Making choices

In my most recent post I discussed my goals and the steps I was taking towards, and away from achieving them. Writing that post, and receiving your wonderful comments, advice and suggestions, provided me the opportunity of really assessing how I spend my time and of deciding where to from here; at least until I meet the next juncture anyway.

My most important realisation is that

I love the writing community that welcomed me so warmly and of which I feel very much a part:

  • The friendship and sharing
  • The open communication and exchange of ideas
  • The feedback and encouragement
  • The writing practice
  • The opportunity to be doing something with my time – it does a good job of keeping me off the streets!

The impact that being a part of this community may have on my ability to reach other goals may never be known. But for now it meets other needs in many wonderful ways that I am not prepared to forgo just yet. I may need to reassess the content of my posts in view of my writerly, as opposed to teacherly, audience; but since you have all accepted and responded so well to them thus far, maybe not. I can’t think what else I know about anyway!

However, I must prioritise my other work as well.

To do this I have refined my record of comments:

  • to include the twenty bloggers I engage with most frequently (reduced from the approximately thirty I showed on the infographics in that previous post, and seventy plus I had in the table when I began the record!)
  • by arranging the bloggers alphabetically to make them easier to locate and record
  • to match the Monday to Sunday week used in WordPress stats (I was using Sunday to Saturday previously)

While I have not unfollowed any bloggers, I have requested to not be notified of new posts of bloggers who have not engaged with me. This will reduce the number of emails I receive and therefore the time taken in dealing with the burgeoning inbox. I won’t be distracted by their content; and, if I have any spare time, I can always check out their posts in my reader.

Reducing the number of emails I receive each day is one of the things I am looking most forward to! It has always been a bugbear.

I have also decided that I will not actively seek new blogs to follow at this stage but will continue to maintain existing relationships. However if someone new engages with me, I will be more than happy to respond.

These changes should help me devote more time to other projects.

I have already written a lot of teaching resources. Unfortunately I am no more of an artist than I am a singer and, since my resources are mainly for use in early childhood settings, most of them need to be illustrated. My niece has illustrated some for me but she has her own life and busy work schedule as well so I need to look further afield.

Last week I decided to take action.

I signed up to 99 designs and ran a contest to see if it was possible to get some illustrations for one of my stories. It has been a steep learning curve and very interesting; even a bit harrowing at times. Many artists submitted work in the contest and I have narrowed it down to four finalists. I am running a poll to get some advice on the illustrations. I’d appreciate your thoughts if you have time to check it out.

monsterbraingames, golden trophy with glaze (remix)  https://openclipart.org/detail/202115/golden-trophy-with-glaze-remix

monsterbraingames, golden trophy with glaze (remix) https://openclipart.org/detail/202115/golden-trophy-with-glaze-remix

I feel a bit uncomfortable with all the work the artists have done, in the hope of winning the contest (these are 99designs’ terms), but it seems to be the way it is done so I guess they are aware of and expect it. I am already looking towards future contests and getting more work illustrated. I may also look at other options, so if you have other suggestions I’d be pleased to hear them.

I’ve been trying to think of a segue from there into my flash fiction response to the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. Charli’s prompt is to In 99 words (no more, no less) include a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. Now that I look at it again, I’m not so sure my response quite fits, so perhaps that is fitting in itself. It seemed like a good idea at the time: matching the turquoise stone to the colour of Marnie’s eyes, which I didn’t even include!

turquoie necklace

Here it is anyway, the next little revelation of Marnie’s story that continues on from this one:

Juxtaposition

She paused her dusting, as often she did, scanning the fading faces. Her gaze lingered, as always, on one. She gave it an extra rub as if to wipe away a tear, erase the pain.

She lifted the postcard wedged into the frame to read the words she knew so well but wished had more to tell: “Thank you, Miss. Remember me.”

“Where are you? How are you doing?” she’d never stopped wondering, hoping.

She fingered the smoothness of the turquoise stone, its partner given long ago . . .

A quiet knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

59 thoughts on “Making choices

  1. Bec

    I love the FF – it’s nice to see how a student can leave a lingering impression on a teacher, too. It’s easy to feel you are just one of the many faces among other students when you move through a school (particularly a big school) and that your value is insignificant. But evidently that’s not the case. Those teachers who make their students feel valued and loved, like Marine’s teacher, must create such a profound impact on the students’ self-worth.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Every student is special, but there are always those ones who leave a more lasting impression, which can be for a variety of reasons. The relationship with students also has a profound impact upon teachers.

