Monday, August 31, 2020

Self-Publishing in Greek

In the world of self-publishing novellas for language learners, most authors use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Why? For authors, it is easy to use - you just need to upload your manuscript and cover artwork and you are pretty much ready to publish. With KDP, your novella is published on Amazon and is accessible to Amazon's massive customer base. Many customers already have an Amazon account and are probably familiar with how Amazon works, so customers can buy your novella in a matter of seconds.

Sound too good to be true?

There are some drawbacks to KDP compared to other self-publishing websites, such as:

  • If you have ethical concerns about Amazon
  • KDP's royalty rate for authors is lower than those of other self-publishing websites
  • KDP (almost) only supports publishing in languages that use the Latin alphabet

This last point obviously presents a challenge for those of us who wish to self-publish in Greek (Ancient, Modern - it doesn't matter!). In this post I will share all of the hurdles I had to overcome to publish my novella in Greek.

But there are Greek books on Amazon! How does that work?!

I am pretty certain that those books were published through CreateSpace, which Amazon bought out a couple of years ago. I never used CreateSpace, but I believe that it supported Greek. As far as I know, KDP continues to support all books that were originally published with CreateSpace.

There is also a way to circumvent KDP's language policy, which I will share at the end of this post, but this requires violating KDP's language policy.

I. Choose a self-publishing company.

There are a variety of self-publishing companies out there. Most of them are targeted at authors who wish to self-publish books in English for a wide audience, i.e. not those of us who wish to publish novellas in languages other than English for a very select audience (i.e. language teachers and self-motivated language learners). 

I went with Lulu. Why?
  • Writers of Latin novellas use it (such as these)
  • Lulu allows free edits (some self-publishing websites charge a fee if you need to fix errors in your book - no thanks!)
  • No language restrictions! (Caveat: Books in Greek can only be sold on Lulu and are ineligible for their wider distribution service)

No self-publishing company is perfect, so choose the one that best suits your goals.

II. Convert your PDF files into a press-ready PDF files

Before publishing my novella, I had no idea what layers and flattening were in PDF files. KDP allows authors to submit any old PDF. Other self-publishing companies, on the other hand, require that your PDF be flattened to remove all layers (also described as a "press-ready PDF"). 

The easiest way to do this is with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

The downside? Adobe is expensive! As of August 2020, it costs $14.99/month (USD). I am lucky that my work PC has Adobe already installed.

To convert your PDF to a press-ready PDF, click File, then Save as Other, then select Press-Ready PDF (PDF/X). In the save menu, I also clicked Settings... and selected Save as PDF/X-1a. It turns out that there are different types of press-ready PDFs. According to the wisdom of the Internet, PDF/X-1a seems to be the safest option. 

You will also need to convert your cover artwork PDF file too.

III. Publish!

At this point, your Greek novella should be ready to publish.

Fonts: Stick with PDF-friendly fonts that support Polytonic Greek. I used Source Sans Pro and Palatino Linotype. There are plenty of fonts to choose from, but always check your PDFs to ensure that they display correctly. Fonts may look great in your word processing program of choice, but may not be rendered properly or at all in a PDF. I had to change my fonts at least a few times!

Publishing with KDP: Remember how I said earlier that you can try to circumvent KDP's language policy and self-publish in Greek? It is fairly simple, but I have not attempted it, so do so at your own risk. The secret: select English as your book's language. I have heard that KDP will remove your book if they find out that your book is in an unapproved language. That was too big of a risk for me to take, so I decided to play it safe and publish on Lulu. 

I still have a lot to learn about self-publishing, so please share your tips and tricks! 

γράφε δή!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Is It Attested? Online Resources for Greek and Latin

Most writers of Latin and Ancient Greek today strive to appropriately use and imitate vocabulary and expressions found in classical texts. Surprisingly, what is often presented (and taken for granted) in textbooks is contrary to what classical authors actually use. Some examples: 
  • The simplification of the differences between the use of the perfect vs. the imperfect. In my observations, this has led to a disproportionate use of the imperfect. For example, classical authors use the perfect of possum more frequently than the imperfect. 
  • Many textbooks teach that the perfect stem of certain 3rd and 4th declension verbs like audio and eo ends in either -i- or -iv-. Did you know that the audiv- stem is more common than audi-? Or that the reverse is true for eo!

But how can I search the corpora of Greek and Latin literature to find out what authors actually used? The two resources below allow you to search the works classical authors.

