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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 10:02           10,186 subscribers         January 21, 2010
MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION: See the bottom of this newsletter for 
details on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editors.

THE EDITOR'S DESK: by Moira Allen
THE WRITING DESK - Book Lengths, by Moira Allen
FEATURE:  Creative Uses of Magic in Your Fantasy Story, 
by Philip Martin
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

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* Feedback. Get feedback for every poem and story that you write.
* Contests. Over 40 contests are always open and free to enter.
* Rankings. Statistics will show you how your writing is doing.


Bite-Size Resolutions

This year, I'm going to write a novel.  This year, I'm going to lose 
weight.  This year, I'm going to organize my photos and redesign my 
photo website.  And this year, I'm going to spend less time doing 
stuff I think I "should" be doing and more time doing things I enjoy.

Sounds like a great plan, right?  The only problem is, those are the 
same resolutions I made LAST year.  So what makes me think that this 
year is going to be any different?

The difference, I hope, lies in the approach.  The whole problem 
with New Year's Resolutions is that, so often, we make them with a 
"year" in mind.  As the fireworks are going off over Times Square 
(or the Thames), it's easy to feel that a year is a very long time 
indeed.  Twelve months -- oodles of time to accomplish all those 
things that we want to "have accomplished" by December 31, 2010.  
That sense of "loads of time" is what makes it all too easy to say, 
"I'll do that TOMORROW."

So this year, I'm not looking at year-end resolutions.  Instead, I'm 
trying for "bite-size resolutions."  Rather than maintain a vague 
hope that, somehow, I'll weigh less at the end of 2010, I'm looking 
at WEEKLY resolutions: This week, I resolve to lose ONE pound.  This 
week, I will take specific steps, however small: Changing something 
that I eat, getting on the exercycle, actually LIFTING those weights 
that are sitting on my counter.  

At the end of the week, I can evaluate the success (or failure), not 
of some nebulous long-term goal, but of my specific goal for that 
week.  Did I lose a pound?  Fabulous!  Did I lose half a pound?  
Then I must be doing something right, and need to keep doing it -- 
and do more of it.  Did I lose nothing?  Then I need to evaluate 
"why."  Is it because, despite my "resolution," I didn't actually 
change anything?  Or did I make changes -- but not ENOUGH changes?  
Each week's "evaluation" gives me information that will help me plan 
my goal for the NEXT week.

The same applies to writing goals.  This week, my goal is to 
complete ONE chapter of my novel.  As I write this, it's Monday.  By 
Sunday, I can evaluate my progress: Did I write a chapter?  Did I 
write HALF a chapter?  Did I write anything at all?  If I didn't 
meet my goal, what DID I actually do with my time -- and how can I 
prioritize my tasks a bit differently?

Weekly goals also make it easier to adapt to changes in plans and 
circumstances.  If all your relatives are coming to town for the 
holidays, you probably won't have much time to write -- so make your 
goal for that week to "enjoy the family."  If an article deadline is 
coming up, take a week off from your novel. Being able to set goals 
by the week gives you the flexibility to set DIFFERENT goals when 
circumstances require them.  

The best thing about bite-size goals, however, is that every time 
you achieve one, you feel like a success.  You don't have to wait 
twelve months to determine whether you've achieved your resolutions.  
Instead, you get to pat yourself on the back every week -- for every 
chapter you write or pound you lose or query you send out.  Better 
yet, every success makes you feel confident that you can do it 
again: If you wrote a chapter last week, you KNOW you can write 
another one this week.  If you lost a pound last week, chances are 
pretty good you can do it again -- and again.  And if you DON'T meet 
your goals for the week, it's just a week.  On Monday, you get to 
start over.  

And for the record, I'm down two pounds and up four chapters...  

