Archive for June, 2012

So no sooner do I open my big mouth and say how shiny my query is than I turn around and get a chance to prove it (or not). Daisy Carter is giving writers a chance to have their queries critiqued, all in preparation for a pitch contest with her very own agent, Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. The window is closing fast, so stop by her blog by midnight tonight if you are interested.

Here is my query open for all to critique:

Dear Fabulous Agent of My Dreams:

(I enjoyed meeting you/I chose submit to you paragraph goes here…)

 

Second born. Second place. Sara has been competing with her sister for attention all her life. Being perfect and never breaking the rules hasn’t made a difference. Frustrated, Sara sneaks out to attend the school dance. When she stumbles home drunk and tries to climb in through her sister’s window, she can’t believe what she’s seeing until it’s too late. Reality is forever altered. She runs away.

Lured back by her mother whom Sara hopes she can trust, she finds herself drugged and admitted to Whispering Sands Treatment Center as an out-of-control alcoholic runaway. Sara knows better; her parents are hiding her away to keep a secret that is not her own. She can hardly admit it to herself, so why tell someone else? She does tell the staff that she’s not crazy, but that’s like a convicted felon claiming she’s innocent.

Surrounded by the psychologically unbalanced and assigned a suicidal roomie who wants to rip everybody’s face off, Sara must find a way out. Hope comes from the baddest bitch on the unit. She tells Sara how to work the system, how to break the rules and pretend to be a sociopath on the road to recovery – she just wants a few favors in return. Her only refuge is with Matt, a boy who’s just as lost as she is. The stolen moments she finds with him after hours, in hidden spaces, might save the dwindling grip she has on her sanity.

INSTITUTIONALIZED; I’M NOT CRAZY is a young adult novel complete at 86,000 words. I have worked in the mental health field directly with adolescents in psychiatric facilities similar to the one described in my book. This manuscript won first place in the YA category in the 2012 Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. annual contest. I am also an active member of the Oklahoma SCBWI. Thank you for taking the time to consider my book. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Valerie Lawson

An excellent opportunity is coming up for writers out there with finished novels ready to practice their pitches. Brenda Drake is hosting a fantastic event along with the folks at Entangled Publishing on July 16th called the Entangled Mega Pitch. See her blog for the details here.

I know, I know. Blech! Pitches are worse than queries, you’re probably thinking. I used to think so, too. But recently I’ve forced myself to work on my query – and apparently after getting some mixed feedback from the Surprise Agent Invasion Contest, I really needed the practice. I tell you, after I kicked and screamed and held my breath and then actually sat down at my computer and then banged my head on my keyboard in frustration trying to write a query that anyone even liked, I finally started getting some positive results.

Mind over matter.

I really had to stop thinking that I couldn’t write a query and look at what a query is supposed to convey. It’s not supposed to tell us the entire plot of the novel, it’s supposed to give us the feel of the novel and entice us to want to read MORE.

Nathan Bransford boiled it down to “When X happens, your main character must do Y in order to Z”. Here’s a more detailed blog post he did called Query Letter Mad Lib for those who need help unraveling the beast that is the query letter. Actually Bransford’s site is a veritable cornucopia of useful information that all serious writers should plunder on a regular basis.

Once I finally felt I had conquered, or at least had a fair grasp on the query situation, another challenge beckoned – the The Writer’s Voice Twitter Pitch. Now I had to get my novel across in even less words? Are you crazy? Still, I thought I needed to be able to talk to people about my novel without rambling on like a blithering idiot, a rather awkward memory of just such a situation happening recently popped into my head. I shuddered, then realized I had to try it.

This one hurt my brain even worse than the query, but I did manage to eek out an entry just under 140 characters in time to participate. The one thing that shocked me during the manic activity of the twitter pitch was seeing some writers that had so many variations of their pitch. Seriously? They managed to come up with more than one workable pitch THAT SHORT? What was I doing wrong?

