In the Facebook era, a father and daughter study high school Latin together. Don’t miss the final "outtake": it’s a real kick-starter.
I am writing a book about me and my daughter working on a year-long project together. Et Cetera: Studying Latin (and Other Things) With My Teen-Aged Daughter in the Era of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter is a jaunty account of me (a single father, 55) and my daughter (a lively 15-year-old) studying Grade 10 Latin. At my daughter’s high school, which is the local public school, 94 of the 250 students in Grade 10 are studying Latin.
I have written about half the book – approximately 40,000 words, and I have another 40,000 words to write. After that will come the editing and the search for a publisher (including final copy-editing, page design, insertion of graphics, etc.). As anyone who has ever written a full-length book manuscript knows, the process of writing can easily take a year, minimum. And the search for a publisher is often a task worthy of Sisyphus. The finished book will be approximately 250 pages.
A drawing my daughter made of a bobble-headed me in my "atrium."
My plan is to finish the first full draft by the end of September 2012, and to have the printed, published book ready for distribution on June 16, 2013 – Father’s Day, which also happens to be Bloomsday (for you fans of James Joyce).
Et Cetera is a book about how parents and kids talk with each other, and especially about how they share stories of their past, their observations of the present, and their hopes for the future. The book particularly focuses on the bustling life of teen-age girls, the expanding influence of technology on our lives, and the peculiar logic of contemporary family life. Some of these peculiarities include learning about teen-age “death circles,” discussing over the breakfast table how brothel owners in ancient times advertised their establishments (of great and humorous interest to teenaged girls), and about how a father and daughter, while buying a new cell-phone contract, might not think the same thing when they hear a salesperson discuss the intricacies of a “three-year Virgin contract.”
How I’ll Use the Kickstarter Funding
The funding I get through Kickstarter will go directly to expenses related to
- Finishing the book-length manuscript
- Editing and copyediting the book
- Securing graphic material (including photographs, maps and other images, most of which – but not all – I will seek in the public domain)
- Design, printing, publishing, marketing and distribution
If I cannot find a commercial publisher, I will self-publish the book and then pursue the usual channels: Amazon, ebook, distributing it and encouraging reviews however I can.
Any money that comes in over and above my goal will go to upgrading the graphic material, improving the printing quality (using more color, better paper, etc.), increasing the print run, expanding the marketing and PR, and into various initiatives related to publicity and distribution.
Latin has also inspired many other languages: for example, about 60 % of English words come to us through Latin.
Detailed Information About Et Cetera
The tone throughout the book is light and lively
- “Okay, Dad, but there are going to be some restrictions and rules about all this! I don’t want you embarrassing me at school! Got it?”
- “As an altar boy in the 1960s, I learned a few Latin phrases, which are only dimly remembered now. ‘Here is Peter,’ my mother used to say when introducing me. ‘He is an altar boy now, and later he’ll be a priest, and then a bishop, and then a cardinal, and then the Pope!’ I didn’t live up to my mom’s expectations.”
I interview and quote in the book my daughter and her friends, as well as a wide assortment of others, including a 12-year-old girl from New York City who studies for her Latin vocabulary tests by texting with her friend, and a very successful 98-year-old businessman, who in his youth dined with George Orwell, and stood guard over Trotsky’s corpse.
Here is a partial list of some of the people I interview for the book:
- Alain de Botton, whose books, including How Proust Can Change Your Life, have been bestsellers in 30 countries; runs London-based The School of Life.
- Elaine Fantham, author or translator of 17 books, on Cicero, Ovid, Seneca, etc.: “the grande dame of Latin Studies in the English-speaking world.”
- Most Rev Ferdinand Fonseca, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Bombay / Mumbai, Titular Bishop of Aquae in Mauretania, Algeria.
- Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, for his co-discovery of the Buckminsterfullerene, one of only three pure forms of carbon.
- Gordon Lightfoot, international singer/songwriter; his songs have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand.
- James Morwood, editor of the Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary, and many other books; taught for 30 years at Harrow, the last 17 as Head of Classics.
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sex therapist, media personality, and author of 30 books, including The Family Encyclopedia of Sex and Sex for Dummies.
Here are examples of the quotes I integrate into the text:
- “I’ve used lots of Latin words in my books. Sex education is full of them: coitus interruptus, mons pubis, and so many more! Maybe I should write a new book, Sex for Latin Lovers!” Dr. Ruth
- “I was terribly taught at Latin and loathed it for silly, superficial reasons. I am traumatised by the whole subject.” Alain de Botton
- “That’s right, Dad, you can’t take the test with me … so does that mean if I fail, then you also fail?” My daughter.
I also interview people who have studied Latin in Canada, China, England, France Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Scotland, South Africa and the US.
