Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Coville’




The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 3 Sunday

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Writing for Children

And we are winding down to the last day of the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference. And the jet lag is starting to lose it’s steam, so of course I arrange for an early morning Class of 2k12 mini breakfast reunion with Suzanne Lazear (The Aether Chronicles) and Caroline Starr Rose (May B and Blue Birds). It was worth every yawn to have some quality time with my girls. <3 This is my public service announcement for the day: My class of 2k12 friends were indispensable to me for the last three years. If you are slotted for debut publication, seriously consider becoming part of the Class of’s Contact me if you need help finding contacts in the up and coming groups. I’ll help you figure it out.



The official morning started off with Deborah Halverson and her always helpful Market Report. Besides the who, what, when, where and why of the children’s book market being incredibly dynamic, she provided us with an amazing handout…


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Just another fabulous benefit of being an SCBWI member and attending these awesome conferences. *fist pump* Time to join people–this organization is fabulous and means the world to me. Here is what you should know…

*Up-swing in picture books

*Increased demand for highly illustrated early chapter books.

*In response to Common Core:

-Not a lot of acquisition changes. Same quality books–just might market them differently.

-Eye out for subject matter that touches multiple areas. The more hooks the better.

*Diversity projects are increasing but editors are looking for approaches that are not stereotypical or heavy handed.

*MG is finally coming into it’s own–promising place for single tittles.

*The bar is very high with books like WONDER but there are varying needs within this audience.

*MG is allows slow growth over several years. 2-3 year projections while YA is more likely to be evaluated in a quick splash.

*YA possibly over saturated. Editors being picky.

*Popular, established authors are getting sales.

*Trilogy is slowly dying.


*Contemporary realistic fiction getting a bump.

*YA lovers continue reading after aging out.


Next up was an amazing Keynote with Linda Sue Park–THE HOW OF IT: MAKING EVERY WORD COUNT


This presentation was the PERFECT combination of technically useful and emotionally inspirational. LSP is hard to beat, she is a master of craft and emotionally dedicated to her work. Here is what you should know…

*Don’t bore the editor–you want then to hang on your every word so make every word count.

*How? Use the tools of the writing craft–WORDS!

*Small changes make huge differences.

*ALWAYS put your finished MS away for several weeks before you send it out. Look at it again with fresh eyes.

*Use the word count function and whittle down your words slowly.

-Pick your best words and put them in the best order.

*Change your font, it will help you see your MS differently.

*Print your work out and read it in a different location–some place you don’t usually write.

*Read your work aloud from beginning to end or have someone read it to you.

*Words have become one of our cheapest currencies because of technology and social media, so it’s even more important that we value our words.

*An adult is never going to love and reread books the way they will when they fall in love with a book as a child–our books have to be worthy of being ready more than 62 times. (Daniel) <3



Our next Keynote was by Sharon Flake–WALKING WOUNDED: HOW TO KEEP WRITING AFTER YOU’VE HIT THE WALL. Her best take aways were…

*”Magic” can give you a false sense of confidence.

*Kids need to know that there is more than one way to be a human being.

*Remember it’s in you to make it through.

*I love writing so much that even when it didn’t feel good I kept going.

*It’s about being a connection.


My first Workshop of the day was with Bonnie Bader–LEVELED READERS AND TRANSITIONAL CHAPTER BOOKS.

As a mom and a former special education teacher I really wanted to make some sense of this area that always seems so inconsistent and confusing to me. I walked away with a very good understanding of how these books work or don’t work and how difficult they are to write. I feel like they are a sudoku puzzle for children’s writers LOL! I think when I get a little extra time on my hands I might play around with the sight word list a little bit and see if I’m any good at it. If you see me with chunks of my hair pull out, you’ll know what I was doing.

Time for the Golden Kite Luncheon!!!!!

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This is when we honor the outstanding members of our tribe. This year’s Member of the Year was Ellen Hopkins for her above and beyond service to the SCBWI and it’s tribe members. Love her! We also celebrated our Golden Kite winners.