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Marnie’s flash. Very nice. I knew it was the teacher dusting but wasn’t sure who was at the door…

    This is a lot to think about. I like the idea of shutting the email notifications off of the blogs that don’t engage with you at all. At this point, I’ve put those ones on weekly but, every single week, I get blasted with 50 emails (of people who don’t interact with my blog). O_o As for the illustrations, I didn’t know how to vote but I love the first four. They are excellent. But I don’t have any context so I don’t know which one (cutesy, realistic) would go best. Great idea to hold that! I had no idea something like that was even out there. I should have realized. 😉

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Sarah. I’m pleased you realised it was the teacher. 🙂
      The number of my emails has definitely decreased, so I’m liking that – signed up to two more blogs today though – can’t help myself!
      Thanks for checking out the illustrations. I appreciate your taking the time to do so. I realise it was a difficult task but the responses were helpful to me, so thank you Sarah, and everyone else who responded. 🙂

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  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I knew that she was the teacher because of her comment ““Where are you? How are you doing?” she’d never stopped wondering, hoping.” Realising that I did presume that it was Marnie at the door and she was in for a delightful surprise. Lovely flash of juxtapostion then and now.
    I too couldn’t vote and presumed the poll had closed. I was told who the winner was. I liked it but it is too much like other illustrations. Not enough individuality for my liking. Are you publishing these yourself Norah or putting them to a publisher. If you are going to a publisher they do not like to receive books that have been illustrated as they would rather commission one of their own illustrators to do the work.
    With all your newfound free time I hope you find you can devote it where you want.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Irene. I’m pleased you realised it was the teacher, and that it was Marnie at the door. Phew!
      Thanks for checking out the poll. It possibly had closed as I chose the winner either Wednesday night or Thursday morning (it’s all a blur now). Did you think the winning illustration was too much like other illustrations in the poll, or other illustrations in general? The story is for publication on my website. I won’t be approaching a publisher with it. Thanks for your tip, though. I did know that publisher like to receive manuscripts without illustrations, but appreciate your making sure I was aware of that. 🙂
      Thanks for your thoughts about my time too – I’m hoping to find some soon! 🙂

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      1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I thought the winning entry was the best of those that I saw but that it seemed familiar as though I had seen illustrations that were similar before.
        Looking forward to seeing your website. I hope you are also going to keep your wordpress account going or use a wordpress platform for your website. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks Irene. I really appreciate your support. I definitely find WordPress easy to use for my blog. I haven’t decided yet about my website. I had thought WordPress but have had a suggestion that it may not work well for what I have in mind. Have more explorations to make! 🙂

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  5. Sherri

    Love how you brought in the turqoise stone into the present, mixed in with Marnie’s powerful emotions…and then that knock at the door! As with the others, I await with great anticipation for the news. Great twist, great flash Norah. And I think it’s a great idea to run a poll – I’ve voted, a clear winner for me 😉 You are so wonderfully methodical and clear in the way you present your writing, your posts, your thoughts, your ideas. I agree with Charli totally, you are a wonderful marketer! I am so glad you have been able to sort out a few of your priorities, I sense a weight has lifted from your shoulders as you press forward in your new regime. I stopped email notifications on a lot of blogs I was following a few weeks ago because I was getting so overwhelmed. They were bloggers who have long stopped any interaction with me. I find too that I gain a couple of followers and then lose one, so I’m not getting very far but then I’m able to keep the writing/blogging balance in line better than I’ve done before…still means I play catch up though if I miss a day!! Looking forward very much to hearing news of your books and illustrations…you are on the right path Norah and I am walking along with you, as with all your friends here 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Sherri, I appreciate the support and encouragement of all my S.M.A.G. friends online. Thank you, too, for doing the poll, adding comments and ratings. You are right about who I chose: the first one; and he has now handed over the work to me. It is exciting to get it done and to be one step closer to my goal. That you are walking along beside me is very exciting and encouraging.
      Thanks for sharing what you have been doing about following and commenting on blogs. It seems like a lot of us have been grappling with the same issue. I think sharing ideas about how we cope with it helps us sort out, for ourselves anyway, how best to maintain our priorities. It is good to know that we have a few friends in common and see each other at different places around the blogosphere! 🙂

