Like Sand Through The Hourglass…

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
― C.S. Lewis

I remember when I started college, everyone complained about how many years they would be in school if they decided to become a veterinarian.

Four years of undergraduate study! Four years of veterinary school! Eight years of classes and exams!

Perhaps eight years is a long time. For an 18 year old, that’s 44% of their life. For a 24 or 25 year old, that’s about 33%, or 1/3 of their life. That’s a lot of time to devote to something.

But then I remember someone saying…the time will pass anyway.

I googled this to see if there was a quote this statement originally might have come from and I found this wonderful gem:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
― Earl Nightingale

Often a situation just needs a new perspective. In this case, everyone was complaining about how long it would take to achieve the goal of becoming a veterinarian. But, it’s not really about the time is it?

4 years, 8 years….time passes anyway. But will you be a veterinarian at the end of 8 years? Will you be an author? A pilot? A teacher? An electrician? Or will you be in exactly the same circumstances as you were at the start of those 8 years?

Will you use your time to achieve a dream? Or will time just pass?

Sometimes with writing, the word counts for novels can be overwhelming. How could I ever write a 65,000 word story? Or even 20,000 words. That would take so much time!

But then I try to remind myself that the time will pass anyway.

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

If I wrote 1,000 words a day, at the end of 20 days I would have a rough draft of a middle grade book, or in 65 days I would have a rough draft of a young adult book.

One month, two months….where will I be?

Will I have a draft to work with at the end of two months or will I still be sitting and dreaming?

As I’ve been reminded in many books I’ve read lately, time is not guaranteed to anyone. No one knows how much time they have and yet it’s often perceived as both a cheap, infinite resource, and as an expensive, limited one.

“I have all the time in the world to get that done!”

or

“That would take too much time!”

It’s not always easy to remember. Dreams can seem overwhelming. Other aspects of life get in the way and use up precious hours, but things worth having are always worth the time.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

The Trouble with Time

I remember reading an analogy when I was little that compared a person’s day with a vase full of rocks.

If you pour the little rocks in first, the big rocks won’t fit. The little rocks will fill up the bottom of the vase and the big rocks will try to fit on top but there will be lots of gaps between them and they won’t all fit.

If you place the big rocks in the vase first then pour the little rocks in, the little rocks can fill in all the gaps between the big rocks and all the rocks fit in the vase.

The vase is all the hours of a day and the rocks are daily tasks. Big rocks = big, important, or time-consuming tasks. Little rocks = small, less important or quick tasks.

For some reason this analogy has always stuck with me.

What color is this vase? Irrelevant, you say? Fair enough.

There are so many distractions around us with the internet constantly clamoring for attention. How many times have I wasted an hour on Facebook when it felt like fifteen minutes?

Or felt like I needed something to pass the time, so I pulled out my phone to play a mindless matching game.

Oooh! I unlocked a new level!

Growing up I don’t remember feeling this desire to be doing something constantly. I remember enjoying quiet moments. Times when I could sit and think and make up stories.

I loved to watch TV and play Nintendo, of course, but I was reaching for a book instead of my phone before bed. I could take a walk in the woods and not be connected to anyone.

I only purchased a smart phone two years ago. Before that I hated the idea of a smartphone. I didn’t want to be connected to everyone all the time. I liked feeling disconnected. I liked living in the quiet spaces of my mind without the constant buzz of data humming in my ear.

But oh how addicting that smart phone is!

It’s a strange sensation now to go anywhere without my phone. I was on call 24/7 while I worked with the circus, so that helped form this attachment, but then it simply became a habit to take my phone everywhere.

Check emails. Check Facebook. Check my blog. Check twitter.

So many things to look at!

So many distractions!

So many small rocks!

Dear Google, What is the composition of these rocks?

My phone, and the constant checking of emails, social media, etc. was chipping away at all the hours in my day.

My phone time was a bunch of small rocks. Small rocks filling up the bottom of my vase and leaving me with less time and focus to fit in all the big rocks.

I wasn’t giving myself moments of quiet. I wasn’t sleeping with a book next to the bed. I wasn’t daydreaming.

