The color of your graduation robe– Does it define you? It does in Greenwich, CT

WARNING: THERE WILL BE CURSING. If you’re easily offended you can leave, I’ll wait. Okay, last chance. Here we go-

I don’t blog often because quite frankly I’m busy as all hell. And when I do blog, it’s usually about something going on in the writing community but I have to address this local issue.

This past week there has been an absolute, all-out-shit-storm over the color of the graduation robes at Greenwich High School.

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

 

In the past, “Traditionally”,  boys have worn red robes and girls have worn white robes.

This is me the day I graduated from GHS and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind that day was the color of my robe. Any one who knows me, or knew me in high school, knows that I was just glad, and mildly shocked, to have graduated.

Class of '87

Class of ’87

It’s a different world now, as you can clearly see by my choice of hair style in 1987, which I totally and freely admit is hilarious. I wish this post was also going to be funny because that’s what I like to write, but it’s quite the opposite.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, Head Master Christopher Winters sent out an email stating:

“In a break from previous GHS graduations, this year all graduates will wear the same color gown, Cardinal red with a white stripe on the sleeve. Why the change?” I’m going to paraphrase most of what he said to spare you from having to read for an hour.

“First, at Graduation, except for class officers and Valedictorian/Salutatorian, all students come in together and sit together as one unified class. It’s a day when we honor all for graduation.”

His second point for the change, and I think (just my opinion) this is the one that freaked people out, “Second, we are increasingly aware of student choices with gender orientation. In an effort to respect all students, we will cease using separate-colored gowns for males and females. We strive for GHS to provide a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all. This small change of tradition demonstrates our commitment to those principals.  It is very common for colleges and high schools to have all graduates wear the same color.”

And by God, he was right…I found photos to prove it!

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I thought Dr. Wintters explained it all perfectly. I was very proud to be part of such a forward thinking school. Dr. Winters also said, in keeping with tradition, students would still be able to decorate their caps any way they liked to express their individuality. Brilliant! We are trying to get these young men and women to move to the next level and as a bonus we are all-inclusive.

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THEN THE SHIT-STORM.

I saw petitions about keeping our “traditions” and parents asking the question why do we have to change? I read people bashing Dr. Winters and his decision. In general–people freaked-the-fuck out.

So, on Thursday, Feb. 25th, Head Master Winters reversed his decision. You can read the entire story at http://greenwichfreepress.com/schools/gender-neutral-graduation-gown-policy-at-greenwich-high-school-graduation-stirs-controversy-59615/

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

I asked him via email how the change came about. Dr. Winters responded that he sent a poll/survey to the students with three choices: All red gowns, all white gowns  or a choice to wear red or white. Headmaster Winters said that 89% responded (in about 20 minutes) to the third choice.

Now this seems reasonable. But is it? We should be shouting, hooray, the majority wins!

Let’s talk about who loses; the 11%.

I can’t help but think about the fabulous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” So I went to the small community that Dr. Winters was trying to be inclusive of… which I applaud you’re efforts, sir!

I interviewed several people from the transgender and nonbinary community. I explained I have two children, one girl, the other a boy, both heterosexual and have no gender issues, so I do not know any of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) struggles, or the struggles of their families personally. I wanted to represent them properly for this piece. This is what they had to say to me.

#1: “It’s not fair to any of the students, because they’re being forced to conform to traditional notions of gender just by being told what they can and cannot wear. Being fair and inclusive of trans-kids gives everyone more freedom to be themselves. There’s already so much pressure to conform in high school, and so much ridicule if you don’t.”

#2: “I feel like having all students wear the same color would be more trans-friendly as a means of not forcing people out of the closet before they’re ready. I feel like if students could choose red or white, many transgender males will stick with red and transgender females will stick with white, which would kinda out us back to square 1.”

#3: “Having one robe color is the absolute best possible thing the school could have done. ‘Allowing’ students to choose, isn’t really a choice at all unless the young person has come out about how they feel about themselves. Having one color robe doesn’t impact cisgender (people who identify with the gender they were born into) at all, but it does worlds of good for the trans-people. But that’s some how wrong.”

