The Klementinum Library | Prague, Czech Republic

Have you seen this place?! My biblophile heart exploded.
Before I get into the most magnificent pictures of this library, here’s a bit of history on it:

This amazing place was founded in 1232 and is part of a complex building series, the oldest and most historic in Prague’s Old Town. There are three major buildings within the Klementinum —

  • Mirror Chapel: a truly beautiful and unique chapel built in 1724, with extensive frescos and carvings. Houses two 18th century organs, one played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on his visits to the Klementinum.
    the-mirror-chapel
  • Baroque Library Hall: stunning home of the Czech National Library, housing 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards. The hall is decorated with magnificent ceiling frescoes, and remains unaltered since the 18th century.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Astronomical Tower: 172 steps lead to the top of the tower for 360° views over Prague. A lift operates only part of the way, so not for visitors with walking difficulties. On the 2nd floor of the tower is the Meridian Hall, which was designed to determine noon.
    012_klementinum_jpg_800x800_q85

And some more info, thanks to Wiki:

  • At one time the Clementinum was known as the third largest Jesuit college in the world.
  • The oldest weather recording in the area of the Czech lands started in Clementinum in the year 1775. The recording continues through the present day.[2]
  • The Clementinum is mentioned in “The Secret Miracle” by Jorge Luis Borges. The main character has a dream of the library of Clementinum where the librarians look for God in the books of the library. One of the librarians says:God is in one of the letters of one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand books of Clementinum. My fathers and the fathers of my fathers have looked for this letter; I myself have gone blind looking for it. So, a reader enters and delivers an atlas for the main character, saying that this atlas is useless. The main character opens the book at random, and find a map of India, touching one of its minimum letters and, then, finds God.
  • The Baroque library hall inside Clementinum is known for its beautiful interior, including ceiling artwork by Jan Hiebl.

I could just stare at the library images all day.
And since I’ll be studying in London for two years, a flight (one-way) is roughly $50. How could I pass up a weekend trip to this beauty?!

Coming to you in May!

Every month, Goodreads sends me an e-mail of soon-to-be published books. This month, they included a few books that I’d really like to get my hands on. And if I do, that’ll add more books to my 300+ to-be-read shelf. But hey, if literature makes me happy, so be it! I’ll get around to those books soon. I have another 90+ years of life, right? ;D

Here are the books that stole my attention:

26156987

If I WasYour Girl by Meredith Russo
Release date: May 3rd

TL;DR: A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.

26721568

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release date: May 17th

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

13260524

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Release date: May 17th

THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

27209486

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Release date: May 31st

TL;DR: From the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college—their own kids now going to college—and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us

The second to last book, Some Kind of Happiness, is considered to be a children’s book. But I added it because I have yet to read a book about a child facing depression. It is this exact kind of book I wish I would have read growing up. I am beyond happy that a book, such as Some Kind of Happiness, is being published and marketed towards the younger generation. I am sure it’ll bring about a good, positive conversation about mental illness amongst youngsters and how to cope.

If you’re looking for more books that are soon-to-be published, take a look at The Millions’ Most Anticipated: The Great 2016 Book Preview I – Spring and Summer and Flavorwire’s The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2016. Oh, and I would like to apologize for causing you to completely deflate your bank account due to the crazy amount of books you’ll soon be purchasing 😛

☆ Nikki

Open Container Law

10668954_10154782180700473_2336666877412150783_o

(Photo caption: Drinking in Central Park)

It was a beautiful fall day in the big apple. A fellow graduate student and I decided to take a stroll and watch the sunset after a long day in class to try and clear our heads. As we sat down on the steps of the Belvedere Castle, overlooking the great lawn in the center of Central Park, I pulled out a cider to drink along with the bread and cheese we had brought along the way to the park. After I cracked open the bottle, he looked at me with shock and said, “you can’t do that.” I wasn’t sure what he was referring to, so I just continued to take a sip and say, “what are you talking about?” I was not privy to the knowledge that the open container law of New Orleans is not a countrywide stance.

Now I realize I grew up in Shreveport, but the open container law did not enter my vocabulary until I was about 18, when I went to college. It should be noted that I went to undergraduate in Savannah, Georgia where you can walk around with a drink in your hand in the historic district. But I only realized this was a privilege when everyone around me was so excited to hold a plastic cup. I had been doing that with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks since I was a child. For god’s sake, they throw them to us for free during the Mardi Gras season. I didn’t get the hoopla.

