Archive for the 'literature' Category

Stephen King to publish new Richard Bachman book

If you’re a Stephen King fan, you likely know that King has written several novels under the pen-name Richard Bachman, the most famous of which was likely Thinner. After it was revealed that he and Bachman were the same, King only wrote one more novel under that name, The Regulators, which was set in a similar world to his other novel (written with a SK byline), Desperation.

the regulators bachman

Well, it looks like King will be publishing a new book under the Bachman name. It’ll be titled Blaze. Follow this pdf link to read the first two chapters.

I don’t have time to read them just now, perhaps tomorrow I will.

via carnwrite

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Related posts: How much a Science Fiction novelist makes, Interview with Chandrahas Choudhury from The Middle Stage, Nick Mamatas releases his first novel under a Creative Commons license, Why bloggers aren’t always great at selling books

The ultimate nerd exercise

No, it’s not DDR.

Did you know that the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings travelled 458 miles to Rivendell? Well, a lot of LotR fans are using that trek as inspiration for exercise. They’re walking to Rivendell. Well, figuratively:

In the Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Frodo, Sam, and their companions travel from Bag End in Hobbiton to Rivendell. Our goal is to re-create their walk in our neighborhoods, parks, gyms, homes, and minds.

And then later:

Walk, run, hike, bike, blade, swim – if you can measure the distance, you can do this challenge. Keep a log, and record your daily or weekly miles and the type of exercise. For walkers and hikers, you might want to invest in a walking meter, they look like wristwatches. Otherwise, you can estimate your distance at 1 mile for every 20 minutes of brisk walking on a flat surface. Our original suggested deadline was the opening of The Return of the King, December 17, 2003. As this glorious day is now past, we are setting new goals, new times:

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Related posts: The case of the mystery gadget, A really long sentence

A really long sentence

Matt Cheney has composed a really long sentence for his Strange Horizons column. I’ve seen this done before, and usually it just works as a lame gimmick. But in this case, he takes this really long sentence to talk about sentences and the history of making them really long and how this affected literature. It’s pretty interesting:

when every scribe of any ambition at all went about constructing one architectural wonder of a sentence after another, because what is the point of writing if you cannot achieve with it things that cannot be achieved by speech, and this attitude led to a proliferation of ornate sentences designed to contain entire arguments between the first word and the final period, which often waited so far down at the other end of things that once the reader got to it, everything from the beginning had become a hazy memory, a vague recollection of the original idea, and so the ordinary reader, rather than the reader with perfect recall, was forced, if she or he wanted to understand the entire sentence, to return to the beginning and start reading all over again, hoping this time to bring more of the ideas into focus, or even to discover if the grammar held any ideas at all, because (at least from a cynical point of view) it was just as likely that the sentence was a bloated collection of words that said little,

Related posts: The art of saying “I’m sorry.”, Interview with Hurree Babu from Kitabkhana

Interview with Hurree Babu from Kitabkhana

Hurree Babu borrowed his pseudonym from Kipling’s Kim, where the Babu features as a rotund Bengali given to verbosity who enjoys playing the Great Game. S/he runs Kitabkhana–this would roughly translate as “library,” or more poetically as “the house of books,” a semi-literary, semi-literate blog about authors, books and reading, with a focus on India.

Simon Owens: Do you think lit blogs are changing the shape of literary criticism in any ways? Does it create a much more open dialogue about a particular book?

Hurree Babu: Before lit blogging took off, literary criticism was a lot like a formal debate–occasionally, a formal duel if the author and reviewer disagreed strongly! The review connected the critic and the author; the reader was almost always a passive, silent presence. Lit blogs allow far more flexibility. Readers can jump in with their comments; it’s not uncommon to have the author respond to a particular comment or opinion, and the conversation flows in many directions at the same time. It also changes what a critic or reviewer can do–instead of being tied down by word count and by the demands of a formal review/ essay, you’re free to post a brief comment, or write a more personal piece, or to link to several other opinions in the course of one post. At its best, litblogging can enable something like a coffeehouse conversation.

