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Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts writers’

barbara02Barbara Diamond Goldin is the author of 18 published children’s books, including JUST ENOUGH IS PLENTY: A HANUKKAH TALE (National Jewish Book Award) and CAKES AND MIRACLES: A PURIM TALE (Sydney Taylor Book Award), and received the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. She has also written story collections, non-fiction, retellings, and historical fiction. She is Director of the Edwards Public Library in Southampton, Massachusetts, and leads writing workshops and speaks about being a writer around the country. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

When did you first get bitten by the writing bug? 

I have always loved to write–letters, journals, lists, diaries. I have also always loved to make up stories. When I began to babysit at age 11, I found I had an audience for my tales. Plus, I found a way to get lots of babysitting jobs. I would stop in the middle of the story, at the most exciting part, and tell my charges that if they wanted to hear what happened, they’d have to tell their parents to ask me to babysit again. Later, when I was a teacher, I told stories to rapt audiences of 4 and 5 year olds. It wasn’t until one of my students asked me to repeat a story I had told before, and I realized that I couldn’t remember it, that I started to write the stories down. So I was a storyteller before I became a writer of stories.

Who gave you the most encouragement early on? 

My father was a big influence on my writing. He wrote because he enjoyed the process–poems, short stories, and articles. He was the editor of the army newspaper in his unit in World War 11 and kept a scrapbook of all his articles. He continued to write off and on all of his life and shared his poems with our extended family.  At his funeral in 2005, my brothers and I read some of Dad’s poems aloud. I was lucky to grow up in a household where writing, art, and music were a happy part of how we spent time together.

Writing tends to be a lonely enterprise. How do you balance your “writing time” with the rest of your life to keep yourself sane?

Ever since I started to write regularly and seriously, I turned to writing groups to help me improve my writing and weather the rejection letters that came my way. I have always been in a writing group, sometimes more than one. I have been in groups where we read our writing aloud and gave feedback to each other. I have been in groups where we actually wrote and then shared what we’d written. I’m grateful that the writing groups I have been a part of have been of the supportive kind, not the competitive, throat cutting kind. We try to lighten up the tougher parts of the writing life, too. One time, early on in one group, we had a contest to see who had the most rejection letters and the winner won a huge bag of M & M’s. That winner (it wasn’t me) went on to sell her first book that year.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block. And how did you snap out of it? redmeans

I have an attitude about writer’s block. I tell myself I don’t believe in it. This is how I deal with what other people consider writer’s block. I have tricks. If I get stuck, I reread my whole manuscript, or at least the previous chapter or day’s writing. That usually warms me up to get going again. I say to myself, “It doesn’t matter what you write, just write something. You can always revise it.” And so I write something. Sometimes I’ll work on a different project. I usually have a couple going at the same time. Maybe a novel and an op ed piece for a newspaper. Another trick is to read an article about writing in a writer’s magazine. The blank page can be an awful thing to start your writing session with. So I start with something else; like writing a letter or a humorous slice of life piece or reading an inspiring article.

What is your latest project about and how long had you worked on it? Does it take the reader in a different direction than your last published work?

Last summer I finished work on a book about women in the Bible for 10-15 year olds. It was the first time I worked on a book with another author, in this case Jane Yolen. This project took us a long time to complete–five years! Besides the fact that life interfered, (I was in graduate school for three of those years.) it took us a while to figure out how we were going to organize the book, what we were going to say, and who was going to do what sections. Jane is very accustomed to working on books with other people. But I wasn’t. I’m very glad to say we are still friends and I learned much in the process. One thing I had to overcome in the process is the fact that Jane was my mentor and first real writing teacher. It was hard to say, “Jane, I think you should change that,” etc. Believe me, I had to learn to speak up!

I’m on line at www.barbaradiamondgoldin.com

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Dan_Drollette_HawaiiDan Drollette, Jr. is an award-winning foreign correspondent and lecturer whose articles have appeared in Scientific American, International Wildlife, Natural History, Cosmos, Science, New Scientist, and on the BBC. He is a TEDx speaker, and held a Fulbright to Australia. For the past three years he edited CERN’s on-line weekly magazine, in Geneva, Switzerland. Drollette is the author of GOLD RUSH IN THE JUNGLE: THE RACE TO DISCOVER AND DEFEND THE RAREST ANIMALS OF VIETNAM’S “LOST WORLD,” published in April by Crown. He was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Being a writer is a great way to indulge your curiosity about the world. Having a notebook or a pen or a camera or an audio recorder in hand is like having permission to ask all kinds of questions that are normally not permitted, and to go all kinds of places where you would not normally be allowed.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

Most rewarding: you get paid to learn. Someone once said that being a science writer is like a never-ending graduate school of the mind, in which your instructors are the most brilliant faculty in the world, willing to give you a private one-on-one tutorial about their latest findings.