I needed more practice. And to stop being so rigid at how I was looking at my pitch. Trying out several different ideas and angles can sometimes be inspiring and help you find the one that really works best. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at both. I think these contest are great places to practice out your pitches and get some good feedback to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Recently someone asked me what my book was about and I sent them my elevator pitch. They were not only impressed that I had an elevator pitch ready off the cuff like that, but they also thought my pitch sounded like something they would want to read. Not that this was any guarantee that at the next social gathering I won’t blather on like an idiot about something, but at least it won’t be about my book.

So what are you waiting for? Brush up your pitch and give it a try! Hope to see you at the mega pitch!

I was inspired by a couple of thought-provoking books of poetry I read this past week by fellow Oklahoma writer Nathan Brown and wanted to share them with you. I met Nathan Brown a few years ago while taking a summer extension course through the University of Oklahoma that was set in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a week long immersion course in the culture and writing of the Southwest. It was taught by Robert Con Davis-Undiano; Nathan was there helping teach the course. For the class, I was introduced to writers completely new to me like Rudolpho Anaya who wrote Bless Me Ultima and Elena Avila who wrote Woman Who Glows in the Dark and to E.A. (Tony) Mares who wrote the most amazing book of poetry With the Eyes of a Raptor after the death of his daughter that I found so moving I couldn’t stop gushing about it even when he was right there in front of our class. That’s right; our group was the only one that had to do their presentation in front of the actual author.

No pressure there.

Tony, as we were told to call him, was very generous with his critique of our presentation. We also had the pleasure of his company at dinner later that evening where we heard him read his own work. He did a much better job than we did. Not every day was spent in the classroom, we also went to museums, ate fantastic local food, and watched a great flamenco performance. I loved every minute of it.

I stumbled across Nathan’s website this past year and remembered that he wrote poetry, too. He’d read something of his during our week in Santa Fe. I got in touch with him and found out how to purchase his books. The first one I read, Not Exactly Job, is a sometimes irreverent but always sincere response to the Old Testament book of Job. From the preface of the book, Nathan says, “The very form and lyrical essence of the Book of Job is poetry. And this fact…this problem…lies at the core of the difficulties I’ve had over the years with conservative theology when it comes to the nature of interpretation. Poetry is, and has always been, ‘something else’ – a ‘something else’ that is filled with metaphor, idiom, double meaning, and hidden intent. To look at it literally…destroys it.”

After an intro like that, I had to read on. Here’s one of my favorite passages from Not Exactly Job:

This…Thing

But where can wisdom be found?                              28:12

Where does understanding dwell?

That is the question…so much more so

than “To be…or not to be…”

Shakespeare missed other things as well.

But this -wisdom and understanding-

what Solomon prayed for over riches

and fame-what I prayed for,

because of Solomon, and am now

paying the price-this…thing

that Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin

were murdered for possessing-

this…thing we are told to seek, yet

when we do, it seldom brings peace-

the best among us…often…going

slowly insane from the incessant

rumble of its quiet thunder.                                        28:13-15

Heavy, heady stuff. And yet, haven’t we all had thoughts like this before? Maybe just me…

The second book, Suffer the Little Voices (which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in 2006), is a little darker.  We find our poet searching for answers and asking some tough questions, showing doubt in things he was raised to believe in, not afraid to say that he doesn’t know the answers himself. I found myself echoing many of those same doubts and questions. I have a very vivid memory of sitting in the front pew of my church with the rest of my youth group – something I started us doing after hearing someone complain that we always sat in the back and never paid attention; I was a rebel even in church. I was looking around at the congregation one Sunday as we were all just vacantly repeating words back to the minister like autobots that should have been – in my opinion – shouted out with feeling and deep emotion. A big hairy doubt monster began to grow in my brain that day. I wondered what in the hell we were doing. What did all of this mindless rhetoric mean if no one was really paying attention? I started contemplating even scarier questions that I really didn’t know the answers to, that I was afraid to even say out loud.

Nathan Brown’s not afraid to ask those questions or let us peak into his imperfect thoughts. That is something I love about poetry. It can tap into the heart of any issue, get right down into the truth of the emotions, no matter how unpretty they may be. Real emotions make for great writing. We can all learn something from the poets.

Here is one of my favorite passages from Suffer the Little Voices:

Broken

I’ll write from the bottom,

stack letters and words-

maybe even enough punctuation-

around my feet at the base

of this dry well-

stepping up a layer at a time-

until piles of broken literature

raise my head to the surface.

