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#1 of 13 Old 11-11-2007, 01:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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#2 of 13 Old 11-13-2007, 12:25 PM
 
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Sorry, I've been out of town. Please post it again.
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#3 of 13 Old 11-13-2007, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry, I've been out of town. Please post it again.
Thanks Unagidon, here you go.

GH (my husband) and I adore nature. It’s a shame this love for the great outdoors isn’t shared by our 19 month old daughter, Millicent. It seems any nature loving DNA that may have been present in her gene pool, was quickly flushed away into the colon as she was being assembled in the early stages of conception; such was her disgust at being taken out for a hike on the weekend.

GH, our brood and I went to a national park. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were surrounded by a palette of flowering, native flora and melodic bird calls that sang sweetly amongst the trees. But in the midst of this tapestry of a perfectly weaved Eden, was the grating sound of a wailing wilder beast, and that beast was our Milly.

I really couldn’t see what all the complaining was about. Milly had managed to avoid any walking and hung off my hip during the duration of the hike, while randomly reaching out to any passerby that looked brainless enough to carry her back to the car.

Becoming quite annoyed with her attempts of an invited abduction I warned off any prospective baby snatchers by stating quite loudly ‘she’s still infectious and can make you sterile with one sneeze.’

Eventually we followed a track that took us to a slow flowing stream.

‘Oh goody!’ I thought. ‘This should appease my whinging child’.

Neddy (our three year old son), upon seeing the stream was in there like a shot and immediately adopted a Taiwanese squat, while trying to splash the stream dry with his chubby little hands. GH sat down next to him, and showed him how to make a boat out of a leaf. I stood there holding my squirming offspring and wondered if anyone would notice her waving ‘bye bye’ as she happily floated downstream.

I shook the tempting thought free from my mind, and thought perhaps Milly might like to dip her feet into the stream instead. I gently lowered her down, just so she could skim the water’s surface with her toes, but the minute her feet came into contact with the icy water, she shot them back up into a meditating, lotus position.

I stood there dumbfounded.

Holding her firmly, I grabbed one of her feet and tried to stretch it back into the water, only to have it spring back into its original position. I then tried shaking her feet out from underneath her, but the only things that dropped into the water, were her hair clips.

Hearing me muttering to myself, GH glanced over to see what was going on.

‘Darling’, why are you shaking our daughter like a sauce bottle?’ he asked.

‘I’m – trying - to – lower – her – feet – in - to – the – water’ I replied, still trying to shake Milly’s feet out from underneath her.

‘Oh’, was his only answer.

Milly was adamant she wasn’t going to get her feet wet, and seemed quite happy to remain in her lotus position. She was so content with her little possie, that she closed her eyes and took on a serene expression. Eventually, people walking along the track stopped and gathered round to stare at my little floating Buddha.

‘Is she sleeping?’ asked someone.

‘No! I’ve been using her as a water divination tool and would you believe it, she’s led us straight to this stream. It’s a MIRACLE!’ I yelled, while moving her in a circular motion above the running water.

GH saw my last comment as a cue to continue walking, before we were invited to appear on 60 Minutes.

Hoisting Milly back onto my hip, we made our way up the track to view the waterfall that one could hear, but could not see.

After ten minutes of walking, hearing but not seeing any waterfall, I was convinced the sound was some sort of nature recording, put in place to confuse the elderly and frustrate the tourists, so I turned around and headed back towards the car.

Suddenly, GH yelled ‘I can see it!’

‘No you can’t’ I yelled back.

‘Seriously, I can see the waterfall’ he replied.

‘No, you’re hallucinating! Time to go home’ I yelled over my shoulder as I continued my way back to the car park, with a grizzling Milly on my hip.

Suddenly, Neddy started clapping and shouted ‘Mama, warrerfall’.

I stopped and turned to see GH and Neddy continuing on with their ill fated trek.

‘Now look at what you’ve done. You’ve passed on your hallucination to your son’ I cried out in exasperation. ‘Our health care fund doesn’t cover therapy for three year olds darling’, I yelled out after him as he and Neddy followed the track around a huge granite boulder, and disappeared out of sight.

