September in Review

September did not exactly go as planned. This is the first time in a long time that’s happened. I’d created some fairly ambitious goals for September, and I accomplished ~3/5, barely.

You may not be able to tell from this blog, but I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard this year. It’s gone beyond “burning the candle at both ends.” Between work stuff, writing stuff, and personal stuff (swimming, reading, social, etc.), it feels like I’ve cut the candle into a bunch of smaller pieces so I could burn each of those at both ends. As a result, this month I may finally have snapped.

Mid-month, I decided to dial it way back and re-set my expectations about what I want to accomplish for the rest of this year. More on that (maybe) in a future blog post. This one is just meant to be a September wrap-up.

Let’s recap each of my goals (since I posted them for ya’ll to see…)…

1. SWIM at least 4 x 3300 yards per week

This would have resulted in ~52.8k yards swum in September. I actually ended up swimming 15 days for a total of 53k yards. So, I did okay on the yardage, but 15 days isn’t quite 4x per week. Still, I’m considering this one accomplished, but just barely.

2. READ at least 1 book per week on average

There were four weeks plus three days in September, and I read three novels, one short non-fiction book, one comic trade, and one “quarterly almanac” of short stories and book/movie reviews. So, I’m calling this one accomplished as well, but also just barely.

Here’s what I read this month (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

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  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Kindle, pre-order) — Supposedly this is VES in her “YA” mode. It’s the first of her “YA” books I’ve read. That said, it didn’t really feel much more “YA” than her Shades of Magic series. This may have something to do with the fact that it had that gritty almost-real-world feel to the world-building, plus the dark complexity around what makes someone a hero vs. a villian that Vicious did. So, yeah. I loved it and want more, please.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) — This book is like if you took the anthropological world building of an Ursula Le Guin book and crossed it with the TV show Firefly. I had a few small quibbles with parts of this book when I thought about it critically (see my Goodreads review for more on this, if you’re curious). But, overall, I loved it and I can’t wait to read more stories set in this world. Apparently, there is a new one coming out in October! Woo hoo!
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (Kindle, library) — Book two in the series, and it ends on a massive cliff-hanger. Most of this story takes place around VES’s equivalent of the “tri-wizard tournament” in Harry Potter. In the process, we get to know our main characters better, and we learn a little more about magic in this world. I’m looking forward to the final book in this series, and I’m bummed that I have to wait until next year for its release. NOTE: my Goodreads review contains spoilers. Don’t click on the link above if you don’t want to be spoiled.
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates (trade paper) — I know nothing about Black Panther except that he was in the latest Captain America movie. I do know that I really like Mr. Coates’s writing (I took note of his articles in The Atlantic and started following him long before Between the World and Me). This comic was really dense and satisfying because of that. There is definitely a much more complex story building here than I feel like you usually get in most Marvel comics. This feels more like volume one of Bitch Planet or The Wicked & The Divine than any of the recent X-Men volumes I’ve been consuming. This is a good thing. Our superhero stories could use more depth.
  • Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World by  Rian Van Der Merwe (Safari Books Online) — I’ve been thinking about my day-job a lot and realizing more and more that what I really want is to get closer to the engineering side of the world. I should have been a software engineer. I may still, someday, become a software engineer. But, in the meantime, I wanted to learn a little more about the difference between Program Managers and Product Managers. This book did a great job explaining what makes a great Product Manager and what great Product Managers do to ship great products. Highly recommend this one if you are considering becoming a Product Manager.
  • The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: June 2016 edited by The Book Smugglers (Kindle) — This collection had a “superhero” theme. It included some excellent reviews for some books I want to read and some superhero movies (one I saw and one I skipped). Plus, there were a few short stories and essays. All were very good, a few were fantastic. The only hang-up I had was the copy editing. For some reason there were a ton of copy edit errors in my Kindle version.

3. NaNoWriMo Prep

Well, I picked which project I’m going to work on. But I didn’t write a plot synopsis for any of the ideas I was considering. So, I should maybe just get partial credit for this goal. I’m pretty excited about this idea though… and I’m excited to dive into prep and research in October. It feels good to be back in “creation” mode again after months and months and months of editing.