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  6. writersideup

    Norah, you are definitely on the right track! 🙂 Just recently, within the past month, I took about 8 hours and went through all 167 blogs I had on my list. I determined which ones to follow daily, weekly and monthly, then divided them up into groups and put into folders in chrome, so the “weekly” ones are days 1 through 6, then the monthly ones on Sunday. I removed all “follow by email” so that leaves me to manually go to the blogs according to my schedule, leaving the emails solely for the follow-up comments. I then “unfollow” the comments once that thread of conversation ends between me and the blog owner. I’ve been able to cut back on my daily time spent and follow many more blogs, but it’s all still way too much. I keep trying to assess who to stop following and who to switch to monthly rather than weekly. I believe I will keep whittling it down until I have it much more manageable taking much less time. That is my goal. I don’t know if this helps you, but maybe! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment and explaining your process, Donna. I’m very pleased to be one of the blogs that you follow regularly. 🙂 Thank you. I haven’t thought about organising the blogs in Chrome. I might have to look into that. I think daily, weekly and monthly is a good idea, as is spreading the posts out over a week.
      I have made, and am still making changes to my processes, so I’ll see how I go, but I might investigate what you have suggested. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  7. macjam47

    Hi Norah, I understand your point about emails. I have been taking a serious look at mine as well and though I still follow everyone through my reader, I have been paring my email follows down to my favorite blogs. To keep up with so many emails, do blog posts, read, clean and all my other household chores, isn’t leaving me the amount of family time I want. I love blogging and reading what everyone writes. It is addictive, but I don’t want keeping up to become stressful. Like you I will continue to follow by email all who comment on a regular basis. I’m ecstatic that you have decided to continue your blog. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support and encouragement, Michelle. I’m honoured that you always take the time to read and comment. Michelle James – a proud member of S.M.A.G. 🙂

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  9. Charli Mills

    I know you are an educator, but you’d make a great marketer! An important part of the process is to produce, plan, do, measure and use the feedback to alter the next cycle. I have a triple D rule for email — I quickly scan and delete what I don’t need, defer to later and do now to reduce content. I can get rather obsessive about keeping my two email boxes tidy! I use folders to (try) organize. It’s not fail-proof, though.

    The design contest is a practical way to find illustrators. Many contractors have to offer up a proposal for clients so it’s not unusual to offer a design and get turned down. It’s not unlike writers who vie for writing gigs. Personally, I think it’s atrocious, but I’m also an old-school freelancer. If I can’t directly query an editor, I find another venue. We do have choices and those who participate in something like 99designs know what to expect. It’s becoming more widespread.

    Another terrific Marnie installment. Like everyone else, I want to know who is at the door! I find the juxtaposition in the emotions which are connected through the turquoise. You really draw the reader into Marnie’s world.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli, for your as always generous and encouraging comment. Marketers must have a lot in common with teachers! I guess teachers have to “sell” the ideas to the students!
      I guess I do something similar to you with emails. I go through each day to check for personal ones to respond to first (which reminds me, I received one this morning I should have responded to first – sorry Robin!), delete advertising and notifications about comments on my blog (sometimes reading them first), scan the title and first few lines of other blogs and either keep for later or delete, move other ones to folders for long-term reference (e.g.receipts, invoices, info), and then start to work my way through the blogs I have received notifications about, always ensuring I read and comment on my favourites first. But it still takes a long time and I need to refine further. Breathe! 🙂
      Apologies for not setting my flash fiction up well enough this time. I said it was the next part of Marnie’s story – but it was actually told from the point of view of her teacher from long ago, linking up from the episode in which Marnie decided to go and see her after giving orders to sell the house. Sorry for the confusion. I’ll have to do better next time. 🙂

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  10. Annecdotist

    Those emails are especially problematic for me at present as something’s happened to my computer and I can only see mine by looking at them via the website, which is extremely slow, even to delete. I’ve cut down on my Twitter notifications, which is a help, but still worried I might miss things.
    As to the flash, what a fabulous introduction – wiping the virtual to hear from the photograph. An excellent way of flagging up both past and current concerns.
    Cover designs are also the thing for me at present as I’m itching to share the one I’ve got for Sugar and Snails (wonderful as Lori’s spoof was, this is rather different) so I’ll pop over now and look at the options for yours.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear that your technology and email problems are continuing. I know when I was in the UK last year I could only reply to emails on the website and i didn’t have full access to them or my contacts. It was very slow and frustrating, so I appreciate what a pain it is for you.
      I turned off Twitter notifications quite a while ago and that made a big difference. I don’t miss them at all because when i go into Twitter I am given a list of notifications. I always go there and respond if necessary first, and then may go further afield to my home page/list or individuals if I have time.
      Thanks for your comment re my flash. I’m pleased it worked (though I didn’t set up my character very well and confused everyone – it was Marnie at the door!)
      I am looking forward to seeing the cover for Sugar and Snails. How did you organise it?