I’ve been focusing on big rocks lately. There are still a few big rocks that involve the internet or my phone. Big rocks like my blog and book reviews, but there are also a lot of little rocks like Facebook and Twitter that need to wait their turn.

Writing is a big rock and it’s amazing how much I can get done in the same amount of time I might have spent on Facebook.

Leaving my phone at home is an easy way to eliminate lots of pesky little rocks from a day I’d like to fill with big rocks.

Little rocks are sneaky, they slip into the vase and before you know it all the big rocks are spilling off the top and another vase is full.

Another day is done.

Excuse me, I’d like a bigger vase.

Contest Time!

Hello readers of UNDER THE BIG TOP TALES AND TWISTERS,

As you may have seen in this week’s paper, a new writing contest has started!

This contest is only open to residents in the Cabool, Missouri area/subscribers to The Cabool Enterprise. The contest will also be open to subscribers of any other newspaper my column appears in, but for the moment in only appears in The Cabool Enterprise.

Below you will find the complete rules and information to enter the contest as was printed in the paper.

The contest is free to enter but remember the deadline for entries is April 15th by 5:00pm 

Please read the rules carefully and email me or comment below if you have any questions.

I look forward to many wonderful, creative, exciting, hilarious, sweet, sad, heart-warming, frightening, fantastical, works of prose from children of all ages.

Good luck and Happy Writing!

Contest Rules and Submission Process

Write a response to the following prompt.

If I had three wishes…

To Enter: This contest is open to children in the following age categories:

  • Under 8 years old
  • 9-12 years old
  • 13-18 years old

Please include the following information with your entry:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Hometown
  • Phone Number/Email Address.

Submit Entries: Attach entry in Word or PDF format, or type into the body of the email, and email to threeshowsaturday@gmail.com

Please put “Contest Entry” in subject line. Entries may also be submitted in person at The Cabool Enterprise or Missouri Gun Co LLC, both located in Cabool, Mo.

Rules: Entries must be previously unpublished. Entries must be 500 words or less and must be the original work of the submitter. Entrants must fall within one of the age categories to be eligible to enter. Entries must be received on or before the deadline. By entering, you agree to allow your work to be published in the newspaper and online.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three places in each age category. First place stories will be published in the newspaper, all other winning stories will appear online.

Writing contest and prizes proudly sponsored by these local businesses:

Missouri Gun Co. LLC of Cabool, Missouri

The Cabool Enterprise of Cabool, Missouri

A team of three judges will determine the winners in each category.

 

Write, Now

I have so many writings in progress, it’s getting a bit ridiculous. It’s not that I don’t want to finish these projects (I do!), it’s just that it feels like I have all the time in the world.

What’s the rush? Now isn’t the perfect time. I’ll have peace and quiet tomorrow.

I can get to that later….right?

Recently, the theme of living in the moment has been hitting me over the head, both in the books I’ve read and in real life.

When I worked at the circus, it was easy to take things for granted. I saw elephants everyday. I could get up close with a tiger almost anytime I wanted. Cuddling with camels? Absolutely! Snakes, poodles, cockatoos, horses and one fickle donkey…so many animals to love and so little all the time I needed.

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But then I left the circus.

No more crazy animal cuddles.

But, wait! There was always time to visit. I could go back anytime I wanted. My friends would be there. The animals would be there. It would be just like old times, but better! No work and all play….right?

Sure, unless the animals are taken away.

As many now know, the elephants will be retired from the show much earlier than expected.

They will live out their lives well cared for and loved, but when I visited Cincinnati last week, that was likely the last time I will see those specific elephants and possibly the last time I get that close to an elephant ever again.

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Me and Asia

The abrupt departure of elephants from my life, along with all my favorite circus people, got me to thinking about what I love most.

Living in the moment, being thankful for today and making the most of it, these aren’t new concepts, but sometimes it takes something big (like elephant big) to remind us of the uncertainty of life.

Someone dies or moves. New job or no job. New births, new pets, new friends.

Tragedies and triumphs, these moments are needed to remind us, nothing is forever on this earth.

