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Paper Plane (Women's Fiction)Please help me revise my query, as it is my first ever!


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#41 jmarshburn

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:22 PM

I agree with Brighton - it's hard to see how flooding a bathroom would be a significant point when contemplating suicide. I'm glad that you are giving us more about Tom, though.

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#42 Cassandra Porter

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:02 PM

I have one simple thing for you. The part where it says "coping" doesn't seem quite right because that means she is managing just fine. I think it's more that she's "trying to cope."

#43 Cat Porter

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:04 PM

Ooh, thanks. I missed that.

#44 Cat Porter

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:11 PM

Dear Ms. Nice Agent Lady Who Will Give Me an Offer:


At age five, Tommy pestered her with his toy fighter-jet. At eighteen she met T, a quiet emo chilling at the local coffee shop. But at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that these two people are one and the same.

Sandra eyes the alluring edge of a razor—considering suicide—but realizes this is not the solution. Reflecting on her past, she wonders what circumstances set up the trajectory of her pathetic life. In a series of flashbacks, Sandra relives her youth, looking for answers:

At a parochial elementary school in Kentucky, Sandra loses faith in herself and God after a traumatic incident in the girls’ restroom. A Catholic priest demeans and harasses her, demanding her attendance at church. But Sandra finds no refuge after a transition to public school where the students ostracize her. Shy and unfashionable, she buries herself in schoolwork, believing grades are the best judge of character.

Jonah, a heartthrob upperclassman from another high school, spies Sandra during her senior prom. Unaware of her reputation as a nerdy nobody, he pursues her, bolstering her ego. But after Sandra discovers Jonah’s true intent to simply enjoy a summer fling before college starts, she plunges into a state of self-loathing. Trying to cope, she struggles with more dead-end relationships, a rash move to Nashville to physically escape her past, a rocky acclimation to her first job as a hostess in a mediocre restaurant, and the turbulence of online dating. Often driven by deep-rooted fears and phobias, she grapples with an identity crisis, poor body image, sexual abuse…

As Sandra delves into the adversity she faced in her past, she realizes that she is, in fact, endowed with everything needed to find happiness. Just as she begins to love herself, Sandra discovers that a wonderful young man—Tom—has loved her for years, flaws included. Blinded by strife, she had overlooked his intermittent and subdued presence in her life.

My work of Women’s Fiction, PAPER PLANE, is complete at 109,500 words. I believe my debut novel will attract fans of Wally Lamb and Janet Fitch. A synopsis and a full or partial manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Catherine Porter


#45 elphabasister

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 07:14 PM

Dear Ms. Nice Agent Lady Who Will Give Me an Offer:


At age five, Tommy pestered her with his toy fighter-jet. At eighteen she met T, a quiet emo chilling at the local coffee shop. But at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that these two people are one and the same.

Sandra eyes the alluring edge of a razor—considering suicide—but realizes this is not the solution (this much more of a hook for me--i would start with this sentence). Reflecting on her past, she wonders what circumstances set up the trajectory of her pathetic life. In a series of flashbacks, Sandra relives her youth, looking for answers:

At a parochial elementary school in Kentucky, Sandra loses faith in herself and God after a traumatic incident in the girls’ restroom. A Catholic priest demeans and harasses her, demanding her attendance at church. But Sandra finds no refuge after a transition to public school where the students ostracize her. Shy and unfashionable, she buries herself in schoolwork, believing grades are the best judge of character.

Jonah, a heartthrob upperclassman from another high school, spies Sandra during her senior prom. Unaware of her reputation as a nerdy nobody, he pursues her, bolstering her ego. But after Sandra discovers Jonah’s true intent to simply enjoy a summer fling before college starts, she plunges into a state of self-loathing. Trying to cope, she struggles with more dead-end relationships, a rash move to Nashville to physically escape her past, a rocky acclimation to her first job as a hostess in a mediocre restaurant, and the turbulence of online dating. Often driven by deep-rooted fears and phobias, she grapples with an identity crisis, poor body image, sexual abuse… (Way too much--feels like a laundry list)

As Sandra delves into the adversity she faced in her past, she realizes that she is, in fact, endowed with everything needed to find happiness. Just as she begins to love herself, Sandra discovers that a wonderful young man—Tom—has loved her for years, flaws included. Blinded by strife, she had overlooked his intermittent and subdued presence in her life. (is this the end of the story or is there going to be more with her and tom? This makes it sound like the end)