As I started to try and understand what the deal was, I was informed of the brown paper bag law or the plastic cup exception. This wasn’t my first encounter with this notion. During the summer I spent in DC, I went to a bar with my roommate and ordered a plain Coke. After only three sips, my roommate got the text that her friend couldn’t come meet us anymore and so we decided to leave. I grabbed my coke in the plastic cup and started to walk out the door, but I was stopped by the bouncer. He told me I couldn’t take the cup out of the bar and I proceeded to explain that it didn’t contain alcohol but he didn’t seem to care. He took the cup from me and threw it in the bin behind him. I then needed more of an explanation of the liquor laws from my roommate.

Outside the southern region, where alcohol is part of the day-to-day culture and in some ways embraced as part of the normalcy of the society, it seems strange to me to think that a brown bag is going to do anything or deter anyone from buying it. As a man walks down the street holding a brown bag with a glass bottleneck peeking out the top, we all know he has alcohol. I do not sit around thinking I wonder what’s in the bag. Even children know what’s in the bag because the bag makes the action of buying alcohol to be different and more unique than buying regular food or soda. And some people hold the neck of a bottle with the paper crinkled around it. You aren’t fooling anyone with that bag.

It seems to me that by making alcohol a taboo or something that’s instantly special in some ways, you are making the item more exciting and idolizing it into a “forbidden fruit.” I think the Europeans got it right when they decided alcohol was a normal part of life, children are introduced to it at a young age and it’s not a huge deal. They also have a smaller rate of drunk drivers because they learned how to hold their liquor before the car keys were in their hands. Nonetheless, I want to applaud the south on being so progressive in this regard and I can only hope the North will get on board because there’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine with a picnic in the park–or in my case, a cider at Belvedere Castle.

-Mackenzie

How to Apply to an MFA Program: Parts I & II.

Applying to graduate school is not easy.

There are countless hours of writing and rewriting your personal statement, crumpling it up out of anger & throwing it in the bin — only to run after it and flatten it out under one of your undergrad textbooks you never used.

There are countless hours of reading and rereading, handing your personal statement to your friends & family and reading it aloud to your pets, hoping they’d acknowledge that it’s good (or bad).

If you’re applying to an MFA Program, there’s the addition of writing, rewriting, reading, and rereading your manuscript. That’s the fun part, said no one ever.

So, I’m going to try and help you get through this tough time of MFA Applications the best I can. I’ve been there; I’ve done that; and I (somehow) survived it all.


The Guide to Not Losing Your $h!t While Applying to MFA’s

Before the (Actual) Application Process

  1. Choose Your Schools
    Do your research. Google is your friend. However, PW.org is your best friend! They have an entire stockpile of MFA programs across the U.S. and other countries, including Canada and the U.K. Start this process roughly a year before you intend on applying. MFA programs tend to only accept once a year in the fall. Also, think about the following:
    — Do you want a full-residency or low-residency program?
    — Do you need financial aid whether it be from FAFSA, scholarships (private and university), teaching assistantships, fellowships?
    — Do you have any preferences in terms of location? Do you hate the summer heat or the bitter cold of winter? Are you more of a neutral person who loves spring/autumn? Big city or small town? East Coast or West Coast? National or International?
    — Are there specific professors in your genre you’d like to work with? Any of your favorite authors teach at a university?
  2. Letters of Recommendation
    Do you have a professor that you really liked and the feeling was mutual? Do you have a boss that’s totally awesome and again, the feeling was mutual? They are your key to recommendations. If you’re going for an MFA, you were probably an English major in undergrad. Graduate school may have been spoken about during your last semester. Most professors (especially of English) won’t have any problems writing you a recommendation. They’ve written tons before and have the perfect vocabulary to real sin your praises to an admissions counselor and/or committee. You will, more than likely, need up to three letters of recommendation. Once you’ve made your list of professors, employers, etc. that you’d like to write you a letter, contact them as soon as possible. Write them an e-mail or stop by their office, explaining that you’re applying to graduate school / MFA Programs and you’d love for them to write you a letter. 8 out of 10 times, the answer will be positive.
  3. Prioritize Your Time
    This should be a given, but it needs to be said. This process isn’t simple & stress-free and time should be dedicated to each application and all the components to it. It’s easy to say, “Hm, I’ll do a draft of my personal statement tonight!” And not do it. Personally, I am madly in love with my Erin Condren planner and once there’s something written in there, it is going to happen. Wake up at 05:30am to shower and have enough time for some coffee & a nice read? In the planner. Classes from 08am to 02pm? In the planner. Date with my partner? In the planner. Everything needs to be scheduled. During my time applying to MFAs, I made sure all of my stuff was planned: write, rewrite my personal statement; read, reread my personal statement; write, rewrite, edit my manuscript; so on and so forth. This is important and this is your future. Make time for it.
  4. Review Your Chosen Schools
    By now, you should have a nice list of schools you’d like to apply to. After I made my initial list, I made sure I printed out the actual webpages of: tuition fees, necessities for applying, degree requirements, and a few professor bios & their work(s). Go over these things multiple times and really scale your list down to five to ten schools. My list was split in a few different ways: Dream schools, Reality schools, and schools that were safety nets. Arrange your chosen schools by application deadline, that way it’s easier for you to know which applications you should get to work on immediately and which ones you could wait a bit on. In order to also be looked at for teaching assistantships, fellowships, and/or scholarships, some deadlines will be as soon as December 1st, some December 31st, some January 5th, and others February 15th. These are the most common dates that I’ve seen.
  5. (Optional) The GRE
    If your schools require the GRE, make sure you sign up for this pricey standardized test. I had one school that required the GRE and it wasn’t on the top of my list, so I booted that school and saved $195 for application fees. Most Ivy Leagues want the GRE and some schools use this test to determine if you’re eligible for a fellowship or teaching assistantship. In my personal opinion, it is totally okay to not take it if it isn’t required. I don’t like standardized testing and I don’t think tests should really determine your intelligence, especially ones that have a ton of math when you’re applying for writing, y’know? Again, this is all personal. I do suggest you take it if you have your heart set on a school that requires it. You could sign up for a GRE Prep Course or look around for some free resources like on Kaplan GRE Test Prep.