There’s little light down here.

but I only need a little-

enough to be able to read

the piles of broken literature

written by others.

To see how they got out-

what they did when they

got back to the surface.

Have you ever had moments of doubt? Lost faith in something you believed in? Is this something you can use in your writing?

Patience is its Own Reward

Being the mom of a son with autism, I often hear things like, “You are so patient with him” or “You have the patience of Job”.  Sure, I can stand my ground in a public place while my son is yelling at me, throwing a code red tantrum, and not only keep calm with him, but even if someone comes over to offer help or to ask me to keep it down, I can turn to them – while remaining placid as a lake in Canada and controlling my desire to throttle them – and say, “My son has autism and I’ve got this under control. Thank you.” Yeah, the whole patience thing was totally developed by necessity and definitely not by my choice, I can tell you.

I am not naturally a patient person.

One only has to hop in the car with me and go for a drive, then you’ll see me at my worst. (Only in really heavy traffic and then I only swear like a sailor and make creative hand gestures while having loud, one-sided conversations with the other drivers. I’m not dangerous or anything, honest.) I learned the hard way that if you beg, plead, scream and yell, or stomp your feet at a kid with autism to cajole him into doing what you want, if he’s not ready or willing to do it, odds are he’s not going to do it EVER – the mountain will not be moved – and all of your efforts to force him will only makes things worse.

This reminds me a lot of my writing journey thus far. I’ve had to learn to be patient many times over – it’s like someone out there is trying to tell me something as I bang my head up against wall after wall. (Patience is important or a virtue or something, I don’t know.) I’ve wanted to be a published children’s writer more than anything. Before I joined a critique group or let anyone even read my first story, I wrote out a picture book manuscript, I’m the Princess!,  somewhere over three thousand words long. I had to cut it down to two thousand words – and I thought that was quite an accomplishment – to submit it to a writing contest. I was sure that winning this contest would be my key to getting published quickly. I was so confident that my story was the best, that I waited for the inevitable notification of my win. When it didn’t come, I was completely shocked. I didn’t even place! What was wrong with those people? Didn’t they recognize talent when they saw it?

After my denial wore off, I decided that maybe I needed to try something else. Thankfully, it wasn’t long afterwards that I came to my senses and joined SCBWI. I was so embarrassed when I learned that the average length of a picture book manuscript shouldn’t really be any longer than fifteen hundred words. (Now, I think they like them even shorter.)  I realized after studying many well written picture books and learning more about the whole writing process that I’m not really a picture book writer. Picture books are extremely hard to write well and are a completely different animal. I think the best ones are more like poetry. Maybe some day I’ll master that format, but I know I am far from it right now. Until then, I’m the Princess! will stay buried deep in the vault, as a painful reminder of where I started. Although it did make a brief appearance at one of our local SCBWI schmoozes where some of us brought examples of our writing comparing our early works to our recent works, to show how we’d grown as writers. Yes, the laughter was the loudest during the reading of my “before” example. Okay, I can’t keep you in suspense, here’s just the first paragraph:

Princess Isabelle fluttered her dark eyelashes as she opened her dazzling deep blue eyes. A sunbeam fell across her long wavy light brown hair, making an ocean of golden thread on her pillow. She sat up slowly and stretched her delicate arms into the air, her perfectly pink mouth opened into a tiny, perfect yawn. A most enchanting smile crossed her face as she remembered her plan for mischief this morning. She jumped out of bed, slammed open her huge golden doors and yelled down the corridor.

That’s all the sample I can bear. I’m afraid it didn’t get any better in the following paragraphs. I left nothing to the illustrator’s imagination – mistake number one. (No need to go through them all, seriously, this manuscript was thoroughly dissected at the schmooze.) How could I have crammed so many flowery descriptors into one mouthful? OMG! That is just painful to look at.