I’ve also been working hard on getting my region ready for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been scheduling write-ins and the kick-off and TGIO parties. I’m working on prizes and prep sessions. I’ve already hit my first fundraising goal, and now I’m trying to see if I can raise a little more so I can bring a guest. I’m probably completely over-committing, but I’d rather start strong and see how it goes. I think I can make it work. It’s just a month. How bad could it be? (Famous last words…)

4. Re-read “Falling” and decide next steps

I didn’t even try to do this. I had too much else going on and decided that I didn’t want to try to push another project through before NaNoWriMo starts. I decided that I needed a break. So, all non-NaNoWriMo writing projects are officially on hold until January.

5. “Good clean living…” (no sweets, no alcohol except for one “cheat day” per week)

Yeah…. this did not happen. I bailed on this one pretty early. I don’t know what I was thinking. September is my husband’s birthday month, and if he was eating pie and drinking a beer, I certainly wasn’t going to just sit there and watch him! Plus, I had no real solid motivating factor here to keep me on the wagon. It’s not like I’m trying to lose weight or anything. This activity is best reserved for January as a post-holiday “cleanse” of sorts.

Oh, and this wasn’t exactly in my goals, but I totally bailed on that Instagram challenge (#IGAuthorLifeSept) that I said I was going to do in September.

Still, for a month where nothing seemed to be going as planned, I got the important stuff done. And, I definitely learned my lesson. Sometimes you just need a month to relax and re-group. I’m making a note of this and mentally scheduling December as my next “relax and re-group” month. After NaNoWriMo, I have a feeling I’ll need it!

Tagged: The Real Neat Blog Award

I’ve been tagged by Kayla at kdrewkthebookworm blog for something called the Real Neat Blog Award. Thanks, Kayla!

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Here’s how it works:

  1. Thank and link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the seven questions set to you.
  3. Create seven questions for your nominees.
  4. Nominate seven other bloggers.

Here are my answers to the questions Kayla asked:

  1. How many physical books do you own? Too many to count. Plus, it’s hard to tell where “my books” end and my husband’s books begin… some are pretty obvious, but there’s a lot of overlap. We did get rid of a lot of our books (donated to Friends of the Library) when we moved into this apartment, but we still have five completely full bookshelves and stacks of books everywhere.
  2. Under what circumstances would you DNF a book? If I find myself rolling my eyes on almost every page, or if I put it down and have pretty much no interest in picking it back up again, I’ll abandon it. If the book came highly recommended from a friend, I’ll return to it later to see if I just wasn’t in the mood for it at the time I tried to read it. That’s what I’m planning to do with the last book I DNFed.
  3. What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging? I love the community of people I’ve met through my blog (or their blog) over the years. Finding people out in the world who are interested in the same things I’m into is so exciting. My least favorite thing about blogging is the process of blogging. It takes me forever to write, edit, format, and add links (and *gasp* photos!) to my blog posts.
  4. Tell me a teaser sentence from the book you’re currently reading! I’m between books at the moment, but I just finished A Gathering of Shadows, and it ends on a massive cliff-hanger. I can’t wait for the next book. In the meantime, I’ll be dwelling on what happens after that last line… (which I won’t post here because, spoilers!)
  5. What device do you use to write your blog posts (computer, phone, etc.)? I almost always use my computer. I’ve tried to use the wordpress app on my phone to create new posts, but most of my posts are heavy on the words and hyperlinks and light on the photos. I find that typing, formatting, and hyperlinking on my phone is incredibly frustrating. I prefer to do those posts on my computer. But, if it’s a photo-heavy post, it’s way easier to do it on my phone.
  6. Tell me a little known fact about you that no other bloggers know. Hmm…. this one is pretty hard… I had to think about this one for a while and the best I can come up with is this: I became a major geek on bread baking about 14 years ago. I read a bunch of books. I made a sourdough starter. I taught myself to make a fairly decent loaf of pain au levain (the hard way… not any of that NYT bread in a cast iron soup pot stuff…). I also got pretty good at focaccia and cinnamon rolls. I love making bread, and I’ve always wanted to try working as a baker at some point.
  7. What song is stuck in your head right now? Ugh. This one is so embarrassing… Hey, Jealousy by the Gin Blossoms… I heard this playing in our cafeteria earlier this week, and it’s been stuck in my head since then. Oh, the ’90s nostalgia…