Most frustrating: never having enough time.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

I just had my first book published, called Gold Rush in the Jungle, a nonfiction work that takes place in the forests of Indochina. It’s about a part of the world I previously only knew from movies, and what I found was completely the opposite of what I expected. It turns out that in Vietnam, the peace is more dangerous than war when it comes to wildlife protection.

And there is a heckuva of a lot of creatures out there that were never known to Western science, which are only being discovered now. And we’re talking about big animals – rhinos, oxen, barking deer, swimming cats, flying frogs, and a species of fish so big that it takes six men to hold just one. It’s amazing that they were never discovered previously; the rhino species was only an hour’s drive outside Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). I mean, how can you not notice an animal the size of a car?

What inspired it?Gold Rush Cover Image 675 KB

A field biologist pulled me aside in his university office, pointed to a map, and said “this is where there is the unsung hero of Indochina wildlife rescue.” It was a very dramatic moment, and led to my doing a series of magazine articles about it. Much later, when I was showing the clippings to an instructor at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, he said “This has the makings of a book.”

You’re sitting on the panel, You’re Not Done Yet: The Pitfalls and Payoffs of Revision, at this year’s WriteAngles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I was thinking that I would use my experience with the book as a springboard for my comments about the rewriting process. From previous Write Angles conferences that I’ve attended, I realize that the audience skews toward fiction, but I think my experiences are easily applicable to all writing.

Whatever the genre, you try to be clear and succinct, with a strong sense of place and character, while having fun with dialogue and the play of words. Above all, you want to get across the passion that drives your protagonists in the first place – for example, what makes a person give up their nice comfy home in the West to spend years in the jungle rescuing an animal no one has ever heard of?

And in science writing, you also have an added layer of complexity, in which you try to introduce cutting edge new material while at the same time not losing – or boring – your audience with the vital basics about a given field.

It can be tough to hit that sweet spot, but that’s the fun part. When you get it right, it’s like the sound of a really clear voice singing. You can feel it.

What are you working on now?

I sort of fell into a niche I call “adventure science,” in which I accompany researchers into the field in order to explain their world. It’s sort of like what George Plimpton used to do for sports writing – when he wrote about football, for example, he spent a season on the team of the Detroit Lions, and came out with the book ‘Paper Lion.’ So that’s what I tried to do for wildlife biology in the jungle.

For my next book, I’d like to take the same adventure science approach, but this time tackle a completely different field: the search for the Higgs Boson, aka the “god particle” at CERN in Switzerland. I wound up working as a magazine editor at CERN for several years, starting at the moment they turned on their $8 billion superconducting supercollider – the world’s largest machine — and leaving the same week that they announced the finding of the particle.

But instead of the standard tome, I’d like to focus on the oddball people and situations I encountered – of which CERN has plenty. If you’ve ever seen The Big Bang Theory situation comedy on TV, then think of a place with 3,000 Sheldons, with all the chaos that entails. I hope get across just what makes this crazy, mysterious, frustrating place so joyous and appealing . . . and why workers there set up a website called “CERNLove: where life and physics collide.” (Personally, I find a strong streak of masochism in CERN folks.)

Where can we find you online?

I’m in the midst of redoing my personal website at dandrollette.com, so the best place to find out more about the book is at the Facebook page I set up for it at https://www.facebook.com/Goldrush.in.the.Jungle

Is there anything you would like to add?

Little did I know how complicated it was to do research in the hills of a communist country, many time zones away from Massachusetts, where English is rarely spoken. This made fact-checking and revising months later a challenge, when I was back home, thousands of miles away from my interviewees.

Just getting to a single Vietnamese national park was a big project, in which I had to complete the final leg of the journey by hitching rides on the back of motorcycles. But it was a breathtaking introduction to the highlands of Vietnam – it is one of the last remnants of old-time Asia, where there’s not a single McDonald’s and the old traditions of a rich culture are still intact.

I hope that what people take away from the talk is that there are still amazing story ideas out there, and books can still get published. And not to despair when the editor returns your manuscript filled with hundreds of suggested revisions, big and small!

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Linda Cardillo is an award-winning author who began writing fiction when she received the gift of her immigrant grandparents’ love letters and turned them into a story that has resonated with readers around the world. Since then, she has drawn upon her fascination with the far-flung places in which she has lived as she explores the complexity, pain and joy of women’s lives. She is currently writing her fifth book, a novel set in the political turmoil and artistic splendor of 16th-century Italy. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer? 