So while I’m waiting for the perfect moment to start (or finish) a story, life is moving on all around me. There will never be a “perfect” time to do what I want to do. I am not guaranteed a tomorrow, let alone a perfect tomorrow where I have copious amounts of time for writing, visiting friends, starting new projects, etc.

I’m so thankful for the many wonderful memories I have from the circus and all the time I got to spend with the elephants.

I’m also thankful for the reminder that right now, this moment, is all I have.

So I need to write, now.

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All those elephant feels 🙂

(Three) Story Saturday

I just got back from Cincinnati, where I visited the circus and saw the elephants for what might be the last time. As many may or may not know, the elephants will be retired in May. It’s a sad time for my friends, and many others, who love the elephants more than anything and have devoted their lives to caring for these magnificent creatures.

There is so much I want to say on this topic and I wish people understood more about the amazing bond between the elephants and their handlers, but I will post more about that later.

I didn’t get my post up this week because of the trip, but I will have lots of elephant pictures for you in the next post.

I am back home, but my friends are in the midst of a three show Saturday!

I’ll be drawing from a couple writing inspirations today for this story Saturday.

  1. The circus
  2. This wonderful post from Linda Ashman about dialogue only stories.

I urge you to check out Linda Ashman’s post at Carrie Charley Brown’s blog where Reading for Research in going on this month. There are a ton of great posts about structuring picture books, along with tons of great recommendations for mentor texts. I am learning so much and getting inspired!

Today, these prompts are all about dialogue! Three prompts in three categories. Use as many, or as few, of the prompts from each category to craft your own “dialogue-only” story. If you want to write in true picture book form, give yourself a word limit…200 or 300 words or less.

Now, I present….inspiration for your Story Saturday 🙂

Scene

  1. The show’s about to start, your characters are backstage but they are missing an essential prop for their gag.
  2. Your characters are visiting a circus for the first time.
  3. Your characters have never seen an elephant before!

Characters

  1. The Ringmaster, and a clown
  2. Little girl and her grandpa
  3. The tiger trainer, the elephant trainer, and the camel trainer

Dilemma

  1. The clown’s shoes have been stolen.
  2. The tent isn’t up yet and the show will start soon.
  3. The camels don’t like their new costumes.

Hope these prompts spark some fun dialogue! As always, I would love to hear how your story turned out or your thoughts on “dialogue-only” stories.

May all your days be circus days!

Three Start Saturday

Happy (Three Show) Saturday!

I love writing on Saturday mornings. Maybe it’s the weekend feel that puts me in a good mood and makes anything seem possible. If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know I love to share writing inspiration on Saturdays. And today, I thought three story starts could spark something fun 🙂

You know me, everything in threes 😉 Below, are three story starts, and I attempted to put three key elements in each start (Person, place, objective, problem, etc). If the three elements aren’t apparent, I failed. Yesterday was about story with holes, maybe I should reread it 😉

This is my first time writing story starts for the blog, hopefully they are helpful. You can use the start exactly as written or just use it for inspiration.

I’d love to hear what you come up with! Hopefully these starts spark a wonderful story start of your own.

Start #1

April had one goal this year, to discover a new comet, and not get stuffed in a locker. Okay, two goals, but she really hated lockers.

Start #2

When Danny Dragon tried to breathe fire, he only blew smoke. He could fly higher than all the other dragons, but what good was that if he couldn’t scorch the earth with his breath?

Start #3

The old house had secrets…and locked doors. Lots of locked doors. His mom thought it was silly, but Henry knew he had seen someone looking out the attic window.

Thanks for stopping by and happy writing!

 

 

 

Stories With Holes

When I was in school, one of my teachers loved word games. She loved puzzles of all sorts but she seemed especially fond of word games.

One of the best games we played was called “Stories With Holes”. In reality, they are called lateral thinking problems, but Stories With Holes sounds way more fun.

Anyway, the object of the game is to figure out which part of the story is missing. Someone would read the story aloud (and then look at the answer), then the rest of us would take turns asking questions. The trick is all questions had to be answerable with a “yes”, “no”, or “irrelevant”.

He definitely has two hands? Irrelevant!

