily accepted. It’s not the first interview I’ve done, but I realized that I felt differently about this one. I was excited about it because I knew I had something to say, something that I felt (and feel) strongly about. I found myself hoping to be asked a specific question. I was not disappointed.


What I wanted to be asked about was e-books. *Audible groan. E-books are a point of contention in the writing world, and I find myself uncomfortably straddling the chasm between the two sides. What I said in the interview is essentially this: e-books get an unfair rap. It is often assumed that all e-books are amateurish vampire romance or s&m stories with terrible covers and worse grammar. A basic interview isn’t the time to go into extensive detail (although I was perhaps a bit wordy) but now that I have a more appropriate forum I’d like to more clearly explain where I stand.


More than fifty years ago Gore Vidal wrote an essay entitled “The Hacks of Academe” which I read for the first time almost exactly one year ago. As I reread the essay in preparation for this post I noticed something I didn’t before, something quite relevant to the e-book controversy. On top of airing out his grievances with John Barth, Vidal bemoans the state of fiction in America. He is concerned that the serious American novel is dying, and it is because of its most ardent supporters: academics. What I never caught in my first reading is that Vidal is not as concerned with the quality of the serious American novel, (he had some reasonable qualms with Barth’s willfully obtuse writing) but with the exclusivity of it. He fears that serious novels are only being written by academics, for academics in a vicious cycle that ends with the pool of serious readers and writers painfully dwindling down to zero.


Vidal is spot on, and it persists today. But even worse, it has spread to e-book enthusiasts as well. This cliquishness cannot continue in the best interest of the novel. Academics are as unwilling to accept as ever. Wander onto any college campus in  America and attempt to speak to an English professor about a great novel you read, a kindle exclusive. Stonewall. Universities continue to perpetuate an increasingly narrow view of what is worth reading. The arrival of the e-book has only made them close ranks more than ever before. This is nothing new, but there has been another adverse reaction.


The e-book enthusiasts have responded to rejection by academics by closing their own ranks. They’ve created their own cult of exclusivity, but instead of literary novels, it is genre and proud. Literary novels published in e-book form are routinely ignored by e-book blogs. Most e-book blogs (believe me I’ve checked) don’t even have “literary” listed as an option. Some will gladly review paranormal vampire futuristic dystopian books, but not any considered literary. My point is not to disparage paranormal vampire futuristic dystopian books, but only to point out that literary books are being specifically left out.


Both sides of the debate are entrenched and have no desire to change their position. Exclusivity reigns. It is absurd that the “death” of the serious American novel has occurred simultaneously with the meteoric rise of the e-book. While literary critics continue to rant about the lack of serious readers, more people than ever have access to books. E-books and the serious novel could be a match made in heaven. They could be the power couple that restores serious fiction to relevance in contemporary culture. And yet...it hasn’t happened.


It is especially frustrating for someone like myself. I am seeking my second university degree in English and I write literary fiction. I am also an independent author who publishes via the Kindle format. I am in both camps. So I stand here, straddling the chasm, beset on all sides by yelling and disagreement, begging for quiet, asking: why can’t we be friends?


Matt Thompson is the author of two novels and numerous short stories. His work has been featured in apt. magazine.
www.amazon.com/author/shutupcabbage
mthompsonwriting@gmail.com

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson

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I’ve read and reviewed plenty of books in my time. Some of these books have been written by individuals that I have not known personally (the vast majority. in fact). However, some of these books have been written by friends or colleagues with whom I am well-acquainted. When reviewing these books, I have to be careful to stay objective. I usually pretend that the book I’m reviewing was written by someone else entirely, someone that I don’t know, in order to give the review the emotional distance it deserves.

And if the book is bad (oh, God forbid it), then I lie. When my friend or neighbor or loved one asks me what I thought about the book, I spit half-truths through gritted teeth. This approach takes a great deal of energy and usually results in me feeling exhausted and unfulfilled by the conversation.

When it comes to Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, though, I’m happy to say that I do not have to lie. This book is fantastic. Let’s talk about it.

Here’s the book description from Amazon.com: “Not all lives seem connected, but when a storm hits in St. Laurent’s, Alaska, the lives of many are thrown together. They find that their lives weren’t really so far apart to begin with, but quite the opposite.”

Throughout the novel, the people of St. Laurent's, Alaska interact and develop relationships with one another. Thompson handles their backstories with a masterful touch, revealing details only when they are relevant to the present action. Although the novel is short, it contains a great deal of emotional and psychological depth and character growth. The prose in and of itself is an absolute delight.

Thompson's latest novel is a treat. Oleanders in Alaska presents the struggles, triumphs, and journeys of the citizens of a small Alaskan town. It is a pleasure to read and even more so to review. If you love literary fiction, you should consider this novel your next must-read.

Want me to review your book? Email me or leave a comment!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review: Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

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I’ll be the first one to tell you that I love scary things. Whether it be books, movies, or video games, I love any story that gives me the creeps. Blame my weird fascination with horror on R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and the television show Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Whatever the cause, I love anything that frightens me. And Flowers in the Attic is no exception. Note: this review contains some spoilers.


I feel like I’m the last person in the world to have heard about this book. V. C. Andrews wrote it in 1979, so it has certainly been around for a while. The book achieved widespread popularity after its release, selling over forty million copies worldwide. In 1987, it was adapted into a movie. Somehow, though, I still hadn’t encountered it until discovering it on a list of contemporary classics. I’m so happy that I found it.


The narrator of the novel is Catherine Dollanganger, a young girl who wants to grow up to become a ballerina. After Catherine’s father dies in an automobile accident, Catherine’s family loses all of their money and possessions. Corinne, Catherine’s mother, moves her four children (Christopher, Catherine, Cory, and Carrie) out of their family home and into the house where she’d lived as a child. Corinne’s wealthy parents have written her out of their will, and she hopes to win back her father’s approval and secure a stable future for herself and for her children.


Upon arriving at Foxworth Hall, the house of Corinne’s parents, the children discover that the grandfather has no idea that they exist. Apparently, he and the grandmother would view them as an abomination because they are the product of incest. Corinne goes along with the grandmother’s plan to hide her children in the attic. The mother assures the children that they will only have to stay in the attic for one night. The next morning, she says, they can come out into the open.


Needless to say, the children spend a great deal more time in the attic than they anticipate. Without giving too much away, days turn into weeks and months and even years. As the children grow older, they also grow weaker. Could it be that their mother has no intention of ever letting them out of the attic?