Then, something quite eerie happened.

The wind dropped without warning. The birds fell silent, Milly stopped grizzling and there seemed to be a thickness to the atmosphere. Something was hovering on the very edge of our reality, wanting to come in.

‘Uh Oh! This feels a little too much like picnic at hanging rock’, I thought to myself.

The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand on end, and I could feel beads of perspiration forming between my shoulder blades. Instinctively I held Milly tighter. Something wasn’t right. I had lost sight of GH and Neddy, and there wasn’t anyone else on the track.

We were alone.

I could sense it coming closer, looming around us like a thick, dark cloud. I was about to wrap my daughter in a bear hug and run terrified back to the car, when this thing was suddenly upon us.

It escaped with force from Milly’s arse end, in a series of loud ripe farts together with a noxious stench. One after the other they came, with no respite in between. Gagging, I wanted to drop her onto the ground and run, but there were nests full of angry bull ants around our feet. My only option was to stand there and perform a white man’s version of a Cherokee rain dance, while choking on the vile stench that was being omitted from Milly’s dying rear end.

‘For the love of God STOP, you’ll kill us all!’ I shouted at her. But she continued with her tirade of toxic gas.

Finally what seemed like an eternity, it all came to an end. The twilight zone feeling left us, and we were once again, back in the 21st Century. Exhausted and gasping for air, I found a large flat rock that was high enough to protect us from the ants. Standing on it, I looked around and took in the carnage around us.

There was devastation everywhere. Milly’s toxic flatulence had managed to wipe out several gum trees, two emus, half a dozen kangaroos and a species of parrots.

I looked down at my (now) chirpy, little chemical war weapon dressed in moss green with a hint of cherry. She responded with a gleeful little clap, and her trademark hippo grin.

Possessing the gift of perfect timing, GH and Neddy appeared back on the track. One look at my face told GH it was time to head back to the car.

‘Er, come on Neddy, time to go home now’ he said nervously as he took Ned’s hand and started to lead him back to the car park.

‘Too bloody right mate’ I thought to myself as I hopped off the rock, ‘too bloody right!’

***********************************

There are some Aussie references in there as I am, well...an Aussie. It's a very tongue in cheek piece and the majority of my writing is in this style. I'd very much appreciate your feedback.
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#4 of 13 Old 11-14-2007, 05:03 AM
 
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Well, I'm not a writer (just have vague aspirations, that's why I'm hanging round this board) but I do read a great deal, so I'll give you my opinion for what it's worth. It's well written, easy to read, descriptive bits work, bringing the scene to life. Character (especially of Millie) captured well. The ending was quite unexpected (what you wanted, right?) but for me it was disappointing, as until the ending, while the piece is quite humourous, but it also deals so well with the natural surroundings and Millie's lack of appreciation for them, you expect something wonderful to happen. I think what I'm trying to say is the ending is a bit slapstick in contrast to the build-up. Maybe if the reader was more familiar with your style and began reading it with different expectations they might have a different opinion of the ending.
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#5 of 13 Old 11-14-2007, 02:26 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lovesea View Post
Well, I'm not a writer (just have vague aspirations, that's why I'm hanging round this board) but I do read a great deal, so I'll give you my opinion for what it's worth. It's well written, easy to read, descriptive bits work, bringing the scene to life. Character (especially of Millie) captured well. The ending was quite unexpected (what you wanted, right?) but for me it was disappointing, as until the ending, while the piece is quite humourous, but it also deals so well with the natural surroundings and Millie's lack of appreciation for them, you expect something wonderful to happen. I think what I'm trying to say is the ending is a bit slapstick in contrast to the build-up. Maybe if the reader was more familiar with your style and began reading it with different expectations they might have a different opinion of the ending.
:

Just what I was thinking.
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#6 of 13 Old 11-14-2007, 03:08 PM
 
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First off, I can't wait for Unagidon to surface and critique. His critiques are really solid!