-- Moira Allen, Editor


CHILDREN'S WRITERS COMPETITIVE EDGE 12-page monthly newsletter of 
editors' current wants and needs - up to 50 each month. Plus market 
studies and genre analyses loaded with editors' tips and insights 
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ABBEY HILL LITERARY seeks short story submissions, most genres, 
that incorporates one of the writing challenges listed on   
http://www.ahliterary.com. Prizes total $525, contest entry fee 
is $10, or $20 for single entry PLUS critique. NEW! Separate 750
word Flash Fiction contest-no prompt required!  Deadline 02/28/10


THE WRITING DESK: Book Lengths, by Moira Allen
Q: Does my book have to be a certain page length?  

I am writing a fiction book and I'm curious: Does it have to be a 
certain length? It's a thriller and nothing too serious, so what 
should the page length be?         

A: Instead of thinking in terms of "pages," think in terms of 
"words." A typical novel today runs between 80,000 and 100,000 
words.  Some are longer; a very few are shorter.  You can use the 
word count function of your word-processing program to determine the 
number of words in each chapter, or in the book as a whole 
(depending on how you've saved the file).
However, it's better not to worry too much about length and simply 
write the book as it seems "right" to you.  If it's longer than the 
count listed above, but you feel that the length is necessary to 
"tell the story," don't worry about it.  Going over the "typical" 
word-count is usually better than being too "short," as it's always 
easier to cut material than to try to pad the novel just to fit a 
particular length.

Q: If I want to write a 200-page (published) book, how many 
manuscript pages do I need?

I am writing my first book and have a silly question for you... If I 
want my book to be about 200 pages long -- the actual printed book 
that will be in the stores -- how many typed pages would that 
translate into?  I'm using 12 point Times New Roman, double-spacing 
with 1" border. I'm thinking about 300 words to the actual book 

A: The first answer to your question is that you really shouldn't be 
thinking about this question at all.  Writers generally think in 
terms of "word count," not number of published pages.  Novels tend 
to run anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 words.  Anything under 60,000 
words is very "slim," while anything over 100,000 words tends to 
start to look like a mega-opus, like a Robert Jordan book.
So -- since this is your first novel, you're probably better off 
trying to target something between those two parameters in terms of 
word-count.  Don't worry about pages; that's something editors worry 
Keep in mind that it's hard to ever have a consistent number of 
words per page -- some pages, with long, dense paragraphs, will have 
more words, while others with short lines of dialogue will have fewer.
If you really want to know how your manuscript compares to a 
published book, a way to figure it out is to type in a couple of 
pages from a published book.  Then, format those pages in your 
preferred font -- and you'll see how they translate into "typed" 
pages. But again, I think you're spending too much time worrying 
about insignificant details.
How long do your chapters look to you?  You mentioned in another 
e-mail that you have four to five chapters.  For a novel, that seems 
like a very small number -- sounds more like sections than chapters. 
(Of course, some novels don't use chapters at all -- they just start 
at the beginning and go on, uninterrupted, to the end.)
Take a look at some other published novels similar to your own.  
How many chapters, typically, do they have?  Ten?  Twelve?  Can you 
split your text into smaller sections?
Chapters aren't measured by word-count.  They are measured by 
"logic" -- as in, logically, what goes into this chapter?  Usually, 
a chapter will cover a related series of events.  When you move on 
in time, or to another viewpoint, or to a different series of 
events, you'll usually move to another chapter.  Also, it's always a 
good idea to leave the reader with an unanswered question at the end 
of a chapter -- i.e., "how is this going to come out?"  The question 
is what leads the reader on to the next chapter.
The standard advice at this point is to "write the book the way it 
works for you."  Don't worry about arbitrary measures like the page
count of a finished book, or dividing chapters by number of words. 
Just write your book, and worry about how to slice and dice it 

Copyright (c) 2010 Moira Allen


published author Peggy Bechko's just-released e-book, "Out of Thin
Air: A New Writer's Guide for New and Young Writers" - filled with
writing tips, how-tos and helpful weblinks for the serious new
writer. Just $15 from http://www.newwriterguide.com/


VAPORWARE FICTION CONTEST - For fiction writers with a taste for the 
absurd. You're virtually assured of winning the $5 jackpot. Imagine 
the Grande Caramel Macchiato you'll enjoy with the prize. The 
contest deadline is January 31st 2009. Learn more at 



