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(Writing) Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 3

Self Improvement 150During week 2 of the Clarion Write-A-Thon, I set a goal for 15,000 total words written and $200 raised for the Clarion Workshop. How did I do? Well, I got up to 11,951 words and raised $175 so far; I didn’t hit either goal, but that’s all right. It just means that I need to kick it into high gear this week!

My goal for week 3 of the Write-A-Thon is to hit 25,000 words by midnight next Saturday; that means 13,049 words written this week (more than I’ve written in the two weeks of the fundraiser), but I’m confident I can hit that. I’d like to raise $250 this week, which means another $75 in donations. That shouldn’t be TOO much trouble, but I’ll definitely have to raise my fundraising game to do it.

So what happened last week? Honestly, I ran out of steam at the end of the week and I’m not entirely sure why. These things don’t need a reason, of course. My brain chemistry might have just decided it needed to be on a low ebb, so when I really needed to push ahead I throttled back and tried to take it easier. While I don’t regret doing that — self-care is absolutely important, after all — it is a little concerning. It would be best to find a way to be relaxed AND productive, but that’s having your cake and eating it too, especially when you’re trying to build a habit.

My writing, especially towards the end of the week, was slow mostly because I started doubting what I was doing. It’s difficult to find your voice when your inner critic keeps blasting you for pulling away from your comfort zone or taking risks. I’ve gotten better at dealing with that, but I’m still not 100%. Especially with short stories, the closer I get to an ending the harder it gets to drive towards it.

Endings terrify me, and I’m not sure why. My creative process doesn’t really account for them, which is kind of strange. I think it’s because endings are SO important, especially when it comes to the kinds of stories I like to write, that thinking about them just fills me with a white-hot dread that overloads me. What does an ending look like? I ask myself. I don’t know, I reply, but does anything ever TRULY end? Fair enough, I say, and think of eighty new stories all with no idea how to pull them together for a satisfying end.

So it’s clear overcoming that fear is something that will need to happen. That’ll take a lot of work, dedicated practice, and focus. The good news is that “Demolition” will be the very first chance I’ll get to work on that, with the ending scenes being written either today or tomorrow, depending. It’ll feel really great to have a completed first draft of that for a “win”, so that’ll be a big part of my focus for the next couple of days. Once that’s done, I’ll compile it and let it rest for a little bit, then turn my attention to the next Jackalope Serial Company project.

Here at The Writing Desk, I’ll have the final batch of DisneyFest reviews up on Wednesday and a bit of Changeling fiction up on Friday. “The Wayfarer House” was all right, but again — I feel the ending was weak. Too many bits of fiction use slipping into unconsciousness as a means to end, especially when it feels abrupt, so I have to work on finding other ways of gracefully exiting a piece after 1500 words or so. That’s the aim Friday: really bring the piece home with a strong, considered ending.

That’s my plan for this week! I’m off today for an oral surgery consultation and Friday will hopefully be nice and productive, so the three-day work-week should really help me get caught up on what I need to. How about you folks? Where are you with your own creative projects, and what’s your artistic plan for the coming week? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to pass along any tips you might have to hold yourself to your goals!

As always, if you would like to donate to the Clarion Write-A-Thon, my profile page is here. A donation will send money to the Clarion Workshop regardless of my word count, and would be much appreciated! However, a pledge will encourage me to hit my goal if you’d like to go that way: a pledge of 1/10 cent per word ($0.001) would mean $50 if I hit my goal, while a pledge of 1/20 cent per word ($0.0005) would mean $25. Please chip in, if you can!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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(Writing) Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 2

Self Improvement 150This summer I’ll be participating in the Clarion Write-A-Thon, a fundraiser for the Clarion Workshop. What is Clarion, you ask? Why, it’s the pre-eminent six-week intensive for budding writers in sci-fi and fantasy and it’s going on RIGHT NOW. The Write-A-Thon takes place during the workshop as a way to encourage writers to…well, do what they do best AND to make sure this wonderful resource is able to attract the very best teachers and students every year. This year, my goal is to write 50,000 words and raise $500 in donations.