Still, I didn’t learn all the lessons in patience that I needed to. I did realize that I wanted to tell too much of the story for the picture book format and moved on to the daunting middle grade format. I was scared at first. How could I possibly write an entire novel? Three thousand words was easy, but thirty thousand words? Fifty thousand? Impossible! But I started writing anyway. Slowly. One chapter at a time. I studied my craft and learned as much as I could this time about the rules of the middle grade format. I attended conferences and joined a critique group. I started reading middle grade novels like crazy. Finally, a few years later, I had my first completed middle grade novel and my critique group loved it. It still needed to be revised and had some plot issues to work out, but it was a great start. I was a real writer. But sometimes it was hard to hear about other writers in our group sending off their work to editors and agents; I wanted to be doing that, too. I went ahead and sent out work that wasn’t anywhere near ready. I received form rejection letters in return for my trouble. Oh, patience! When would you be mine?

After so many form rejections I lost count, no personals, and no requests for fulls, something told me it was time to go back to the drawing board. Then, while in the middle of revisions on my first middle grade and halfway through the first draft of my second middle grade, I had this idea for a YA novel that would not go away. It was so different from what I’d been writing I was a little worried about switching gears so completely. I remembered something I’d heard an author at a conference I’d attended (I think it was Rachel Cohn, but I can’t be sure) about following the voice that pulls you the strongest and I knew I had to at least try it.

I was beyond nervous the first time I brought a chapter of Institutionalized to my critique group. They were surprised by the change of direction, some of the language, and content, but they also loved the main character and THE VOICE. I’d finally gotten it right. And once passed the initial shock, they all were on board and so supportive. I wrote this one so much faster and so differently than all the others. I knew this was one THE ONE. This time, though I didn’t want to rush it. I received some critiques from editors and agents at conferences, all with positive results and some very helpful constructive criticisms. I did the necessary revisions and had it critiqued again and did more revising. Finally it was time to start sending it out. YIKES!

The results so far have been much more promising than the first time, with personal rejections and helpful comments and requests for additional pages, but the road is far from over and I still find myself looking too far into the future, wistfully wanting to skip the necessary steps and be crossing that damned elusive publishing finish line already. One day at a time and one step at a time. I know, I know!

Do you ever find yourself feeling impatient with where you are as a writer? Do you ever wonder ‘why don’t they see how talented I am and pick me already?’ What are some of your embarrassing stories along your road to publication? I’d love to hear them.

One nice thing about going on vacation was that I received several awards while I was gone. It was like coming home and checking the mailbox to find it stuffed with wonderful packages instead of junk mail. Thanks so much to Paula at stuff i tell my sister for giving me another Sunshine Award (I never get tired of that colorful one) and thanks to Sarah Henson at Word (en)Count(ers) for another Versatile Blogger Award (I’m always trying to be versatile). I’m loving the repeat awards just as much the second time around. (See this post for my response to the first time I received both awards.) Greed, thy name is Valerie.

Then, I received a brand, spanking new award from Suzi Retzlaff at Literary Engineer. She passed The Booker Award on to me, and I must say it is the most interesting award I’ve received so far.

The rules for the Booker Award:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay)

Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay) You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

Now for the hard part; whittling down all the books that I have fallen in love with throughout my life that have for one reason or another moved me in a very special way down to just five ten (I couldn’t make it down to five). Impossible, you say? Yes! I agree. So I just randomly drew these lucky souls out of a bowler hat:

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – one of the first books where I really discovered the magic of the written word. It sunk its teeth into me and never let go.
  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler – such a beautifully poignant story about loss and what comes after. It just made my heart ache over and over.
  • Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King – my first introduction to the wonder that is Amy King.
  • Ethan Between Us by Anna Myers – one of my favorite books by my dear friend.
  • Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie – such a fantastic writer. This book has one scene that is so horrifically violent, so devastating, yet told in such a way that it is emotionally moving as well. I cannot get it out of my head to this day.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green – started my love affair with all that is John Green.
  • The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood – one of the first dystopian books I ever loved.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – who wouldn’t love a book narrated by death?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I loved everything about this book. It stands the test of time.
  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt – I never thought a book about animals could be so emotionally evocative. This is a book meant for writers to read.
  • Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – she really answered all of my serious questions that no one else in my life at the time could answer. This is why I write the kind of stories I do now.

