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Take a Writer's Retreat in Canada with Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, but the celebrated Canadian author is also a longtime seasonal resident of Pelee Island. The land mass sits in Lake Erie, between Sandusky, Ohio and Essex County, Ontario, and is filled with rare plants and animals, including many migratory bird species. Soon, it will also be home to a brand-new writer’s retreat, with Atwood as a confirmed instructor.

Dawn Kresan, a Canadian writer and editor, has launched an Indiegogo campaign (with a goal of $25,000 Canadian) to raise start-up costs for the Pelee Island Book House and Writers' Retreat.

“It has been my dream to create a writers’ retreat on Pelee Island for over a decade,” she writes on Indiegogo, citing the island’s beauty, wildlife, and robust arts community. “Taking part in a Pelee Island writing retreat will give authors the opportunity to focus on their work, free of distraction.” As for nature lovers, they can participate in an annual retreat sponsored by the Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO), which will host a nature writing workshop.

Sadly, the Indiegogo campaign doesn’t cover participants’ admission costs. Writers will have to shell out as much as $1200 for a 7-day retreat, and $800 for a 5-day one. The sticker price covers cottage accommodations, meals, ferry transportation to and from Pelee Island (you’ll have to pay any other travel expenses yourself), and writing workshops. The 7-day retreat offers two master classes with an instructor, while the 5-day retreat offers one. And if you want to save money and focus on solo writing time, you can skip the classes and opt for a lower-cost, self-directed 6-day residency.

The retreats and residencies will begin in the spring of 2017. Atwood’s first retreat will run from May 23 to 29. She doesn’t lead every single excursion, so if your heart is set on fine-tuning your craft with your favorite author, schedule your time accordingly. (A full list of instructors is posted on the retreat’s website.)

Looking to devote some serious time to a manuscript, and possibly work with Atwood? The retreat's admission details are available online. You can also contribute money to the Indiegogo campaign, which ends in a month, and receive reduced prices on future bookings as well as other perks.

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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How Far Out of Town Can You Get in an Hour? This Map Will Tell You
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Sitting through traffic on a Friday is no fun. Depending on where you live, though, it could either be a minor headache, or a traumatic event on par with heading to the airport the day before Thanksgiving. The Washington Post recently mapped out just how far you can get out of town on a Friday afternoon in major American cities in just one hour.

The Post’s Sahil Chinoy used traffic information culled from cell phones and car sensors by the location data company Here Technologies to map out travel times from downtown neighborhoods at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m., showing how car travel varies by city and time on a Friday night. (They’re all estimates based on July 28 data.)

A U.S. map shows blue radii around cities illustrating a travel time of one hour in a car at 4 p.m. on a Friday.
Sahil Chinoy // The Washington Post

Unsurprisingly, considering geography and city culture, the answer can vary a lot. Compare Southern California and Northern California, for instance. In L.A., well-known for its horrendous traffic, an hour can’t even get you through the county. You’ll be able to travel 25 miles in that time period, at best—probably while suffering through that weird phenomenon where all the cars on the road slow down for seemingly no reason. But in Sacramento, you speed through up to 50 miles at rush hour. (You can get more than 50 miles from Las Vegas, too, but it’ll mostly land you in the middle of the desert.)

Some cities remain active long into the night, too, while others empty out right after the workday ends. In New York City, you can’t even get past the New Jersey suburbs at 4 p.m., and that doesn't change much as the night goes on. In most other cities, though, there's much less traffic by 10 p.m. compared to the late afternoon and evening. In Boston, for instance, you can travel 25 miles farther if you leave at 10 p.m. compared to leaving at 4 p.m.

The map shows what you probably already expected: In cities that were built around the car, it is, for the most part, easier to get out of town. Older cities on the East Coast like Philadelphia or Baltimore have tiny one-hour radiuses, while cities in Texas and the Midwest are easier to navigate behind the wheel.

Geography matters a lot, too. Cities that are built around water tend to be harder to escape from, like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. If you only have a few bridges that lead out of town, they’re going to get clogged with traffic, while a city with several large highway arteries can move more people. Miami is virtually impossible to travel from because the city is wedged between the ocean and the Everglades.

That traffic time does more than just eat into your weekend plans. It’s really bad for your health. You’re essentially stewing in emissions, and long commutes on a regular basis are associated with stress, high blood pressure, and obesity. That may be fine if you’re trying to get out of the city for a weekend in the country every once in a while, but if you’re just trying to get home on a Friday night, that’s a different story.

For a closer look at the data and how it varies based on the time of day, see Chinoy’s graphics at The Washington Post.

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Take a Tour of Singapore's Incredible Supertree Grove
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There aren't many parks like Supertree Grove. Tucked inside Gardens by the Bay, a nature park in Singapore comprised of 250 acres of reclaimed land, Supertree Grove is a futuristic colony featuring 18 manmade tree-like vertical gardens, which are home to more than 160,000 plants, including more than 200 varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and tropical flowering climbers.

Visitors to the park are encouraged to walk from one tree to the next along a raised path overlooking the city. At night, the photovoltaic systems built into the supertrees light up with solar power, covering the area in dazzling purple hues.

Supertree Grove was commissioned by the Singapore government as a way to improve the quality of life for its residents, but they seem to have achieved more than that: the park has become a must-see site for horticulture enthusiasts and curious travelers from all over the world.

You can see more of these Supertrees in the video from Great Big Story below:

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