For Latin: The Packard Humanities Institute's Classical Latin Texts (called PHI Latin Texts or simply PHI)
  • Search by word, phrase, or proximity
  • Easy to access, no account required
  • Fast search results
  • Christian authors and post-classical authors are excluded 😢
  • Cannot search by lemma (i.e. see all the usages of all the forms of a word at once)

For Greek and Latin: Perseus Digital Library Scaife Viewer
  • Search by word, phrase, proximity, and lemma (for Greek only)
  • Ancient, medieval, and modern authors are included, even scholia! 😁
  • Requires a (free) account
  • Search results are slower than on PHI
  • Inconsistent appearance of search results (i.e. some results appear as one line of text, others as massive chunks of text that require lots of scrolling)

In addition to these, there is (for Greek) the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), but I have limited experience with it. The TLG also requires an account and you have to pay to access all of its features. 

If you know of any others, please share them with me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Roman Toilet Humor Activity

As of tomorrow (April 16), I will be one full month into digital learning...and still over a month to go! 

As our students and we worry about COVID-19 symptoms, let's turn to a lighthearted activity on bodily functions instead! Back when we were in school, I had a "fun Friday" of learning about ancient Roman toilet humor. Why? We had read in my adapted translation into Latin from Greek of Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes the scene in which Apollo, angry at Mercury/Hermes for stealing his cattle, picks up the latter (who is barely a day old) and Mercury/Hermes sneezes and farts (which, I learned from my students, is aptly called a "snart") in his brother's face. Plus I just love working on silly and irreverent topics with students (you can shove your serious AP themes, College Board!). 💩

For this activity, students matched pictures around the classroom with various (some adapted) quotes from the ancient Romans about various bodily functions. The quotes are divided into three categories: the (in)famous Ostia bathhouse philosopher fresco quotes, ancient Roman graffiti and inscriptions, and quotes from ancient Roman literature (Martial and Petronius). 

The first category consists of quotes painted on the walls of a bathhouse in Ostia, Rome's port city. The quotes appear next to paintings of famous Greek philosophers and consist of words of wisdom for dealing with bodily functions. To put it in 2020 terms, imagine posting quotes from Einstein, Isaac Newton, or Maya Angelou that give advice on defecation and flatulence! These are three I included:
  • Solon patted his belly to have a nice dump.
  • Thales recommended that people should strain when they are having a hard time crapping.
  • Clever Chilon taught us how to fart silently. 

The next category comes from ancient Roman graffiti and inscriptions. One interesting cultural insight to share with students is that relieving oneself on tombstones and graves was a common practice in the ancient Mediterranean world. Why? Burial was usually forbidden within settlements, so tombs were erected outside of towns alongside roads. When one travels from town to town with few or no rest stops, nature inevitably calls and graves provide a place to do one's business discretely. 

The last category consists of adapted quotes from the ancient Roman authors Martial and Petronius, both known for writing about the obscene side of ancient Roman culture. These are the quotes I included:
  • I see nothing else that makes me believe that you are a friend than the fact that you usually fart in front of me.
  • [This man] heads for the [toilet] seats and farts ten times and twenty times.
  • Eat lettuce and soft mallows because you have the look of constipation.
  • A kisser will kiss someone with a fever and someone while they're crying. And they will even give a kiss to someone while they are crapping.
  • Therefore if any of you wanted to relieve themselves, it is nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that there is no greater form of torture than holding it in...nor do I forbid anyone in the dining room from doing what could make them feel better and what doctors tell us not to hold in.

Below are the materials for this activity. The first two pages are a two-sided worksheet for students (the quotes on the front and a glossary on the back). Next are the pictures I posted around the room. Enjoy! Stay safe and healthy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Cuius sunt haec vestigia? (Whose footprints are these?) Listening Activity

Here in Gwinnett County, Georgia we are day #2 into digital learning, so I finally have some time (and sleep and energy!) to catch up on my blog. Here is an activity that I did with my Latin II classes over a month ago:

As I mentioned previously, my Latin II classes read my adapted translation of Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes, in which Mercury/Hermes famously steals Apollo's cattle. While Apollo is looking for his cattle, he finds their footprints, which inspired this activity.