In week 1, I raised $125 ($100 in pledges, $25 in donations) and I’ve written 4500 words. Not bad, but I know I can do so much better! If you’re interested in helping out, you can make a pledge (where your final donation is tied to my word count) or a donation at my author’s page here.

Last week was a little crowded. The 4×10 schedule is something I’m still adjusting to, and there were a LOT of calls to Baltimore. Mom is in a rehab center, trying to regain mobility in her hips, and she’s having a rough time. As much as she says she likes being alone, she really does need frequent contact with familiar people and that’s harder to come by where she is. She’s also changed pain medications, so I’m fairly sure there are withdrawal issues there (she was taking prescription codeine). That, combined with loads of free time to ruminate on the loss of her daughter and husband, is just not putting her in a great place.

That’s given me incentive to move forward on a number of things, though. We’re going to have to do something about the house; I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to have someone go through it, room by room, to tidy up and mark everything that is OK for keeping, salvageable, and what should just be tossed. I really need to try and get Mom’s finances in order. There are so many outstanding bills and services that should be scrapped, so I’ll need to make a ton of calls there just to simplify things. And once that’s done, we can turn towards a few long-term projects, like finding an assisted-living home for her and (finally) going through the process of handling the estate and benefits of my missing (and presumed dead) father.

That’s a lot to do over the summer, in addition to building a solid writing practice. But I’m for it! Last week I worked on “Demolition” for the most part, the short story that a generous patron won during the LAST Write-A-Thon I’ve participated in. I finally shaped an outline and are roughly ⅓ done with the first draft. The voice for one of the characters really came into its own in this really fun way, and I’m looking forward to ride that momentum through the end of the story. Hopefully, I’ll be finished with that this week — I’m thinking the final word count for the rough draft will be about 6000-6500 words.

In addition to that, I’ll be working on a few missives here at The Writing Desk. Wednesday, the penultimate set of reviews for DisneyFest will go up, with my take on Big Hero 6, Inside Out, and The Good Dinosaur. On Friday, the weekly fiction will shine a light on The Wayfarer’s House, a location that I’m building for my Baltimore World of Darkness setting.

All in all, the goal for this week is to bring my word count up to 15,000 (only counting short stories and The Writing Desk entries) and my total donations up to $200. Can I do it? YES I CAN! All that’s left is the doing.

Oh, and since this is my first entry this month, I thought I’d point you lovely folks to my Patreon, the Jackalope Serial Company. For the low low price of $1 per episode, you could receive serials featuring gay furry sci-fi and fantasy! This month’s serial is a “test run” for a shared universe I’d like to build with modern gay folks getting into all kinds of improbable shenanigans!

That’s it for today, now that I’ve spent this entire entry plugging things. See you on Wednesday, folks!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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Lessons of the 2015 Clarion Write-A-Thon

Writing 150The Clarion Write-A-Thon is over for another year. This year, I wrote 40,570 words and raised just a hair over $400 for the Clarion Workshop! I didn’t quite manage to hit my word count or fundraising goal, but I did finish two short stories, gotten well underway on a third, post a series of extensive essays about something I care very much about, and refine a few of my fundraising techniques. All in all, it was a successful year in so many ways.

Thanks to the eleven people who donated to the cause for me, and the many, many others who signal-boosted my tweets and Facebook posts, offered encouragement and feedback, and kept me motivated through the last six weeks. I really appreciate all of you; this summer has been so amazing in terms of connecting with people, cultivating different facets of myself, and pushing myself to do more and be more, and you folks have been really inspiring through all of it!

I’ve learned a few things about my writing process through the Write-A-Thon, of course. It’s hard to do something like this and not learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t as far as your writing process goes. I’m planning to take these lessons to heart through the fall and winter; it would be a shame to lose the momentum I’ve built here through failing to put what I’ve learned to use. What were those lessons, you say?

