On Writing: Part 4 – GratianaDS90 II

This is a six part series on fanfic writing.  Here are parts 1, 2 and 3.

Today’s installment concludes the interview with GratianaDS90 from the creative blog Something About Love (A).  The first half is here.


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Would you write fanfic again?

Since I’ve just started my first Guy Fan fiction script story, I would have to say yes.   There were some undeveloped bits to his character that I wanted to explore further.  And with my “Vicar of Dibley” fan fiction–I have a full season of 8 episodes outlined in detail and several sections of dialogue written.  And then, there is my “Thorin’s Hope” story.  But for the most part, I write original script stories set in contemporary times around themes that matter to me–true love, how we define beauty in our society and who is worthy of love, and the complexities involved in blending your life with another as you build your relationship together, etc.

J: Would you encourage fanfic writing as a starting point?

I think writing fan fiction can be a helpful way for novice and non writers to begin.  But, just as contemporary writers put a new spin on Jane Austen’s Emma with the movie Clueless, novice writers can take the themes from Shakespeare and other great writers to help get them going.   Those of us who continue in the fan fiction genre past our novice stage do so because we want to resolve something with the characters or the plot–as I stated previously–or explore new avenues that the original writers had not thought of nor developed.

thesis-paperJ: Do you have any advice for novice fanfic writers?

G:   a) Just start writing.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It won’t be perfect the first few sentences, paragraphs, or pages that you write.  You can go back later and edit and expand it.  Do however pay attention to your grammar and your spelling eventually.  Unless you are trying to emulate a particular dialect–as the scriptwriter did in Sparkhouse–keep your writing simple.  Avoid run on sentences.  And I tell you this as a very verbose girl.  Just look how long my response to your interview is.  Ha!

b)  If you can’t figure out how to make it work plotwise for your couple or characters, then think how they must feel.  Ha!  Good drama and comedy are about conflict. So, you need to find that conflict in your story and in your characters and then resolve it by the time your story ends.

c)  Also, be observant about your daily life and the people around you for potential story ideas.  Not that you want to tell the stories of your family’s and friends’ lives–they might stop inviting you to family and neighborhood functions.  Ha!  But do notice that the everyday occurrence can turn into something interesting.  For example, one of my stories  that I refer to as “Miss Trouble Ticket”, starts with a computer calendaring system that is being changed at work and the heroine needs assistance–she gets it and much more.  This calendaring system story premise came about because we were indeed changing our calendaring system at work and there were kinks with it.

d)  Find inspiration in literature and song and incorporate it into your work.   One of the “hooks” in my writing is that I bring my literary background into my writing.  I have one male lead quoting 17th century love poetry or a Shakespearean sonnet to his lady love.  And yet another story has the groom singing a love song from a popular musical to his bride at their wedding.

e)  But always, always, always cite the other authors’ works properly.  Even if you use only the scrap of a quote–or even just a single identifiable word, such as “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane–you must attribute it appropriately to the original author and/or the original work.  And frankly, you’ll look more erudite doing so.  Looking erudite isn’t my intention.  I just enjoy fine literature and I like to promote it to the next generation by referencing it in my works.

f)  Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre of story.   My love stories encompass a wide range of genres–comedy, drama, farce, action adventure, etc.–except for horror and science fiction films, I don’t go there.  Well, I haven’t yet, anyway.  Ha!  But I also realize that my audiences–and my stories’ maturity ratings–are different for my different stories.   So, get to know your audiences and their tastes in terms of what works for a particular story destination.   And though I do like happy endings, one of my stories actually has a bittersweet and slightly sad ending–since life is not always tidy.

writing_pull3g)  Be selective about whom you let initially read your stories.  Seek out good beta readers who will gently give you some guidance.   Then gradually work up to those beta readers who like to give no holds barred criticisms.

h)  Become a beta reader of others’ fiction yourself.  Identify what they are doing well in their writing that you like and see if you can emulate it.  But don’t just copy them.  Be your own writer, find your own style.   After we had done some story collaborations together, an online writer friend asked if I would read her latest fan fiction work as one of her beta readers.  I was honored to do so and I spent five hours one Friday night reading it at one sitting.  Then I emailed  her some general as well as some specific suggestions–typos here and there, please describe a bit more, and I even penned a few lines of narration and dialogue here and there to illustrate what I was suggesting to her.  She wrote so well to begin with that I didn’t have to suggest too many changes to her.  However, I was gratified that she used every one of my editing suggestions–and she even used my narration and dialogue sections that I penned.  It gave me even more confidence for my own writing to know that other writers valued my opinions about their writing.

