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e-mailing me

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 31 January 2007
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We tried to e-mail you, but it didn't work. Then we looked around your site for your e-mail address, but it wasn't there. So we found this blog, and here we are, writing a comment to tell you to please please please please write a sequel to Messenger! E-mail me if you will or won't.

Go to my website, and look on the right, where it says EMAIL ME.  Just click there.

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back from Milwaukee

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on Wednesday, 31 January 2007
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from Viki in Canada, replying to a previous Canadian post:

I just thought I'd point out that I live in Canada and read The Giver as part of my curriculum in grade seven. Personally, I feel that the systems in Canada allow for a lot of debate and argument, but Canadians tend to be more open about the material they are willing to supply to the youth and that's why there are less instances of books like The Giver being challenged.

This past weekend I was in Milwaukee to see quite a fine production of THE GIVER done by the First Stage Theater. The amazing thing was the way they dealt with the color (or lack of color) issue. Using special lights (I will not be able to describe the actual tenchnology, or even remember the name of the sodiumblahblahblah lights) that sucked all the color out, the set and the performers all appeared, literally, black and white (and gray). Then, at appropriate moments, by shining a regular light on one item—apple; books in a bookcase; geraniums in a planter—the red color burst forth, dazzling... It was really quite remarkable. As the boy increased in knowledge, the general color came up very gradually. And the performances were all excellent. Interestingly...The Giver did not have the beard or longish hair that we have come to expect. His hair was quite short, grayish, and he was tall and slim, though he affected a hunched, stooped posture that made him seem tired and weighed down. But even those of us who have come to think of The Giver as bearded could, after a moment, completely adjust and accept this new and different version.... that's the power of an actor, and of the performance.

First Stage has kindly named a scholarship after me; and this first recipient of the Lois Lowry Scholarship is Joel Boyd, who played Jonas, and who now has a year's worth of free acting classes. (I bet he didn't know, nor did the theater people, that "Boyd" was my grandmother's maiden name, and my sister's middle name)Giver_012107_125x191
Kids_012107_125x91
I've inserted two photos, the first of 13-year-old Joel Boyd, with Mark Metcalf, who played The Giver, in rehearsal; and the second of Ryan Tutton, age 11, who also plays Jonas in alternate productions. Both boys did an amazing job...I was there two nights so got see each cast. (the adult performers remain the same)

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a post from Canada

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 29 January 2007
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As I've explained, I am no longer publishing comments from readers because of the ease with which it makes those readers' email addresses available to the public. But I can copy reader's comments into my own text when it seems they may be of interest. This reader from Canada is referring to book challenges and the fact that I pointed out no such challenges - at least against my books - have been brought in other countries. I think I was mainly referring to THE GIVER, so frequently challenged in the USA, but not in the 22 other countries where it is published.

from Francis, in Canada:

Dear Ms. Lowry;

The explanation you offer for the absence of controversy in other countries is a possible one. But since you so open-mindedly admit there are other possibilities, will you let me suggest one?

Well, it so happens that in very few countries are citizens so lucky as in the US to have a say in public matters, even if this tends to be less and less true. So, just as "the Committee" never changes anything in The Giver, we have "Committees" in Canada that prevent anything to change. So, one finally comes to the conclusion that resistance is futile.

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Things live on

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 24 January 2007
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A number of people who knew, or knew of, Carol Hurst have sent comments to me after hearing of her death. I'll pass those along to her two daughters and they'll be grateful. I remember that after my son was killed, in 1995, many strangers wrote to tell me of an encounter with him, a difference he had made in their lives. It was very touching...still is...to hear stories I had never heard, descriptions of things he had taught them, ways he had made them laugh. Now I am hearing the same things about Carol. There is comfort in knowing that memories remain not only with oneself but with the world. Things live on, and matter.

I have a close friend whose sister, Liza, died quite suddenly the same day that Carol did. My friend e-mailed yesterday and said, "I picture Liza frolicking in the heather with a fabulous red-headed Irishman. What do you think Carol is doing?"

I'd like to think that there is some kind of heaven somewhere that issues laptops to newcomers. That's how I'd picture Carol: with a cup of coffee, early in the morning, typing in my e-mail address. Hers was always my first e-mail of the day. It was always just two words: Up yet?

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Elsie Piddock

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 January 2007
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Elsiepiddock


A kind blog reader has given me the name of the story that my friend Carol told on that evening last summer: "Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep" by Eleanor Farjeon. A lovely story; a lovely memory of Carol.

My daughter-in-law in Germany, in an e-mail, has reminded me, as well, of a time Carol told the story "Loudmouse" to my small granddaughter, then age 6, seven years ago. It was just the two of them...storyteller and child...and the mom and I watching the child's expression, changing from wide-eyed anticipation, shivery excitement, then absolute glee.

There will be so many people who will remember Carol from having heard her tell stories. A wonderful legacy.

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sad news

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 January 2007
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Carol_hurst

This picture...so typical, the laughter...is of Carol Otis Hurst, author, critic, scholar, story-teller, teacher, and extraordinary friend.

Carol died this past weekend, quite suddenly.

Funny, I had always hoped that Carol would speak at my memorial service someday. She would have been wise and funny and irreverent and people would have gone away chuckling and sniffling and smiling, the same way they always left a gathering where she had spoken.

Last summer when she was at the farm in Maine with me, and there were other guests, one evening we sat on the screened porch with wine...outside it was getting dark, and you could hear the evening sounds, tree frogs, loons on the lake...and Carol told a story. It was one she told often but of course I've forgotten the essential details..the name of the girl...but it was about a girl who skipped rope better than anyone. It has a poignant ending, in which the girl drifts away into tne sky, skipping and skipping and skipping.. I remember we all sat there smiling and dabbing at our eyes.

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Icelandic names

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 22 January 2007
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Okay, since I brought it up, I'm going to explain it a little more. I am fascinated by names, which you know already from the book "Gathering Blue" which has a complex naming system.

The Icelandic system once applied to other Scandinavian countries but they have to some degree modernized, at least more than Iceland has.

My father was named Robert, and he was the son of Carl. They were Norwegian in backgound, but on coming to this country had dropped the name Anderson and taken the name Hammersberg, naming themselves for the village they had come from. So my father was Robert Hammersberg.

In Iceland, he would have been Robert Carlson.

My father's son, my brother, was named Jon. He is Jon Hammersberg. In Iceland, though, he would be Jon Robertson.

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well, good football, anyway

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 22 January 2007
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So the Pats didn't win. Still it was great day for football-watching. Though the sentimentalist in me rooted for the Saints, and the effect a win for them would have on their city...still, the good friend side of me was delighted with the Bears win. My friend Joanna called in the early afternoon from Chicago and on her behalf I said all during the game...that great throwaway line from the movie Fargo...."Go Bears." Presumably Joanna was shouting "Go Pats" during the later game but she doesn't have the persuasive powers I do. Hah.

Whatever happened to the old stereotype of a football-watcher? The guy in the undershirt, crushing beer cans? Here are my friend Joanna and I, between football matters discussing our grandchildren...both of us turning 70 the end of March...we are literary ladies (Joanna an actress and professor of theater), but somehow we turn into high-testosterone morons on Football Day.

Joanna and I met many years ago at a theater conference; I was only there because a college group was doing a performance of my book "Anastasia Krupnik." She was there doing a one-woman show, playing the poet Anne Sexton. We hit it off, in the way that sometimes happens when you spot a kindred soul. She had two kids, school age at the time, and now - years later - her son John, married, a father, is an associate director at the Milwaukee First Stage Theater which this weekend is opening "the Giver." I'll fly to Milwaukee Friday to be there for it.

At the same time, the Coterie Theater in Kansas City is also opening "The Giver." The attached photo comes from their production.

If you go to the First Stage website: http://www.firststage.org/ you can click on a viedotaped interview with the director, discussing, anong other things, how they dealt with the no-color/color of Jonas's world.