So many other books on my shelves are screaming, “What about me? Didn’t you love me just as much?” Poor, sad books. Of course I did. I wish I could tell all about you as well, but that would take all day. I can let the kind people reading this blog learn more about the other books I’ve read so far this year here. As for the rest of you, I’ll dust your shelves extra well and maybe even reread a few of you soon, all right? (I’m not the only one who talks to their books, am I?)

As for the lucky stories listed above, when I read each of them, at some point along the journey, I had a visceral response to what the characters were going through that connected me to it forever. That’s all I really want in a story; an honest emotional connection that grabs me right in the gut and makes me continue thinking about it long after I’ve reached the end. I really am easy to please.

What about you? What qualifications does a book need to meet in order to make it on to your top ten list?

And finally, I hereby bequeath this most revered of blog awards onto the following worthy bloggers:

I look forward to seeing your literary selections in the near future.

I have been working so hard on my writing lately that taking a break from everything familiar and immersing myself in the creative energy of Santa Fe was just what I needed. It had been so long since we’d gone on a vacation together as a family, (maybe ten years?) that I really enjoyed getting to spend some unhurried time with them. And with my best friend there, it was all the more fantastic.  We ate various local cuisines – New Mexican (and ordered ours Christmas, of course), Middle Eastern, to name a few – we meandered down Canyon Road to soak in the local art galleries, even watched some artists working in their studios, which is something that I could have done that all day. We drove up higher into the mountains to Los Alamos to visit some family who live there. The kids got to see some horses and feed them and we went on a short hike. It’s so gorgeous up there. The sky is so brilliant, I swear it’s a completely different hue. I took hundreds of pictures and none of them captured it at all.

Traveling with kids requires some compromise. We had to throw in some touristy things and at least visit the hotel pool a few times during our stay. We had to find the closest zoo to see the elephants and the hippopotami before my son had a complete stroke, which was in Albuquerque and actually quite fantastic, and my son was also in desperate need of a train ride – another excellent addition to our trip. My daughter’s one requirement was shopping, so she had to experience The Plaza and all of the quaint little shops – I think she went inside every single one. That was not my favorite, but still, we made it enjoyable. Although the sales ladies in the pottery store didn’t fully appreciate my husband’s sense of humor when he said he was looking for something to juggle. He was making fun of their bazillion signs that said “do not touch”. Yep, that’s my family to a tee.

We have vowed that we won’t wait another ten years to take our next family vacation, especially since Trevor handled it so well. He was completely out of his element, with no predictable schedule, and he never had a full-blown meltdown. That’s pretty impressive for a kid with autism. We did have to make some accommodations for him and adjust our schedule a few times, but nothing unbearable.

I found myself inspired by so many things during our visit. I would make a mental note of a scene or a character or artwork to use later. That’s why I think it is so important to expose myself to different experiences and take time off so that I can let new experiences in. Now that we’ve returned home, which is another welcome sensation altogether, I’m fully recharged and ready to get back to work.

Here’s one last look at my #writemotivation goals for the month of May:

1. Revise the query for my completed YA manuscript until it’s tight enough to bounce a quarter off the sucker. I made a lot of progress on this goal throughout the month. I fear I could endlessly revise. It’s time to put this manuscript to rest while I’m submitting it to agents and move on to the next one.

2. Research prospective agents to whom I want to submit my completed YA manuscript. Yes. I have researched many, many agents this month. Goal accomplished.

3. Once items one and two have been successfully achieved, submit to at least three agents at a time. Yes, goal very much accomplished. I really have #writemotivation to thank for pushing me to finally take the plunge to submit and to keep submitting, even when the first rejections started rolling in. I’ve submitted to overnine agents so far. Not all have been rejections; some even requested more pages and I’m waiting to hear back. I’m hanging in there. I know this is just part of the process – a very stressful part of the process. Good thing I just went on vacation to de-stress, eh?

4. Get cracking on the next YA manuscript I have planned so I don’t check my inbox every thirty minutes awaiting responses to my submissions. This is a work in progress. I hope to make this more of my focus next month, now that I have the submission process down. I’ve signed up for a novel revision workshop in November and I have to have a manuscript ready by September. I’d like to use this new one, so I need to get some serious writing done. I’ll keep you updated. Stay tuned!