As with all things, some of the stories were awesome and some were absurd. Some stories had logical answers, easy to guess answers, or satisfying answers. Others were so far fetched we were left wondering if there had been a misprint. But all the answers had one thing in common (yes even the terrible ones), the answer always seemed blatantly obvious once we knew it.

I loved Stories With Holes. What dastardly clue was missing? How did those people wind up dead? Why did she have long hair? Was it the cat? Do they even have a cat?

Irrelevant!

The answer all players dreaded. It meant a wasted turn. A dead end.

It meant I wasn’t looking at the story from the right angle. It meant I was focused on all the wrong parts of the story and completely missing the giant plot hole staring me in the face.

Plot holes. Who needs ’em?

So I was thinking about Stories With Holes and it suddenly hit me that this frustrating soul-crushing brain altering wonderful game was a perfect analogy for writing.

Writers are often told they’re too close to their work to see the flaws. Too emotionally tied to this thing they created to ever think it’s anything less than perfect. Maybe some writers are, but I know a lot of writers (myself included) who agonize over their work and tear it to shreds and then offer it up like a sacrificial lamb for a (hopefully exceptionally critical) critique.

I think swapping manuscripts and having a fresh pair of eyes on your work is wonderful. I love critiques, but this post is not about critiques, at least not about critiques from other people. It is about being able to see the holes in your own story.

I do think there’s something to be said about writers being too close to their work, but I don’t think the fault lies entirely in emotional attachment, rather it’s from knowing the whole story.

As a writer of fiction, I have inside knowledge about my characters and plot. I know why a character cries when Barney sings, loves cats riding roombas, and never wears socks to bed, but sometimes, because I know all these things, I might assume everyone else does too.

You have a character named Gary and you’re really stoked about his rainbow shoestrings. So stoked, in fact, that it’s easy to forget to mention how much Gary hates blue M&M’s, but such information plays a pivotal role in the plot three chapters later.

Sometimes, I forget not everyone knows my characters like I do, and something that appears blatantly obvious to me in the story, is actually terribly confusing for someone without insider knowledge. It’s like watching the Harry Potter movies without reading the books…you may not have completely understood Horcruxes, among other things. People who read the books, loved the movies (as much as anyone can love a movie after reading the book) but they had insider knowledge. When the movie glossed over certain aspects of wizarding lingo, their brains just plugged in the plot holes with information pilfered from the vast Harry Potter library.

Without even realizing it, my brain glosses over these same holes in my own writing.

I realized this was a thing my brain did after coming across an old writing in progress. It had been so long since I’d worked on the piece that I barely remembered the characters and scarcely recalled my intended direction for the plot. It was like reading someone else’s work. I was intrigued.

Hey, this is pretty good! Wrong.

 I was kicking myself for not making an outline because I was really curious how the story ended, but my main takeaway was that I didn’t really know what was going on. It was only the beginning of what was expected to be a much longer piece, but it got me to thinking about all my other writing where I struggled to make things fit together….stories where something always seemed to be….missing.

I was writing Stories With Holes and didn’t even realize it. Sometimes the holes were small, and sometimes they were huge! How in the world did I not see that the reader would not understand Gary randomly tucking a blue M&M into his pocket in chapter one meant he would later use blue M&Ms to tame the the terrifying hunger of the dragon in chapter seven, who just so happens to LOVE blue M&M’s. Oh I also forgot to mention Gary hates wasting things. He hates throwing things away so he keeps the blue M&M’s in jars in his closet.

Oh hey, but did I mention his rainbow shoestrings?

Irrelevant!

Do I think authors are too close to their work sometimes? Yes

Do I think the reason they overlook flaws is always because they love their work so much? No

Do I think my dog makes a terrible writing coach? Irrelevant!

Writers are often told to step away from their work for a while so when they look at it again they will see it with fresh eyes. I’ve always loved this advice but maybe for the wrong reasons. I thought if I stepped away, I would grow less attached and love the story less, thereby allowing me to make objective judgments concerning its worth when viewed again.

Now, I think time lets you forget some of the things you know, lets some of the details slip from your brain. And when you look at your story with this new fresh brain, you are incapable of filling the holes.