Here's how it works:
  • Students first see the footprints of a particular animal projected onto the board. They may guess the animal (in English, since they do not know/need to know the names of most animals - even I don't know some of them!).
  • If students cannot guess the animal, then I read three statements in Latin. After each statement, I allowed students to guess again.
  • If students could not guess after the three statements, then I revealed the answer.
  • In one class, I had students form teams and write their guesses on a sheet of notebook paper. After each statement, they could write their guess and run up to me. The first team to get the correct answer "won" that round.
  • Nota bene: I used a lot of gestures to convey words that students would not know, like "tail."

This activity was a fun and visual way to engage students in listening to the target language! It also offered lots of repetitions of the demonstrative hic "this," which has 16 different forms in Latin, which makes it a challenge to teach!

The slideshow:

The script I read aloud:
  • Slide 2:
    • Hoc animal est avis. Haec avis est maxima. Haec avis est signum dei Iovis. Haec avis quoque est signum “USA.” (This animal is a bird. This bird is very large. This bird is the symbol of the god Jupiter. This bird is also the symbol of the USA.)
  • Slide 3:
    • Hoc animal solet habitare et in aqua et in terra. Hoc animal longa crura habet. Hoc animal longam linguam habet. Kermit est tale animal. (This animal usually lives both in water and on land. This animal has long legs. This animal has a long tongue. Kermit is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 4:
    • Hoc animal est avis. Haec avis solet habitare et in aqua et in terra. Haec avis solet comedi a hominibus. Donald est talis avis. (This animal is a bird. This bird usually lives both in water and on land. This bird is usually eaten by people. Donald is this kind of bird.)
  • Slide 5:
    • Hoc animal est magnum. Hoc animal solet habitare in silvis et in montibus. Hoc animal est simile cani. Hoc animal est notissimum Romae. (This animal is large. This animal usually lives in forests and on mountains. This animal is similar to a dog. This animal is very famous in Rome.)
  • Slide 6:
    • Hoc animal est maximum. Hoc animal solet habitare et in terra et in aqua. Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Hoc animal est notissimum in Florida. (This animal is very large. This animal usually lives both on land and in water. This animal lives in Georgia. This animal is very famous in Florida.)
  • Slide 7:
    • Hoc animal est parvum. Hoc animal solet habitare in domo. Hoc animal longam caudam habet. Sylvester est tale animal. (This animal is small. This animal usually lives in a house. This animal has a long tail. Sylvester is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 8:
    • Hoc animal est magnum. Hoc animal solet habitare in silvis. Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Bambi est tale animal. (This animal is large. This animal usually lives in forests. This animal lives in Georgia. Bambi is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 9:
    • Hoc animal solet esse magnum vel parvum. Hoc animal solet habitare in domo. Hoc animal est amicum. Scooby-Doo est tale animal. (This animal is usually large or small. This animal usually lives in a house. This animal is friendly. Scooby-Doo is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 10:
    • Hoc animal est maximum. Hoc animal potest currere. Romanis placuit hoc animal. Donkey in Shrek 2 factus est tale animal. (This animal is very large. This animal is able to run. The Romans liked this animal. Donkey in Shrek 2 became this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 11:
    • Hoc animal est maximum. Hoc animal solet habitare in silvis. Hoc animal est signum dei Bacchi. Hoc animal est signum Parkview. (This animal is very large. This animal usually lives in forests. This animal is the symbol of the god Bacchus. This animal is the symbol of Parkview.)
  • Slide 12:
    • Hoc animal est maximum. Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Hoc animal solet habitare in silvis et in montibus. (This animal is very large. This animal lives in Georgia. This animal usually lives in forests and in mountains.)
  • Slide 13:
    • Hoc animal est parvum. Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Hoc animal longam caudam habet. Sandy in Spongebob est tale animal. (This animal is small. This animal lives in Georgia. This animal has a long tail. Sandy in Spongebob is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 14:
    • Hoc animal solet habitare et in terra et in aqua. Hoc animal solet habitare prope flumen. Hoc animal magnam caudam et magnos dentes habet. (This animal usually lives both on earth and in water. This animal usually lives near a river. This animal has a large tail and large teeth.)
  • Slide 15:
    • Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Hoc animal noctu exit. Hoc animal longam caudam habet. Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy est tale animal. (This animal lives in Georgia. This animal comes out at night. This animal has a long tail. Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy is this kind of animal.)
  • Slide 16:
    • Hoc animal habitat in Georgia. Hoc animal noctu exit. Hoc animal solet ferre catulos. Hoc animal longam caudam habet. (This animal lives in Georgia. This animal comes out at night. This animal usually carries its young. This animal has a long tail.)
  • Slide 17: 
    • Hoc animal est magnum. Hoc animal solet habitare in silvis. Noli tangere hoc animal! (This animal is large. This animal usually lives in forests. Do not touch this animal!)
  • Slide 18:
    • Hoc animal est parvum. Hoc animal longam caudam habet. Hoc animal male olet. Pepe Le Pew est tale animal. (This animal is small. This animal has a long tail. This animal smells bad. Pepe Le Pew is this kind of animal.) 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Lucky/Unlucky QR Code Scavenger Hunt