Bloggers in US to Report Any "Freebies" They Receive 
Any blogger in the States who receives a freebie, including books, 
to review in their blogs must now disclose them or face an $11,000 
fine, according to new guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission.  
The FTC claims that bloggers who review products they have received 
have in effect received a 'payment in kind' and can be seen to be 
giving endorsements in return for the freebies. One wonders what the 
view is regarding book reviewers who are routinely given copies of 
the book they are to review. For more on this story visit: 

Google is Word of the Decade
According to the American Dialect Society, Google is the word of the 
decade and tweet is the word of the year. However, according to the 
Oxford University Press, the word of the year is unfriend - meaning 
to remove a friend from social network sites.  For more on this 
story visit: http://www.americandialect.org/

Val McDermid Wins CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger
The Cartier Diamond Dagger recognises outstanding achievement in the 
field of crime writing and McDermid was awarded it in recognition of 
twenty years' of crime writing. To find out who won the other CWA 
Daggers visit: http://www.thecwa.co.uk/


INCREASE YOUR ODDS OF GETTING PUBLISHED through training, practice, 
feedback and revisions.  Hone your skills through online courses, 
personal mentoring, free lessons and loads of tips on developing 
original, well-crafted writing from novelist/university 
instructor/mentor Pearl Luke.  http://www.be-a-better-writer.com


Promote your latest book. Get feedback on your latest article.
Highlight your portfolio. We set up the site. You add content.
No web developer required. For more details, go to:




Call for Articles on Fairy Tales
Enchanted Conversation is an online magazine, in Blogger format, 
that celebrates the art, history, analysis, charm, beauty, and 
horror of fairy tales. Payment is 4 cents a word for articles 
(fiction or non-fiction), poems at a flat rate of $10. View website 
for submission guidelines.  http://tinyurl.com/yc6hbhe

Reading Today Call for Submissions
Readers are invited to submit articles on a broad variety of topics 
relating to reading and reading education. Since Reading Today is 
mailed to all members of the International Reading Association, 
the newspaper tries to address the needs and interests of an 
audience involved in education at all levels from pre-K through 
adult education, in 100 countries. Therefore, interests are fairly 
wide-ranging. General-interest articles appearing in Reading Today 
range from interviews with children's book authors to descriptions 
of innovative reading programs to coverage of important 
reading-related conferences. Anything that might help or interest 
reading professionals is a potential story. View website for contact 
details. http://tinyurl.com/y8f8o2k

Science Articles Wanted
Greater Good magazine's articles mix science reporting with 
storytelling, often highlighting groundbreaking academic research, 
but in a manner that's engaging and accessible to a popular 
audience. Payment for feature articles is $.25/word. View website 
for details. http://tinyurl.com/y9ahw63


WRITER'S RAINBOW ONLINE WORKSHOPS focus on blog building, the 
creative process, the writer's platform (new!) and generative 
writing classes. Flexible schedule, easy format, affordable. 
Taught by creativity coach, author and editor Tamara
Sellman. http://writersrainbow.wordpress.com/online-teaching.

COPY EDITOR - line-by-line editing for spelling, grammar, typos, 
punctuation and repetitive words in fiction, nonfiction, short 
stories, biographies, query letters and book proposals.  Critiques 
also available. $2 a page. Write to sigridmacdonaldrogers.com or 
visit http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com


FEATURE: Creative Uses of Magic in Your Fantasy Story
By Philip Martin

How can you create an interesting form of magic for your fantasy 
story? Will magic, in your fiction, be like a tool? A technique? A 
language? An art? A gift? A shadowy force of nature?

Or will you have several forms, as Tolkien did in The Lord of the 
Rings, where the dark forces use magic like a bulldozer to gain 
power, while the elves have a wonderful nature that is magic simply 
because everything they do is "more effortless, more quick, more 
complete" than the abilities of those around them?

