Melea’s Blog

To blog or not to blog… that truly was a question for me. “Do I have something people want to hear, consider, use in their current writing and storytelling endeavors?”

I decided I do. I’d like to encourage the story you are living out as “a spiritual being having a temporary experience” on this place called Earth (quote is credited to Robert Morris, Gateway Church, TX). Your story matters. My story matters. And for me, living in God’s magnificent story matters the most.

I hope my blog and the processing of the power of story here, along with the sharing of my own writing experiences, encourages you to bring your own skills into a more focused place. Feel free to post a comment or email me directly at






Posted by on Sep 16, 2019 in Creativity, Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

I’ve always felt theater is filled with principles that can hold value in other parts of our life. Many of them are like metaphors, analogies, or word pictures that can serve to point the way, give some direction, encourage the things we do in our day-to-day communication. With my history as a theater teacher and experience as an actor and storyteller, I’ve thought about a few of these things and come up with some thoughts concerning our regular living and relationships:   SPEAK UP!   Your audience wants to hear every word from your mouth. It’s all about telling the story in a play. We tell the actor to use their diaphragm as they use their character’s voice, and  to “reach for the back wall”. Long ago this meant an actor(s) needed to speak loudly and clearly so that anyone sitting in the “cheap seats” (last several rows of the theater) could hear their non-amplified voices.   To do this takes practice and it means using your instrument every day, not just at play practice or in performance. When I taught theater arts and directed young people, I would encourage my actors/students to rehearse their lines outside, in the shower above the roar of the waters, or in an empty large bathroom or room. Doors and windows shut, of course.   We tend to not speak up (use volume) anymore. Do you find you have to ask people, “Could you say that again, please?” I don’t think you’re losing your hearing. I think we, culturally, are too busy speaking on our devices and with our fingers, and not with our voice. To use your cell phone to talk with someone (a voice-to-voice call) is a rare thing these days. Even talking without a microphone is rare. And oh no, what do we do if the blessed microphone goes out? We’ll have to actually raise the volume of our voice to be heard. As you know, someone in your audience is going to say: “Speak Up! We can’t hear you back here.”   At a recent theater experience the sound was off. You couldn’t hear the actors’ lines. Poor amplification or an issue with the sound was going on. It was frustrating for the audience. You could see people getting restless and tuning out. The actors were unaware as they assumed, they were being heard. Had they been aware, they could have filled the room with their skillful voices as they were a group of fine actors. Finally, the amplification improved but we had missed out on some great dialogue in the play.   There are some things about our stories and other’s stories where it would be great if we would all just speak up more! We might need to bethe encouragersof others speaking up. When we share first it makes it easier for someone else to then share. Or we might need to say, “Could you say that again, please,… we didn’t catch that back here?” We might need to lead the way, too, by being the example of the first one to speak with more volume, enunciation and with good pacing.   RESPECT ONE ANOTHER   Theater is a community. You become very close through rehearsals and performances. As actors, we depend upon one another to communicate...

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2019 in Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

