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Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

The winter doldrums usually never visit the Schaub household. With four children participating in homeschooling events and a house lined with books, there is rarely a dull moment. But, alas! The doldrums came knocking this year. It wasn’t during the winter, but the early Spring just as Mother Nature teased me with two days of warmth and sun which she nestled into the bosom of a month of cold and rainy days.

In those two days, I gardened until I had to chip the dirt from under my fingernails. My arms were slightly red, my eyes were dry from the intensity of the sun, and my back ached from tilling the soil. Overall, I felt alive.

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When Michigan’s April spring temperatures returned, the weather forced me back inside. The tasks that a mother needs to attend to cluttered my day; meal planning, actually making those planned meals, laundry, homeschooling and the endless list of trivial to-do’s.

As that to-do list grew longer every day, I noticed that my drive to cross things off that list was waning. I had entered a slump. A swampy-low dump. Not a happy place to be.

“When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

-Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I needed a little inspiration, a bucket of motivation, and a reward at the end.

My inspiration? To model the behaviors of dedication to my children. To inspire others to read more, learn more, to find positive associations that will build their lives toward love of God.

My Motivation?

Wait…how is that different from inspiration?

Inspiration is the fuel that drives me.

Motivation is the destination to which I’m driving.

I needed to remember that my motivation is to live a life steeped in the riches of God’s love and passion. My husband and I are the two major players and driving forces in our family. While we aren’t perfect and our children certainly know that, we are expected to live well, learn as we go, and do our best to not repeat mistakes. If we can work our way toward establishing an ever-developing strength in our marriage, that will carry over to our children and their perception of live, love and faith.

My reward?

Before I can select a reward, I need to measure the rate of my success. Yes, I’m a Type A, Dominant Personality, a Choleric-Melancholy, for those of you familiar with personality types. My children tease me about the amount of notes, charts, and the depth of detail I go into in our family life, lesson planning, writing (plot organization) and budgeting. But, heck! It works :)

What is success for me? Well, I have a goal for this year that will lead me to my 5- and 10-year goals. To reach that annual goal, I have an ongoing list of books to read and write, articles to explore for this blog, people to learn from (including my children). There are places to visit, experiences to have, and communities to participate in.

With my 10- and 5-year goals charted, I wrote down what I could do this year to make that possible. Every month I revise my “This Year” list to bring me closer to my 2020 goals. I also reserve the right to change those goals for 2020 and 2025, but only in an upward direction. If I find that I’ve underestimated how many books I can sell each month, I will raise that goal, but I will not lower it.

Getting back to the reward…each month I set down a list of to-do items. The typical list includes:

  • listening to 2-3 inspirational and informational audio recordings each day, which can accomplish as I drive my children to their activities, while I cook, fold laundry, or walk.
  • Reading 3 books on personal development (see my current reading list here) and 1-2 novels in the genre I write.
  • Write a blog post each week
  • Make an actual dinner (pre-planned, prepared and enjoyed) at least 3 times a week. That might sound like a low goal. I do have four children who do eat dinner seven times a week. They also eat breakfast, lunch, and two snacks a day–all at home. Three of them are old enough to prepare meals on their own, so I have them do that. You can call it Home Economics. I call it ‘time to write’.
  • And because I need to stay healthy, I set an exercise goal for each month. In warmer months, I’ll set a walking/jogging mileage goal. In the winter, I set out a stack of 4-5 exercise DVDs on Sunday night and do them all by Saturday morning.

If I can put a check mark next to each of these goals, then I know I have earned my reward. Sometimes it’s a Saturday morning specialty coffee from an upscale coffee shop. Sometimes I will take an entire day or, if possible, an overnight mini-vacation to a local retreat center and just relax, read and write. This month, the reward is a trip to Barnes and Noble where I will spend all the gift cards I received for Christmas.

A friend of mine laughed when I told her what my reward was for this month. “You already have the gift cards, just go and spend them!”

But I didn’t earn those cards. If I gain something, I want it to be because I’ve done the work and have earned it. It means more.

I encourage you to do the same. My mentor inspired me to try this reward system, using the idea of delaying gratification from the simple, easy-to-buy things until I had completed the work toward a dream. By adding this reward process to my life, my dreams of becoming a writer, author, and public speaker aren’t just pie-in-the-sky wishes, but realities. If there was ever anything you want, make a plan and implement it. At all costs, make it happen. There will be hard work and set-backs, but there will be no regrets. If you work long enough and hard enough, every dream can be reached.

This post was inspired by the book: Ladder, Climbing out of a Slump published by Obstacles Press.

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The entire world wants something. Peace. Money. Fitness. Beauty. Happiness. True Love. Family. Joy.

What is it that you want more than anything? Write it down. Don’t just think it. Thoughts are fleeting and easily lost in the breezy whims of life. Seal it onto paper with ink.

Do you really want that? I mean REALLY want it? Is that the something that wakes you up during the night? Does thinking about that cause you to daydream? If you so, keep reading. If you aren’t sure, keep reading anyway. If you want it but don’t feel like it’s something you can achieve, then you definitely need to keep reading!

Let me preface this with a disclaimer–I want something too. I’m learning how to reach my dream by studying people who have already reached theirs and are onto their second, third, fourth or tenth dream levels.

What do I want? I want everything listed in the first line and Perfect Faith. I don’t ever want to doubt God’s plans for me. I also want to be the most successful Independent Author who walked the earth. Lofty? Sure. Possible? Absolutely! I mean, somebody has to be the best…why not me? Am I there? Certainly not today, but tomorrow, if I live today correctly, I’ll be closer.

As I’m learning from mentors and as I read books on success in business, leadership, and faith, I am continuously finding a common theme: Not everyone is capable of competing for what they want.

Competing for that ‘one thing’ doesn’t necessarily mean that people are in a race to ‘get there first’. My greatest opponents in that competition is usually me. I am my greatest naysayer, the perfect enemy, the one who really knows what I have and have not accomplished. If I talk myself into something, I can talk myself out of it just as easily. That’s why I believe that not everyone is capable of competing for what they want. It’s also why I don’t want to be in that incapable group.