My work of Women’s Fiction, PAPER PLANE, is complete at 109,500 words. I believe my debut novel will attract fans of Wally Lamb and Janet Fitch. A synopsis and a full or partial manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Catherine Porter


Too be honest i think there is way too much going on in the query. Yes, detail is good but it has to be the right details. For instance i think her contemplating suicide is huge issue. Instead of going through a laundry list of why she is contemplating it, you should cram it all into one or two sentence--don't do the flash back thing. try something like: "after years of losing self-esteem and unable to find someone to love her or to even love herself." It gives the core reasons and feeling behind her actions without the monologue.
I'm not sure about the plot of the story but it seems like tom plays a major role. Does he stop her from committing suicide and they fall in love? If so then allude to that. if not then forget i ever mentioned it lol. Hope this helps a bit.

#46 elphabasister

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 09:13 PM

Dear Ms. Nice Agent Lady Who Will Give Me an Offer:


At age five, Tommy pestered her with his toy fighter-jet. At eighteen she met T, a quiet emo chilling at the local coffee shop. But at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that these two people are one and the same.

Sandra eyes the alluring edge of a razor—considering suicide—but realizes this is not the solution (this much more of a hook for me--i would start with this sentence). Reflecting on her past, she wonders what circumstances set up the trajectory of her pathetic life. In a series of flashbacks, Sandra relives her youth, looking for answers:

At a parochial elementary school in Kentucky, Sandra loses faith in herself and God after a traumatic incident in the girls’ restroom. A Catholic priest demeans and harasses her, demanding her attendance at church. But Sandra finds no refuge after a transition to public school where the students ostracize her. Shy and unfashionable, she buries herself in schoolwork, believing grades are the best judge of character.

Jonah, a heartthrob upperclassman from another high school, spies Sandra during her senior prom. Unaware of her reputation as a nerdy nobody, he pursues her, bolstering her ego. But after Sandra discovers Jonah’s true intent to simply enjoy a summer fling before college starts, she plunges into a state of self-loathing. Trying to cope, she struggles with more dead-end relationships, a rash move to Nashville to physically escape her past, a rocky acclimation to her first job as a hostess in a mediocre restaurant, and the turbulence of online dating. Often driven by deep-rooted fears and phobias, she grapples with an identity crisis, poor body image, sexual abuse… (Way too much--feels like a laundry list)

As Sandra delves into the adversity she faced in her past, she realizes that she is, in fact, endowed with everything needed to find happiness. Just as she begins to love herself, Sandra discovers that a wonderful young man—Tom—has loved her for years, flaws included. Blinded by strife, she had overlooked his intermittent and subdued presence in her life. (is this the end of the story or is there going to be more with her and tom? This makes it sound like the end)

My work of Women’s Fiction, PAPER PLANE, is complete at 109,500 words. I believe my debut novel will attract fans of Wally Lamb and Janet Fitch. A synopsis and a full or partial manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Catherine Porter


Too be honest i think there is way too much going on in the query. Yes, detail is good but it has to be the right details. For instance i think her contemplating suicide is huge issue. Instead of going through a laundry list of why she is contemplating it, you should cram it all into one or two sentence--don't do the flash back thing. try something like: "after years of losing self-esteem and unable to find someone to love her or to even love herself." It gives the core reasons and feeling behind her actions without the monologue.
I'm not sure about the plot of the story but it seems like tom plays a major role. Does he stop her from committing suicide and they fall in love? If so then allude to that. if not then forget i ever mentioned it lol. Hope this helps a bit.

#47 jw11

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 10:29 PM

I just tooled around with this some. No obligation, of course. Just like the synopsis and started toying with it some.
Take what might work and leave the rest.


She met a pestering playmate named Tommy at five years old, a quiet emo named T at eighteen, and now at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton will discover that they are one and the same.

Sandra's eyes meet the alluring edge of a razor, but recognize that's no solution. Instead, she revisits her youth, looking for answers:

There was that time back in Kentucky parochial school when she accidentally flooded the girls restroom, so embarrassed she lost faith in God and herself. The Catholic priest demeaned and harrassed her until she tried public school only to be ostracized, a nerdy, insecure geek. Boys liked her just long enough to boost her ego, then deflate her self worth as she realized she was only being used.

The adult Sandra finds herself fleeing dead end relationships and self laothing to Nashville, for a fresh start. Driven by fears and insecurities about her body, post trauma from sexual abuse...here is where she sits eyeing the razor.

Tom, now a mature man enters her life again, revealing his identity and the connection they've shared since preschool.

#48 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 09:56 AM

Thanks for the advice. Yes, elphabasister, that's the end of the book. Basically, Tom and Sandra have just begun a relationship, and the audience gets to fill in the blanks of what happens between them (which I think it's pretty clear that they live happily ever after because the tone of their relationship is just so different than the others...positive). I will work on making this more succinct.

#49 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 11:52 AM

Okay, so maybe this isn't any shorter, but it is a different approach intended to get rid of laundry lists and focus on the right details. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to get rid of the flashback aspect of my query because all but the last two or so chapters and the epilogue is set in the past through flashbacks..and my book is 20 or so chapters long. Think Forest Gump. Forest sits on a bench explaining his past, then works up to the present, then moves on from the present to the end. That's pretty much how my book goes (I think I subconsciously made it that way because Forest Gump was my favorite movie for so long and the first PG13 movie I ever saw!). Anyway, here it goes...again:



Dear Ms. Agent:

She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo. But at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that these two people are one and the same.

Sandra eyes the alluring edge of a razor—considering suicide—but realizes this is not the solution. Reflecting on her past, she wonders what circumstances set up the trajectory of her pathetic life. In a series of flashbacks, Sandra relives her youth, looking for answers:

At a parochial elementary school in Kentucky, Sandra loses faith in herself and God after a traumatic incident in the girls’ restroom. A Catholic priest demeans and harasses her, demanding her attendance at church. Sandra transitions to public school but finds no refuge as the students ostracize her. Insecure and unfashionable, she buries herself in schoolwork, believing grades are the best judge of character.

Jonah, a heartthrob upperclassman from another high school, spies Sandra during her senior prom. Unaware of her reputation as a nerdy nobody, he pursues her, bolstering her ego. But after Sandra discovers Jonah’s true intent to simply enjoy a summer fling before college starts, she plunges into a state of self-loathing. Trying to cope, she rushes into more dead-end relationships that only further deflate her. Thoughts of suicide taunt her, but she is never able to commit. Sandra hits rock bottom when an online date goes horribly wrong, leaving her at a drugstore purchasing Plan B. It is the wake up call she needed to make some changes.

As Sandra delves into her painful memories, she realizes that she is, in fact, endowed with everything needed to find happiness. Just as she begins to love herself, Sandra discovers that a wonderful young man—Tom—has loved her for years, flaws included. Blinded by strife, she had overlooked his intermittent presence in her life.

My work of Women’s Fiction, PAPER PLANE, is complete at 109,500 words. I believe my debut novel will attract fans of Wally Lamb and Janet Fitch. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Catherine Porter

#50 Diana O.

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 12:02 PM

Hi Kitty!

I just read your latest revision of your query (I didn't read any of the former versions), and I really like it! I think you've got a lot of voice in it, and it is very well-crafted. Because the writing is so good, I'm not going to go through and strike-through or reword anything.

The only place I saw that might still need some work is this Tom/Tommy/T character (and again, I have not read any of the other feedback for this or former versions of your query, so I'm just going off of this one alone). Maybe this can be worked out in the hook. I know this may be nit-picky, but one of the first things I wondered was "How does Sandra not know that Tommy and T are the same person?" Seems like if they grew up together she would have known he went emo as a teenager. Or am I reading this a bit too black & white, and you didn't literally mean that she didn't realize they were "one and the same" until she was 21?

The other thing was, because you set Tom up in the hook, I expected to see him somewhere else within the main story paragraphs. He finally pops back up at the end and I get that they are together and it looks like she's finally found the love of her life who will help her out of her dark place, but it just seemed odd to me that he was nowhere in the middle.

Otherwise, I think this looks really good and again, I really like your writing style!
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#51 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 12:45 PM

Thank you so much, Diana, and you're very insightful. Hmmm...how's this for the hook? Maybe help me reword it a little (?) 'cause it seems a little clunky and a little long for a hook.

She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy, but after preschool, he moved to the city. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo in her boyfriend's clique, but after the big breakup, she and T lost their connection. Now, at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that Tommy and T are one and the same person as she meets him for the third time.

Does this work him into the rest of the plot enough, too?

#52 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 12:57 PM

Ooh, ooh. Just noticed this possibility. Maybe I could say, in the last sentence, "as he reenters her life for the third time," instead of, "as she meets him for the third time." What do you think?

#53 Diana O.

