Fast Writing Tip Wednesday: Let’s Talk About Tags

I’m not talking about tagging a friend or a celebrity on social media. I’m talking about dialogue tags, those helpful little buggers that show you who is speaking.

Like here:

“How about you try this ancient thinking fruit?” she said.

The dialogue tag is SHE SAID.

Here’s my First DIALOGUE Hint:

Every single dialogue line does not need a dialogue tag. Those babies can survive without them!

So, don’t do this:

“How about you try this ancient thinking fruit?” she said.

“What do you mean, ‘thinking fruit?'” he asked.

“The fruit helps you think,” she said.

“Does it think for you?” he asked. “Because that seems wrong.”

“We must all think for ourselves,” she agreed.

All tags

That reads like a second grade book that you didn’t quite enjoy, right? Not even in second grade.

“How about you try this ancient thinking fruit?” she said.

“What do you mean, ‘thinking fruit?'” he asked.

“The fruit helps you think.”

“Does it think for you? Because that seems wrong.”

“We must all think for ourselves,” she agreed.

Less tags

If you have two people talking you don’t ALWAYS have to tell us who said what. The paragraph indents give us that clue.

Here is my Second DIALOGUE Hint

If you add in the character action instead of the dialogue tag, it can make things zing and change meaning.

“How about you try this ancient thinking fruit?” She held the potato above her head, thrusting it towards the sky.

He took one step backwards, eyeing the spud. Someone had stuck plastic appendages and even eyes and lips into it. “What do you mean, ‘thinking fruit?'”

“The fruit helps you think.” She brought the potato back down to her level and kissed its bright, red lips.

“Does it think for you?” he asked. “Because that seems wrong. Also, potatoes aren’t fruit.”

“We must all think for ourselves.”

Add in some action

That’s it! Two fast tips about dialogue tags. Fastest writing tips ever, right?


Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

Image

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You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 




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Red Curry Rice of Revision Hell


Print Recipe


Red Curry Rice of Revision Hell

This recipe is adapted from the fantastic Cookie and Kate

Cuisine vegetarian

Servings
people


Ingredients

Cuisine vegetarian

Servings
people


Ingredients


Instructions
  1. Cook that jasmine rice. Worry that it isn't the right rice. Worry you aren't the right writer to cook it. Boil it in a pot of water for 30 minutes. Don't let it overflow like your 197,000-word picture book about anarchy.

  2. Drain. Put it back in the pot. Let it rest for 10 minutes or more. Fluff it up when it's time. All works need a good fluffer.

  3. Wonder how you can possibly chop 196,000 words out of your brilliant picture book so that it's the appropriate publishing-industry 'approved' length. Sob as you put a big skillet on medium heat.

  4. When it's hot, add the oil.

    Wonder if you can even judge this if you can't manage to cut a mere five words out of your picture book, the ABC's of ANARCHY.

  5. Throw in the onion, some salt. Stir a lot. Stir for 5 minutes. Cry. Why do no publishers understand that children under three are indeed ready for your picture book and can read things that long and sustain attention.

  6. Add garlic, ginger, cook 30 seconds. Continue stirring.

  7. All you do is stir.

  8. The man is making you stir, isn't he? He also created those picture book rules.

  9. To heck with the man. You'll self publish it. You don't need to cut or revise. You don't need the man.

  10. Put the peppers and carrots in. Cook for 5 minutes. Add curry past. Cook for two minutes

  11. Feel happy that you don't have to revise.

  12. Keep adding on words. I mean ingredients. Add kale, water, coconut milk, sugar.

    Keep stirring.

    Make it simmer and then lower that heat to keep it gentle but not too harsh. Just like the voice in your picture book. This should take between 5-10 minutes. You get to decide when it's ready. LOOK AT THAT POWER! Feel powerful. You are in charge of your destiny!

  13. Take it off the stove. Add soy sauce and juice. Add salt. If it's too mellow add more soy sauce. Serve it with that fluffy rice and rejoice!

Dutch Oven Your Hero

So, last month Carrie was on an airplane, where she was trapped on a Philadelphia runway for awhile. Okay, hours. And someone kept expelling gas out the rectum.

In Shaun language that means fart.

Anyways, they were all trapped there, smelling this smell, and it was bad. Not bad enough for them to cancel the flight, which has allegedly happened in the past, but it was bad.