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      1. Annecdotist

        Re the covers – I did vote for yours but, not knowing what the story was, I chose what looks more attractive to me but if I were you I’d judge by what most fits the story. Regarding Sugar and Snails, the publisher has done all the hard work of choosing and briefing the designer while I’ve been very lucky to have my preferences honoured, which is generally not the case even for heavyweight authors been traditionally published. I’m excited for everyone to see it, as I think it’s ACE.

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        1. Norah Post author

          You are really teasing me. I can’t wait to see your cover, and read your book! How long now? Are we there yet?
          Thank you for voting on the illustrations. I agree that it was a difficult thing to do. It was very difficult for me to choose anyway, but when I was making the poll I wasn’t able to choose from all illustrations that had been submitted. I would have liked to choose illustrations of the same scene from each artist, but couldn’t. Never mind. it was an interesting exercise.
          I’m pleased that your publisher and designer had similar thoughts to yours for your cover. 🙂

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  11. TanGental

    Now the flash is fascinating. The tendrils of the past intwining the present. You are getting really good at leaving the unsaid to scream at us stage left. And yes, open the bloody door we want to know who’s there! You have also articulated my dilemma – a swamp of emails. I came back from France to my laptop which has accumulated all since Saturday am – 525. I’ve seen most on my phone but even so I gave to go through and tidy it all up. Do I want to follow Lori and rely on the reader? No I don’t think so. But yes, a cull from time to time is essential. I did that once but gave steadily collected more since. I like your test. If people don’t engage fully then put them into a secondary box. There are a few I’d keep anyway, mostly like Charli’s because of the prompts and challenges. I’m about to clock my first anniversary of blogging and that will be a good moment to consider how things stand.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. You always have great insights and wisdom to share. And to think you receive a ton more emails than I, and I find coping difficult! Yesterday I pared my inbox back to 125 I wasn’t prepared to let go of (some over a year old! – waiting there for me to read and learn from! – info’s probably out of date by now!) but today I received another hundred and have only got it back to 152 so far. It is a bit difficult on work days though!
      And my flash. I was a bit remiss this week. I didn’t set up the situation well enough and have confused everyone. It is Marnie at the door – it is the other part of her episode of a few weeks ago. Sorry. My failure to explain.

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  12. desleyjane

    Oh, I wonder who’s at the door. The turquoise stone is lovely.
    I’ve just voted on your poll, some great illustrations there.
    I always turn off email notifications when I follow someone. I am a regular visitor to the Reader on my iPhone so I believe I see almost all posts. I try to spend time in the morning with a coffee and straight after work as well if I get time.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yes. I suppose I didn’t set the story up well enough. I said it was about Marnie, but she wasn’t in it. She was the knock on the door, from a previous episode. Thanks for pointing out my inadequacy of explanation. This person is the teacher who helped Marnie escape her troubled homelife and gave her the matching turquoise all those years ago.
      Thank you for voting on my poll. I really appreciate that you took the time to do so, and appreciate the comments you left there. I have only 24 hours to decide. It has been a difficult decision, but the poll has helped eliminate one more, now I am down to two. It’s interesting to receive the comments about the illustrations being scary. I guess my story is scary – all the animals fight, and then get eaten by a crocodile! Oh Norah, what are we to do with you!? There were two illustrations there from each designer.
      I find it interesting that you turn off email notifications and check your reader. Maybe that is a more effective way of going about it. I’d be worried I’d miss the ones I really want to catch, but my record now will ensure I do that, and I can always bookmark my favourites and check them out anyway. Hmm. Might be worth a try. Thanks.

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      1. desleyjane

        Oh Norah, I never meant to imply any inadequacy! I was genuinely intrigued as to who was at the door! Sorry about the confusion…
        I have a feeling I know which two illustrations remain, it’s quite exciting that you’ve come to this point now. Am looking forward to what happens next 🙂
        Yes, I found it to be way too many emails. In the Reader, I can go to the edit section of “Blogs I Follow” which lets me then click on them and go to their sites if I feel like I might have missed something in the Reader. It seems to be working so far, but I do check in quite often. I find that when I’m travelling and not checking so often, I do miss a few here and there….