i)  Here is my story filename coding scheme.  Each time I revisit a story, I create a newly renamed version of the filename–so I can always tell what is the old version versus the new version is.  The first draft is zzStoryTitleMonthDayYr.  Then the second draft is zyStoryTitleSep2311.  This insures that my current script story version is always at the top of the window for the folder for that story–each story has its own folder.  And you need at least two letter codings because with 26 letters in the alphabet, zz to aa versions get you over 625 versions possibilities.  I won’t need that many versions.  But I definitely needed a coding scheme that reflected more than just 26 versions of a story.  I know, I’m way too organized.  But with working on over 40 stories in rotation, I have to be organized.

j)  With stories and characters, you need to come up with good character names and story names.  Keep a chart of the names you use.  And, I have had a few instances where a story started out with one title and then I felt that title fit another story idea better and I changed it.  The same thing has happened a few times with character names.  Oh and I visit those baby names sites to find out the meanings of names in order to give characters eponymous names–such as William means protector, and Richard means strong, etc.  It’s okay to switch things around and don’t beat yourself up about it.  Now that I’ve been writing for 1.5 years, I haven’t needed/wanted to make any character name or script story title changes lately.  Again, that’s because I set up my stories so thoroughly in the beginning.

k)  That brings up another tip–do your research.  Use the web and other resources to research places and historical events that you might want to incorporate into your stories.  I’ve even gone so far as to print out location maps for cities or venues.  And, in the case of the John and Margaret Thornton home, I diagramed its floor plan and furniture layouts because it is integral to some of my plot conceits.  Finally for my Guy fan fiction script story that I’m writing now, I researched various social customs of the crusades time period to make sure that I was being at least somewhat accurate with regard to my characters’ interactions.  Ha!

l)  Read your stories out loud to test the dialogue and the narration or exposition. You’ll find that you usually need to shorten your dialogue sentences to allow for breathing.  Ha!  There is nothing better than hearing your words out loud for giving you ideas on how to improve upon your phrasing.

m)  Here is a stylistic note.  I realized early on that I had a tendency to write my narration or internal monologue sentences in the past verb tense–even though I was describing action happening in the present.  Ooh!  That’s a no no–unless, of course, you are actually referring to something that occurred in the past.  So, I make a conscious effort now to be in the present as I’m writing–both literally and figuratively.  And in using the present verb tense appropriately, I feel it makes my writing feel more vibrant and immediate–as if the audience is actually seeing the action play itself out.    Here is an impromptu example of what I mean with regard to past tense vs present tense in an internal monologue exposition:

1.  Past Verb Tense–Terry realized that he wanted to cross the room to ask her out on a date.  And he did.  (stilted)

2.  Present Verb Tense–Terry realizes that crossing the room to ask her out on a date is what he wants to do.  So he does. (better)

The present verb tense version–though a little longer–conveys a sense of “as it is happening” action.  Again, I’m thinking cinematically.  But I must say that not every writer agrees with me on this point as I read some of their works that use the past verb tense liberally.

Snoopy-Writing-LifeG:   The question you didn’t ask me:  what do I hope to do with my writing?

G:   My script stories are my babies–and it time that some of them fly the coop.  So I really want to find a venue for them.    My ideal wish is for some of my script stories to be produced for film or television–or the stage as in the case of my one act bedroom farce.   I have only made tentative steps in that direction by beginning to share my stories with others in the last few months.  I looked at the BBC site for writers–but they only want Brits to submit ideas or sample scripts, very anglopheniacentric (a made up word of mine) of them.  Ha! And, I would love to be able to contact the “Vicar of Dibley” writer Richard Curtis about my ideas for a new season of that show.  Even if he didn’t like my Dibley stories, it might convince he and Dawn French and the other cast to return for a season of Dibley specials that we would all enjoy.  I do have a college friend who works in Hollywood–but I was loathe to mine that friendship beyond my generally asking her if she can recommend some writers’ web site resources.  And, I’ve checked out the Writer’s Guild of America web site where you can “register” your scripts before you start sending them to agents and studios.  But WGA doesn’t really claim to be a copyrighting service.  And apart from not wanting my stories to gather dust on the shelf, I don’t want my script story ideas stolen or plagiarized.  Realistically, I hope that I might ask some of my friends in local theatre in the community and at the universities if they might do a reading of one or more of my scripts.  And then, maybe I can get something produced locally.  From there, who knows?  So at this point, these are wishes and dreams.   And these may be pipe dreams.   But we have to have dreams, or we are just treading water in our lives.