MY BEST WORK IS DONE IN THE MORNINGS. I’ve long known this, but it really bore out over the past few weeks. It’s really easy for me to roll out of bed, and provided I have enough time, work up a really good head of steam before heading out for work. This isn’t true every day; sometimes if I’m anticipating a busy day or I’ve had a late night it’s better for me to get in some reading before work.

This encourages me to keep up with the schedule I’ve adopted this summer, waking up at 6 AM, meditating and preparing for the day, then writing or reading for 30 minutes before I head out the door. It feels great to already have something done before you even leave home, and sets a great productive tone for the rest of the day.

I MAY NOT BE A SHORT STORY WRITER. One of the things I’ve learned about the way I tell stories is that my natural inclination tends towards longer-form fiction. What really excites me about an idea or setting is something that I feel requires a deeper dive, and to be honest I just love having the space to really examine each piece that’s on the board, crawling into the skin so that I know the bones of the thing intimately. That kind of close exploration doesn’t lend itself to short stories, so it might be time to start thinking in terms of novels or serialized fiction.

One of the reasons I wanted to cut my teeth on short stories is to make sure I’m as efficient as possible with my writing. There’s not a whole lot of real estate when you’re telling a single story in, say five or ten thousand words. Each sentence, each paragraph works best when it’s doing two or three things. I know that I’m not careful enough in my writing to achieve that level of consistent strength, but if there’s any form out there that lends itself to developing those muscles, it’s short stories and poetry. For now, though, I think the idea that I need to learn how to write short fiction *before* getting to what I really want to do is holding me back. I’ll rush headlong into longer form stuff, and double back towards short stories if I have an idea that can be told within that space.

IT’S DIFFICULT TO SYNC A BIRDS-EYE VIEW WITH THE ONE FROM THE TRENCHES. I usually go into a story with a solid idea of what I’m going to write about and how the plot will move along. I have a basic understanding of my characters and what they’re like, and why they do the things they do to drive the plot. With stories that feel a bit more complicated, I like to do a little prep work by exploring the characters in detail or writing an outline of how the scenes will flow into one another.

When I’m writing the actual story, however, things almost never turn out the way I think they will. This has been a barrier for me for a long time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reconcile why the plan falls apart when I’m down in the trenches building the story brick-by-brick. Are the characters simply far different from what I’ve imagined them to be? What happens between plan and execution that makes the story go so far astray? I’m genuinely curious, because when I’m writing a lot of the time I don’t actually feel in control — I feel like a medium, briefly possessed by…something else that is telling the story through me. I know how strange that sounds, but that’s the closest description I can come up with.

I’m sure this will continue to be a thing when I’m writing longer-form stories, so I have to make room in my process for surprise and discovery. Characters will take on a life of their own and start to do things I had not planned for. A story that I think is about one thing will be about something else entirely.

Part of the reason this concerns me isn’t necessarily a need for control in what I write (though that’s a part of it, too). It disturbs me that there’s some…unknown recess of my mind that bubbles up these things, a void that I have no idea how to reach other than writing. What else is in there? What else does it influence? How much should I give myself over to it?

These are questions that will only be answered once I settle in to a consistent writing practice. In addition to the short stories I’ll be working on this month, I’ll be doing prep work on “Beast: Wild Genius” and “The Big Game”, two long-gestating ideas that are perfect for the serialized fiction I would like to tell.

Now that I’m all finished up with the Write-A-Thon, I can turn my attention to all of the other projects that have been laying fallow as well: The Furry Mental Health Podcast (Mindfurly?), continuing work on New Fables (!!), working on articles for [adjective][species] and Claw and Quill, making sure my Pathfinder game doesn’t go off the rails, and learning about project management, the technical ins and outs of my job, and the French language.

Never a dull moment for this rabbit. Onward!

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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The Clarion Write-A-Thon: Week 6

After five weeks of the Clarion Write-A-Thon, I’ve written 30,523 words and raised $321.57. Both are fairly far from the goal of 50,000 words and $500, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to write 19,500 words by August 1st. I mean, I COULD, but it’d pretty much mean doing nothing but writing for the rest of the week in an attempt to bring it home. And while that does sound appealing in its own right, I don’t think it would be feasible this week.

