Book Review: The Beacon at Alexandria

I first read The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian bradshaw in 1999 when I was in Grade 11; it had been leant to me by my latin teacher as ‘a book that I should like’ – I didn’t just like it – I loved it!  It istantly became my favourite book, and it has remained my favourite book ever since. Twelve years ago I reviewed the Beacon at Alexandria on Chapters.ca when I finally purchased my very own copy.

“I will start off by saying that If I could rank this book higher than five I would! I loved this book so much! The characters are incredibly real, so much so that you begin to feel like you know them. There problems become your problems. I found myself loathing Festinus and cheering for young Charis. I guarantee that anyone who picks up this book will enjoy it as much as I did!”

My review remains the only one on this site, but there are many more favourable reviews on goodreads.com.

I think it is safe to say that The Beacon at Alexandria, which is about a head strong and independent thinking girl living in the late Roman Empire, likely inspired some of my early choices in life. – Latin in class in general certainly solidified my desire to study Classics – but The Beacon at Alexandria was about a girl near my own age (at the time, lol) doing what she wanted to do and being successful despite the time, place and political atmosphere she found herself in. I think she inspired me to take risks and every time I read it, which I do every 3 or 4 years, I am inspired anew. Perhaps it is time to pick it up again!

If you love historical fiction, roman history, ancient medicine, women’s literature, religious/political history or just the ancient world in general, I am pretty sure you will love this book too.

Ignite Culture: Saying a lot in just 5 minutes!

I recently participated in the first ever Ignite Culture, which was held in Toronto at the ING Direct Cafe.

A big thank you to Jenn Nelson (@unmuseum) for organizing the event!

This wasn’t my first experience with Ignite, but it was the first time I presented in the format; I have to say that I really liked it.

What is Ignite? A series of 5-minute presentations; each presenter gets 20 slides, auto-advancing at 15 second intervals. 

This type of presentation is quick and to the point, allowing you to get a lot of varied content into a short period of time. It also makes for a very lively, enlightening and energetic atmosphere.

Putting the presentation together

Because of previous commitments I only had a couple of days to prepare my slides for the presentation. I had naively thought that this would be easy. It’s was not!

I realized not long after I started that I could not develop a 5-minute presentation the way I normally do – I have winged every presentation I have ever given, at least to some extent. I usually have an outline and points that I want to make, but I never write out a script, nor do I practice. My approach is that if I know the material well enough, and I know what I want to say, than I will be able to present it well.

However, in a 5-minute Ignite presentation you do not have the time to ‘talk about’ anything – with the time limit you only have time to ‘say it.’

I also determined very early on that because the slides are auto-advancing, I was going to have to write the script first and then choose the images/content of the slides to match the script – not the other way around. This meant that each slide had to fit 15 full seconds of content (or 30 seconds if you double-up a slide – which is perfectly fair).  I had never realized the number of times I would input a slide that I would skip past in just a few seconds – which can’t be very impactful.

Presenting

I found that during the presentation itself I began reading the paper with my script – using it a bit like a crutch, and then gradually as I became more comfortable with the pace I was able to abandon the paper and ease back into the more natural style that I normally have.

Overall, I think the experience of designing and presenting in the 5-minute Ignite format has improved my presentation skills.  It has made me more aware of the micro components involved and it has helped me to hone my ability to be concise and to the point. I am looking forward to having another chance to present an Ignite presentation soon! Next time with no script at all – I’m far more comfortable that way!

To see how my session went, you can watch the video on Ignite Culture’s YouTube Channel; How Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia helped shape 1920s and 30s Culture and click through to the other videos after and enjoy some more great presentations!

Photo Credit: Jenn Nelson

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