Mark Twain Pickup Lines

Mark Twain’s not a bad looking young man.
(Image Source: Wikipedia.Org)

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest American literature fan. While British literature is my forte, I do still appreciate many American classics as well as classic American authors, such as Mark Twain. I must admit, of all the things I knew of Mark Twain, such as his wit and humor, I was not all that familiar with his romantic side, but, through researching this blog post, I found that he did indeed have one.

Mark Twain was married in 1870 and, from all accounts, had a happy marriage that yielded four children. But Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon, rejected Twain’s first marriage proposal in 1868. How did Twain change her mind? Why, with his words of course. The two lovers corresponded regularly via letter and, once Twain had won Ms. Langdon’s heart and her father’s approval, the two were wed and the rejected proposal was put behind them.

So, while many of us know Twain’s words for their wit and humor, his words also touch on romance. If you’re single and looking to remedy the situation, I’ve found some useful quotes from Mark Twain that can aid you in your quest of seduction.

The situation: You see someone looking bored at a party or a bar.

The Twain line: “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

The result (hopefully): The person smiles and you two share a great adventure that night that may lead to the greatest romantic adventure of them all.

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Bookish Tank Tops for Summer

For summer in Portland, I had cool, temperate weather in mind. But lately, it’s been hot, hot, hot. And since my apartment lacks an air conditioner, that means lounging about in my underwear with the fan on full blast.

For when clothing isn’t optional, it’s nice to have something light to wear. The bookish, the better. Below are some of my favorite literary tank tops currently available on Etsy.

Books, Wine, Bath, Candles Racerback

Evolution of Books Tank

Though She Be But Little, She is Fierce Tank

Game of Thrones Houses Racerback

Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis

TED-Ed: Quick Videos to Improve Your Grammar and Word Choice

Grammar ain’t easy, I’ll tell you that. It took me years to nail this sucker called commas down, and, I might add, quiet a few writing and grammar courses, not to mention my years as a writing tutor. And, beyond grammar, sometimes clarifying an idea or choosing the right words to convey an idea can be a struggle.

But it doesn’t have to be a struggle for you. There are many ways to improve one’s grammar. Reading is a really great way to acquire new grammatical skills and refine old ones as well as add new words and phrases to your writing lexicon, for example.

Another great way of improving grammar is to study it, but studying it isn’t always fun or entertaining. TED-Ed takes care of the fun and entertaining part of learning, at least in my opinion.

TED-Ed, like TED-Talks, are free for the masses and are ideas, or in this case lessons, worth sharing. Here are some great grammar videos from TED-Ed:


It’s time we clear up some comma myths out there, and this video will help you answer the age old grammar question: do I put a comma there?

Thug Notes: Keeping Literary Analysis Gangsta!

Have you ever been hanging out with your homies and felt like discussing the subtle nuances found in Mcite>The Stranger or maybe you were in the mood to converse about Animal Farm and it’s allegorical meaning. No? Just me? Oh.

Well a new channel on YouTube gives viewers a chance to see literary masterpieces through a more realistic scope. Thug Notes is hosted by Sparky. This Gangsta with a Graduate’s lays down some intense retellings of classics, while also providing thorough analysis of themes, character, and symbolism.

What I like about this channel is that it is real. Sparky literally keeps it real. He summarizes these works in a way that is humorous, but also relevant to our 21st century voice and perspective. As he is summarizing, there are stick figure animations with funny dialogue and photos to accompany his narration. Every Thug Notes episode is different.

Author Spotlight: Celeste Ng


Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You (June 2014, Penguin Press). She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son, where she teaches fiction writing at Grub Street and is at work on a second novel and a collection of short stories.

Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
Buy the book here:

TPP: Describe your novel in ten words or less.

Celeste Ng: A favorite daughter’s sudden death reveals her mixed-race family’s secrets.

TPP: What inspired you to write Everything I Never Told You?

CN: The specifics: my husband told me an anecdote about seeing a girl fall into a lake when he was a kid, and that image stuck with me.  I started writing to explore who she was, what her family was like, and how she ended up in the water, and this troubled family emerged.

More generally, though, I’ve always been fascinated by secrets, how they can erode you from within. I wanted to look at what that could do to a family, especially in the wake of a tragedy. When you lose someone, there are often so many unanswered questions—all these unintentional secrets, large and small. You think of all the things you want to ask them, and all the answers they’ll never be able to give you.  My father died ten years ago, and I’m still thinking of things I wish I could ask him.

TPP: What do you want readers to take away from your novel?

CN: I hope readers will close the book thinking about what it’s like to be an outsider, to feel different from other people around you in any way. Every character in this book is an outsider in some way, and that can be so isolating.  What is fiction for if not to help you imagine your way into someone else’s experience and find connection there?

And I hope readers will leave with an appreciation of how difficult it can be to really communicate with someone, even if—maybe particularly if—you’re very close to them. Sometimes there’s more risk in being honest with the people you care about most; there’s so much more at stake. The title, Everything I Never Told You, works two ways: it refers to the secrets we keep on purpose— the things we hide because we’re frightened or ashamed—but it also speaks to the things we leave unsaid because we don’t realize other people are waiting to hear them.  I love you. I miss you. You’re important. It sounds a little cheesy, but those are things we often leave implicit and yet long to hear explicitly.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you would’ve been given?

Sonnet Sunday: A Dream Pang

I think most people are familiar with a few sonnets, at least, people have heard that Shakespeare wrote sonnets. But a lot of other famous writers wrote sonnets too. Robert Frost, beloved American poet, also wrote sonnets. Today I want to do a close-reading of his sonnet A Dream Pang.

