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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The WOTF workshop experience

   
Author Topic: The WOTF workshop experience
Nick T
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Hi everyone,

Though I've been more of a lurker than an active participant here for about the last year or so, this forum has always been a great help to me.

Anyway, in about three weeks or so, I'm flying to LA to participate in the WOTF workshop. Quite a few people here regularly enter the contest, so I thought I'd do a little something to help them out.

Quite a few ex-winners have blogged about the experience of the workshop, so I was casting around for something different to do that would both help new entrants and motivate some of the long-term entrants.

Brad Torgersen's done a better job that I ever could of adding up the monetary value of the contest and other past winners have blogged about the day-to-day experience of the workshop. What I'd like to do is to go into the workshop with a list of questions that I'll keep in mind and answer once the workshop is over. (i.e. How many coca-colas does a winner have to slip Tim Powers before he reveals the code-word that enables you to become the gold prize winner? etc.) I'd hope that the questions enable this Q-and-A to become more than a recounting of the workshop, but I'm happy if that's all it does.

I'll make the Q -and-A public on my writer's group website, so I reserve the right to edit and tidy up questions (i.e. I may mentally note down the most embarrassing thing that Brad Torgersen does at the workshop, but I'm certainly not writing about it publicly given he's in the military and could kill me with a toothpick and a carefully folded tissue). I'm also posting this message on the WOTF forum.

I'm not sure if this is something that would interest anyone, but it might be a way of getting a different angle on the whole workshop experience.

Feel free to email me or add the questions here (which would probably be better to avoid redundancy).

Regards,

Nick

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philocinemas
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Hey, Nick. Congratulations again. I've been out of the game as of late, but I look forward to hearing about your experience there. Enjoy!
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extrinsic
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Questions:

How do the Author Services contest administrators feel about the web submission process?

How does coordinatiing judge K.D. Wentworth feel about web submission? How does she read the manuscripts? Digitally? Printout? Kindle? Nook? iPad?

What's the sentiment of other judges about web submission? And if anyone knows, how do they read candidate manuscripts?

Overall, the question is how's technology shaping the contest?

My investigations into technology implementation by publishers lead me to think the contest is keeping up with other short fiction publishers and contests, ahead of many though. And technology has come of age for digital submissions, digital publications, and correspondence convenience and efficiency and accuracy.

I'm curious to know if the contest folk feel the same or if their take is radically different. One final question, was there implemetation growing pains? Learning curve pains?

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axeminister
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My guess is they will eventually do away with print submissions.

Could you ask if that's their plan once they work out all the bugs in digital?

Axe

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Nick T
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Extrinsic, excellent questions and I'll ask them of Joni when I see her.

Dustin, ditto, though my feeling is that the contest is fairly conservative when it comes to these matters. If one of the big three does away with paper, then they'll consider it I think.

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Osiris
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One thing I'm curious about is if having political or hot-button issues in your stories makes them less likely to be accepted out of a concern that they may alienate certain readers.
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Nick T
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Osiris,

I will ask Joni directly, but below are my thoughts on the matter.

In line with the rules, “excessive violence and sex” as determined by the judges will result in disqualification. I can’t speak for “controversial” issues, but the judges are independent of the contest, so it depends on their interpretation of the rules and what they think is appropriate for the anthology.

I believe (though I can’t speak for her) that KDW doesn’t have any particular prejudice against controversial or hot-button issues as long as they are dealt with skillfully and appropriately. Given she’s the first reader, you have to get it past her.

My belief is that KDW and the four judges have tastes that are broadly in line with the “big three”, so you’d probably need to consider whether you could imagine seeing the story in Analog, Asminov’s or The magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, i.e. IMO, they’d probably run a good and subtle story about (terrorism, abortion, name your controversial topic) that doesn’t force the author’s viewpoint on the reader, but they rightfully wouldn’t touch a story about, say, pedophilia, with a very long pole regardless of the approach.

My take is that controversial issues are often very difficult to make into a good story. When I’ve read “issue” stories, the story often becomes a heavy-handed polemic about the issue rather than a story about characters. It’s possible to write a good story about a controversial issue, but it takes extraordinary skill.

If you can write an extraordinary story about a controversial issue, then it’s likely KDW and the other judges would vote it a winner.

Keep in mind that if your story is a winner, then the publisher (Galaxy press) will edit any swear words and remove any “explicit” sex scenes (and, let’s face it, any detailed sex scenes are usually pretty badly written) so that they can sell it to middle grade students. I had some very mild swear words removed from mine. Patty Jansen’s winner from a few years back had an “on camera” sex scene, but the sex was implied.

If I’d thought that the editing significantly changed the meaning of my story, I would have stood my ground. Given that my story was selected by KDW and four judges, I can’t say what would have happened if I’d refused to change my story, but the edits were incredibly minor and didn’t change the meaning of my story in any way. I don’t believe they were any different to any other editor you’re likely to run into in the field.

