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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #378

Welcome to My World

I car-jacked a Nissan Maxima the other day, Monday to be exact, and drove it to the ocean in search of a killer. Didn’t kill anyone, but I would have if it was necessary.

On Tuesday I rode bikes with my childhood friend, through our neighborhood of 1962, waved to old friends long-dead, basked in the warmth of their memories.

On Wednesday I walked away from the lifeless body of a man intent on collecting a debt, no other way to handle that situation, my combat knife protruding from his rib cage, his blood staining the marble floor of a nearby church.

Thursday found me contemplating the freedom of those who are not free, and how a universal concept can be so meaningless for those who have never, and will never, experience it.

Welcome to my world, the world of a creative writer, a journey inside my head a veritable kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, blurry images, nebulous ideas forming into clarity, my muse frantically trying to connect Point A to Point B to Point C, all while hoping to make my mental ramblings interesting enough so that the reader will turn the page, turn the page, and keep turning the page until finished.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

It’s Mail Time!

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Disappearing Comments

From Sha: “One thing I wanted to mention about disappearing comments: I notice when I'm in my feed, and someone has commented on one of my articles, a number will show in the little area to the left of "comments", to the right of my profile pic. Click on that and you'll see all the comments that have been made. Go into each one and approve (or delete, if so deemed) them. I've had to do this despite the fact that I don't have my comments set up to be approved before going live.”

Thanks for the heads-up, Sha, and the clarification. I love it when we writers share information which might be helpful to others.

Storytellers in Your Life

From Linda: “Who were the most influential storytellers in your life, Bill?”

This is such a great question, Linda. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I think storytelling is an incredibly rich tradition, passed down through the generations. It is the way mankind has communicated and taught and entertained, literally, for thousands of years, and I’m honored that I am part of that tradition.

Who influenced me? My grandfather, James O’Dowd, was a wonderful storyteller. Many an afternoon I would crawl up onto his lap, and he would dazzle me with tales which had been passed down to him by his parents and grandparents.

But probably the best storyteller I’ve ever known was an old man who lived next-door to us when I was growing up, Sam Conrad. Sam had come, with his parents, out west on the Oregon Trail, in an honest-to-God covered wagon, and Sam would tell me about the marvel and hardships of that journey, and then he would tell me about life in Washington State early on, working in the lumber camps, chopping down huge fir trees, carving out a tough life in a tough land, and I was fascinated by it all, his ability to make the past come alive.

If I am half the storyteller that Sam Conrad was, I will be a very happy writer.

My family believed in storytelling.

My family believed in storytelling.

Develop Voice

From Pete: “We hear all the time about our voice as a writer. How do we develop a voice? I’m not even sure I have one yet, and it’s been over a year of writing for me. What should I be doing to develop my voice?”

Well, first off, Pete, yes, you have a voice, and that voice changes with each story you write. You may not be aware of it yet, but it is there and it is distinctly you.

How do you develop your voice?

Scroll to Continue

I read a few articles about this, written by a variety of professional writers, not because I didn’t know the answer to this question, because I did, but because I wanted to see what the pros thought was the answer.

Turns out I was correct!

There are hundreds of articles about this, and all of the articles have tips which will supposedly “help” you to find your voice, but it all boils down to this: practice, practice, and practice again. Your true voice will come. It is inside of you right now, waiting for you to release it. If that sounds all metaphysical and New Age, so be it, but I truly believe it. Your voice will develop over time, if you work on your craft and trust in the process.

Great writers do not sit down and decide “I’m going to develop my voice now.” It just happens because the great writers worked on their craft.

Try this exercise: go find one of your very first writings, and compare that writing style to the way you write today. If you have been writing for a number of years, you will see a very distinct difference in your styles. That difference is the process of your voice growing.

Writing Teacher

From Joel: “Just curious, who was the best writing teacher you ever had, and what made them such a great teacher?”

This is an easy one for me to answer. Funny thing is, my “teacher” didn’t even know he had made such an impact on me. It was Mister Jahner, my English teacher my sophomore year in high school, and what made him such an influence on me is the fact that he encouraged me to keep writing, and convinced me that I had some level of talent in writing. His encouragement meant the world to me, and everything I have written since 1964 is because of Mister Jahner’s encouragement.

New Hp Site

From Maria: “Hi Bill, I think I told you I had started a 2nd HP account for my book reviews and articles about writing and authors. It is not doing so well. I'm considering moving the articles to my original HP account to see if they do better there. Or, am I being too impatient? Please share you thoughts on this. Thank you for your time. Thank you so much. I guess I was expecting too much too soon because I had almost 4,000 followers when Grumpy was on WordPress through GoDaddy. I need to do a lot more promoting of the new "site", but along with everything else, it's becoming a bit overwhelming. It's fine if you put it in the mailbag. In fact, it might help get Grumpy's name out there among the HP crowd, and I would really appreciate that. Thanks again.”

This is actually a combination of two emails that Maria sent to me. I received the first, answered it, and then she responded with the second.

What I told her is to be patient with her new HP site Grumpy Book Reviewer. It takes time to develop a following on a new site, even when the writer has been around for a while, like Maria has been. I suggested she stick it out, comment on other articles from her “Grumpy” site, and slowly develop a following for Grumpy.

If, after a few months, she still hasn’t seen an uptick in her Grumpy followers, she can always switch those articles to her original “Maria Montgomery” HP site.

Hubbie Awards

Just a quick moment to congratulate all of this year’s Hubbie Award winners. Bravo to you all. It is always an honor to be recognized by your fellow writers, so I know very well how much that honor means to all of you. I am proud to be a member of such a wonderful community of writers and human beings. Again, congratulations to you all!

Find your passion

Find your passion

I Hope Your World Is as Interesting as Mine

I love writing. I hope you do as well. I hope you are passionate about writing, as I am, but if you aren’t passionate about writing, I hope you find something in your life you can be passionate about. It seems like a shame, to me, for someone to go through life without passion.

Have a wonderful week ahead. If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it below in the comments, or send me an email at

And, please, do all things with love this week.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 26, 2021:

Same here, Bill.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 26, 2021:

Thank you Maria! Here's the thing about parenting...there is no instruction manual which is foolproof. We all do what we believe is right, based on our knowledge and experience at the time. I can't count the number of "do-overs" I wish I had when I was a single father. :)

Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 25, 2021:

Hi Bill, I wanted to comment on your article about your dad and commitments, but I couldn't find a place to do it, so I'm doing it here. It was a great article, and brought back memories for me. These were things I should have told my daughter when she was small. She started ballet lessons and quit "because the teacher is mean". Then she started gymnastics and quit. With the abuses in the field of gymnastics, I'm glad she did quit that time. Still, commitments are important, and your dad nailed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2021:

Well thank you very much, Teodora. It was nice of you to join me today. I appreciate it very much.

Teodora Gheorghe on September 19, 2021:

I'm glad that I found "The Writer's Mailbag". Reading your articles is like visiting an old library where one can enjoy the unique charm of magical books, ideas and places that hold the answers to the most interesting questions.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2021:

Any question is sufficient, Rodric, and two questions is a nice surprise. Thank you for both of them. Answers are coming tomorrow. I hope the therapy is going well for you. In the meantime, don't sweat the small stuff. Your muse doesn't work well when she is feeling your stress. Don't worry about writer's block. When you feel it, you feel it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2021:

Thank you, Li-Jen, and welcome back. You were missed.

Li-Jen Hew on September 19, 2021:

Hi Bill, I think some of us might feel more awake when we read your article because of your energetic voice. It's inspiring to know that your grandfather was the one who influenced you for storytelling and I think that's resourceful. It is touching to see you answer questions to the best of your knowledge. You remind us the importance of helping each other. Thanks for your time.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on September 17, 2021:

I was horrified and full of wonderlust after walking through your mind for a few moments of reading! I am sorry to have been gone for so long, almost two months. I missed the mailbag commenting, though I read as many as I had a chance to get to. I had writer's block. I've also been working on my physical body, going to physical therapy. It is going well.

I want to put the question out here, what can you do when writer's block catches you? I was on a roll writing stories and using word-prompts then... nothing! I could barely write an email. I played video games to pass the time.

I hope I'm back now. I know it is a psychological thing. It has to be. Also, your mind rocks! When I read the opening, I thought "Is this man posting a new story without giving the intro?" You surprised me and I enjoyed it.

I love your words about voice. You helped me find my voice and I use your advice to help me continue to develop it. I notice that my voice is different for different situations. I tend to write more formally. I need to tone it down a bit. I want to magnify the Queen's English, but also reach those who find no interest in that. I know there's a happy medium somewhere. I'll find it. In the meantime, what advice can you give to help me move in the ((write)) direction? Is this sufficient to make into the Mailbag after my long absence?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2021:

I'm glad to hear that, Jo! Thanks for the visit.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2021:

Thank you Vidya! I have a great deal of trouble finding articles in the feed. It is quite annoying. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on September 16, 2021:

Loved the Ted talk. Thanks for sharing it.