However, I CAN make the $500 donation goal — but only with your help! Please go to my author’s page and donate what you can, if you can. As an added incentive, the person who donates the highest amount this week will get a commission for a short story of 4,000 – 5,000 words! What a deal! Sort of. Maybe. No, it definitely is. You will LOVE it!

This week I’ll be working on another commission, “A Stable Love”. It’s been in the works for far too long, but I do think that I finally have enough momentum to crack it — one of the things I’ve learned through the Write-A-Thon are where my blind spots are as a writer and what I need to really focus on in order to create better short stories. “A Stable Love” will be my first big attempt to take what I’ve learned and apply it.

Once I’m done with the short story and the Write-A-Thon, the plan is to start doing the prep-work for a couple of serial short story projects I’ve wanted to work on: “The Big Game” and “Beast: Wild Genius”. I’ve already talked about the Beast fan-fiction in vague terms, but I’ll save the details for later as the first few arcs begin to take shape. It’s strange — normally I would be pretty shy about this whole fan-fiction thing, but the more I talk about it and the more feedback I get, the more excited I am for it. I really can’t wait to dig in on it.

“The Big Game” is a different version of a short story project I started (and abandoned, of course) a little while ago. The basic story is six friends getting together at an annual retreat in a remote cabin, where they catch up with one another, think about their lives and sort through all kinds of interpersonal issues. Of course, this is while they’re playing a poker game that allows them to gamble with their size instead of money. Because of course they do. 🙂

The original story featured an audience-participation element that allowed people to vote on the big winner and loser for each part of the story. What I found is that it put a lot of the focus on the mechanics of the card game and less on the characters and how they played around with each other. While I love the idea of the audience voting on how the story progresses, I’m not entirely sure it’s right for this. Maybe doing a “season 1” that establishes the characters and dynamic, allows me to refine a behind-the-scenes system to simulate how the card game works, and lets me simply work on the story without the added complication of audience votes might be the thing to do. A sequel could reincorporate the audience elements once I feel more confident in completing the project to begin with.

But we’ll see! For this week, the plan is to write as much as possible, as often as possible. It’s very unlikely that I’ll make my word-count goal, but it’ll sure be fun to try.

Again, any amount you can give towards the Write-A-Thon and the Clarion Workshop will help immensely. You’ll be helping to keep the Workshop running next year AND help really great writers receive intense instruction, critique and connection with some of the best writers and editors within our industry! Thanks SO MUCH to the people who have donated already, provided feedback on story snippets and supported me with writing advice and encouragement. You guys rock!

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Writing

 

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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 4

Writing 150We’re halfway through the Clarion Write-A-Thon, and I’ve been fairly remiss with hitting my goals consistently up until now. I’m up to 14,535 words now, 7K short of the 21,500 that I wanted to have by now. I’m still working on my second short story, but Civil Engineering should be done today or tomorrow. Still, what gives? Why am I having such consistently slow weeks?

There were a few personal things that made it difficult to be consistent with my writing practice. There are the social engagements, of course, but I can see those coming for the most part and plan around them. I think it mostly has to do with my preferred writing schedule and the incompatibility of that with my life right now.

I do my best work in the mornings, no question. I’ve always been a morning person; I love getting up early and getting a lot of stuff done before noon. If I were able to set my own schedule, it would probably look something like this — wake up at 5 AM, meditate, coffee, writing, exercise, shower, breakfast, writing, lunch, then light organizational stuff through the afternoon. Work would become more social through the afternoon, until the evening where I’d hang with friends and/or read. That’s the way I would live my life if I won the lottery.

