Saturday, January 12, 2008

 

I Support the Writers' Strike, But. . .

I support the writers' strike. I do. And not only because I am a writer, and I know how hard it is to make any money. I have followed the strike a bit, and after signing my own book contract for the first time recently, I realize how every penny counts. Every right that you give away to a publishing or production company counts. Let's face it, without writers, without a lot of you that are reading this blog, all the magazines, newspapers, blogs, Web sites, books, TV shows, and movies we love wouldn't exist. These works become a part of our daily lives. They enter our dreams, our dinner discussions, even our blogs. Even reality TV shows need writers. Someone has to write Survivor host Jeff Probst's brilliant questions and explanations of the competitions. Have you seen him ad lib as a guest host on Regis and Kelly?

But the reason I bring up this strike today is one of the best television shows that I have watched in a long time is in trouble. I don't watch very much TV, and I TIVO everything I want to watch to save time on commercials. Anyway, I'm not sure if it's all because of the writers' strike or if it is not getting the ratings it needs (although it really should. REALLY, please read on.) Women's Murder Club (ABC), which is based on James Patterson's book series, is an excellent show. It caught my interest one day when I was home and vegging out, watching some daytime TV. Angie Harmon, who stars in the show, was on the publicity circuit and on The View. As soon as I heard it was based on Patterson's novels, I was interested. Even if you don't want to admit it, most writers DREAM of someone calling them and saying, "Uh, yeah, we would really love to turn your book into a TV SHOW or even a MOVIE." Come on, admit it, don't you want to see your characters live on screen? Patterson is with the creative process all the way with this series, which makes it even better in my opinion.

Angie Harmon described the show as a cross between Law and Order and Sex in the City (also a book.) It is that and more. If you haven't caught an episode, go to ABC.com and watch one-- in your spare time, of course. I don't want you to use my advice on this blog as an excuse for not meeting those writing goals you set on January 1. Study the characters, the dialogue, the storyline. What makes me care so much about Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon's character?) I don't know, but I want to figure it out, so I can put the same kind of care and skill into creating my main character for my YA novel. Patterson, my hats off to you!

I support the writers' strike. I do. But I want my show back. I don't want the writers to give in. I want them to get fair treatment. I want them to get all the residuals they deserve. I also want all the writers for Women's Murder Club back at their laptops with their coffee and telling me what is going to happen with the Kiss Me Not Killer!

Maybe I should look at this positively. I will have more time to reach my own New Year's writing goals without this series on air. I will have more time to read Patterson's novels, too. But, I'm sure many of you feel this way about your own shows. Let us know. Everyone needs the chance to vent, and here's a place to do it. Happy writing!

Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

 

New Year's Writing Resolutions

By Patricia Fry

It’s time, once again, to take stock of your accomplishments. Did you meet all of your goals for the year? Did you finish that book, send twenty query letters to magazines each month or start working on your memoirs? If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work. If not, you aren’t alone. Millions of people break their New Year’s resolutions and this is generally because they set their standards too high.

Perhaps you can achieve success by lowering your sights. You have a very good chance of failure if you resolve to write a best seller, double your income and earn the Pulitzer Prize by year’s end. If you’ve never put pen to paper, perhaps a more realistic goal would be to spend three hours each day writing, enroll in a writing class and subscribe to a couple of writing publications. And then be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

It’s like the woman who asked me to help her get over a serious writing slump. She hadn’t been able to write a meaningful word in months. She said that she wanted to get back to her poetry and short story writing, yet she wasn’t willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. I suggested that she write for at least ten minutes each day in her journal. She saw no point in doing that when she really wanted to write poetry. I said, "Then write poetry for ten minutes each day." She replied, "I can’t do that. I told you I’m in a slump."

I advised her to spend those ten minutes just sitting quietly or walking in a lovely setting. I said that if she did this each day, she would soon become inspired and she would start using this time to write. She said that was impossible—she had no time during the day to be quiet and by evening, her mind raced so fast, she could not get into a relaxed state. Obviously, until this woman is ready to make some changes, she will continue to fail.

Are you going to spend the rest of your life watching others enjoy the lifestyle you desire or are you going to make this the year to claim success for yourself? Here are some typical writers’ resolutions and some plans to help you get started on an adventure toward meeting your personal and professional goals.

1. Finish that book (poem, article, story). Pick up your work-in-progress now, while the year is new and you still have that great sense of starting fresh. But don’t look at this as one humungous project because you’ll feel overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Tackle this one page, one stanza, one paragraph at a time. Break it down into phases. For a book, you might vow to write a chapter each month. For a story, start with the outline, develop the characters, research the time period and then start the writing. These tasks might be scheduled over a period of a week or, if working on it only part-time, a month or two.