My feedback:

Generally very well written. I like your wit and style. Constructive part: as PPs said the climax event was rather slapstick, Three Stooges. Instead of giving so much time to the event itself, I think it would be better if you gave a little more attention to the before and after the event. Give us a little more of your exasperation/frustration (without you yelling too much, maybe you just wilt, crumble a little because you just cannot make your outing work due to the baby). Then afterword, perhaps instead of heading to the car, you and family can resume your trek to the waterfall.

This way, you're telling us that your baby isn't a tyrant who cannot be appeased. Instead you give us a better outcome of how we may not understand what is going on inside someone else that makes them act the way they do. Give them a little room, maybe a gas mask, and everyone is happy again!

Good go at it. A little tweaking and I think you have a good piece.

Cheers,
Judi
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#7 of 13 Old 11-14-2007, 03:24 PM
 
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Some editing suggestions:

[QUOTE=Marywin;9723186]It escaped with force from Milly’s southern end, in a series of noisy bursts of noxious air. One after the other they came, with no respite in between. I wanted to drop her onto the ground and run, but there were nests full of angry bull ants around our feet. My only option was to stand there and perform a white man’s version of a Cherokee rain dance, trying to move to less contaminated pockets of air.

‘Oh, dear God, how can this much air even fit in a body this size’ I wondered aloud.

Finally it all came to an end. Exhausted and gasping for air, I found a large flat rock that was high enough to protect us from the ants. I looked down at my (now) chirpy, little chemical war weapon dressed in moss green with a hint of cherry. She responded with a gleeful little clap, and her trademark hippo grin.

Possessing the gift of perfect timing, GH and Neddy appeared back on the track.

‘Hey, honey, we found ....’ GH called out to me, 'the waterfall." This last part barely audible, as he caught sight of look on my face. He quickly took stock of the situation ...

*****Then maybe from here you can take the whole family back to the stream, or to the waterfall, and she will want to splash in the water ... you wil have some renewed energy for the outing ... a little reflection on something ... Also, I think by removing words such as arse, fart, stench etc., it improves the humor and lessens the slapstick feeling.
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#8 of 13 Old 11-14-2007, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is wonderful. Thank you all for your responses. Your suggestions have been very helpful, which is what I was hoping for.
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#9 of 13 Old 11-18-2007, 05:05 PM
 
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Pretty good. You're a pretty clean writer, in the sense that your descriptions are simple but adequate.

This piece is about half as long as it needs to be. Satire flows easily and takes its time. (Jokes speed to the conclusion.) If you want to read something that contains the right pacing for a piece like this, read Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. It's from the 19th century, but it is a classic for this sort of thing.

Don't telegraph the punchline and never explain anything by saying what the narrator is thinking. You want to draw a contrast between what the narrator looks like she is doing and what she is actually doing. Understate, understate, understate!

You should also pay attention to technical situations. When you plot your pieces, think about them spatially as though you were putting on a play. When someone moves from point a to point b, what are they doing at point a and what would they have to do to get to point b? That sort of thing.

In the following, I do a close review. Single square brackets [] are where I suggest cutting something. Single squiggley brackets {} are where I suggest adding something. Double square brackets [[]] are where I make some kind of comment.

A close review means that I have commented on almost every paragraph. DON'T think that this is because you didn't write it well. You did. You have talent.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

GH (my husband) and I adore nature. It’s a shame this love for the great outdoors isn’t shared by our 19 month old daughter, Millicent. It seems any nature loving DNA that may have been present in her gene pool, was quickly flushed away into the colon as she was being assembled in the early stages of conception; such was her disgust at being taken out for a hike on the weekend.

[[I would cut “into the colon” here. It is redundant. If you remove it, the image is more powerful.]]

GH, our brood and I went to a national park. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were surrounded by a palette of flowering, native flora and melodic bird calls that sang sweetly amongst the trees. But in the midst of this tapestry of a perfectly weaved Eden, was the grating sound of a wailing wilder beast, and that beast was our Milly.

