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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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I’ve been absent. For a while, I know.

I do apologize, and I hope to get back into my writing again soon. Family has been my priority lately (as it should be), but unfortunately I’ve been very out of sync with all of this for quite some time. My focus is elsewhere, and I couldn’t or fix that even if I wanted to right now.

That being said, I do have a Rafflecopter giveaway coming up in October. The prizes are free copies of The First in audiobook format. FREE AUDIOBOOKS, PEOPLE!!!

I’ll be blasting the info out on my Facebook page and other social media, as well as here on my website, through my blog, and via my newsletter for those that subscribe to it.

It all starts October 5th, so be ready for it! Tell your friends! Share this blog post!

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you all there (virtually, of course) for the giveaway.

Thank you for your continued support, and I hope to have more updates for you soon. Have a great day, and spend some time with family!

One Year Later…

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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And here I am. And there you are.

You’ve been with me all the way through my journey over the past year. Exactly one year ago today, I published my debut fantasy novel, The First. Amid a scurry of activity and anxiety, I managed to write, edit, and publish a novel that has been sold and read in many countries around the world. One year later, and I still feel that anxiety on a daily basis. Can I make this work? Can I become the published author that I want to be?

The answer is still out there. I’ve learned so much over the last year and a half. I’ve taken on the roles of author, co-editor, co-designer, webmaster, PR Rep, marketing manager, publisher, not to mention all of the other little things that go along with creating a novel. The things I have learned have enriched my life because I love learning new things. I feel empowered when I know I can create things that were unknown to me beforehand. My creative side gets a jump start every time I learn something new.

To all those who have read and reviewed my book, I thank you from the bottom pf my heart. To those of you who continue to read and follow my blog and/or newsletter, my gratitude is undying. This road has been a rocky one, filled with highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Have I let the rotten stuff get to me? Of course I have. This is me we are talking about. I’m still working on developing that thick skin needed for this job.

There is so much more to come. That much I can promise. The First in audiobook format is on its way, just shy of the one-year anniversary for the book. Please share this post with your friends and family. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, the signup is on this page. It’s fast and simple. You can also subscribe to my newsletter (sent out once a month or so) for updates about me, my book, and my work-in-progress.

Once again, thank you for your continued support. Exciting things are on the horizon!

ASK FOR A COPY AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE

OR PURCHASE THE FIRST ONLINE

AMAZON (PRINT)          KINDLE

BARNES & NOBLE          iTUNES

 

Corporate Con: A Cunning Clasp on Creativity

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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You like my title, don’t you? I know you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this.  🙂

It’s amazing how prevalent this type of fraudulent practice has been throughout history to some extent or another. Even more amazing that it still thrives, feeding on the gullible and desperate.

Disclaimer: The following was not written by me, but I found the post very interesting. This is from a blog I follow. I think it’s important that we all educate ourselves.

**Reblogged from David Gaughran | Let’s Get Digital

How Jessica Mitford Exposed A $48m Scam From America’s Literary Establishment

Posted on December 16, 2014 by davidgaughran

Cerf

Jessica Mitford took on the American funeral industry, the California Department of Corrections, and the Ku Klux Klan, but it was her 1970 exposé of The Famous Writers School which led to Time calling her “The Queen of the Muckrakers.” And if a courageous editor hadn’t reversed his decision to kill her story, it might never have happened.

Mitford had been aware of The Famous Writers School’s existence for some time. Anyone who was a frequent reader of newspapers, books or magazines would have seen its ever-present advertisements, inviting aspiring writers to cut out and apply for the free aptitude test. While Mitford was suspicious, she didn’t have anything concrete until her lawyer husband took on a new client.

Bob Treuhaft was approached by a 72-year old widow, living on Social Security, who had cleaned out her bank account to make a down-payment to The Famous Writers School. On the same day Mitford heard the widow’s sorry tale from her husband, she received a book in the mail for review: Writing Rackets by Robert Byrne, which also mentioned the school.