2. Start a writing project that you’ve wanted to pursue. Similar to the steps in the first resolution, figure out how much time it will take, how much time you want to devote per day/week and just start. One thing is for sure, if you don’t start it, you will never finish it. Make this the year you stop procrastinating. If you have several projects and don’t know which one to work on, use the list method. List the pros and the cons of starting each project at this time. The right one will become evident in your list.

3. Try one new book promotion idea per month. If you’re an author, you already know that there’s more to selling a book than having it in Barnes and Noble. Read my book, "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book" and John Kremer’s book featuring 1001 book promotion ideas and apply some of these ideas to your promotional repertoire this year. Arrange to sell your book through local independent bookstores and gift shops. Send press releases with order forms to libraries throughout the U.S. Record your book on tape for the blind and the busy. Do some piggyback marketing. I once procured a booth at the county fair to promote my local history book. Of course, I sold scads more than if I’d stayed home that week.

4. Approach at least one new market for your writing each month. Expand your horizons. If you typically write how-to pieces for parenting, general and health magazines, try your hand at a profile piece for a business publication, for example. Maybe you design brochures for local businesses. Increase your business and your expertise by offering to write their company newsletters. I know a writer who was earning a steady income writing PR material for a large healthcare firm. Last year, she decided to try something different and she has since sold three personal essays to a major woman’s magazine for a total sum of $4,000.

5. Write something different. As professional writers, we sometimes neglect our creative urges. We are so busy writing articles, working on clients’ books or writing company materials that we don’t get around to satisfying our own writing cravings. This year, reward yourself more. Set aside an hour a day or an entire afternoon each week to write poetry, work on your novel, or do more journaling.

6. Join a community or online writers’ group. My career accelerated when I finally left my writing cubicle and began connecting with other writers. I found the camaraderie and the support extremely nurturing and still do. I can’t even calculate the educational value. If you want to reap the benefits of networking with other writers, start looking for a local or online organization. Be a loyal participant. Bring what you can to the meetings or to the discussions and share it in exchange for all that you will glean.

7. Add a new dimension to your lifestyle. If you are a full-time writer, you’re probably at the computer day in and day out. You enjoy your work immensely, but sometimes feel on the verge of burnout. This year, establish some pleasurable time away from your office. Do more reading. Get involved in something creative such as mosaic or scrapbooking. Start playing tennis. And then pursue this activity at least a couple of times a week.

8.Volunteer more. It feels good to reach out and help someone. And there are a lot of projects writers can do within the community. Here are a few: Volunteer for the after school homework help program at your local library. Offer to mentor a journalism student or adult who is just starting a writing career. Start a writing club. Volunteer to write the fundraising material for a charity.

9. Make a gift of your writing. There are numerous ways to give through your writing. Make your own Christmas and greeting cards. Personalized cards are always appreciated. Write one of your poems in calligraphy, frame it and give it to a friend or family member. Create a book of your short stories and have it bound at Kinkos or a print-on-demand company. Write a children’s story starring the children in your life and give it to them for their birthdays. Maybe you know someone who can add charming drawings or photographs. For Christmas, I gather all of my published articles for that year, put them in binders and wrap them up for my three daughters and my parents. I know they enjoy this unique gift because one year I didn’t get around to putting the articles together for them and, boy, did I hear about it. They enjoy seeing the versatility and scope of my work and to have this ongoing keepsake.

Use some of these unique ways to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. The result will be a happier more productive you throughout the coming year.

—Patricia Fry is a cofounder and the President of SPAWN. She is a full-time writer, author of 19 published books, and she works with other writers/authors on their projects. The above article is excerpted from her book, "The Successful Writer’s Handbook." http://www.matilijapress.com

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Monday, December 31, 2007

 

WOW! The Muffin 2007 Blog Recap


In light of the New Year, I’m taking Editor Sue Donckels’ suggestion and recapping my favorite blog posts from 2007. Some of these posts I’d completely forgotten about, and when rereading them, I remember where I was (of course, sitting in the same chair I’m sitting in now), but more importantly, what was going on around me at the time. Staff members have come and gone—leaving the nest to spread their wings and fly to their own ventures—and reading their posts make me smile. I feel truly blessed.

Then there are those moments where gremlins attacked our emails, our server crashed (for a whole month!), and we had to switch to a bigger server eventually. Most of those posts stayed around, but all the lovely pictures disappeared. What a bummer! As a perfectionist to some degree, I feel like I should go back in and re-upload all those pictures...some posts don’t make sense without them. For instance, one post started out by saying, “Look at the picture of Cherie Rohn’s name in lights on the marquee of Mandalay Bay.” That was a great picture and when I have some time I’ll go back and try to fix all those.