In turn, I nominate the following seven bloggers:

  1. Sharon
  2. Brynn
  3. Angela
  4. Bacon
  5. Alexandria
  6. Lana
  7. Shanna

To answer the following seven questions:

  1. How many books are currently on your (pick one) Goodreads TBR / Amazon wish list / library hold list / whatever other app you use to track books you want to read?
  2. Out of those books, if you had to pick just one to buy/borrow next, which one would it be and why?
  3. When you walk into a bookstore, what’s the first section that you go to?
  4. What future-release book are you most looking forward to reading and why? When does it come out?
  5. What book have you re-read the most? How many times?
  6. What was the last book you DNFed, and why?
  7. What was the last book you stayed up past your bedtime reading?

Thanks again to Kayla for tagging me! This has been really fun!

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

I’ve not been tagged, but my friend Sharon answered these on her blog (Library Hungry), and I got inspired. I tag anyone who hasn’t done this yet and wants to share their responses.

1) A popular book or series you didn’t like: I’m going to have to go with The Giver on this one… Maybe it’s just because I read it for the first time as an adult and after what seems like a million other books have come out that more or less have the exact same plot and, in my opinion, do it better.

2) A book or series everyone seems to hate, but you love: Like Sharon said in her post, my tastes (for the most part) are pretty mainstream. So, for this question I’m going to shine the light on an older series that doesn’t get a lot of love. Most people, when they think of Madeline L’Engle, shower all the love on her Wrinkle in Time series. I liked that series a lot, but the one that really got me was her series about Meg and Calvin’s family which focuses on the adventures of their children and mostly features their eldest daughter, Polly. The first of these books is apparently considered to be the last (5th) book in the Wrinkle in Time series (called An Acceptable Time). I think that book launched the O’Keefe family spin-off series (or maybe it was the other way around?) that starts with Arm of the Starfish. Both of these books were formative books in my YA reader life. (P.S. While adding links to this post, I realized that the Kindle version of Arm of the Starfish happens to be on sale for $2.99 right now… go buy it! –> )

3) A love triangle or romantic pairing you’re not a fan of: The one in An Ember in the Ashes. It’s actually more than a love triangle. There are conjoined love triangles in this book with one pair appearing in both, then each having their own “third wheel,” so to speak. I’m not even sure what shape that makes. But I was absolutely not invested in any of the pairings and possible romances, even though everyone seems to be all swoony over the boys in this book/series.

4) A popular genre you hardly ever reach for: Horror/Thriller. I’m not into the scary stuff.

5) A beloved book character who gets on your nerves in a major way: This is the part where everyone is going to hate me… Celaena Sardothien (aka Aelin) from the Throne of Glass series… There are a lot of other reasons why I enjoy these books, but the main character is rarely one of them. She’s got that angsty, broody YA hero thing down, and she’s independent to a life-threatening, world-destroying fault. She’s not shown herself to be a very good leader, or friend, which sometimes makes it just really hard to root for her. We’ll see how I feel after I read Empire of Storms, but so far, the books I’ve liked her best in are the prequel novellas. Please note: saying this *does not* mean I don’t like this series. Just because a character gets on your nerves, that doesn’t mean a book is bad. Sometimes it means exactly the opposite. Another example: Book 5 of the Harry Potter series is my favorite and that one features Harry at his most angsty and difficult to love point in the story.

6) A popular author you can’t seem to get into: I really can’t think of anyone here… I can’t think of a time when I wrote off an author because of one book/series I didn’t like. And, I can’t think of an author who is still writing books that I would never read anything by again just because I didn’t like one of their books, or a series they wrote.