For the past week, my Latin II classes have been reading my adapted version of Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes. In the Greek text, Hermes (as a less-than-a-day-old baby) finds a tortoise and brings it home, saying, "ἐπηλυσίης πολυπήμονος ἔσσεαι ἔχμα (you will protect against painful witchcraft)" (line 37). After reading this curious line, I looked into references to other positive uses for tortoises in the ancient Mediterranean world. All this prompted me to encourage discussion in my Latin II classes on luck and superstition in ancient Mediterranean cultures and beyond. 

As part of this, I created a QR code scavenger hunt (if you're unfamiliar with a QR code scavenger hunt or a QR running dictation, check out this post from my colleagues, Miriam Patrick and Rachel Ash) so my students could read (in Latin) about various lucky/unlucky signs from across the world. 

Each QR code contains two Latin sentences. The first, which students copy down, describes something considered lucky or unlucky and the culture/country. The second sentence contains the clue for the location of the next QR code.

Once students have found and copied down all the sentences, they choose their favorite among both the lucky signs and the unlucky signs and then draw and color both.

Here are the examples I used:

  • The number eight is lucky in China.
  • If the first guest of the new year is a good person, then it is good luck in Vietnam.
  • The number four is unlucky in China and Japan.
  • Ladybugs are lucky in Turkey.
  • Coyotes are unlucky if encountered while traveling, according to the Navajo.
  • A white elephant is lucky in Thailand.
  • A black witch moth is unlucky in Mexico.
  • If your hair is cut on the seventeenth or twenty-ninth day of the month, you will not go bald, according to the ancient Romans.
  • The number nine is unlucky in Japan.
  • The cat Maneki-neko is lucky in Japan.


Here are some samples of students' work:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2019 Year in Review

2019 has (almost) gone, so I'd like to reflect briefly on some of the highlights of my year. 

My teaching in 2019 has had its ups and downs. There were times in the spring when I felt that I might need to leave the profession for my mental health, so I spent a lot of time over the summer in reflection. I am in a much better place now, but I still have days when I feel like pulling a Ginger Spice.

  • Writing my own novice-level Latin texts - I wrote about this for 2018 and I am still doing this for Latin II this school year. I love going back to the ancient texts and writing novice-level versions for my students. Right now I prefer it to teaching with novellas because I find that novellas get stale for both the students and me, so students are always getting new myths to read. This semester we read myths about Vulcan/Hephaestus, Mars/Ares, Venus/Aphrodite, Diana/Artemis, and Atalanta. In 2020 I plan to write novice-level stories about myths of Apollo, Mercury/Hermes, and Roman history.
  • Procedures - Over the summer I read Jon Cowart's new book on classroom management in the CI classroom. My biggest takeaway this year has been to include warm-up activities for every class to prepare students for class, review previous vocabulary, and offer comfort through predictable routines.
  • Google Forms - I'm slowly but surely getting better at creating open-ended activities with Google Forms. In the spring, students solved a mystery with various possible endings. In the fall, students learned what the dreams meant according to ancient Roman interpretations of various types of dreams.
  • Dressing up as Banjo and Kazooie for Halloween!
20 years in the making!

Greek & Latin:
  • My first ACL - I attended the annual ACL Institute in New York City in June and enjoyed meeting many, many faces I had only known online.
  • I haven't read much in the way of Greek and Latin texts (beyond those I use to create my novice-level myth stories for Latin II), but I did enjoy Ken Dark and Jan Kostenec's new book Hagia Sophia in Context: An Archaeological Re-examination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople. It was the closest I could get to one of my lifelong dreams - getting access to all of the Hagia Sophia. 
Highly recommended!