Peter Brown–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Illustration



Pat Zietlow Miller–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Text



David Meissner–Golden Kite Winner for Non-fiction



Tim Federle–Golden Kite Winner for Fiction



And Bill Konigsberg–winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award

Each of these award winning tribe members gave amazing, funny and inspirational speeches. Best crop of award winners I’ve heard as a whole. I left lunch full, inspired and motivated. Can’t wait to read their books!!!!!


My afternoon Workshop was with Bruce Coville–NO BUT SERIOUSLY, THE ART AND CRAFT OF WRITING A SERIES

Sorry no picture–we got right down to business and there was a lot to learn. One of the great things for me at the conference was that I was able to take some very interesting classes on new topics I’d never explored before. As a regular conference attendee, this made me very happy.

Here are a few tips about series writing from Bruce who has 15 series under his belt…

*Show up at your desk–when you are doing your work you will maintain a certain level of competence in your writing and some times you will be lucky enough to rise above your own abilities.

*Two most important times of creativity are coming in and out of sleep–use them to your advantage.

*Always go for royalties because you are betting on yourself–the 1st Hardy Boys book (with a packager) the author made $150 Doh!

*Craft without inspiration is basket weaving. Inspiration without craft is modern art. *insert Bruce giggle here*

*An outline is not an impediment to creativity.

-Bruce’s tend to be front heavy

-They never end the way he planned and that’s ok

*If you want to explore a world or character with more depth than one book–a series is the way to go.

*Conclude a story but throw in an unresolved cord.

*Create your bible.

-prevents contradictions

-tells what the world is gong to be

-characters, side kicks and bad guys



-Show you are taking your work seriously

*Writing for a packager is a great way to hone your craft–you should always write a book better than what they are expecting.

*Problems with a series:

-consistent deadlines

-keeping it fresh

-keeping it consistent (BIBLE)

-getting important info to the people who haven’t read the previous books

-topping yourself

-knowing when to stop

*Our lives are series non-fiction <3


I told you I’d have more Tomie!!! We were still able to do his interview with Lin Oliver via Skype <3


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His bits of wisdom and love…


*Being an artist is also the way you live your life.

*When you create your art–be prepared to be misunderstood.

And then after feeling like I had the biggest, warmest pep talk from my SCBWI Yoda/Grandpa–Judy Blume stepped onto the stage for an inspirational send off…

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* I was far from a courageous child–except in my head.

*I was brave in my writing the way I wasn’t in my life.

*Judy’s take away word from the conference is FOCUS.

*Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try–get angry not depressed!

*Determination is as important as talent.

*It doesn’t ever get easier–persist.

*Ideas come from everywhere and you never know when they will arrive.

*Kick the critic off of one shoulder and the sensor off the other. Sometimes you just have to write a book and not worry about who is going to read it.

As if this wasn’t enough, Judy shared with us the ups and downs of a project she’s currently working on and how she would also be leaving the conference inspired to go back to her work. Just like me–just like everyone else in that room who had the pleasure of hearing one of our greatest idols speak.

After a long and powerful standing ovation for Judy, Lin Oliver closed with this…

“We picked a very difficult and challenging road–it’s so much better that we walk down it together–hand in hand and arm and arm.”

My Tribe–I am grateful. <3

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Yes, I photo bombed Meg Medina LOL!


But then Jodi and I gave her hugs so she didn’t mind.


Chatting with Bruce Coville–he’s such a hoot! Always love his advice.


Me and Bruce Coville <3


Like Aaron Becker and Journey and Journey says…Don’t stop believing.


Fan girling over Maggie Stiefvater–helping me solve for X.


Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and Stink fame.


Love her–she’s fabulously hilarious.

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Judy Schachner or Miss Judy as my 9yo likes to call her–signing her newest, adorable Bits & Pieces.

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Judy talking picture books with Jodi Moore author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. I want a collaboration–when Skippy Joh Jones moves in with my favorite Dragon.