But that’s the thing about growing pains—you lose some characteristics along the way—the teenage acne, your favorite jacket that’s now three sizes too small, and some of your old friends—but you also gain some new and wonderful things along the way. One being our fabulous new staff of talented writers. The Muffin has never been so lively! Each of you has a unique voice to bring to the table, a fresh outlook, and keen perspective. It’s what gives our blog a great community feel. After all, we are “women on writing,” which means we all have our own voices, but it’s our common goal of writing that brings us together and helps to support one another.

So, ready? Let’s recap! My favorite posts (by Category):

HUMOROUS:

Artistic Sacrifice
By Tracy Horan
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/05/artistic-sacrifice.html

Tracy researches her first romance novel by going into her local bookstore and gets a little hot under the collar in the Romance/Erotic Fiction section for the first time. She tries to hide her purchases by plopping a Barbara Kingsolver novel on top of her “smut,” but as she exits the store the security alarm goes off... Very funny stuff!

As Per Your Request: A “NOT TO DO” List
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/08/as-per-your-request-not-to-do-list.html

Once again, I love funny posts. They just lighten my day, and this one had me laughing out loud! Chynna shares an excerpt from Writer’s Relief, “How to be an Annoying Author.” If you’re an editor, or publisher, this is a must-read.

Writing is Like Mud Wrestling?
By Sue Donckels
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/writing-is-like-mud-wrestling.html

Sue finds an old box of lesson plans etc. and shares some of the writing assignments that her non-writing-enthusiasts students wrote. Most of them had zero interest in writing, period. The assignment was to describe writing using similes... very funny stuff!

Burn the House Down
By Susan Eberling
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/burn-house-down.html

Susan’s motivational note, which she posted to herself on her computer, caused some worry with her hubby and some humorous laughter.

INSPIRATION:

Mailbox Letter! From Carrie Hulce
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/01/mailbox-letter-from-carrie-hulce.html

This letter from Carrie Hulce was sent back in January of 2007, and it’s timely since she was talking about her New Year’s Resolutions. Her resolution was to ignore her drawer filled with rejection letters, get back on her feet, and pick up the pen again (after her knee surgery). And guess what? Carrie has conquered her resolution on many levels and is continuing to do so. She placed in the top 10 in WOW!’s Winter ’06-’07 Flash Fiction Contest. That’s quite an achievement when you see how many entries are involved! She also published a piece in our March issue’s Inspiration Column: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/7-inspiration.php as well as several pieces on our blog, and is now an intern for WOW! and the Premium-Green Markets’ Research Specialist. Carrie has come a long way on all levels. Her level of enthusiasm and drive is impressive, and I can guarantee she has the right stuff to take her very far. Love you, Carrie!

A Beautiful Mind
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/10/beautiful-mind.html

I loved this impromptu post by Chynna because she was so fresh from her first book signing. That day, we’d had a miscommunication of who was going to post etc. and she ended up posting right when she came back from her signing. Lucky us! I love when Chynna posts on the fly—that’s the time I truly see her shine.

Criticism = Love
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/10/criticism-love_28.html

This isn’t really about anything I wrote... it’s more about Randy Pausch’s inspirational video, which brought me to tears. Click on the link and watch!

My Inspiration
By Sharon Mortz
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/my-inspiration.html

Sharon shares some out of the box ideas for writing inspiration... plus, she touches our hearts with her experiences. This post moves me.

Pain-Free Blog
By Kesha Grant
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/pain-free-blog.html

Kesha shares a very real, and often un-talked about obstacle that affects many people in all professions—constant back pain. As a sufferer of this, I know exactly what she’s going through. Kesha’s spirit and belief in herself is amazing, and an inspiration to us all.

MOTIVATION:

Dare I Say It? Time to Exercise!!!
By Jean Lauzier
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/dare-i-say-it-time-to-exercise.html

In this post Jean thinks outside the box and urges writers to try something different—step out of your genre and get into something completely foreign to exercise your creativity!

The Power of Words
By Jean Lauzier
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/power-of-words.html

I love this post because it’s so true. Words are larger than life. The simplest phrases can move mountains and people. 11 Comments!

99 “Blopics”
By Sue Donckels
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/10/99-blopics.html

Sue gives us a ton of incredible topics to blog on! Just reading these blopics feeds my blogging fire and makes my backside burn! What a great motivation. After reading this list, you’ll have no more excuses.