So, what we’ve done by keeping our precious “tradition” is we’ve made everyone who is part of this transgender/nonbinary community feel ostracized. Yay us!

I went on to research how exactly these young people feel at http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm.

*At least 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.

*More than 1 in every 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide; nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it.

*More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year.

So, you see for some it’s just upholding tradition. But, for others it may be the last straw, the icing on the cake, the final “you don’t belong.”

I also interviewed a PsyD (child psychologist) from another district who said, “Students should all wear the same color. Graduation should be a time of celebration as a group with your peers. This shouldn’t be a time to point out individual differences or to be put in a position in which you have to make a choice whether or not to expose your gender choice.”

Diversity means, variety, many different types. Aren’t we striving to be a diverse community? A diverse nation? Maybe that’s just me. But whether you agree with or understand or support the transgender community, ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away and could contribute to the sad suicidal statistics.

Compassion and empathy are not just politically correct words to use at parties, they are ways of life.

I’d like to point out the things I saw bouncing around on social media were not being said by bad people. They are people I know, people who may at this very moment be un-friending me, and that’s okay, but they’re good people. Maybe they’re just not considering how the other people involved in this are feeling.

Some of you know me as a CCD teacher. Isn’t this the “Holy Year of Mercy”, per Pope Francis? Past my being a Christian, I’m a human being, and I can certainly feel for those struggling with things I couldn’t possibly understand. And for me personally, I don’t ever want to be part of the statistics above. “Love everyone as I have loved you”.

I think the “choice” for this year is a done deal, but I certainly hope Headmaster Winters revisits and reconsiders for next year and the years to come.

I welcome respectful conversation on this blog, but please know, if there is any bashing or attacking of anyone I will remove/block you from everything I am on. I have diverse followers who I am grateful for, and I will not have them disrespected on my site.

We are all wonderfully and beautifully different. Let’s embrace our differences. We all lose when we don’t.

 

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PEACE & ACCEPTANCE

 

 

 

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2015…BRING IT!

Happy New Year fabulous people!!

Sorry I was MIA for a bit. I was stuck in a funk but I’m done being funky.

Rejection is the suckiest of all suckishness. My finalist #PITCHARAMA status is officially over. The editor who was interested in JESSICA MARCO PI has passed on the project. There, I’ve said it. I was sad. I was distressed. There was a day or two of immature pouting, kicking, rolling around on the floor. It wasn’t pretty. I’m over it. Overall, it was a really GREAT experience. The editor, Katie Teller at Curiosity Quills, was helpful in getting the book into the shape that it’s in. Now I just need to find the agent/editor that it is right for. Although this project wasn’t right for Katie, I would definitely submit to her again . If you’ve got a story, hit her up. She’s super cool.

Don’t go feeling sorry for me. This is the game I’ve chosen. It’s just part of the process and I learn from every experience, even the ones I don’t particularly like.

Let’s move on! *fist in the air. feet marching*

While I’ve been away the holidays came and went… Happy Happy, Merry Merry EVERYTHING! (((Hugs Abound)))

I spent some great time with friends and family– eating, drinking, watched awesome movies, read fricktastic books, spent a day at the zoo, and visited an indoor trampoline park TWICE! I have no pictures of the amazing back-flips I did without killing myself or any small children in my vicinity– you will just have to take my word for it.

Some of my writer friends are choosing a word for inspiration in 2015 instead of resolutions. Cool with me. I pretty much have the same resolution every year: Be a better me. If I’m a better me, hopefully I’ll inspire you to be a better you. Better me. Better you. Better world. Simple.

Back to my word problem. What word will I choose? Oh, the pressure *back of hand to forehead* Good Lord there’s so many! Triskaidekaphobia? Not a great choice for inspiration since it’s the fear of the number 13. I don’t want the fear of anything. Fear is a real friger!

Fear can frig up the best of plans.

“I want to draw but I’m afraid no one will like it.”

“I want to take a dance class but I’m afraid I’ll look silly.”

“I want to talk to that person I think is da bomb but I’m afraid they won’t like me.”

“I want to write a book but I’m afraid I’ll suck.”

