Tag Archives: Greek

The Quotable Greek: The Mind Is Not a Vessel

15 Apr

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled

but a fire to be kindled.”

~ Plutarch

The Quotable Greek: A Citizen of the World

11 Mar

“I am not an Athenian or a Greek,

but a citizen of the world.”

~ Socrates

 

I Am Crowned

27 Dec

200px-Saint_Stephen_11cent

Have you ever noticed that Greek families all seem to be named after the same relative? It’s customary in Greek culture to name the firstborn boy after his papou, the father’s father, and the firstborn girl after her yiayia, the father’s mother. Subsequent children are named after the mother’s side of the family.

According to the Greek Orthodox faith, though, children are supposed to be named after the saint whose feast day they are born on.

A child born on December 27 would be named after Saint Stephen. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church. However, after a vicious argument, he was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by stoning. Standing up for himself and his beliefs, he said that those Church leaders were the very people who persecuted the prophets. He is now recognized as a martyr.

The name “Stephen” comes from the Greek word “stephanos,” which translates to “crowned.”

My birthday is not December 27 nor was my yiayia’s name Stephania, so my name is a bit of a break from the Greek culture. I’m actually named after my father’s stepfather.  And yes, family reunions can get a bit confusing, with my cousin Stefanos and I both responding to “Stef.”

Today I’ll be celebrating my name with my family!

How did you get your name? Do you celebrate your name day? 

“Beat Generation” Premieres during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

10 Oct

 

Kerouac’s play “Beat Generation,” written the same year that On the Road was published, will also have its premiere tonight.  The event stage production is taking place during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, the week-long literary where fans from across the country make their pilgrimage to Kerouac’s hometown in Massachusetts.

As The Guardian reports, until around 2005, Kerouac’s play “The Beat Generation” sat unpublished in a New Jersey warehouse. In 2006 Da Capo Press published the play, with an introduction by A. M. Holmes.  Kerouac, who had a great interest in film, never got to see his own play put on or his novels made into a film.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) raised funds through Kickstarter to stage the play in Lowell and is presented with UMass Lowell.  It was made with “the support and collaboration of Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas,” according to MRT.

The play centers around the same group of New York City friends Kerouac often wrote about, as they pass around a bottle of wine.  Perhaps even more so than his novels, which are rich in poetry, the emphasis in “Beat Generation” is on dialogue.  Kerouac had a great ear for the unique syncopation of everyday language and the lingua franca of the working class.  As Kerouac himself said:

One thing is sure: It is now a real play, an original play, a comedy but with overtones of sadness and with some pretty fine spontaneous speeches that are as good as Clifford Odets.

Odets (1906-1963) was a playwright raised in Philly and the Bronx who wrote such plays as Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy.  Born to Russian- and Romanian-Jewish immigrant parents, Odets used ethnic language and street talk in his plays.  Arthur Miller said of Odets’ work,  ″For the very first time in America, language itself . . . marked a playwright as unique.″  Kerouac himself was the son of immigrant French-Canadian parents and made use of both ethnic language–his own joual dialect as well as Greek and Spanish–and street talk.

For information on the special events surrounding the play as well as tickets, visit MRT.

Social Media Lessons from SXSW 2012

11 Jul

Calvin Reid makes insightful remarks about the role e-technology and social media are playing in publishing in “SXSW 2012: New Publishing Models and the Rise of the Referral Economy.”  If you’re new to publishing and looking to make your mark on the industry and find readers, I’d highly encourage you to read the entire article.  To his point on “curating,” here’s some remarks of his that you might find especially helpful:

  • “Altounian said he’s targeting a demographic under the age of 40 that wants to read on an array of devices anytime they want and they don’t want to pay much, if anything, for the content they read on them. … Altounian was making the point that, at least for emerging artists, getting their content in front of readers through traditional publishers is an uphill battle that doesn’t work for everyone; that his goal is to build a list of self-branded artists (using social media tools) and by offering some free content now, and some for-pay content later when the freebie-oriented audiences for these artists reaches critical mass and wants more of their stuff.”
  • “Certainly one of the most intellectually vivid panels was Curators or the Curated, a panel examining the phenomenon of content sharing—essentially the practice of any and everyone linking to content and sending it out to followers and friends around the web—and what that means to publishers, creators and the curators themselves. … In theory curators bring attention to content and drive traffic to the original site; in practice some curators are having more impact than the publications they curate from. And its generated a debate about the practice and what it means—and of course how to monetize it.”
  • “He also rejected some of the anti-advertising curatorial comments, noting that business platforms were important and that he had worked for a Minn.-based newspaper that did away with escort ads and the loss of revenue killed the newspaper.”