Flowers in the Attic is a chilling story that reveals the dark side of human nature and the capacity for imagination and innovation in children. This book is certainly not a light read, but it’s hard to put down. If you’re looking for something haunting, psychological, and intense, be sure to pick up V. C. Andrews’ bestselling novel.


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


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Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Session: An Excerpt

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Author's Note: This is an excerpt from the short story I read for my senior capstone presentation. If you're interested in reading more of my work, feel free to contact me.


The therapist’s office was a stuffy, wood-paneled room with beige carpet, tall windows, and mahogany furniture. There were golden curtains on the windows. The room was furnished with four chairs, a desk, a bookcase, and a potted plant. The room reminded Sheila of her gynecologist’s office, though she wasn’t sure why.


“I’ve heard of you two,” said the therapist, a blonde woman who could’ve been a model were it not for her height. “Then again, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’m surprised you’re just now seeking therapy for what you both went through.”


Sheila twisted the white gold band on her left ring finger. Although Dirk had taken his ring off, she wanted to keep hers on. She felt naked without it. She’d grown accustomed to its weight. “This isn’t about the island. It’s about an affair.”


Dirk scratched his red stubble. “It’s about our whole marriage.”


“I see,” said the therapist. She scribbled something on her yellow legal pad and tapped her pen against her nose. She could be pretty, Sheila thought, if only she did something about her weight and her nose.


“A week ago I found him having sex with someone else.” Sheila pulled her hair into a ponytail. She had to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t bite her cuticles. She’d made them bleed that morning. Her fingertips were covered with polka-dot Band-Aids. “We’ve only been back for two months. How could this have happened so quickly?”


“Did you ask him about it?” the therapist asked.


Sheila felt like smacking her. “Of course I asked him about it. He’s my husband, isn’t he? Why wouldn’t I have asked him?”


“Hey,” said Dirk, bumping Sheila’s knee with his, “do you need to get some air?”


Sheila realized that her nails were digging into her thighs. She stood and smoothed her skirt. “I’d like a drink of water."


While she watched the therapist pour her a glass from the pitcher, Sheila thought about water. She remembered how much they’d come to value water on the island. She remembered the first few days, lying spread-eagle on the sand with the sun beating down, begging for Dirk to kill her, please, so she wouldn’t die of thirst. She remembered him asking her when. He’d wanted her to be certain when she wanted to go.


In the present, the therapist handed Sheila the glass of water. Sheila sat back down. She chugged the water without stopping and drained the entire glass. Dirk took the empty cup from her and set it on the table in front of them. Sheila wondered if he remembered the water. She wondered if he remembered how it felt to be so thirsty, so bone-dry-as-the-desert inside of his cells.


“Sheila,” said the therapist, “when did you notice that something was amiss?”


Amiss, she said, like their marriage was a painting hanging crooked on the wall. Sheila stared at the glass on the table. She’d always known that she and Dirk were destined for divorce. As high school sweethearts, their chances of growing old together were slim. Both of them had known that going into the marriage. Still, they’d decided to make it work. If Sheila closed her eyes, she could still feel the way her wedding dress hugged her. She remembered the first affair. She remembered the second. Back in the present, her stomach lurched.


“We were doing all right until I cheated,” said Dirk. There was no need for him to elaborate. The therapist had their file. She knew about the affairs. What she didn’t know, thought Sheila, was how their time on the island had almost repaired them. She didn’t know that the day they’d found water had been the first time they’d made love in months. She had no idea that Sheila was pregnant again. She didn’t know that, and she most likely never would.


“Sheila,” said Dirk, “are you sure you’re all right?”


That concludes the excerpt. What did you think?


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Sunday, November 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Tips

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Recently I've had a lot of people asking me questions about National Novel Writing Month. While most of the information about this month can be obtained via the official website, I'm writing this post to give you some tips and pointers based on personal experience.


First of all, participate in word sprints. Most of these can be found on Twitter. Word sprints are timed writing sessions, usually of fifteen minutes or more. You group up with a bunch of people and compete to get the highest word count. While I don't like to participate in word sprints all the time, they're great for pushing yourself to finish word count.


Next, when you're writing, describe everything in as much detail as possible. This is not only a good writing strategy, but it also will help you jack up your word count. And that's what NaNoWriMo is all about (kidding). You can describe setting, people, clothing, and even the weather. Let loose with the description. You can always cut back during the editing process.


That brings me to my next point: don't edit as you go. First drafts are supposed to be messy. Dump everything out on the page without thinking about it. Yes, it will suck. Yes, it might embarrass you. But if you try to edit as you write, you'll get so bogged down with the changes you need to make that you might get discouraged and stop putting fresh words down.  There will be plenty of time for editing later.


Hang out on the NaNoWriMo website. There are word count widgets, forums, and pep talks to keep you motivated all month long. Seriously, it's amazing. There's nothing more motivating than seeing that word count steadily climb. The forums are great, too because they allow you to get in touch with other wrimos. There are threads for prompts, characters, plot development, music, and more. Check it out here.


Also, if you're on Pinterest (follow me!), you might want to make a board or two for your novel and its characters. Pinterest can be a great source for inspiration. I always have one board for the novel overall and one for each character as well. On each board, I repin quotes, people, clothing, and other items relating to the novel. It helps more than you think.


So there are just a couple of tips to help you with NaNoWriMo. What tips or advice do you have? What are you writing about this month?


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Monday, October 28, 2013

Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo

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November is infamous. It's cold and dreary and easily one of the worst months of the year. Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, it's almost forgettable. The only thing worth noting about November is that it's National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo for short.


NaNoWriMo is terrifying. Some of the most stressful moments of my life can be traced back to NaNoWriMo. Of course, when you're trying to put down 50,000 words in the span of thirty days, a certain amount of hardship is to be expected. The benefits must outweigh the costs. After all, I keep coming back to it every year.


What is it about NaNoWriMo that is so appealing? It's not the frantic sprint of fingers on keys in an effort to make word count. It's not the caffeine burning hot through your veins. It's not the blood, sweat, and tears. So come on, what is it? Why do so many people want to participate in this madness?


Because it's amazing. NaNoWriMo just might be the biggest thrill of your life. When you force yourself to write a novel in a month, you'll learn so many new things about yourself. You'll grow in ways you never anticipated. You'll achieve something you never thought possible.