7) A trope you’re tired of seeing: At the moment, I am burnt out on the “orphan teen queen/king hiding out as a street urchin / thief / assassin / rebel” trope. For some reason, it feels like this trope, and the “chosen one” trope, have been the only two plot arc choices for nearly every YA fantasy book over the past decade. I’m ready for something new.

8) A popular book or series you have no interest in reading: The Mortal Instruments series. I know this series has some serious fans, but it just doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy (mostly due to burn-out on that type of story/world/trope). However, at some point I do plan to try her Infernal Devices series.

9) The saying goes: the book is always better than the movie. But what movie or TV adaption did you like better than the original book? I really like the SyFy Channel’s TV show version of The Magicians better than I liked the first book in that series. I haven’t read the other two books in that series, yet. I’m trying to finish them before the second season starts. But so far I like the TV show better.

If you did this book tag, share a link to your post in the comments so I can go check it out!

September 2016 TBR (#IGAuthorLifeSept)

I’m splitting my TBR in two this month.

First are the books I’d like to read for research that will help me achieve my Fall Bootcamp goals.

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  • Under the Black Flag — I think I mentioned this one on here before. It’s been on my TBR stack for a while now. I bought it with the intention of reading it for research on the book idea that includes space pirates.
  • Physics of the Impossible — I just got this one. It’s a popular science book that I’ve heard is really helpful for understanding some sciencey bits that I need for world building.
  • The Seven Basic Plots — I checked this one out of the library years ago and read some of it, then skimmed through the rest before I had to return it. I decided to splurge and order myself a copy so I can use it for research and refer to it at my leisure.
  • Outlining Your Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel workbooks — I’ve heard these are good. I’ve read the Outlining Your Novel book and thought it was really helpful. So, I decided to try the workbook. I don’t really want to mark up the pages though… I may just use these as writing prompts and scribble in a notebook instead.

My second TBR are the books I want to read for fun this month. What’s appealing to me right now is fantasy and sci-fi aimed at “older” readers. That’s why my TBR for September looks like this:

September2016TBR

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Kindle, pre-order) — Book 5 in the Throne of Glass series will be magically delivered to my Kindle on Tuesday and I’m so excited about it that I can hardly wait! I may have too call in “reading” to work on Tuesday…😉
  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Kindle) — I’ve had this for over a month now and it’s killing me that I haven’t had time to read it. I started it last weekend and I think I may try to finish it this weekend. We’ll see how much reading time I get…
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) — still kicking myself for not having read this book yet. Argh. So many good books and such a brutal trade off for me between reading and writing.
  • The Just City by Jo Walton (Kindle) — this was the Tor book club book last month and it looks fascinating. It also looks like it would be exactly the sort of novel my husband (a philosophy major) might enjoy.
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman (Kindle, library) — I have this one on hold at the library because I’d really like to read it before they start season two of the TV show. I feel like season one may have already spoiled me for some of this story, but I’d still like to see how it plays out on the page.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (signed hardcover) — I convinced my work bookclub to read this book this month. Since I have a nice hardcover edition, I haven’t been taking it with me on my commute. I desperately need some at-home reading time so I can dive back into this story.

I definitely will not have time to read all these books this month. But, I’m hoping I’ll find time to at least finish a few of these. A book a week is my goal. I’m already behind schedule this week, but hoping to catch up over the long weekend.

Hope everyone has a relaxing and fun long weekend! Happy reading!

September goals (#IGAuthorLifeSept)

I posted this photo of my goals for the month for today’s #IGAuthorLifeSept post.

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To expand on item #3 in the photo, also hinted at by the piece of paper underneath my planner in the photo… I’m participating in the YA Buccaneers NaNoWriMo prep fall bootcamp. I’ve decided my goals for this bootcamp (September through November) are as follows:

FallBootcamp2016Goals

I have a bunch of ideas that have been tumbling about in my brain for the past year or so while I’ve been working on getting my two finished novels query-ready. They are:

  1. A private school, mother/daughter, all-girl super-hero gang ensemble story… I kind of want it to feel like the Taylor Swift “Bad Blood” video…
  2. A space opera romance that I’ve been meaning to write for almost ten… this one has space pirates, adventure, and female “coming of age” MC, pining after an unrequited love (that ultimately ends “happily ever after”)…
  3. A sequel to “Eve of the Fae” that will dig more into why the demons teamed up with Lord Edric against the Fae… Ari will be the star of this story and there will be a “stuck in the snow,” forced-proximity romance…
  4. The sequel story for “Lost Empire” that will flip between the drama at home (as Zane, Kilm, Katz, and Jace try to keep the tribes united) and the drama abroad (as Mia, Vlad, and Isla face the Koto on their turf).