[[You speak about a brood here, but you haven’t introduced your son yet. You need to have done this already, because I found myself distracted, wondering about the brood and how many were in it.]]

I really couldn’t see what all the complaining was about. Milly had managed to avoid any walking and hung off my hip during the duration of the hike, [while] randomly reaching out to any passerby that looked {like they might be} brainless enough to carry her back to the car.

{I became} [becoming] quite annoyed with her attempts of an invited abduction {and} I warned off any prospective baby snatchers by stating quite loudly ‘she’s still infectious and can make you sterile with one sneeze.’

Eventually we followed a track that took us to a [shallow] slow flowing stream.

‘Oh goody!’ I thought. ‘This should appease my whinging child’.

[[Given what you have written so far, I am not sure why the stream should appease your child. Also, you haven’t said that Milly was whining up to this point. Also, you have her snatching at passersby earlier on and it would be more humorous if you implied that she did it in a charming way rather than a whining way.]]

Neddy (our three year old son), upon seeing the stream was in there like a shot [and immediately adopted a Taiwanese] squat{ting}, while trying to splash the stream dry with his chubby little hands. GH sat down [on the bank] next to him, and showed him how to make a boat out of a leaf. I stood there holding my squirming offspring and wondered if anyone would notice her waving ‘bye bye’ as she happily floated downstream.

[[The Taiwanese thing doesn’t add anything. I think you might be talking about the way that Japanese sit kneeling, but just saying that the boy squatted would be enough. I assume that GH didn’t sit in the river with the boy. If he did, you should say so. But if he did (or you make him do it) you would need to contrast how he sits to how the boy sits. (It could be that GH is a real outdoorsman and actually would sit in the stream. But if you want to go in this direction, you would need a fuller description of him at the beginning.)

Your thing about “bye bye” is a bit confusing. It seems as though you are considering dropping the baby in the water. This could be a funny sentiment, but from the reader’s point of view the baby hasn’t done anything remarkable enough to make your narrator want to think this way. If you want to use this image, you will have to give the mother a solid (anecdotal) reason for wanting to think this way. For example, when I used to carry my daughter in a sort of back pack at about the same age, she used to like to grab tree branched and watch them swing back and hit people in the face. Especially if they were elderly, for some reason and especially after they had made some kind of nice compliment about her to me.]]

I shook the tempting thought free from my mind, and thought perhaps Milly might like to dip her feet into the stream instead. I gently lowered her down, just so she could skim the water’s surface with her toes, but the minute her feet came into contact with the icy water, she shot them back up into a [meditating,] lotus position.

[[I know what you are trying to say. People will know what a lotus position is, so you don’t have to describe it. However, the image is a bit confusing, because the lotus position also includes a position for the hands. What might be stronger is something like “the minute her feet came into contact with the icy water, she reacted much as a lobster might when one lifts the lid on the pot and begins the final ascent.”]]

I stood there dumbfounded.

[[I don’t think you did. First, what she did is entirely what we would expect her to do based on what you have told us about her so far. Second, what she did was natural, not remarkable. Had Milly pulled out a pistol and held it to your head and said “Feeling lucky today?” that would be something to be dumbfounded about. Third, your narrator doesn’t sound like the kind of person that becomes dumbfounded. What we have here is not your daughter acting out of character, but you and your daughter engaging in a test of wills. So you might consider replacing what you said with something like this “I had played this game before and holding her firmly I vowed to myself that this time, the adult was going to win.”

Now you also have a technical problem here. You could easily just put her in the water, which we have established is shallow, since your little son is sitting in it already. You need a reason for not being able to do this. So, for example, Milly has a death grip on your arm or something such that if you put her in, you will be going in too.]]

Holding her firmly, I grabbed one of her feet and tried to stretch it back into the water, only to have it spring back into its original position. I then tried shaking her feet out from underneath her, but the only things that dropped into the water[,] were her hair clips.

Hearing me muttering to myself, GH glanced over to see what was going on.