I won't lie to you - it's hard to write a novel. Starting is easy, but finishing is tough. There will be moments when you'll want to throw in the towel. Let them pass. You can do it, I promise. And when you come out swinging at the end, you'll be so proud of yourself you won't know what to do.


You should most definitely do NaNoWrimo.


For more information, visit this website. Also, please let me know if you plan to participate. I'd love to buddy up with you. We all might need to encourage each other!


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Friday, October 25, 2013

Costume Ideas Based on Literary Characters

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In case you hadn't noticed, Halloween is close at hand. It's less than a week away. If you don't have a Halloween costume yet, there's no need to panic. I'm happy to help. Here are a couple of ideas based on characters from famous works of literature.

Hester Prynne

All you need for this look is a black dress, a white apron, some black shoes, and a scarlet letter. Bonnet and child born of wedlock are optional.

Jay Gatsby

Pull off the infamous American Dreamer by dressing in a suit and carrying around a glass of champagne. Be sure to mention Daisy and green lights wherever you go. Also, don't forget to say, "old sport" as much as humanly possible. Bonus points for hosting a legendary Halloween party without sending out any invitations.

Big Brother

Take a piece of poster board and cut out a hole in the middle for your head to fit through. Write BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU in bold letters with a permanent marker. For added paranoia, hide cameras all over your friends and family. And grow some nasty facial hair. By the way, you may or may not actually exist. Keep that in mind.

Mina Harker


Here's another for the ladies. Put on a nightgown, preferably a lacy one. Muss your hair and wear it loose. Apply fake blood to your neck as though you've been bitten by a vampire. Faint constantly throughout the evening. Babble incoherently about uninvited nighttime guests.

I know this post is short, but this should've given you a few ideas for your Halloween costume. 

What do you think? What are you going to be for Halloween?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Books to Get You in the Spooky Spirit

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I love Halloween. You should know that about me. I also love reading.

Why not combine the two?

There are several books that I love to reread around this time of year. These books are full of thrills, chills, suspense, scares, horror, and mayhem - every spooky sensation that you can imagine. That's what makes them perfect for an All Hallows Eve read. If you're looking to curl up with a creepy classic or a contemporary chiller, check out one from this list:
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker - Whether or not you've read the book, the story of Dracula is certainly familiar to almost anyone. Read about the vampire that inspired them all. The cool thing about this book is that it is told in the form of letters from several different characters.

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux - Another haunting read whose story is pervasive in modern culture. This novel tells the story of the ghost of the Paris Opera House and his obsessive attraction toward a young chorus girl. Fear, violence, love triangles - what's not to love? And yes, this is the book that inspired one of the longest-running shows in theatre history.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - Released in 1938 and made into a movie by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca has been dazzling audiences since its initial release. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read. I couldn't put it down. Without spoiling anything, this book is about a young woman who marries a widower with a mysterious past. It. Is. Good.

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - One of the most famous examples of the gothic romance. Jane Eyre is a young woman who falls in love with her employer... and finds that he has a skeleton in his closet (or perhaps in his attic, but I'll say no more). If you read it in school, it's worth a second look.

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - This is the novel that birthed science fiction. And it was written by a woman. Need I go on? If you read this book, you'll understand why some people cringe when you refer to the monster as "Frankenstein."

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Okay, okay. This book is not necessarily scary, but parts of it are unnerving. Hester Prynne has an affair and is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her chest so that everyone will know her crime. This novel is haunting, and I can't explain why.

  • The Shining by Stephen King - The King of Horror writes the King of all horror novels. Just read it, mmkay?

  • Misery by Stephen King - Another masterpiece from the master himself. Man, do I love Stephen King. Even if you've seen the movie, you should probably read the book.

  • Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews - This book creeped me the eff out. A mother keeps her children locked up in an attic for over two years. Terrifying because it reveals the dark side of human nature. I couldn't put this one down, either.
Of course, these are just some of my favorite scary reads for the scariest time of the year. I'm interested to see which of these books you've read and enjoyed. 

What do you like to read around Halloween? What books did I miss?


Helene in Between

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cheap Books and Fried Dough

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I spent this past weekend at school for a couple of reasons, one of which was Deep Roots. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Deep Roots is an all-day event downtown with food, games, vendors, drinks, performances, and live music. It's basically the most exciting thing to happen to this town all year.


I spent a whopping four hours at Deep Roots with my boyfriend, friend, and roommate. While the four of us were out, we watched a STOMP-like performance, danced in a flash mob rendition of "The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror, bought over a dozen books, chowed down on funnel cake, and had a fantastic time.


If you like to read, let me tell you about the awesome deals I got on books. Have you spent much time at antique or thrift stores? Maybe you've noticed that these places also sell books. These books are CHEAP. I picked up twenty for only sixteen dollars. How cool is that?


Also, I'm sorry if I made everyone crave funnel cake. Luckily, I found a recipe that you can try out at home! While you're reading that post, follow that blog. It's fantastic.


All in all, I had an excellent weekend. What about you guys? What did you do?

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Space to Call Home

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Great writers are known not just for their prose, but for their writing spaces. George Bernard Shaw had a rotating hut. Dylan Thomas did his best work cooped up inside a boat house. And J.K. Rowling, a more contemporary example, penned the Harry Potter series in an Edinburgh café.

While you may not have your own special shed or writing carrel, you no doubt have a space where you prefer to write. For me, it’s my bed. I have a desk, but I can’t seem to do anything creative while sitting there. If I do anything other than homework, it has to be done in my bed.

If you haven’t discovered your ideal writing space, this article should help you. Here are three elements to consider when choosing a place where you can put pen to paper or fingers to keys.

The first thing you need to consider when selecting your space is surface type. For example, you need to figure out whether you prefer writing at a desk, in bed, or in a hammock. If you’re not sure, try every surface you can think of. See which one works best for you. There’s no rule that says you have to get your work done at your desk.

Got a surface? Okay, good. Now you need to decide whether you’ll be writing inside or outside. In my experience, most people prefer the convenience of writing indoors. You have control of the temperature and won’t have to cancel a session on account of the weather. There are some people, however, who prefer working in the fresh air and natural daylight. You might very well be one of those people.