I’m planning on nailing down the basics for each of these (protagonist, antagonist, goal, conflict, stakes, other key characters, some basic plot points, etc.). Then I want to pick one to write in November. If you feel strongly about any of these ideas, definitely let me know. If there is a lot of interest in one of these ideas over the others, I could be swayed in that direction. Otherwise, I’ll probably go with one of the first two because I really don’t want to write a sequel for a book that doesn’t even have a home yet.

Goal #4 in the photo above is a bit of a “stretch goal.” I’d like to re-read and figure out what to do with one of my old WIP novels (code name: “Falling”). More on that next week because I’m planning on using this for one of my Instagram photo challenge posts…

Oh yeah! One goal I didn’t list in my planner is the #IGAuthorLifeSept Instagram challenge! I’m attempting another Instagram photo challenge in September. I did one back in May and another one back in December. This time I don’t think I’m going to cross post the photos to this blog unless the topic seems blog worthy (like today’s and tomorrow’s prompts). So, if you want to follow along, go check out my Instagram feed.

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I think that’s probably enough to keep me busy this month… What do you think?

Don’t forget… Leave me a comment and tell me if you have strong feelings about any of my NaNoWriMo ideas.

If you donate to my fundraiser, I will reward you by sending you a link to read some of my post-NaNoWriMo draft chapters via a secret link for donors…

Or, if you’re not into that, you can sign up to be a beta reader… I’m always on the lookout for awesome beta readers!

August in Review

August is over. The summer is over. It’s officially “Back to School” time, and somehow I have resisted buying new notebooks and pens. Maybe it’s this very un-Fall-like Bay Area weather. I’m not a fan. Fall is my favorite season. I need the crisp, cool air! I need the hayrides and the football games! I need cozy sweaters and boots! Maybe what I really need is a trip to the homeland… Excuse me while I check prices for flights to the Midwest…

Oh, never mind. Who am I kidding. I used up all my vacation on summer adventures. I’ll just have to sit here in my new fall jacket and pretend that there’s a chill in the air. (Did I mention that I have the wanderlust real bad? Because I do. I really, really do.)

What was this post supposed to be about? Oh, right. August recap. Let’s talk about August, then.

As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t get into PitchWars this year. But, it’s okay. Oddly enough, I’m not that bummed about it. I feel good about the work I put into this novel. It’s a really hard contest to get into. I had requests (which is better than last year). Now, it’s time to get back to work. I’m going to have one more look at my MS (for you non-writer people, that stands for “manuscript”). Then I’m going to query and see what happens.

The other significantAugust event was that I competed in US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals. I raced five events, total. Two were events I’d never previously raced in long course (1500m free and 400m IM). In two others, I dropped significant chunks of time off my personal best times (6 second improvement in the 200m IM and 3 second improvement in the 200 breaststroke!). And, in my fifth event, I proved (once again) that I’m not a sprinter (my 100m breaststroke time was the same as the first 100 of my 200m race…). I ended up bringing home 3 medals: 4th in the 1500m free, 6th in the 200m breaststroke, and 7th in the 400m IM. I have to say, I’m pretty damn proud of myself.

So, if you’re keeping score, that’s one disappointment and one major accomplishment. Though, even without getting selected for PitchWars, I think you can count the writing, finishing, and polishing a second novel squarely in the “accomplishment” category. So… two accomplishments and one disappointment? Sounds good to me.

I will say, though, I didn’t get many books read while I was busy doing all this accomplishing. (That might have also had more to do with the time I spent obsessively checking my PitchWars mentor lists on Twitter hoping they’d drop hints about how much they loved my novel… Pathetic. I know.).

