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Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Henderson!

We’ve got another big Rebelle week, with 2017 Golden Heart guests today, Wednesday, and Thursday. Today we’re welcoming Jennifer Henderson, whose manuscript THE GOVERNESS’S GLANCE is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Jennifer Henderson’s addiction to romance novels began at a young age when she would sneak peeks at her mom’s Harlequins while the rest of the family was at swim lessons. Her love of all things old led to a history degree, a dozen years teaching U.S. and World History at a prep school, and eventually writing Regency romance novels. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, loves travel, scuba diving, and going to the movies, and has yet to find a piece of chocolate she did not enjoy.

Here’s a blurb for THE GOVERNESS’S GLANCE

Desperate to help save her family from financial ruin with her new governess post, Charlotte Wexley assumes her biggest challenge will be the two rascally orphans in her charge, not their handsome, rakish uncle and ward, the Earl of Huntingdon, who manages to spark her temper—and her heartbeat—at every turn.

Lord Simon Preston’s libertine life is upended when the earl’s brother and sister-in-law die, leaving him guardian to his wild niece and nephew who drive away a series of grim governesses. The newest hire, Miss Charlotte Wexley, is not what Simon had been expecting. She is young, lovely, and unafraid to put him in his place, and sparks soon fly between the fiery governess and the rakish earl. Heated words lead to sensual temptation, and soon they cannot resist passionate stolen kisses. Thoughts of Charlotte tempt Simon to visit the nursery, and he begins to connect with the children. Charlotte sees glimpses of the real man behind the jaded mask, but she must ignore the yearnings of her heart, for putting her position—and her family’s very survival—at risk is beyond foolish. When suspicious accidents threaten Simon and the children, Simon and Charlotte must fight together against an unknown threat and for their happily ever after.

Ooh, I love governess stories!!! (The Jane Eyre effect will never let me go.) You know who told me loves governess stories, Jennifer? Tessa Woodward at Avon. Just sayin’. (She told me that a few years ago when I was pitching her a story about a governess…who stopped being a governess on page one. Sigh.) Thought you might want to know.

Jennifer Henderson’s here with us today to share a bit of her personal history as an introvert…and what she learned about how to defeat the urge to stay in her shell.

Take it away, Jennifer!

*************************************

The Life Changing Magic of Showing Up

I am a scaredy cat. New situations intimidate me, my stomach often feels like a cauldron bubbling with anxiety acid, and mingling and small talk with people I don’t know well cause my heart to gallop. Just typing out these words has elevated my pulse rate. Good lord, someone get me a baby aspirin—I’m blogging with the Rubies!

People are often surprised when I mention that I’m an introvert. They’ll protest, saying that I seem so outgoing or that I have a friendly personality. The truth is that I’m an introvert ninja, stealthily posing as an extrovert as I prowl through social situations. My secret for keeping my cover all these years? Just showing up.

It’s incredible what can happen when a person bravely wades into the world around her instead of giving in to a stomach full of churning nerves, making excuses, and staying home.

The Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle was the first writer event I’d ever attended. My husband kept leaving the website for the conference open on our computer, but I’d shake my head and close the page. New people? Scary! Actually saying out loud that I’m a writer? Scarier still! When I finally screwed up my courage, I announced my conference registration to my sisters at brunch as if I’d won the Nobel prize for literature, that’s how proud of myself I was for just filling out the online registration.

Despite my worries, the conference was amazing. My hands became cramped little claws from all the notes I scribbled. I went through a whole travel pack of tissues because the inspiring keynote talks led to damp eyes. Veteran writers gave me valuable personal feedback on my practice pitch. Showing up had been a very good thing.