The Application Process

  1. Gather Your Transcripts
    Most undergrad universities have two types of transcripts: the unofficial and the official. The difference? Not much, except the official version does not touch your hands at all and it has your undergrad school’s emblem embossed on the paper. Other than that, all the information is the same. Some schools, like my own, charge your for the official copy to be sent to your graduate school. Mine cost $7 per copy with a $2 shipping fee. I applied to nine schools, so simply just making sure an MFA Program received my official transcript cost nearly $100. Ask your school’s registrar about official copies. As for your unofficial copies, my school had this (horrible) online component to print out your transcript. I was able to save it as a PDF & upload it into my applications; regardless, they still need the official copy. If your school has an online component (hopefully, it isn’t as bad as mine was), peek around and do some clicking. I’m sure you’ll be able to view your transcript unofficially.
  2. Spreadsheet That Ish
    Your life will become ten times easier once you organize your schools on a spreadsheet. I read article after article on how to prepare for your MFA and jotted down the things I should organize. The end result was a beautiful, long spreadsheet of schools. In it, I included:
    — Application due date
    — Application cost
    — Manuscript pages/words
    — Statement of purpose / Personal statement requirements (word/page count, content)
    — Does this school need a Curriculum vitae (CV)?
    — Number of recommendations
    — Address
    — Tuition per year
    — Application complete? (Seeing that lil’ red checkmark made me feel so, so accomplished)
    — Link to the program’s website
  3. Curriculum vitae? Whuh?
    The professional definition of a curriculum vitae (i.e. CV) is a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous experience, typically sent with a job application. Basically, it’s a resume with a bit more focus on academia. Most MFA programs that I’ve looked at have this as an optional document. I supplied mine to the schools I applied to because I wanted them to see that I was a well-rounded student and because I linked my blog that’s dedicated to writing; the point of that was to show that although I applying in Fiction, I am proficient in other genres, as well. Here’s a copy of mine that you could use as a template: CV Template for MFA

  4. Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement
    Besides the manuscript, this is probably the most crucial part of your application. This is the first piece of writing the admissions committee will be viewing from you. This is where you are human and show them who you are… in as little as 500 words or as much as 2500 words. This was the most difficult part of my application process, and if it wasn’t for Gotham’s MFA Mentorship with BC Edwards, I would’ve probably sent these MFA programs some really crappy version of what I had. Everything I read said not to start your statement with the following: “I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” “J.K. Rowling made me want to write,” so on and so forth. Here’s a copy of my Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement to Kingston University in the U.K. (that I was accepted to within two weeks of submitting): S.o.P—Kingston