I did manage to read a few books. Not many, but don’t worry. I’m still on track for my annual goal of 50 books (35 finished so far). I started a bunch of different books, but I had a lot of trouble focusing on anything. Somehow, I managed to finish these three in August.

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  • I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Kindle) — This shouldn’t even count because I started it on vacation in July and finished it on August first. But I didn’t include it in my July recap. So, I get to count it here. Ha! What? You wanted to know about the book? Fine. It’s another of those Adirondack mystery stories with a side helping of romance. I’m making myself wait until next year to start the next one. It’s an Adirondack thing.
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (ebook, library) — I read this one so I could see if a young reader I know might enjoy it. I liked it and thought he might as well. So, I gave him a copy for his birthday, but it turns out he already had one. I should probably have saved my money for buying marked up candy from his “store.” If only he knew how much he has in common with the boy genius that is the “hero” of this novel…😉
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by Jack Thorne (hardcover) — Thanks, Mom, for buying me this hardcover! If you haven’t heard of this and you’re a Harry Potter fan, you must be living under a rock. I won’t say anything else because: no spoilers! Also, don’t click that link if you don’t want to read my review which may contain spoilers. Just saying.

Oh! I almost forgot! I’m more than halfway through my Gilmore Girls re-watch in preparation for the new episodes that are going to be released in November on Netflix. (Really, if you don’t know this already you must be living off-grid or something…) I’ve finally reached the episodes where Luke and Lorelai start kissing (finally!) and Rory is nearly ready to dump Dean for good. And, perhaps the accomplishment I’m most proud of this month is that I introduced my hubby to the show (in the middle of season four) and now he’s actually into it! Hooray! I knew he’d like it if he just gave it a chance!

Woah. Look at the time. This post has gone on forever, and I haven’t even started talking about my goals for September yet. I guess I’ll save that for my next post… Right now it’s time to get to bed. Those swimming medals don’t just win themselves. (Translation: I have to get up at 5am to go to practice). ‘Night!

Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2016

Well, I didn’t get selected for PitchWars this year (more on that in my August wrap-up post). But I’m not bummed. I’m actually pretty excited because this frees me up to spend the next two months diving into some serious NaNoWriMo prep. I haven’t written anything new since last year’s NaNoWriMo, and I seriously can’t wait to get started on a new novel! I have so many ideas. I just know I’m going to have trouble picking one to focus on.

In addition to being excited about writing the “new thing,” I’m also excited because I’m going to be a Municipal Liaison again this year for my region! I’m looking forward to planning some really fun write-in events. But before I get to that, I’m going to spend some time brainstorming, world-building, plotting, and outlining. I think this may be my favorite part of drafting a new novel…

This year, I’ve joined the YA Buccaneers fall writing bootcamp which is focused on NaNoWriMo prep. You can join too. Here’s a link to more info. The thing I’m most excited about accomplishing during bootcamp is creating my novel beat sheet. This is the tool that will guide my plot and character arcs and keep me on track during the drafting process.

As part of my NaNo Prep, I’m considering doing some blog posts and/or YouTube videos about my tools and process. This would include some writing books I find helpful, tools I use (like the beat sheet I mentioned above), and what I like to have done before I start writing. So, stay tuned if that sounds interesting to you.

I also took some time today to set up my donation page for this year’s Night of Writing Dangerously. I had so much fun at last year’s Night of Writing Dangerously (thank you, donors!), that I’d like to attend again.

Between now and November, I’m hoping you might consider donating $5 or $10 to the non-profit that runs NaNoWriMo, The Office of Letters and Light. Your donations help run their writing programs (like NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo), but donations also help bring creative writing programs to children, and provide resources for teachers. For a full run down of where your money goes when you donate, check out this page. And, when you’re ready to donate, please contribute through my donation page, here. (Right now the video is from last year. Stay tuned, I’m planning on posting a new one soon.)

If I can get 30 people to donate $10 each, I’ll have met my fundraising goal. So, please consider a donation, even a small one. Your contribution is much appreciated!