I have been making up stories ever since I could string words together. As the first child born into an extended family of busy adults, I relied upon an imaginary friend for a playmate and wove elaborate tales about her. When I wasn’t creating stories, I was reading them, devouring books that became my refuge and my inspiration. When I was forty my aunt gave me the letters of my grandfather, about whom I had known almost nothing. Reading them, written in a mellifluous Italian that revealed a passionate love of language, I understood that writing was in my blood.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?  The most frustrating? 

I love listening to my characters as they reveal themselves to me. I love the moments of discovery when a story takes me in a totally unexpected direction or a nugget of information that I stumble upon in my research becomes a spark that ignites my writing. I love immersing myself in a world apart. I love knowing that my stories have touched my readers.

I love less the demands placed on writers in the 21st century to “build a platform” and maintain a presence and a persona in social media.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest release? 

Across the Table is a story about family, forgiveness, perseverance, and food from the points of view of three women—a first-generation Italian-American who opens a restaurant in Boston’s North End, her artist daughter, and her Harvard-educated granddaughter.

What inspired it?across_the_table_cover_january_2010_145x225 

Two threads in my life came together with the writing of Across the Table. First, although I had once run my own catering company, owning a restaurant was a dream deferred until I created the fictional restaurant Paradiso in my old North End neighborhood and got to experience vicariously the challenges and joys of cooking for a living. Second, I had grown up around the tables of my grandmothers and aunts, hearing their stories as they evolved from eager young women to the matriarchs who anchored their families with food and love, and I wanted to celebrate what they had taught me.

You’re sitting on the Raising the Dead: Transforming History into Fiction panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.  Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning? 

I’ll be talking about the challenges I faced in imagining the emotional life of a woman who actually lived and the process of distilling volumes of material into the dramatic arc of a story. My research took me from the stacks of the Mt. Holyoke College library to the MFA in Boston and a stone fortress on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

What are you working on now? 

My latest project is a work of historical fiction set in 16th-century Italy and based on the life of a woman who was a celebrated poet, the confidant of popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, a suspected heretic, and the only woman Michelangelo ever loved.

Where can we find you online? 

You can find me at lindacardillo.com

Is there anything you would like to add?

I’m looking forward to participating once again in WriteAngles!

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Lisa Drnec Kerr is an assistant professor of English at Western New England University. She has published poetry in a variety of journals including: Green Mountains Review, English, Cold Mountain Review, Oxford Magazine, Kalliope, and others. Her manuscript Sky Lake Crossing received honorable mention for the 2011 May Sarton Prize for poetry. Her poem WALKING HORSES was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in western Massachusetts. Lisa was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Did I become a writer? I know I became a mother (I remember that very keenly). I know I became a teacher, a dairy goat farmer, and a knitter, but a writer? I think writing stole me like a thief when I was very young and most unaware, and like a wild child, I’ve been practicing my own thievery ever since. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I write by accident.   My work is (now) full of intentionality, and I write for many reasons. I love the fluid sense of self that gets played out in the writing process. Each new project takes me through the whole of human psycho-social development.  I am neophyte, intern, attending physician, and specialist. Then I am neophyte all over again. I love being caught up in a rhetorical situation of my own making, and I love reading beautiful books.  Beautiful books make me want to be a writer.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

When someone “gets it,” when an email drops into my box from someone I don’t know saying, “Hey, I read x and y and thought Z!” — that’s a crazy payoff.  Once a high school teacher contacted me about using some of my poetry in his Midwestern classroom. I was elated and humbled to have one such reader, much less his 120 young students. (For crying out loud, he had 120 students!) Still, the steady, everyday payoff comes from what writing does for me personally.  Writing planes the day; it makes me into someone I might recognize in the window.

Frustration is almost always a function of loose perceptions on my part. Frequently (2 or more times per week), I lambast myself for slow progress on certain projects.  It is frustrating to be constantly squirreling away writing or revision moments.  I ask myself, why can’t I do this “for real”? Why can’t I quit the time drains and work full-time on my writing? But when I stop for a moment and think clearly, I realize that I am working on my writing full-time. The other major considerations in my life, those things that draw me away from the act of writing (family and students) actually provide the substrate for everything I write. It’s at those moments that I realize I am always writing.  I’m just not always working with computer screens or pencils.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My latest “releases” are poems published in journals and magazines: Cold Mountain Review (forthcoming), Chronogram, and Naugatuck River Review. My manuscript, A Sky Lake Crossing, was named a finalist for the May Sarton Prize (Bauhan Press).