Before even trying, fear can beat you into nothingness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on nothingness. I want to be lots of somethingness. I’ll get back to this.

I want to share some of the books I read.

The first is called Finding Out by Sheryn MacMunn. I had the pleasure of having tea with Sheryn, who is a self-published author, and has had huge success with this debut novel. It’s a story about a young woman in the corporate world whose life falls apart and gets help putting herself back together from her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. Sheryn marries two very different stories in a cohesive interesting tale that I really enjoyed. She shows how the human spirit can endure and overcome just about anything. I personally find the spirit to be an amazing thing and love to read stories that show that. Check her out at sherynmacmunn.com.

Another book I read is Because of Low by Abbi Glines. I was especially interested in reading this book because it is in the New Adult genre just like my JESSICA MARCO PI and because I heard Abbi speak at the NYC 2014 SCBWI conference. LOVE her! It’s a romance with a great backbone. What do I mean by that? It’s not all about sex. It’s a great story about overcoming some crappy life circumstances told from the POV of the two main characters. Again, it’s that human spirit, that amazing power we all have to overcome. Abbi uses two very distinct voices so you see it clearly from each angle. She even had me sympathizing with the jerk in the story! Find her at abbiglines.com.

And the last book is called Every Day by one of my favs, David Levithan. LOVE! Imagine waking up everyday in a different body. You are always the same age but some days you’re a girl, others a boy. You have no control over who you land in whether they be obese, a drug addict, gay, straight or suicidal. Totally about the spirit of each of us who is really who we are anyway. The body is just a vehicle. It’s like a car for the soul. Trippy right? This book is awesome! For me this is what writing fiction is all about. Being able to step into the shoes of a character and bring you along for the ride. Did I mention LOVE? David has way too many other books for me to mention the love for, so go to davidlevethan.com. Be in awe. Come back when you’re done…. I’ll be here.

Welcome back!

So. My word for 2015? You probably guessed it-

FEARLESS

Fear is the stop before I start. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is anxiety producing. Fear of failing will keep me from ever being published. Not havin it. Don’t have time for it.

Are there an abundant amount of things to be afraid of? Hell yeah, just watch the news for five minutes. Will my worrying about any of it help at all? No. Am I telling you not to be afraid of anything? No. As my mother always said, “a little fear will keep you safe.” If you’re in a house that’s on fire– RUN! There’s a difference from being fearless and being stupid. Don’t be stupid. All you stupid people should be reading some other blog. Everyone else… Be fearless with me in 2015!

Until later this month,

PEACE, LOVE, AND A FEARLESS 2015.

 

 

#PITCHARAMA, JESSICA MARCO PI

#PITCHARAMA

Hi All! This post is for a twitter writing contest. You can find the details at aussieownedandread.com and on twitter #pitcharama.  You can also follow my progress on twitter @jeannieintrieri. Good luck to all participants! This is my story and here’s my pitch:

 

Title:                     JESSICA MARCO PI

Author:               Jeannie Intrieri

Genre:                  NA

Word Count:      59,000

SYNOPSIS

Jessica Marco, a twenty-four year old private investigator, is working on a kidnapping case when she discovers her sister’s piece of shit husband is the kidnapper. He unfortunately gets away by throwing Jess off a small cruise ship where the transfer of money for victim was supposed to happen.

While on the kidnapping case, Jess gets a call from a friend who runs a local funeral home where Fat Sal’s arms and legs have been stolen two days before his scheduled wake. Everyone knows you can’t pull off a wake without arms and legs. They’ll be screaming, serious freak-outs and old ladies fainting at the casket. Who the hell needs that? Jess takes on the case to save her friend’s funeral home from ruin.

Her personal life is just as crazy as her work-life with a mother who steals her laundry, a sister who’s done too much plastic surgery, a grandmother who’s paranoid about the “chill” because that bastard’s always trying to get someone sick and a hot cop/sorta boyfriend.

Her life goes from bad to total goat-balls when her investigation ties both cases together and puts her in the middle of a medical black-market organization that’s killing people for their skin and organs. With millions of dollars at stake, they also have no problem killing anyone who gets in their way.