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks again Desley. It’s okay. I think a request for finding out who is at the door was unanimous! It wasn’t just your comment. 🙂
          I think I have narrowed the choices down to the two illustrators to whom you gave a higher ranking. 🙂
          I’m starting to hear the same suggestion of ditching email notifications and using the reader. Of course it only works for WordPress, so I’ll need email for others. But that’s okay because I follow only a few special non-WP bloggers, having eliminated others because of the difficulty and email overload.
          And so far as missing a few goes, we can’t possibly read them all! 🙂

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            1. Norah Post author

              Okay. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll have to check out how to do that. I thought only the WP ones showed up there. Or are you talking about an-other-than WP reader?

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  13. Marigold

    Ooh, what a lovely flash fiction! I love it! So sweet and heartfelt, I want to know more!
    And I’m amazed with what you’ve done to seek out an illustrator! But I clicked on the poll and it lists 8 finalists. Which are the four you’re considering?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment re my flash. You’ve just reminded me about adding this episode to Marnie’s own page. Thanks. You are being very inspirational today. :
      The poll has eight illustrations, two from each illustrator. Their names should be at the top of each illustration, I think. Thanks for checking it out. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks so much, Marigold, for your ratings and comments on the illustrations. They have helped me narrow it down to two. It is so difficult to make the choice. They all have different things to offer.
          Thanks for your comments re my flash. I must admit this contest has been quite a distraction and taken more time than I would have thought. 🙂

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  14. lorilschafer

    Reducing the email notifications will make a HUGE difference. I don’t know about you, but I get close to a hundred emails a day as it is, and I had to forego the WP notices a long time ago. Forget reading all the blogs – just managing the email got to be overwhelming! What I do now is periodically scroll through my reader to get an overview of what’s been posted and then I can click through to those posts that interest me most. Which is actually how I discovered your new post this evening 🙂 I do find myself missing things, though, especially good stuff from people who don’t post often enough for me to be reminded of them. This is one of the reasons I like MondayBlogs – it prompts me to check in with those I might neglect otherwise.

    I will be very interested in your final report on the 99designs thing. I actually have a couple of children’s stories I’d like to publish, but they would need to be illustrated, and frankly, I don’t expect them to sell well enough to be able to compensate an artist for his or her efforts. But I suppose, like the rest of us, that many of them are willing to exchange their time for exposure and credits. Curious – is the feedback on the designs made public? I’d like to make comments on some of them but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially since most of my remarks will have nothing to do with the quality of the art.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Lori,
      Thanks for your comment, and thoughts about email. I’m sure reducing the number of email notifications will free up a lot of time. I’m not sure that I am ready to forgo all at this stage and just use the reader (it would only work for WordPress blogs anyway so far as I can see) but maybe I can work towards that. Thank you for finding my post and popping over to leave a comment straight away. 🙂 I was just over at yours replying to your comment there! We’re a good SMAG team!
      Thanks for checking out the 99designs poll. I think the only place the comments go is there, but because I am always logged in, I’m not sure what others can see.
      It could be worth checking out how you could use 99designs for illustrating your children’s stories. Since this was my first one I went for the base (bronze) package without any frills. I wasn’t sure if I was asking too much really, but I spoke with one of the support people yesterday and he thought it was a perfect use of what they have to offer. It is really up to the designers to decide what they are prepared to do. The ones who responded to my contest have not had much experience there yet so are keen to get a rating I guess. Making the “prize” greater might attract more designers with more experience and flair. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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      1. lorilschafer

        Yes, sites like these seem to have sprung up all over the place. You can get people to record your audiobook or translate your book with next-to-nothing out of pocket for you – crazy. I had not heard of 99designs before, though, and I do think I’d like to give it a shot.

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      1. susanzutautas

        I’m dying to know who is at the door. I love turquoise and wish I’d have bought some before leaving California in the 80’s. It was so much less expensive back then.

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Norah Post author

          Yes, turquoise is beautiful, isn’t it? My favourite shade of blue.
          Thanks for your interest in my flash story. Unfortunately I didn’t set this one up very well. The person looking at the photos is Marnie’s teacher from long ago, and it is Marnie at the door. It relates back to a previous episode in which Marnie arrives at the house and knocks on the door. Because I have it all in my head I didn’t think to give you, the reader, enough information to make sense of it. Thank you for pointing that out to me. I appreciate your reading and commenting. 🙂

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