Robert Frost
(Image Source: Wikipedia.Org)

A Dream Pang
By Robert Frost

I had withdrawn in forest, and my song
Was swallowed up in leaves that blew alway,
And to the forest edge you came one day
(This was my dream) and looked and pondered long,
But did not enter, though the wish was strong:
You shook your pensive head as who should say,
‘I dare not–too far in his footsteps stray–
He must seek me would he undo the wrong.’
Not far, but near, I stood and saw it all
Behind low boughs the trees let down outside;
And the sweet pang it cost me not to call
And tell you that I saw does still abide,
But ’tis not true that thus I dwelt aloof,
For the wood wakes, and you are here for proof.

First I think I should explain some sonnet conventions, and then go into depth about what conventions this sonnet fits within and what conventions it breaks.

Sonnets generally come in two varieties (before Spenserian Sonnet) – the Italian, or Petrarchan Sonnet and the Elizabethan, or Shakespearean Sonnet. Both sonnet forms share common features, such as having 14 lines, using iambic pentameter, having a turn or confirmation in sentiment (known as a volta), and generally being about romantic feelings for the subject of the poem (often unrequited). The main difference between these two forms are the rhyme scheme as well as the placement of the volta. For a Petrarchan Sonnet, the volta comes after the first eight lines known as the octave and is known as the sestet, or last six lines, and for a Shakespearean Sonnet, the volta comes in the last two lines.

The Quotable John Barton

John Barton is a director known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company after co-founding it with Peter Hall in 1960. Indeed, Barton directed Royal Shakespeare Company productions for over 40 years and is credited to be a key aspect of the success the company has celebrated over the years.

John Barton has worked with, directed, and explored Shakespeare with many notable actors and actresses such as Sinéad Cusack, Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Sir Ian McKellen, and Sir Patrick Stewart. In 1982, these explorations were captured in a BBC series called Playing Shakespeare.

The series consisted of nine episodes exploring ways in which the actors could better acquaint themselves with Shakespeare’s text and how to act it out on stage to not only entertain and engage with the audience, but to make the subtitles of the text and power of the words known to the audience as well.

One thing I noticed while watching the series is that John Barton, along with his fellow actors, explore themes and give advice that is not only apt for other actors, but for writers as well.

Travels with Gabby (Part 2 of My Journey)

IMG_2302After recounting to you what I learned during my epic journey across America in the first part of this blog, I figured I would recount to you my smaller, still epic, journey across California. My wife and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a trip to San Francisco. As a courtesy to me, she allowed me to put the National Steinbeck Center on the itinerary, since we were driving through the area.

8131588061_c9a951ea38_zAs I have mentioned, Travels with Charley is a must read for me almost every time I take a road trip. What made this road trip extra special was being able to visit a museum dedicated to one of the most influential American authors, and seeing the house where he was born and raised.

233485416_e6f4cee0c1The National Steinbeck Center is located in Salinas, California, which is roughly two hours away from San Francisco and the bay area. Nestled close to the Monterey Bay, Salinas is a small community with a very significant national treasure. The Steinbeck Center houses an interactive museum where guest can read and see items related to Steinbeck’s life. Personal journals, notes, manuscripts are all on display and set in interesting formats. For example, there is great room that appears to be Steinbeck’s childhood bedroom with a dresser with drawers that open. When opened guests can see books that belonged to Steinbeck, notes he jotted down and even some short writing samples. All of it is encased in thick glass, of course.

Literary Paraphernalia: Tattoos for Every Harry Potter Fan

This week, the internet has been buzzing with the news that J.K. Rowling published a short story on Pottermore reuniting fans with their favorite magical people. Except now, Harry and the gang are in their thirties with hair beginning to gray.

I haven’t finished reading Rowling’s new story yet, because summer, for me, is really less of a break from school work than it is a time to do said school work sweating in ninety-degree weather, with a fan on high pointed in my direction. Seriously, Portland, I thought I left California to get away from the heat. But I plan on finishing the story as soon as I can escape.

All this talk about Harry Potter has made me nostalgic for the books I read so fervently as an adolescent, the same age as Harry and growing up every year with him, that my brother-in-law once hid The Order of Phoenix from me so I’d stop reading and rejoin society. (I got it back, and all was well—see what I did there?) In order to celebrate our reunion with Harry, I spent some time searching for some of the best Harry Potter tattoos out there (or at least the best on Instagram), which you can check out below.
















20 (More) Book-Based Movies on Netflix

A few weeks ago, we wrote a list of 20 book-based movies currently on Netflix to check out this summer—or at least before they disappear from the online streaming site. While the list started out with a selection of films that Amanda, a fellow blogger, had been tracking, I have since extended it as many more movies have been added in the past months.

These movies are based on both contemporary and classic novels and, in once case, a comic book. Some of the films stick more closely to the original plot, while others deviate from it. At the end of the day, film is a very different medium from the written word, but love it or hate it, watching the film-version of books you’ve read can be exciting.

A few terms ago, I had a professor who was a former employee at Laika, helping them acquire movies like Coraline and Paranorman. Movies I’m sure I was more obsessed with than every kid in the audience. She told me that literary adaptations aren’t about recreating the book page-by-page on screen. Books aren’t scripts, and to treat them like so would lead to movies which far exceed an hour or two. In reality, directors search for books that inspire them. That they have a vision for. And I, for one, love to see the result of this inspiration.

Black Hawk Down


Bram Stoker’s Dracula