Unfortunately, that just can’t happen. I work for a living; I wake up at 6 AM needing to be out the door by 7. I have to meditate, groom, prepare breakfast and lunch before that happens. If I play my cards just right, I have maybe 20 minutes to get some writing in. Work is…work; I take 30 minute lunches so I can go home earlier and try to beat the traffic, so getting some words in there isn’t really an option. And once I’m in there’s a laundry list of things to be done — cleaning the burrow, cooking dinner, getting some exercise in, and spending time with my beloved husband. I tend to start turning into a pumpkin at 9 PM; it gets more difficult to concentrate and my willpower is mostly spent.

That was before my ADHD diagnosis, though; with the medication and organizational skills I’ll learn in a six-week course, things might be a bit easier. That’ll take six weeks though, and the Write-A-Thon will be over by then. For now, it looks like I’ll be doing my best to wake up early, prepare for the day as efficiently as possible and get in as much writing as I can in the mornings.

My preferred writing time tends to work much better during the weekends, so I’m finding that I do the bulk of my writing then. It might be that once this is over I’ll focus on getting as much work done on the weekends as I can; writing every day just might not be possible for me, and the stress of trying to maintain that schedule would do more harm (as in, causes me stress) than good.

Anyway — for the next three weeks I’ll really need to step it up. The daily goal for the rest of the Write-A-Thon is around 1,700 words, and by gum I’ll get them by hook or by crook! With that kind of output, I should be able to finish “Civil Engineering” fairly quickly and move right into “A Stable Love”. I’ve been really itching to get started on my Beast (of the X-Men) fan-fiction as well, sketching out character profiles for Hank, his allies and rogue’s gallery, determining the themes and stories I’d really like to play with, seeing where the arc is going to go for the first “year” of “issues”.

So that’s my plan, folks — write my ass off through week 4, find a way to prioritize getting my words in over just about everything else in the time I have available. I’ve raised $380 for the Clarion Workshop so far; thanks so much to the ten people who have donated so far. You are amazing, and I really do appreciate your generosity!

My goal for this week is to write 12,000 words; that’ll put me up to 26,500 by this time next week. I would love to have $450 raised for the Clarion Workshop by next Monday as well. “Civil Engineering” will be done with a quick editing pass being done, “A Stable Love” will be much closer to finished, and I’ll be doing the preliminary work on Beast: Wild Genius.

To all of my friends coming back from Anthro-Con 2015, welcome back to the real world! I hope the convention was as amazing as it sounded on Twitter and there’s no con crud this year. Fellow writers, what projects are you working on this week? I’m always curious about how others manage to juggle their writing practice with the rest of their lives. Any pointers for me?

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 3

Writing 150Two weeks of the Clarion Write-A-Thon are in the books — we’re one-third of the way there! So far, I’ve written 10,773 words (an average of 770 per day), raised $295 in donations and finished one short story! Feedback Loop has been completed, though I didn’t submit it in time for consideration in Defying Doomsday — the deadline was listed in Australian time, so I screwed up my calendar. I’m disappointed, of course, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn for future submissions. Check and double-check your deadline, and if at all possible, make sure you’re early.

There’s a good story lurking within the first draft of “Feedback Loop”; it’s an epistolary short story in the form of journal entries, chronicling an inner-city college student’s journey through depression, school, family issues and the end of the world. The writing could stand to be a bit more subtle and a bit more tight, and the chronology of events could use some reconfiguring, but this is the first short story in a long time that I’ve finished and been interested in editing. I’m excited to polish it off (after the Write-A-Thon, I think) and show it to my writing group!

I didn’t make my word count goal (14,000 by today), but I came fairly close. This week’s goal is a flat 1,500 words per day so by next Monday I’ll should have 21,500 total. It’s ambitious, sure, but I think I can make it! My fundraising goal for week 3 is to have $400 in pledges and donations. If you’re interested in helping me reach that, good news! You totally can, and I would be ever so grateful. Just go to my writer’s profile page at the Clarion Write-A-Thon website to make a donation. Just 1/10 of a cent per word (or $.001) from two people will get me there!