A Change of Perspective
By Annette Fix
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/change-of-perspective.html

It’s never too late to achieve your dreams and goals. Annette reaffirms this with an anecdote, and a funny as all heck motivational picture!

Write Anyway
By Marcia Peterson
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/write-anyway.html

Marcia reminds us about the New Year and encourages us to jot down the things that get in the way of our creativity and prevent us from writing. In other words, write about, “the big but.”

A Thousand Words About Nothing?
By Carrie Hulce
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/thousand-words-about-nothing.html

Carrie reminds and inspires us that writing about simple objects can evoke so many profound memories.

Handling Rejection
By LuAnn Womach
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/handling-rejection.html

This is such an inspirational and motivational post. LuAnn’s spirit is unrivaled, and all the points she gives are true. I just read this post today, so I’ll be emailing you personally LuAnn!

UNIQUE TAKES/HOOKS:

Ants in my Kitchen, Traffic to Your Blog
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/ants-in-my-kitchen-traffic-to-your-blog.html

This post inspired a couple of unique takes on the posting angle. I started off with an anecdote about ants invading my kitchen (as a tasty hook), and then pulled it around to how your first paragraph or sentence of your blog post is the most important and sweet!

Find Your Striker
By Sue Donckels
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/find-your-striker.html

This is a super post and a great and a great analogy about the situations/plays in soccer and in querying. I adore this post! As a long time soccer player, four-year varsity jockette, and state player, gee—this post was so apropos for me and spot-on!

Writing and the Purple Cow
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/writing-and-purple-cow.html

Seth Godin inspires a fresh outlook to how people all think about the same thing and write about George Clooney, lol.

Tag You’re it!
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/tag-youre-it.html

Chynna starts this article explaining a commercial and how one random act of kindness inspires another person, and so on, and so on, until you create this viral effect. It’s so true online and in real life. I loved the format and creative angle of Chynna’s post!

Do You See What I See?
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/do-you-see-what-i-see.html

Chynna tells us how her daughter, Jaimie, processes the senses, and then she applies those lessons to fiction writing. This is a wonderful post full of flavor and opens your eyes to a new way of seeing.

CRAFTY:

How to Make Self-Promotion Wings
By Sue Donckels
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/05/how-to-make-selfpromotion-wings.html

Sue thinks out of the box and inspires us by sharing a way to make the most out of our rejection slips. This is not only a fun craft exercise, but also a symbolic journey, and a way to make a positive record out of your learning experience.

Preheat the Oven to 375F and Write!
By Debbie Delgado Hand
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/preheat-oven-to-375f-and-write.html

Writer’s snacks—yum! Get your trusty baking apron on and learn how to make the perfect treat while writing. Debbie shares her recipe of Vegan Banana Berry Muffins on World Vegan Day!

KICKIN’ KNOWLEDGE:

Part 1: An Introduction to Optimizing Your Writing Website/Blog – for Women Writers
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/08/part-1-introduction-to-optimizing-your.html

I know this is a tad cheesy to list one of my own blog posts, but this is the one that started the ball rolling on SEO Sundays. I had a ton of fun writing this because I love when readers ask us questions. This particular post was prompted by Dannette Haworth, so it was more about her than me, and I truly enjoy helping other writers and giving them information that I can ramble on about. ;-)

The Right Start
By Jean Lauzier
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/08/right-start.html

Jean talks about hooks in fiction writing or for editors. The example she gives is spot-on and impressive! I love craft of fiction-writing articles!

Hung up on MS Word’s Tools? You’re Not Alone!
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/10/hung-up-on-ms-words-tools-youre-not.html

Learn how to use MS Word’s Readability Statistics, Flesch Kincaid Reading Level, and how to eliminate passive sentences in your blog posts and article writing.

Insight into Self-Publishers
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/10/insight-into-self-publishers.html

Chynna tells us all about her publishing experience with Outskirts Press! Both Chynna’s post and the comments lend insight into the industry.

SEO Sundays: How to Write with Key Words for Webmasters and Freelance Writers
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/seo-sundays-how-to-write-key-words.html

I put this one here because it got a lot of comments from new readers who liked the format.

To Swear or Not to Swear
By Chynna Laird
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/to-swear-or-not-to-swear.html

Do we say, “Golly Gee,” or swear like a truck driver? Chynna’s post and excerpt from Morgan Hunt’s article is a great one for fiction writers.

The Usefulness of Writers’ Guides
By Del Sandeen
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/usefulness-of-writers-guides.html

Writers’ guides can be great and all if you don’t take every single piece of advice to heart. Del has a great practical outlook on how we can use the guides to our advantage without becoming overloaded.

My Not So Secret Formula for Winning Writing Contests
By Janet Paszkowski
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/my-not-so-secret-formula-for-winning.html

Janet is passionate about flash fiction, and she has gotten results! This post is written in an easy-to-read style and has great information—and a super reference!

Making Manly Men
By Valerie Fentress
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/making-manly-men.html

What characteristics should we apply to our male protagonist? Valerie gives us some great starters to consider, and makes us all chuckle along the way with her lively post!

Ahead of Time
By Marcia Peterson
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/ahead-of-time.html

Preparing for life’s foibles can help you organize your writing life and your family time. Marcia provides mom-writers with fabulous tips to prepare for the unexpected downtimes.

THE WRITER’S LIFE:

Self-Sabotage Countdown
By Sue Donckels
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/08/self-sabotage-countdown.html

Distractions—we all have them. This fun article counts down Sue’s distractions in an easy-to-read “David Letterman” type top 10 countdown. I loved her format and creativity on this post! And I’m sure all you readers can relate.

Subject: Mid-NaNo
By Sally Franklin Christie
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/subject-mid-nano.html

Sally’s stove catches on fire and she keeps writing!

Blog Entry for the 21st of Nano
By Sally Franklin Christie
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/blog-entry-for-21st-of-nano.html

Sally gets sidetracked from her writing by a hefty cell phone bill! And journeys on an excursion to solve the problem immediately.

Confessions of a Saving Queen
By Margo L. Dill
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/confessions-of-saving-queen.html

What do you do when your computer crashes and all your writing files are completely erased? Yikes! This is a writer’s worst nightmare! Find out what practical solutions Margo employed to make the most out of her sitch.

Breaking All The Rules: Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Cheater
By AnnMarie Kolakowski
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/breaking-all-rules-confessions-of.html

This post is close to my cheater’s heart. Cutting corners for me is what it’s all about sometimes, and I freely admit it. I admire AnnMarie for bringing her honesty to the table! I would’ve probably done the same thing.

Miss Misunderstood
By Susan Eberling
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/miss-misunderstood_20.html

LOL. This post is soooo true and something I always worry about. Thank goodness, I don’t have family to worry about, but I do worry about what my friends will think once I publish my “novel.” Even in fiction, we have certain bridges to cross, and people we know who’ll ‘kindly’ offer their opinions. What a tough balance! I love the way Sue records the dialogue... I felt in the moment.

Deck the Halls
By Cher’ley Grogg
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/12/deck-halls.html

This is a wonderful reminder to take time and appreciate the small things and loved ones in our life. And it reminds us how objects, or ornaments, can spring forth memories for our writing toolbox.

EVENT RECAPS & CELEBRITY GOSSIP:

This American Life at Royce Hall – I went!
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/03/this-american-life-at-royce-hall-i-went.html

As you know, or don’t, I’m a HUGE fan of This American Life, the spoken word show on KCRW, public broadcasting. Ira Glass rocks my socks! And now he has a cable and forthcoming TV show. Seeing the performance at Royce Hall in Santa Monica, CA was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seriously. This was the only one they’ve ever done, and I had to be there. The readers were more than amazing, and the visuals that went on the huge stage behind the speakers were an artistic addition on all levels—like a Kate Bush performance art piece. Read this post for highlights of brushing up with Jack Black, Catherine Keener, and a funny anecdote from John Hodgman, “The PC Guy.”

LOL. I just reviewed this blog post, and if you get a chance, after you watch the OK GO treadmill video (second video), and the Youtube banner of related videos pops up, treat yourself to a much needed laugh, and watch #2, “Evolution of Dance.” Too funny...

How Media Inspires Our Stories
By Angela Mackintosh
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/how-media-inspires-our-stories.html

Okay, once again, I’m feeling extremely cheesy writing about my own posts... but this one sparked 16 comments! The story about Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt sparked a memory of a time when I met him at the Chinese Man in Hollywood, how my hubby says he hit on me, and thoughts about my past experiences with suicide.

Notes From the Baltimore Writers’ Conference
By Jill Earl
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/11/notes-from-baltimore-writers-conference.html

This is an excellent recap of an event and a good example of how we should write them. It’s personal, fun, and gives the reader first-hand experience on what it was like to attend the conference.


~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoy these posts and read through the ones that you’re interested in. If you find one that creates a spark, don’t be afraid to bookmark it with all those little tags underneath each post! This is what spreads the love.

Happy New Year Ladies!! Let’s make it a banner one!

Together, we can achieve all of our dreams and make things happen.

Love,

Angela

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