When I think of the word capable, I think of ‘having the ability’. But my friend Webster describes it differently: “competent; gifted; skillful.” To have capability means to “have power”. My definition is weak, but seems to be accurate for today’s culture. According to my old thinking, to be capable means that I have the ability. There are many people in the world today who are capable of doing great things. We hear that often, particularly from frustrated teachers and parents: “I know he/she is capable, but he/she just doesn’t!”

I much prefer Webster’s definition. It’s forward in its meaning and implication. Taking each of the words in the definition, here is what it breaks down into:

Competent = properly qualified

Gifted = possessing natural talent

Skillful = expert, dexterous

Do I feel competent as a writer? Sometimes. There are days I write scenes that just drip from my fingers onto the keyboard as if it takes no energy at all. Other days, I claw at the words, digging them out of my brain and pasting them to the page where they stick into gooey clumps.

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Do I possess a natural talent for writing? Nope. Everything I’ve written has been toiled over, rewritten, thrown out and resurrected through several edits. In fact, a college professor told me that I had no natural ability whatsoever. I was furious. And as my mother can verify, when I am furious about something, I work diligently to prove that person wrong. I’m still in the process of following the map toward the treasure of great writing, but I’m better than I was a year ago. Next year is looking golden.

Skillful writing is not writing like an expert, although there is certainly a place for that. Skillful writing is more of a dedication to a skill, devoting time and energy to the practice of, to find mentorship, to grow thick skin in order to perfect it. Skill comes to those who want it and work for it over a period of time.

My first manuscript was a massive collection of sentences with no clear focus or destination. I spent over a year working on that story, but I didn’t heed the advice of the experts. When I did, I could see the gaping holes in my story. I had no natural skill. The intense amateur status of my writing was blinding. There was only one thing to do: throw it out and start over. And I did. I deleted every copy on the computer and shredded every paper copy I had.

The greatest gift I received from that ‘do-over’ was the freedom to start fresh. I read every book on writing I could find. I read other novels in the genre I loved. Years went by before I had a manuscript that was even worth sharing with someone else. My days were (and still are) filled with caring for my children and homeschooling, so the only times I had to write were early in the morning, late at night, and during nap times. But, I found that my capabilities to do that were tied to my motivation to make that dream of becoming an author a reality. That gave me power.

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My first book. I still feel goose bumps when I look at it :)

I told myself: I will write until I have a complete and well-written story.

Then I said: I will polish and submit this manuscript until I find a publisher.

Then: I will continue to write until each story idea is taken to its fullest potential.

The “I will…until” concept was only recently put into words for me, but as I look back over the last decade of writing, it’s exactly what I did. Now, with that motto in my head, I feel more motivated than ever to continue forward with new and bigger goals. More books, more stories, more speaking opportunities. More books to read, more people to meet, more abilities to uncover.

The “I will…until…” phrase is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind that creates a willpower fueled by ability that grows into expertise.

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Brian Tracy, in his Book, Eat That Frog! titled after a statement by Mark Twain. Paraphrasing Mr. Twain, he essentially said: If, upon waking every day, you had to eat a live frog, it’s best to just do it and get it over with. Then, for the rest of the day, nothing can be as bad as that.

 

Essentially, don’t procrastinate the ugly job, because it’s only going to grow worse.

 

Stare that task right in the face!

Stare that task right in the face!

Mr. Tracy states that eating that frog indicates “Your ability to select your most important task, to begin it, and then to concentrate on is single-mindedly until it is complete is the key to high levels of performance and personal productivity.” (pg. 109) In essence, figure out what it is you need to do and work on that until it’s finished.

 

He goes on to suggest that “Starting a high-priority task and persisting with that task until it is 100 percent complete is the true test of your character, your willpower, and your resolve.” (page 111) Clearly, Mr. Tracy isn’t referring to parents who stay-at-home or work from home while there are children around. For anyone who has spent three or more hours caring for a child, they can attest that nothing happens as planned, nothing stays where you put it, and anything that is too quiet is either asleep or in the depths of making a ghastly mess.

 

“Starting a high-priority task and persisting with that task until it is 100 percent complete is the true test of your character, your willpower, and your resolve.”

 

I felt angry when I read that. The book is geared toward professionals in a professional setting. But I’m a professional mom. My setting involves very domestic chores, children, their schedules, needs, and all the lessons (both life and academic) they must learn. Even now, as I’m typing this, my willpower is being tested by the four-year-old who is claiming to be hungry after having a breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, sliced bananas, and two cups of milk. Honestly!

 

To achieve this standard of success seems impossible as caring for a child (or two, or four, or twelve) is not a single-minded task. It involves cuddling, caring, cleaning, feeding, reading to and listening to a child. There is the grocery shopping, the meal planning, gift buying, bribery purchases, laundry, toilet scrubbing. Chores at home are undone as quickly as they are crossed off the list. Then add to the list the task of raising three teenage daughters. They prefer to be called ‘young adults’. Most days they do act like young adults. On the days they don’t, they are frog princesses waiting for that kiss…

 

There are even tasks a parent must think of before they become necessary–what items will be needed during the shopping trip (i.e. a change of clothes, that special stuffed animal), how the schedule change is going to effect that child who is schedule-dependent, or any number of unexpected situations (usually vomit) that are the norm for those who spend their day with children.

 

What is the Frog of my day? Mothers have so many little things to manage. Which one is the Frog with its big bulging eyes and slimy skin that I just need to choke down and move beyond? What is the job that will only get uglier if I procrastinate?

 

I don’t have an answer other than to say that as a mother, frogs jump at me and I have to make split-decisions. I don’t always choose wisely.

 

Since reading Brian Tracy’s book, I’ve been dipping my not-so-edible frogs in a “Prayer” sauce. As I make my list of to-do’s and as I juggle the frogs that jump onto my plate, I am learning that the power of prayer and the gift of sacrifice make a savory meal of any frog.