The conference arranged group dinner reservations in the area, and attendees signed up for a restaurant in advance. I knew no one, but I showed up at my selected restaurant and, with all the bravery of a solider wading onto the beach at Normandy in 1944, I said hello to the lady sitting across from me. Despite my less than stellar conversation skills (did I really bring up the bold new strides romance had taken in sex scenes with a recent Stephanie Laurens book including anal?!? Good god, I did. I really did.), we had a lovely visit and ended up hanging out more throughout the conference. “Oh,” she casually mentioned to me at one point, “I used to be the president of RWA.” Oh, president of the local chapter, I thought. That’s really cool. It wasn’t until I joined RWA and was flipping through my new Romance Writers Report with its list of past leaders that I realized what she meant. By then, we’d become email buddies. By showing up to the conference and dinner, I became friends with the lovely Terry McLaughlin, president of RWA in 2013-14. Her emails were always funny and encouraging, and she was very generous in sharing her knowledge of writing and the industry. Showing up for the dinner led to a great new friend and mentor.

When I finished my first manuscript, she said, “You’re going to enter it into the Golden Heart, right?” Um, what’s the Golden Heart again? After a little research, I decided to show up for the contest. My manuscript didn’t final, an outcome that did not surprise me. (Raise your hand if your very first book was super awesome. Yeah, that’s what I thought.)

But the next year, I decided to show up again with my second manuscript. I’m a creature of habit, I guess. And to my complete shock and utter delight, I got The Call this spring. I am a 2017 Golden Heart finalist! Holy smokes, hot damn, and—putting me at risk of sounding like a bluestocking and doing it much too brown—I’ve gotta say, thunder an’ turf! (Can you tell I write Regency?)

Just showing up might win someone the attendance award at school. Or, it could lead to opportunities a person never even contemplated.

When I joined my local RWA chapter, I was nervous to attend the monthly meetings. Clearly, the other members were real writers, while I was only trying to be a writer. But I showed up, making it to most of the meetings, even the intimidating December holiday social where there is no topic or speaker, we simply hang out. We socialize. Ack!

Recently, one of the chapter’s board members moved away, leaving the secretary position open. No one volunteered to fill in. And then… our chapter’s president emailed me, asking if I (I? Me? Oh my!) was interested in the job. I said yes, despite the food practicing kick boxing moves in my stomach. Becoming more involved would be fun, I told myself. I could give back. I would get to know other members better. When I had access to the board members’ online loop, I read some of the old emails to familiarize myself their work. “Who should we invite to join us?” they’d emailed. “It needs to be someone with good meeting attendance. Someone who shows up.”

Yep. Someone who shows up.

That’s me.

It’s become my new motto.

Of course, dedicating ample time to writing, learning craft, and continuing on in the face of soul crushing rejection letters all play crucial roles in advancing a writer’s skill and career. But if a person fails to show up, it doesn’t matter how hard they work, how skillfully they craft compelling scenes, or how creative their hook.

Next month, I’ll attend my first RWA national conference along with my incredible Golden Heart sisters, the Rebelles. I’ve heard this thing is pretty big. Intimidating even. I know I’ll be tempted to hide in my room or escape into a book beside the swimming pool. But hopefully I’ll slide into my extrovert ninja costume, brave the sea of unknown faces, and show up. Who knows what might happen?

Here’s a question for all you wonderful Ruby readers: Do you have a tale from your life or writing career about the surprising outcome of showing up?

*********************

Connect with Jennifer Henderson on social media

Twitter: @_JennyHenderson

facebook.com/people/Jennifer-Henderson/100015904363308

www.jenniferhendersonromance.com

 

 

 

48 responses to “Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Henderson!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Jennifer! It’s wonderful to have you here!

    Bless your husband for leaving that conference registration website open for you, and CHEERS to you for taking the risk!!!

    So many writers are introverts (and scaredy cats, and people who fear everybody else is a “real” writer and they’re just a fake), and it truly is magic if we just keep SHOWING UP!!!

    (You’ll do fabulously at Nationals with that FINALIST ribbon on your badge!!! Good luck!)

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Thanks so much for having me on the blog! My husband has been so supportive, and his gentle nudges helped me to get out there. He seriously left that website open over a dozen times! I’m a lucky lady.