You have to figure out what’s missing on your own. It’s like reading your very own Story With Holes, and you need to figure out which questions to ask. Are you asking the right questions? Is it clear what motivates your characters? Is the plot driven by the characters actions?

Did it rain three times in one day, somewhere, once?

Irrelevant!

Cheese should have holes, stories should not.

Hopefully this story didn’t have too many holes. If it did, feel free to ask me a Yes, No, or Irrelevant question in the comments. I think I’d prefer Irrelevant questions actually 😉

Loving the Love-A-Thon

loveathon

Hello friends!

I just discovered this magical thing that is the Love-A-Thon and I couldn’t resist signing up.

The Love-A-Thon is hosted by four wonderful book loving, blog writing divas and you can check out their blogs at Alexa Loves Books, The Daily Prophecy, The Novel Hermit, and Stay Bookish.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all, but here’s my questionnaire to kick things off and then I’m off to visit as many book loving blogs as possible 🙂

QUESTIONNAIRE

  1. What’s your name?
    • Kizzi
  2. Where in the world are you blogging from?
    • The great state of Missouri 🙂
  3. How did you get into blogging in the first place?
    • I wanted an outlet that would get me writing about anything and everything on a regular basis. I don’t really write about everything though, mostly just books and writing advice.
  4. How did you come up with your blog name?
    • I worked for the circus and we had three shows every single Saturday. It’s a nod to the circus, to hard work, to things that make you laugh and things that make you cry. A three show Saturday is an exhausting, but fulfilling day. I hope my blog doesn’t exhaust people though 😉
  5. What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?
    • Children’s literature of all kinds. Though I have a soft spot for quirky, adventurous characters, fantasy and books that make me laugh. 
  6. What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?
    • I post writing tips and advice (that I hope is helpful) and writing exercises/prompts.
  7. Best blogging experience so far?
    • I just started my blog, so pretty much every comment I’ve ever received was like a tiny Christmas gift. I really get excited over the smallest things since my blog is still shiny and new.
  8. Favorite thing about the blogging community?
    • Everyone is super supportive of each other and there is so much great content available!
  9. Name the 5 books you’re most excited for this 2016!
    • The Forbidden Wish
    • The Girl From Everywhere
    • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
    • And I Darken
    • The Book of Dust
  10. Name the 5 books you want to read this 2016 that you didn’t get to in previous years!
    • The rest of the “Ender’s Game” books
    • Dances with Dragons
    • The Night Circus
    •  Don Quixote
    • 1984
  11. What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?
    • The Abhorsen Trilogy…though now it’s technically a quartet with the addition of Clariel but the original three books are really spectacular. And anything by Terry Pratchett but especially all the books of his DiscWorld series.
  12. Who would you recruit for your apocalypse squad (5 characters max)
    • Sabriel, Éowyn, Arya, Daenerys, and Aragorn.  
  13. Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?
    • Writing, Sewing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  14. At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?
    • Hips Don’t Lie
  15. Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.  
    • Sabriel…I’m a bit obsessed with these books if you can’t tell.
  16. What would your dream library look like?
    • Exactly like the one in Beauty and the Beast.
  17. Author you want to meet and sit down to tea with?
    • Garth Nix

Three Scene Saturday

No dice today, but it’s still a Three Show Saturday sort of day! 🙂

Instead of dice you get three guidelines, three words, and three scenes.

Use the suggested guidelines to craft your story from the provided words and scenes. I grouped the words by threes, but if you’d like to mix and match across groupings, go for it. This is supposed to be a fun exercise so bend the rules (a little 😉 ) if you like.

I hope you have fun and enjoy your (Three Show) Saturday!

Guidelines

  • Tell a story in 50 words or less including one of the scenes or three of the prompt words.
  • Create a Haiku using one of the scenes or three of the prompt words as inspiration.
  • Write a fantasy story in 300 words or less set in one of the scenes with a character inspired by three of the words.

Words

  • Ogre, Unraveling, Bucket
  • Thorns, Falling, Seahorse
  • Tomb, Searching, Brigade

Scenes

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Happy Writing!

Read, Read, Read! Review?

With the first Mud Show Monday complete, this post is also all about book reviews.