  5. The Manuscript
    THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. THE. MOST. CRUCIAL. PART. OF. YOUR. APPLICATION.
    Can I make it any more obvious? No, seriously, this is 50% of your application. Maybe even more. If you’ve been writing throughout undergrad, you should have something. This isn’t the time to begin writing something new, that hasn’t been workshopped and reviewed countless times by your mentor or overseeing professor. Most MFA programs have their manuscript requirements at 20 pages. Some are 15 to 20; some are up to 30. I gave them 22 — not too much, not too little, and within guidelines (and guidelines are important; if you don’t follow them, it’s clear that you’re not good at following any type of directions). If you’re a short story writer, gather two or three short stories that you believe are your strongest and edit them with your mentor. If you’re a novelist, take a chapter (particularly, the first and/or second chapter) that will introduce the who, what, when, where, why, how of your novel. Always, always stay within page limits. On top of that, take note if there are any schools that want something very specific like page numbers (and their location), a cover page (and what to include), or a table of contents. With my manuscript, I typed it all up in one document on Google Docs so all my revisions were saved & I could always look at them. I edited my manuscript and tailored it to the needs of each school. Later, I downloaded it as a PDF into a folder specifically for that school. Talk about organization.
  6. The Submit Button
    Don’t upload everything, smile, and blindly hit Submit. No, no, no. Don’t do that. Reread everything: Manuscript, Statement of Purpose, CV, and any other documents. Make sure you’re clicking the correct document to upload. You don’t want to upload the wrong document. That’d be embarrassing  (and that was my worst fear). Have a credit card or debit card ready because you are going to be paying application fees galore (sidenote: I personally find it ridiculous that I have to pay for an application to a school in which I might be rejected from… but whatever, those are the rules). Click Submit and take a shot. You did good, buddy!

Post-Application Process
You thought I was done, didn’t you?

I’ll post more about the Post-Application Process and choosing a school later on. Look out for it.

☆ Nikki

Through a Southern Lense

IMG_5910

About this time last year was the first time I saw what it was to be an outsider from the South. I know I haven’t always been the one to follow norms, but it’s not as if I’m like one of those boys that are dropped off by their polygamist families without anything or without the knowledge of what a television is or who Oprah is. I like to think of myself as someone who is capable and understanding of new things, but in this instance, I wasn’t given the memo.

That morning I dressed as I always did for fall: jeans, pink suede pumas, a light green long sleeve shirt and a purple fleece jacket. Nothing prepared me for the moment I entered the subway car that morning. As I stepped on to the A train, I shuffled over to the vacant space at the end of the car and braced myself for the jolt of movement that happens when the subway starts up. Normally, I don’t take a large gander around, but on this particular day I did. What I saw in front of me was a sea of black coats, black jackets, black shoes, black hats, and the occasional black pants (but it was mostly dark wash jeans). I looked down at myself, and all I could see was the neon sign pasted to my chest that said, “I’m not from here.” The fact that I had lots of color in my wardrobe and that my jeans were light was apparently something you don’t really do around here.

I didn’t understand what was happening around me. I love to wear color for so many reasons, but the most important reason is because I think color can show off your style and personality. It seems my opinion was not shared with the North. I had to wonder why was there so much black. Was the whole city depressed? Did I miss out on a national tragedy that I was supposed to mourn? Does it represent the color of their hearts? Or was there a more practical reason like black retains more heat?

By the end of the day I had forgotten the incident since I was struggling to understand why I had decided to put myself through the hell that was graduate school. Three months passed and it was now into winter, or in Shreveport terms “the end of the world” since it was now snowing in the city. At this point, I was juggling an internship, four classes, and a part time job. Sometimes I would go from one to the other in the same day.

Only then did I realize the reason everyone wore black; it went with everything and the color was there for all of the people that wear many hats a day. This one color covered up whatever part of the day you had to dress for, the layers of clothing one wears and peels off throughout the day and it simplified the process of trying to make ends meet. One black coat goes with whatever is happening in your life. Not always is a yellow coat or mint green jacket appropriate at certain times. This revelation made sense of why I never see black scarves, because that’s the accessory of color that makes you an individual.

I now own a black coat. One might call me a sell out, claiming I didn’t stand my ground by sticking by my traditional southern color scheme, and calling me a turncoat. But I want to argue this, no matter what color my coat is, my heart glows with the colors of my personality. Isn’t that enough? You’re right, it’s probably not. New York won that round.

-Mackenzie Roberts