Finally, you should consider writing in public versus writing in private. As I said before, J.K. Rowling loved writing in public cafés. She loved soft chatter of café patrons and the ready availability of coffee and tea. I, on the other hand, cannot work when there are people talking. I get the most writing done when I hole up in my bedroom. Once again, you’ll have to see which works best for you.

Every writer has some sort of unique writing space. Some prefer writing at a desk, while others enjoy the comforts of bed. Writers can choose to do their work outside or indoors. Moreover, some authors like to pen their pieces in public, but there are those who would rather keep their insights hidden behind closed doors. Whatever you prefer, just remember that your writing space is just that—yours. As long as you’re comfortable, that’s all that matters. Try some spaces on for size and find your most productive place.

What's your favorite writing space?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Adulting By Kelly Williams Brown

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I am a closested self-help book-lover. I love to read and reread books that promise to help me better myself, even if they never actually come through on that promise. After all, can’t we all stand to become a better person?

Sometimes, a self-help book exceeds my expectations. Sometimes it’s everything that I wanted it to be and so much more. Such is the case for Kelly Williams Brown’s book Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 486 Easy-ish Steps. Brown’s book is based off her popular Tumblr blog, found here. If you don’t want to read the book (which you should after reading this review), you should definitely follow her.

Adulting has the potential to improve many aspects of your life, no matter what your age. If you’re a twentysomething who, like me, often feels lost and confused when faced with real-world problems, this book is a must-read. In her book, Williams covers topics such as cooking, cleaning, relationships, work, and hospitality. Her style is entertaining yet educational. It’s like having a sassy, worldly friend give you life-changing advice. And while this book won’t necessarily cause you to have a soul-cleansing epiphany, it should at least make you think twice about your immature attitudes.

If you’re looking for an informative read that’s also enjoyable, look no further than Adulting. While you’re at it, be sure to visit Kelly Williams Brown’s blog, full of even more advice and tips for finally growing up. And if you do read the book, please let me know what you think! I’d love to hear about it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More About Email: Some Unwritten Rules

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I’ve mentioned before how much I love Molly Ford. Her blog is fantastic. It was a pleasant surprise to me to find, in her post for yesterday, that she included a link to an article about some unwritten rules for emails. While I encourage you to check out the link for yourself, I’m including a snippet of it for your benefit. Here’s what The Daily Muse has to say about email:





  1. Your subject line should always be descriptive. “Intro” is not descriptive enough. “Intro: Alex (The Muse) // Jennifer (XYZ Co)” is better.

  2. Keep every email as short as you can; it saves you time and, more importantly, respects the recipient’s time.

  3. The faster you respond, the shorter your response is allowed to be.

  4. Always include one line of context if the recipient isn’t expecting this email. This is as relevant for first-time emails (“This is where we met”) as it is for emails to someone you work with regularly (“This email is about the next phase of that project we’re working on together”).

  5. Put your “ask” or “action items” first in the email, not last, and make them explicit. It should be immediately clear to the recipient what you want.

  6. If there is a deadline, say so. If the request is not urgent, say so.

  7. If you don’t need a response and an email is FYI only, say so.



Some of these tips should be familiar to you by now. After all, I covered some of them in yesterday’s post. But The Daily Muse include several others that I never really thought about. For the full list, click over to the link in the introduction. And check out Molly’s blog, too, while you’re at it. She’s seriously awesome. If you like either of those links, feel free to send the authors an email. Just make sure that you follow these unwritten rules!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Write an Email That Gets a Response

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No matter how many emails you’ve sent, you have a thing or two to learn about writing an effective one. Email writing is something that everyone needs to learn, regardless of their age. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that few people are teaching. When composing an email, the best way to get a response is to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. By following some simple guidelines, you can learn to write an email that gets a response.


First of all, is the email necessary? If you have a question, is the answer something that you could easily Google? If the answer is yes, don’t bother writing the email. People are busy. If you insist on demanding a fraction of their valuable time, make it count for something. Time is precious. Any time the person spends on you is something that they can’t get back.


Next, start your email off with a nice salutation. Don’t overthink this part. Use, “Dear ______” for a formal request and “Hi _____” for an informal one. Also, research the person’s title so that you can show them even more respect.


Address the email to a specific person, and make sure that the name is spelled correctly. “Dear Sir or Madam” works, but it won’t endear you to anyone, especially if you’re writing to a person in particular. Once you have a name, be certain that it’s spelled right. Nothing ruins someone’s mood like seeing their name misspelled.


Engage in a little small talk before getting down to business. You want to build a rapport with the recipient so that they feel inclined to respond to your email. Compliment the person, but be honest. You don’t want to come across as fake. Tell the other person how you found out about them, why you respect them, and what you have in common. Once you’ve paved the way with pleasantries, you can tell them why you’re writing.


When in doubt, keep it short and simple. No one likes long emails. No one has the time to read them.


Make your request clear. Don’t beat around the bush. And don’t be vague, either.


Proofread your email and use spellcheck before sending. Please, oh please.


Close with a valediction. Try, “Sincerely, ____.”


Offer something in return. People appreciate quid pro quo.


If you want to follow up, only follow up once. If the other person doesn’t get back to you, take the hint. Move on to better things. They’re either busy or not interested.


Email is a vital method of communication in our busy, modern world. Many people write emails without thinking about them. Of course, that means their emails often get ignored. Armed with these tips, you can craft an email that is sure to get a response. Now, go out there and write an email that would make Hemingway weep.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Keep a Journal

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Journal writing is one of the easiest and most rewarding methods to improve your writing skill. They’re not just for children anymore. Long gone are the days of “Dear Diary, today I met the boy of my dreams.” In their place is the journal, a simple record of daily life, a snapshot of an individual’s perspective of the world around them.


A journal is much more rewarding than a diary. It can help you track progress, set goals, and remain motivated.


You want to keep a journal, darling? Let me tell you how.


Before you actually record anything, you need to decide which method to use. Will you write down your entries with pen and paper, or will you type your thoughts and concerns into a word processor? Do you want to keep your journal to yourself or share it with the world?


Popular methods of journaling include pen and paper, typing into a word processor, blogging, tweeting, and even letter writing. If you want to write longhand, you can use a composition book, spiral notebook, sticky notes, or specially-made bound book. If you have your heart set on blogging, there are dozens of platforms and hosting websites to choose from. You should select whichever method you’re most comfortable with.