If Jessica is successful in solving her cases, everyone, except the piece of shit husband, gets to live happily ever after. If she fails, she and everyone she loves will lose their life…and their skin.

NEW ENGLAND SCBWI SPRING CONFERENCE 2014

Create Bravely: Make Your Mark
PART 2

Whoa, phew and holy canoli! Shameful, just shameful!

Sorry it’s taken so long to get part 2 of the amazing SCBWI spring conference blog done.

Life got in the way, as it tends to do sometimes. Quick summation: It was bad (dad had emergency appendix surgery), better (dad is home healing), AWESOME! (Niece’s wedding), talented (both kids were in recitals/concerts and killed it!), mundane (day job, laundry, groceries, cleaning, cooking, and taxi driving). On a side note; a cleaning lady is first on my list when I can afford it!

Anyway… *trumpet blast* onward!

The keynote speaker for the second day was award-winning author Laurel Snyder; Seven Stories Up, The Longest Night, and Good Night Laila Tov, just to name a few! You can check her out at laurelsnyder.com.

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I was shocked to hear Ms Snyder say that this was her first keynote speech. She was eloquent, poised and honest. She appeared totally at ease, no matter what her insides were doing. I was immediately engaged and thought, this is a chick I’d like to have a cup of coffee with. Coffee is big in my world, so please know that is a HUGE compliment. LOL!

She spoke the hard truth: “It’s not enough to just produce something. The world is full of books. Produce something worthy of publication.” My interpretation of this is, don’t just write a bunch of crap. Don’t settle for “it’s good enough”. We writers need to hold ourselves to the highest standards. Good enough, is, well, NOT good enough.

Be spectacular! “You can struggle to make work that matters or you can struggle to make work that doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re going to struggle.” Amen to that, sistah!

She also said, “Don’t write a book about vampires because that’s what’s hot on the market right now. If you try to be something you’re not, it’s not authentic and it shows in your work. Everyone is unique with their own personality, voice and experiences. Become who you are. Figure out what is it that YOU have to say that no one else has to say. Make YOUR mark. That’s your book.”

Inspired yet? Wait, it gets better!

“Draw on personal emotions in your writing. Not that you have to write about every painful experience, but you can use those emotions in all of your writing. If you dig deep down you’ll find the things in you that make you brave. Be brave because it will put your best work out in the world.”

A bunch of years ago I had an accident and hurt my back. Now, I’m not going to write a story about how I fell on a treadmill and broke my ass. BUT, I am going to use those same emotions to write a scene where someone is in pain. The subject matter can be different as long as the proper emotion gets across.

Ms. Snyder made another good point; “Who are you writing for? It’s not just that you have something to say, but you want someone to hear it. Picture the person you are writing for. The listener defines the voice of the speaker. The listener will shape the way you write.”

Very true. I am going to use language when I’m writing for a middle school person that’s different when I’m writing for a senior in high school.

Then, Ms. Snyder cleared something up for me personally. Okay, I know she didn’t write it for me, per say, but it spoke to my heart.

“How do you know when to listen to yourself and when to listen to what other people say?”

When you’re a writer you have to have critique partners. You need an opinion on what you’ve written that isn’t from your mom, sister or neighbor; I don’t care how honest you think they’ll be. It’s great if they like what you wrote but their view is going to be tainted, slanted and sometimes just plain wrong. No one who loves you is going to actually tell you you suck.

BUT, what if you get some feedback from a crit partner that feels off to you? Ms. Snyder said, “You have to check in with yourself about how you react to what other people say, and ultimately you have to have the final say.”

For new writers, here are some fun facts that she mentioned:

– Kids don’t read down. A senior in high school is not going to read a middle grade book so when you write to an agent and you mention who your audience is, be mindful of this.

– Publishing shuts down in the summer.

– Querying during the holidays is useless.