In fantasy fiction, magic is the central nervous system. Done 
poorly, it makes readers roll their eyes and reviewers mouth the 
"genre" label derisively. Sophisticated, interesting magic, on the 
other hand, can fuel an amazing, wondrous story. It can add that 
unparalleled spark that elevates fantasy above other types of 
writing that have to keep their feet on the ground of plausible 
Magic doesn't need to be plausible, but it has to work well. Here of 
some of the keys:

1.  Keep the rules of magic consistent. 
Magic needs to work according to firm rules. Don't create surprises 
of magic out of the blue to save your characters -- the fictional 
equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Everything should be set in place long in advance. Then, the writer 
(and his/her characters) must stick by those rules of magic, even if 
difficult. Things set loose into the story must play out their full 
consequences. Like Rumpelstiltskin, if you lay down a magical 
challenge, you have to accept the logical outcome.

As Jane Yolen wrote in Writing Books for Children (1983): "The world 
a writer creates may have as its laws that the inhabitants are 
nothing but a pack of cards, that animals converse intelligently 
while messing about in boats, or that a magic ring can make its 
bearer invisible at the long, slow cost of his soul. But once these 
laws are set down, the writer cannot, on a whim, set them aside. 
They must work in the fantasy world as surely as gravity works in 

2.  Limit the powers of magic. 
For dramatic impact, as important as the powers of magic are its 
limitations. If magic is all-powerful, if a wand is waved and all 
problems are instantly solved, the plot is pointless. Where is the 
narrative tension in that?

In the Harry Potter books, Harry's nemesis, Lord Voldemort, has 
great powers, but even so, those powers are limited. Lord Voldemort 
must plan his moves carefully. He must recruit minions to help him 
carry out evil deeds. He must retreat, wait, and choose to strike at 
just the right time. And he is constantly thwarted.

What will the limitations on magic be? To be effective, magic might 
require some very specific set of actions, tools, or knowledge, or 
the participation of multiple characters, or any limitation that 
makes the story more interesting and draws out the tension and 
builds our fears that things won't work out for our beloved heroes. 

Perhaps magic loses its potency with distance from a source. Or 
perhaps it can only be used in certain conditions, or only for 
certain purposes. It might require a zen-like approach: a complete 
clearing of the mind, as in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, 
where young Lyra must carefully put her mind at rest before she asks 
a question of the magical device.

These creative limitations can be as interesting as the magic 

3. Make the magic fresh and interesting. 
As author Garth Nix has said, magic should be more interesting than 
using an electric stove or a rifle. Readers delight in inventiveness. 

Curious variants of magic range from using origami for magical 
spells (Paper Mage, by Leah Cutler), or turning a man's head into 
the head of an ass (Shakespeare), or making a magical harp or fiddle 
from the bones of a dead woman that tells the tale of a murder (an 
old folktale found in many cultures). 

On the other hand, any common device -- a mirror, a wand -- can be 
interesting if used in a fresh way.

In Ursula Le Guin's book Gifts, the magical talents of hill-folk 
families range from calling animals to the power known as "the 
unmaking," which is described with chilling effect in this passage: 

"My father stood above the barrel, gazing down steadily into it. He 
moved his hand, his left hand, and said something or breathed 
sharply out. The rat squirmed once, shuddered, and floated on the 
water. I touched it. It was soft, without bones, like a little 
half-filled sack of meal inside its thin wet skin. 'It is unmade,' 
my father said, his eyes on mine, and I was afraid of his eyes 

4. Make magic applicable to the story. 
This should be obvious. But I've seen too many manuscripts where 
magical events happen in a scene that is truly astounding to all, 
and then the characters go on to the next thing little changed, 
barely seeming even to remember the amazing things that just 
happened. Magic should have a considerable impact on characters to 
make the story more interesting, not just be a cool factor or a card 
to play and forget.

In The Lord of the Rings, for instance, the likable Frodo carries 
the ring for a long time. It makes sense that he is increasingly 
affected by it, psychologically, especially as he enters Mordor. 
What are the effects of magic? Whether it is good or bad magic, the 
effects should not be indifferent.

Ask how the magic transforms the characters -- or even the entire 
world. Here is another passage by Le Guin, from A Wizard of 
Earthsea. Young Ged's mentor, the Master Hand, tells the fledgling 
mage: "A wizard's power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the 
balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most 
perilous. It must follow knowledge and serve need. To light a candle 
is to cast a shadow..."