Once you’ve decided on a medium, you should figure out a chunk of time to set aside for writing. This time should be treated as sacred. Make sure you can find a quiet space free of distractions where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, this time should be daily, though it can be weekly or monthly depending on the type of journal that you want to keep.


There are many different types of journals. You can pick any of these ideas, combine some, or create one of your own. A few different types of journals include dream, career, personal, food, goal, exercise, and task journals. Much like the medium itself, which type of journal you choose to keep should depend on your personal preference.


Daily journal writing is a fantastic exercise. It keeps your mental muscles fit and limber. Additionally, it’s very rewarding to look back through your entries and see how far you’ve come. A journal can serve as a record of your progress and personal growth. So what are you waiting for? Go get a journal!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When to Stop Editing

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Ah, the red pen—a staple of exemplary writing.


Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets alike utilize red pens to edit their work. If you don’t use a red pen, you’re certainly familiar with the backspace key and the Track Changes option on your word processor. Editing is a vital part of the writing process. You can’t have good writing without rewriting. As Patricia Fuller said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” It’s foolish.


Of course, there is such a thing as too much editing.


When basic revising crosses the line into overanalyzing every single word and piece of punctuation, you know you’re in trouble. Although revising is important, it needs to have a finite end. No piece of writing can be more than nearly perfect. If you go through the same piece over and over again without stopping, you’re sacrificing time and effort better given to new projects.


I am now and have always been a perfectionist. I’m rarely satisfied with my completed pieces. When editing my work, I have a hard time stopping myself. There’s always something that needs to be fixed—in my eyes, at least.


As writers, we can also be our own worst critics. Our standards are different than everyone else’s. Sometimes the prose is not as bad as our minds make it out to be.


Additionally, editing can turn into a vehicle for procrastination. When we’re afraid to start new projects, we waste all our time on polishing pieces that are already excellent. Sometimes we just need to stop. Sometimes we need to give up.


We need to walk away.


If you’re waiting for someone to tell you that your work is perfect, the wait is over. You want someone to tell you that it’s okay to stop? To move on? To start something new?


That's where I come in.


That thing you’ve been editing to death is fine exactly as it is, I promise.


It's not a monster. It won’t frighten anybody. Slide it into your desk drawer, close the drawer, and go outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play with your children.


Write something else.


The world doesn’t end just because you stop editing.


What do you think? When do you stop editing?

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Write a Thank You Note

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Imagine getting mail, real physical mail.


You skip down to the mailbox, open the door, and pull out a little envelope addressed specifically to you. Ecstatic, you race back to your living room and tear open the envelope. Inside is a small card with the word “Thanks” on the front. You open the card and read a beautiful thank you note from a potential employee you interviewed earlier that week.


In a busy world, you’re impressed that he took the time to write to you.


Thank you cards are undeniably classy. They say so much without saying a word. By sending a thank you card, you can voice your heartfelt appreciation for a gift, service, or opportunity. While the younger generation might not appear to value thank you cards, they are very important.


If you want to learn to write great thank you notes, follow this simple formula:


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Some other points to consider:




  • If someone gives you stationery, write a thank you note to them on a piece of the stationery

  • Always send a thank you note after a job interview

  • A good rule of thumb: send a thank you note unless the gift-giver sees you open the gift in person


Thank you notes are underrated. They can make a bigger difference than you think and often mean the difference between blending in and standing out. The next time someone does something nice for you, why not remind them how much you care?


What do you think? Do you write thank you notes?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Post from Danielle McAnn: The Power of the Pen

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Or these days it would probably be a typewriter more accurately. Nonetheless, it has the same amount of power. We are all taught to read and write properly as children, in order to be able to communicate with each other better. Here’s why it’s worthwhile improving your writing skills. Writing is communication, and the better we can communicate, the better our friendships and relationships are. Writing is also entertainment, and to be able to entertain (through a play, a novel, a letter, a poem), is a powerful thing. Writing is also persuasion, and the better we can persuade, the more we can influence our lives and surroundings. Moreover, you will never have a job in which you don’t need to read or write even a little, so the better your literacy skills are, the more employable you will be. All of the very most accomplished people in the world (think Barack Obama and Oprah) are also people with great literacy, and excellent reading and writing skills.


Secondly, here’s how. Training companies like GAPS writing offer courses in writing and effective communication, and how to improve your writing skills. Here’s something a little more basic; you improve your writing skills by reading. All great writers read variously and prolifically. Language isn’t something you invent on your own, it’s a system that you adapt to your purposes. The better you understand it, the better you’ll be able to use it.


Danielle McAnn is a copywriter working with GAPS. A team composed of professional writers boasting considerable skill and experience in the media, government, commercial and human resources industries. We help business and organisations take their written communication to the next level by delivering clear and powerful content and making a significant difference in the perception and clarity of key messages. When Danielle's not writing content she enjoys swimming, shopping and taking her dogs for a walk.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 31: The End

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I finally made it—the last day of the trip. I honestly don’t know how I made it out alive.


At the beginning, I was terrified that I wouldn’t make it. I’d never been to Europe before, and I’d never been away from everything I’m familiar with for longer than a month. Somehow, though, I made it.


Here I am. I’m living proof.


Today was an interesting day. This morning, Shannon and I dressed in purple and had breakfast at Speedy’s again in an act of homage to the beginning of our journey. Breakfast was good, but it was also a little disheartening. It was our last breakfast in England, after all.


Even London seemed a little upset that we were leaving. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and we’ve all been complaining. In an effort to entice us to stay here a little longer, London gave us rain and cold temperatures today. I wanted to stay, I really did. I tried to tell London that. It just didn’t get it.


Anyway, after breakfast, we met up with Bryar and our film studies professor and headed downtown to see The Wolverine. I don’t think I would’ve seen it if I hadn’t been abroad. Funny enough, I enjoyed it. I liked it more than I thought I would. Hugh Jackman is awesome.


We spent the rest of our day eating one last meal at Byron, wandering around Oxford Circus, and finishing our packing. It’s 1:13AM in the morning on Wednesday over here. We’re supposed to be down at the buses around 3:15AM, so there’s really no point in going to sleep. It would just make me more tired.


Shannon and I are hanging out in my room, killing time by listening to John Mulaney. I’m going to miss her like nobody’s business. I’m certain that we’ll keep in touch, but it will be really weird not seeing her every day.


I'll miss so much about this place.


