Attention, writers

Has anyone heard of Jericho Writers? It’s the new manifestation of what was formerly known as The Writers Workshop, a site offering editing services, manuscript critiques and such, to aspiring as well as established writers. I’d availed myself of these services a few times, and always found them excellent. They also ran the Word Cloud, a free writers’ community where a bunch of us chatted away, critiqued each other’s work in a very encouraging manner, voiced our opinions freely and ran informal writing competitions amongst ourselves.
Finally, they organised various events, including the yearly Festival of Writing at York University, an extremely fun, inspiring and useful occasion where one can meet agents, writers, editors, publishers and, mostly, like-minded people.
However, some time ago, the Writers Workshop was totally overhauled and ended up morphing into Jericho Writers, the excuse being that the technology propping it up was now obsolete, could not be improved upon and needed changing.
Us old cronies in the Word Cloud were pretty annoyed about that: we did not like our habits interfered with, and we did not like having to pay for something which was formerly free. And, although we were promised the old Word Cloud would remain intact, while admitting no new members, it slowly became decrepit—as someone remarked,’It’s like a ghost town in there now.’ And maybe it’s just me, but the last couple of times I looked, it appeared to be dead. Maybe the technology did give up after all.
However, it’s no use being grumpy and expecting things to remain the same forever, and I have to admit the new site looks both chic and user-friendly. So, (full disclosure,) I jumped at the chance of a free annual subscription in return for an honest review.
Before writing this, I navigated around the whole thing thoroughly, and I must admit I was impressed. Their services are pretty comprehensive, offering the following:
Editorial advice: various forms of manuscript assessment (for everything from novels, to non-fiction to play-writing to children’s books). Also copy-editing.
Tutored courses: A range of 7 online courses, including Debi Alpert’s famous ‘Self-editing your novel’ course. Sadly, I’ve never taken it myself, but others who did rave about it.
There are filmed interviews with agents and writers, and Masterclasses, which are shorter courses on a wide range of subjects. These are free for members, as is a free advice service.
Events: a few one-day seminars plus the Festival of Writing at York, which I mentioned above. I’ve attended a couple of time, and it was amazing.
Literary Agents: there is a comprehensive list of agents in the UK and US, catering to all genres, and a service called Agents Match which helps you find a suitable agent.
And finally the Townhouse, which has replaced the old Word Cloud community. Open only to members.
The site is pleasant and easy to navigate, and members get a lot of freebies, and a discount on all paid-for services.
Is it worth the annual €250 subscription? I must admit I did not have time to research other sites offering similar services, in order to make comparisons. I think that if you were going to avail yourself of what they offer on a regular basis, especially for people living within reach of London and who can attend the events, it would definitely be worth it, since their product is excellent (at least whatever I’ve tried or used so far).
Finally, they did insist that reviews had to be honest, so I  will admit to a couple of gripes.
1. The writers’ community, the Townhouse, is not there yet. The old participants are staying away (I’ve only recognized a few so far). A lot of the discussions are started by Jericho themselves, with little or no response from writers. In the old Word Cloud, you had to fill in a little profile, which made others get to know you a little. Now all you get to  see is a plain name, mostly without even an image or logo. Also in the past you could form groups, ‘friend’ people, etc—it was very convivial.
I hope it’ll get there eventually, but a lot of tweaking is needed. At the moment, it’s just like similar situations on other sites, whereas before, it was a special place to be. However, in the spirit of not being grumpy, etc, I have joined in, and will see how it goes.
2. Some corrections are needed in the list of literary agents, because a few names are repeated up to 4 times (i.e. Lisa Ekus), which is confusing and a little unprofessional. Also a lot of people on the forums seem dissatisfied with the Agent Match feature, complaining that it doesn’t work properly. Jericho have promised to fix it, but I confess to not having a personal opinion on the matter, since I haven’t tried to use it yet.
3. A final suggestion: it would be nice to have a course in memoir writing—I noticed the lack thereof because it’s something I’ve been interested in lately.
To sum up, definitely worth taking a look (here).
Even if you just subscribed to the newsletter to begin with, you get emails with lots of interesting tips, and you can always join in some events or take the occasional course at full price.
Note: the photographs are all from their site.