J:  Thanks so much Gratiana for joining me.

G:  Thanks so much for asking me to share my thoughts about my writing with you.  Cheers!


NEXT: An interview with Prue Batten

On Writing: Part 3 – GratianaDS90 I

This is a six part series on fanfic writing.  Here are parts 1 and 2.  Joining me today is GratianaDS90 from the creative blog Something About Love (A).  Gratiana is a newcomer to blogging and has only recently shared her stories online.  Her writing skills quickly became apparent through her fanfic and considered replies on various blogs.  Gratiana is having technical problems with a shadow blog under her real blog (seriously).  But if you make sure to look for the (A) version of Something About Love, you’ll be in for a treat.


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J:  How and when did you start writing fanfic?

G:  I began writing my stories April 26, 2010–two months after watching and rewatching the 2004 dvd film mini-series “North & South” with Richard Armitage portraying the lead character of John Thornton.   I loved the story and characters then, and I still do now.  I had so wanted to slap Margaret into some sense so that she didn’t push John away during the proposal scene.  Although, John should have started off with an offer to take her to tea rather than proposing out of the blue.  So, I began what I referred to as my “midquel” fan fiction–“North & South:  Nurturing Love”.  Though I hadn’t really found Armitage related web sites at that point so I hadn’t heard the term fan fiction.  And my script stories as I refer to them are in a script format–with detailed stage directions and internal monologues.  Since then, “North & South: Nurturing Love: has gone through 82 revisions and expansions up through May 30, 2011 and it has 191 pages and 142 scenes.  Because it is so long–essentially, it is a four episode mini-series, I have yet to convert it to a format for online readers.  But I will get there. “ North & South:  Nurturing Love” is the first of over 40 script stories that I have written and work on in rotation since then.  However, most of my stories are original and not fan fiction that adapts another story.

 J:  Was it difficult at first?

G:  Not really.  I was a Communication Ed Major and English Ed  Minor BS for my undergrad degree.  And I performed literary works (prose, poetry, duets, dramatic interps) on my university speech team for four years–as well as I wrote original speeches (informative, persuasive, rhetorical criticism, after dinner speaking, and impromptus) that I gave.  We all had five to eight events that we performed every week at tournaments hosted at universities around the Midwest.  In that sense, my speech team experiences were rather like repertory theater, I guess.  I also wrote a lot of poetry and short essays in college.   Then after I earned my MS in Communication,  I had many years where I was the teacher and graded and guided others’ writing and performing at the university level.  I also helped coach a few local high school speech teams–including coaching two high school students from different schools in different years who became State Champions in their respective events of Prose and Dramatic Interpretation.  I should pause to say that these achievements were the students’ own and my contributions to these students was to help guide them to be the best they could be–without my getting in their way.  Ha!

I work fulltime at a university as an academic advisor and department business manager–among other hats that I wear in my career.  And I wanted to take my outreach programming and initial education research to the next level.  So about 9 years ago, I began working on my doctorate while still working fulltime and volunteering in my community.  Working on your Ph.D means lots of reading and writing–but it is of a different nature than creative writing, academic writing being quite task oriented and very dry.  I am ABD–all but dissertation, done with my course work and comps.  So, essentially, I started my creative writing to jumpstart my dissertation.  But, the opposite happened and I have been happily writing my script stories ever since.  Maybe that was the problem with my academic task writing, I needed a more creative outlet than scholarly writing afforded me.  I’m wincing as I write this and hope that none of my Dissertation Committee members ever read this. Ha!

