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A Date With . . . Millie Slavidou

My latest date is with an English author living in Greece. Millie Slavidou lives in Alexandroupoli, a port town in the far northeastern corner of Greece. It is not generally on the beaten track for tourists and tends to be little known in the UK. Despite that, it is, she says,

518xdybe01l-_ac_us218_“a good place to live, and as a lover of history, I have always been intrigued by the fact that Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, met his father King Philip of Macedon on the island opposite the town and visible from the seafront. There is a fascinating history there waiting to be discovered.”

The thing she most likes about the place is “the seafront.

Sometimes I take my laptop down to the seafront and sit on a bench near the lighthouse to work and watch the sea at the same time.

There is something very relaxing and serene about watching the sea.”

She seems reluctant to nominate a least favourite aspect of the place:

41vngw3qfl-_ac_us218_“Dare I say anything? Or will I be hounded out of town?! It has to be the terrible state of the roads and the sheer number of potholes.”

We conducted the interview just a short while after many people were killed and others made homeless by a wildfire in a Greek coastal town. Such events, though not always so destructive of life, are not uncommon in the region.

Millie’s heart “truly goes out to the people who have died, and those remaining behind who have lost their loved ones and everything they own in those recent fires. It is a terrible situation. Unfortunately, wildfires have become an expected part of summer for many parts of the Mediterranean, and this region is no exception – there 51vk9jqdl-_ac_us218_was a devastating fire in this area a few years ago that destroyed a large swathe of beautiful forest. It is not something that you can forget easily.”

It is her love of languages and etymology that drives Millie’s writing:

“My parenting articles are mostly on subjects related to language, bilingualism and teaching literacy skills. I studied language, and I have spent the last twenty years continuing to study and read about bilingualism for my own interest. I hope to interest other people in these subjects, and who better than parents who may also be in a position to pass on more than one language to their children and inspire the potential next generation of linguists?”

She also contributes to an on-line magazine for children:

41hceg6dvrl-_ac_us218_“It is something I truly enjoy doing.

Children are our future, and if we wait until they are adults before trying to inspire them and give them interesting material to read, then it is too late.

Many of my articles for the magazine have been on linguistic topics, such as the history of writing in English, etymology, the English vowel shift and so on.”

I suggested that her books could be described as “travelogues for tweens” and she approves:

“That is spot on! Perfect description. My heroine travels to various places and discovers things about the place, the language and the culture. All the descriptions of real places and landmarks are accurate, as are the snippets of the local language – always accompanied by English equivalents.”

Her protagonist, Lucy Evans, from the illustrations I’ve seen, looks a lot like Millie. I wondered if Lucy is like Millie in other ways:

“She is! I was also a confident teen, filled with curiosity about the world I lived in, although unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to go to so many places at such a young age like Lucy!”

The illustrations that accompany the text of the books are done by a professional artist, as are the book covers. She also uses a professional editor.

“I am not the least bit artistic and I don’t draw very well. I had them all done for me, as well as the pictures at the start of each chapter. Lynn Schreiber, the editor of Jump Mag, the magazine I contribute to, edited all the books.”

Like most indie authors Millie hates marketing.

She blogs about etymology at “but the subject matter is very different from the books I have published so far. That is why I have not made an effort to tie it to my name and author profile. However, Jump Mag has a page for me, and all my books are featured there. I am planning to expand on that – life and work keep getting in the way of all the things I want to do!”

She likes to write whilst “Watching the sea, as I mentioned above, or simply during the mornings while my children are at school, if I have no paid work to get on with – I also translate, and sometimes I can be very busy.”

When I ask about her current work in progress it turns out that she is very busy indeed:

“I have another Lucy book almost finished on my laptop, awaiting only the final chapter, but I am also working on several other things. I have an adventure book set in Tuscany in Italy, with a brand new heroine, with a bit of history of the Etruscans thrown in, as well as a couple of stories for much younger children and my longstanding etymology project. I have a son with special needs, and my stories for younger children were written for him.”

When asked to offer a fact about herself that might surprise her readers she says:

“Despite having spent many years living in the Mediterranean within walking distance of the sea, I very rarely go to the beach, and don’t often swim in the sea. I prefer to walk along the shore or along woodland paths.”

I’m sure the fans of Lucy Evans are eager to get their hands on her latest adventure so I hope it won’t be too long before it’s finished and on sale. Meanwhile Millie’s Amazon page is here and you can follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Getting it – or Not?

I am no linguist. Apart from schoolboy French, mostly long forgotten, I know no language other than English. Nevertheless, I have a love of language. One of the fascinating things about the English language is that, whilst there are some things for which there is more than one word, there are also many words that have more than one meaning.

It is the latter fact, in relation to one word in particular, that has mired the Irish Cancer Society in controversy in recent days. The particular word is “get”.

Meaning #1: acquire, as in “I’m going to get a new phone.”

Meaning #2: understand, as in “I get that there is more than one meaning for the word ‘get’.”

Meaning #3: to wreak revenge, as in “I’ll get you for that.”

The Society has been running a series of television and radio advertisements in which individuals are recorded saying “I want to get cancer.” Some of these clips are broadcast without any accompanying explanation. The explanation, when it comes, relies on a statistical prediction to the effect that half the population will be diagnosed with cancer in the next few years.

The individuals in the advertisements are implying that if one out of every two people is going to be diagnosed, they would rather it was them than their friend, partner or close relative.

The society’s message goes on to point out that they, too, want to “get” cancer, both in the sense that they are working hard to understand cancer in order to find more effective treatments, and that their aim is, not so much to wreak revenge on it, as to destroy it.

It is a clever play on words and the wonderful peculiarities of our language. The problem is that, whilst literate adults have no problem grasping the underlying message, the way it is presented, with people saying they want to get cancer with no explanation, children, especially those who may have seen a close relative die from cancer, are disturbed by the thought that anyone would want to acquire such a devastating disease.

One mother, whose 20 year old son was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of the disease in August and died shortly before Christmas, is so angry that she has posted an open letter to the Society on Facebook. The post has received a great many “shares” and “likes” and attracted many messages of support.

Whoever came up with this idea at the Society – or approved it, if devised by an agency – is probably regretting their decision. The official line is that they wanted to get (that word again!) people talking. Whether the conversation that is being had is the one they wanted, however, is questionable.