I’m assuming if you’re reading this then you probably love to read (not just my blog, but I do thank you).

So you read a book and you LOVED it? What do you do? Do you tell your neighbor? A friend? Your dog? Anyone?

You could tell everyone. How, you ask?  Just write a review! 🙂

Why Write Reviews?

Reviews encourage the author.

“Someone read my book and liked it!” Shouts every author everywhere.

Every writer (published or not) wants to know that people are reading what they write (and hopefully enjoying it).

When I worked for the circus, I loved watching the crowd. I loved the kids that bounced in their seats and squealed with joy. Families cheering and clapping always made me smile. The performers loved it too. They couldn’t watch the crowd like I could, but they could hear the applause and feel the energy. Some crowds were great, and some sat there like bumps on a log.

No cheering, no clapping, no laughing. The show was the same, but sometimes crowds didn’t like to show their enjoyment. Perhaps it was too much effort to clap and hoot and holler. Perhaps they were quiet in general.

My point is, energetic crowds made a three show Saturday far more fun than quiet crowds. The circus is full of entertainers. They want to know their crowd is being entertained. Everyone loves to know they (and their work) are appreciated.

So spread that circus love and let your favorite entertainer author know you loved their work.

What if an author doesn’t read my review?

Just because you write a review doesn’t guarantee the author will ever see it. They might, and that would be fun, but what if they don’t? Some authors might not even read reviews of their books. Ever.

So what’s the point then?

Your review might be read by a publisher or it could be read by your fellow readers. Maybe someone reads your review and decides they share your tastes so they read the book too. Reviews are a great way to help publicize a book you love.

What if the book is bad?

Hmm…now that is a conundrum. But what defines a bad book?

Poor grammar? Shoddy story line? Gaping plot holes? Rotten characters?

All of the above? None of the above?

Ok, well if you really and truly can’t find a single nice thing to say, then it probably is best to say nothing at all.

Oh, but you have to write a review for the publisher or a project or your blog or your 8th grade English Literature class?

Well in that case, here are some tips to make your review a bit more constructive as opposed to simply saying “I hated it”.

  1. Find one thing (even if it’s tiny) that you liked about the book. I have faith that you can find one little thing, but if not, then find something you sort of liked and embellish a little.
  2. Define specifically what didn’t work for you. Do you not like toads and it was “All About Toads”? Too spooky? Boring characters? If it was less about the content and more about the grammar or story construct, talk about that instead. If an author can understand what wasn’t working for you, it makes the hit to the ego a little less harsh. We all have different tastes and any reasonable person/author will understand. Not liking something and expressing why, is not the same as writing a hateful review.
  3. Try to think of someone who would like the book. Even if it’s your weird neighbor down the street who never wears pants, someone is bound to think this book is the greatest book ever written. Instead of focusing your review on why you don’t like the book, focus on who would maybe like it instead.

Something of a Club

Becoming active among the book reviewers circle can feel like you’re part of a club. A massive, amazing book club!

Have a book you want to discuss but none of your friends have read it? Write a review or comment on someone else’s review. Checking out book review blogs is a great way to find reviews of books you’ve read and bloggers LOVE comments.

Advance Reading Copies

If you decide you love, love, love to write reviews, there are a few sites you can join to get advanced reading copies for free. Even if you only like reviewing a little bit, it can still be fun. These reviews help publicize the book prior to its release and give the author and publisher some feedback.

How it works

In exchange for a free print or digital copy, you agree to leave an honest review of the book. Requirements vary by site, and some require that you have an active blog and post the review there. Others are happy with a review posted on Amazon or GoodReads. Selection varies by site and not all books are available for immediate download. Many books must be requested, and then your request may or may not be approved by the publisher.

There are many sites available, but here are a few I use:

Net Galley

Edelweiss

Story Cartel

Blogging for Books

Use these sites as you will, I’m not paid to endorse them and I can offer no more assistance than to say I’ve registered with each of them and was able to read books for free and leave reviews.

Now, go forth my little circus fans, and read, read, read! Then Review! 

The entertainers will love you for it 🙂

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Cue the applause 😉