1457. Poster in a church in France

Couldn’t resist re-blogging this! From Bruce Goodman’s great blog, Weave a Web.

Weave a Web

(This is a translation of an actual poster in France)

After entering this church, you may hear “the call of God”. However, it is unlikely he will call you on his mobile. Thank you for turning off your phones.

If you wish to talk to God, by all means do so. Come in and choose a quiet place.

If you wish to see Him, send a text while driving.

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Mystery in Greece: follow six Greek detectives and discover amazing holiday destinations

Here’s a post full of goodies for avid readers of mystery and crime. Enjoy!

Lina Syriopoulou

This is my favourite article from the time I wrote for the Greek News Agenda public diplomacy magazine. It combines my two big loves: travelling in Greece and crime litterature. Here, I am proposing six mystery novels that will inspire you to discover three Athenian neighborhoods and will guide you to another three breathtaking holiday destinations. The article had many unique visits but  the most wonderful part for me was that it was descovered and promoted by the authors themselves through their social media. 

Crime_in_Athens

Athens

In Kifissia with Commissioner George Békas – Dangerous Spring

Follow the “patriarch” of the Greek crime literature and descover the secrets of the Athenian high society. Yannis Maris is the author who established the crime novel genre in Greece in the ‘50s. His main character, Commissar Békas is depicted as an everyday man who nevertheless is not afraid to defy the rich and powerful in…

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Here, There & Everywhere IMK Post

Is anyone hungry? Here’s another of the good sides of Greece—food! Local specialities and more…

An Evolving Life

I was away from my kitchen for the first part of the month. We were on holiday in Epirus, northern Greece, in the Pindos mountains, an area known as Zagoria. Just to remind us where we were, painted folk art on a plastiri (πλαστήρι), a traditional round board for rolling out thin sheets of homemade phyllo, spells it out. Not only was it pretty, it was symbolic of one of the notable culinary elements of Zagori food – the pita or pie, often made with homemade phyllo. I have two recipes for pies from this region to share when I get the chance – blatsaria (μπλατσαριά) and tembelopita (τεμπελόπιτα) – although neither of these uses phyllo.

We were staying in the central Zagori village of Vitsa with its mountain views and stone roofs.

Rhythms of life in the mountain villages begin with the morning bread delivery in the van. After…

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Cola tins transformed to art

I think these are marvelous! It’s fantastic when artists use their imagination to overcome shortcomings such as lack of funds or other materials. This type of recycling is done a lot by African artists such as El Anatsui, about whom more to come.

Art Scene Athens

christidou

IN THE age of the Greek crisis, some artists look further towards alternative methods of creativity and materials. Most traditional art materials are expensive, but there are also options that are free, and everywhere: arte povera was a movement that pioneered this approach in a conceptual manner, back in the Sixties and Seventies. Today,  Lefki Christidou has found some contemporary ‘poor materials’ of her choice, using them in a more decorative style, especially the Coca-Cola tin, which adds a slightly more pop aesthetic to her work.Christidou2It’s also in line with how artists today combine the art process with recycling. She manages to transform this everyday object into flowers, cats, people, landscapes and more, at Athens’s Gallery 7, in an exhibition entitled ‘Debt relief programme – developments’. Opens on September 25 (runs till October 13).

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From Sepolia to the NBA

After yesterday’s post about a boy who went from being a refugee to playing basketball in the Greek A1 league, I could not avoid mentioning our ‘Greek Freak,’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis is not an immigrant himself, but his parents were. They are Nigerian, and came to Greece from Lagos via Turkey, in 1991.