What inspired it?

A Sky Lake Crossing is a response to the geographies of childhood and the competing narratives that invariably grow out of a reminiscent perspective.

You’re sitting on the Revision Panel at this year’s WriteAngles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I am planning to talk about the often forgotten aspects of revision! How’s that for being intentionally vague!

What are you working on now?

I am working on a manuscript tentatively titled, Blue Sky Science. Plus, I am 75 % through a multi-genre text about Parkinson’s disease.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook, Google+, Tumblr

Is there anything you would like to add?

I am very happy to participate in the WriteAngles conference!

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Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of 29 books for adults and children, including four novels, two short-story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and two plays. Her most recent novels, THE WRITING CIRCLE and EVERYTHING I WAS (YA), are now out in paperback. Her new YA novel RETURNING TO SHORE will be published in spring 2014. She is Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a fiction editor of The Massachusetts Review. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

When did you first get bitten by the Writing Bug?

I was bitten by the Writing Bug as soon as I was old enough to write, and long before I learned how to spell. I wrote my first novel when I was six—at least I called it a novel. It was a story about about a prince, a king, and an “evil lady,” and had many chapters  (which is why I thought it was worthy of being called a novel), some of them only a sentence long. I wrote it in a black composition book (you can see a photo of it on my website) and illustrated it in crayon.

Who gave you the most encouragement early on?

I was an only child of doting parents, and they were an indulgent audience for all my early writing. I was encouraged to give my parents handmade rather than  store-bought Christmas or birthday gifts, so I would often present them with poems or stories in little home-made books. I found them all carefully preserved in my mother’s bureau drawer after she died.

The family tradition of home-made books has continued.  When my daughter was little I wrote picture books for her (illustrating them with my amateurish water colors), and when she got older she’d get chapters of a novel. Now, the week before Christmas, I’m usually frantically making books for my little granddaughters. 

Comment on the adage “Practice makes perfect” in regards to writing…

That sounds so dreary! Writing isn’t something you practice—it’s not like scales on the piano. Dexterity comes with talent and life experience.  And writing should be something you love doing—not something you feel you have to work at.

Writing tends to be a lonely enterprise. How do you balance your “writing time” with the rest of your life to keep yourself sane?eiw paper

I am fortunate to have two careers that dovetail—my writing career (which my husband calls my “cottage industry”) and my academic career, as a professor of English at Mount Holyoke. I love teaching, and I appreciate having a reason to dress in something nicer than sweatpants and get out in the world.  My writing group—which I’ve been part of for many years—provides me with the company of folks who are doing what I do. It’s been my solace and my cheering squad (and we all need that!) 

Have you ever gotten writer’s block, and how did you snap out of it?

My problem has always been that I have more things to write about than time to write.  One advantage of being a writer who dabbles in different genres is that if I’m stuck on part of a novel, I can take a break and work on a poem or a play or a picture book.

What is your latest project about (recently published or about to be), and how long had you worked on it?  Does it take the reader in a different direction than your last published work?

My new YA novel, Returning to Shore, is coming out in March.  I went back to my notes to see when I had first started writing it and discovered to my amazement that it was before 2006! Which means I’ve been thinking about it, working on it, and fussing with it for more than seven years. Stylistically it’s similar to my previous fiction, but it deals with two subjects I’ve never tackled before: a girl dealing with the fact that her father is gay, and an environmental issue (the battle between landowners and people who want to preserve the habitat of the Eastern Diamondback terrapin.)

Where can you be found on line?

My website is www.corinnedemas.com

Connect with me on twitter @corinnedemas

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Tz Author Photo-1Tzivia Gover is the author of LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS, AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM, and MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR STRESSFUL DAYS, among others. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and over a dozen anthologies. Gover received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University. She teaches poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Good question! I was writing poems at age 10, and have been journaling since age 12. I don’t ever remember deciding to be a writer, it seems I just was one from the start. I became a professional writer at age 25, because I had a newborn baby to feed and I needed a job. I’d tried other things, such as being a baker and a store manager, but frankly I wasn’t any good at anything else I tried. So, writing it was! I have continued because writing helps me understand the world and my place in it. It’s pretty much how I think constructively and how I investigate my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs … and anything else that catches my curiosity.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part is the opportunity to craft a message and have it be received by an audience of one or many. I love trying to create lines of poetry or prose that are as clear, precise, and elegant as I can make them.