Mitford had lunch with Bill Abrahams not long afterwards – then the West Coast editor of The Atlantic. She shared tales from Byrne’s book on literary frauds and the story of the cheated widow, and Abrahams asked her to write a short piece for The Atlantic covering both.

A still of Rod Serling taken from a Famous Writers School television ad (view here).

A still of Rod Serling taken from a Famous Writers School television ad (view here).

The following day Abrahams called to say that the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Robert Manning, had decided not to run the piece after all. While Manning agreed that the bold claims made in The Famous Writers School’s advertising were “probably unethical,” he pointed out that The Atlantic had made “many thousands of dollars” from those self-same ads and felt it would be equally unethical to run a piece criticizing the school.

Mitford was aghast and asked Abrahams if he would kill a piece on lung cancer on the grounds that The Atlantic took ads from tobacco companies. He accepted her point and said that he would try again with Manning, and that if anything changed he would get in touch.

A week later, Mitford had no further response from The Atlantic but now had the bit between her teeth. She queried the articles editor at McCall’s who was extremely enthusiastic and wanted a full investigation of The Famous Writers School, commissioning a 7,000 word piece. Mitford was delighted and threw herself into exhaustive research.

The Famous Writers

Mitford soon realized that the well-known faces attached to The Famous Writers School’s advertisements played a very different role than suggested. She knew she was going up against some powerful individuals – some of the leading lights of America’s literary establishment.

The Guiding Faculty of The Famous Writers School consisted of people like Paul Engle (long-time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop), Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame), mystery writer Mignon Eberhart, Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Catton, and romance author Faith Baldwin. Day-to-day operations were managed by Gordon Carroll (Reader’s Digest editor) and John Lawrence (former president of William Morrow publishers).

The biggest name of all was the man Mitford would later describe as “the ringleader” – Bennett Cerf, founder and president of Random House, and household name in America since his long-running stint on What’s My Line?

Knowing that Cerf could cause her problems, Mitford decided to interview him last.

How The Scam Worked

Part of an advertorial in New York Magazine, June 1969

Part of an advertorial in New York Magazine, June 1969

Mitford investigated how The Famous Writers School attracted students – focusing on those ubiquitous advertisements featuring the Guiding Faculty. Along with Baldwin, Eberhart, Serling, Catton, Engle, and Cerf, there was also John Caples, Bergen Evans, Clifton Fadiman, Rudolf Flesch, Phyllis McGinley, JD Ratcliff, Max Shulman, Red Smith, and Mark Wiseman – all noted writers in their fields.

The ads promised a free aptitude test which would “help you find out whether you can be trained to become a successful writer” and gave the impression that the Guiding Faculty would actually grade your test. The promotional materials also led potential students to believe that Cerf and his famous friends would act as their tutors and mentors throughout the course, and greatly exaggerated the market for freelance authors as well as the likely financial outcomes for students. Nowhere in the ads was the cost of the course mentioned.

After talking to various members of the Guiding Faculty, Mitford confirmed that they had nothing to do with either grading the aptitude tests or tutoring students. When Mitford presented Faith Baldwin with an ad which claimed the opposite, she responded with:

Oh, that’s just one of those things about advertising. Anyone with common sense would know that the fifteen of us are much too busy to read the manuscripts the students send in.

Mitford asked Mark Wiseman about why the ads claimed the market for freelance writers was in rude health when the opposite was true. He said:

That’s just a fault of our civilization. You have to over-persuade people, make it all look optimistic, not mention obstacles and hurdles.

Paul Engle was even more forthcoming about the actual role of the Guiding Faculty:

I only go there once in a great while. There’s a distinction between the Guiding Faculty, which doesn’t do very much, and the teaching faculty, which actually works with the students.

What the Guiding Faculty did do was provide some of the teaching materials used in the course. But it’s clear their main role was to make the course sound more attractive to potential students. In return, the faculty members received substantial stock holdings and a 1.6% cut of the school’s annual gross revenue.