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Tough decision

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 17 January 2007
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Thank you, Genina, for your comment about THE GIVER.

Here is a decision that I've just made; I am not any longer going to "publish" comments to the blog. You can send them, and I will read them, and if anyone brings up something of general interest that they would like me to discuss, I will do so.

But a reader has very kindly brought to my attention that when a comment is published, anyone can email that person by clicking on their signature. I don't want to provide easy email access to kids from strangers. How many creeps and pedophiles are out there reading a writer's blog? Probably few, maybe none. But one would be too many.

So: please still write me, if you wish. But that comment will remain private between me and you.

***

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the right words

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 15 January 2007
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I want to recommend a book, READING LIKE A WRITER by the aptly-named Francine Prose. She divides it into chapters titled Words, Sentences, Paragraphs, and so on. It describes beautifully why some writers, and some books, stand apart from and above others. It makes you want to re-read many of the classics that you read in college, appreciating them more, aware more of the careful construction of them.

The chapter on "words"made me think of something I have remembered ever since my graduate school days. The writer/critic H.G. Wells, speaking of Henry James, said (I'm misquoting here, but not the important words) that James, in writing a novel, created an elaborate altar, and then placed upon it "a dead kitten, an eggshell, and a piece of string." What he meant, of course, and said in that perfect metaphor, was that the construct was intricate and perhaps beautiful but the content was minor.

The reason it has stayed with me is because of the words he chose: a dead kitten, an eggshell, a piece of string. They are just right. Not only in the images they provide, but also in their cadence. If you read them aloud, they fall into the right rhythm.

I thought of it this morning when, in my mind, I recounted the things I had caught my puppy chewing between 7 and 9 AM: a hairbrush, a whisk broom, a slipper, and a teabag. If I were to list those things in an essay, I would have to change them. The content is fine—it demonstrates the infinite variety of his appetite and mischief—but the cadence is wrong. I would know that, if I were writing, because I would say it aloud. First of all, I would delete one thing; four is too many. Make it: a hairbrush, a slipper, and a teabag. No. Sounds wrong. A hairbrush, a slipper, and a cup of tea sounds right but it is inaccurate..he didn't, couldn't chew a cup of tea. Also, I'd like to retain the whisk broom because of the "whisk"...such a wonderful modifier....and because "hairbrush" and "slipper" are too much the same, somehow: both of them bedroom/bathroom types of things. So: A teabag, a whisk broom, and a...I have to make something up here, some three-syllable thing. Well, he has often chewed on my knitting, so I will make it a strand of yarn. Nol Wait. I'll make it a broken comb. Or how about: a plastic comb.

This morning, between 7 and 9 AM, I caught my puppy chewing on a whisk broom, a teabag, and a plastic comb.

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YESSSS!!!!

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on Sunday, 14 January 2007
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Imgdyncfm

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reminder

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 January 2007
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Someone named Matthew submitted a comment to one of my earlier posts and I have had to delete it because it contained his email address, and of course I would not publish personal information of that sort. But this is a reminder to Matthew and others that I cannot answer questions on the blog. If you need a question answered, email me through the website. It is easy to do.

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Who is this book for?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 January 2007
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This is a question I am asked often, in emails from parents or teachers, and they are referring to the age of the reader. Should our school use this book in fifth grade, or is it better saved till seventh? Can I give this to my 10-year-old grandson for his birthday? I can answer that to some degree (THE GIVER, for example, is better saved till seventh; and save it, why don't you, till his 12th birthday) but in truth, kids are so individual...people are so individual...that no single answer serves everyone.

And it is not something I think about as I write.

Many, many years ago, 1975 I think it was, I published a short story in Redbook magazine. (That magazine was very different then; I don't think it even publishes fiction any more). It was a story for adults, but it was about a child; it was told through the perceptions of a nine-year-old.