In Bengal, we grew up with the idea of the “adda” versus the podium: the “adda” was an informal, but often intense and lengthy discussion that could take place anyway–at the university, on the open lawns of the Maidan, at the local tea shop, a friend’s house. The podium was where the official speeches and the formal arguments were made; the adda was often the place where multiple opinions came into play, where you could go back and forth and discuss several aspects of a book or its author, where there was constant feedback, and constant challenge. That’s what litblogging reminds me of–an adda, where everyone’s free to join, and where the openness doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of intellectual rigour.

I think the openness isn’t limited to particular books–it goes a long way beyond. It is possible, of course, to discuss a book on your blog over a period of months–something that just wouldn’t happen in conventional media. But what I love about litblogging is that you can do anything. Post a series of quotes from out-of-print histories of Delhi. Link to the old, classical form of a verse known as a ghazal and link to the new versions that contemporary Asian poets are producing. Discuss the publishing industry, or post a review, or ask your readers what they’ve been reading lately. It’s a 360 degree way to look at books and reading.

Simon Owens: Several of your readers noted that your blog had been banned in India. Why is this so?

Hurree Babu: I wish I could say it was my revolutionary prose and incendiary ideas that called a ban down on Kitabkhana’s head, but the truth is far more mundane. Some months ago, a particular Indian government department decided that a few websites needed to be blocked. One or two were religious rightwing sites that were known for their abusive speech against other religious communities, a couple were the usual harmless cranks, and one–we were puzzled by this–was a Dutch site with a suggestive name that had, however, almost no pornographic content. I have no idea why the government decided these sites were a threat to the state, but they decided to shut them down–and they did this by blocking blogspot.com, wordpress.com and other domains in toto! The “ban” was lifted after several bloggers and other Net users got together and protested, and hasn’t been imposed again. What did worry us was not the ban itself–which was clumsy and badly implemented–but the fact that cyberlaw in India, at present, allows the state to shut down pretty much any site it wants to, without telling its citizens what sites have been banned, and for what reasons. Kitabkhana and other sites on Blogger were affected for just a few days, but for those few days, we received a small sense of what it might be like to live in a country where the rules and rights of democracy didn’t apply. It wasn’t pleasant.

Simon Owens: I’ve noticed in my interviews that lots of book bloggers have been commissioned to do book reviews in mainstream media publications. Does owning a book blog open the doors to other writing venues?

Hurree Babu: In my case, it’s made only a small difference, since I’ve been writing a literary column and doing book reviews for mainstream media for years before Kitabkhana started up. But I do know of several other people who were “discovered” as potential writers by the mainstream media through their blogs, and when asked by colleagues at newspapers for new writers and reviewers, I tend to mention bloggers fairly often. Most of the work I’ve done for magazines and newspapers outside India has come through Kitabkhana, though, and–this is the best part–having the blog has also introduced me to many readers and writers I would never have met otherwise.

Simon Owens: Do you have a favorite particular genre you like to read?

Hurree Babu: Hmmm. The old epics–you can’t beat the Iliad for blood, gore and violence, Beowulf is a great dysfunctional family story, the Mahabharata and the Odyssey are classic travel literature, and the Norse sagas rock. Food memoirs–I’m a very amateur cook, so it’s nice to get the professional’s perspective; graphic novels, which were hard to find in India until very recently; and travel books, especially the ones written by monomaniacs. You know the type: the ones who won’t rest until they find the perfect arm-chewing team of huskies or the last samurai sword used in battle or who will cross three continents in search of an ancient manuscript they happen to love.

Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?

Hurree Babu: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, because I loved his debut novel, Moth Smoke, so much; William Dalrymple’s history of The Last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, which is also in part a history of my city, Delhi; a new anthology of 60 Indian poets in English that poet Jeet Thayil is editing for Penguin; Alice Munro’s collection of short stories, The View From Castle Rock, among other books.