Regards,

Nick

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LDWriter2
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I'm very picky myself about those two things so there wouldn't be much of a problem there. Of course there are times when a character will use a swear word or three. Stephen King deals with that in his writing book. Today I had to replace a "dang guy" with B.... in one novel.

But as to the WotF workshop I think that is both one of the cool things about winning and at the same time I'm not sure about things. I would have to take off from work to do it.

So now there are three cool things about winning. One is WINNING, two is having an illustration drawn of your story and last is the workshop.

But thanks for giving us a more detailed account of it. I know they take pictures and post them on the web site or blog but they aren't of the classes.

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Nick T
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Hi LDWriter2,

When you win, I'd strongly recommend going to the workshop. I've been told by a lot of people that's the big prize...you get both instruction and networking with big name pros. It's meant to be one of the best things about winning.

Nick

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The money was nice, as well, though I had to spend mine on a new refrigerator. So mundane!
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Osiris
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Thanks for your take, Nick. I'm definitely realizing that I shouldn't just send all my stories to every market. My current WoTF WIP is one I definitely imagined specifically for markets like WoTF/Analog/Asimov's and SF & F.
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axeminister
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Nick,

Q's for KDW if you have time with her. I don't want to ask on her forum, although maybe I should?

1. Do you ever recognize someone's work as you're reading and say, "Oh, this is X's story." And if so, does that influence the story's final positioning, or can you blank that out? (Assuming, perhaps, that guessing who wrote a story is just that, a guess.)

2. Do you have trouble washing a previous quarter's stories out when starting a new quarter?

2A. Do you take a break after focusing on the finalists for a bit before starting on that first story and delving into the new slush?

Axe

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Nick T
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quote:
The money was nice, as well, though I had to spend mine on a new refrigerator. So mundane!
Ah, the glamour of the professional writer's life.

quote:
I'm definitely realizing that I shouldn't just send all my stories to every market.
At the same time, don't self-reject (rejection's the editor's job and they do it to everyone). Just be aware of market preferences...but editors will, on occasion, surprise themselves. With a market like WOTF, there are the commercial realities of selling to the middle-grade market though.

quote:
Q's for KDW if you have time with her. I don't want to ask on her forum, although maybe I should?
Up to you. It does give me more material for a blog post though [Wink]
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BenM
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Thought I'd chip in here with a couple of thoughts...

quote:
...so that they can sell it to middle grade students
I've found the lasting impact of the workshop wasn't writing advice - since winning implied knowing some of that in the first place - but was the business and being-a-writer advice. This helped cement my impression of the WotF judging process too: A publisher of an anthology series needs to sell to an established audience. So if your story fits well with that audience you've as good a chance as any - and if not, you might as well submit somewhere where it'll be appreciated more.

At least that's my impression, and seems to fit with my process through the WotF writing and submissions process.

quote:
The money was nice, as well, though I had to spend mine on a new refrigerator. So mundane!
Same here. Mine was fully consumed by renewing my passport and getting travel insurance... the workshop and getting one on one time with established authors was the real prize for me.
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LDWriter2
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Nick, I would love to go to their workshop, if I did win that could provide the motivation to figure out the lost of work. And it would also be motivation to go to the awards ceremony. [Smile]

The money would be almost a bonus even though a very Niiice bonus. [Smile]
Hmm, money -- missing some pay from work.


Osiris, from what I have heard from two pro editors I would agree with Nick. Don't be sending fantasy to SF markets etc.. but at the same time you never know when an editor will buy something he-she won't normally buy because something in the story calls to him-her.

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Osiris
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:

Osiris, from what I have heard from two pro editors I would agree with Nick. Don't be sending fantasy to SF markets etc.. but at the same time you never know when an editor will buy something he-she won't normally buy because something in the story calls to him-her.

I really wasn't talking about differences in genre. [Smile]

I was really getting at something more nuanced. For example, I do like to tackle fanaticism in my writing, and like to explore what might happen if fanatics get a hold of some well-intentioned future technology. Its something that I think someone with my background can and should write about because I don't believe that avoiding problems helps solve them.

Having said that, I know that writing a good story has to come first, so I don't put the issues at the core of the piece, but try to let them work their way in naturally. I would hate to feel like these works are automatically discounted from being published because of that, but sometimes the concern does pop into my head.

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axeminister
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Nick,

I shall refrain from asking the questions. After all, I've refrained for like 2 years now...

If you don't get to ask, then I'll post them.


maybe.

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LDWriter2
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All I can say Osiris is that I have read published stories along those lines and that as many things it may just depend on the editor.