And then it was over. Dinner with friends while talking about three days worth of awesomeness. Hugs goodbye. Suitcases packed and the pull to find your way home to family and the page where you left off in your own writing…

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Hope you are as inspired as I still am over a week later. And my fingers are crossed that you enjoyed my conference recaps. See you on Thursday with a little conference bonus post before I put LA away until next year. <3


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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 9

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Conferences, SCBWI

This is it!  I’m ready to finish this up and move on.  Fasten your seat belts and get ready for your final SCBWI LA Conference installment!

This is not John Green.  Not a single one.

Nova Ren Suma, Julie Strauss-Gabel and Michael Bourret fill in for the missing John Green. (unable to make it due to medical issues)  I was seriously bummed not to get to meet one of my favorite authors, but so happy for my friend Nova (author of IMAGINARY GIRLS) to get this opportunity.  

I wasnt the only Nova fan!  Every crowd should have an enthusiastic Mike Jung in the back LOL!  (If you’re lucky)
Some highlights from their discussion…
*Nova-When something really scares you, its probably the right thing to explore.  I picked Michael as an agent because he pushed me to grow as a writer.
*Michael-I know that I’ve lost out on clients because I’ve been honest about what my expectations were.
From my own experience, I can’t agree more.  A great fit with your agent is the foundation you need and it will increase the chances that you’ll find an editor who is also an amazing match.
Time for the 2011 Golden Kite Awards Luncheon
We had a wonderful slide show, looking back over 40 years.  It was amazing.  Wish it was posted some place so that I could share it with you

This was dessert.  Everything about this made me smile.

Listening to the speeches of the Golden Kite recipients.  They were fantastic–so proud of them.

A special keynote from the impeccable Richard Peck.  I adore this man.  

Hanging with the Apocalypsies…Emily, Kim, Tamara and Mike.

This is when that big lunch and dessert became a problem.  Navigating the halls in a chocolate coma, I didn’t get to Bruce Coville’s workshop in time to get a seat or a piece of rug.  This picture was taken from the door with my hands up over my head.  The good news was that I could hear him just fine.

GAHHH!!!! Every word out of this man’s mouth is genius.  I’ll try to pick the best ones to share with you…
*Stories happen when a character is forced to make a difficult choice.  NEED DRIVES THE ACTION.
*Use yourself, steal from everyone around you.  Cast the book as if you are writing a play.
*Characters should have…
     -an agenda (theirs, not yours)
     -some inconsistencies (do you know anyone who doesn’t?)
*Plot is what happens when desire meets obstacle.
*If there is no chance to crash if you have not jumped.
Because the universe is fair, and wanted to make up for my inability to even cross the threshold of Bruce’s workshop, I was able to snag front row seats for the final keynote of the conference.  *squee*  While we waited for…drum roll…Laurie Halse Anderson.  We decided to take some pictures.  Guess who joined us?  Linda Sue Park!!!!!

Jodi, Laura, Edna, Amy N., Linda Sue Park, Kim and Amy S.

Then Linda switched out with our buddy Jeff so he could get in the picture too!
Laurie Halse Anderson-DARING THE UNIVERSE
Laurie, means so much to me.  I can’t put into words the effect that she has had on my life, the impact she has made.  The places I’ve dared to go because I knew I had a friend along for the journey.  Yes, because of her I have become someone who dares to disturb the universe.  I love that, I love her and I want a T-shirt that says it!  

Here is what you just can’t miss…
*Art disturbs the universe.  When we create it we make our neighbors nervous and our politicians fret.  
*We gather here to collect our courage.
*Revolutions of the soul are a scary thing.
*If you don’t jump, the wings never come.
*To write is to terrorize yourself.
*When things get bad, just remember, BABY…YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.  Puts it in perspective. Ha!
*It is your obligation to disturb the universe the best that you can.
*In 20 years, you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do than the ones you did.
*In children’s literature, we are not competitors, we are co-conspirators.
And here are the best co-conspirators that any of us could possibly have.  *sniff* 
Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser taking a bow after 40 years of love, dedication and brilliance.  <3

Dan Santat signing a book for the boys.