Not long ago a publisher contacted me and said they would like to have that story beautifully illustrated and publish it as a picture book. A picture book? I thought. PIcture books are, by and large, for kids. This was a story for adults. At least I wrote it for adults. But I went back and re-read the story. In my mind, for the first time, I could see it with maybe water color illustrations. I could see the little girl (of course I could; she was me) and for the first time I could see that the story did in fact have something to say to a larger audience, one that included young people. Not four year olds. Not six year olds. But young girls, the age that the girl in the story is...the age that I was, in the story. And so I gave them permisison to give it a try.

But I was not thinking of them as the readers, when I wrote the story more than 30 years ago.

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Grouchy ranting

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 08 January 2007
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Granted, I have not yet seen the show itself (and probably never will) but I have now seen enough promotional stuff to know for certain that I am offended by a coming TV show called "Armed and Famous" in which "celebrities"....like La Toya Jackson (go figure).... undergo a little training and then put on uniforms and apparently are given guns...and go out and are filmed while they are being, or pretending to be, cops.

The ads for this show, showing scenes from it, make it look as if there is a lot of merriment involved, and much squealing with amusement when the people (victims? perps?) who are stopped by these frauds suddenly realize that their apprender is actually - ta DA! - a CELEBRITY.

I'm trying to figure out why I find this so offensive. Would I be equally outraged if it were Celebrity Dentists? Celebrity Kindergarten Teachers?

Yes, I think I would. I think my outrage has to do with the fact that normal, hard-working, dedicated people invest a lot of time becoming qualified in their jobs...and then working, often underpaid, and caring about the work that they do. And certainly that is true of law enforcment people. My brother's son, Erik, has a college degree in Criminal Justice and he is a police officer. I have a daughter who is currently finishing a master's degree in Criminal Justice and I have observed first-hand the kind of study and research she has done in that field.

And now La Toya Jackson - and several other has-been, little-talent "celebrities" are allowed to strap on guns and pretend to be a police...for purposes of cheap entertainmment?

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Happy 2007

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 03 January 2007
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And where was I, on New Years Eve at midnight? Sound asleep. I must be getting old. But I had gotten up that morning at 6 AM, as usual, with the dog, packed up my stuff, tidied up the Maine houese and done all the leave-taking rituals (turn off the water pump, open up all the under-the counter cabinet doors so that heat will get to the pipes, clean out the fridge, turn on the alarm system, etc. etc.), then drove to Massachusetts, stopping in New Hampshire for lunch with my daughter who lives there. And back at home - by 9 PM, was ready for bed.

I got a lot done in Maine, even with time off for Christmas with family. I came close to finishing the first draft of a new book..and DID finish it back here; and all 178 manuscript pages are now stacked on the dining room table. I'll let it settle a bit, re-read it and tweak it, and then off it will go to the editor.

I also have written a batch of thank-you notes, paid a batch of bills, and sneaked off to a movie: NOTES ON A SCANDAL, one of the choices this month of my women's movie group...we'll meet in late January to talk about it, and I may well go a second time before then. There are always things you miss, first time. Seeing it again, when you are not thinking about how it will turn out..what will happen...THEN is when you notice the film-making details and nuance. I found this one a brilliantly written and filmed movie, but very distressing...portraying, as it does, people making such self-desctructive choices that you want to call out to them: No! DON'T!"

It occurs to me that at two previous movie-group meetings, discussion was vigorous for the same reason..because of the bad choices characters made (and why they did): THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR, and LITTLE CHILDREN. It always all boils down to disappointment, loneliness, heartbreak, grief. And then to watch the characters...in movie, or book...plunge themselves further into tragedy (and maybe extricate themselves? you keep hoping, anyway) And in each of these three movies (it now occurs to me) ...the damage done to children by adults. THAT'S the heartbreaker.

Not in my new manuscript, though. This one is a light-heated book, no soul-searching. Sometimes it is a nice break just to romp through the pages of a book: writing, or reading.