Throughout the book I invoke Apuleius, Caesar, Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Juvenal, Livy, Lucretius, Martial, Ovid, Plautus, Plutarch, Seneca, Suetonius, Tacitus and Virgil.
I also include other information and stories about the study of Latin. For example: Mark Zuckerburg (founder of Facebook), and Bill Gates (Microsoft) both studied Latin and how both consider it a very important part of their education; wrestler John Charles Layfield (aka “Bad Santa,” “Vampiro Americano” and “The Wrestling God”), the longest reigning WWE champion in SmackDown history, studied Latin; Barack Obama had a Latin motto during his 2008 Presidential campaign; and Lauren Bacall spoke some Latin to Kirk Douglas in a movie.
A photo I took in our local Italian neighborhood.
I think that the book will have a wide audience among those who are interested in culture and education, in how parents and kids communicate, in how technology is shaping our lives, and among those who studied and continue to study Latin. Did you know, for example, that there are about 150,000 annual registrants for the National Latin Exam sponsored by The American Classical League and the National Junior Classic League?
And did you know that there are only two languages used in the US Constitution: they are English and Latin.
Draft Chapter Titles of Et Cetera
- 1: "My Daughter, Me and the Magisterium”
- 2: “Latin, Latin Everywhere”
- 3: "From Livy (140+ Books) to Twitter (140– Characters)”
- 4: “Defective and Irregular: Some Tense Studying”
- 5: "A Delightful and Naïve Sense of the Good”
- 6: “The Inevitable (and Predictable) Bad”
- 7: "The Eternal Ugly”
- 8: “Technology Will Set You Free!”
- 9: “Cleopatra at the Breakfast Table”
- 10: “Facetime, Faceoff, Facebook”
- 11: “Time is On My Side”
- 12: “Family Values, Family Virtues, Family Voids”
- 13: “High School Confidential”
- 14: “Latin is Dead, Long Live Latin”
- 15: “Et Cetera”
My Previous Books
- O’Brien, Peter. Always a New Adventure: The Memoirs of Jan van der Kuijp. Toronto: Thomas Memoirs, 2006.
- Harry Heft and Peter O’Brien. Build a Better Book Club. Introduction by Paul Quarrington. Toronto: Macmillan, 1999.
- O’Brien, Peter, ed. So To Speak: Interviews with Contemporary Canadian Writers. Montreal: Vehicule, 1988.
- Lecker, Robert, Jack David, and Peter O’Brien, eds. Introduction to Literature: British, American, Canadian. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
- Hood, Hugh, and Peter O’Brien, eds. Fatal Recurrences: New Fiction in English from Montreal. Montreal: Vehicule, 1985.
Reviews and Other Published Articles of Previous Books
Build a Better Book Club
- “Book clubs, say the authors of this guidebook, are one of the hot literary trends. … They’re right too. … a complete inventory, from finding the right mix of people to structuring meetings and inviting guest speakers. An appendix lists 200 thoughtfully chosen works of both fiction and non-fiction to get you going.” - The Globe and Mail
- “[This book] covers the book-club waterfront, including defining a club, tips on how to build one and reading samples and discussion guidelines.” - Ottawa Citizen
- “One of the hottest trends … is the book club and the authors offer advice on everything from the books themselves (there are 200 suggested titles) to creating the right social dynamic among your members.” - The Vancouver Province
- “… savvy irreverence … The authors’ down-to-earth approach to their passion for books carries both weight and hope. They’re right on the money … a thoughtful sample reading … an eclectic international reading list … chatty, accessible tone.” - The Hamilton Spectator
- “There’s much to like about both Heft and his longtime friend Peter O’Brien, co-writers of the newly published Build a Better Book Club. … Electricity, banter, stimulation – call it what you will – is the beauty of the book club, say Heft and O’Brien. … The authors offer remedies for common diseases that affect book clubs.” - Westender
- “Build a Better Book Club will prove indispensible. … helpful advice on a surprising variety of topics. … Beginning with a humorous foreward by Paul Quarrington and ending with a terrific list of 100 fiction and 100 non-fiction book suggestions.” - www.indigo.ca
- “This comprehensive guide helps readers initiate and sustain a prosperous reading group.” - www.chapters.ca
So To Speak: Interviews with Contemporary Canadian Writers
- “ … interesting and informative reading. … Peter O’Brien was well-matched with the authors.” - The Globe and Mail
- “… these interviews are fascinating and immensely valuable for their informal views they give us of creative minds at work.” - Books in Canada
- “A refreshingly random literary tour … The random nature of the book is the most refreshing thing about it. O’Brien’s intention was to provide a cross-section of literary voices – male and female, new and old, poet and storyteller – and ‘let the traditions falls where they may.’ So To Speak succeeds in doing that.” - The Montreal Gazette
- “[The interviews] have spontaneity and that sense of exchange, rather than of statement, normally associated with the form. Certainly this volume contributes handsomely to our appreciation of writers and writing. … There is an openness in attitude in So To Speak.” - Essays on Canadian Writing