 

And so I will pray for you. That whatever frog jumps onto your plate, it is one that brings a fullness to your life and brings joy to those whom you love (because watching someone eat a frog is what reality TV was born on!). Mostly, I will pray that when you do cross that frog off your list, you have taken another step toward satisfying your dreams.

 

Bon Appétit!

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Awaiting Inspiration?

Have a Dream? Don’t wait for Inspiration. Dreams are reached on the wings of determination.

 

Let me preface this post with a statement: If I can do it, so can you.

That’s what I tell people who express awe when they learn that we home-school our children and that I write books. If I can do it, so can you.

It’s not that everyone should write a book (although everyone should keep a journal), or that every parent should home-school their children. The idea behind the statement is that if there is something you really want to do, figure out how to do it. (Some days my greatest goal is to finish the laundry. Other days, my family would love it if my life’s ambition was to cook dinner.)

Here’s a formula I learned from Bob McEwen (CD, Freedom Matters, Life Leadership) : S = I + A

Success = Information + Action

The success I have achieved is a direct result of information I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources which I then put into action. I will follow that statement with this: The greater success I am striving for is from specific information I am harvesting from other who have the success I desire which I will put into action.

That’s all I’ve done: uncovered success by putting action behind information. My information was about writing, the time period I write about, the language of storytelling, and even the nature of marketing. Success in writing is not a result of inspiration, but dedication to a schedule.

To await inspiration is to die a dusty death.

To hunger for success is only step one. Satisfying that hunger requires a recipe (S=I+A, in case you forgot). It’s that simple.

As soon as I say that, the excuses start pouring in: But I have children. I have a full-time job. I don’t have a job, so I can’t afford to work toward my dream. I’m too old. I’m too young. I have a disease. I’m not smart enough.

Inspiration never comes to those with excuses. If you believe something is true, then it is. If you believe you are too old to do something, you are. But don’t tell that to the octogenarians who climb mountains or start new businesses, or to the teenagers who launch multi-million dollar ideas (think Facebook).

If you set a goal and work to meet it, the excuses fall away like winter coats in spring. I had a goal of writing a book. In the process of meeting that goal I had three children, adopted a fourth, and chose to home-school them all. In that span of fifteen years, I’ve not written one book, but fourteen. Some have been published, others will be, some will never see a reader. Regardless, each and every word I have written or typed has brought me closer to my goal.

That’s the side-effect of not awaiting inspiration but going out and making something happen…it will. Then what will you do? Make a new goal. A loftier goal. A seemingly unachievable goal, until you set aside the naysayers and just go and make it happen.

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One of the highlights of homeschooling are the discussions I have with my children in the mornings. Our mornings are not a rush and flurry of breakfast, dressing and scrambling out the door. (note: I’m not saying that every family does that…just that ours would!) Instead, we have breakfast, clean-up and get to the dining room table by 8:30 every morning to do table time–our term for what happens at the table during that time. I know. I’m impressing you with our skill in naming events and habits.

It was at table time this week that a question came up in our faith studies that lead to an interesting discussion about plans for life, goals on how to achieve them and what’s needed to make it all come together.

Despite all my teaching (more thoughts on the ineffectiveness of teaching coming soon) and previous discussions about the importance of having one’s priorities in line, my children didn’t have it figured out yet. When I asked them what was the most important thing in life, they said, “God!” Score one for them.

Next question: If all your goals and dreams, your life’s accomplishments and relationships were to look like a pyramid, where would God be?

Their answer: At the top!

Wrong.

They argued for a moment, but watched as I drew this:

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Question: What’s the problem with putting God at the top? If you put Him there, there is nothing to hold Him up. That’s not to suggest that God needs us to hold him up, but if we are placing Him first, how does He stay up there while we are building our pyramid?

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Instead, make God and your faith formation the foundation. Build that foundation large and thick and sturdy. Prepare that foundation for earthquakes, hail storms, torrential rains and tornados. Keep the seams of the bricks strong with mortar. Check those seams often for leaks and patch them quickly. Inspect that foundation often for cracked bricks and holes that let in the elements.

Working up from that foundation, we can seek and find a thousand different answers as to what should be second, third, and fourth on the levels. My mentors, the people I trust most have encouraged me to focus on the following: First: God. Second: my personal education toward a greater understanding of my purpose. Third: my vocation (Marriage or Holy Orders). Fourth: my family. Fifth: myself (the quiet time to read and write I crave).

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I’m sure there is something in this list you will disagree with. I certainly did when I first heard this and my children were not sure about it either. But when asked to place their priorities on a pyramid with the foundation being the most important, it’s interesting to note that every person has taken TIME to think about it.

That’s the key. Take the time to think about your priorities. Write them down. Then follow them!

My husband and I used this as the foundation for our family meeting last night. It was a powerful conversation that will ultimately direct the family’s activities over the next few months and was formulated on the idea of the pyramid. If, as a family, we are not working toward the same goal, then we are pulling apart at the seams. This doesn’t mean that we must all have the same interests or must all do the same things, but everything we do individually must work for the Schaub Mob (our nickname).

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We, as a family, have a need to work together on a common goal. Using the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, the word “Compassion” came up several times. We decided that as a family, we need to practice showing compassion to each other, participating in activities that promote compassion, and carefully considering which activities will help us respond with passion.

Going back to the pyramid again, we are each building our own structure, but have agreed to strive to set the capstone of ‘compassion’ on the top. We discussed how this looks in daily living and with friends and other family members – striving to be leaders who have a plan of where they are going and how to get there. Compassion as the mission for our family will also guide our decisions in which and how many extracurricular activities we do. We don’t have it all figured out yet, but our goal is clear.

I share this with you because it has become an American tradition to go through life without a goal, without a plan and with no mission. As a result, our society has become complacent, lifeless and even in some circumstances, backwards. This is the first generation in which the children are less education than their parents (resource). If you think that you or your family falls into this category, join us in digging our way out of that. Start by laying a strong foundation on faith in God. Look to your family to help you build the next few levels. Choose a mission, a goal for yourself and your family. Build something great together.