I'll miss the Tube, the crowded platforms, the bustling streets, the vicious pigeons, the stupid tourists, and the beautiful accents. I'll miss the way the English behave in an orderly fashion even when they don't feel like it. I'll miss late-night Tesco runs and visits to The Court. I'll miss Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Parliament, and the London Eye.


And most surprisingly, I'll miss the Thames. It is the lifeline of the city.


I am eternally blessed to have had the chance to go on this trip. Even though it’s been expensive, hot, crowded, and stressful, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve learned so much about myself on this trip. I’ve grown and changed. I feel so much better. The friends I’ve made and things I’ve experienced will leave me with memories that will last a lifetime.


Thank you, readers, for traveling with me.


And thank you, London, for being such a great hostess. It’s been fantastic. Hope to see you real soon.

Day Thirty: Finality

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I only have one more day in this fascinating city. It’s bittersweet, really—more bitter than sweet. Don’t get me wrong—I am looking forward to going home. I miss my family, my pets, my friends, and my bed. But I have seriously had the time of my life over here. I’m a different person than I was at the start of this trip, and that’s a good thing.

Yesterday, I took my final exams. In film studies, we had to write an essay featuring each of the ten film movements we studied in class, all while relating them to the way in which they feature urban space. It was an open notebook test. I was grateful for my neat handwriting. On the whole, I think I did well, though I know for a fact that I mixed up two of the movements.

Before the exam, we took surveys about our study abroad experience. The first survey was, of course, a class and instructor evaluation. I popped that one out in no time. Next, we had to answer some questions about the program itself. That, too, was easy.

Then came part two of the self-efficacy questionnaire. I failed to mention that I filled one of those out in the airport before leaving the States. Basically, there were a bunch of questions that we had to answer about ourselves, such as, “Are you an active person?” and “Do you feel comfortable navigating transportation systems in a foreign country?” The answers I gave yesterday were much different from the ones I gave at the start of the trip. Like I said, that’s a good thing. I’ve become a better person. 

In my world civilization class, we took another instructor and class evaluation. It wasn’t bad. We took the exam, which I had studied for. I ended up making a 97. I’m pretty certain that I made As in both of my classes over here, which is moderately surprising but not that exciting. 

Anyway, today it’s cold and rainy. London seems to be trying to convince us to stay. It doesn’t need to change for that. I’m already convinced.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day Twenty-Nine: A Lot of Nothing

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I had plenty of time to blog yesterday, but I was studying. More accurately, I suppose I was trying to study. But I did get some done. That has to count for something.

After sleeping in yesterday morning, I had lunch at Icco with the lovely Shannon. Since the weather was nice, we had our pizza outside. We also took the time to reminisce about the things we’ll miss once we’re back in the States. There’s going to be a reverse culture shock. I think the first time I go to a restaurant and they bring me the check in the middle of eating, I’m going to freak out. They don’t do that here. You get plenty of time to eat in England. If you want the check, you have to ask for it. That’s one little thing that I’m going to miss.

When lunch was over, Shannon and I headed back to the dorms. I studied for my world civilization final exam, but it was hard for me to concentrate. I read the same information over and over again. Zelda came over to study with me. I’m still not sure we accomplished anything. We did get to socialize, though, so that’s good.

A few hours later, Shannon and I went down to The Court for dinner. I’m surprised we’re not on a first name basis with the people there, really. It was trivia night, so the place was packed. It took me a long time to actually order. I had fish and chips. I hadn’t had them in a while, and I thought I needed to get them at least one more time before heading home. Also, The Court has the best fish and chips out of every restaurant I’ve been to. The Court never fails.

I topped the evening off with another brief study session, a long shower, and an early bedtime. I can’t believe I only have a few more days abroad. This month has gone by incredibly fast. I wish that it hadn’t. Still, I have finals today and a free day tomorrow. I’m going to make the most of things.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day Twenty-Eight: When It Rains

Today was not at all like yesterday. For one thing, there weren’t as many opportunities to say, “yes.” You might’ve seen that one coming. But today, it did rain. And we got to get out a bit.

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We went to a market. I’d wanted to go to Camden Town, but the entire Northern Line was shut down today. Those of you who have been to London understand how frustrating line closures can be. We couldn’t get anywhere near Camden Town, no matter how hard we might’ve tried. Instead, we decided to hop on the Central Line to go to Portobello Road Market.

Let me tell you a secret: Portobello Road Market is nicer than Camden. They have nicer shops, a great selection, friendly staff, and cheap prices. Let’s you and I chat about Portobello Market.

The problem with Camden is that it makes you feel cheap. The owners of the shops there seem to think you’re worthless. After all, aren’t you? Camden is insanely busy at any given moment. If you move along without buying anything, there will be another sucker in a couple of minutes. You don’t have much value to anyone there.

At the Portobello Road Market, there are long stretches of quaint shops with people who actually want you there. They value your business. They’re polite to you, and they let you take your time without harassing you to either buy something or go on your merry way.

Portobello Road is awesome. It’s what everyone imagines when they think about shopping in the smaller parts of London. It’s a wonderful place.

I bought some awesome stuff today.

For thirty pounds, I got a pocket watch necklace shaped like a heart, a red maxi skirt, and a cream and green dress. I love all of it. I love Portobello Market. The only reason we didn’t stay longer was that it started raining. I am glad that I got to buy some nice things. I’m also pleased to have spent the day with my friends Shannon, Cynthia, Zelda, Colin, Jim, and Stephen. Those people are brilliant.

Follow this blog for more travel updates as I finish up my adventures in London!

Day Twenty-Seven: Just Say YES

Tina Fey once said, “Say, ‘yes’ to everything, and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” This quotation is so profound to me that I’ve put it as this blog’s subtitle. It’s also been serving as my life strategy for the duration of my trip to London. Yesterday was no exception. 

Let me tell you how saying, “yes” to more things can lead to awesome experiences.

Have you ever had a day that was so fantastic and filled-to-the-brim with adventure that you didn’t want it to end? That was the day that I had yesterday.

I said, “yes” to more things. I said, “yes” to adventure. You can do it, too.

We started off the day by heading out toward Leicester Square. Shannon, Stephen, Cynthia and I went to lunch at Bella Italia before going to M&M World. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a massive, four-level store and interactive experience revolving around the colorful, chocolate delight that is M&M candy. We took pictures, bought some candy, and wandered around the place for an hour or so. It wasn’t until we took one picture in particular that I got my first opportunity to say, “yes” to something.