Kim and Dan giving K.L. Going the thumbs up.  (Dan is illustrating her new picture book)
The amazing author/illustrator Marla Frazee.  I adore her picture books.  *heart squish*

No one can blame me for sneaking Jon Scieszka the bunny ears.  He’s just mad because he didn’t think of it first. LOL!

No need to get teary about the end of the conference–yet.  It’s off to KidLit Night at the Pink Taco!!!!

What you don’t know is that we’re hungry enough to eat the table!  (Can you see me leaning in?)

Apocalypsies!!!!  Gretchen, Kim, Emily and Debra.  I love these gals!!!!

We ate.  We hung out.  A few of us even did the Pitch Slam with Mary Kole. 
 It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone.  The conference was amazing, but it was time to go home to the other people we love, to return to our writing, to once again sleep more than 4 consecutive hours and to begin to dream about going again next year.  Ummm and to do laundry.  *head thunk*
I know that these recaps have been endless.  I hope I was able to capture a little bit of the magic of the experience and share it with you.  Because honestly, I wish you’d been there too.  If you have any recommendations for things you’d like to see in future conference blogs–let me know and I’ll see if I can make it happen.  Hope to see you at a conference soon.  :o)

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 4

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI

Imagine it’s Saturday, the second day of the SCBWI LA Conference.  You are up at 7am and you’ve freaked out your roommate by Face-Timing your family on the computer while she’s in the shower.  (She thought you invited a gaggle of really loud people into the room and figured she might have to dash out and say hi in her underwear.)  All is forgiven when your kids see her (fully clothed) and run to grab her debut picture book, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. Impressively, they can put their hands on the book in less than 30 seconds, making your roommate very, very happy.  *grin*  You don’t even have to buy her a make-up cake-pop.   You cyber kiss your kids and pray for your hubby who is road tripping to New York City with the rug rats to “do stuff”.  You and your roommie head out the door when you realize that you’ve got a phone message on the room phone.  Popular roommate is being sought by the goddess of the Blue Boards, Verla Kay.  Off we go…

Jodi Moore, her Dragon and Verla Kay for a mini book signing.
And guess who Verla’s roommie is?  Linda Jo Singleton!!!
Verla and Kim <3
But the clock is ticking and its time to find your coffee (which out of desperation has changed from decaf to half reg/half decaf) and something yummy to snack on.
This is the point in the morning that you realize you just left your camera in Verla’s room. *head thunk* So you run, passing Richard Peck (blowing kisses) as you leap into an elevator and hope you’re not too late.  Verla is walking down the hall and you wave your arms and she pulls your camera out of her bag.  Like a lightning bolt, it all becomes very clear.  There is no way in hell that you will ever be able to host a discussion board.  Not gonna happen.  You’ve discovered your social media limits and it feels good.  You hug Verla (because she’s cool that way) and slide into the Starbucks line just in time to meet another cyber friend…
Kim and Debbie Ohi!!!!!
And FINALLY, coffee and bagel.  

If, and only if, you can visualize this, will you be ready to have the full Saturday morning conference experience.  Let’s roll!


For the record, next time the Wall Street Journal wants to write about YA books being too dark, I’m going to gift wrap the brilliant Donna Jo Napoli and send her to them.  Donna Jo laid out a brilliant response to those people who do not understand why we must write about terrible things.

First she talked about the Unprotected Children in the world.  They are…
     -The children who are loved by their parents, but are abused by society.
     -The children who are abused by their parents.

She said that children who are unprotected are isolated with the abuse.  They do not go out and share the horrors of their life with others.  They are alone.  But they are able to find a like person that they can relate to in a book.

Most kids don’t have the power to change their world.  They do not have control over their situation.  To read about someone who survived the same things that they are going through, with dignity, can help a child to survive too.

Secondly, she spoke of the Protected Children. These children, must learn empathy for the rest of the people in the world and the safest way for them to do that is in the pages of a book.