While the Pharaohs built their pyramids out of pride, ours are built in order to create a legacy of faith-filled learners, self-educators and leaders. Who knows, your legacy might be a structure that lasts thousands of years and guides stray wanderers over miles of barren desert.

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There was a day in my past when I truly believed that I needed to know how to do everything. And then I became a mom. I realized I knew nothing.

Nadda.

No thing.

I wish I had read Deliver Me: Confessions of Motherhood, a compilation of essays edited by Laura Diamond. Mothers are a species unto their own. Stories of labor and delivery are bonds of friendships – those personal battlefields of brining forth life when we struggle against the pain to receive the joy of motherhood. And the pain doesn’t stop there… as I’m typing this, there is a four-year-old loudly singing as he rifles through the box of Legos for just the right piece. In the background, my three daughters are all practicing their instruments. And now the dog is barking. As much as I would like to run screaming from the house, I also know that these days are short and precious. There will be a day when my house is too quiet and I will crave this chaos. I wish I could bottle up this noise so I can savor it on a day when I would truly appreciate it.

Laura Diamond understands this. Deliver Me is just the beginning. This girl is going places! Watch for her name. This might be the first time you hear of her, but it certainly won’t be the last!

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  1. Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood is one of those books that make the reader laugh and cry. What was the inspiration behind the project?

 

The inspirations for this project were my two little boys, and the talented writers of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective.

As a stay-home mom with two little boys, I yearned for a creative outlet. I wanted to make something, other than sandwiches. I was lucky to be in a writing class with members of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective, taught by the poet Jack Grapes. Every week in class, students read from our most recent work. And every week I was blown away by what I heard. Some writers, like me, wrote about parenthood. I thought, why not put some of these together to capture many voices on the same life-changing experience of parenthood. I put out a call for submissions, and the stories started coming in. I chose two of my own pieces, and selected work from nineteen other women to create this anthology.

Headshot, hi res

 

  1. I noticed on your blog that you list (and presumably support) several non-profit organizations that help women and the disadvantaged – One Billion Rising, Kiva.org, and A Window Between Worlds – to name just the first three listed. How are you involved with these organizations? What is it that drew you to include them on your blog? What is the ‘Call to Action’ you hope for from your blog readers?

Growing up, social action was part of our family’s life and values. My parents were always involved in politics, and that naturally became part of my world view. In Judaism, “Tikkun Olam,” or healing the world, is central.

I thought that a blog about motherhood should highlight organizations that help women and girls. I chose organizations that I have personally donated to because of their mission and their effectiveness. One Billion Rising, for example, is a multinational movement started by the playwright Eve Ensler, focused on ending violence against women worldwide. A Window Between Worlds, brings art therapy to women and families in Los Angeles who have suffered domestic violence. Kiva.org makes microloans to women in developing countries, so that they can start small businesses. Evidence shows that when women thrive, their families and villages benefit.

The organization I am most committed to is PATH Beyond Shelter, which is dedicated to helping homeless families get back into permanent housing, find employment, and rebuild their lives. Every mother should have a place to tuck in her children at night, no exceptions. I joined their Board when my younger son was one year old, after I had met a homeless woman with a child his age. Over $2,000 in proceeds from sales of Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood has been donated to Beyond Shelter. Also, my forthcoming novel, Shelter Us, touches on the plight of homeless families.

 

  1. As the editor of a book dedicated to mothers, would you share one of your favorite stories from your own experience as a mother? (happy, sad, touching… you choose ;)

 

My mother-in-law says, Men tell war stories; women tell birth stories. Here’s one more.

Contrary to public perception, just because you’re nine months pregnant doesn’t mean you know the first thing about giving birth. Thank goodness the baby knows what to do. You just have to stay out of the way.

Still, when I was nine months pregnant with my second child, you might think I’d be well versed in the experience. Not so. Even though I had given birth once, I had no idea what it felt like to go into labor. I had been induced the first time. So it was with some bewilderment that I said to my husband one Sunday morning, the day before my due date, “I feel…funny.”

“Are you in labor?”

“How should I know?”

So we went on with our day, taking our 3 ½ -year-old son to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, with its ponies and live music and, of course, farmers. An hour later, I felt “funny” every twenty minutes.

“I think we should go home,” I said.

“Can I have ice cream?” our son said.

“Sure,” my husband said, prompted by guilt over bringing a new baby into our family, as well as by a hankering for Phish Food.

They sat in Ben & Jerry’s enjoying their cones. I paced outside. I felt like an octopus was inside me, pressing on all my parts and levers, seeing how things worked. I had to keep moving to stay a step ahead of it.

When we got home, I called my parents who lived nearby to let them know it was time for them to come over. They came, as did my sister and nieces. They were all there to care for and play with our little boy so we could scoot out to the hospital to give him a brother.

As we said our excited good-byes, my little boy had these parting words: “Mommy, play with me.” He sat on the hardwood floor surrounded by wooden Thomas-style trains, with dozens of track pieces spilled around him. That wood floor had never looked so hard and unwelcoming. “Play with me?” he asked again. How could I say no to this child who I loved more than anything in the world, who would soon be second fiddle to a needy newborn?

My husband stood at the door holding my bag. My parents, concerned for their own baby, said, “Go on, we got this covered.” I looked from them to him. The sweet green eyes, the crown of brown ringlets – how to resist? I wobbled over, sat down on the unforgiving floor, and played trains until the next contraction lifted me off my feet and out the door.

 

  1. What kinds of marketing techniques have you implemented? What has worked…what hasn’t?

 

Book readings! These are the most fun, and when you have 20 authors in one book, each has a long list of friends to invite to different venues. It’s important to only go places where you know you have enough friends or family to show up. I approached independent bookstores in cities where I have lots of family and friends, and they were all welcoming. I used direct e-mail to get people to come, as well as some giveaways.