What I take away from this is the following:

Writers need to start building a platform NOW—as in, even before we’ve written our book, we need to start curating content on our subject matter.  This means tweeting, forwarding, and “liking,” other writers’ posts related to our subject and also blogging, tweeting, and writing our own status updates on our subject.

Generate content and don’t be afraid to give it away for free.  It’s better to give our writing away for free in the beginning so that we can establish ourselves as authorities on that topic and/or as interesting storytellers.  Eventually, people will love you and want to buy your writing—but it might take a lot of giving your work away for free first.  Michael Hyatt is a big proponent of giving away free content.  Not only does he give away valuable information on his blog, but he also created an ebook that he gives to anyone who subscribes to his blog.  Both the blog subscription and the ebook are free.

Don’t be all holier than thou about advertising.  Solicit advertising for your blog.  I personally would suggest keeping your advertising in line with your brand—and your brand should probably be consistent with how you’d want to be thought of by your friends and parents as well.  What I mean is, I personally would rather go hungry than earn money from escort ads.  The best ads are going to be ones that relate to your subject matter.  So if I’m writing about Greek identity, ads about learning how to play the harmonica aren’t going to be controversial but they won’t be as relevant as ads about learning how to speak Greek.

Humbly consider the rights to your content.  Bloggers may quote rather heavily from anything you post—and by heavily, I mean they might use your work entirely and just give you credit via a link.  This might be a breach of your copyright, but before you get your knickers in a bunch consider if their promotion of your work might be helping you out with some free advertising.  Maybe it’s bringing new readers to your work.  …But then again, maybe it’s not.  Therefore, always be careful with what sort of content you put on your blog.  Sure, someone could pirate your whole book, but it’s more likely someone will repost a blog entry than your entire book.  With that in mind, be prepared that what you publish on your blog might end up elsewhere.

Pay attention to your e-rights.  Landing a book contract is about more than just the print rights these days.  Make sure your contract expressly states an agreement about electronic and print-on-demand editions.

It feels like writers—and artists of any sort—get a raw deal.  We have to give a lot of free content away.  Professionals in other industries don’t seem to have to do this to the same extent.  Lawyers may work an occasional pro bono case, but they’re not expected to work for free before making it big.  Doctors may do Doctors Without Borders to give back and help people, but this is a personal choice they make.  I suppose in some ways artists giving away their work—and having it stolen from them in the case of extreme curating—is an internship of sorts, but the difference is that artists are expected to intern their entire lives or at least until they hit it big.

Therefore, I’d encourage all artists to be savvy.

Yes, you might feel pressured to build your platform and give away content for free, but make sure you’re getting something in return for your investment.

Don’t let your platform overtake your writing.  Your platform is a means to an end—your book project.

Use the system.  There’s nothing wrong with giving away content for free.  There’s nothing wrong with soliciting ads.  There’s nothing wrong with social media.  Don’t let anyone or any platform rule over you.  Keep your goals in perspective and use the system to your advantage.  Find your target audience, make connections, earn money, promote your projects.

You can find me not only here on this blog, but also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

I’m Reading at The Penny Farthing 6/18/12

13 Jun

 

I’ll be reading one of my Greek American stories this Monday night, June 18, at The Penny Farthing!

The Storytellers event, hosted by C3, starts at 7 and will be in the super cool downstairs speakeasy of The Penny Farthing at 103 3rd Avenue (@ 13th Street) in New York City.

Hope to see you there!

Greek Goddess Skin with Korres Pomegranate Toner & Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment

4 Jun

Thanks to Persephone eating those seeds of the pomegranate, we now experience the changing of the seasons, according to Greek mythology.  Now that spring has sprung and summer is around the corner, modern Greek goddesses are spending more time outdoors and less time caking on makeup.  These warm months are all about catching free summer concerts in the park, vineyard hopping in the Hamptons, and stalking the Coolhaus truck without worrying if your makeup is sweating off.     

The Korres Pomegranate line is perfect for baring your skin this season.