APPLYING THEATER (TERMS) TO OUR STORIES Part One  I’ve always felt theater is filled with principles that can hold weight in other parts of life and living. Much of it can hold truth and point the way because they are metaphors, analogies or word pictures about us and communication. Having a history in theater as a teacher/producer/director, actor and  storyteller, you can bet I’ve thought about these.  I actually apply many of them, teach them.  They are here for your own ponderings and encouragement. I have broken them up into a Part 1 & 2. I think I may do one on Improvisation, too. Another great love of mine—dialogue without an script. ENTRANCES and EXITS Entrances and Exits are very important in theater, and they are in our story of life, too. When I taught HS Theater Arts or when I have directed shows, I have tried to instill this importance in my actors—your entrance and exit is remembered by your audience. I would tell them, “Start to think about your entrance before you actually enter the scene on stage.” It’s essential that your audience see and begin to perceive your character before you even say a line. And when you exit the scene make sure it is a good exit filled with the intent and physicality of your character. Carry it out the door until you have completely cleared the stage–“Take it all the way to the wings (the backstage area),” as the sating goes. I have often thought about how our exits and entrances translate in real life and our day-to-day living. When we leave a job, a city, a church, a ministry shouldn’t it be a good exit? I believe  “the last and final line that we say” is what they will remember about us. It can say “I care and will continue to care.” It can also say the opposite. If there is no shared goodbye, we have still spoken something. When we introduce ourselves or are getting to know a person initially, these entrancesare called our first impressions.They stay with people for a long time. Fortunately, many times we are given a second, and third chance to make a better impression. Not so in theater. You have to hit the mark on your character’s first entrance. A first entrance of a character sets up an understanding of who that person will be in the rest of the scene, and the play. It applies to all of my comingsand goingsin life too. It can apply to my entrance into or my exit out of a meeting, …or to my appointments with family, friend and client, doctor, teacher, professor, coach,… or to a meeting with someone for a meal or a friendly gathering… or even, a first date! A great entrance and exit might be the deciding factor on further relationship. I have a friend that recently moved from one state to another. She was very good about her “goodbyes” leaving kind words and/or a gift for those that she had done business with or worked for. She had lived in her city, county, state many years and she wanted to leave behind kindness and concern for their story as her changed. STAYING IN CHARACTER An actor works to build a believable character that will be...

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Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Storytelling | 0 comments

Perspective-taking is the process by which an individual views a situation from another’s point-of-view. In other words, perspective-taking is the process of temporarily suspending one’s own point-of-view in an attempt to view a situation as someone else might be viewing it. I call it—”Walk to the other side of the table/car/room/small group and sit down.” If I understand or simply seek to understand your point of view I will benefit, I will grow, I will learn. There is a great possibility that I will change in an attitude, a misunderstanding, a false thought. There is an even greater possibility that I could change in a falsehood I have developed. A falsehood is believing something that isn’t true about something, a person, a happening or a circumstance. Fiction. Fabrication. Untruth. A lie. We go through everyday life accepting things as truth that is really a falsehood. We can believe something about someone and be completely WRONG! I’ve done it. Haven’t you? Oh, the JOY of being corrected in a falsehood about a person by taking a perspective on someone’s life. That’s what I love about movies, plays, and TV series. Humanity plays out before our eyes in different roles and circumstances. We can vicariously learn by our own perspective-taking of the roles of the hero/heroine, villain/villainess, the supporting roles, the story’s plot and forward movement of the problem, and its resolution. Perspective-taking is key for the writer or the storyteller. You cannot begin to write about something that you have not experienced unless you take some time to hear the storytelling in someone else’s life about that very experience. This will require my ability to listen and truly hear their story. Let it soak in, as in don’t interrupt their storytelling. Don’t place your story on top of their story (another Blog)—”That just reminded me of when…”. Just give the gift that is always in fashion—LISTEN. You can practice perspective-taking every day. Just determine to talk less and listen more to your everyday conversations. OF course, don’t check-out during the conversation, but you remain focused and attentive, listening to the story underneath the story they are sharing. For instance, I can choose to hear my son or daughter share about their day guessing at what they’ll say next, waiting to throw counsel on the situation OR I can choose to listen with my focus being on hearing what kind of day it really was for them. Even after that, if I have gained perspective on their day, I can seek to understand more by asking by way of a question: “Was it like this…? or, Did it feel or seem like this for you…?” That way they can correct my perspective-taking OR add on to what I perceive to understand what they’ve shared. Sound big? Maybe. Experiment with maturing this life-skill of perspective-taking. Walk to the other side of the table/car/room/small group and sit down and listen. See if it doesn’t change some things for you in the way you HEAR and UNDERSTAND life and people. See if it doesn’t add on to you as a writer and storyteller. *Vicariously (adverb): taking the place of another person or thing; acting or serving as a substitute. 3. felt or enjoyed through imagined...