This week I’m working on my MegaMorphics story. Unfortunately that means I won’t be able to show it around until later this year, but I have to say I’m excited about this one too. It’s about a coyote who survives a bio-terror attack that leaves him completely unable to re-assert himself into normal society; most people exposed to the agent die immediately or slowly over a matter of weeks, but around 5% end up becoming something else. I’d like to say it’s a study on how tragedy shapes and isolates us from others, and there may be bits of that in there. But mostly it’s an excuse to introduce giants into a society that is in no way prepared to deal with them.

Once “Civil Engineering” is finished, I’ll move on to “A Stable Love” (another giant-oriented story) and start working on a few other projects that shall remain nameless and vague for now. Of course, this blog will be updated on Wednesday and Friday with personal observations and story snippets featuring whatever topic interests me.

My blog entry on “FurAffinity and the Realities of Capitalism” was edited and reposted over on [adjective][species], an incredible website that features personal and critical essays about the fandom. There’s a lively discussion going on there about the nature of advertising on community sites that’s intelligent, respectful and interesting. I highly recommend going there to check it out and reading a few other entries there as well!

One last plug: the Clarion Workshop has raised $4,275 of their $15,000 goal for the Write-A-Thon so far. Donating through my author’s page not only encourages me to push on to make my word count, but it also helps some truly great writers have unique instructions and form lasting connections with colleagues within the SF/F industry who have invested in helping to shape the next generation of greats coming up. If you have any coin to spare and you want to help guide the future of the genre, please donate!

OK, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for your time, interest and donations so far all. You’re the best! What are YOU planning to work on this week?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 2

Writing 150The first week of the Clarion Write-A-Thon is in the books! I’ve written 3,643 words so far, raised $145 in donations, and finished a grand total of 0 short stories! My word count is a pretty far cry from where I had hoped to be by now; I started off strong, but a series of social engagements and general exhaustion from work really slowed me down. I’m hoping to get my mojo back by knuckling down and making time to write in the mornings before work and during my lunch break. Donations-wise, I’m sure there’s a way to drum up more support — I’ll be personally asking a few folks if they can kick in a little. But thanks SO much to everyone who’s donated so far. It really means a lot to me that you’re willing to help!

Last week, I worked on a couple of blog entries and “Feedback Loop,” my story for Defying Apocalypse. “Feedback Loop” focuses on an inner-city college student as he tries to deal with the news that a runaway greenhouse effect will steadily turn the planet into a Venusian hell-scape. He must manage to deal with the crumbling world around him, his family’s issues and his own depression to find some way to survive the coming ordeal.

I’m really excited to write this story because it draws so much on my own experience and understanding of depression, and the scenario I’ve chosen is frighteningly close to reality. The story is flowing out of me when I have the time to write it, and it’s been a really long time since that’s happened. I don’t know if it will be good enough to actually be accepted, but if not I’ll at least have finished something. I can polish it and submit it elsewhere, at any rate.

This week, I’m committing to three blog entries this week — this one, a couple of thoughts about my Buddhist practice on Wednesday, and a small short story about a character I’ll be playing in a Star Wars campaign a friend’ll be starting up this summer. “Feedback Loop” will be finished, and I’ll head immediately into a short story for MegaMorphics. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’ll follow the victim of a bio-terror attack and the rather unique difficulties he faces in recovery. That particular story won’t be available immediately, but I hope to have it floating around online by fall.

My word count goal for this week is 14,000 words. Fundraising goal for this week: $250. If you have a few dollars you can spare for a worthy cause, I would certainly appreciate it! Just go to my writer’s profile here: http://www.clarionwriteathon.com/members/profile.php?writerid=599479.

You can either make a straight-up dollar donation, or you can pledge a certain amount tied to my word-count. If going for the latter, one-tenth of a cent per word (or $.001) will work out to $50 if I hit my goal. $.0005 will work out to $25, and $.0002 will work out to $10. Every little bit helps, and I’m happy to accept anything you’re willing to give!

Now, on to making sure that goal is fulfilled. How about you fine folk? What will you be working on this week?

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Writing

 

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