  • Macon and Valdosta, GA - A quick two-day trip during my spring break to explore the swamps of Georgia. Unseasonably cold, but still fun, even though I didn't see the wildlife I wanted to see in Valdosta. I did see two massive gators in Macon though!
  • New York City - ACL Institute. My third time in NYC, so less pressure to go sightseeing this time. The highlight this time was visiting the Nintendo Store.
  • Augusta, GA - Visiting more swamps. Great place to see alligators. I finally had my first encounter with a Georgia snake too!
  • Chicago - Back home for Thanksgiving and my 4 F's of being home: friends, family, fur babies, and food. I visited the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture for the first time, despite the fact that my mother's side is 100% Lithuanian. An unexpected highlight: ancient artifacts from or found in Lithuania, such as amber found in Egypt and Roman coins found in Lithuania.

Annum novum faustum felicem tibi, lector!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dream Interpretation Activity

In Latin III this year we have been reading Andrew Olimpi's novella Perseus et Rex Malus. One of the characters, Danae, has a strange dream that results in her...(spoiler alert) getting pregnant.

More on that later. 

About a year or so ago, I read J.C. McKeown's delightful A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire, a book, which - as the name suggests - offers amusing facts about the ancient Romans and interesting insights into Roman culture that the literary and material sources provide. I would recommend the book to teachers and anyone with an interest in ancient Rome. I enjoyed it so much that I can't wait to read the other books in McKeown's series on ancient Greece and ancient Greek and Roman medicine. Of course I would also recommend Anthony Kaldellis' A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Most Orthodox Empire so that you may get a comprehensive overview of Greek and Roman civilization. 😉

Just by coincidence, I was going through my bookmarks in McKeown's book a few weeks ago and stumbled upon his chapter titled "Religion and Superstition." There I had marked a set of amusing ancient Roman interpretations of different types of dreams from the second-century AD writer Artemidorus' Oneirocritica (or Interpretation of Dreams). Here are my "school appropriate" favorites (translated by McKeown):
  • Dreaming that one is blind is favorable for runners, since a runner who takes the lead in a race is like a blind man in that he does not see his fellow runners...Such dreams are auspicious for poets also, since they need total calm when they are going to compose, and loss of sight would ensure that they are not distracted by shapes of colors (1.26).
  •  Dreaming about turnips, rutabagas, and pumpkins presages disappointed hopes, since they are massive but lack nutritional value. They signify surgery and woundings with iron implements for sick people and travelers, respectively, since these vegetables are cut into slices (1.67).
  • Dreaming that one is eating books foretells advantage to teachers, lecturers, and anyone who earns his livelihood from books, but everyone else it means sudden death (2.45). (I'm sure this is a favorite among Latin teachers!) 
  • Dreaming that one is dead or is being crucified foretells marriage for a bachelor (2.49, 53).
  • Dreaming that one is eating many onions is favorable for a sick man, for it means he will recover and mourn for someone else, whereas dreaming that one is eating just a few onions signifies death, since the dying shed just a few tears, whereas those who mourn shed many (4.55).
  • A man dreamed that he had a mouth with big, beautiful teeth in his rectum, and that through it he spoke, ate, and performed all the normal functions of a mouth. He was subsequently exiled from his homeland for making incautious statements. I have not included the reasons, for the outcome was easily predictable (5.68).  

There is one more that I love, but you'll need to check out McKeown's book for that one!

Back to my Latin III classes...since we had just read about a strange dream in the novella, I decided to create an activity around ancient Roman interpretations of dreams, as published by Artemidorus, and have students get their own dream interpreted. 

Based on my choose your own adventure activity from this past spring, I created a similar activity in Google Forms. 

First, students access the form electronically through a link or QR code. 

Second, students select a dream that they "had." The options are food, eating books, a bodily condition, or death. I tried to include as many pictures as possible throughout the form to aid comprehension.

The first page of the form

Next, students answer various questions based on their original and subsequent responses until they get an ancient Roman interpretation for their strange dream. 

How did I use this activity in my classroom?

I used this activity as a warm-up last week, the crazy, absence-filled week before our (week-long) Thanksgiving break. 

Students completed the activity on their phones and submitted their results both electronically and on paper. 

I provided some helpful vocabulary and the QR code for activity on my daily warm-up worksheet.

My warm-up worksheet

When everyone had submitted their results, everyone in the class quickly shared their results. I also elaborated on the interpretations and why they made sense. That onion one is especially profound! 

In my second period class, most students were told that they were going to get married soon, so apparently that class said that they dreamed about death! Should I be concerned?

If you'd like to try out my form to see all the options and embedded questions, click here.