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My Author Unknown Trails… An Issue of Integrity

Posted by on Dec 19, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

  Have you ever heard or read a story on the net and thought, “Now, that’s a great story… I am going to share it on my Facebook page (or on my blog or forward it on to others)?” I’ve seen it done so many times. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve done it, too. However, anytime I see “Author Unknown,” I am now immediately suspicious, especially when it’s a good story. With a little bit of time and research, I’ve been able to locate the actual writers associated with the admired story by Author Unknown. With their kindness and permission, I was able to use them in performance. Here are some of my research results: “The Cab Ride” by Kent Nerburn, true story “The Gift” by Reverend Nancy L. Dahlberg, true story “Merry Christmas From Heaven” (not “My First Christmas in Heaven”) a poem written by John W. Mooney in 1990 to commemorate his mother’s life and passing in 1989 Website:  “Three Letters From Teddy” (not “The Story of Teddy Stoddard”) by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. This work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (N.C.) in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist publication where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life personal experience. (from Snopes) In 1976 the story was reprinted in the Home Life magazine, again, because of numerous requests for the story. This sweet story has been used in radio broadcasts, books (Chicken Soup For The Soul, 2nd Helping), blogs, performances, there’s even a video of the story on youtube. Ms. Ballard said there were parts of the story that she had experienced in her own personal life and that she had woven into the story. Very common for writers to do this. I do this. However, the story was created by her, and out of her imagination. Both versions are available on this website My advice concerning the Author Unknown reality is try to find the real author. If the story sounds too good to be Author Unknown, it probably isn’t an unknown author. Do your research. Find the author and seek permission to use their story. To research ‘Author Unknowns’ start with the title in a Google search. When I hit a dead-end in the search, or want to confirm the author, I will Google a key phrase in the story. In the case of Kent Nerburn and Mary Dahlberg, I sought contact with the authors by googling their names and found email addresses. They were glad to hear from me, and permission was granted to use their story. Nancy Dahlberg sent me a “postscript” to the story that she later used, as she retold the story each Christmas and her son had become older and she felt she should include this, too. She was kind enough to send me this portion with her original story so that I could tell the whole story. Unfortunately, her version had been altered by people on the internet. Not okay. As writers and performers, we owe this to the author of the work. We need to build on our integrity as artists and writers. We would never want someone to take our original work and claim it as their own, nor...

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Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

  I was in line at a Barnes and Noble Bookstore the other day and there was a rack of beautiful and elaborate gift-quality bookmarks near the cash registers. I marveled at how bookmarks have changed. Remember how bookmarks were once a common item in our lives? Bookmarks are strips of leather, cardboard, or other material used to mark one’s place in a book. As a kid, I remember the local public library gave you a paper bookmark when you checked out your books. I would take the greatest of care and use my bookmarks to remember my place in the book. Your public library allowed you to check out several books at a certain age, so I could have several bookmarks in use. I’ve collected some bookmarks over the years. I’ve also found them in old books. Right-Side-Up Stories used to have a bookmark with my poem Step Inside on the front of it. I need to bring that bookmark back. I’ve given bookmarks away as gifts, sent them to people in a card, … and I’m certain you have done the same. We don’t use bookmarks as much as we used to, do we? We read online or on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or laptop that give us access to bookmarking our place.  Sometimes we replace bookmarks with something else when reading a real book. We’ll grab a piece of paper, an envelope, or bend down the corner of a page.  It’s never quite the same as a bookmark. Our lives are full of stories. The relationships in our lives are living stories. If you think about it, we are kind of like books with chapters. As people share their stories with us we would be wise to remember where we left off with them. Almost like a placing a mental bookmark. The hurried effort we live, the overwhelm of life, and work will attempt to crowd out the remembering. It will require us thinking for a second of a way to mentally and emotionally mark the place where we stopped in the conversation with that person. This is always a good idea. If we were to measure our life by the bookmarks we last placed in someone’s life, what page would we be on in their story? I have made a more recent habit of going back and checking in with people who have asked me to pray for them. In some way, the story they’ve been living has always changed. You can get the Facebook version or the intimate how-they-are-really-doing version by asking off the radar through a text, email or a phone call. The cost and effort? Time and intention. The value? Priceless. I encourage you to move the bookmark forward in a relationship today. The best part is that someone else’s amazing life story is being taken into your story as you do this.  While you are at it, turn the page in the storytelling of your life. Maybe they didn’t ask, but tell one of your recent amazing stories. Move their bookmark forward!...