5. Offer imagery to help us visualize your magic in action.
If someone in your book is magically transformed or uses magic, can 
you show us how it works or how it feels? Consider this passage from 
Gifts by Le Guin"

"But what does it feel like, to use it?"

[Canoc, Orrec's father] frowned and thought a long time before he 
spoke. His left hand moved a little, involuntarily. "As if you were 
a knot at the center of a dozen lines, all of them drawn into you, 
and you holding them taut. As if you were a bow, but with a dozen 
bowstrings. And you draw them in tighter, and they draw on you, till 
you say, 'Now!' And the power shoots out like the arrow."

That's a description of magic!  It's rich with the tangible imagery 
and cadence of poetry -- the kind of writing that those who read Le 
Guin's novels are hooked on.

6.  Make magic uncertain. 
If magic is so powerful, it follows that it is not always fully 
understood. Magic should be accompanied by mystery.

Magic is powerful, and often uncertain, even dangerous, even to its 
own practitioners. What are the costs, feelings, problems, 
weaknesses, mishaps? In some stories, this leads to comic results: 
magicians are absent-minded, prone to misconjuring, and sorely in 
need of malpractice insurance. In the Sorcerer's Apprentice, the 
magic at first is helpful, but once let loose, causes havoc. 

In the Harry Potter stories, magic is a long, complex learning 
curve. It must be done just so, or risk failure, at first with 
comical effects as the Hogwarts students botch their lessons and 
wrestle with unruly magical herbs, snarling creatures, and spells 
that backfire or fizzle. But as the stakes are elevated, any misstep 
risks loss of life, limb, happiness, or potentially total 

7. Never make the magic greater than the underlying human story. 
In the end, human elements should prevail.

For example, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in the end what prevails is 
Dorothy's most human desire, to go home to Auntie Em and Uncle 
Henry, back to the dry but familiar Kansas plains. The clicking of 
the slippers (ruby in the movie, silver in the book) and the magical 
journey back are less important than Dorothy's true love for home 
and family. The magic in this case is indeed out of the blue, but 
the theme of home is not.

To build a magical system for your story, ask yourself how to create 
the most interesting magic. Play with all the options: mechanical 
devices, potions, spoken spells, acute senses, inner gifts, every 
possible tiny miracle or great tornado of magic.

Then, limit it! And make the magic more central to the story. See 
how your characters are influenced by the course of magic. Have fun 
with it!

But in the end, let the human elements win out. That is the real 
magic: to be able to create anything you can imagine, to create the 
most powerful magical wand in the world of fiction, but then figure 
out how to use it in a way to make a story more interesting, not 
less so.

Philip Martin directs Great Lakes Literary 
(http://www.GreatLakesLit.com), offering affordable book doctor 
services and other help for writers. He is series editor of The New 
Writer's Handbook, an award-winning annual anthology on literary 
craft and career development, and is author of several books 
himself, including A Guide to Fantasy Literature (2009); portions of 
this article are drawn from that recent work. He also manages 
several blogs, including The Writer's Handbook Blog
Copyright (c) 2010

For more information on creating believable magic visit: 


FROM A-BOMB JUICE TO ZONKED - 1813 Slangisms about Rotgut, 
Guzzling, and Puking Your Brains Out (plus a few nice drinking 
toasts). Randall Platt presents the first Slangmaster e-book. 
Why? Because we don't speak in black and white. Learn more about 
the color of our language at http://www.slangmaster.com.  Use 
the right word, for the right era and occasion, every time!


WRITER'S RAINBOW ONLINE WORKSHOPS focus on blog building, the 
creative process, the writer's platform (new!) and generative 
writing classes.  Flexible schedule, easy format, affordable. Taught 
by creativity coach, author and editor Tamara Sellman. 



Carolyn Jewel's Romance Writing Tips
If you want to learn how to write romance novels, head along to this 
site. Jewel is the author of nine published romance novels and on 
her site she helps you to learn from her early mistakes. 