FIRST WORKSHOP

Writing in 1st Person with Nova Ren Suma, author of 17 And Gone and her new book, The Walls Around Us, coming out Spring 2015. Congrats! You can check her out at novarensuma.com

 

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Ms. Suma spoke about some of the reasons writers use first person point of view. Sometimes it’s for story reasons; why the story can only be told through this character. It may also be to illuminate the character so that the reader can get up close and personal. “A writer should take advantage of the narrow scope in which first person tells a story. It should be used as a tool not a fall-back.”

The positive possibilities for using first person:

-The story can feel more real and authentic. The reader can know deep secrets only that character can tell. In first person you can “write with authority, bringing the character to vivid life.”

-Some of the challenges for writing in first person and things to consider:

-You have to be distinct not generic. You can’t write in generalities.

-If you are writing from more than one point of view, you have to make it clear who is speaking.

-You have to describe your character/narrator physically. Nova said, “NOT looking in a mirror! It’s been done to death.”

-Make sure your character knows only what they can know.

-Is your narrator’s voice likable?

Nova also reinforced what I’ve heard at all of the conferences I’ve attended: Show don’t tell. “Instead of having your character say, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m out of control—show it. She read an excerpt from Miles From Nowhere by Nami Mun to demonstrate this technique.

Ms. Suma gave us some tips on finding your narrators voice:

– Journal as your main character.

– Make a list of character’s stuff; room, clothes, music, images.

– List character’s painful memories, make a to do list, write a letter he/she would write.

SECOND WORKSHOP

Beyond OMG; Writing Authentic Dialogue for Teens with Sashi Kaufman, author of The Other Way Around. You can check her out at http://www.SashiKaufman.com and on twitter @sashikaufman.

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Ms. Kaufman said, “Writing good dialogue comes from hearing voices in your head.”

“Listen to the dialogue going on around you.”

I love to write dialogue! Here are some helpful suggestions from Ms. Kaufman on getting it done:

“The use of dialogue is to reveal characters, NOT to advance the plot. Remember that your characters are people first and foremost. Do NOT use dialogue for a plot dump!”

“Everyone needs a voice – Not the same as everyone needs a stereotypical role.”

“When you’re writing for teens realize they are one body in two worlds; not children any more but not adults either. Embrace the contradictions.” I LOVE this accurate statement! I have a sixteen year old and a thirteen year old…I live in contradiction-land 😀

“Make your dialogue do the work.”

“Dialogue reveals characters through conflict.”

If your characters are sitting around having coffee and everything is hunky-dory, your story goes nowhere. If your characters meet at the coffee house to discuss fictitional-Joe’s new head growing out of his arse, well now you’ve got everyone wanting to be at the coffee house.

“With dialogue, less can be more and remember you can never go wrong with IDK.”

“Don’t overuse dialogue tags,” she said knowingly. Dialogue tags, like adverbs, should be used sparingly and thoughtfully. (Love Sashi’s humor!) “Unless you absolutely need something for connotation or sarcasm, a simple he said or she said will usually do it.”

When slang works:

– It’s part of voice.
– It’s carefully researched.
– It’s originality.

When slang fails:

– It’s dated.
– It’s meaningless.
– It’s overused.

For those of us who write YA – How to stalk teenagers:

Starbucks, food courts and movies. Sit near them and listen.

 

Twitter    Instagram   

Google+       YouTube 

And other social media venues.

Drive a bunch of them some place. (I can totally attest to this one!)

It’s important to note that Ms. Kaufman takes no responsibility if you get arrested. LOL. 

A few Truths from Ms. Kaufman:
– Teens don’t stand still to talk. You have to get them moving.
– Teens are emotional creatures. They think with their heart first then their head.
– They are universally self conscious about EVERYTHING.
– Avoid stereotypes.
– When writing parents into the story, keep them clueless.

 

AFTERNOON WORKSHOPS:

Six Steps to a Killer 1st Page with Patricia Newman, Regional Advisor for SCBWI. patricianewman.com

 

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“Your first page has some heavy lifting to do. It has to be so compelling that the reader won’t put it down. Your first page is your thirty-second pitch to an agent.”

That statement is SOOOO true! Who hasn’t gone shopping for a new book, picked something up off the shelf, read the first page, and either bought it or put it down? Agents do the same thing. Ms. Newman surveyed a panel of agents for this workshop and shared her findings, which I found t be super useful.