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Tune Into the Beauty

Posted by on Mar 12, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

I believe it has to do with the reality that I am purposefully trying to see things differently, and forging judgement. Be they my January 2017 rose-colored glasses, or my purposeful non-particular viewpoint, I am choosing to call out beauty when I see it. I like the word BEAUTIFUL. Pleasing the mind or senses aesthetically. The word has become my catch-all for many things. I use the word a lot. I am certain I overuse this adjective. Scattering it about like it’s a noun. So many things are beautiful. I have tried to tune my eyes, ears, mind, and heart to the things that are beautiful. Tuning the eyes: We don’t have to go further than our front door for beauty. Right now, things look so green with the constant rain we’ve had here in California.  Green is a color that is psychologically appealing to us. Color psychology tells us green represents renewal and growth… balance, calm and harmony. Tuning the ears: I find listening deeply and purposefully is key for me. Letting people talk without the need to comment, but instead affirm them. It’s what we call active listening. Music helps me tune my ears and my heart. And spoken word tunes my ear, and my heart, and my mind. Being a storyteller and writer, I realize the power of words.  “A word fitly spoken (at the right time) is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” says the Proverbs 25:11. Here are some Spoken Word Pieces that are BEAUTIFUL to the ear, heart, and mind. They tune my eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul like a tuning fork. I hope you enjoy them. Don’t listen to them all at once. Take your time. Tissue may be required for a few of them, and it seems fair to warn you. Taylor Mali, “What Teachers Make” Jon Jorgensen “Who You Are” Jon Jorgensen “The Wall” Shane Koyczan “To This Day” (for the bullied and beautiful) Janette Ikz “I Will Wait For You” Brittain Bush “Woman At The Well” Amena Brown Owen “Be Strong and Courageous” Melissa “Mommy, Can You Hear Me”   Tell me what you think… I am all ears and eyes!...

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Mentoring Through Story

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

People often ask me when I began storytelling. It all started at a small Christian college (Pacific Christian College, now Hope International University) while I was serving as an assistant dean. Whenever I was with students, I reached for a story. I found out that a story was a great way to get inside their story, to teach them, and to lift them up with encouragement. If the teaching material and the story connected to one another, this was a bonus! In fact, it created pictures that helped them remember material for a test, a final, or created the hoped for “ah-hah!”. I also counseled/mentored students with stories. I would be in counseling or mentoring session and ask, “Could I tell you a story that might relate to what you are going through?” The answer was always, “Yes.” After that moment of a story and the processing of its application came the question, “Could I have a copy of that story?” I’d walk over to our large office copier and make one, knowing I’d connected the student with a word picture for their pain, questions, confusion, processing, or personal growth. The first time I told the story of “The King Who Waits,” it was at this small Christian college. I’d been asked to speak at Dorm Devos. It was a weekly student-led time of community and a devotional, with an invited guest speaker. It was a real privilege to be asked to speak as this was usually reserved for pastors and professors. Students on and off-campus—residents from both the men’s and women’s halls—gathered (piled into) into one of the large lobby spaces after evening classes, ready for this “sacred-once-a-week-moment” together. I was asked to address the topic of “How to have an intimate relationship with God.” The more I thought about it, the more I knew it had to be a story that would best explain this relationship. I used the metaphor of a King—a Great King—and a subject coming to visit the King at the end of the day. To my amazement, weeks later the story was still hanging around in students’ lives and affecting their relationship with God. The preservative power of a story! This touched my heart deeply as a young assistant dean and a blossoming storyteller. And it gave me a push to continue writing stories that could serve as metaphors for our lives. It’s a pattern used by great speakers (and comediennes). I’m sure you’ve noticed this. The speaker will start with a story, and usually, it’s a funny story. I think they want to hear us laugh so they can relax a little. Any time this opening story is from their life, they have cleverly hooked us—connected our story to their story. They’ve got us. We’re for them. A good speaker will use story a second time in the body of their material. If they take us back into that first story by connecting the dots to the material we’ve been taught, they’ve become unforgettable. They’ve mentored us with a story! When I am asked to speak, you can bet I will have a story, or two, or three. If I am counseling or mentoring, I will have a story for this person. I will snoop around and find one. I was mentored...