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Brrrrr

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 28 December 2006
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It is cold in Maine this morning. After weeks of unseasonably warm weather...and no snow, though there is a storm predicted next week, FINALLY....this morning when I walked the dog at 6 AM it was COLD! He loves it, of course, being a breed from the mountains of Tibet. He grabbed and chewed at frozen leaves, crunching them like potato chips. Me, I just plodded along thinking hurry up hurry up and wishing I had brought my gloves.

It is a good time, though, to think about about what I'm working on...that early morning very-quiet time when I know I will shortly be sitting down at my desk. The book I am currently writing has reached the point where many different situations are happening and it is time to start pulling them together. So (thinking as I walk): How will I get the boy out of Switzerland? At what point will the Commander remember the note with the name in it?

Continuity, pacing, and consistency are important aspects of fiction-writing. Each event must be well-grounded in the previous events, must flow logically from them; each character must act according to the personality the author has created. The boy, for example...the one who must flee Switzerland shortly... is somewhat fragile and timid, yet determined. So he must behave accordingly, and I have to get him out of the Alps in a way consistent with that.

As for the Commander: he is forgetful and distracted, and he has probably tucked that note away someplace as a souvenir. What is the likelihood of his re-reading it, recognizing the name, etc.? I have to find a logical reason for that note to re-surface.

All of that sounds somewhat profound, as if written by John Le Carré, but it is actually a romp of a book, light-hearted and silly. Fun to write.

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Recognition

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 24 December 2006
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Mt_washingotn

If you click to enlarge, and look carefully, you can see Mt. Washington, with snow on it, behind the bare trees at the foot of our property in Maine. But no snow anywhere else...kind of sad, for a New England Christmas, which one would like to have Norman Rockwellesque.

Still, there are all the food and gifts and relatives..and in our case, DOGS...that one looks forward to at holiday time. My son and his family brought their two golden retrievers, Tillie and Dash, up to the farm, and our Alfie loved having his cousins to play with, though there were the not unexpected fights over toys. MY rawhide bone! No, MINE!

I am currently reading the book titled SNOW by Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author. My kindergarten grandson, Rhys, picked it up, and commented, "I see you're reading a book called Snow."

"Good for you, Rhys, you're reading!" I told him.

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Mrs. Tidy

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 18 December 2006
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Well, I am back in Maine, me and Alfie. Martin will come up Friday and then my son Ben and his wife and kids on Saturday. But it is nice to have a little solitude and to get some work done.

However this morning's work what not the kind I anticipated.

I had had the usual onslaught of field-mice-coming-indoors when Fall began. It always happens in the country, especally in an old house (this one dates to 1768) which is not as tightly buttoned up (bad metaphor) as newer ones. So last month the exterminator came and did his magic. And then I went away.

But I arrived here late yesterday to find 21 dead mice in various stages of decomposition, plus a mess in the pantry ... food torn open and eaten (this time, a box of prunes. Go figure). Mice_1
Food_in_dr

Here are a couple of photos taken this morning: Alfie looking at the half-emptied pantry, the broom, the dust-buster (great for mouse droppings); and then the array on the table, waiting to be examined and sorted and mostly thrown away. The exterminator..having been called...came back while I was still sorting and cleaning. I told him about the prunes, thinking he'd be amazed, or else amused. But no. He said they use prunes as bait, often! Great. Little did I know that I was populating my pantry with mouse attractant. Like setting out a freshly-killed impala to ward off lions.

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Reminder

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 12 December 2006
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This morning two "comments' came in that I have deleted. I need to remind you again that I can't answer school related questons on the blog. if you have a question, send it through email; easy to do from my website. Thanks.

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Wow! Cool gift!

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on Monday, 11 December 2006
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Nadine_photowow

OKay, click on this image in order to enlarge and see it better. It's a photo of my 13-year-old granddaughter, made up of tiny photos of me and her grandfather. The actualy photo is 16"x20" and framed, and it is on its way to Germany for Christmas. The website for gettting this done is www.photowow.com .. and now I am guilty of....what do they call it in movies, when a character holds a highly-visible can of Pepsi? Product Placement.

But it is very cool product.

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