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 16, 2021:

Wonderful mailbag Bill. Interesting question and great answers. I learn t a lit, especially about blogging. Good I found the mailbag in my feed, thanks to Denise for that. I enjoyed reading it. Have a blessed day.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2021:

Thanks for that, Denise! I was close on the title, and with my diminishing brain power, close is good enough on most days. :) I look forward to you writing about your influencers. That will be a good one.

Blessings always


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 15, 2021:

By the way, I think that the show with William Widcom was called "My World, and Welcome To It" and the cartoonist was James Thurber. (only an artist would remember nonsense like that.) I love this mailbag because of the intro into your mind as well as the diverse questions this week. I thought about 2 HB sites once but decided against it for the very reason that hers isn't doing that well: traffic and followers. I'm glad I decided not to try balancing so many plates. I have enough in the air right now to keep my attention on.

I love the greatest influence questions and it got me to thinking about my life and my influencers. I may have to write about them.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! I hope you have a wonderful week as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2021:

You are sweet, Audrey. I don't feel like much of a writer these days. Too busy with other projects to give writing the time it deserves. :)



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2021:

Good rant, Maria! I hope you feel better. :) Give it a go, my friend. What do you really have to lose?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2021:

Heidi, your comment does not surprise me at all. It's a sticky wicket, trying to start up a new site on HP. I don't think I would have the patience to try, and I have considered it at times. I know a couple who do it on HP and do quite well, but they are the exception and not the rule.

All in all, HP is not a site to make money, not the kind of money that reflects the time put into writing articles.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, and Happy Wednesday to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2021:

It's funny, Sha, but I get the feeling my following is ebbing. I don't write nearly as much as I once did, and the old members of HP are diminishing while a new crop takes over. No worries, it doesn't bother me at all, just my observations of HP lately.

But I can always count on you, my friend. Happy Wednesday!

Rosina S Khan on September 15, 2021:

An enjoyable mailbag with interesting questions and great answers. I hope you have a happy, wonderful week, Bill.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on September 14, 2021:

Thanks, Bill, for "The Writer's Mailbag." With all the changes going on, here and there, it's a beautiful thing to know that this resource is still available and consistent. Great questions and helpful answers.

What a creative force you are!



Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 14, 2021:

Hi, Heidi, My former blogs were several years old. The Grumpy Book Reviewer, had almost 4,000 followers, but generated little income, other than a few authors who hired me to edit their manuscripts. That seemed to be drying up, too. My other blog, The Gardener and The Cook had less followers, but generated more emailed gardening questions. I gave up when the costs of web hosting, security certificates, etc., reached the point where the 2 blogs were costing me money. No, I didn't expect that many followers overnight. I also did not expect it to be quite as slow as it has been. On the other hand, I haven't done as much social media promotion as I should have, and am past due in sending out a newsletter to all those followers. Yes, some unsubscribed when I announced the change, but most stayed with me, and are waiting on me (I hope) to send out my next newsletter. I'm far from being a celebrity, but once I was in Panera Bread with some friends, and Grumpy was mentioned. Another woman nearby said, "You're the Grumpy Book Reviewer? Really?" I said I was, then she wanted to know if I was also The Grumpy Gardener. That's Steve Bender at Southern Living Magazine, so I can't take credit for that column, even though I am a master gardener. You're right, blogging is not what it once was. Whew! End of rant.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 14, 2021:

Mailbag Monday on Tuesday... again.

Re: 2nd HP site? I just don't know how to tell people that blogging is an extremely competitive space. The chances of flinging up a blog, or an HP profile, and hoping for traffic and traction these days are slim to none. There are 500M to 1B blogs (depending on what's being counted). That's a blog for every 7 to 14 people on the planet. I'd call that market saturation.

The amount of blog content being generated is immense. One stat I saw said that on WordPress, 70M posts are generated every month. Now let's do the math and multiply that by 12 months in a year. That's 840M blog posts on WP alone per year. Plus, old posts over the past decade or two haven't gone away. Shall we do the math again?

Unless a book reviewer is a celebrity OR is a reviewer for the big newspapers (or should that be news sites these days?) OR has an established and active (note "active") following, the chances of success with a book review site are low. People look for book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and TikTok (#booktok is a thing... a very big thing). Back in the early days of blogging, it was different.

And what are the expectations? Income? Please. You don't want to me start that rant, do you? Okay, I kinda already ranted. Sorry. But blogging is not what it used to be.

Now that I've gotten my rant on, I'll let you get to the activities going on in your brain. :-D

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 14, 2021:

Wow, Bill, I think this is the best intro to the mailbag in all its 378 episodes! At first I thought you were giving us an excerpt from something you're working on. Then I realized it's an excerpt from your working mind! Hahahaha.

Really good mailbag this week. Lots of diverse questions from names I've not seen before. Your following is really growing. That happens when you become a mentor. :-)

Enjoy the rest of your week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

John, I don't know if you are old enough, but there was a television series many years ago with William Windom, and I think that was the title of the show...."Welcome To My World." I think he was a cartoonist in that show. Anyway, enjoy the heck out of your week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

It takes time, Maria. I wish it didn't, but it does. Your articles are worth following, and people will realize that if given a chance to discover them.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

Alyssa, you certainly have a voice, one which I enjoy. Carry on, my friend, and thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

Hi Dora! Thanks for the question. I'll have an answer for you next Monday. Stay safe and enjoy the fall weather. Have fun reflecting!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

Peggy, I hope that hurricane missed you. Take care, be safe, and I'll say a little prayer for you. Thanks for taking the time to visit me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

Bill, growing up in rural Louisiana would lead to a lifetime of fascinating stories, some of them even true. LOL I would love to hear them.

Take care and have a great week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 14, 2021:

Mary, it's an interesting and valuable exercise. It's hard for us to have perspective on our own writing unless we go back and look at the old stuff.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 13, 2021:

I am glad Maria commented on the Mailbag because I couldn't find it on my feed. I loved your opening, Bill - "Welcome to My World." Oh, and I follow the Grumpy Book Reviewer by the way.

Terrific questions and answers too. Have a great week.

Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 13, 2021:

Hi Bill, thanks for including my message in the mail bag. I am taking your advice, and giving Grumpy more time to build back a following. As always, I learn a lot from the advice you give others. Thanks again.

Alyssa from Ohio on September 13, 2021:

Another great installment Bill! I love these questions, especially the one about finding your voice. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 13, 2021:

Thanks for another good set of questions and answers. The one about story-telling has me trying to answer that one. An opportunity for reflection.

Question: In the last two books I read, I found one error in each. One used "really" instead of "rarely." The other was a misspelled word with one letter omitted. How do these little mistakes affect readers? Do they just neglect the errors and enjoy the read, anyway? Or do the errors affect the rating of the writer's ability?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Pamela, thank you, and congratulations on your Hubbie Win. I am very happy to pass that award on to you. Well-deserved. As for your surgery, best wishes when it finally arrives.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

You are very kind, Mary. Thank you very much. I hope this finds you well. Don't worry, I haven't killed anyone today.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 13, 2021:

Good morning, Bill. Your mailbags are always a pleasure to read each Monday. I thought that you were tantalizing us with a new book when I read those first two sentences. I got a kick out of reading the comment from Mary Wickison about calling the authorities or sending you to confession.

Both of my grandmother's were great story tellers, as was my mother. I cherish the stories told by them. Enjoy the balance of your week.

We have a tropical storm headed our way. There is potential flooding danger for many people in its path.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Funny life indeed, Manatita. There is no accounting for it, why some people are successful and some are not, despite the talent or lack thereof. It's all a random toss of the dice in many cases.

The African Griots? I'll have to research them. Thanks for the information, my friend, and blessings always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

You had me laughing, Misbah, about HP hating when we communicate. I think, if they could have their way, there would be no commenting at all. I think they want this site very impersonal and business-like.

Anyway, this site has allowed me to meet you, so for that I am grateful.

Blessings always, Misbah!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Greg, the fact that you can remember those teachers speaks volumes about them. I don't remember all of my teachers . . . only the very good and the handful who were really, really bad. lol

Thanks for the question. That answer I know!!!!

Happy Monday my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Very cool, Mel, that about Mesa. I just think a great teacher is a national gem to be polished and greatly appreciated.

Thanks for making me part of your Monday routine, buddy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

I'm glad you enjoy it, Chitrangada Sharan. I'm always trying to find new ways to introduce the Mailbag, and it's nice that those efforts are appreciated.

Be well, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Aww, shucks, Linda, the Mailbag before the newspaper? I'm honored. And thank you for the kind words about me. I try. That's the best I can say...I try.

Thank you for your friendship. Good luck with that purging and packing. Tacoma is gaining a wonderful couple.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 13, 2021:

Hi Bill. Hopefully everyone has had or has a great storyteller in their lives. I’ve had a few, my grandmother when I was a kid and my father in-law as an adult. He grew up in very rural Louisiana and had many stories from his time there.

Interesting opening to this mailbag. Amazing how the mind works. Have a great week.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2021:

Hi Bill. Thank you so much for your advice on developing our voices as writers. That's a good exercise you suggested. I am excited to find out the difference between my writing years ago with the ones now.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 13, 2021:

This is an excellent mailbag, Bill. I think your answer about practice was spot on as it seems anything you want to do well takes a lot of practice.

I would love to have met Sam Conrad. He sounds like a swell guy.

I agree that the Grumpy Book Reviewer site needs more time. I love that title and she may be on to something good.

I know your hip surgery is coming up. I am having surgery at the end of the month on my cervical spine, and it is sure not something I am looking forward to, but such is life. Mine was actually scheduled for the end of July, but good old Covid delayed it.

This was an very interesting mailbag. I enjoyed reading it, Bill. I hope you have a good week.

Mary Wickison from USA on September 13, 2021:

Hi Bill,

Your opening had me seriously worried! I didn't know if I should call the authorities or send you to confession. Thank goodness you clarified that. LOL

Mr. Jahner didn't only affect your life but all of ours. His actions have brought you here today, where you share your wit and wisdom with all of us.

Have a great week.

manatita44 from london on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Bill.

Strong start!

Methinks you were about to kill a few people there. ha-ha.

Story-tellers? The African Griots were experts at it. I mean it came down the generations orally, so they needed to be precise. I'm a natural story-teller. I do lots of performance poetry I don't put here, but I am told by people who studied story-telling, that I'm better than them.

I have met lots of amateur actors, way better than professionals and some musicians who play in Pubs way better than professionals too. Funny life! Peace!

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on September 13, 2021:

Mr. Bill, have a wonderful Monday. As usual, I enjoyed reading the mailbag. Concerning the disappearance of comments. Even when the comments option is set to auto approve mode, comments are sometimes forwarded to the spam folder. It happens a lot of times on my articles and I always check that folder regularly. It also happened with one of my comment on Linda C's article. I made a comment and it went to her spam comments folder. I believe there is a glitch or a problem at HP's end that causes such issues with comments. Or maybe they hate it when we communicate, who knows? ;)

Enjoy and have a joyful week ahead.

Blessings always!!

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 13, 2021:

Bill - tremendous Mail Bag! Every topic is something I love to think about, learn about, remember. I remember Mrs. Moe, Mr. Erlewine (Eleanore and Ted); the former passed away within the last couple years and the latter is still around. They both provided tools, encouragement and inspiration to me. They have had life-long impact on me in that way.

Your story about storytellers—in particular your neighbor Sam—reminded me of one of the sadder parts of Bradbury’s book, “Dandelion Wine.” There’s an old man in the book that the young boys go and visit all the time because he brings to life history from the Civil War era. The two young boys are transported back in time like they were really there in those scenes. The sad part, of course, is that it had to end at some point. In any case, Sam sounds much like the old fella in that book. I love that you had that wonderful experience.

I also loved today’s Mail Bag and look forward to next week’s already, when you can answer this question for me: have you studied/read about/considered any other writers’ working habits, techniques, etc.? For example, I read somewhere once that Vonnegut would work for 3-4 hours in the morning first thing, then do whatever else around the house, around town, etc., and then would write for two hours in the evening just after dinner. Did you “pattern” your work routine after anyone else’s or did you just hit upon it over time?

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 13, 2021:

Ditto on the High School English teachers setting us off on this remarkable journey, or fool's errand, whichever way you want to spin it. For me, Mesa, Arizona in 1980 was hot as hell (still is), but it was also a hotbed for great writing teachers.

I always love reading the mailbag. Hope to see you next week.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 13, 2021:

Hello Bill!

Happy Monday, and wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

I always enjoy reading your opening paragraph.

Excellent answer to Pete's question. I enjoyed reading other questions and answers, as well.

Thank you for sharing another edition of an insightful and helpful mailbag.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 13, 2021:

Good morning Bill. I want you to know that I'm reading your Mailbag before even looking at the morning newspaper. The theme today seems to be writing--listening to good story tellers, honing your craft, finding that voice, and being patient. Believe in yourself. All good. Thank you for continuing to give us direction and encouragement. You are a lovely human being, and I am so proud to call you "friend."

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