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Top 5 Storytelling Tips From A Professional Storyteller

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in Creativity, Storytelling | 0 comments

“What are the basic skills of a good storyteller, Melea?” came the question from a casual mentoring moment online. ” “Boy, that’s an excellent question and where do I start?” I pondered. Storytellers are good communicators. If you have ever been in the presence of someone who can tell a story, they probably made you feel valuable as the listener in the audience. How I give the story away will relate to how the person or group receives that story. I want the person to be involved in the story and not thinking about how dramatic my voice is, or of how I am using my hands for dramatic emphasis. Here’s the real truth about a storyteller: They want you to remember the story, not them. It is a very simple art form and preparing for great storytelling moments can break down into a Top 5! 1. Be a READER and a COLLECTOR of stories. Make sure the stories you desire to tell are meant to be told out-loud. Some stories are best on paper, and others are meant to be told out-loud. There are tons of genres and cultures to pull your stories from. There are the stories from your life and regular everyday living that can be just as powerful. If a part of our story has universal meaning and value, then it will have that for another person. Read the newspaper online, keep up on blogs, watch and observe the world around you in your everyday living. 2. KNOW your listeners. Do you have a group in mind for your storytelling? Is there a group you love to tell stories to? You want to know what makes these people tick. Who are they? Their likes and dislikes are? For example, if it’s children–spend time with them and listen to what is important to them, what makes them laugh, what touches their hearts. If it’s the elderly, make sure you have time to spend time with them. Teens connect care to the interest you show in what matters to them and don’t “preach” at them. Co-workers—you probably already know what they like. VERY IMPORTANT: Know your audience and care about your audience! 3. REHEARSE. In the car, before you go to sleep, or while waiting for someone. Try your story in front of a mirror—your body; your face is 90% of the message. Use your “beautiful living room voice” (that’s the middle register of your voice). With concentrating on pushing from your diaphragm as you speak, your voice will reach all the listeners in a large living room space, a boardroom, or classroom with ease.Push from the diaphragm and not the throat. Will you use a prop? If you do, rehearse with the prop. 4. START SMALL. 5-10 minutes of story is best for trying out this art form for a first time. Perhaps, two shorter stories that connect to one another in some way would be an effective and a fun foray into storytelling. Practice—rehearse the story(stories). Know it well. Enjoy what the story teaches you or how it encourages you. There is something in our voice when we communicate something we care about. You will communicate your care of the story’s content to the audience. 5. REVIEW your story moment. Have someone who was there...

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“Writers Block and the Other Complications of Writing”

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Creativity, Storytelling, Writing | 0 comments