Stephen, Cynthia, Shannon and I wanted to take a picture in front of the Abbey Road setup because there were four of us. I approached a staff member and asked her if she would mind taking a picture of us. She said she’d be delighted, and then asked if we would be willing to help her with something. She wanted us to take a survey. I agreed. She took the picture. Everything went very well.

We ended up going behind the scenes to participate in a taste test. While I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of the survey, I will say that it was an interesting experience. I would never have been able to participate in it if I hadn’t said, “yes.”

Afterward, Shannon, Cynthia, and I went to the Globe. I hadn’t anticipated going there, but when Shannon suggested it, I said, “yes.” Are you sensing a pattern? We poked around a bit. It was spectacular. I still can’t believe I got to stand where Shakespeare might have stood at one point in history. Life is surreal.

Speaking of surreal, we also went to the Clink Prison Museum, which was interesting, but in a much different sense. We had to pay almost eight pounds. I’m not sure it was worth it. I did, however, enjoy the torture exhibit. Much more extensive than the one at the Tower.

Our final stop for the day was The National Gallery. I’d been dying to see some art. The museum was extraordinary—much more so because it was absolutely free. Visual art never ceases to amaze me. We even got to see the impressionist exhibit. I saw original pieces by Van Gogh, Manet, Money, Cezanne, and Seurat. It was all so incredible. I can’t put it into words.

I could go on and on about yesterday. I said, “yes” to a few things and it changed my whole day. Whatever tomorrow holds, I’m looking forward to it. I’m saying, “yes.” Subscribe to, follow, or check out my blog to find out what happens to me today.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day Twenty-Six: The War

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My final class field trip took place today. Additionally, I realized that I have less than a week left in this fantastic country. I have mixed emotions. On one hand, I want nothing more than to go back home. I miss home-cooked meals, sleeping in my own bed, and so many other things.  At the same time, I am more in love with London than I've ever been with any other city, including New York, It's everything that I hoped it would be and so much more. Every day is better than the last (for the most part). I wish I could stay here a little bit longer.

I digress.

I went down to the front steps of Astor at 8:45 this morning to meet my world civilization class. Unfortunately, they were not there. I was an hour early. I went back upstairs.

At 9:45, I actually met up with my professor and classmates on the front steps of the college. We walked to the British Library to see an exhibit on propaganda. Since I love Nineteen Eighty-Four, it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed the exhibit. The only thing I didn't like was being unable to take pictures. Some of the advertisements were definitely shocking. I wish I could share them. Here's an example:

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As you can imagine, there was plenty of propaganda-related memorabilia in the library's store. I purchased the most recent Penguin Classics edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The title and author are completely censored by black barsI thought it was fitting.

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After visiting the library, we broke for lunch. Zelda, Colleen, and I went across the street to Pizza Express. We shared the dough knots dipped in garlic butter. I also had pizza. Everything was delicious. I'm still not sure who told me that the food in England was awful. It must've been someone who's never actually eaten anything here before.


When lunch was over, we took the Tube to Westminster. St. James Park was close to the Tube station. We wandered through there on our way to the Churchill War Rooms Museum. The scenery was lovely. London has given me a newfound appreciation for parks. I totally understand why people want to sit outside now. The weather was so nice today. I could've spent the whole afternoon under a tree.


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The Churchill War Rooms were spectacular. I'd heard nothing but good things about them before my trip, and I was not disappointed. I love Winston Churchill, and the wartime proceedings are fascinating to me. The War Rooms were set up just as they had been during World War II. Everything was still in remarkable condition. I took too many pictures. I'll only post a few here.


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Somehow, though, Zelda and I managed to skip an entire room. We missed the Winston Churchill Museum. We only went through the War Rooms. I don't know what happened. At least we made it to the exit.


After the field trip, Zelda and I hung out in my room and tried to get some homework done. We didn't get very far. It was nice to hang out. Then I went to dinner with Ashley, Heather, Jim, and Jordan. We ate somewhere on Tottenham Court Road. It was awesome. We had dessert at Haagen Daz. Oh, man. What a day.


Now we're all hanging out in my room. Colleen and Raneem are in here, laughing and being loud and it's hilarious. They've had a great night so far. It's all very entertaining. Those girls are wonderful. Oh my gosh.


I don't want to leave London. I want to stay here forever. I am so torn. Anyway, I need to go to bed. We're going to M&M World tomorrow. I cannot wait.

Day Twenty-Five: The World's End

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Tuesday was exhausting for no reason in particular. I had my last day of classes, which was honestly bittersweet. It's strange to me that I have finals on Monday. We're leaving on Wednesday. I think I might actually be looking forward to going home. I will miss it here, but you know, I will hopefully be back at some point in the future.

Classes, as I said before, were bittersweet, really. It was my last class day, not counting finals. In film studies, we watched Trainspotting, which is a film about Scottish heroin addicts. I'd seen it before, but I was still excited. For some reason, I had a hard time staying awake. That was strange. After film studies, I had to take a nap because I couldn't keep my eyes open. Then, I went to world civilization and learned about World War II. Today, we're going to the Chuchill War Rooms Museum. Aw, yeah.

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Once classes were finished, I returned to my room to watch Catfish. Cynthia, Shannon, Heather and I ended up hanging out and watching it together. I'm really going to miss those wonderful ladies.

Later that evening, Shannon and I went with Colin, Jim, and Stephen to a pub in Camden called The World's End. You may notice that The World's End is also the title of a movie featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I thought that this pub would be the one featured in the film. It wasn't. It was pretty nice, though, just not what I expected.

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Feeling a bit let down by The World's End, we all hopped on the Tube and headed back to The Court, which never lets us down. I ate the smothered chicken and it was delicious. Also, I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone. I do know that all this quality time is going to make it harder to leave. We won't think about that.

Today, I have my very last field trip. Tomorrow, I think a bunch of us are going to Camden Market. My time in this country is coming to a close. The less I think about that, the better off we'll be.

 

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day Twenty-Four: Urban Playground

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Yesterday wasn't one of the best days, but it was one of the best nights. During the day, I had classes, as per usual. In film studies, we watched The Devil Rides Out starring Christopher Lee. It was an example of "Hammer horror." Very cheesy, but I still enjoyed it. And Shannon and I now have a lot more inside jokes. In world civilization, we studied World War I, which is one of my favorite periods in history.