The most frustrating part is never feeling like I have enough time write, or to market what I’ve written—to get it out in the world.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

Sure, if you twist my arm.

My most recent book is LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM (Levellers Press, Massachusetts). It is the story of my first year teaching poetry at The Care Center, and the tale I uncovered in our creative, colorful, and slightly chaotic school. You can learn more at http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com Towne_cov2

What inspired it?

In the spring of 2000, I decided to leave the world of daily journalism to teach poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke, Mass. White, suburban and Jewish, I couldn’t have felt more different from the urban, Puerto Rican students I met on that first day of class. Nor could I have anticipated the lessons I would learn from and with them.

LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE was my way of telling my students’ stories, which are otherwise only known in statistics and sensationalist takes in the media. The book was also my way to integrate all I was learning from my work with them.

You’re sitting on the Revision Panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

John Mcphee says you’re not really writing until the fourth draft. I like that. To me writing is re-writing. Revision is what it’s all about. I hear writers complain about revision, but I love the process. I’ll try to inspire others to love it, too!

What are you working on now?

What aren’t I working on? I write a couple of blogs, and I’m working on at least three different books: A collection of personal essays (I’m not sure what the book’s title will be, but the subtitle will be something about “love, sex, and solitude,” which is the theme of the essays). I’m also trying to sell at Young Adult novel about the world’s pickiest eater. I’m also a Certified Dream Therapist, and I’m working on a book to help people understand and work with their dreams.

Where can we find you online?

My web site is: http://www.tziviagover.com/I blog about dreams at: http://allthesnoozethatsfittoprint.wordpress.com/

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Channukah begins on November 28 (on Thanksgiving) and Christmas is close behind. Books by local authors make great gifts! LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com/makes a great gift for the teacher, poet, or lover of social justice in your life, and it’s available in paperback and Kindle format. Just sayin’. :)

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princess cover spread.inddJoan Robb worked professionally as a singer/songwriter and as a theater director/playwright for decades before turning to writing picture books and most recently, a YA novel. She founded and toured with the musical group Caribbean for Kids and also was founder/director of the Youth Theater of Stanley Park, Westfield, Massachusetts. In the last several years she has shifted gears. Her first picture book, THERE’S A PRINCESS IN MY LIVING ROOM, was published in 2012. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos

Why did you become a writer?

My nature is to always have a creative project in the works, otherwise, I feel as though a piece is missing in my life. I love making my mind go to imaginary places! It’s great brain work to think sequentially. When I write I think: “What should happen first? Then what? Then What? Resolution…

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part of being a writer is coming up with a sentence, paragraph, or dialogue that you absolutely love! The most frustrating part is spending hours writing just to realize that what you’ve written is lousy or that it doesn’t make sense to the reader (or you, the writer)!

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My latest release is a picture book entitled There’s A Princess In My Living Room. The theme of this book is geared more for girls and it’s about enjoying not having to look perfect or act perfect all the time. That it’s fun to be messy and dirty and, that’s part of being a kid!

What inspired it?

I wish I knew what the inspiration behind this book. Many ideas just come to me as a passing thought!

What can writers attending this workshop glean from my panel contribution?Princess pag 1 with text.indd

For this panel I plan to share and discuss the “morphing” process from one genre to another, for instance;

What factor(s) were the impetus for easing into a new genre.

What steps I took/take to learn about that genre.

The (often painful) learning curve that accompanies an acquired understanding and proficiency in a genre other than the one you are comfortable/familiar with.

Learning about how to market yourself in each genre.

The fact that by the time you are ready to market the “new you” the industry standards and demands may have shifted.

How can conferees apply what you’ve learned to their own work?

I think patience with yourself as you explore a different genre is very important. The learning curve is usually a long, slow one, years perhaps until you hone your “newly acquired” skills. Also, study! Read lots of materials written by authors of the same genre you’re working in and try to analyze their approach. Practice! Good chance it won’t be right the first time, so don’t expect that your first novel, picture book, screenplay, or whatever is going to be a best seller unless you’re an incredible genius ( which I’m not!)

What are you working on now?

I am working actively on three different projects right now; a picture book entitled Stage Fright about the fear of performing in front of an audience; another picture book entitled KUGELICIOUS which addresses the importance of community and working together, and my first YA novel entitle DISS-Connected about a 16-year-old girl adopted from Guatemala into a white family. She searches for her identity.

Where can we find you online?

You can find my book There’s A Princess In My Living Room on the Levellers Press website! Also, find There’s A Princess in My Living Room on Facebook! Be sure to “like” us!

Happy Writing!

Joan Robb

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