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Hurree Babu: From India, Jai Arjun Singh’s Jabberwock (books, film, sports, inspired lunacy); Prufrock’s Page which is a good lit filterblog; Amardeep Singh, whose criticism I respect. Elsewhere there’s so many, from the Bookslut to Bookninja, GalleyCat, The Elegant Variation, The Old Hag, that it’s hard to choose–but pressed, I’d pick Maud Newton and Moorish Girl.

(Related posts: Interview with Bella Stander from Reading Under the Covers, Interview with POD-dy Mouth, Interview with Chandrahas Choudhury from The Middle Stage)

Interview with Chandrahas Choudhury from The Middle Stage

Chandrahas Choudhury
Chandrahas Choudhury is a writer based in Mumbai, India. His literary weblog The Middle Stage features essays on both new and classic works on writers from around the world. His reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, the Sunday Telegraph, the Scotsman and Himal. He is at work on a novel.

Simon Owens: How different is literary blogging from mainstream reviewing?

Chandrahas Choudhury: I see it this way: reviewing is the work available to me in the real world, and my weblog is closer to an ideal world. With my blog I tend not to follow the news – I write about whatever I’m reading or thinking about.

Reviewing brings with it constraints of space, deadlines to be met, and the pressure of staying up to date – if you don’t review a book the month it’s out, you’ve lost the chance to write about it.

A weblog allows you to rove freely across time and space and national boundaries, as long as you can keep things interesting for readers. On my blog I don’t have to worry about space constraints, though obviously I don’t go beyond a certain word length. Also, there’s the freedom to digress, to make all sorts of interesting connections. And there’s the opportunity to quote liberally – sometimes two or three long passages in a piece – so that you can show what you think the writer is trying to do. There’s something about a beautiful sentence or paragraph that you instantly want to share out with as many people as possible. So often, when I have to write a review of a book for a newspaper, I tend to write a longer piece with a more informal tone for my blog.

Blogging is also in some ways a different form from reviewing. With my blog essays I try to say something interesting about a writer or book but also to signpost other good essays on the subject, so there’s several hours of reading locked up in one piece. Reviewing doesn’t allow you to exploit the resources of the Internet in this manner.

Simon Owens: Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting an author after you’ve reviewed his work?

Chandrahas Choudhury: Only a couple of times. I liked Altaf Tyrewala’s novel No God In Sight (out last month in the US) very much, so I contacted him for an interview on my blog, and as we live in the same city we’ve become friends since, and chat a good deal about what kind of work we’re doing and what books we’re reading. Last month I met the writer Vikram Chandra very briefly at the launch of his book.

Simon Owens: How do you go about browsing for new authors? Do you take word-of-mouth recommendations or is there some other method?

Chandrahas Choudhury: I read the review pages of the English press around the world regularly, so I always know what’s just out, and sometimes I look at publisher’s catalogues to see what’s going to be coming soon. Like most readers I know instinctively what’s going to be to my taste and what’s not. But I always find that a good, alert, sensitive review will make me curious about a book. My friends will kill me for this, but I rarely ever read the books they recommend.

Simon Owens: How successful do you think book blogs are in striving to promote books? Do you think that they’re convincing readers to buy the books they recommend?

Chandrahas Choudhury: I think getting readers to buy books is only one of the aims of a literary weblog, and a relatively unimportant one at that. I don’t think we have the power to give an Oprah Winfrey book-of-the-month boost to a book.

To be sure, over time people come to trust your opinion about things, and will often track down your recommendations. But I think what literary blogs are really concerned with is good conversation about books. What kinds of books are out there that we don’t know about, or don’t generally get talked about? What does it mean to read well? What relation does reading have to experience, to our day-to-day lives? Each one of us has some kind of answers to these questions, and we advance them through talk about specific books. Literary weblogs can become part of a book culture in the same way as a good periodical can.

Simon Owens: I’ve noticed that you focus a lot on international writers. Is there a particular reason for this?

Chandrahas Choudhury: That’s just because I read quite widely, and think everyone should as well – unsystematic reading is one of life’s great delights. Also, in India, there’s not a great deal of attention given by the newspapers to books from around the world – most newspapers only have one page for books in a week. I find I have a great deal to say but nowhere to say it, so that I put all that onto my weblog.