 

 

Three years later, on December 6, 1994, Giannis was born in Athens. Even though he and three of his four brothers were born in Greece, they did not automatically qualify to receive full Greek citizenship. For the first 18 years of his life, Giannis had no papers from Nigeria or Greece, and only officially became a Greek citizen in 2013.

Antetokounmpo grew up poor, in the Athens neighborhood of Sepolia. Like many other immigrants, his parents struggled to find work, so Giannis and his older brother, Thanasis, helped out by hawking items such as watches, bags and sunglasses. But Antetokounmpo’s father, Charles, was a former Nigerian association football player, while his mother, Veronica, is a former high jumper. Giannis was tall and athletic, and loved basketball, and by 2009 he was playing competitively for the youth squad of the Greek team Filathlitikos. 

 

With his family, in Sepolia

In 2012, Antetokounmpo joined the senior squad of Filathlitikos and played for them in Greece’s second-tier basketball league, the Greek A2 League, during the 2012–13 season.

In December 2012, just days after turning 18, Antetokounmpo signed a four-year deal with Spanish club CAI Zaragoza. However, he never ended up playing in Spain, nor with the Greek A1 league.

He made himself eligible for the 2013 NBA draft and was selected 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Since then, he’s set many personal career heights.

 

 

At 22 years and 74 days old, he became the youngest player in franchise history to start in an All-Star Game. He also became the first Greek NBA All-Star,  and his special talents earned him the nickname ‘Greek freak.’ The awards he has collected are too numerous to mention and he has legions of fans.

Giannis is very family-oriented, and his brothers are all athletic. Despite the problems he encountered in his childhood, he lauds his adopted country wherever he goes, and has represented Greece multiple times. He served a reduced military service, as all Greek men who permanently live abroad are allowed to do.

Here’s a peek at what Giannis can do:

 

Is there a moral to this? Only that a lot of us have ancestors who had to move, due to different circumstances, such as poverty or war, to another country, leaving behind all they knew. Most countries owe a lot to immigration, and totally closed societies die off eventually. At the moment we are facing an unprecedented crisis, and, in my opinion, it is up to us to deal with it in a way that will enrich our communities.

No cause for celebration

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras hailed it as a ‘day of liberation ‘ and the ‘end of a modern day Odyssey’: after about nine years of unbearable austerity, Greece has exited the bailout program.

“Greece has managed to stand on her feet again,” the prime minister’s office announced last week, describing receipt of a final €15bn bailout loan as “The last act in the drama. Now a new page of progress, justice and growth can be turned.”

However, celebrations are premature: not only in my opinion, but according to several experts, the bailout was a disaster for Greece, since the loans were designed to help Northern European banks, not the Greek government, nor the Greek people.

 

Photo from Benaki Museum Archives

 

If their purpose was to support the Greek economy, the emergency loans must be considered a failure. Greece is now the fourth poorest country in the EU behind Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. In an economy that has contracted by 26%, a fifth of the working population – two-fifths of young people – have been left unemployed, while about 500,000 people have fled, mostly to EU member states in Europe’s wealthier north.

Although Greece might be now able, after many years, to borrow again at market rates, and Tsipras is at pains to play down outside supervision, we will still be subject to a regime of enhanced surveillance. Further pension cuts are in store.

Also, a return to borrowing has been made much more difficult because of market turbulence caused by financial problems in both Italy and Turkey. In the midst of his triumphant pronouncements, Tsipras has nevertheless warned of “fresh battles ahead” as the country prepares its first budget measures following the end of its international bailout.

The country faces decades of austerity since, contrary to widely held beliefs, less than €10 billion or a fraction of less than 5% of the overall programme went to the Greek fiscal budget. In contrast, the vast majority of the money went to existing creditors in the form of debt repayments and interest payments. Athens will be repaying a €322bn debt mountain for next 42 years.

Scary? If you talk to Greeks who’ve had to sell their house, whose kids have left for a better life abroad, whose businesses have gone bankrupt, who have zero faith in their leaders, I can assure you not many of them will be opening the champagne just yet.