      1+
  2. C.R. Grissom says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    Boy did your blog resonate with me. I am an introvert ninja, too! No one believes me either. Harry Potter has his cloak of invisibility, mine is the cloak of the class cut-up. Wearing it allows me to drown the butterflies and turn down the heat on those acid bubbles too. It hides social anxiety, but creates the same kind of moments you describe above. Girl…I can’t wait to meet you.

    My showing up moment was volunteering to judge The Emily contest back in 2006. At the time, it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’ve judged that contest every year since. Even during the years I allowed my RWA membership to lapse. Just showing up for the Emily Contest kept me tied to RWA, because it allowed me the opportunity to keep a shaky finger wrapped around my dream of writing. Poor West Houston, they are stuck with this California girl because it would be unthinkable for me NOT to judge that contest. They’ve become a touchstone for me.

    About the time I allowed my RWA membership to lapse, Hubby approached me about a teacher on my his high school campus who needed someone to critique her novel. She’d written a paranormal romance and her marriage was held in the balance (not really, I’m projecting because if my hubby was my only critique resource, it wouldn’t end well). She needed feedback on her first draft. And my hubby needed them both alive and well for his school to remain properly staffed. Kidding!! A critique partner was born when I showed up for that opportunity. And I have Seana Kelly to thank for rekindling my own drive to write.

    This year another Rebelle, JoAnne Banker, happens to be one of the long time coordinators for The Emily. A small world made better by just showing up!

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  3. jbrayweber says:

    What a wonderful post, Jennifer. I love to hear about people taking risks that pay off. I’m the type that jumps in with both feet, no matter how jangled my nerves are. I think it forces us out of our comfort zone and most times that is beneficial. Sort of like how the saying goes: you can win the lottery if you don’t play.

    Love the blurb of The Governess’s Glance. Hope to meet you in Orlando. Good Luck!

    Jenn!

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      I love your lottery analogy. Just showing up and plunking down a dollar in a 7-11 have a lot in common! And I’d love to meet you in Orlando next month.

      2+
  4. Oh my goodness, Jennifer, I love this post! Kudos to you for showing up! And for finaling! Congratulations!

    I lived in the Seattle area years ago and GSRWA will always have a special place in my heart. It was really the first time I felt like I had a writing community of my very own.

    As for my tale of showing up? It was my first regional conference (Moonlight and Magnolias in Atlanta) and I was sooooo tempted to hide in my room every chance I got, but I forced myself to go downstairs and awkwardly (oh. my. god. so. awkwardly.) join in conversations. And you know what? I met some deeply amazing writers, some of whom I’m still very close to and one of whom will be sitting next to me at the RITA ceremony this year at her first national conference.

    GOOD LUCK IN ORLANDO!!! I hope you have an amazing conference and make lots of amazing connections from showing up.

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      I love that you’ll be sitting with your good friend who you met at your first conference.

      And I hear you about the awkward conversation. Maybe we writers have a high tolerance for it since we all tend to be a little inward focused (with all those stories percolating in our brains)?

      3+
  5. Tracy Brody says:

    You wear your extrovert ninja costume well. Love your sense of humor and your book sounds delightful.
    I agree on showing up for your chapter meetings even if the speaker or topic is something you don’t think you will enjoy or need. You might be delightfully surprised to learn something or make a new connection. We had a speaker talking about being a SWAT officer, he brought his girlfriend, Liliana Hart. So, I knew her when she was presenting the Golden Heart in 2015. Didn’t expect to win, but was super cool that when I did somebody, I knew was presenting the award.

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Tracy, that’s so cool that your award (congrats on that, by the way!) was presented by someone you’d met before. It must have made the moment even more special.

      Now, I must excuse myself. I have to pick up my ninja costume at the dry cleaners. 😉

      1+
      • Tracy Brody says:

        It was cool – as was having THE Nora Roberts waiting backstage for us to have pictures taken together. But, last year was super special too with having my fabulous Dragonfly sister and friend, Michele Arris presenting the awards. So, both years got to have a friend read my title and name.