I now have a great deal more traffic from the US and the UK than I used to, so I feel that in some small way I help to bring writers from around the world to the attention of Indian readers, and Indian writers to the attention of readers from around the world. (This may only be in my imagination, but even illusions are vital motivating forces for work. In fact, blogging itself is based upon the illusion that one will one day become rich and famous out of doing work for free, mostly for people who have nothing better to do than sit around surfing the Web). Fakir Mohan Senapati, for example, or Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay – these are Indian writers whose work is easily the equal of anything in world literature. And Etgar Keret, or Osip Mandelstam – why shouldn’t more Indian readers be reminded of their work?

Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?

Chandrahas Choudhury: I actually dream of finding the quality time to give to classics I haven’t read yet. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, for instance – I’ve never read it. I’d like also to read Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) – the book on which Satyajit Ray made the first film of the Apu trilogy. And a few months ago I found in a pavement bookshop in Bombay the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis’s mammoth verse work The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel – it’s full of roaring lines and superb effects. I’d like to disappear onto an island for a month and read that, preferably with someone to read out bits to and to cook my meals for me.

But among upcoming books, I’d like to read Leila Aboulela’s The Translator, Roger Ebert’s Awake in the Dark: Forty Years of Reviews, Essays, and Interviews, the art critic Robert Hughes’s memoir Things I Didn’t Know, and David Thomson’s book on Nicole Kidman. I’d also like to lay my hands on the new issue of News From The Republic of Letters, the journal started by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford. This one’s going to be a special issue in memory of Bellow. I’d even be interested in In The Line of Fire, the forthcoming memoir by Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf.

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Chandrahas Choudhury: Two literary blogs I have a great deal of time for are Mark Thwaite’s ReadySteadyBook and Steve Mitchelmore’s This Space. The Indian writer Amitava Kumar has a great many interesting opinions, and Colour of Water, the weblog of my fellow Bombay writer Sonia Faleiro, features brilliant reportage on a slew of Indian subjects sharing space with funny titbits and gossip. Amit Varma used to run the Middle Stage before I took it over, and his widely read blog India Uncut is a distinctive mix of zany humour, libertarian opinions, and links to a great many bizarre things happening all around India.

Interview with Kassia Krozser from Booksquare

Kassia Krozser, cofounder of Medialoper.com, is the blogger over at Booksquare. She’s a member of the Lit-blog Co-op, and often writes for Romancing the Blog and Paperbackreader.net.

Simon Owens: I’ve noticed that your blog seems to focus a lot more on women writers than the average book blog. Do you think that women authors aren’t well represented in the book reviews that come out every year?

Kassia Krozser: I focus on women writers because, obviously, I’m female and my personal bias is toward women writers. As the daughter of a librarian, I was privileged to have a lot of fiction shoved under my bedroom door, and when I look back at the works that spoke to me and — most importantly — stuck with me, they were largely written by women. I also come from the romance community, and, again, it’s been my privilege to work with women who are serious about their writing. As one who has failed miserably to write for Harlequin, I know that what seems so easy on the surface is actually the product of hard work. I take all fiction equally seriously, but, yes, I have a definite bias toward women and their writing. Which leads to your question…

Oh my gosh, yes. For a while there, I was bored and started counting the male to female ratio in the Los Angeles Times Book Review section (it’s my local paper). It was disturbing, both from the perspective books written by women that were reviewed and from the perspective of number of female reviewers. I remember the blow-up last year about women on opinion pages, and there was a lot of discussion about the editors tapping into what they know. I think that happens everywhere, and it’s not necessarily a deliberate move on the part of editors. Luckily, we have a lot of options available to us as readers when it comes to learning about great reads.

I also, yes, believe there’s a serious bias against commercial fiction. I think it’s a shame that good writing is being defined in narrow terms. First off, it dismisses a large portion of the reading audience. Second, it arbitrarily labels certain fiction as “good.” I have an issue with this because publishers slot books based on commercial assessments — it’s hard for hardcore literary types to accept this (heck, it’s hard for me to accept this because I have this crazy notion that talent is talent). Publishers decide how to market books.