[[Don’t need this part. GH is sitting a couple of feet away and he would see this. You can simply cut directly to:

‘Darling’, why are you shaking our daughter like a sauce bottle?’ [he] asked[.] GH.

‘I’m – trying - to – lower – her – feet – in - to – the – water’ I replied[, still trying to shake Milly’s feet out from underneath her].

‘Oh’, was his only answer.

[[This would be a good place to insert something about GH. He has seen these struggles before. When he says ‘Oh’ it looks to me like he is washing his hands of the interaction, perhaps because you never win or perhaps because the last time he got involved lives were lost or something. You might also think about including your son at this point and have him make a reaction.]]

Milly was adamant she wasn’t going to get her feet wet, and seemed quite happy to remain in her lotus position. [She was so content with her little possie, that ]she closed her eyes and took on a serene expression. Eventually, people walking along the track stopped and gathered round to stare at my little floating Buddha.

[[Milly isn’t floating, though. I think you are trying to say that she looks like she is floating in air. You should develop this paragraph a bit. First, you can’t see inside her head so you can’t say that she is content. Second, you might contrast her calmness with you continuing to try to shake her into the creek.]]

‘Is she sleeping?’ asked someone.

[[This is good.]]

‘No! I’ve been using her as a water divination tool and would you believe it, she’s led us straight to this stream. It’s a MIRACLE!’ I yelled, while moving her in a circular motion above the running water.

[[You might consider cutting ‘It’s a MIRACLE!’ here. Understatement should work better and it will be funnier if you contrast your calm but aggressive shaking with Milly’s calm resistance.]]

GH saw my last comment as a cue to continue walking, before we were invited to appear on 60 Minutes.

[[This needs expansion. First, if GH sees this as a cue, then it means that you have signaled for him to start walking again (since right now he’s sitting down). Might be stronger for him to pick up the son and cue you to start walking again.]]

Hoisting Milly back onto my hip, we made our way up the track to view the waterfall that one could hear, but could not see.

[[You are introducing the waterfall here for the first time and have not indicated before that you could hear it. So you need to say something like “…we made our way up the track to view a waterfall that this park was famous for; a beautiful waterfall that one could hear but (after we walked towards the sound for 10 minutes) apparently could not see.”

[After ten minutes of walking, hearing but not seeing any waterfall, ]I was {becoming] convinced the sound was some sort of nature recording, put in place to confuse the elderly and frustrate the tourists[, so I turned around and headed back towards the car. ]

[[You can turn back and walk to the car at this point, but you need to say something to your husband first. Also, in your next sentence, you imply but do not say that he is continuing to walk on. You will need to be more explicit about that.]]

Suddenly, GH yelled ‘I can see it!’

‘No you can’t’ I yelled back.

[[If you are yelling, you have either walked away quite a bit or the sound of the waterfall is now a roar. You could do something here describing one or the other.]]

‘Seriously, I can see the waterfall’ he replied.

‘No, you’re hallucinating! Time to go home’ I yelled over my shoulder as I continued my way back to the car park, with a grizzling Milly on my hip.

[[Your narrator seems to unreasonable here. She needs a reason to believe that her husband is lying to her for her to say this. He could perhaps have thought he saw it before. Or he could be standing in some place or in some way where it doesn’t seem possible that he can see it.]]

Suddenly, Neddy started clapping and shouted ‘Mama, warrerfall’.

I stopped and turned to see GH and Neddy continuing on with their ill fated trek.

[[You have a little technical problem here, because presumably you have already been turned towards them to yell to them. Also, when you use the words “ill fated” you are implying that something bad will be happening to them. “Misguided” might be a better choice.]]

‘Now look at what you’ve done. You’ve passed on your hallucination to your son’ I cried out in exasperation. ‘Our health care fund doesn’t cover therapy for three year olds darling’, I yelled out after him as he and Neddy followed the track around a huge granite boulder, and disappeared out of sight.

[[This would be much funnier if your narrator said all of this to Milly and not to your husband and son.