I really love how gentle the Korres Pomegranate Toner is.  I have delicate, sensitive skin and so many toners are just too harsh.  The Korres Pomegranate Toner feels like water—mythical water.  There is absolutely no stinging sensation, and my skin doesn’t feel tight after using it.  Even though it doesn’t feel icy or tingly, I’ve been able to see from my cotton ball that it is working hard to remove impurities.

According to Korres, the Pomegranate Toner:

_Helps purify the skin’s surface by removing excess dirt, oil and impurities while minimizing the look of pores and helping to reduce the appearance or look of redness
_Leaves skin feeling fresh, and looking smoother and more matte
_Formulated with skin conditioners to leave skin feeling soft

It also happens to have a fresh, youthful aroma–unlike most toners, which tend to smell like rubbing alcohol.  Korres Pomegranate Toner has a sweet and invigorating smell.

Even better smelling is the Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment.  However, this product takes about eight weeks to work.  The benefits are impressive, according to Korres:

Breathable, oil absorbing formula to minimize the look/appearance of pores and redness and leave skin with a smooth, matte finish throughout the day.

KEY FEATURES & BENEFITS
_Instantly fills in pores to create a smooth, even skin surface texture.
_Clinically proven after 8 weeks to significantly reduce the visibility of pores (94% of subjects), the appearance of redness (84% of subjects), and improve the overall appearance of skin (88% of subjects)

I’ve been using it only for a few weeks now, and even though it’s probably the best-smelling face-care product I’ve ever used, my skin was shiny as ever in the photos snapped for my MFA graduation and the Mediabistro event I attended. I think my foundation actually rubs most of the product off when I apply it, though, so through trial and error I’ve learned to make sure the Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment is completely dry on my face before applying any face makeup.  (Beauty tip: Apply the Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment all over your face or t-zone, and while it’s drying apply your eye makeup to save time.  It should only take about 20 seconds to dry, and then you can apply foundation.  However, even then, pat your face makeup on gently because if you rub it, the mattifying treatment will come off in the process.)  Even so, the Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment seems to work better for days when I’m not wearing any other face makeup on top of it.  And really, in the summer I don’t want to wear a lot of makeup anyway.

Neither of the scents linger, which is a positive for skincare, but if Korres offered a pomegranate perfume I’d be the first in line.  It’s the perfect daytime scent for summer months.

Greece’s fastest-growing natural skincare company not only draws its inspiration from the flora of Greece, where pomegranates have grown for centuries, it also is committed to eco-friendly practices.  The sleek and sophisticated packaging for Korres Pomegranate Toner and Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment is recyclable, and neither of the products are tested on animals.

So go ahead and channel your inner Greek goddess this summer, knowing that you don’t have to wear a lot of makeup to look beautiful.

Memoir Outtake: Albanian Greeks at the Greek Consulate

16 Apr

All the endangered language research I’ve been doing seeped its way into the rough draft of my memoir.  Below is a scene in which I encounter two darker-skinned boys at the Greek Consulate in New York City.  From the looks of them, I gather that they must be Albanians.  As I’m dealing with my own language issues at the Consulate, I begin to think about theirs.  This section turned out to be too Wikipedia-ish in comparison to the lighter, humorous tone of that chapter in my memoir, so I was advised to take it out.  Still, I found the subject matter fascinating, and so I’m posting it here as an outtake.

Two dark-skinned boys in their teens or twenties—it was hard to tell—filled out paperwork at the long table.  They wore motorcycle-style jackets that made them look tough but in more of a poor than badass look.  I wondered if they were perhaps Albanian refugees.  Cham Albanians began migrating to Greece during the Middle Ages.  They speak the Cham Albanian language, a type of Tosk Albanian that was the language of the most well-known bejtexhinj, Muhamet Kyçyku, first poet of the Albanian National Renaissance.  Bejtexhinj is the oftentimes religious poetry written in Albanian with Arabic alphabet and Persian, Turkish, and Arabic words, that began in the eighteenth-century to rebel against the influence of the Ottoman Empire.  During that time and also in the early twentieth century, Albanians known as  Arvanites came to Greece as well.  The Tosk Albanian dialect they speak, known as Arvanitika, is now an endangered language, as they assimilate into Greek culture.  Though sometimes Arvanitika is used interchangeably, the Orthodox Albanians who in the 1920s came to northeastern Greece, namely to the areas of Western Thrace and Greek Macedonia, are called Shqiptars.  They speak the Northern Tosk Albanian.  Although many Arvanitika fought against the Ottomans in the Greek War for Independence from 1821 to 1832, by World War II the Cham Albanians had sided with Italy and Germany and had to flee from Greece to Albania, Turkey, and the United States.  After the fall of Communism in 1991, another group of Albanians came over to Greece to escape economic depravity.  Today, most Albanians living in Greece self-identify as Greek; they have converted to Greek Orthodox Christianity and speak the Greek language.  Now, listening in on the two boys consulting each other for their paperwork, I couldn’t tell whether they spoke an Albanian dialect or Greek.