It was a giant multi-person dutch oven.

We’re not talking about the nice kind of dutch ovens from Le Creuset where you make phenomenal meals. We’re talking about the kind where you’re in bed with someone and you make a bad smell and then yank up the covers and trap your loved one in there so they must smell the smell and they can’t escape.


What does this have to do with writing?

Dutch ovens are all about being trapped in a situation you’d rather not be in, right? That tension and need to escape is a big part of writing, especially writing thrillers.

Writing Tension Tip #1

Writers need tension in their story, but you don’t want to kill your reader with that tension. Your tension has a goal and a purpose. It’s not just thrown in there for no reason. It’s like when you’re in a fight. You don’t throw a punch without a purpose. You want to knock someone down.

Tension is like that.

But if you let it all loose at once (think bad gas) and then trap someone in there with it? They’re going to want to escape. If there’s no point in the tension except for tension then the reader is going to be overwhelmed and try to escape.

Writing Tension Tip #2

However, your hero? You want to trap them. You want that hero to be stuck in the dutch oven and trying to get out. Trapping your hero makes the reader sympathize with the hero.

Trap your hero. Put her in an impossible situation. Make him work to get out of it. Have them trapped emotionally and physically and need desperately to escape. All the tension must be around that.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Trap your hero but not your readers.

Dog Tip for Life

It’s best to expel gas silently and blame the humans.



SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app.

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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TIME STOPPERS!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Image

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Monday Motivation and Writing Process; Being Weird? It’s totally okay.

Life isn’t usually a nice ascent where you get to your end goal and never get knocked down or have a set back.

But the point is to keep moving forward, to keep striving and loving and fighting for what you believe in.

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For a long time, Marsie the Cat was super afraid to go outside into the big world. She was only okay with it if you put her on a leash like a dog. She liked being tethered to her humans, which is good news for birds, honestly, since cats kill so many songbirds.

But anyway, Marsie worked her way up to facing her fears. She took one step outside. Then another. Then another. She explored the world.

Marsie the Cat: Are you going to tell the humans that they should be like me and be brave?

Me: Basically.

Marsie: Humans should always emulate cats.

Me: 

Marsie: Fine. Go on with the blog. Also, please don’t tell them that I’ve never killed anything. The other cats would mock my pacifist ways.

Me: 

Marsie: They all heard that, huh?

Me: Pretty much.

In my own life, there are a TON of things that I’m hesitant to do because it feels too vulnerable or like it’s just… Well, like people will laugh at me, honestly. But then I think – Dude, people laugh at you all the time. Those people are just haters and at least you are giving them a moment of joy at your expense or… yeah… I don’t know there’s got to be a way to spin this positively.

Anyways, one of the weirder and more vulnerable parts of my writing process is painting. A lot of times when I get stuck, I paint something that expresses the moment of the story that I’m working on.

Sharing that makes me feel a bit jittery-vulnerable. But I’m sharing it because:

  1. Marsie wants me to. She thinks it’s motivating.
  2. This is my year of doing things that are hard for me like the podcast and being in THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and stuff and rebooting a blog and having an occasional newsletter

BACK TO PROCESS

So, lots of other authors make notebook mosaics of images when they write a book. They’ll cut out pictures from magazines and glue them into a notebook or a big piece of cardboard paper and stare at these images to represent their characters.

Me?

Yeah, that would be far too logical a way for me to approach getting into the ‘essence’ and ‘imagery’ of my story.

Instead, I paint things. I do this despite the facts that:

1. I have NO IDEA how to paint.
2. I only took Art 101 in high school and it did not cover painting. It was all about drawing still life. I failed at it.
3. Did I mention the whole lack of artistic talent thing?

Oh! And also every Sunday morning I would draw cartoons when I was a kid and every Sunday morning my mom would declare, “Nobody in our family is an artist.”

And I would say, “Grammy paints.”

And she would say, “My side of the family.”

But because I am:

1. illogical
2. stubborn

I do not let this lack of training or talent or my mother’s genes stop me.

Art is way harder for me to share than:

1. Stories about my skirt falling down
2. Family tragedies
3. My writing (even poems).

I’m not sure why that is. I guess it’s almost like posting current diary entries or something, but here goes:

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So, this dark and dreary one (with the lens flash included for special coolness) is from the story AFTER OBSESSION that I co-wrote with Steve Wedel.  I had to get into the scary part of the story. And the sense of isolation and the creepy guy.

And this smoochy-smoochy one is for ENTICE (a NEED book), and yes, the people are kind of ugly…. I told you I couldn’t paint!  And yes, Zara’s hair is blonde. I ran out of black paint.  A real artist would have gone out and bought more black paint, but I’m a writer so….

*hyperventilates*

Excuse me. I have to go hide in shame.

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Okay, I’m back.
And yes, the guy has the weird beginnings of a beard, but that’s because I messed up. 😉

 

And you’d think after years of bad painting that I would eventually stop with this.IMG_0828
Spoiler: I haven’t stopped with this. There’s a whole bunch more on my art page.
IMG_0831
But the one I’m working on right now is for ANOTHER NOW, which is a time travel story that I’m working on. It’s YA and the first part takes part on Mount Desert Island in Maine. And I was thinking about how we add on paint and add on paint, but scratching it off? That’s also pretty cool and it reminds me of revising a book.
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Because when we revise, we scratch things out. We accentuate other things. It’s all about trying to make people feel and think. It’s all about communicating story as best as we can, right?
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And life is sort of like that. We add on and add on with our experiences, but we also can scratch out the parts of us we don’t like. We can quit boards and remove ourselves from bad places. We can work to bring more joy and meaning into our life and work to reduce our own negative qualities.
Revision isn’t just about adding on. It’s also about scratching out.
That’s pretty cool.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Why You Should be Vulnerable in a World of Trolls

Last week, I got the first pass proofs of ESCAPE FROM THE BADLANDS, the third book in the TIME STOPPERS series.

I am afraid of pass proofs.

But they are still super cool.

Why am I afraid of them?

Well, they come after the copy edits, so even if you suddenly realize that having your main character fall in love with a bottle of ALL NATURAL SNAPPLE ICED TEA was important to the plot of the book, you can not magically make this happen now. It is too late!!!!

 SnappleIs it ever really too late to make SNAPPLE an important plot choice/love interest? I doubt it.

Yes, Snapple! It is too late.

Why is it too late?

Well, the first pass proofs are really what the book is going to look like on the page. It’s sort of all set and ready to go.

And that’s scary. Your book baby is ready to go off into the world of anonymous reviews and bookstore shelves, and there is nothing you can do now to toughen her up, make her street smart. She will be out there on her own very very soon and you just have to pray she won’t be a train wreck and become the kind of book that the paparazzi take pictures of because she’s always forgetting to wear her underwear when she gets out of cars.

And all of this made me think about vulnerability.

Because writing a blog, a book, a podcast, creating art, any type of true communication and art is an act of expression and it makes you vulnerable. And this world? This world is currently full of people who attack others. Some of those attacks are horrific and visible. Some are hidden.

So, why do it? Why do anything?

Because if you don’t, the trolls win.

Because if you don’t, fear wins.

Because for every troll attacking you, there is someone who needs your story and your voice. That’s why.

This is why you should still be vulnerable despite the evil in this world. Ready?

Vulnerable People are Leaders

People who lead need to connect to others. Vulnerability and authenticity are ways of connection, ways that we break out of our comfort zones and reach for bigger, better things.

Vulnerability Helps Others

Almost every time I blog or post about something that isn’t considered cool, (Having epilepsy, growing up poor, sleeping in a car, being assaulted), people tell me that I’m inspiring. I sure don’t ever feel inspiring. At all. And I have a hard time accepting that compliment, but… I appreciate that kindness because it means that it means those people are getting something positive out of my life or what I’m saying.

Plus, how cool is it that they took the time out of their lives to deliberately say something kind and supportive.

Honestly?

Can there be a bigger gift than hearing that you’ve helped someone else? Somehow? Even though you were just being you.

 

Vulnerability Is Contagious

Being brave and exposing yourself and your truth? It helps others be brave. Sure, it can backfire. When I first posted about my daughter being worried about me going to the Boston Marathon, trolls said my daughter (who is a Lt in the Army) must be a terrorist and have known about it or else why would she be worried about me. Yep… They actually went there.

And that’s the thing. You never know when someone is going to attack you or what for, but you can’t let that fear of evil suppress your voice, your story, your thoughts or your truths.

Silence is oppressive.

But vulnerability? It’s contagious.

Telling your story gives strength to others who haven’t been able to tell theirs yet. Facing your demons helps others to face their own. Isn’t that the kind of infection we want? Instead of a lack of civility and a parade of trolls, how about we work towards authenticity and vulnerability and truth?

A vulnerability contagion…I think that would be pretty cool. So, today’s Wednesday Writing Wisdom is to be vulnerable. No art is any good without it.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

The Human Utility has a water assistance project in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and other cities around the country.

From its website:

Water companies are turning off the tap in cities across the U.S., forcing low-income families, seniors and single parents to live without basic necessities.

Families without water are forced to go elsewhere to take showers, clean dishes and get a drink. Your donation can help turn the water back on.

You can give money, provide services or partner with them.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

 

COOKING WITH A WRITER

I have started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in my blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action School Library Journal

Wednesday Writing Wisdom – Sometimes Revision is Hell.

A question

Before I get to the blog post, I have a question. Should my Wednesday theme be Wednesday Writing Wisdom or Do Good Wednesday? Can it be both? Are there rules about this sort of thing in the blogging world? Please help.

Actually, that was more than one question. Sorry!

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post.

 

Hello, this is Grover, Carrie’s adorable, furry blue monster of a cheerleader and I have an important message today:

CARRIE IS IN REVISION HELL!

Yes, it is true, and I, the adorable furry blue muppet monster have given up trying to tell her that she can make this manuscript anything good at all. In fact, I, Grover, think I may have to terminate my existence as Cawwie’s cheerleader.

Things got a little rough yesterday. I went from happy, cuddly Grover

to CAN I GO HIDE? Grover.

Unfortunately, I am not the sort of monster who gives up easily when I have a mission.

Still, I was miserable! I was desolate! 74,815 words of exposition, of bad dialog of shaky plots, of Cawwie spending hours wondering why there is the word dialog is not spelled dialogUE.

“I want it to have a ue,” Cawwie kept muttering. “Why is there no ue? ARGHHHHHHH…..”
It got a bit too much for me, Grover. I, Grover, gave up and went into the liquor cabinet.

“C’mon, Cawwie, do a Hemingway. It’ll make you revise better.”
Cawwie did not sway.

So, I tried to tempt her with a tea pot hot tub action.

“C’mon, Cawwie, a little hot water will get you all mellow and floppy like me.”

It did not work.

Finally, horrified by the glazed look in Cawwie’s eyes, her constant mumbling about vowel sounds and character arcs and plot points, I got serious.

“PUT THE REVISION DOWN, CAWWIE,” I said in a nice, but demanding Muppet way (I was channeling Oscar). “Just step away from the revision and put it down.”

And do you know what she did? She did NOT put the revision down. No! She put me, cuddly, lovable Grover, back in the tea pot! Bad Cawwie! Bad. Luckily, the big, white furry monster that woofs and eats bacon saved me.

So, all you writers out there reading this, let me tell you something: It is good to revise but it is berry, berry bad to torment your inner cheerleader and it is okay to take a break sometimes.

Really. I, Grover, your furry, lovable adorable blue monster am begging you:


TAKE A BREAK! You’ll revise better later, I, Grover, promise you. And monsters keep their promises.

Do Good Wednesday!

I’m pretty heavily involved in Rotary International right now. I mostly go around training club presidents and district leaders and club members about public image and Rotary International, which is basically just about telling Rotary’s story. Yesterday, I got to visit a ridiculously awesome club in Camden, Maine. They fed me. They listened to me babble and they gave me a pen!

They also said I was charismatic about four times. So, obviously doing good is good for the ego. 🙂 Full disclosure: People usually just say that I’m exuberant or quirky. Charismatic was a big step up.

However, even though I do this for Rotary all the time and think that the good that Rotarians do in the world and their local community is amazing, I also want to highlight (occasionally) other ways to do good.

So, here’s another way. If you are a kid, parent or teacher, KIDS THAT DO GOOD, is a great resource that will connect you with ways that you can volunteer and make this world better.

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Writing News

There is one space left in my Write! Submit! Support! for Novelists online class at the Writing Barn. It starts Sunday. It’s a six-month class and the other students are so amazing. The Writing Barn is amazing. You’re amazing too, so come join us if you can!  Here’s the link. 

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