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  6. What a great story Jennifer! And an important lesson that is SO true in all aspects of life.

    Here’s a showing up story of my own: last year I went to RWA nationals for the first time – cue montage of awkward terrified introvert wandering around, making furtive eye contact, pretending not to panic. I had signed up for an agent pitch, but by the time it rolled around I realized that my manuscript needed a complete revision. I’d been dreading having to pitch in person, so I rejoiced at a valid reason to cancel the appointment and end the agony. But a nagging part of me thought: but it *might* be helpful to know if the concept is working and to see how this whole “pitching IRL” thing works. So I drew up my last nerve and showed up anyway. The agent asked for the partial. The partial led to a referral. That referral led to a full request which led to an offer of rep. It wasn’t the one I ended taking but it gave me the confidence to enter the Golden Heart. If I had not shown up to that dreaded, doomed-to-fail, terrifying pitch I probably would not be among the Rebelles. All hail the powers of SHOWING UP!

    Can’t wait to meet you in Orlando – and to read more about this fiery governess!

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  7. Jennifer Camiccia says:

    As a fellow introvert, I applaud your bravery. I just attended my first conference, and was pleasantly surprised at how lovely all the other writers were. Just keep showing up- I love that philosophy. Your book sounds amazing, and I hope to read it one day!

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Thanks Jennifer!

      Hooray for attending your first conference, and I’m so glad it was such a positive experience. Do you already have next year’s date on your calendar?

      1+
  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    I’m not shy, but I’m a massive introvert, one whose energy is drained by noise and too much personal interaction. I take good care of myself recharging-wise, but one thing I make myself do at writing conferences is eat meals with complete strangers.

    This is easy to do at writing conferences, where meals tend to be served at large tables seating 8-10 very friendly people who have the same interests I do. I approach a table with an empty chair and ask if I can join them. The answer’s always “Yes.” Someone asks, “What do you write?” and the conversation just flows from there.

    My advice? Ditch your posse occasionally and venture off on your own. You never know who you might meet. 😉

    Congratulations on your GH final, Jennifer, and best of luck in Orlando!

    1+
    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tamara.

      I’ve sat down with strangers too, with mixed results. If the table is comprised of people who are in the same boat, it can make for a fun meal. I’ve had the bad luck to also plunk down at a table with a group of ladies who were all besties, and was ignored for the entire lunch. Not so fun.

      That was a good reminder to me to be warm and inclusive to others even when I’m with my friends.

      2+
  9. Emily Sullivan says:

    Introverts of the world unite! Loved this post and identified with it SO much! I really think it’s extra hard to ‘show up’ when you’re an introvert, but it’s always worth the effort!

    I recently went to my first meeting of my local chapter and was really nervous beforehand. Then, of course I got lost and was a little late, but as soon as I walked in the room a very nice woman waved me over to an open seat. Then I realized she was Kristan Higgins! We chatted for a few minutes about the GH and the conference. It was such a cool experience that never would have happened if I hadn’t shown up 🙂

    1+
    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Emily, that is an awesome story about showing up! So glad you were brave and went to your first meeting. I think a lot of people would have bailed after getting lost and knowing they’d be late. You never know when something awesome is going to happen. 🙂

      1+
  10. C.R. Grissom says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    Boy did your blog resonate with me. I am an introvert ninja, too! No one believes me either. Harry Potter has his cloak of invisibility, mine is the cloak of the class cut-up. Wearing it allows me to drown the butterflies and turn down the heat on those acid bubbles. Fabulous analogy. It hides social anxiety, but creates the same kind of moments you describe above. Girl…I can’t wait to meet you. We can swap inappropriate conversational moments with each other. Ha!