One that pops in mind doesn't deal with fanatics but does deal with a Doctor's bag from hundred's of years in the future gets sent back in time to our time. It's found by a drunk who once was a doctor. It has dark ending.

I have seen a couple of markets who I think wouldn't mind that type of story from their guidelines but at the same time it's the type that could interest most editors, depending on the specific story and the writing.

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Nick T
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Bump...Don't forget to either email your questions here or post them to me before I reach the workshop.
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babooher
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If you get a story rejected that uses character x in universe alpha, should you avoid submitting anymore stories in future attempts using character x in universe alpha? Or even anything set in universe alpha?
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axeminister
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To add to the previous question, what if you're a finalist and you want to write in the same universe? All new characters, all new story and plot, but both take place on Planet Zeon, the frozen tundra...
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Nick T
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quote:
you get a story rejected that uses character x in universe alpha, should you avoid submitting anymore stories in future attempts using character x in universe alpha? Or even anything set in universe alpha?
quote:
To add to the previous question, what if you're a finalist and you want to write in the same universe? All new characters, all new story and plot, but both take place on Planet Zeon, the frozen tundra...
'
I'll ask, but I really, really doubt this is a problem. I think that a story called Grey Queen Homecoming had been re-written a couple of times before winning. In the end, setting rarely determines a good story; it's usually icing on the cake. If you've got the right characters and the right underlying story, I don't think KDW is going to care whether the setting is recycled.

Nick

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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My understanding of the questions wasn't so much with recycled stories as it was with WotF not wanting to include something in their winners anthology that has already been published about elsewhere.

In other words, can a WotF winner be one story from a series of stories, at least one of which has been published elsewhere?

In general, do publishers have some kind of proprietary attitude toward the stories they publish, in that you can't sell another story in your series to a different publisher without getting permission of some kind?

I may have misunderstood the questions, but I thought I'd add my interpretation, just in case this kind of question would be good for you to ask as well.

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axeminister
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Kathleen,
That's not what I meant, but that's a very good question.

To clarify: Would KD be predisposed against a story if she's certain she's seen the universe before. (I realize now she may not remember a given finalist vs. HM per se, just that she'd recognize something from a previously submitted universe.)

I have other stories set in the universe of my finalist, but I've got no plan to send them in. Different, unique stories - not going to risk it.

Although, the Queen reference probably indicates the answer to my question is no.

Axe

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks for the clarification, axeminister. Having read slush in the past, I can tell you that it is possible for a first reader to come upon something that seems recognizable--and to suspect that it has been submitted before.

Since, if I remember correctly, WotF does not discourage entrants from resubmitting the exact same story (as long as it hasn't been officially commented on by K D Wentworth or one of the final judges) in subsequent quarters--they used to say that if it didn't win in this quarter, it still might win in a later quarter (though I don't know if they still say that)--you could certainly submit something similar to what you submitted before.

I hope that made sense.

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KayTi
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I would stick to blogging about what YOU learned, what your main aha moments are. Assume others have done the nitty gritty, the details, the pithy observations. For you in this place in your writing journey, what did you take away from the AM session on day 1. What from the PM, etc.

I personally take copious notes at any workshops or sessions I attend (i'm a visual thinker so it's in the act of TAKING the notes that I'm best able to store the information for long-term use.) so I use the margins and stars and big bold words and things to indicate where I had the biggest mental leaps based on what I heard in the sessions. This helps me tremendously in recalling later what i learned.

From my perspective, this would be the most valuable blog to read about the WOTF experience.

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Nick T
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Hi KayTi,

There's a very good list of questions from other forums which fit right into this perspective. I'm going to try and answer everything, but I have my own set of goals for the workshop that will come first and foremost.

Nick

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BenM
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Good luck with the jet lag these first couple of days Nick and all the best with the workshop. I'm rather looking forward to seeing the WotF blog's photos this coming week.
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JenniferHicks
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The first of the blog photos are up. Right here.
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LDWriter2
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Nice close up of Nick.

Going for the Miami Vice look? [Smile]

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snapper
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quote:
Snapper...You and Axeminister (are) expected to carry me on a palanquin while Jennifer scatter(s) rose petals (at my feet)
Bad news. We can't find a palanquin (actually, we never bothered to look) anywhere, but axe does have an old tobaggan in his garage. So we're going to carry (carry - pull, same difference) you across the red carpet in that. We also decided scattering rose petals at your feet is so cliche, but, thanks to a 9/16 wrench and a well stocked bicycle caddy at the local elementary school, we've managed to stay within the spirit of the moment with something that is semantically close.

So, on the day of the ceremony, me and Axe will be dragging you across the red carpet while Jennifer throws rusty pedals at you.

No, no. No need to thank us. It's your day and we want to do our part to make it memorable for you.

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axeminister
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I happen to have some rusty pedals lying around!

They are indeed just the right color.

How's your arm, Jennifer?

Axe

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JenniferHicks
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My bad aim is legendary. Many rusty pedals will fly off into the audience to thwack the heads of distinguished guests such as Mike Resnick, Tim Powers and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I am much better kicking than throwing (longtime soccer player, you know), so I could drop-kick the pedals at Nick and the tobaggan and maybe take out the podium.
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LDWriter2
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Hmm, as I thought last year, but is this a writing workshop or a CIA workshop. I think someone got mixed up... or is it a secret recruiting event???


That thing about asking strangers for a info comes right out of CIA training.

What? Don't look at me funny I wouldn't blow my cover that way... didn't you see that movie?

But Hey she has horns (Gulp)

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LDWriter2
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Hey, it just hit me.

My nemesis is probably there. If anyone is interested nemesis is a link to where I explain why I call her that.

Anyway, I can't recall her name right now . I thought I saved her blog but can't find it.

By her picture on her site she's older. Don't have my Nook handy to look up her story.

Nick you probably don't have time to read any of these but just in case has anyone mentioned Jim Baen's Universe new writers forum? If so tell her hi and congrats from LDWriter2

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JenniferHicks
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Three hours and counting to the ceremony. You can watch via instant streaming on the Writers of the Future website.
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LDWriter2
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Been watching it on and off, was that Nick with the Australian accent and beard? Too bad I missed his illustrator but I can catch the pic in the book.

And the writer with the army officer husband talked about jumping out of copter with a full back pack and have to swim to shore. The thought fit her dress---it made her look like a mermaid. It was nice design, fit her well and all that but still.
But I can see how she feels about reading her story in the book. Something we all would like to experience.

My nemesis wasn't there of course my mix up.


But did they act out a scene from each story or just a couple?

[ April 15, 2012, 11:47 PM: Message edited by: LDWriter2 ]

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JenniferHicks
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They danced scenes for most of them. Nick's story got a romantic dance, appropriate for "The Command For Love." Nick was the one with the awesome Australian accent. He did a great job. No obvious nerves, like some of them. And he gave a nice shoutout to Hatrack. I agree with what Dustin said on another forum: Nick said something at the podium about us not wanting to hear him go on and on, but with that accent, he can go on and on all he wants. [Smile]
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axeminister
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Based on the seriousness of the ceremony, I think they would have frowned upon one of us standing up and throwing rose petals at Nick.

Still might have been worth it, even if I got thrown out.


Frank - you up for the challenge again this year?
The title's out of the bag.

And what's with the book coming out now, but not being available from Amazon until July?

Axe

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LDWriter2
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Oh that was a dance. Okay I can see that. [Smile]

But even though it was neat to hear him say hatrack in Australian [Smile]

I would have liked a longer phrase. But then again he seemed to speak longer than most of the few I saw.

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axeminister
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Nick went on and on.
Said he didn't want to go on and on.
Then kept going on and on.
All the while I sat there with a stupid grin on my face.

Axe

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Utahute72
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Not sure about your Nemesis LD, I'm still trying to work out the insider Unicorn reference. I'm a little slow some times. This looks like fun, but not sure I'd want snapper and Axe hurling metal objects at me.
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JenniferHicks
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quote:
Originally posted by axeminister:
Nick went on and on.
Said he didn't want to go on and on.
Then kept going on and on.
All the while I sat there with a stupid grin on my face.

Wait, that's exactly what I was doing! But my grin was in the middle of the newsroom, with my co-workers going, "What the (blank) is she watching?"

The ceremony this year made me happy for all the winners and the fantastic time they were having, and it made me jealous because I want that to be me. Even with my slight fear of public speaking.

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axeminister
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Jim,

Jennifer does the hurling - and she throws like a girl, so you'll be okay. [Smile]

Axe

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Not sure about your Nemesis LD, I'm still trying to work out the insider Unicorn reference. I'm a little slow some times.
I left a link to more about what I met and who I met but she wouldn't have been there more than likely once I thought about it.

But the unicorn? DId you mean what I say on the intro forum? Or did you mean the comment that she has horns? That lady was in one of the pics they showed. I forget who now but one of the writers had to talk to her.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Even with my slight fear of public speaking.
I have something of the same problem even though for a different reason.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Jennifer does the hurling
Thinking of Jennifer's comment about being nervous my first thought was that the was about a different type of hurling.
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LDWriter2
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One last note in reference to an earlier note of mine.
Another cool thing about winning the WotF contest is that they do a dance for part of the story evidently.

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JenniferHicks
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
quote:
Jennifer does the hurling
Thinking of Jennifer's comment about being nervous my first thought was that the was about a different type of hurling.
Ha! No, but that was my daughter all last night. I'll stick with the petals and the pedals.
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