One of the most fascinating topics of discussion I have with people once they find out I’m a writer – second only to “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a story! (Can you help me write it?)” –  is that of censorship. This is especially popular with the YA crowd. I love a good probing discussion, and while I do understand that some people think certain topics are unsuitable for children, I must say that I am firmly against censorship in any form. Period.

This stance of mine makes for a lively debate. Sometimes the challenge of my view comes from other writers – which I must say is so odd. I would assume that all writers would be completely open-minded and fully against censorship in all forms, but that is just not the case.  Maybe they would take these words literally:

 “Obviously, the danger is not in the actual act of reading itself, but rather, the possibility that the texts children read will incite questions, introduce novel ideas, and provoke critical inquiry.” Persis M. Karim (The New Assault on Libraries)

I’ve had some enlightening discussions to say the least – some within my own local writing chapter. Here’s a fictionalized version of how one of these conversations might go:

My Fellow Writer: Do you think children/teenagers should be allowed to read books with so much violence, especially a book about children killing each other?

Me: Absolutely. Whether that book is Lord of the Flies or The Hunger Games or some other book.

MFW: But don’t you think the violence is gratuitous?

Me: No. I actually think it’s toned down compared to reality. Haven’t you heard of the Invisible Children? This kind of thing is actually going on today, but on a much more brutal scale.

(Side note: This isn’t all happening in Uganda either, despite the wonderful media coverage Kony has received. According to Amnesty International’s website, “worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited…” And according to another website, this one for the SOS Children’s Villages, “Since 1998 there have been armed conflicts involving child soldiers in at least 36 countries.” )

MFW: Okay, but what about books with frank discussions of sex and characters making bad choices? Would you let your daughter read them?

Me: Definitely. I think books like Twenty Boy Summer and Beauty Queens (or whatever Ellen Hopkins book we’re talking about) encourage interesting conversations with her.

MFW: You talk to her about sex? ACK!

ME: Of course! Don’t you talk to your child about sex? If not, where does she go with her questions? The internet? Her friends? I’d much rather she felt comfortable coming to me and getting accurate information than risk her going elsewhere and believing that she could get pregnant from a toilet seat or something stupid like that. Or worse…having her end up pregnant. Period.

Let me expand on this a bit more.

Reading about violence isn’t going to traumatize your child unless it’s a badly written book – then who wouldn’t be traumatized by it? It’s also not going to turn your child into a sociopath. Millions of kids read The Hunger Games. I have yet to see a spike in youth violence directly correlated to it. The killing in that book wasn’t relished over by the characters, it wasn’t seen as a badge of honor or something to be proud of. In fact, the death of one of the most innocent, endearing characters was felt deeply by many communities within the book – and I’m sure most readers had a hard time getting through that particular scene without tearing up.

What better way to teach kids the horrors of war?

Would you rather your child actually live through one or experience those same emotions vicariously through a fantastic story that really moves them? Isn’t THAT the way it should be?

And on the sex front, trying to keep a teenager from making bad choices when they are all hopped up on hairspray and hormones? You gotta be kidding. The only people who even think that is possible have effectively blocked out all memories of what it was like to BE a teenager. Every parent with a teenager should be doling out sex ed information like it was candy. According to the latest research, (surprise, surprise) abstinence-only education does not work. In fact, the states where that is still being taught as the main form of birth-control have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Hmm, I guess information IS power.

We can’t protect our kids from every bad thing that could ever happen, keep them ignorant of reality forever, or hope that they never discover that they are indeed sexual beings. It is not only doing them a grave disservice, it will keep them from developing vital coping skills they will need to become healthy adults.

So when I am asked if I allow my daughter to read questionable books, I say hell yes! I want her to explore her world and ask me all the hard questions she wants. I try my best to answer them. I don’t shelter her from anything. She can handle it.

So where do you stand on the censorship issue? Are there books/topics you think are too much for kids to handle? Do you think some forms of censorship are okay?

 

And with that controversial post…I’m off on vacation for a week! I’ll get back to your comments as soon as I can and I look forward to all of them.