- “So To Speak: Interviews With Contemporary Canadian Writers has something for every reader: human interest, political comment, the creative process, and more. … Editor Peter O’Brien manages to avoid ivory-tower irrelevance.” - Quill & Quire
Fatal Recurrences: New Fiction in English from Montreal
- “… a grab-bag of jarringly diverse styles and approaches, ranging from the stiffly conventional to the wildly experimental … the writers included in Fatal Recurrences are indeed accomplished, and their work is worth reading.” - The Montreal Gazette
- “This is a collection of intriguing, some very good, writing, questioning themes and realities that escape the city limits. This breaking of borders seems to me a great and powerful advantage.” - NOW (Alberto Manguel)
- “… worthy and elucidating …” - The Quebecer
- “I found Fatal Recurrences very enjoyable. Reading through themes and styles was like walking through the city.” - The Observer
- “Peter O’Brien runs a Toronto-based company called Thomas Memoirs, which helps people, well, write their memoirs. … The final product looks good enough for display at the Smithsonian.” - Driven Magazine, The Globe and Mail
Rubicon Literary Journal
- “As familiarity with art beyond one’s national borders must lead to creative growth for the recipient culture, Rubicon should be applauded for its international vision. … in-depth interviews … home-grown poetry and fiction (both of high caliber), an abundance of consistently well-written reviews and the further pleasure of visual art.” - Irish Literary Supplement
- “Surprisingly well-organized.” - Poetry Canada Review
- “Thank you so much for Rubicon – what a delight!” - Alberto Manguel
Introduction to Literature: British, American, Canadian (Harper & Row)
- There were no published reviews but the book was used as a textbook at various universities.
The covers of four books I've written or edited.
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pledged of $17,000 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on July 15, 2012.
Jun 5, 2012 - Jul 15, 2012
Pledge $5 or more
For as little as $5 (the price of a fancy cup of coffee) I’ll give you a shout-out on my Tumblr blog as a valued supporter of Et Cetera. And a beautifully designed postcard personally signed by me and my daughter. Oh yes, also my deep appreciation, and my heart-felt and infinite thanks. AND for every pledge, I will plant one tree through a registered, US-based international tree-planting charity. AND TO DONORS AT EVERY LEVEL: If you have a great story about studying Latin (either the pleasures or displeasures) let me know and I will interview you (by phone, email or skype). If the story is appropriate for the book (if it’s compelling, entertaining, quirky …), with your permission, I will use it and quote you in the book.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $22 or more
All of the above, and numbered, limited-edition artwork, on archival paper, of original artwork from the book. The image is a Janus figure of me and my daughter on a Roman “coin.” (Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions – January is named after Janus.) The dimensions of the artwork: 5 ½ X 4 ¼ inches or 14 X 11 cm. The artwork is suitable for framing, or it could make a very smart bookmark.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
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All of the above, plus an ebook version of Et Cetera.Estimated delivery: Aug 2013
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5 backers Limited (95 of 100 left)
All of the above, and a hand-signed copy of Et Cetera, mailed to whoever you want and wherever in the world you want. (No extra cost for international shipping.)Estimated delivery: Aug 2013
Pledge $59 or more
5 backers Limited (95 of 100 left)
All of the above, but at this level the book is hand-signed and addressed to you – “warmly inscribed,” as booksellers say – by me and my daughter. (No extra cost for international shipping.)Estimated delivery: Aug 2013
Pledge $125 or more
2 backers Limited (68 of 70 left)
All of the above, but at this level you get two copies of the Janus artwork and two copies of the book, each copy warmly inscribed to you (or anyone else of your choosing) and signed by me and my daughter. (No extra cost for international shipping.) You also get, at this level, a thank-you, by name, on the “Acknowledgments” page of the published book.Estimated delivery: Aug 2013
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0 backers Limited (40 of 40 left)
All of the above, but at this level you get seven copies of the Janus artwork and seven copies of the book, each copy warmly inscribed to you (or anyone else of your choosing) and signed by me and my daughter. Why so many copies? Well, you may want to send a copy to your local library or to one of your high school teachers or to your Aunt Minnie or Uncle Jens who studied Latin. (No extra cost for international shipping.)Estimated delivery: Aug 2013
Pledge $1,000 or more
0 backers Limited (15 of 15 left)
All of the above, but at this level you get as many signed copies of the Janus artwork and the book as you need or desire, within reason of course. All levels of giving get my infinite thanks (an ethereal but worthy thing) but at this level you get my “infinite thanks plus one more” (when my daughter was a little girl I used to say to her: “I love you to infinity plus one more”).Estimated delivery: Jul 2013