I’m going to stop here because I think this is important.  The next two speakers coming up are equally as powerful and I want you to have the time to really think about this.  I’m still mulling it over a week+ later.  I don’t know about you, but for me this is bigger than just writing books.  It is about saving lives and changing the world we live in.  As Bruce Coville said earlier, “We love our children individually, but we have a hard time showing it collectively.”  So often my hands are tied and my ability to impact change is ineffective, but there are two ways that I know I can make a difference.

First, I can write books that respect and support Unprotected Children.  I will not censor my heart and soul.  Those kids deserve better than that.  Secondly, I can choose to raise my Protected Children with empathy.  At the very least, they will meet these Unprotected Children in the pages of a book.  They will learn how lucky they are and how big their hearts must grow.   I want them to learn that we can not live in isolation and blindness.  I want them to begin to see that we are better off dealing with the struggles of growth than the hurdles of ignorance.

I urge each and every one of you to share Bruce Coville’s and Donna Jo Napoli’s message with as many people as you can.  It is time to make a change.

First up on Friday–David Small.

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 3

Filed under: Conferences

It’s Friday afternoon at the SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference and we have…


Seriously, I’m not great at taking notes when Libba is speaking, due to the fact that I’m laughing so hard.  But here are some pearls of delightful wisdom that did manage to make it into my notebook…

*Getting it wrong is a necessary part of getting it right.

*Book 1-this is a kind of ignorance is bliss and you only get it once.
  Book 2-this is fun, I already know the characters!
  Book 3-yeah, I got nothing.  I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make when they fly by.

*Best Survival suggestions…
     -The voice is in there, buried under the one you hate.
     -Close the door on external voices.
     -Readers are not trends.
     -The difference between the right novel and the wrong novel might just be in how you present your novel.  Find out what works for your story.
     -Writing is freaking scary.
     -We write it wrong in the beginning to protect ourselves.
     -All books carry our DNA and if we knew that going in we’d be too frightened to write.

I know I’m spoiled.  I know it’s completely unfair that I get to follow a Keynote by Libbra Bray with a Workshop session with Laurie Halse Anderson.  All I can say is that I have a freaking fantastic fairy god-mother.  That’s the only logical explanation.


Laurie is one of my personal super heroes.  Many of you probably know that she was the first speaker at my very first SCBWI Conference and she has shaped my life as a writer.  I never get tired of being inspired by her heart and soul and her wisdom.  Again, here are some of my favorite take-aways from her talk…

*Personal problems are like whack-a-moles…they never stop popping up.  You need to accept the distractions and manage the interruptions.

*24 hours is enough.  God is not cruel, but she expects you to do the work. *grin*

*Discomfort won’t kill you.  Staying with discomfort will pay off with strength and growth.

*You are in more control of how you spend your time and energy than you want to admit…
     -Turn of the TV/internet
     -Stop volunteering.  There are other people who fill their creative voids through volunteering at the PTA-this is not your calling.  You fuel yourself through a different kind of art.
     -Family needs to see you follow your dreams.

*Be gentle with yourself.  The doubt lives in all of us.  Don’t be a writer, be writing.  Be the verb instead of the noun.

Next up….


This was a very interesting look at a topic that we are constantly debating and trying to figure out.  Here are some key pieces of info…

*Adults reeducate and retool to maneuver new landscapes.  Children have nothing to unlearn about the digital world-it’s where they live.

*Story still matters the most.

*We are not moving away from print, we are moving towards a world of print AND digital.

Now its Autograph time!!!!!!

Kim and Jerry Pinkney

Chatting with Bruce Coville.
Talking about dyslexia and how my boys love to play Unicorn Chronicles.  

