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The blog of lili wilkinson, reader, author, youth literature advocate, watcher of quality television and eater of mashed potato.
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6 August, 6pm.
Readings Bookshop, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria, Australia 3053
Buy the book! Get it signed!
I’ll give you a free herb or veggie seedling!
No RSVP necessary, but you can on fbook if you really want to.
RESISTANCE IS FERTILEAdd a Comment
My Very Clever Friend Snazzy has dobbed me in for this. She writes amazing televisions, and the other day she got to be an extra in a TV show she created and wrote, wearing a medieval gown and holding an owl, so that’s really all you need to know about how excellent she is.
What am I working on?
Three main things: working on two novels, working on my PhD, gestating a tiny human.
I’m in the edit stages of a novel at the moment that will either be called Bewildering or Lobstergirl and Shopping Trolley Guy or something else entirely. It’s a YA agricultural environmental superhero rom-com. Sort of. It’s about two very different teenagers who live in a really, really ugly suburb called Valentine. They bond over comic books and activism, and begin a secret guerrilla gardening project to beautify their town and wake the citizens up to the possibility of positive environmental change. Also hopefully it will be funny and there will be kissing. Out with Allen & Unwin in 2015.
The second novel is something very, very different for me, and it won’t be out until 2016 at the earliest, so I don’t want to talk about it too much. But it is dark, and a bit thrillery, and has involved a lot of utterly fascinating research. At the moment it’s called The Subtle Body, but I’ve never published a book that kept its working title, so who knows what it’ll end up as.
The PhD is on the ways in which YA is making teen readers more politically engaged. It’s super-fun, and should be finished mid-2015.
The tiny human is due for release in mid-October.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
The good thing about YA is that it can be pretty much whichever genre you choose. I’ve written historical fiction, magic realism, non-fiction, crime and romance. I like to write about smart, interesting, flawed girls who want things. One of my least favourite literary trends is the Dead Girl – girls dying so boys can have feelings, dead mothers, dead protagonists, and of course all the dead girls on YA book covers. So I’d like to think that my books feature girls who are decidedly alive.
Why do I write what I do?
Because I love it. Lots of people ask writers whether we write for an audience or for ourselves, and I think for the vast majority of us, the answer is ‘both’. I write the kinds of books I like to read, but I also hope that others will read and enjoy them too. Funny, romantic books tend to get overlooked – not by readers, but by the media and by awards judges (as do books with female protagonists). Romance is seen as something trashy – a Proper Literary Book has to have Death and Tragedy. I honestly don’t understand this – surely love is the most basic element of being a human being – don’t we all want to love, and to be loved? I also think it takes an enormous amount of skill to explore complicated themes and subjects with a humorous touch, but generally once a book is funny, it’s again considered to be somehow lowbrow.
So I suppose I write what I do because I want to make people laugh, and have squishy romantic feelings, and think about the world in new and different ways. Is that too much to ask?
How does my writing process work?
Generally, I come up with an idea for a new book, or sometimes a few ideas. I then sit down with my editor at Allen & Unwin and we have a chat, firm up the idea, and then I go away and write a proposal. This proposal is then taken to some sort of secret important board of superheroes and world leaders, and then a contract is drawn up. Then I go away and write the first draft.
I write using Scrivener, a piece of software designed for writers, as opposed to Microsoft Word, which is designed for talking paperclips. I sketch out a rough outline, and then create a list of chapters, with a sentence or two on what will happen in each chapter. I figure out how long I want the book to be (usually between 60-80,000 words), and space my chapters out accordingly, so the climax comes in the right place. I use a lot of techniques from the screenwriting world for this structuring process, to make sure that the story flows smoothly, without any boring bits.
I don’t write chronologically. Once I have my chapter plan, I write whichever bit I’m feeling the most excited about on a particular day. The story comes together in a piecemeal way, and I don’t get stuck or bored. It means though, that this early draft is utterly incomprehensible, as it is peppered with PUT FUNNY STORY HERE and FIGURE OUT HOW SHE ESCAPES and MORE FEELINGS IN THIS BIT. So once I have the bones, I go back over and polish it all up, fixing all the bits that I know are crap, and hoping I’m wrong about all the bits that I suspect are crap.
I then send to a few people. My editor, my mum, a screenwriter friend (usually the aforementioned Very Clever Sarah Dollard). After a few weeks, I get back my editorial letter. This letter usually goes something like this:
Dear Lili. We love this book. You are a genius. We would just like you to change one small thing – the words. Love, Your Editors.
Then begins the editorial process, which I actually quite enjoy, because it’s all about making the book better.
And now I shall pass the torch of bloggy writing fire to three other excellent writers:
Myke Bartlett is a journalist and YA author. His debut novel, Fire in the Sea, won the 2011 Text Prize and was published to great acclaim in 2012.
Carole Wilkinson is the author of like a zillion books but is best known for her multi-award-winning Dragonkeeper series, and for being my mum.
AJ Betts is the author of Zac & Mia, which won the 2012 Text Prize and also just last week the Ethel Turner Prize at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Hurrah!Add a Comment
I’ll be teaching this workshop on story structure on Saturday 24 May, and if you want to write a novel, or you have a work-in-progress and need a bit of a nudge on structure, then you should definitely consider coming along.
100 Story Building is a centre for young writers based in Melbourne’s inner-west, that also runs writing programs for adults. It’s totally awesome and you should check it out.Add a Comment
Fifteen-year-old Mariah Kennedy is passionate about fighting for social justice. As the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador, Mariah created REACHING OUTas a fundraising project and all author royalties will be donated to UNICEF. Heartfelt and inspiring, this book contains stories, poems and illustrations that have been donated by some of the most world?s renowned and respected authors and illustrators, including Graeme Base, Jackie French, Michael Leunig, Bruce Whatley, Michael Morpurgo, Andy Griffiths, Anna Perera, Libby Gleeson, Melina Marchetta, Alison Lester, Morris Gleitzman and many more.
I’m one of the “many more”! My story “The Leaving” is in this wonderful anthology. Hurrah! Thanks, Mariah, for letting me be a part of such a wonderful project. You’re an inspiration.Add a Comment
Here are two things that have changed since the publication of Pink in 2009:
1. I used to be a bit nervous about saying that, at the beginning of the book, Ava has a girlfriend. I got some disapproving looks from teachers, especially at religious schools. Students would giggle and whisper. One girl loudly informed me that it was “gross”. Not anymore. Four years later, and nobody blinks. It’s just part of the story. Nothing unusual. This is a really, really good thing.
2. Four years ago, when I held up Pink, boys would wince. And girls would say “I like that cover”. Now, instead of mentioning the cover, boys and girls alike (but mostly girls) squeal IS THAT A QUOTE FROM JOHN GREEN ON THE COVER!???
And one thing that hasn’t changed:
I get more fan mail about Pink than all my other books put together. I’ve received so many emails from people (young and old) who say that Ava’s experiences spoke to them, and made them feel braver, or less alone, or prouder about being a nerd. And I’m so grateful for those emails, and so very glad that the book is reaching new readers, and that people are still enjoying it.
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The purpose of the Georgia Peach Award is to highlight and promote the best current young adult literature for Georgia high school age students, to encourage young adults to read and to promote the development of cooperative school and public library services for young adults. Teens vote for their favorite books out of the year’s top 20 nominees at their high schools and local public libraries.
It sounds a bit like the Inky Awards here in Australia, so it must be awesome.
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Things are super busy here in my world. Working on my new book, which has transformed itself into also being part of my PhD. Also working on my thesis, which I’m enjoying so much more than I thought I would. I love literary criticism! Who knew?
I’m also super busy at various schools, festivals and other events. I’m really enjoying being a host for The Wheeler Centre’s Texts In The City program – I’m reading lots of things I’ve always meant to read, and rereading some old favourites. I do a lot of talking about my own books, so it’s very refreshing to be able to talk about someone else’s! And I get to do more of that on Monday night when I’m Q&Aing with the wonderful Patrick Ness at the Athenaeum.
And next Saturday I get to talk with Penni Russon at the Emerging Writers Festival, which will be excellent.
Other things that are going on include: I have an awesome new friend through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Achievers program, which I’m totally loving, except tomorrow we are playing laser tag and I’m a bit scared.
There’s also lots of house and garden stuff going on around here, and to avoid boring you all with endless photos of plans and plants, I’ve started a garden blog. But there are some literary connections, because there is some sneaky gardening in my next book.
SPEAKING OF BOOKS. Remember how I wrote that book called The Zigzag Effect which came out two months ago? Well people seem to really like it, which is great. I’m enjoying performing magic tricks (okay, trick. I only know one) at schools and reading out scenes that contain buckets full of wee.Add a Comment
The Zigzag Effect comes out in less than a month! And there’ll be a celebratory event at Readings Carlton, where I’ll be in conversation with Emily Gale! You should totally come along.Add a Comment
Simmone Howell has tagged me to do this, and it’s SUPER late because I got distracted by Christmas. But here we go!
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The Zigzag Effect. That’s the final title. For a while it was Never Miss A Trick, then The Sucker Effect, then about a million other things, but now it is definitely, finally The Zigzag Effect.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
A documentary about magician’s assistants. There is a bunch of ladies whose job it is to dress up in a spangly little leotard, look beautiful, get tied up, cut in half and made to disappear. Creepy, amirite?
3) What genre does your book fall under?
YA. More specifically, YA romcrime, which is a mystery with kissing. A kisstery.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Jennifer Lawrence as Sage, the main character. Andrew Garfield as Herb, the love interest. And Taylor Swift as Bianca, the magician’s assistant. Ooh, and Alan Rickman as The Great Armand. Except then they’d all have to pretend to be Australian. I really should know more Australian actors.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Backstage kissing, vanishing magicians and ghost-photography – Sage Kealley’s new job is more than she’d bargained for!
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Published Australia in April 2013 by Allen & Unwin. Represented in the US by KT Literary.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft probably took five months. The whole thing in around eighteen months.
8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It has a similar feel to my previous books Pocketful of Eyes and Love-Shy.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Partly wanting to explore some of the bizarreness that comes with being a magician’s assistant. Partly wanting to learn more about stage magic.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a bunny called Warren. There is a kissing scene which takes place in the dark, near a bucket full of wee. There may or may not be a ghost.
Well. I was pretty rubbish at blogging in 2012. But in my defense, I did:
- get engaged
- release a new book
- buy a house
- move house
- get married
- go on a honeymoon
- go through PhD confirmation
- write a novel (more on that tomorrow)
- do over a hundred talks/workshops in schools
- attended four literary festivals
- and like a million other things that I can’t remember.
It’s been a pretty damn awesome year. I’m hoping 2013 will be just as wonderful as 2012 was. I have lots of super exciting projects coming up. Plus in three weeks we are getting a PUPPY. YAY!Add a Comment
Introducing my next book – The Zigzag Effect!
It’s about Sage Kealley, who gets a job working for a stage magician. Naturally, not everything is as it seems…
I LOVE this cover. Look at the bunny! (his name is Warren, and he is VERY important to the story)
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I’m currently the writer in residence at ibrary, Brisbane City Council Libraries’ website.
On Thursday 18th October, I’ll be chatting with Isobelle Carmody about her awesome career and books at Fitzroy Library More info here.
And in answer to the many teenagers who have asked if I have a tumblr – yes. Yes I do.
My next book finally has a title! More on this soon.
And yes, thank you for asking. Our honeymoon was amazing.Add a Comment
(more photos to come, once we’re back from #omghoneymoon)Add a Comment
Join me, Anne Phelan and Marion Halligan at the Wheeler Centre tomorrow night as we talk about the life and works of Ruth Park.
6:15pm at the Wheeler Centre.Add a Comment
Here’s a conversation I’ve had a couple of times.
Person: Something something Miles Franklin Prize something Peter Carey.
Person: So who do you think is Australia’s finest writer, then?
Lili: It’s a tie between Margo Lanagan and Ursula Dubosarsky.
Person: No, I meant literary writer.
Lili: It’s a tie between Margo Lanagan and Ursula Dubosarsky.
It’s true. I think these two women are Australia’s finest writers. Not finest YA writers. Finest of them all.
The Golden Day is about eleven schoolgirls who, in 1967, are taken on an unauthorised excursion by their teacher, Miss Renshaw. They meet up with a charismatic gardener/poet, who takes them to see some Aboriginal paintings in the hidden caves of Sydney Harbour. Or does he? The girls return to school without Miss Renshaw, prompting panic – scandal – talk of murder. This book is Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Getting of Wisdom and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It is Charles Blackman’s ‘Floating Schoolgirl‘. Like The Red Shoe and Abyssinia, The Golden Day wraps you up in a kind of warm, yellow-tinted floaty dreaminess. Like a dream, you don’t feel like you (or anyone) is entirely in control of what they say and do. Like a dream, you watch the world slip by with a kind of golden fuzzy calm. Like a dream, you could tumble into a nightmare at any moment.
If you’ve read White Time, Black Juice or Red Spikes, you don’t need to read on. Yellowcake is more Margo Lanagan awesomeness. There is nobody who can write a short story the way Margo can – nobody who can wrap you up in a whole new world and make you feel like you’ve known these characters, their rhythms of speech, their secret dreams, their homes and families and daily routines – all in twenty pages. Whether it’s the unique fairytale reimaginings of ”The Golden Shroud,” “Night of the Firstlings,” or “Ferryman”; the fierce humanity of “Into the Clouds on High” or “The Point of Roses”; the postapocalyptic ganglands of “Heads”; or the almost postmodern “Eyelids of Dawn” - every one of the ten stories immerses you in unique worlds that are often grim, but always filled with a kind of savage, redemptive joy.Add a Comment
What marvellous blogging intentions I had last month. I was going to talk about:
-Reading Matters, and how wonderful it was to finally attend without running around like a crazy person trying to make sure everything went smoothly.
-books I’ve read and loved this month (I’m still gonna do this – I promise!)
-that whole WSJ/ #yasaves thing
-the Woodend Winter Arts Festival, at which I had a lovely time
-the Voices on the Coast Festival, at which I also had a lovely time
-Pocketful of Eyes, and how it’s out and getting great reviews and you should all go and buy read it.
-a million other things
But it turns out that three conferences/festivals plus PhD + new book out + meetings about NEXT book + one million other things + a nasty cold = not so much free time.
Sorry. I will make it up to you by warning you that a bear is stealing your bicycle – hurry!
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Hurrah! Bee and Toby and that stuffed tiger are released into the world! Tomorrow I shall post an Excerpt.
When a dead body is discovered at the Museum, Beatrice May Ross is determined to use her sleuthing skills to solve the case. Sharp, sassy YA crime-fiction, with a dash of romance and a splash of funny.
Bee is in her element working in the taxidermy department at the Museum of Natural History, but her summer job turns out to be full of surprises:
A dead body in the Red Rotunda. A mysterious Museum benefactor. A large stuffed tiger in the Catacombs. A handsome boy with a fascination for unusual animal mating habits.
And a pocketful of glass eyes.
Can Bee sift through the clues to discover whether her mentor reallycommitted suicide … or is there a murderer in their midst?
‘Smart, slick, funny, with sharp edges. Lili Wilkinson is like a coolgeekgirl Agatha Christie.’ – Simmone Howell, author of Everything’s Beautiful
‘Wry, sly, funny, smart, and very entertaining.’ – Jaclyn Moriarty, author ofFeeling Sorry for CeliaAdd a Comment
I turned thirty yesterday.
It was a lovely day, full of sunshine and friends and food. And I get quite sentimental, saying goodbye to my twenties. It was a big decade for me, but on the other hand I feel like it’s gone in a bit of a circle. Ten years ago I was at Uni, in a long-term relationship, living in the 3068 postcode and watching The West Wing.
Now I’m at Uni (but doing a PhD), in a long-term relationship (with a different [and more wonderful] person), living in the 3068 postcode (different house) and watching The West Wing (streamed from our media server to my iPad).
On the other hand, ten years ago I had no idea what I wanted to do – thought it was something in the film industry (WRONG). Now I’m an author with six books, published in seven countries. I just left an amazing job in order to write and study full time. I feel unbelievably lucky to do what I get to do every day, and do have such wonderful friends, family and partner. I hope things don’t change too much in the next decade, because I’m pretty happy with the way things are.Add a Comment
So, I’ve been a hypocrite.
I have spent so many words and hours and pages trying to convince people that YA literature is just as valid and literary and worthy as all the other kinds of literature. I’ve also said the same thing about fantasy and science fiction. I’ve lambasted the literary snobs who roll their eyes and say “I just don’t do fantasy”, or “even though it’s a children’s book, it’s quite good”.
I’ve gone on and on about Pink Books in YA – about how a sparkly pink cover doesn’t necessarily mean that the words inside don’t contain big ideas worthy of discussion.
But I’d never read romance fiction.
(For adults, I mean. I read heaps of YA romance. And not including Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer because they get to wear a more Acceptably Literary hat because they’re both dead.)
I looked at all those book covers with horrid covers and swirly fonts and titles like The Shiek’s Revenge, and Lady in Black, and I thought – these books are obviously as rubbish as their covers.
And then I was on a panel at the Wheeler Centre about romance fiction, which came with the realisation that I write romance. I mean, I write lots of things, but the last three books I’ve written definitely have one foot in the romcom genre.
So I turned to Justine Larbalestier, who towed me to Kinokuniya and loaded me up with titles. Because the thing with romance (like, let’s face it, the thing with all kinds of fiction but especially genre fiction), is that a lot of it isn’t the kind of thing I want to read. I don’t want to read about girls getting borderline-raped and then falling in love with their pirate captor. I want to read books about the same kinds of girls/women that I write about – smart, funny, flawed people who want to fall in love but aren’t defined by that.
And you know what?
Some romance fiction is awesome. I’m enjoying Julia Quinn and Jennifer Crusie at the moment, and have had Julia Jones and Kristin Higgins recommended. Because I’m spending so much time reading for Uni at the moment, it’s delightful to unwind with funny, reasonably lighthearted books featuring sassy, intelligent women.
I think people read romance for similar reasons to why adults read YA. There is an immediacy and lack of pretension – books that are easy to read but not patronising. There are strong female characters (which, let’s face it, isn’t something that is always found in “literary” fiction). Romance fiction is like comfort food. You know the two main characters are going to end up together. You’re not going to have your heart torn out at the end because one of them develops a fatal disease. You can relax and enjoy the journey of discovering exactly how they end up together.
They’re also novels of personal development. Laurie Hutzler talks about romance narratives involving the “exchange of gifts” – where two people are better together than they are separately, because of the different characteristics they bring to a relationship. As I’ve said before, the subject of love is universal, and one that everyone has a vested interested in.
So this is me, eating humble pie. It’s delicious.Add a Comment
I discovered Diana Wynne Jones in the same library I discovered Lloyd Alexander, when I was about eight. I picked up a book called Fire and Hemlock, and it stuck so firmly in my mind that it’s never got out again, even though I spent many years away from it. I’d never read anything like it before (and never have since).
Around the same time my parents bought me Black Maria for my birthday, and someone else gave me a copy of The Power of Three. I found a battered Charmed Life at a school fete, and borrowed Dogsbody and The Magicians of Caprona from the library.
Nobody writes magic like Diana Wynne Jones. There’s something about the way magic springs so effortlessly from the ordinary, humdrum world, that makes everything magical.
I kept borrowing Fire and Hemlock, over and over again, until suddenly I had no access to that particular library any more. My supply dried up, and although I looked eagerly in every library and second hand bookshop I encountered, I found nothing. I felt a bit like Polly at the beginning of the book, wondering if the story had indeed been as magical as I remembered.
Then, in 2000, I started working in a book shop. And I did my usual Diana Wynne Jones catalogue check, and discovered… reprints. Fire and Hemlock had been reprinted. I ordered it.
It was that magical. It was better than I remembered.
I ordered the others. I ordered them all. I discovered AbeBooks and ordered all the ones that were out of print. Over the next few years, I read every book Diana had ever published. But more kept coming! Nearly every year, and even though Diana was growing old, and her health was failing, still the books kept coming. And there was not a dud among them.
But no more. Thankfully, I have a book shelf full of Diana that I can turn to whenever I wish.
I can’t begin to explain the kind of influence that Diana Wynne Jones had on me. She made me want to be a writer. She makes me want to be a better writer. The character of Thomas Behr in Scatterheart is an homage to Tom Lynn in Fire and Hemlock – a kind of fan-fiction, I suppose, because I loved Diana’s character so much, I wanted to spend more time with him.
Of course I’m not the only one. There are a lot of writers and readers out there mourning the loss of one of the best fantasy authors of our time – the best, in my opinion.
Goodbye, Diana. Thank you for every single word.Add a Comment
For my PhD, I’m looking at YA novels that are political. And by political, I don’t mean where a parent or school or other authority figure is a metaphor for the state, or where political issues are played out in microcosms of school or church. I mean books where teenagers actually engage with real-world politics and politicians. Can you help me out with some titles? I’m particularly interested in recent books, and real-world books (not fantasy, but I am including a couple of dystopic examples). Here’s my list so far:
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
Vote for Larry, Janet Tashjian
Feed, MT Anderson
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Wide Awake, David Levithan
Ready or Not, Meg Cabot
Genesis, Bernard Beckett
I’m aware that the giant gaping hole in my list is an Australian title. But I genuinely can’t think of one. There are a few candidates from the 1980s (Obernewtyn, Scatterlings, Taronga, the Pagan series and even maybe People Might Hear You), but I just can’t find anything recent. The closest is John Marsden’s Tomorrow series, except the series is explicitly apolitical (one of the reasons why I’m not a massive fan).
So help me out, Internet! Give me some good political YA titles.Add a Comment
I don’t really know what to say about this, but I want to say something.
The news from Japan makes me very sad. I spent six months in Tokyo teaching English in 2002, and I loved it. It breaks my heart to think that some of the places I visited just aren’t there anymore. I’ve heard from the few friends I have living in Japan, and they’re okay, as are all the bloggers I follow. I confess that when I learnt Maru was okay I actually burst into tears.
I’ve seen the #prayforjapan hashtag around a lot on Twitter, and to be honest it makes me a bit uncomfortable, because I can’t help unpack it and read that some religious groups think that their access to their God is somehow going to help in ways that the Japanese couldn’t help themselves. But that’s just me being oversensitive. I get that the real feeling behind the hashtag is the same as the feeling behind this blog post. That we are thinking a lot about the people in Japan, and we hope they’ll be okay. Because that’s really all we can do (apart from give money, of course).Add a Comment
(This post is part of an occasional series where I talk about books I like. They’re not reviews – I’m calling them book clutches, because they’re all books that I want to clutch close to me.)
“I liked breathing it in.”
And he doesn’t get it. So I say
“That air. The air afterwards. I wanted to breathe it in. It felt right to breathe it in. Because we were breathing them in, weren’t we? And the buildings. We were breathing it all in. And I thought, there’s a part of this that’s actually a part of me now. I now have that responsibility. I am alive, and I am breathing, and I can do the things this dust can’t do.”
I’ve always been a big David Levithan fan – Pink is dedicated to him. So when I saw a copy of Love is the Higher Law*, I immediately snatched it up.
It’s the story of three teenagers, Claire, Jasper and Peter, who are in New York City on September 11, 2001. Perhaps not the cheeriest of subject matters, but in typical Levithan fashion, the book is so imbued with hope and love and friendship and humanity that it outshines the fear and the tragedy, and while the book is very sad, it is ultimately uplifting and life-affirming. I didn’t need to read the author’s note to realise that this is a deeply personal story. And that’s the novel’s greatest strength. The events of September 11 are personal to everyone – we all remember where we were when it happened, even those of us on the other side of the world. But Love is the Higher Law takes that a step further and lets us really be there, without feeling like we’re voyeurs or tourists.
___________Add a Comment
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