After classes, Shannon and I headed over to Trafalgar Square to purchase tickets to see The Hothouse starring John Simm, an actor who played The Master in Doctor Who. The play was very interesting. It's a political satire that takes place in a sanatorium. The dialogue and subtext was a little confusing, but I enjoyed it. And John Simm was beautiful. Shannon and I purchased our tickets for 10GPB. They were balcony seats. It wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't ideal. Luckily, we were upgraded to seats on the second row of the audience, close enough to almost touch the actors! Afterwards, we went to the stage door and got to meet some members of the cast. Also, I was so nervous that I took the worst photo of my life with Shannon's camera. I'm ashamed. Still, I didn't pee my pants or take my clothes off. I count that one as a win.

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When the show was over, we ran around Trafalgar Square like little kids. It's beautiful at night. The fountains were lit up and everything. We climbed on top of the monument in the center and took pictures with the lions. It was fantastic.

I am head-over-heels in love with this city. It's breathtakingly lovely. I don't want to leave. I can only hope that someday, I'll be able to come back here. I'd love to live here. I guess we'll see.

 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 23: Can't Complain

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I don't remember anything major happening yesterday. The fire alarm woke me from a sound sleep at seven in the morning. After collecting my keys and my purse, I staggered outside with the rest of the grumpy horde. Luckily, whatever fire existed in the building was extinguished quickly, and I was able to go back to bed. I didn't even care that people saw me in my pajamas. I was not on fire.

After waking up again, I did some homework. Matt and I went out for coffee and to Paperchase.  Matt, Jordan, Ashley, and I all hung out in my room and played Hangman until Shannon got back from Scotland. I had forgotten about Hangman. We all went to The Court and hung out for a while before heading back to the dorms.

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I gave Shannon my fries from the other night to heat up in the microwave. Just as she was about to eat them, Heather stumbled into the kitchen with her foot wrapped in a towel. A bloody towel. I followed her back to her room to help fix her up. Luckily, I'm not uncomfortable with blood. She cut her foot on some glass, but I managed to stop the bleeding and put some gauze on the wound.

Finally, I went to bed. Or at least, I tried to. My mind wouldn't calm down. I only got four hours of sleep. Oh, well, whatever. There's always tonight.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 22: Camden Town

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I spent a great deal of time in Camden yesterday. After eating the best chicken burger of my life (at Byron), Ashley, Heather, and I headed over to Camden Market. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it's like one giant flea market with stalls and tents full of clothing, souvenirs, jewelry, and anything else you could possibly imagine. I am going back as much as I can before we go back to the States. It is amazing. I only spent 20GPB, and I got a lot of stuff. I even got to use some haggling skills I picked up in Mexico.

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Exhausted after a few hours of shopping, the girls and I headed back to the dorms. I had a date to prepare for. I don't want to give too much away, but it was probably the best first date I've ever been on. Of course, he doesn't know that (but he probably figured it out). He took me to a pub in Camden, where we sat and talked for two hours. Then, we went to the highest hill in London. When we got to the top, we could see the entire city skyline lit up in the darkness (I KNOW).

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This guy was a perfect gentleman. The conversation was excellent, and we're pretty comfortable around each other. Everything went swimmingly. Enough gushing, I know. But I'm pretty happy.

I only have ten more days in this beautiful city. Today, I'm doing homework, going to Abbey Road, and who knows what else. I'm pretending I don't have to go back to the States. So far, the denial is working for me. And on that note, I'm going to get back to work. Tomorrow is still a school day, after all.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Days 20 and 21: Bittersweet Symphony

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Thursday, I was almost struck down by wave of nostalgia. Oddly enough, I was feeling nostalgic about my time in London, even though it's far from over. I only have two weeks left over here. Quite frankly, it's not enough time. I want to stay here forever.

London is everything I expected it to be and more. It's a city that doesn't quite feel like a city. It's sprawling and intimate at the same time. The people, for the most part, keep to themselves. The ones I have spoken to are friendly and polite (save for a few drunken gentlemen at the pub). The city is bustling during the day. At night, it sleeps. It's wonderful.

But I digress. I started this post to talk about the events of Thursday and Friday. Thursday was fairly boring. I went to the British Museum with my world civilization class. The building was massive. We were supposed to spend the majority of our time in the Asia galleries because we'd been studying China and Japan. Zelda and I breezed through the gallery. We wandered around some of the other exhibits, but they were hot and crowded. When we finally met up with the rest of the group, it felt to me as though an eternity had passed.

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We had lunch at a little tea place a couple minutes' walk from the museum. I wasn't hungry because I'd gotten too hot, but I did order a slice of lemon cake and a Nutella cupcake (delicious). Then, we visited the Twinings Tea Museum, which was only one big room. I don't have much to say about that.

After the field trip, I came back to my room and took a nap because I'm still getting over being sick. Next, I went to the Spaghetti House with Cynthia, Matt, Stephen, and Jim in honor of Cynthia's birthday. I ordered chicken wings, and I only got three. Appetizer portion. Thanks, Europe! Anyway, it was good. Once we'd finished eating, Jim went to an Internet cafe, Stephen and Cynthia ran to Tesco, and Matt and I wandered around in search of an ATM.

Later, I went to the pub with Matt, Jim, and John. We didn't stay very long because it was crowded and hot. Are you sensing a theme here?

Friday (yesterday), I hung out with Heather and Ashley for most of the day. I love those ladies. We had lunch at Pizza Express and wandered around Baker Street in search of the Beatles store. Although it was difficult, we managed to find it. The store wasn't huge, but it had an excellent selection. I didn't end up buying anything. The t-shirts along were 25GPB. No thank you.

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We got back from our excursion and rested for several hours. Then, we went to East Street for dinner. It was some of the best Asian food I've ever eaten. We came back to the dorms, changed clothes, and did our hair and makeup. Once we were ready, we headed out to O'Neill's with Angelica, Jordan, and Matt for a little bit of dancing. It was fantastic. A bit too crowded for my taste, but I managed all the same. By the time we got back, I was exhausted.

I only have eleven days or so until I go home. It's bittersweet, it really is. I love this city. I could picture myself spending a great deal more time here. This experience has been extraordinary for me. It's done so much good. I can't wait to tell everyone all about it. With that being said, there are a couple of things (and people) I miss back home. I guess when it comes down to it, I am a little glad I'll be going back to the States at the end of all of this.
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