Bruce Coville and Kim.
Norton Juster signing the Phantom Tollbooth and laughing because Jules Feiffer didn’t leave him any room when he signed it at the NY Conference. LOL!
Laurie Halse Anderson and Kim *heart squish*
Finally got to meet some awesome online friends in person.  Mike Jung, debut author of GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES out in the fall off 2012 and Nova Ren Suma, author of IMAGINARY GIRLS.  I love these guys!
While I didn’t get a picture, I also snagged a copy of BROOKLYN BURNING by Steve Brezenoff.  I am so excited to read this!!!!!
We’ve finally made it through the first day of the conference, unless you’ve decided to do Peer Group Critiques, Yoga, the Illustrator Social, International Member Social or the Nonfiction Writers Social.  I opted to just be social and EAT!!!!  I’ll be back on Wednesday, kicking off Saturday’s recap with the amazing Donna Jo Napoli.  If you want the conference effect to feel real, you should probably stay up till the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, jump around in excitement and grab a coffee and some starch at a Starbucks near you before settling down to check out the blog.  *yawn* 
See you Wednesday.  

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 1

Filed under: Conferences

In the past, I’ve always tried to get at least half, if not a full day of conference recap into each of my blog posts.  I’m going to be doing something a little bit different this time.  I’m going to keep each entry a little bit shorter.  This means that I’ll be writing about the conference slower than most people, but for me, this needs to be savored and relived without rushing–it was special.

Of course, no conference can start without a warm welcome from the official mom and dad of SCBWI–Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver.

We also must begin with some of Lin’s stats for the conference.

There were…
*1,342 people in attendance.  (A record number.)
*The men broke the 150 mark. (But we still commandeered their bathroom.)
*42% of those attending were published. (Woot!)
*49 out of 50 states were in attendance. (South Dakota needs to get their act together.)
*There were representatives from 20 countries. (70 people from outside the United States.)
*The Children’s Book Market is doing better than the Real Estate Market. (Fist pump!!)

I also would like to show you what the California Ballroom looked like.  I loved the tiers in this room and how they allowed so many more people to have a wonderful view of the podium.

On Friday morning we were introduced to the faculty which had the effect of blowing on an ember.  I couldn’t wait to get started after this spark was lit. (Sorry, the picture is a little blurry.)  Each person on the faculty was tasked with giving a sentence with “40” in it, to celebrate 40 years of SCBWI.  The responses ranged from hilarious to inspirational.  So much fun.

I took tons of pictures of everyone (because that’s what I do) but I’ll pick one to highlight.  As we all know, we’ve arrived not only at the end of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, but also the movies. *sniff*  The least we can do is send a cyber hug to the man who was instrumental in our happiness.  He is perhaps best known as the American editor for for the Harry Potter Books, Arthur A. Levine, the Vice President of Scholastic and the Publisher of his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books.  I really wanted to meet him, but this was the closest I got, without falling over and melting into fan-girl gushy puddles.  

As if being JK Rowling’s go-to guy isn’t enough, he is also the editor for the wonderful, fantastic, debut author Mike Jung.  His middle grade novel Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities, comes out in the fall of 2012.  I can’t wait to mug Mike and run away with an ARC of this book.

Hmmm…I told you I was going to keep this short.  Lets get moving!

The first Keynote Speaker was someone I have been dying to meet and listen to.  I was not disappointed.

Here are the highlights that stuck with me…
*There are 22,000 people in our SCBWI Tribe, the only other place for us is the Island of Misfit Toys.
*It takes a delusional person to believe we are a society that considers children our most valuable resource. We love our children individually, but we have a hard time showing it collectively.
*Craft without inspiration leads to basket weaving, inspiration without craft leads to modern art. Ha!
*There is a butterfly effect.  You never know what kind of impact you will have.  The smallest gesture is a turning point.  
*If I wasn’t already won over by Bruce (and I won’t lie–I was) he would have had me hook, line and sinker when he quoted from the Broadway play, Into the Woods.  I swear, I played the soundtrack to this musical until my college roommate’s ears bled.  I love to be inspired.

No One is Alone… a song of responsibility.  Our responsibility.

*Don’t start with a message, start with your own heart…You can not know the effect of your words.

*I can’t help but think that we reach a very special, lasting place in a kid’s soul.

*Leave an unfinished chord…

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