    My showing up moment was volunteering to judge The Emily contest back in 2006. At the time, it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’ve judged that contest every year since. Even during the years I allowed my RWA membership to lapse. Just showing up for the Emily Contest kept me tied to RWA, because it allowed me the opportunity to keep a shaky finger wrapped around my dream of writing. Poor West Houston, they are stuck with this California girl because it would be unthinkable for me NOT to judge that contest. They’ve become a touchstone for me.

    About the time I allowed my RWA membership to lapse, Hubby approached me about a teacher on my his high school campus who needed someone to critique her novel. She’d written a paranormal romance and her marriage was held in the balance (not really, I’m projecting because if my hubby was my only critique resource, it wouldn’t end well). She needed feedback on her first draft. And my hubby needed them both alive and well for his school to remain properly staffed. Kidding!! A critique partner was born when I showed up for that opportunity. And I have Seana Kelly to thank for rekindling my own drive to write.

    This year another Rebelle, JoAnne Banker, happens to be one of the long time coordinators for The Emily. A small world made better by just showing up!

    3+
    • C.R. Grissom says:

      And I was so busy fangirling (I say it’s a word) your excellent post, that I failed to mention how thrilled I am about your story!

      Yaaas! I cannot wait to read it. Love the governess trope!! One of my favorites is The Sound of Music. I got hooked as a kid, and haven’t looked back. Counting the days until I can buy my own signed copy! <3

      1+
      • Jennifer Henderson says:

        “The hills are alive…”

        I love The Sound of Music too! Captain Von Trapp can blow his whistle at me any day.

        What a great stories about the Emily contest and finding your critique partner (and saving the school from crumbling). I’m so glad you plunked your invisibility cloak on and said yes to those opportunities.

        Can’t wait to sit in the back and whisper stories of inappropriate remarks with you in Orlando. 🙂

        2+
  11. Darynda says:

    Welcome, Jennifer!!! First off, your ms sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to read it. I love historical romance so very, very much.

    But second, and more importantly, can I possibly live with you? Or, you know, maybe just an extended stay at your casa? OMG I love the Pacific NW!!! It’s my dream to move there.

    Someday. Someday.

    Super huge congrats!!! ~D~

    2+
  12. This resonates with me so much! People often think I’m an extrovert because I am social, but boy do I need to recharge afterward. Vivi mentioned feeling awkward–holy cow, does that feeling EVER go away?? Sigh.

    I love the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The world tends to value extroverts but look out for us introverts, we’ve got depth!

    Thanks Jennifer for showing up (we are going to have a ball in Orlando!) and thanks for writing a governess story. Ah, catnip!

    1+
    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      I’ll definitely have to check that book out. Thanks for the recommendation!

      I like your comment about the depth of introverts. Still waters run deep! We’ve all got a lot going on under the surface. 🙂

      Excited to meet you (in real life) in Orlando!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I keep meaning to check that book out, too!

      0
  13. Hey there, Jenny :-). Loved the love story you tucked into your post (your husband and the open website…happy sigh).

    Wish I could be in Orlando to buy you a coffee, cheer all your successes, and bask in your enthusiasm. You’re a treasure and an inspiration, and I’m so very grateful that you showed up for that dinner at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference.

    2+
    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Terry! YOU are a treasure and an inspiration! I was going to email you about this piece, but I’m glad you found it on your own. I’ll miss you in Orlando, but maybe we’ll connect in October at ECWC?

      Thank you for being so kind to that nervous lady at dinner a few years back. Clearly, it had an impact! 🙂

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  14. Yeaaaaah congratulations Jenny!

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    • Jennifer Henderson says:

      Natalie, thanks for stopping by (and for leaving a comment). 🙂 I see that your name here links to your website. Now I can check out all your amazing travel pictures!

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  15. Melonie says:

    You say “all” you have to do is show up, but that in itself is not always so easy, and I applaud you for screwing your courage to the sticking place and putting yourself where fate can find you 😉 and now here you are, a Rebelle!