Bravo for Writing a Greek-American Memoir

9 Apr

On my lunch break one afternoon I met a man from Greece at a coffee shop.  He had been born in Greece, but currently resides in New York.  He didn’t have the thick Greek accent that would’ve indicated a recent move, and yet like so many Greek people I’ve met, he was still very much hung up on Greece.

After some rather dull conversation he perked up when I told him the memoir I’m writing is about growing up Greek American.  It made me kind of hate him.  I know that’s a terrible, overdramatic reaction, but his reaction gave me the distinct sense that in his eyes my ethnic heritage played a role in my worth.

The Greek American community is incredibly proud of its Greek heritage.  As we should be.  We have a beautiful culture with a rich and fascinating history.  I often feel I don’t live up to Greek ideals.  I know the reason I inwardly cringed when the man expressed interest in my heritage above all else is because I feel like I fall short of the standards of Greek American identity.  I don’t speak the Greek language, I don’t look particularly Greek, and I’m not 100% Greek.  Culturally, I’m not very Greek.

In fact, those who know me well are surprised when I say I’m writing a memoir about growing up Greek American.  Spoiler alert!  The memoir isn’t really about being Greek.  It’s about being American.  It’s about growing up American but going through an experience as an adult that ties me back to Greece.

Life is too complex for anyone to be categorized or valued based on just one aspect of their identity.

Writing Wednesday: Punctuate Your Point with Punctuation

4 Apr

I’ve heard a lot of strange comments in my writing workshops.  Someone once told me they thought from my writing that I wished I was a boy.  Someone else questioned why I write more about Greek identity than Swedish identity.  I expect all sorts of reactions to the content of my essays and that I’ll get criticism in regard to structure.  It comes with the territory.

What I never suspected was that I’d get feedback on my punctuation.

I don’t recall ever hearing anyone else in a workshop receive comments on their lack of use of the oxford comma or their split infinitives.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I criticized someone’s use of parentheses.  If it’s unimportant enough to place in a parenthetical, it’s not important enough to keep in your book.  Edit it out!  Of course there are exceptions: for example, definitions of foreign words.  The other instance of a workshop debate being generated from punctuation had to do with the use of David-Foster-Wallace-like footnotes.  For the most part, though, comments about punctuation—errors in punctuation, that is—are kept to written edits on the writer’s page.

That’s why I found it so curious that at least once a semester, someone raised comments praising my grammar and punctuation.  As an editor by profession, punctuation is important to a fault for me.  I live by Oscar Wilde’s quote:

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma.  In the afternoon I put it back again.

It just never occurred to me that someone might actually notice my punctuation.  After all, correct punctuation should be a given.  And when punctuation is correct, it generally doesn’t stand out to the reader.

I figured readers maybe noticed my punctuation because I use crazy marks like the semicolon.  Who uses the semicolon nowadays?

I’m playing a bit coy, though.  I do believe there’s more to punctuation than it just being correct.  I don’t intend my punctuation to stand out and grab the reader’s attention.  I’m not trying to be a punctuation renegade, experimenting and breaking the rules for purposeful affect.  That said, every comma, every em-dash, and yes, every parenthesis conveys subtle meaning.

Think about it.  When em-dashes (those long dashes between words) appear in a text, doesn’t it make the work feel more modern and fast-paced than a commonplace comma?  And don’t endnotes seem more scholarly than parentheses?

I think punctuation frightens most people.  It brings back all this childhood trauma associated with teachers yelling about sentence fragments and marking papers up with green pen.  Green is the new red.  Green is supposed to be less scary than red, but it isn’t.  It means the exact same thing: you made an error.

Don’t let punctuation poison your prose.  Get a grip on it and use punctuation just as you use diction as one of your writer’s tools to convey your story to your reader.

 

Helpful resources for proper punctuation:

Grammar Girl 

The Copyeditor’s Handbook

Grammar class at New York University