writing sepiaBut my creative writing inspiration just flows through me–helped by my muse, the exquisitely talented British Actor Richard Crispin Armitage.  I always picture Mr. Armitage in the lead male roles in my script stories.  I say that my script stories tumble out of me–sometimes through a situation I observe in real life and then expand that into a story.  Or maybe a bit of physical humor comes to mind and I build a story around that.  Or in the case of the Old Vic 24 Hour Plays and Gala held in London in November 2010, challenging myself to write a one act play in 24 hours, etc.  I did and have tweaked it a little since then.  The play is a bedroom farce with lots of physical and verbal comedy in it.  It is quite fun and a little saucy.   Since I literally have over 40 script stories that I’m working on in rotation–some of them are done but for some tweaking–I never get bored or stuck.  I just move on to the next story and expand it until an idea comes for the other story.    And I can pretty much write on the fly now since I’ve gained so much experience in writing creatively over the last 1.5 years.  Although, my readers will be the judge as to whether or not they like my stories.  So far, people have been most favorably disposed to the stories that I have shared.  I wrote a love scene extemporaneously in a chat room recently and my friends seemed to enjoy the diversion–based on their side chatter, that was priceless, I should add–especially since I ended my twenty minute storytelling just before the “good part” and they wanted me to continue.  As with love and life, always leave your audience wanting more.  Besides, I felt that I had taken plenty of a turn already.  Ha!

I lay down the bones of my new stories carefully–outlining the chapters/scenes with descriptive titles and then build dialogue and narration/stage direction from there.  Each time I revisit a script story, I expand the plot, character development, descriptions, etc., until I feel that I’m “done” with that particular story.  Although I continue word smithing and tweaking the story each time that I read through it.  That’s why “North & South:  Nurturing Love” has so many edits.   I enjoy returning to it to read it and I end up tweaking something.  Ha!

J:  Why do you write in script form?

G:  I like to think cinematically with regard to my stories–as I believe Edith Wharton might have for her story “The Age of Innocence.”  So, I write in a script story format because I want my script stories to be “filming ready”.  Ha!  Although any work will be tweaked when a director gets a hold of it, by my already writing in a script format I save myself the step of having to adapt it.  And I provide enough exposition, stage direction, and internal monologues such that readers wanting a narrative aspect to what they read will also be satisfied.

J:  Were you influenced by other writers?

G:  Growing up and into my adulthood, I’ve always been a big fan of women writers–Alcott, Austen, the Bronte’s, Wharton, etc.  But, I also liked Hawthorne, Twain, Poe, and others.  I was especially struck with reading Edith Wharton’s book The Age of Innocence a few years ago, and then seeing the film directed by Martin Scorsese.  He was able to use the book’s narration almost without editing or rephrasing it because Edith Wharton had written her story to be told cinematically.   And that’s how I view my script stories–cinematically.

J:  How did you improve as a writer?

G:  I’ve always been a good writer–knowing how to structure essays, which helps in my blogging now. And I know proper grammar rules, spelling and such.  And having had wonderful writers to read and perform helped me tremendously.  Let me put it this way, my senior year in college’s prose piece was from Jane Eyre–the young Jane’s friend Helen’s death scene.  And my poetry program was a collection of Alice Walker poems from her Revolutionary Petunias book.  So I performed one traditional program and one contemporary program–both literary works are classics.  And as a performer, I would “cut” or arrange my own material and that helps give you a sense of what works and what doesn’t work editing wise for my own writing.  And as a creative writer now, trial and error is the key–and lots of editing and reediting.  As I said earlier, my “North & South: Nurturing Love” script story has gone through 82 edits that each time expanded and enhanced the storytelling.

J:  Did you have previous training?

G:  My aforementioned college education, writing, and performing experiences helped lay the groundwork for me.

J:  What do readers look for in fanfic?

G:  For me as a reader (or as the author), I want to see the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of my characters resolved–the love shared, the promise kept, and the atonement for past wrongs making them whole again, etc.  This is not to say that my stories are all hearts and flowers.   For me, love that is hard won is more cherished and appreciated.  But love should not come at too great a cost, or that cost cannot be overcome.

ah-amorJ:   How do you feel about writing erotic scenes?  How far would you go in writing such scenes and how do you prepare?

G:  I blush to say that I do have love scenes in my stories.  Love is about passion.  And sometimes one needs to fully develop the intricacies of the relational dance to fully understand the loving bond between the two individuals.   Now having said that, were my script stories ever to be filmed, I would hope that the love scenes would be filmed in such a way as to be discreet and respectful of the love my characters share–as I hope the writing of my love scenes conveys.  It would simply be that the actors would have the “back story” with which to inform their acting.  Less is more in my mind with regard to filmed love scenes. We don’t need to see nipples–his or hers.  In fact, anything more than bare shoulders or a bare back is gratuitous in my mind in films.  Women want to see romance–not an instructional video.  Ha!    For example, the most loving erotic scene I have seen to date is the train station kissing scene at the end of the original “North & South” film starring Richard Armitage.  The characters are fully clothed and they tentatively but desirously have their first gloriously delicate kisses, that become more tender and more urgent when John gently takes Margaret’s face in his hands and he kisses her adoringly.  Their bodies are not touching, but we know from the restrained passion of their kisses that John and Margaret are a true love match.  And when they are married, their mutual passions will ignite in a heartfelt and tender joining of their two souls.  You’ll have to read my “North & South:  Nurturing Love” story to see how I treated their love scenes.

But, the nature of my love scenes has changed over time.  They have gone from only married couples making love (not merely having sex)–such as the wedding night scene starting on page 65 of  “North and South:  Nurturing Love” (that was a long wait, ha!)–to allowing my committed and in love couples to share the joys of love with each other before marriage.   I even have some love at first sight lovers who find themselves to be “Kindred Spirits”–which is also the title of one of my script stories–and who then develop a sustaining relationship around their initial physical attraction.   And it is that learning and negotiating day by day how to live together as a couple that can be some of the most interesting plot points and character development.

And my love scene writing has evolved over time from breathless general descriptions to very sensually descriptive and tender love scenes.   However, I use euphemisms with regard to describing what is happening.  I leave the scientific and Latin terms to my other writer friends.   My couples don’t f***, they make love.  My love scenes are always tender and heartfelt–a joining of two individuals, heart and mind and body and soul.  And not to put too fine a point on it, I believe in “comfortable” lovemaking.  No stair risers or kitchen tables for my heroines to be rogered against as in some modern day films.  In my view, there is only one thing that should be hard in a love scene–and it’s not the furniture.  Ha!

Are you shocked?  I am a little bit.   I am a very happily and lovingly romantically married woman of almost 22 years to my wonderful husband.  And wait for it–my husband is and has been my only lover.  I was brought up to be a good girl.  I knew what I wanted in my husband and life partner and I waited until I found him–when I was 28 years old.  It was worth the wait.  My husband and I are still on our honeymoon and we plan to be until we fall out of our side by side rockers 50 years from now.  So, not coincidentally, several of my heroines are also late bloomers for love.  It’s not that I’m bashing non virgins.  I think that people need to make the responsible choice that works best for them–including my character lovers using condoms.  But I like to at least suggest virginity until you find true love as still being an option, for men and women.  And then let your passions erupt!  Ha!

My male and female lead characters are always strong individuals with vulnerabilities that they share with each other as trust develops between them.  And next to baring one’s soul, making love with your beloved is the most intimate expression of love that exists.  So men and women have their strong and their soft sides.   I especially make sure that my male characters are tender and considerate lovers.  They might have a path to getting there–such as one of my male lead characters being quite inexperienced in love making himself and the female lead guides him into loving and pleasurable lovemaking between them.   He is an eager pupil and soon becomes a wonderful lover.  My male and female leads complement one another and meet as equals.  Although, sometimes developing that true and equal partnership takes some time to develop.

NEXT TUESDAY: The second half of Gratiana’s interview

On Writing: Part 2 – Hedgeypig

This is a six part series on writing.  You’re find part 1 here.  In an effort to understand the process of writing fan fiction, I interviewed several writers for pointers.  Joining me to day is Hedgeypig.  She is a talented writer who has written Guy of Gisborne fanfic but now has moved into the realm of original fiction.  Here’s her blurb:

Hedgeypig is a hobbit sized, middle aged curmudgeon with a penchant for the outdoors, writing, film and sleeping. She’s been knocking around the Richard Armitage fandom in various capacities since late 2006. She even met the man in 2009 and squeaked pathetically at him like a terrified dormouse. At some point she may actually submit something to a publisher but don’t hold your breath.


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J:  How and when did you start writing fanfic?
H:  Early 2007 shortly after the first season of Robin Hood had ended. I was inspired by the character of Guy. I’d seen other fanfic after joining the Armitage Army forum and thought I’d give it a go.