Any writer will tell you, “Yes, I have had writer’s block or… It comes and goes, like my sciatica and arthritis on rainy days.” It doesn’t mean you’re not a serious writer, nor that you lack something. It could mean you need to carefully examine your approach to writing. I am mentoring-coaching a young writer these days and he was having “writer’s block” so I went to some sources to find simple answers and encourage him to self-exam this this thing we call “writer’s block” I found a great article that addressed it. The article discusses Writer’s Block defined as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write OR how to proceed with writing.” Here were 10 Practical Tips to review concerning your writing. I found them very practical and helpful to my young writer and myself. Ginny Wiehardt, a fiction expert and the author of the article gives more information. My thoughts are in the parentheses.: 10 PRACTICAL TIPS TO OVERCOMING WRITER’S BLOCK Develop a Writing Schedule. (Hard one. I will admit it. Sure helps. And hold it sacred.) Don’t be too hard on yourself. (We are our own worst critic.) Think of it as a JOB and not an ART. (It becomes about the word “work” and takes the word “whim” away–I just didn’t FEEL like writing today.) Take time off after you’ve finished a writing project. (Celebrate! You did it.) Set deadlines and keep them. (Our phones are set up with reminders for this.) Examine deep-seated issues behind your writer’s block. If any… get some help. (Talk to other writers. If it’s something serious, yes, do seek help. Likely, not your fault.) Work on more than one project at a time. (I find this eases boredom, fatigues and excuses.) Try Writing Exercises. (I love writing prompts to free up my mind. Try A great little recent find on the internet.) Reconsider You Writing Space. (Do you have a dedicated writing space, free from distractions?) Remember why you started to write in the first place. (Go back to the beginning. Re-evaluate.) From Another complication–my attitude. I control this. I answer for it. No one else does. Enough on that one. Another complication–circumstances beyond my control. Things happen. Sometimes, surrendering to them is easier on us and those around us. After that, “get back to the desk” as soon as you can. Don’t let the interruption cheat you of your work. So we stay up a little later, lose a little sleep, or get up a little earlier to work. We can and we will see work has a payout–you did it. ~And now, for some inspirational quotes on writing~ “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.” —Anonymous “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” —Richard Bach “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.” —Gerald Brenan “If you’re a writer, your first duty, a duty you owe to yourself and your readers, and to your writing itself, is to become wonderful. To become the best writer you can possibly be.” —Theodora Goss (all quotes form  A good site. Why not join their mailing list.) Okay, let’s get back to the desk! May the story you WRITE...

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In Search of Theater for Teen Actors…just my thoughts

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Community, Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

Okay, so where does director of faith-based theater go to research and find good material for H.S. students? After piling through sketch and play sites and a few other resources, I am considering the following: We need writers for high school aged actors (sketches and plays)… ones that will commit to writing the stories that matter to them! I need to write. Today, high school people are more sophisticated and wiser (worldly-wise) than ever before. My experience, after being back in the classroom is this: They won’t do corny.  They won’t do obvious. They won’t do things that seem immature-childish scenarios, story-lines, sketches or plays.  “Not-ever-going-to-happen in my lifetime…” as one teen informed me. They will do funny, if it’s truly funny. They will do serious work if they find it addressing a story that is true enough to be lived out by them or other teens around them. They don’t mind being the messengers.  They will work. They will show up and rehearse.  They’ll open up their own stories for the telling. I find it more than interesting that young adult fiction books (series)—read and enjoyed by teens—have become successful movies over the last several years: “The Fault In Our Stars” (John Green), “Divergent”, “The Hunger Games”. I personally have been moved by these stories and movies. The characters are brave and courageous—heroes and heroines—in their living and in their dying. Also, interesting to note, is the futuristic reality of Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant (Veronica Roth) and the Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins). As a parent of a teen, a teacher and a theater arts director of teens, I am asking the question—“What is speaking so loudly to their hearts, minds and souls in these works?”… “How can I enter this dialogue and could I be a part of helping them tell the stories that matter to them?” The best way to do this, if teens are in your life, is to ask questions and create an open dialogue. Ask them at a time when they are open. “When’s that?!  The door is always closed,” you might be thinking. I find some of the best time is in the car on the way home or to places, after dinner or a dinner-out time, the last moments of the day before they retire. Let them talk… tell their story. This is not your time to philosophize-criticize-moralize…interrupt. Simply listen and open your ears. Ask open-ended questions. And make sure you are ready for some questions to come back your way. If you want to write for them, you must get inside their stories and find out what is hard, challenging, crazy, hopeful, joyous, important, etc., to them. With their permission, hurry to your laptop, journal, yellow pad and write as many notes as you can remember… And then when you get to the place of writing, ask them to be a part of the critique team.  They love that—critiquing us! Call or write me about your thoughts on writing for teens… I’m all ears about this group of amazing people. God bless your story and the teens in and around your life!...

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