Simon Owens: Do you think that the rise of book blogs will allow small presses to flourish more than before?

Kassia Krozser: Absolutely. Shelf space in bookstores is necessarily limited, and in the past, if you didn’t know how to find what you wanted, you wouldn’t. Book blogs are terrific because we (the bloggers) all have our individual obsessions, from translated works to romance novels, and we can focus intently on our favorite writing. In turn, our audiences overlap and expand. The blogosphere is often called incestuious, and I think that’s a great thing. While I might not love everything Blogger X discusses, all it takes is one book for me to share with my audience.

Small presses are using blogs in a good way. They’re approaching us and starting to encourage their writers to reach out to bloggers and their audiences. Developing a relationship with readers is a critical task for authors, and book tours are notoriously expensive. It makes perfect sense to reach out to willing communities via blogs.

Simon Owens:What are some of your favorite small presses that you’ve highlighted on your blog?

Kassia Krozser: I am madly in love with Unbridled. I’ve truly enjoyed everything I’ve read from them — it’s that trust thing again. When they send me a book, I put it on my “Read Now” list. It’s funny because New York publishers are just now getting the idea that they need to be branding themselves, but I’m not seeing a real distinction. Unbridled really stands out because of their openness, their great communications, and excellent books.

Simon Owens: Have you noticed any new major genre trends in publishing over the last few years?

Kassia Krozser: Other than the trend toward erotica? All the major publishing houses are actively seeking erotic imprints. As an industry-watcher, I find it fascinating because they’re following a trend that developed online; erotica has been a huge seller in the e-publishing community, and the New York houses have decided that they want a piece of the action. Of course, when everyone jumps on the bandwagon — see: chicklit — you tend to have oversaturation and a necessary decline in quality. Let’s face it, not everyone can write good erotica. It’s a lot more than sex, you know.

I think there’s also a return to magic in fiction. Books like Jeffrey Ford’s The Girl In The Glass add a slight paranormal aspect that allows the reader to abandon this world we inhabit and walk into something entirely different. For years now, we’ve seen a return to vampires and other non-human beings, but — and maybe this is just what I’m picking up for my own reading — there seems to be more subtle magic happening in fiction. I like that trend (if it is a trend and not just wishful thinking on my part).

Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?

Kassia Krozser: I am really excited about Carolyn Turgeon’s Rain Village (from, yes, Unbridled). It’s a story about reading, running away to join the circus, and growing up just a little different than everybody else on the block. The story mixes deeply intense emotional issues with a touch of magic — and I think we all need a little magic in our lives.

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Kassia Krozser: I have so many sites that I read on a daily basis. Here are five, though I will say that my blogroll is a great start…and then you can move on to the blogrolls of everyone I link to…and so on. I’m going to be a bit self-promoting here –

1. Medialoper – This is actually a sister site for Booksquare. I started this site with some friends because Booksquare is deliberately focused on books and publishing, and I am also deeply interested in all aspects of new media. It’s our way of cutting back on the ranting and raving in the backyard, or, rather, moving the ranting and raving to the Internet.

2. Romancing The Blog – The best of the best on the romance genre. Yes, I write for them, too.

3. PaperbackReader – Smart, insightful reviews. The focus is women’s fiction. It is the perfect counter to the LATBR — we have a great team of reviewers.

4. GalleyCat – Like Booksquare, this blog focuses on the publishing industry. Sarah Weinman of Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and Ron Hogan of Beatrice have made this a must-read for me.

5. if:book – if:book looks at reading and writing from an academic perspective, with a focus on new technology. Sounds dull and dry — I promise you that it is not.

(Related posts: Interview with Myfanwy Collins from Read by Myfanwy, Interview with Wendi Kaufman from The Happy Booker, Interview with Bud Parr from Chekhov’s Mistress, Interview with Traver Kauffman from Rake’s Progress)

Interview with Myfanwy Collins from Read by Myfanwy

myfanwy collins
Myfanwy Collins lives in New England. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, AGNI, Swivel, Lilies and Cannonballs Review, In Posse Review, Exquisite Corpse, Pindeldyboz, Smokelong Quarterly, FRiGG, The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, and others.