Agents:      Scan the cover, read the submitted pages and IF they like the pages, they read the synopsis. The first page must communicate tone through language and style, character and plot, description and setting.

To accomplish what the agents wants, ask yourself these questions:

Who is your character?

Start with people. Show emotion. Focus on a single point in time; setting, relationships, action. Establish the main character’s voice and age. And the end of the page informs the beginning.

Agent Says:      Grab me! Intrigue me. Ground me. I can usually tell within the first page if it’s a yes or no.

Where are we?

Give a physical location. What’s the weather? Give a hint to the time period. Include senses; talk about textures to refer to touch, color to sight, and what does it smell like.

When I’m writing a scene I close my eyes and I ask myself, what do I see? What does it sound like? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry? What can I smell? Food? Cut grass? Cow poop? Whatever it is, I write it so that the reader can BE there with me. I have an interior design background so it’s a very visual process for me. BUT, at the same time, Ms. Newman said, “Don’t over burden the reader.” So for me, that means to hold myself back a little. She also said, “–ing words are passive. Get them off the first page.”

What engages us?

Unusual settings. Suspense. Mystery. Character’s voice. The time period. Artful prose (or verse). Read your first page out loud and record it.

I’ve heard of reading the page out loud before but I never thought to record it. I thought, hmm, how does it sound? Is it choppy? Does it flow? Does the voice come through clearly? Did I repeat anything? First page real-estate is precious. Don’t waste it by saying something you’ve already said!

Agent Says:      I have to be kidnapped by the language.

What is the Action?

Get your characters moving, put them in motion. Start with a plot point; conflict, question. Get your characters talking: Dialogue. Show vs. Tell. Skip exposition on your first pages. And remember that in YA and MG, parents stay in the background.

Agent Says:      Age? Who is this manuscript for?

Who Is Your Audience?

Know your audience. Picture your ideal reader. Do your word choices match the setting and time period? Know the word count for your genre. The child must solve the problem in the story. And lastly, white space is essential on page one.

Agent Says:    I want a sense of style on page one. Voice is key.

Does Every Word Count?

What is your language style; formal, conversational, regional? Is your use of vocabulary done well and more importantly, correctly? Use active verbs. Mind the white space! Find the words that suck and change them to ones that are FABULOUS! Every. Word. Counts.

“Make your language sing right off the page.”

Thank you Ms. Newman! LOVED your workshop!

 

LAST WORKSHOP:

English 101 for Authors with Professor Marvin Terban, author of a ridiculous amount of books! LOL. (see below)

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First I have to say, Mr. Terban is hilarious in his presentation. If you have a chance to listen to him speak, do it! You will be informed and entertained for the whole session. Mr. Terban said, “We write for children and therefore have a responsibility in doing it correctly.”

Three reasons why an author uses the best grammar possible:

1. The first person who reads it (agent/editor) does not want to fix it.
2. We write for kids and have a responsibility.
3. Modern day technology is ruining English.

If you send your work to an agent and she/he is looking at your query and someone else’s that is equally engaging, it may come down to grammar to make the decision on who to represent. It is extremely competitive in today’s market. Agents and editors want to work with authors that make their job easier. So even if your idea is good, but your paper is loaded with spelling and grammatical errors, they will pass on you.

 

Go here to see the top 15 grammatical errors that make you look silly.  http://www.copyblogger.com/grammar-goofs

 

English, and the learning of English, hasn’t changed. Look at some of Mr. Terban’s books, or all if you’re feeling confident your brain won’t explode from the awesomeness. Refresh yourself. Check on the things you think you know. Change all of the things that you have no frickin’ clue about.

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Schools can invite PROFESSOR GRAMMAR to visit their school by emailing him at mterban@verizon.net.

Like Laurel Snyder said, “It’s not enough to just produce something.”

Be magnificent! Be superb! Be brave!  Make your lasting finger print on the world. Be someone who wrote something that people can’t stop talking about. And then do it again, and again, and again…

Peace My Friends 🙂

*You can also find me on twitter @jeannieintrieri