Your story also has another little technical problem here. Your introduction of the next few paragraphs shows a certain transition from activity to silence. However, the contrast isn’t strong enough. For one thing, you are approaching a waterfall, whose noise presumably isn’t stopping. Second, Milly hasn’t acted up in any way since you left the creek. What you can do here is to rewrite the segment “now look what you have done’’ to be you complaining to Milly. She responds by looking at you seriously. You ask yourself “could she understand what I am saying.” There is a sort of silence while she looks at you intensely and you think about this. The silence could be expressed much as you have here with a projection into the surroundings. This sets up the tension that you need to get to the punchline.]]


Then, something quite eerie happened.

The wind dropped without warning. The birds fell silent, Milly stopped grizzling and there seemed to be a thickness to the atmosphere. Something was hovering on the very edge of our reality, wanting to come in.

[‘Uh Oh! This feels a little too much like picnic at hanging rock’, I thought to myself.]

[[Here you are telegraphing the punch line. You don’t want to overstate here; you want to understate and let your descriptions do your talking for you.]]

The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand on end, and I could feel beads of perspiration forming between my shoulder blades. Instinctively I held Milly tighter. Something wasn’t right. I had lost sight of GH and Neddy, and there wasn’t anyone else on the track.

We were alone.

I could sense it coming closer, looming around us like a thick, dark cloud. I was about to wrap my daughter in a bear hug and run terrified back to the car, when this thing was suddenly upon us.

[[In this sentence you have made the “threat” be outside of the two of you. But it might be stronger if it comes from inside of your moment of interaction with Milly.]]

It escaped [with force from Milly’s arse end,] in a series of loud ripe farts together with a noxious stench. One after the other they came, with no respite in between. Gagging, I wanted to drop her onto the ground and run, but there were nests full of angry bull ants around our feet. My only option was to stand there and perform a white man’s version of a Cherokee rain dance, while choking on the vile stench ]that was being omitted from Milly’s dying rear end.]

[[The parts in brackets are redundant. Best to leave those things to the imagination.]]

[[‘For the love of God STOP, you’ll kill us all!’ I shouted at her. But she continued with her tirade of toxic gas.]]

[Since these farts are natural and the child is 19 months old, I don’t think your narrator would say this. But she might pray to God to make them stop.]]

Finally what seemed like an eternity, it all came to an end. The twilight zone feeling left us, and we were once again, back in the 21st Century. Exhausted and gasping for air, I found a large flat rock that was high enough to protect us from the ants. Standing on it, I looked around and took in the carnage around us.

There was devastation everywhere. Milly’s toxic flatulence had managed to wipe out several gum trees, two emus, half a dozen kangaroos and a species of parrots.

I looked down at my (now) chirpy, little chemical war weapon [dressed in moss green with a hint of cherry]. She responded with a gleeful little clap, and her trademark hippo grin.

[[If you are going to talk about how she is dressed here, you will need to introduce something like this at the very beginning. Doing it this late in the story implies that her appearance was somehow changed.]]

Possessing the gift of perfect timing, GH and Neddy appeared back on the track. One look at my face told GH it was time to head back to the car.

‘Er, come on Neddy, time to go home now’ he said nervously as he took Ned’s hand and started to lead him back to the car park.

‘Too bloody right mate’ I thought to myself as I hopped off the rock, ‘too bloody right!’
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#10 of 13 Old 11-18-2007, 11:52 PM
 
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My goodness Unagidon, are you an editor by chance? If not, would you please replace at least one of my editors?
You really are talented. What amazing feedback you give.
Diane
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#11 of 13 Old 11-19-2007, 12:38 AM
 
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My goodness Unagidon, are you an editor by chance? If not, would you please replace at least one of my editors?
You really are talented. What amazing feedback you give.
Diane
I told you he was good
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#12 of 13 Old 11-20-2007, 07:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Unagidon - you are a dream! You've given me a lot to work with. Thank you!
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#13 of 13 Old 11-20-2007, 10:53 AM
 
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Unagidon - you are a dream! You've given me a lot to work with. Thank you!
When you have reworked your piece, if you put it up again I would be happy to look at it again.
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