How To Write A Fantasy Novel
This Lens, by A.F. Stewart, a published fantasy author, has some 
great tips and articles on the general craft of fiction writing as 
well as the specifics of fantasy novels.  Check out the links 
section for more advice on this genre. 

Creative Nonfiction
If you've ever wondered exactly what is meant by the term creative 
nonfiction, then a trip to this site will help to clear things up 
for you. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the article to 
listen to the audio clips explaining creative fiction. 


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of 
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 
2,000 writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia.  


SERIOUS ABOUT WRITING? Join the National Association of Independent 
Writers and Editors, the professional association with a 
career-building difference. We partner with you to create a 
strategic online presence with genuine credibility. You get a free 
NAIWE-linked website (and more) so you'll be where people come to 
find writers. Join us today at http://naiwe.com!


This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless 
otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers. 
For a guide to more than 1000 writing contests throughout the 
world, see Moira Allen's book, "Writing to Win: The Colossal 
Guide to Writing Contests" 

DEADLINE: January 31, 2010
GENRE:   Short Stories
DETAILS: 2000 words max piece of short fiction featuring dogs of an 
AKC-registrable breed or a breed listed in the Miscellaneous class.    
PRIZE:  $750, $500, $250 and publication in AKC Gazette and Family 
Dog magazines.
URL:  http://www.akc.org/pubs/fictioncontest/

DEADLINE: January 31, 2010
GENRE: Short Stories
OPEN TO: Anyone 16+
DETAILS:  Write a children's story based on your family. Stories may 
be any length up to 750 words. Stories for beginning readers should 
not exceed 475 words.  
PRIZE: 3 prizes of $1000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation 
Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.   
URL: http://www.highlights.com/highlights-fiction-contest
DEADLINE: February 7, 2010
GENRE:  Books
DETAILS: Unpublished or self-published novels, 50,000-150,000 words.  
Two categories general fiction and young adult fiction. 
PRIZE: Winner in each category (General Fiction and Young Adult) 
receives publication by Penguin Group USA and $15,000 advance. 
URL:  http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011 

DEADLINE: February 2, 2010
GENRE: Short Stories
OPEN TO: US citizens aged 18+
DETAILS:  1-2 stories, maximum 10,000 words each
PRIZE: $5,000. Three runner-up prizes of $1,500 each; winners may be 
published in the Chicago Tribune or on their website.
URL: http://tinyurl.com/yboq259

DEADLINE: February 15, 2010
GENRE:  Poetry and nonfiction prose
DETAILS:  1-5 poems or one prose piece, maximum 10,000 words.  
Memoir can be biography, autobiography, autobiographical fiction, 
flash memoir, essay, reportage, diary, etc., in either poetry or 
prose format.  
PRIZE: 1st Prize $500, 2nd Prize $250, 3rd Prize $100; there is also 
a $100 prize for graphic memoirs  
URL:  http://memoirjournal.squarespace.com/contest 

DEADLINE: March 31, 2010
GENRE: Short Stories
DETAILS:  It's a new year and a new decade, just the perfect time to 
make some fresh starts. We hope your new year's resolution is to 
write more--and in that spirit, this contest has some awesome prizes 
to get you motivated! Write a short story (under 3000 words) 
featuring the theme "new beginnings." 
PRIZES: 1st place: $100 Amazon.com gift card and a credit for 3000 
words of editing service from the great folks at Elite Editing. 2nd 
place will receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card.
URL: http://www.scribophile.com/contests/new-beginnings-contest/

AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

Breaking Faith, by Stuart Aken

Portraits in Lavender, by Connie Torrisi

Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests - 2010 
by Moira Allen

Find these and more great books at

Have you just had a book published?  If so, let our readers know: 
just click on the link below to list your book.


on how to reach more than 100,000 writers a month with your product, 
service or book title, visit


Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com) 

Newsletter Editor: DAWN COPEMAN (editorial"at"writing-world.com) 

Copyright 2010 Moira Allen
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
Back issues archived at

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Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors
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For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor