It’s Looking For Lovely‘s first Christmas! Baby’s first Christmas! I should definitely get an ornament. BRB… ordering a glittery one from Etsy. 🙂
But seriously- it gets me so so excited to think that a lot of friends will find Looking For Lovely inside the wrapping paper of their Christmas gifts this year! (Which. By the way. You know Lifeway has Looking For Lovely for ONLY FIVE AMERICAN DOLLARS? Yeah, online and in stores. That’s ridiculously cheap and I am thrilled about it.)
Books as Christmas gifts are great. BUT….
Autographed books as Christmas gifts are AWESOME. Unfortunately, unless you live on my street in Nashville, I can’t personalize each book. BUT. I can mail you a signed bookplate that sticks inside the book! So if you are gifting Looking For Lovely, I’d love to autograph it! And it won’t cost you anything except a few stamps!
. . . . .
Here’s what you have to do to get one:
2. Mail a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
c/o Annie F. Downs
PO Box 121826
Nashville, TN 37212
Pretty much, address an envelope to yourself, put a stamp on it, and then fold it into another envelope, address and stamp that outer envelope, and mail it to me.
3. Wait patiently a few days… hang a few ornaments… and then the sticker will come in the mail, personalized by me! Stick it in the copy of Looking For Lovely you are gifting, wrap it, and you shall be able to give your friend/child/cousin/person an autographed copy!!! (I also have a handful of those cool stickers in the picture above- we’ll toss one of those in until we run out. SO HURRY if you want one!)
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A few things:
I need to receive your envelope BEFORE DECEMBER 20th to guarantee it gets to you by Christmas.
I will let you know by email when I put the bookplate back in the mail to you! [I’ll have your email address after you fill out this form and I will be able to get in touch with you.]
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When I was a teenager, my parents put me on restriction for one of two reasons:
When I was on restriction, it meant no TV, no computer, no friends over, no going to friends’ houses, and sometimes, if I had REALLY disobeyed, NO READING. (I only remember that once. It was the pits.)
Well, I’m officially putting myself on social media restriction.
Here’s the thing- I haven’t been able to tell you tons about it yet, but I’m currently writing my next book. (SQUEAL! HAPPY! YAY!) and the deadline cometh.
I’ve noticed throughout June and July that I spend a lot lot lot lot of time on social media during writing hours. Like, an embarrassing amount. When I can’t come up with the right word or sentence, instead of sitting and thinking, I check Facebook. And the next thing you know it’s an hour later and I’m in the bowels of BuzzFeed.
So that’s restriction reason #1. I’m doing something I’m not supposed to do- wasting my writing time playing on social media.
But there’s restriction reason #2 at play here too.
I see myself loving social media too much. Calling it an addiction may be too strong of a word, but ever since I wrote this post for (in)courage a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking about it. Why have I quit reading? Why do I keep my nose in my phone? What has happened to me? I don’t like where I’m going or who I’m becoming when it comes to time given to social media. So I’m putting myself on restriction.
I’m not burnt out or too tired or needing a break or anything like that. To be honest, I wish I could say that because I feel like when writers say things like, “I’m drawing boundaries to breathe deeper” and fancy language like that, it makes them sound really mature and balanced.
But the truth is, I’m spending too much time on social media and it’s hurting my work and maybe my soul. (Not so mature sounding, unfortunately.)
So for the month of August, I’m stepping away from the internet (except email- so if you need me, you can still get me.) And we are still booking speaking events for 2016, so you can email us about that too.
You will see a few posts happen this month here on the blog and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but those are prescheduled or posted by someone on my team because we do have some awesome stuff happening this month that I want to share.
If you happen to think of it, your prayers as I write this month would be greatly appreciated. The goal is to write approximately 1500 words a day, the book is about beauty and perseverance, and I want it to be the best book I’ve ever written.
Hugs to y’all. See you August 31st!
I love when people ask me questions about writing. I don’t know everything about everything, but I’ve written a few books (here here here here and here) and I’ve written on this blog for eight and a half years (literally here), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing and learning about writing, so I’m game anytime someone wants to talk shop.
Last week, a high school student posed this exact question. “How do I get over writer’s block? How do I beat it?” And I realized that may be a question a lot of you have.
A few years ago, I asked the same question to one of my favorite writers, Seth Godin. “But what do I do when I get stuck, Seth? When I can’t think of what to write next?”
He asked me a question in return. “How often do you get talker’s block?” … to which we both immediately laughed, as I’m sure you did, because HELLO I NEVER RUN OUT OF TALKING WORDS.
“Exactly,” he said, “you don’t run out of conversation- you shouldn’t run out of writing words either.”
It changed everything for me.
Writer’s block attacks me when I’m looking at the blank screen like a page I need to fill instead of a vehicle for conversation. So when I feel the moments (and yes, I do feel them), I change my perspective.
While I am writing a book, I picture a handful of people I am writing for- it’s the same people throughout the book, but I picture them, and I think about what I would want to tell them about the chapter/story/topic at hand. And then I type it like I am talking to them. I stop looking at it like LITERATURE (said in an English accent) and start treating it like CONVERSATION.
. . . . .
— If you are writing fiction and you have writer’s block, the problem is in the outline. If you can’t tell the next part of the story, your outline needs to be fleshed out more. Outlining your writing, no matter the length or genre, is a great way to protect from feeling blocked.
— Give your first draft permission to be terrible. I wish you could see the difference between what authors turn in to editors and what editors turn into the books you hold. VERY VERY DIFFERENT, PEOPLE. So if you are feeling blocked because you want just the right word or phrase, skip it, come back to it, or write what comes to mind and fix it later.
So quit spending so much time self-editing and write the thing!!
— You may need to step away. Not forever, but for 30 minutes or 10 minutes or a few hours. When I literally cannot squeeze another word out, I will:
— Audio-record yourself telling the story you are trying to type. It can be way easier to pace around your house talking into your iPhone than sitting at a desk clacking out the words. Tell yourself the story, then transcribe the recording.
— Set a word count for your daily writing goal, versus a time goal. For example, when I am writing a book, I try to do 1500-2000 words a day. If that takes me 3 hours, HUZZAH! If that takes me 9 hours, HELP ME RHONDA. If I tell myself to sit there for 5 hours, I will have a blinking cursor for most of the time because I’m bored let the timer ding and let me outta this cage I have built for myself!. But if I tell myself to get through a certain amount of words, they may not all be good, but they count. So I write them, and then delete the terrible ones the next day. (See above- your first draft can be terrible.)
— Do not run to the internet for inspiration because you will end up sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest and within a few hours you will realize you are at the bottom of the internet, your writing time is gone, and you still feel blocked. Woof.
. . . . .
So those are my thoughts on writer’s block.
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PS- quick reminder. Part 1 of the That Sounds Fun podcast with Dave Barnes released last week and thousands of y’all have downloaded it, which is ridiculously fun. Part 2 comes out on Tuesday, so just wanted to give you a heads up to listen to Part 1 so you’re ready for tomorrow! 🙂
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I entered a contest in 10th grade with Brio Magazine to attempt to have the messiest bedroom. I did nothing to make it worse- I just took pictures of the situation. Mainly, it looked like my closet threw up everywhere. And my dresser. And my bookshelf. You just haven’t seen a place like Annie’s Teenaged Bedroom.
I cleaned the room, took the “after” shots, and mailed them all to Brio. [It was 1995, people. The internet didn’t do crazy things like SEND PICTURES.] And a few months later, I received a box from Brio saying I had won a slot for honorary mention and a jewelry case. AND MY NAME WOULD BE IN THE MAGAZINE.
At the time, Brio Magazine was the absolute coolest teen Christian girl magazine and I devoured every copy that came to my home, so the idea that MY NAME WOULD BE IN THE MAGAZINE just about made me pass out.
And so it was. Right there, on the far bottom left corner of the left page. “Annie Downs, Marietta, GA” I can still see it just as clear in my mind’s eye.
Eighteen years later…
Um. Yeah. On the cover.
ON THE COVER.[Tiny explanation : Brio Magazine existed from 1990 until 2009 and I don’t know the science behind it all, I just know that Susie Shellenberger, who started Brio, now runs Sisterhood and it is a lot like Brio and amen.]
I know. It’s crazy. But the 10th grade Annie that lives in me is pretty much in a constant state of freak out about the whole thing. And so is my family, as evidenced by my father ordering 50 copies of this issue.
Yes. Yes he did.
The people at Sisterhood are the best and have put my piece online. You can read my article here.
If you have a teen daughter, this magazine really is the top teen Christian girl magazine in existence. And that is just one more reason that this whole cover girl thing kinda blows my mind. It is SUCH an honor and you better believe that I’m gonna frame this puppy in my house because WOWIE ZOWIE.
Sisterhood Magazine is doing a special offer for ONE WEEK [and if you are thinking ahead at all for Christmas for a teen you love, this is a duh moment] : you can subscribe to the magazine and use the coupon code ANNIE to get $3 off a yearly subscription.
You can also get a copy of my issue- just call the number on the bottom of this page and they’ll help you out. I think it’s like $3 or something? I dunno. Ask my Dad.
The moral of today’s story, kids? Don’t clean your room. It will really pay off in two decades.
So the book has been turned in for five days and I’ve just been a busy little bee since then. In a weird turn of events, my birthday was Sunday after turning a book in on Thursday, so that made for some additional unusual excitement. [And excitement it was! I’m stoked to be 33… I always prefer odd ages anyways.]
I’ve gotten into a habit of THE BOOK IS DONE! celebrations. So here’s what it looks like after I hit send on that first draft email to my editor:
I call my parents. I like to tell them that it is DONE and TURNED IN and YAHOO! Since I turned this book in on July 4th and everyone was fireworking, I think I just texted.
I schedule a manicure. My poor fingers have done the brunt of the work, so I give them a little gift.
I clean up my writing space. My dining room table, where I sit to write, becomes a catch-all when it is book writing season, so there are necklaces and earrings and cups and post-it notes and unanswered mail strewn all over the place. I’m cleaning it up today so that when I get back from vacation, we can jump right into the next thing.
I buy another book. I tend to lean towards library check-out for fiction books, but Nashville has the most scrumptious local bookstore, so I let myself peruse for as long as I want and find just the right fiction book to dive into next.
I turn off my alarm. For a few days, I get to sleep as long as I want. When I’m on book-writing schedule, I’m up and working around 7am. So just like a kid out of school for the summer, I get to snoooooooooze.
I get a massage. Because I have been sitting and slumped at a computer for most days of most weeks so far this year, my back was ACHING. Some friends work at and suggested Elements Therapeutic Massage in Brentwood and they offered for me to come in and try it. AND Y’ALL. It was amazing. The best massage I’ve had. Truly. I’m ready to go back like, 10 minutes ago.
Here’s the EXTRA amazing thing…. Elements is offering a BOGO deal for massages this month for readers of AnnieBlogs!
All you have to do is call them in July and say “Annie Downs finished her book in July and I need a massage!” and you’ll get the special deal of 2 massages for $89. [You don’t REALLY have to say that, but you can. You do need to ask for the AnnieBlogs special so they give you the right price.]
But remember- you have to make an appointment in JULY to get the special deal.[Cool, right? Seriously. Get ya some, Nashville.]
And then… after all the things are done and I’m massaged, I pack a bag and go on a short vacation, which I am doing tomorrow morning.
Leaving my computer in Nashville, I’m headed to the beach with pretty painted nails and some great books, a clean house and the most relaxed muscles in my life.
Love ya mean it. I’ll be back soon.
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Apparently you ignore your blog, for starters. [Sorry about that.]
Now that the first draft of my next book is turned in as of four days ago, I begged my editor to let me tell you about it, but she says it’s not quite ANNOUNCE TO THE WORLD time yet, so I can’t. But I wanna. You know I do.
But I can tell you about my life around THE FIRST BOOK I’M WRITING FOR ADULTS. [Yep, not a teen book. A woman book. A man book. A teen book if they wanna, but a book for YOU.]
Also, I have confused some of us by calling this Book Four. Let me explain why:
4. The One That Almost Killed Me
Fine, that’s not the title. But that’s been what I’ve labeled it for a while now.
But I survived, so take THAT murderous word document. You didn’t get me this time.
Here’s what the last few weeks have looked like:
So on a book that is supposed to be 45,000 words, I write by word count every day, setting goals of 1,500-2,000 words a day. Then when I get up past 40,000, the goal changes. I’m not trying to get to 45,000. I’m trying to finish the best book I can write, and then hope the word count falls somewhere between 42,000 and 48,000. [This first draft clocked in at 47,835. Though that will change. A lot.]
Y’all. I’m just going to shoot you straight. The hardest days of writing Speak Love this winter were pretty bad for me emotionally. But it only lasted about a week. The same level of hard was with me EVERY DAY of writing this book and amped up to REAL BAD the last week or so. I have never worked so hard and felt like it didn’t matter and felt so discouraged and beat up and blech.
And the first draft isn’t even that great. Don’t get me wrong- I’m proud of the direction and the idea and the stories, it just needs lots of work.
Last week, I sat on my porch and read the book outloud to myself. The whole thing. It took six hours. It is my last step before turning in the book – to print it and hold it and hear it helps to find weird misspellings- “cat” instead of “car” and other audio/tactile stuff like that. Books FEEL different when read on a computer versus in the hand, so I want to feel it before I turn it in. And as I read, there were two sentences that I REALLY loved and three of the eighteen chapters that I think are spot on.
The rest of the sentences and the other fifteen chapters? That’s why I have an editor, y’all. Editors are THE BEST and TOTALLY NECESSARY and MAKE EVERY BOOK SO MUCH BETTER. She will make it better. Or convince me that it’s better than my crazy brain feels like it is.
I don’t know that I’m supposed to say stuff like that. I’m probably supposed to say “When I turned in my first draft, I cried with happy over all the beautiful literature that the world was about to experience that poured forth from my fingertips.” But the truth is this one was really hard and made me more sad and squeezed and discouraged than I’ve been in a long time and I really hope it turns out okay.[And for any of you worried about my mental health, I promise my friends and family knew it was bad. And held me up. And sent me texts that said, “You will survive this and it will be good.” So I didn’t try to do this alone.]
So how do I finish a book?
Crawling across the finish line. And then laying there, laying low, for as long as it takes to get back to normal.
That being said, I’m going to tell you tomorrow some of my favorite things to do after I turn in a book [I’ve had a FUN four days], then I’m going to take a break from writing books, blogs, tweets, and emails for a while. Not for long- we have a book to get in the hands of every teen girl on the planet – but I need to rest for a while.
Also. It’s summer time. Let’s read books and play outside and do all manner of things un-computer. 🙂[That sentence is brought to you by my exhausted mental state. You’re welcome.]
See y’all tomorrow.
When I was 22 years old, I lived with a family of seven. And when I moved out, I stole their television.
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Are you new around these parts? Well welcome!
Hi. I’m Annie. I write books for my job.
. . . . .
I’m writing another book.
Speak Love is finished and turned in and based on how long my editor has had it in her genius paws, I’m guessing there was A LOT TO BE DONE TO THE DOCUMENT. [I’m thankful. Great editors MAKE great books.] It will be out in September and I cannot wait for you to read it!
And now we are on to the next one. Which is really exciting, don’t get me wrong.
I can’t tell you much about it quite yet, but I can tell you what I’m feeling while I’m writing it.
And when I say “I’m writing another book,” I mean I keep opening a word document and watching the cursor blink.
This next book is deeply personal, deeply current, and requires deep amounts of courage and to be honest, I find myself lacking. So I’ve gotten lots of other work items checked off in the last ten days or so, but when it comes to actually getting book words on paper, it’s not happening. I always find something else to do.
Emails to answer.
Meetings to have.
Purses to clean out.
Naps to take.
And then I blink and another work day has come and gone and I’ve accomplished things, but not THE THING.
The thing of writing stories that have long been held in my heart.
The thing of exposing hurts that I would rather forget.
The thing of writing the book I’ve dreamed about for years.
The thing of composing this piece of art that feels so near to my heart that I worry about every dotted i and crossed t and sentence structure and flow.
The thing of writing a book that requires every bit of the courage from me that then I’m going to turn around and ask of the reader in their own life.
“BE BRAVE!” I am going to say. But first? I have to be brave.
Ahh… isn’t this just how God works? I have to learn the lesson before I can lead the lesson and I think it is only fair to tell you that I am a slow learner.
Sooo many bloggers write books. Sooo many authors have blogs. And you see us announce “another book is coming!” or “I’m signing a 44 book contract with Biggest Publisher In The World!” or “My book just got purchased by every woman in the state of Ohio!” and sometimes I wonder if non-authors think this life is full of awesomely fun announcements.
So here’s my announcement for you today:
I’m so scared to write this book that I am not writing at all.
Blogs. Articles. Emails. Journaling. Nothing.
Twitter I’ve still got under control. 🙂 But all other forms of writing have gone to nada. It’s all dried up by fear.
I emailed my editor last week and said, “I know I can’t talk about the book, but can I talk about this part? The part where I’m trying to write a book about courage but can’t find any for myself?”
She said yes.
And since that day last week, I’ve tried to write this blog post, but couldn’t even get IT out. Ridiculous.
But finally, here it is. And here’s the hoping that this breaks the dam and the water of words begin to flow with force again. Because here’s what I know: I will find the courage. I mean, I have to. I HAVE A DEADLINE. 🙂 And I’m asking God for it.
But I just wanted you to know that this is how it really is sometimes.
What’s it like to write a book? Sometimes it is too scary to start.
But if you think you’re the only one too scared to make art, or the only one who wastes time because of fear, you aren’t. Be encouraged. We are all scared.
But fear won’t win.
Today, I will write. And tomorrow. And the next day.
Because I want you to read this book.
I want to read this book.
I want to be brave.
I want you to be brave.
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Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, I absolutely loved April Fool’s Day.
Our hometown newspaper always took April 1 to try to slide in ridiculous stories and funny tidbits. I clearly remember running downstairs on the morning of April 1 and seeing the paper open on the table and scanning every story to see if it was true or a total joke.[Oh Marietta Daily Journal, you are the best.]
When I was in the fifth grade, my classroom, and the classroom across the hall, decided to prank our teachers by switching rooms and putting our heads down to see if our teachers would notice. [Spoiler alert: they did.]
But April 1 has come to mean something totally different to me.
. . . . .
Last year, on April 1, I walked away from my day job at Mocha Club and began to try to be a full time writer and speaker.
I was so scared. Like whoa scared.
In December of 2011 when the conversation about leaving started, I was beyond scared. Like, too scared to quit. But my boss at Mocha Club asked me to be brave and on April 1, I had no choice.
There was no safety net. There was no lifesaver. The new guy wanted my desk and I had to get out.
So I jumped.
I jumped into a career I didn’t have training to do.
I jumped into the life of a small business over with no experience.
I jumped into a schedule of travel that neither me or my relationships were prepared for. AT ALL.
I jumped out of financial security.
I jumped into what God had for me, even though I hate falling.
For 365 days, I’ve been falling.
And while this last year has held some of the most challenging days of my entire life – example July 31 [I can’t really tell you all the details, I just think it seems less cliche and more legit if you know the worst date of my year], it has also held many of the best. I have had to make professional decisions that I never predicted and have cried over situations I couldn’t have known would come up.
Feeling left out socially and expressing that to my friends after being on the road for two weeks straight?
Having people I don’t know say ugly things about me on the internet?
Balancing my small group and college ministry with a busy travel schedule?
Some days, it has been too much and I have wanted to stay in bed. [I bet that has been true for you in the last year, too, hasn’t it?]
But on the other days? The really great days? The days where this life is every career dream I’ve wanted coming true?
Yeah. It’s been awesome. I am so so so grateful that God has done this for me and been my Teacher and Cheerleader and Safe Place To Land every step of the way.
. . . . .
In all of it, here is what I have learned:
God dreams bigger than we do. God can be trusted. God is doing something on Earth and if we want, we can be a part of it. I pray that every day- I pray that God would close the wrong doors and open the right ones, and I pray that He would show me what He is already doing here and let me get in on it.
Year one is down. My freshman year of this career is over, and probably so is the honeymoon. Though I will tell y’all, on the average day, it pretty much feels like I’m on vacation. I don’t feel like I have gone to “work” in a really long time.
Year two begins today. Sophomores are comfortable and growing and learning and confident. That’s who I hope to be this year- encouraging other writers, growing in my own writing, continuing to resource youth leaders and youth groups, and walking confidently in the direction of my dreams.
Here’s to being a sophomore. 🙂
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What do you see God doing around you that you want to be a part of?
Not just any intern. My intern. THIS intern.
Yes. Connor is a girl of grace. Truly. [Duh I made him do that.]
As you may know from my social media, Connor has been interning for me this semester. I love having interns- it helps so much to have another human working with me at Downs Books Inc. He’s a dear friend and I totally love him and his family and well, he’ll explain why he interned, but it has been a total joy.
So a few weeks ago I asked y’all if anyone had any questions for Connor when it came to his internship. So he finally answered them. It’s my fault, I have just been working him to death, so this has been the first chance that he’s had to actually sit down and blog for ya. Hand in the air, I promise I did not alter his answers at all. He is legitimately this awesome and hilarious. Would I have any other type of intern? Absolutely not. I did make a few comments during the interview [you’ll know it’s me], but his words are all his words.
So without further ado….
Connor, introduce yourself.
Hello AnnieBloggers! I’m Connor, I’m 22, and I’m finishing my last semester as a senior at Vanderbilt. I play baseball sometimes, eat a lot, and have a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack. I also intern for THE @AnnieDowns, she’s awesome.
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Why would a boy want to intern for an author for teen girls?
Well before I was Annie’s intern, I was Annie’s friend. My friend Keenan and I got to know AnnieBlogs at CrossPoint in Nashville in January of 2012, and she’s been like a sister to us ever since. I’m graduating in May, and required only 5 hours of coursework this semester to satisfy all of my requirements, cool right? So Annie and I had this crazy idea that she would let me come pack her car full of books and make sure she doesn’t forget anything before she talks to all of her fans every weekend, and do it all for free! Gah I’m lucky. No but seriously, interning for Downs Books has been awesome. My goal was to get a better feel for how a small business is managed day to day, and Annie has really helped guide my understanding of how her biz works. I’m really lucky, it’s been a blast.
. . . . .
If Annie could buy you one car, which car should she buy you to honor your internship?
Hello Adam! Have we met? Good question, maybe the three of us could sit down and convince her to do so? Have your people call my people (my cell) and we’ll talk. Instead of a car, I was thinking that maybe she could buy me a tandem bicycle that I could cruise around town with all of my buddies on. Talk about a ladykiller, right? I don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought of that before.[This? I’m laughing. And researching where to buy a tandem bike because BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR, KID.]
. . . . .
What does an intern do?
I do inventory before and after events, make sure she doesn’t forget anything, pick up her mail from the PO Box, eat oatmeal and drink lots of coffee. When I get really lucky, I count all of her flower pins and organize them by color. It’s awesome.[He also forgot to tell you that he was the driving force behind the Perfectly Unique notecards and helps keep merch in stock and organized, emails companies about sponsorship opportunities, makes the ladies at the bank all giggly and weird, fully handles the company when I am out of town, reminds me not to give books away all the time, and pretty much just makes sure we don’t run out of money. So. He’s an important dude in this company. Also, I make him scoop glitter into envelopes before we mail them. Because I think it is funny.]
. . . .
What’s the best part about interning?
Learning about how the business works has probably been the most interesting part. Have any of you ever watched someone write a book? It’s pretty cool. Become friends with an author and try it sometime.[What Connor is failing to mention is that there were days during the writing of Speak Love when he would have to sit across the dining room table from me while I cried from stress or concern or any other plethora of emotions related to pouring your heart out into a word document. So, lucky him for realz.]
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What’s the worst part?
Counting flower pins.[This? I did not know.]
. . . . .
What’s your intern schedule?
Mondays and Thursday from 9-12. We usually spend about an hour each day talking about how we can change the world so more like 10-12. Rough life, huh?[My friend Nichole accuses us of talking more than working BUT HOW COULD THAT BE TRUE OF ME? Fine, we do like to solve the world’s problems a lot in the form of verbal communication. It happens. But so does lots and lots of work. Lots.]
. . . . .
So that’s Connor! I’m not not NOT going to get mushy and emotional in this post about how great he is- at this internship and at life- but trust me. I could.
If y’all have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask! We’ve got a few weeks left of this work setup, so you may be able to squeeze another blog post outta him.