 

  1. Your bio on your blog mentions that you didn’t enter the world of adulthood seeking a career as a writer, but have always kept a journal. I have two questions: First, what drew you to keep a journal? Second, what led you to writing? (was it a hobby or did you start writing with a mission in mind?)

 

My first journal was a Hello Kitty diary, in which I wrote about the daily travails of a fourth grader. I still have it. I was pretty funny. The next journal I had was a gift to me when I was 13, from one of my mom’s oldest friends. That marked the beginning of my adolescent journal-keeping, a practice that kept me sane and centered through high school and college. Writing in my journal was a way to sort out the tangled emotions of adolescence. To figure out who I was and what I wanted.

I loved the way I felt when I wrote, the way it awakened my senses and powers of observation, both to the outside world and my inner self. I kept writing a journal through law school and while practicing law, but never thought of it as something more than a hobby.

When my first son was 2 ½ years old, I decided to pause my law career. I realized with excitement that maybe that would also give me more time to write. I wrote whatever was on my mind – which was a lot mom-stuff and kid-stuff and nap-stuff. Frankly, I was disappointed in myself. I thought I should be writing about something more substantial, more worldly. That is, until another writer, who was not a parent, told me that my writing brought them into a world totally unlike their own life. So I said, to heck with it, I’m a woman with two little kids, and this is what’s on my mind. I write what I write. And the rest of the book unfolded.

My muses came in human form, my two boys. Before they were born, I was a lawyer who had always liked writing. After they were born, I became a writer. I recently returned to practicing law, but I’ve kept writing. Now I do all the things I love: lawyer, writer, mother.

 

  1. What writing resources do you find valuable? (conferences, books, magazines, blogs?)

One of my current favorite websites/blogs is Writer Unboxed. Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird is a favorite, as are Carolyn See’s The Literary Life, Stephen King’s On Writing. One of my favorite writing resources is to read great writers.

 

  1. What snippet of wisdom – a quote or a saying your parents spoke frequently – would you like to share to inspire?

 

My parents didn’t speak aphorisms, unless you count “What am I, chopped liver?”

My Dad did often say to me and my sister when we were bickering about something silly, “Remember, girls, you are the only sister each of you will ever have. You will be sisters for the rest of your life.” He meant, you are family, you must value and support each other. She is one of my biggest supporters, and Writers need as much moral support as we can get. I now tell my own children, “Remember boys, you have one brother for the rest of your life,” to remind them to stick together and support each other.

My parents always made sure I knew that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. That didn’t mean it would be easy. But believing in yourself is necessary to stick with a project until you achieve it.

 

Upcoming Events:

My debut novel, Shelter Us, will be published in June 2015 by She Writes Press. I look forward to sharing more events then!

 

Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select Indie stores.

www.ConfessionsofMotherhood.com

Twitter @LauraDiamond1

 

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Ready for something fun? Sandra Bennett is it. Her book, Gingerbread Aliens, is wonderfully crafted to draw even the most reluctant reader into the literary world. I am thrilled to introduce to you, a great lady fro Down Under, Sandra Bennett!

Sandra Bennett

Your book, Gingerbread Aliens, had my son in a fit of giggles! He loved it. You clearly have a talent for sparking joy and laughter in the young at heart. Where does this wisdom come?

I have always felt laughter is the key to encourage children to develop a love of reading, so that makes me delighted when I hear that my book has tickled someone else’s sense of humour. Our own house has always been full of laughter and entertainment with my boys and all their friends. I notch up a lot of my ideas from the wonderful experiences they have all brought to my life. I believe it is being constantly surrounded by my family that has enriched my ideas and kept me young at heart. I also regard myself as lucky in that I taught Primary school children for many years, my favourites were always the Kindies and year ones. In that respect I always considered myself like a “mother hen,” all clucky, wanting to embrace and cherish them all. I began writing stories for them and about them in a bid to engage them in the learning to read process. Having also taught English as a Second Language and Literacy Assistance I have a strong belief that stories need to be easily relatable to children if you expect them to want to learn to read and that we only have a small window of time to turn them into life-long lovers of reading.

Cover Gingerbread Aliens

I was particularly impressed with the illustrations. Who is your illustrator? How did you connect?

Hayley Welsh was the illustrator for Gingerbread Aliens. She is a young artist living in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. At the time we were introduced she happened to be working for my husband on an oil and gas project. He saw some of her drawings and asked if she would be interested in reading my manuscript and the rest as they say, is history.

 What was your greatest moment in your writing career?

Two memorable moments come to mind quite quickly. Firstly, the moment I opened the email from The Australian National Eisteddfod requesting the use of Gingerbread Aliens in their 2013 Championship Section of Speech and Drama for Ten years and under, to when I was finally able to watch the performances of the children on stage reading from the book. I feel it was a great honour to watch the children perform exerts of my book. It gave me such delight to see they were obviously really enjoying themselves onstage reading my words, that truly was a great moment. The other great moment was the time when I arrived at a school for a book reading during book week to discover one of the students dressed up as my main character (David Bradberrie), complete with a cardboard cut out of a gingerbread alien and his copy of my book. It was such a lovely feeling to see that a reader had decided to choose one of my characters to dress up as instead of a more famous character.

 As an educator, what are the top three things you suggest to parents who have struggling or reluctant readers?

First and foremost relax! The more stressed you are, the more stressed they will be! All children learn to read at their own pace but with a little encouragement, motivation and time spent reading together they will eventually get there.

Find books that will pique their interest or curiosity. Provide a wide variety of genres, including non-fiction, magazines as well as science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, especially books that have great hooks at the end of each chapter and make then laugh so that they want to read more.

Play lots of word games with them, simple things like memory and scrabble to begin with. Even Karaoke on the console may seem like just a game, but as they sing along they are reading the words and having a whole lot of fun and learning along the way. Mix it up a lot but keep it interesting and fun. For an extensive list of ideas you can visit my blog “Raising Awesome Readers.” Here’s the link to two of my blogs to help get anyone in need started.

http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/the-awesome-value-of-picture-books.html  http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/how-do-i-turn-pages-on-my-reluctant.html

Sean with his homemade Gingerbread Aliens

 

Describe your writing community, your typical day, what you do to enhance your writing output, editing, and revising.

I live out in the country amongst the kangaroos, native birds and other wildlife and I don’t drive a great deal these days so my writing community has to be online. I joined writing.com several years ago where I was encouraged to further my writing career when I won several competitions I entered and received amazing feedback from many other wonderful writers. It really is a great community to develop your skills, receive reviews and helpful hints. Through Linkedin and Facebook I have become friends with some other wonderful authors as well that continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm and motivation. This year I also joined another group of wonderful writers online that encourage one another with their writing, revising and editing through an author magic spreadsheet where we are encouraged to list our word count each day. It keeps track of your weekly and monthly output helping you to strive to stay on task. Authors can seek advice from each other and generally tend to be quite helpful. I usually try to squeeze in a couple of hours writing during the afternoon after taking care of the usual house hold routines, any work I may need to do for my husband’s company and chasing around after tradesmen working on the building of our home. (This is a long term project that is taking much longer than I ever anticipated.) I am also spending quite a bit of time away from home while my husband works in Darwin, I am hoping this will provide more opportunities for longer hours on my laptop without as many daily interruptions from home.

 

What recommendations do you have for other writers? (this can be a mention of a few books about writing, blogs, habits, conferences, frame of mind…)

Writing is like any craft it takes practice, lots of practice. I use to tell my students that it is ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, writing is the same. Don’t worry too much about how a first draft reads, just write, you can always go back and edit later. The key is to get your ideas down on paper (or computer) fast, before you lose the thread of an idea. Too many of my students would worry about grammar and spelling and then stumble on the main idea or plot. It is more important to form good writing habits than to be concerned with perfection. Also read a lot. Whether you read books on how to write or you read books in your chosen genre you can still learn so much from studying other author’s techniques. Look for a style and flow that suits you, search for what you feel works or doesn’t work in a story. Observe their use of intrigue, adventure, chapter hooks, climaxes and resolutions but it is also important to take the time to develop and find your own voice. In fact I only recently read a great article on this subject, the link is below.

http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/08/11/nailing-genre-by-studying-successful-authors/

Reading to an intrigued class

In the world of marketing, what habits have brought you success? How do you find readers?

In the world of children’s books most of my book sales have come from school visits. As a former teacher I have had the opportunity to be invited to do readings at various schools throughout Canberra where many of my former colleagues are still teaching. Once introduced to a class of students it doesn’t take long for them to become hooked readers. I have been planning to add to my blog a series of classroom activities to enhance the reading experience. Hopefully these will start to appear soon to build on the marketing through the use of my books within the classrooms. Word of mouth has always been good for me as well, parents spreading the word when their children enjoy the story. I encourage parents and children alike to write to me on my website or Facebook page with a review or a photo of them cooking a batch of Gingerbread Aliens, this always seems to help.

 

As a published author, what were some of the lesson (good, bad, and memorable) that you learned in the process?

As it is all such a huge learning curve, especially as children’s books have illustrations to include, I decided to enlist the aid of a small self-publishing company here in Canberra to show me the ropes so to speak. While I would say in many ways they have been very helpful and supportive they still leave all the marketing up to me and have not managed to gain a great deal of access to bricks and mortar book shops leaving me wondering if it has been worthwhile having a middle man? My other issue is that they control the price of my book on Amazon making it difficult for me to sell it at a sale price. When I asked the self-publishing company to reduce the price of my e-book, they made a separate link on Amazon which I can’t seem to link back to the original page where you can see the reviews and my author profile. This has not helped with sales at all. I would much prefer to be in control myself. Most of my sales come from hard copies via my website.

http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Aliens-Sandra-Bennett-ebook/dp/B00H5WD2NI

http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Aliens-Sandra-Bennet-ebook/dp/B009G4BDEI

The book launch they organised at a local bookshop was fantastic though and as a result Gingerbread-aliens stayed number one on the sales chart here in Canberra for over month when it was released. I hope the second book in the series Alien Shenanigans does as well when it is released in the coming months.

I am currently in the process of editing the illustrations for Alien Shenanigans, the Bradberre Brothers Alien Adventure continues. Also book three Brussels sprouts and Alien Brains, is in the final editing stages. To top it off I have just completed a collaboration with a wonderful illustrator here in Canberra on a picture book, Emma the Eager Emu. It was one of the short stories I originally won an award for that encouraged me to pursue my writing career. Now the gorgeous illustrations are complete and the Australian birds have come to life so beautifully, I look forward to it being published soon.

 

http://sandrabennettauthor.com/

http://www.gingerbread-aliens.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GingerbreadAliens

 

Peter as David Bradberrie

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Lois, please start by telling us a little about yourself. You know, the typical first date conversation :)

Probably the most fun way for your fans to learn about me is by watching this little video I made called: My Life In Pictures, posted at: http://tales2inspire.com/?page_id=79

But here’s a little ABOUT THE AUTHOR snippet taken from my Tales2Inspire™ books:

After twenty years as an active educator, I continued to pursue my love of writing, soon becoming co-editor of a popular Long Island web-zine. As I created and authored my column Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, I solidified my special niche of investigative journalism and put those same talents to work while writing Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery. I followed up with my second book, Tick, Tock, Stop the Clock. Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour to address many of the less invasive paths to beauty.

You can Watch this candid interview of me on The Writers Dream Show to learn more about these books.

Tales2Inspire™ began a whole new chapter in my life. . . . Another story for another time.

Lois W. Stern

Lois W. Stern

 

Your story collections, The Topaz Collection, The Emerald Collection, and now, hot off the press, the Sapphire Collection remind me a little of Chicken Soup of the Soul. What is the story behind your desire for this project?

I’ve gotten that same comment from a couple of people, and I guess in a way it’s true. Oh, if only one day Tales2Inspire would be the new Chicken Soup of the Soul. That would be a dream come true. I’m working on it!

I created this project as an Authors Helping Authors Project and also a contest. I wanted to help talented authors (including me) get some recognition for their talents and help them build their author platforms. It has become a passion truly, one to which I devote hundreds of hours a week.

 

Is there an ‘Opal’ Collection in the works?

Opal? I hadn’t thought about that stone although I do love Opals! But the one I’m working on right now is the Ruby Collection ~ Gifts of Compassion. I’ve already received some smashing, unbelievably inspiring stories for that one. Ruby might just top them all, but then again, as I publish each new collection, I think that’s my best one yet. I think I just fall in love with so many of these stories.

 

How would someone submit to you? What types of guidelines and suggestions do you offer?

Here are a few things they should know right off the bat:

  • There is no submission fee. it is free to enter.
  • Each submitted Tale must be an original, non-fiction story.
  • Authors are encouraged to include author owned, relevant images (Note: The impact of the images is factored into the final scoring.)
  • Each submitted story must have an inspiring or motivational message.
  • Each author must include a signed release form granting me first North American rights to publish their story.
  • All of the specific guidelines to submitting a story are on my website. Just click on the word CONTEST in the top left of screen. Since information such as entry and deadlines dates and wanted themes do change, the best way to keep updated is GUIDELINES, named Steps-to-Success.

T2I Poster_new

 

It’s clear from your work that your goal is to offer inspiration to people. What specifically do you hope for these books? Describe the perfect reader of the Tales2Inspire™ series of books.

People who are tired of picking up the newspaper or turning on their TV only to be bombarded with the latest uprising, rape, murder or other calamity. I want my books to give hope and optimism to those who need that perspective and simply feel-good messages to those who enjoy a good, uplifting read.

 

Is there one story in particular from these collections that really struck you?

Oh, my, I’m always afraid people will ask me that question and the short answer is, “Yes, I do.” But I’m really more interested in learning about my readers’ favorites. As a matter of fact, at the end of each Tales2Inspire book you can find a letter I have written to my readers asking them that very question. I hope some of them take the time to respond.

winner_mint

Suppose you were speaking to a group of writing hopefuls…what are some gems of advice you would offer?

Write because you love writing and think you have something important to share.

Don’t fall in love with your words.

Join a critique group and listen, listen, listen. Keep an open mind and you will learn from your peers.

Writing a well crafted book takes enormous energy and skill, so authors tend to think they have done their deed once their book is published. If only that were so. Be prepared for stage to: Marketing with a capital ‘M’.

 

What types of resources have you found useful in this career of writing/editing?

Books:

On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White

My critique group

 

Want to learn more about Lois W. Stern? Do you have a story to submit to The Ruby Collection, visit:

 

My website for Tales2Inspire: www.tales2Inspire.com

My Inspiring stories YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WinningTales

My websites for my beauty books: www.sexliesandcosmeticsurgery.com

http://www.ticktockstoptheclock.com

LinkedIn page:http://tinyurl.com/qyoj73q

Amazon Author page: http://tinyurl.com/q2qlzg5

 

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/tales3inspire/beauty

Twitter page: http://www.myfabbeautyblog

My beauty blog: https://fabulousbeautyblog.wordpress.com

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

This is why I love literature. Examining lives. Reading allows me to live beyond my own skin and time, stepping into a different world, exploring what it’s like to be someone else, with different expectations, different family, different abilities.

When I meet people who don’t read, I feel nervous. Not only do they not appreciate the hobby I hold dear to my heart, they also are lacking all the experiences gained from reading stories, biographies & autobiographies. They know nothing of making friends, or the art of communication, and becoming an influential person because they’ve read nothing on how to be great. The political world, the history of the world, the scientific studies…all are lost on those poor souls who don’t read.

But they watch TV and are informed, they say.

Yeah, right. That’s like saying, “I watched a documentary about Adolf Hitler and now know everything I need to know about leadership.”

Books, be it on paper or an electronic device, offer a different type of education. It requires the reader to do just one thing – read. In our society of multi-tasking – one of the worst things to happen, in my opinion – reading requires stillness, peace, and dedication. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or studying for a greater depth in understanding about a particular subject, reading is a focused skill that is the heart and soul of the human race.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

It’s likely that Plato wasn’t talking about reading when he wrote this. I imagine that he is expressing a need for the individual to spend time each day reflecting on our actions, words, conflicts, triumphs and plans for the next day.

The advantage to adding reading to this examination of life is looking into other hearts, minds, and goals of other people. Whether they are fictional or historical, the nature of the human heart is to find happiness. Without a proper examination of life, how can we discover what will make us happy?

A few years ago, my two oldest daughters read Pride and Prejudice. It’s fiction, not a scientific study. It’s not an adventure or a fantasy. It’s a novel about manners. It’s an examination of different types of women and their role in family, society, and grace. From that reading, my daughters decided to practice self-control when talking to boys, lest they sound like Lydia and end up with her lot in life…which wasn’t much. My daughters were captivated by the language, the intelligence of their communication, the patience they exercised. They saw the happiness the characters gained at the end of the story and knew that that’s what they wanted for themselves.

In my hopes of raising daughters, I have often spoken (and try to model) self-control, patience and the virtue of purity. But my words are just words; and while actions do speak louder, there is something about it being spoken by a parent that renders the lesson moot. It takes an outsider to cause the lessons to stick; someone who has earned their trust, someone who doesn’t tell them to pick up their dirty socks or to make their beds. Outsiders can, for better or worse, teach children far better than parents. If the outsiders are the characters from books, readers can extend their experiences, their knowledge, and their friends (personally, my greatest lessons in friendship came from books – the most difficult lessons from my own life.)

In the moments spent between the lines of a story, readers can practice behaviors without actually hurting anyone. The behaviors of characters, of historical figures, even of creatures in books (think Gollum), shadows our own. But what do we do with those characters in our reality?

In the Catholic faith, we are encouraged to do a nightly examination of conscience: How did I do today? Did I live for God? Whom did I serve? What did I sacrifice? What did I give? Did I spend time in prayer and with scripture? Where did I fall short? What can I do differently tomorrow?

Regardless of faith, these same questions crack open a whole new way of looking the way people live. As we examine our days, we discover our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses leads us to overcome them in strengths. Exercising our strengths allows us to understand that we need proper information to become better people. Better information leads us to Wisdom. Wisdom will save the world.

An exercise that fell short:
 Years ago, in high school I believe, I was asked where I thought I would be and what I would be doing in 10 years. I don’t remember my answer specifically, but I’m sure it was something to the tune of: good job, happily married, a baby, nice car, nice home, annual vacations.

If I ask myself that question now – Where do I see myself in 10 years? – I’m looking at a 50-something year-old woman. While the question is a starting point, it doesn’t examine the deeper questions: What do I want for that 50-something year old woman? Am I robbing that older woman of her gifts and talents by the things I’m doing today? What I can save for her that will help her in the future? What can I do that will make that older lady happy, secure, and strong?

In examining my future, I can focus my plans for today. If I picture myself in 10 years as a woman living completely off the choices I make each and every day from now until then, how different do you think I will choose to live?

What I do today will determine my success in the future. My goals for today, this week, next month, and the coming year will all add up into something great…or, if they exist in an “unexamined life”, will lead to a failed existence.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

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Blog Tour – Why I Write

I was invited to take part in this Blog Tour by Jennifer Chow, a fellow author Martin Sisters Publishing, author of The 228 Legacy, and a woman who understands the power of books reviews as she took the time to read my book, Unforgettable Roads, and leave a review on Goodreads!

I started reading Jennifer’s book and was immediately intrigued. Her style is fresh and thought provoking – you won’t be disappointed!

In doing my due diligence to see just where this blog tour has stopped, I’m humbled. There are some really great authors out there who have taken the time to make a ‘stop’ on this tour, and many more whom I can’t wait to meet – both in terms of a face-to-face encounter and within their writing.

Blog Hop – Writing Processes

What am I working on?

I will admit here that I’m slightly ADD. When people ask this question, I usually keep it simple and just share that I’m still writing. In truth, I have 4-5 different writing projects going. I don’t think that that I’m unique in this – I can think of no career where a person would only work on one project until it’s finished. For some reason, people are surprised to hear that writers don’t write just one book at a time.

Currently, I’m editing and polishing the sequel to my first book, Gateways. I’m still working on a title, but I have been calling it Maps but I’m leaning towards, The Elder’s Circle. I have a wonderful writing partner that I’m meeting with twice a week to work on a book titled, Retreat, a woman’s survival story in the back woods of Northern Wisconsin. After hours of editing or Retreating (our term for our work on this book), I switch gears to another novel, Circle of Pride. Using the seven deadly sins, I’m working on a series (yep, 7 books) about two foster brothers who are targeted by people possessed by these sins. Wanna sneak peek?

Why do I write what I do?

I write to bring Christian values to teens and young adults without the preachy, shoved down the throat lessons. As difficult as failure is, I really do think it is the best lesson and my characters all suffer good-intentions turned bad as the means to become the person they are meant to be. Let’s be honest, if every character acted on 20-20 maturity, there would be no story. The mistakes we make add to our character, our understanding, and our compassion.
As a mother and a reader, I’m disheartened by the amount of fantasy available that makes death look appealing. A young girl at our church, who comes only because she wants to spend that time with her grandmother, told me that she really would love to become a zombie.
What?
I know nothing of the current trend of zombie books and movies, but it’s my understanding that zombies are dead and quite horrifying. The fact that she wants to become one…well, needless to say, I’m confused about her life goals.
I am saddened by the changes happening in the world. I’m sure we can all agree that the world we live in now is not as healthy as the world into which we were born. Perhaps it appears a bit lofty for me to hope that my writing can make a difference in that, but that’s exactly what I hope. Stories are the language of the soul. If we feed our soul on dark stories, we become burdened. If we inspire our souls with stories that lead to truth (even difficult truth) and hope, our souls become light.

How does my writing process work?

Here is what I wish I could answer honestly:
I start with a scene in mind, a skill that is uncannily simple for me, and with a glass of something bubbly in hand, I sit on the deck of my vacation home and plan out the story in its entirety. With my insanely organized mind, I plot each chapter with character notes, plot, and theme. Then, as the waves roll up on the beach outside, I click away contentedly on my laptop, laughing at my jokes, crying at the emotion of scenes. About three or four months later, I submit my work to my agent, who prepares to battle the onslaught of publishers who are knocking down her door for my latest work.

Here’s the truth:
Sometimes I do start with a scene in mind and toil for months to create a story that develops from that. Mostly, I start with a theme or a purpose for the story first. Once I’ve established setting and a basic plot, I turn to research to enhance my understanding of that time period and location.
I do use an outline to plot points, but it’s an outline that inspires fear for any Type A personality – giant sheets of paper that I tape to the wall of my dining room, I sketch out the story as the ideas come and link them together with lines. In education, it’s called brainstorming. To my family, it looks like a mess. To me, it’s perfect.
Being a homeschooling mom of four and a wife who also runs a business with her husband, my time to write is the only strict schedule I follow. I squeeze in an hour every day for writing or reading, but every Thursday afternoon, my husband is home and I disappear. In order to make the most of that time, I do have to keep a running To-Do List with deadlines. It’s this To-Do List that determines the success of each week of writing. If I know what scenes need work, have a few resources to read to keep me motivated and in the loop of the writing and publishing world, then my time that is dedicated to writing is much more focused and effective. If I just sit down to write, I accomplish nothing.
It’s possible that I’m in the running for being the slowest writer, needing several years to complete a manuscript.
Currently, I don’t have an agent. I have been published through a small publishing house, Martin Sisters Publishing. I have also self-published a two other books. The process for both of those avenues to publishing is very different, but both were fulfilling.

Meet Virginia Ripple

I’m tagging Virginia Ripple as the next author in this Blog Tour. She’s an incredibly gifted writer and a true support for other writers. You can check out her writing and mission at www.virginiaripple.com.

 

 

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