    I’ve always been a go big or go home, throw myself out there and see what happens kind of girl. Am I scared? Hell, yeah. But I’m more afraid of what I’d miss out on if I chose to sit the dance out. So I’m dancing! And if I’m out there on the dancefloor chances are I’m going to pull you in with me 😉

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  16. Clare McKay says:

    Jenny, We’re so happy to have you in Seattle and as a board member of the chapter. Emerald City Writers’ Conference was my first ever conference too, and the first night at the pitch practice, I was so afraid, when I tried to get my pitch out, I couldn’t remember my characters’ names. I went back to my room and called my husband crying that I couldn’t do it. He assured me I’d do fine, and the next day I pitched, and amazingly got requests. The rest of the conference was a piece of cake – I learned lots, made great friends, and joined the chapter – and this year I’m Chair of the conference! I’ll have to make a welcome speech and introduce speakers, and I’m still terrified, but I’ll definitely show up. And I’ll see you there.

    0
    • Clare, way to be brave and show up for your pitch appointment after a rough practice run the night before. And now you’re the boss of the conference!

      What I’ve noticed is that the time before doing the thing is wretched, but once you actually start and are in it, the nerves abate. I’m sure it will be that way when you make your welcome speech. And I’ll be rooting for you (along with everyone in our chapter) from the audience. 🙂

      0
  17. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks so much for being with us today, Jennifer! I know you’ll always have a great time showing up for life!

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  18. Alexis Daria says:

    This is such a great theme and post, Jennifer! Inspiring and encouraging. And it’s all true – if you don’t show up, nothing happens.

    To answer your question at the bottom of the post, I try to show up to as many romance events as I can. Bookstore panels, reading series, writing conferences, chapter meetings, whatever. And somewhere along the line, I went from feeling like the new kid to feeling like I was part of something big and special.

    Also, which Stephanie Laurens book is this???

    0
    • Hi Alexis!

      I think it was one of the Black Cobra quartet books, but I’m not sure. I read them a handful of years ago. I was quite surprised at the time. “Are they…? Oh my! In a Regency? Wait, are they really…? Yes, yes they are.” 😉

      0
  19. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    Hmm…writing career…in the works but that would not have even been on my horizon except for the fact that I did show up for in the RSSWWF chatroom one morning in February. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing there. However, I read through the site so I might have at least a working knowledge of what the heck I was doing there. Well, a few thousand words later, am still there in the chatroom most every M – F writing away with Rubies and new friends. Never expected I would still be there, shoot…didn’t expect to be there for the two months of the WWF! That’s what I get for showing up

    Very much enjoyed the blurb from your novel! Best of luck, Jennifer!

    0
    • Isn’t the learning curve in writing amazing? I love how you went from dipping a toe in the chat room to see what’s what to being a regular. I’ll have to check the RSSWWF chatroom out myself!

      1+
      • Cynthia Huscroft says:

        We’re there M-F starting starting at about 6:30A or 7:00A until around 12:00P or later EST. Do come join us!

        1+
  20. That is such a great story about Emerald City (which I’ve heard is a great conference – maybe one day)!

    I had a smiliar experience at RWA National in 2007. At the time, Jenny Crusie had an active online forum called the Cherries. I used to lurk, but didn’t really post much. The Cherries had an in person meetup at the conference, and, my heart knocking against my ribs at every step, I showed up.

    I made some of my best writing friends to this day at the conference, thanks to Cherries. Writers who live thousands of miles from me but when we see each other at National, our faces light up and we excitedly jump into conversation as if we saw each other in person yesterday. Those friendships mean so much to me, and I wouldn’t have them without showing up to a room where I hadn’t met anyone in “real life” before.

    Can’t wait to meet you in real life in Orlando!

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    • Susannah, thanks for stopping by and commenting. What a great story about the Cherries. I’m so glad you took the plunge and ended up meeting such a wonderful group of new writer friends.

      Looking forward to Florida!

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  21. Jenny, I’m so glad you showed up at ECWC so I had the chance to meet you and get to know you. All the best in the Golden Hearts and enjoy the national conference. Hugs.

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