She began her blog, Read by Myfanwy, as a searchable collection of the books, stories, and poems she reads, but soon began to catalog the most intimate and mundane details of her life there as well.

Simon Owens: As someone who has had both short fiction and nonfiction published, is there one you prefer over the other? Which do you write more of?

Myfanwy Collins: I suppose I’m more comfortable writing fiction as it is not quite as personal as nonfiction. I write about 75% fiction and 25% nonfiction. With that said, I find an unexpected freedom in writing nonfiction, using it as a way to break down walls, reveal secrets, speak honestly. Luckily, I have managed to not piss off my family yet, which is a good thing.

Simon Owens: How has your experience been with writing for The Boston Globe? Are they flexible in what they allow you to write about?

Myfanwy Collins: Well, this is a boring response, but I don’t actually write for them exclusively—I have only written for them from time to time as a freelancer. I don’t know whether they are flexible or not as I’ve only been given assignments by an editor, who gives me a topic I’m to research and write about.

Simon Owens: Do you feel that book reviews in blogs differ from book reviews in mainstream publications? I’ve seen some bloggers say that readers trust them a lot more with book recommendations, do you find this to be true?

Myfanwy Collins: I’m interested in hearing what your average reader finds compelling in what they read—my impression is that there’s less of an axe to grind. As for the reviews I write, I hope I’m clear in stating that I am not a critic (and do not intend to be one), rather I only write about books I like because I only read books I like. The greatest joy for me is when writers whose books I’ve written about send me notes thanking me or telling me how pleased they are that I understood a certain aspect of the book that had not been clear to others.

I’m not sure if the folks who read my blog trust my reviews more than mainstream reviews or not, but I believe that they know my taste at this point and are sometimes willing to take a gamble in reading something I have talked about. Whatever the outcome, I’m not in the business of selling books. I simply love to read and love to talk about what I’ve read.

Simon Owens: I noticed that you have a lot of excerpts from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, is there a particular book on writing that you like best?

Myfanwy Collins: My workshop leader at the Tin House writers workshop this past July was Dorothy Allison (a brilliant writer and generous teacher) and she recommended the Le Guirn book to us. I don’t read many books on writing, but I must say “Steering the Craft” is at the top of any list. Le Guin has a great deal of passion for her subject and is never telling the reader to do or not do a certain thing, rather she provides options.

Other writing books I have read and learned from are: Anne Lammott’s “Bird by Bird,” “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard, and Stephen Koch’s “The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop.”

Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?

Myfanwy Collins: There are so many I am looking forward to. In particular,

Ellen Meister, whose excellent debut novel Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA was published by Avon-Morrow in August, has another book called The Smart One coming out, I believe, next summer.

Jim Tomlinson’s 2006 Iowa Short Fiction Award winning, Things Kept, Things Left Behind (which is apparently already released but hasn’t shipped from all booksellers yet). I can’t wait to read this book.

Pia Ehrhardt has a book coming out next summer and then another book the summer after that (both with MacAdam/Cage)—very much looking forward to these two books.

Ron Currie’s novel-in-stories God is Dead which will be published by Viking next year—have read some bits of this and it will knock your socks off

Patry Francis has The Liar’s Diary coming out in winter of 2007 with Dutton–looking forward to that one!

Kirsten Menger-Anderson has a short story collection coming out with Algonquin sometime next year, I believe. She writes astounding stuff.

Last but not least, I believe Laila Lalami’s next novel comes out next year, again with Algonquin. If you have not already read her first book, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits—I would suggest you do read it.

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Myfanwy Collins: Only five! I read dozens of blogs a day. Here are just a few of the blogs I try to never miss:

Katrina Denza

Robin Slick

Stephanie Anagnoson

Jordan Rosenfeld

Susan DiPlacido

Don Capone

Mark Pritchard

Susan Henderson (her brand new blog is launching soon—be on the look out for it)


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