 

BaldwinBoth these forms of compensation turned out to be extremely lucrative for the Guiding Faculty. Revenues for the school (together with its parent organization the Famous Artists School) rose from $7m in 1960 to $48m in 1969, while the stock improved from 5 to 40 over the same period.

The school was able to generate such staggering revenue (approximately $310m in today’s money) because of the huge enrollment numbers and the absurd price of the courses. 65,000 students were enrolled in 1970, including nearly 2,000 veterans via the GI Bill. The cost of the course – only revealed when a salesman came to your home to close the deal – was $785. That was a considerable sum in those days so most students went for the payment plan, pushing the cost up to $900 (approximately $5,800 in 2014 dollars). Mitford estimated this as roughly twenty times the cost of similar correspondence courses offered by universities at the time.

Mitford also established that the school was taking on students which had no place being on a professional writer’s training course: non-native English speakers with a poor command of their adopted tongue, those with no flair for language or composition, the barely literate, the penniless. The pass rate for those taking the free aptitude test – 90% – was so high because the bar was set ridiculously low.

Robert Byrne, the author of Writing Rackets, submitted an aptitude test under an invented name with deliberately mangled prose; the applicant was accepted in glowing terms. And when Mitford’s husband asked his widow client to write out an account of her experiences with the school, it was “garbled” and “semiliterate” – very far away from the level of someone suitable for such a course. Nevertheless, the widow was also deemed to have passed the aptitude test “with flying colors” by The Famous Writers School.

 

 

Test ApplicationAfter being presented with complaints about the high-pressure sales tactics, The Famous Writers School said that its salesmen were carefully screened, that they received rigorous training in ethical salesmanship, and that every effort was made to ensure that their presentation of the course was both accurate and truthful.

 

But Mitford was never one to take such claims at face value and secretly arranged to witness one such salesman closing the deal in her neighbor’s living room. The salesman told a series of outrageous lies regarding the school. He said the Guiding Faculty spent a lot of time at the school grading assignments and mentoring the other teaching staff, that one of the faculty would personally review her assignments, and that the staff-pupil ratio was uniquely favorable – 300 instructors for 3,000 students – when in fact there were 55 instructors for 65,000 students (and 800 salesmen). He then disingenuously dangled the possibility of a publishing contract and made false claims about the success of graduating students.

The dropout rate for these courses was extremely high. Through looking at the company’s books and running the numbers, Mitford estimated that only a tenth of students completed the course. However, not all of this was down to unethical salesmen targeting the unsuitable.

Mitford spoke with a whole range of competent students who had enrolled and dropped out, with many citing the poor quality of both the course materials and the feedback given on assignments – particularly that a different person graded each piece of coursework. Those who attempted to get out of their contract without paying the remaining installments were threatened with legal action, but otherwise The Famous Writers School seemed unconcerned at the high dropout rate.

Indeed, Phyllis McGinley, a famous poet who was one of the Guiding Faculty, admitted to Mitford:

We couldn’t make any money if all the students finished.

Bennett Cerf’s “Appeal to the Gullible”

 

Now that Mitford had established exactly how the scam operated, it was time for the final interview. She met Bennett Cerf in his “wonderfully posh” office at Random House, where he remained president of the company he started despite selling his stake to RCA. Cerf explained how he helped found the school and put together the Guiding Faculty.

We approached representative writers, the best we could get in each field… The idea was to give the school some prestige.

He admitted that he did no teaching, wasn’t involved in recruiting the teaching staff or establishing standards, and didn’t supervise the school’s operations.

I know nothing about the business and selling end and I care less.

Cerf refused to disclose what compensation he received from the school, but described it as “quite generous.” When confronted with the inaccurate claims made in the advertisements bearing his name, Cerf said:

I think mail-order selling has several built-in deficiencies. The crux of it is a very hard sales pitch, an appeal to the gullible.

When Mitford asked him how many books by Famous Writers School students that Random House had published, Cerf replied:

Oh, come on, you must be pulling my leg – no person of any sophistication, whose book we’d publish, would have to take a mail-order course to learn how to write.

With Cerf interviewed, Mitford’s research was complete and she submitted the final piece to the articles editor at McCall’s. But the tale didn’t end there.

Killing The Story

Bennett Cerf on the cover of Time Magazine, 16 Dec 1966

Bennett Cerf on the cover of Time Magazine, 16 Dec 1966

 

On reading the contents and seeing the famous names mentioned therein, the editor-in-chief ofMcCall’s balked and refused to run the story, wary of angering Random House and Bennett Cerf, and conscious of their advertising relationship with both the prestigious publisher and The Famous Writers School itself.

Later on, Mitford discovered that Bennett Cerf exerted direct pressure on McCall’s to kill the story, despite his explicit promises to the contrary when interviewed. But Mitford knew none of this at the time, all the editor-in-chief of McCall’s told her was, “I don’t think it’s very good.”

 

Despite her ostensible opinion of the piece, she paid Mitford’s research expenses and the full agreed-upon fee for publication, instead of the kill fee that was standard in such situations.

Two years later, that McCall’s editor admitted the truth to More magazine.

I did not want to offend Bennett Cerf at a time when McCall’s was trying to improve the caliber of its fiction.

Mitford was undeterred by McCall’s rejection (and pay-off). In fact, she was furious, more determined than ever to get her exposé published. She queried Life Magazine – who were extremely keen and promised that it would be a major story, with photographers deployed to take pictures of the school. But the piece was killed when Life’s advertising manager revealed that he had just agreed a $500,000 ad campaign with The Famous Writers School to cover the next six months.

 

 

AtlanticIt seemed like Mitford’s investigation would never see the light of day, until Bill Abrahams at The Atlantic said that Robert Manning had a change of heart: he had cancelled The Atlantic’s advertising contract with The Famous Writers School and wanted to run the story. True to his word, Manning published it as the cover story in the July 1970 edition, under the title Let Us Now Appraise Famous Writers.

 

The article is a classic piece of investigative journalism, a complete dissection of how the scam worked as well as a delicate filleting of the famous faces profiting from this misery.

But even the most optimistic reporter couldn’t have predicted what happened next.

The Aftermath

 

In her wonderful book Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking, Mitford explains that she had written articles on controversial topics for The Atlantic before, but even a piece like her coverage of The Dr. Spock Trial or the secret medical tests being conducted on Californian prisoners only generated “six to ten letters a piece” from readers.

 

Even before the July 1970 issue hit newsstands, The Atlantic had received an unprecedented fifty letters from subscribers who were privy to early copies of the magazine. After the issue went on sale, a further three hundred readers wrote in to share their experiences with The Famous Writers School.

 

Congressman Laurence J. Burton

Congressman Laurence J. Burton

Mitford had touched a nerve. Robert Manning told her that this issue had the largest newsstand sale of any in the The Atlantic’s history. Her article was subsequently picked up by the Des Moines Register and the Washington Post, and Mitford herself was invited onto The Dick Cavett Show to talk about the famous names involved with this scam.

 

As law suits from Attorneys General in several states were being prepared against The Famous Writers School, Congressman Laurence J. Burton of Utah read a copy of Mitford’s piece into the Congressional Record.

In his introductory remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, Burton said the following:

I have written to both the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Deceptive Practices, and the Veterans’ Administration, registering my concern, and requesting that they provide reports on the activities of the Famous Writers School. […]

High-pressure tactics and misleading information should not be used to gain enrollments for a course which would not attract enrollees on its merits. I believe the people of this country are entitled to protection from such unfair practices.

All this negative publicity had a profound effect on the fortunes of The Famous Writers School. Its stock plummeted from 35 to 5 before trading was suspended in May 1971, and the operation formally went bankrupt at the start of 1972 – a few months after the death of Bennett Cerf.

 

A Temporary Success

 

“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.” – Jessica Mitford

“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.” – Jessica Mitford

Mitford later called it “one of the clear-cut successes however temporary in my muckraking career. She felt the qualification “temporary” necessary because The Famous Writers School reappeared a few years later. In fact, it’s still in existence, although it has never quite operated on the same staggering, and lucrative, scale.

The spiritual successor to The Famous Writers School is another matter. Author Solutions is undergoing a massive international expansion under its owners – Penguin Random House. And there appears to be no one in today’s media with the courage of Jessica Mitford, and her editors at The Atlantic, willing to investigate its operations.

However, Penguin Random House’s uncanny ability to avoid press attention on this matter can only last so long. Author Solutions will face a class action for deceptive practices next year.

 

**Reblogged from David Gaughran | Let’s Get Digital

Part 5 (The One that Stole My Heart)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

I’ve kept you waiting far too long. I’m sorry. But there is more Italy to come, with tons of pictures in this edition of “Not Your Mama’s Spaghetti and Meatballs!” On to part 5….

Venice may be considered the Serenissima (most serene), but Tuscany is where I found my peace.

And Pinocchio. A whole lot of Pinocchio.

photo courtesy Ivana @ rgbstock.com

photo courtesy Ivana @ rgbstock.com

When we first began seeing little knick-knacks, pictures, objects, images—all featuring the dear little wooden boy—we were at the beginning of our journey, back in Lake Como. We assumed it was just the fact that we were in quaint little towns with quaint little shops. I mean, I knew Pinocchio and Geppetto were Italian, but he was EVERYWHERE (The entrance to the area leading up to our b&b contained a giant bust of a boy with a feather in his hat. At first, we thought it was Peter Pan or something. We learned pretty quickly after visiting the nearby towns.)

Then we began to suspect the cheeky little monkey was following us. Every town we visited—practically every shop—contained something with his likeness. When I looked it up, it turned out that they were from an unnamed town in Tuscany. So cue Tuscany.

And even MORE Pinocchio. They don’t play around with their Pinocchio.

Despite their fascination with him, he was not the heart and soul of Tuscany for me. This was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I couldn’t explain why exactly, but I begged Jason to fit it into our trip. It was a place I’d always dreamed of visiting.

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Six days and nights on a mountain overlooking the town of Lucca. We stayed at Casa del Belvedere. a beautiful farm where they produce their own olive oil and figs, among other things. The owner greeted us at the farmhouse we were renting through Airbnb with a bottle of homemade olive oil, homemade fig jam, and a bottle of homemade dessert wine to go with the delicious cake his mother-in-law had baked us as a welcoming gift.

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Talk about wow.

The vineyards were literally everywhere. Rolling hills, quaint little farms, spectacular vistas. Italy is the most amazing country I have ever visited, and Tuscany has sealed itself as my absolute favorite destination ever.

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Of course, you can’t visit Tuscany without seeing the Leaning Tower. We spent a day there, taking a tour up the tower (cue more climbing and more of my foot problems…but it was my decision not to miss out on anything) and visiting the surrounding attractions and museums.

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We even managed to catch another geo-cache there (did I mention the geo-caching yet?). We did at least one in each area we stayed at, but if you don’t know about geo-caching, you should definitely look it up. I thoroughly enjoy it as a side adventure when you are out and about sightseeing.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre was our next stop, and let me tell you: the picture may look just like all the others ones you’ve seen online, but it doesn’t do it justice. The colors are so vivid.

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Thankfully we opted out of the cliff-diving and instead did some sightseeing then spent some time on the beach before having dinner by the seaside. When we finally decided to brave the water, it was freezing. Freezing. This is the Mediterranean, people!

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Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. The very essence of my soul. This was where I wanted to go more than anywhere else. I was so excited, not for any specific thing, but just for what the city represents.

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I had been going on and on about Florence since before we even started planning the trip, so there was no way I was missing out on it. There’s so much art and culture there, so many old buildings that ooze history. The Campanile, or Bell Tower, in Florence, is part of the Duomo complex, which includes the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) and the Baptistery. After the Duomo, the Campanile is one of the most recognizable buildings in Florence. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed the Campanile (my feet were in HELL at this point, but I refused to stop) to check out the view of the top of the Duomo and the scope of the town, which was well worth it. It was incredibly windy, but you could see for miles. As we stood there, I began to cry as a feeling of missing something I’d only just obtained swept over me. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

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The Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. (Wikipedia)

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Statue of Dante Alighieri

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San Gimignano, admittedly, only came up on our radar because of its connection to Assassin’s Creed. The town is small, but we decided to check it out due to our familiarity with it, as well as the online images and descriptions. San Gimignano, known as the Town of Fine Towers, is a famous walled medieval hill town in Tuscany, in the province of Siena. The streets were cobble-stoned and narrow, and the architecture certainly lived up to the medieval feel. We spent some time at the top of the large tower, and ended our day in the gardens strolling as we listened to the man playing music in the main courtyard. At one point, we got sneaky and went scrumping up a tree for a plum 🙂

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No travel guide will ever do justice to the magnificence of the Tuscan countryside.

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Stay tuned. Next up, Rome…

Part 4 (The One with the Assassin and the Accordion)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Venice.

Gondalas.

Canals.

Assassins.

Wee! (If you got it, just smile and nod.)

Once again, our hosts were wonderful at the B&B we stayed at, Chiocciola Venice (translated either “snail” or “@” in English—I’m guessing the latter, but I totally had a defense for the former translation given the laid back atmosphere). They even presented us with this print upon our departure. The second picture is the note they wrote on the back.

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How sweet! The place was quiet, serene, but a bit away from Venice itself. Our hosts were very helpful, but public transportation in that area was so confusing! Find a tobacconist shop is all I will say. Before you get on the bus. They don’t sell the tickets at, on, or even near the bus. We made it there in one piece, and the trip was only about twenty minutes.

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Cruising the Grand Canal in Venice

Gondalas are so synonymous with Venice that  it’s the first word off most people’s lips when they hear you mention Venice. The idea is very sweet and cozy in theory,  hot and expensive in application. Our best times in Venice were traveling the streets on foot, marveling at the buildings and exteriors from so many by-gone periods. Such an eclectic mix of several different eras of architectural style, all together in one somewhat small, but vibrant, city.

Some of the time, I have to admit, we spent comparing the locations to those in one of our favorite video games, Assassin’s Creed 2 (okay, fine… a lot of the time). Amazing how similar so many things were. Not surprisingly, the scale was often off a good bit to account for shrinking the map in order to simply the game experience. But the major landmarks and the important parts of the city were virtually identical. It’s hard to argue the validity of learning history in the strangest of ways. As long as the learning happens, who cares how it was acquired? I can separate the fact from the fiction, but reminiscing over places we had “visited” was quite amusing and often hilarious. It’s okay to laugh. We were laughing at ourselves.

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Piazza San Marco (The Camponile @ St. Mark’s Basilica, near the Doge’s Palace)

I don’t know the name of all the things and places we saw, but I know the emotional weight it held for me. Venice isn’t as old as much of Italy, and it may lack a sense of ancient history, but what the city does have is heart. The inherent beauty is magical.

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We even found an accordion player by the water our first night! We spent two days in Paris a couple of years ago searching for someone playing the accordion, but there was no one to fulfill my cliched fantasies. But that night in Venice twilight was kicking in, and the man was sitting right by the shore, so we stood there awhile just soaking in the atmosphere. We tipped him, and he offered his chair for me to sit in for awhile.

Have I mentioned my feet? I won’t ruin this beautiful post with that sort of talk, but suffice it to say that I could barely walk by that time, and we still had a week and a half and several cities to go. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

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