J:  Was it difficult at first?
H:  The hardest part is making that leap of faith to publish as you’re putting yourself out there. i found a good beta and that was a massive help as they can help with spelling, grammar and any major plot clangers.

J:  Were you influenced by other writers?
H:  Can’t say I was, no.

J:  How did you improve as a writer?
H:  I feel that simply the act of writing helps improve skills. Also talking to other writers. Alicat and Twiddle and i all beta’d each others work which honed skills in spelling, grammar and plotting. Just write down ideas. they might go nowhere and sometimes they lead to something else.

I have over the past couple of years taken an Open University Course too. I did Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing which was a real eye opener. With that you obviously have to move away from writing fanfic to writing original work.

I also read an awful lot.

J:  Did you have previous training?
H:  I wrote for pleasure but no one ever read it so putting my work up on the internet was quite hard.

J:  What do readers look for in fanfic?
H:  Ooh, that’s a difficult one. I can only say what I look for. I’m not keen when people stray too far from the character as written. I think with Guy many people wanted him to be good but he was fundamentally a deeply flawed character. Sadly the actual writers themselves seemed to have rewritten his back story several times which made the character very confusing. Much as they did with Lucas.

A good story, well plotted with the characters not straying too far from their on screen personas. Mary Sues are a complete turn off for me.

J:  I know you write erotic scenes. How do you go about writing such scenes?
H:  Bizarrely at the time Guy was a very fantasy inspiring character and as such I liked to envisage him in erotic situations. However I tended to find those scenes quite difficult to write and if I’m honest looking back find some of them cringe worthy. I have largely moved away from graphic erotic scenes although within fanfic they can be fun.

J:  Would you write fanfic again?
H:  Given the right character certainly but at the moment I’m working a lot on original work. My result for my Advanced Creative Writing Course was much better than I envisaged and I hope to progress the story further at some point.

J:  Would you encourage fanfic writing as a starting point?
H:  Absolutely. You have the characters and a lot of situations there for you as jump off points.

J:  Do you have any advice for novice fanfic writers?
H: Try and stick to the character as written within reason. If you’re not then say so.
Don’t Mary Sue the character (make them unbelievably perfect) Not everyone thinks Richard is gorgeous for example so not everyone should think, Guy, Lucas etc are perfect.

Get a good beta. There’s nothing worse than trying to read a story that’s full of errors.

Don’t lose heart. It’s rare that someone will be unkind but some people may be critical. Constructive criticism is not a bad thing.

Don’t overdo the sex scenes unless you’re very good at writing them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t put yourself in the story. variations of your personality will most likely creep in but a character that’s definitely you may turn people away.

Be careful with Real person fic. ie writing about Richard for example rather than his characters. A lot of people don’t like it but I have seen it done. Gabriel Kane was undoubtedly inspired physically by Richard but don’t imagine for one minute Richard is anything like the miserable character I have created.

J:  Thanks so much for allowing me to interview you.

H:  My pleasure.


NEXT: An interview with GratianaDS90


Fitzg’s Journeys: Fine Dining with Richard Armitage

It’s Monday again, so time for Fitzg’s Journeys.  Today’s installment: Fine Dining with Richard Armitage. (If you’re having problems viewing this post in Internet Explorer, try another browser like Firefox or Chrome.  IE does not play well with plugins. If you trouble loading in the small viewer, click the far right icon at the top with the black box in it and it will load in a new window and bigger viewer.  iPads don’t have the capability for scrolling needed here. iPhone and iPads should be able to view when switching from mobile to desktop view.)




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Christchurch Addendum

Just learned via carrier pigeon about RA’s surprise message this morning. Access is slow here but I’m sure it’s being discussed at length on other blogs. It was lovely of him to acknowledge us. Although our aim was to help the people of Christchurch, I’m sure he’s proud of us indeed.

This is a good time to pause and take pride in our community. I’m impressed with the speed, time, and generosity this community showed in banding together for this worthy cause. Congrats to all who contributed. Congrats to RAFrenz and company who kept the Twitter feeds flying. Congrats to Calexora for the cello challenge. Lastly, congrats to Servetus, who initiated the informal fan challenge and without whom we wouldn’t have known about the telethon in the first place.