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 01:57 PM

Yeah, I like that addition. How about something like:

She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy in her preschool class who moved away to the city. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo in her boyfriend's clique, but after the breakup their connection was severed. Now, at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that Tommy and T are one and the same person as Tom reenters her life for the third time.

I think this is better, but it doesn't seem quite "hooky" enough. I think the last sentence needs a little bit more work to make the agent want to read on....maybe something like "It isn't until she turns 21 and Tom reenters her life for the third time that Sandra Appleton realizes that Tommy and T are one and the same person, a person who (insert something here like "kept her from going over the brink" or something else he might have done to make the agent perk up and want to read more).
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#54 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 02:31 PM

For the hook:


She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy in her preschool class who moved away to the city. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo in her boyfriend’s clique, but their ties were severed after the breakup. It isn’t until she turns twenty-one and Tom reenters her life for the third time that Sandra Appleton realizes Tommy and T are one and the same person, a person who shows her true love exists even for a troubled soul.

#55 Christina Busby

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 02:56 PM

I am still struggling with my own hook so this is my very, very humble opinion but...I really like the idea. I think a lot of women can relate. I would condense the second sentence and drop the MC's name. It seems to lose something there. Also, maybe after you say "are one and the same" you could drop person - just add a coma and say "true love for her troubled soul." Or maybe not.

Just my inexperienced thoughts :)

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#56 Cat Porter

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 03:27 PM

Thanks!

#57 Diana O.

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:00 PM

For the hook:


She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy in her preschool class who moved away to the city. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo in her boyfriend’s clique, but their ties were severed after the breakup. It isn’t until she turns twenty-one and Tom reenters her life for the third time that Sandra Appleton realizes Tommy and T are one and the same person, a person who shows her true love exists even for a troubled soul.


I like it! I definitely think that's getting there.
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#58 jw11

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 09:57 PM

Busby input on that hook is great advice!

#59 S Jenan

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 12:48 AM

I think your query is far too synoptic. Why do I (the hypothetical literary agent) need to request this when I know how it resolves? Okay, so Tommy/T/Tom rolls into town and patches up her wounds. Next.

You've got to tempt me, make me fall in love with Sandra. Ache for her. And then leave me hanging. Like WTF? WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? I MUST KNOW!

Get it?

Second-- I'm going to highlight your character's experiences and self-descriptions to illustrate what I think the biggest wrong-turn is in this query:


Dear Ms. Agent:

She was five when she met Tommy, a pestering boy. She was eighteen when she met T, a quiet emo. But at twenty-one, Sandra Appleton discovers that these two people are one and the same.

(This is dropped so abruptly, that it left me annoyed and 'considering suicide' until it resolved at the end. Something has to change here.)

Sandra eyes the alluring edge of a razor—considering suicide—but realizes this is not the solution. Reflecting on her past, she wonders what circumstances set up the trajectory of her pathetic life. In a series of flashbacks, Sandra relives her youth, looking for answers:

At a parochial elementary school in Kentucky, Sandra loses faith in herself and God after a traumatic incident in the girls’ restroom. A Catholic priest demeans and harasses her, demanding her attendance at church. Sandra transitions to public school but finds no refuge as the students ostracize her. Insecure and unfashionable, she buries herself in schoolwork, believing grades are the best judge of character.

Jonah, a heartthrob upperclassman from another high school, spies Sandra during her senior prom. Unaware of her reputation as a nerdy nobody, he pursues her, bolstering her ego. But after Sandra discovers Jonah’s true intent to simply enjoy a summer fling before college starts, she plunges into a state of self-loathing. Trying to cope, she rushes into more dead-end relationships that only further deflate her. Thoughts of suicide taunt her, but she is never able to commit. Sandra hits rock bottom when an online date goes horribly wrong, leaving her at a drugstore purchasing Plan B. It is the wake up call she needed to make some changes.
(Okay, now FINALLY she's getting over herself, but what changes her? Delving into painful memories? What does that mean? She's 'endowed' with everything? In that sense, we ALL are, so what's special about Sandra? Is it only that Tom loves her? He's simply fulfilling the role of a Magic Negro here? I want SANDRA to do this, not be saved by the love of a man, like she's Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.)

As Sandra delves into her painful memories, she realizes that she is, in fact, endowed with everything needed to find happiness. Just as she begins to love herself, Sandra discovers that a wonderful young man—Tom—has loved her for years, flaws included. Blinded by strife, she had overlooked his intermittent presence in her life.

My work of Women’s Fiction, PAPER PLANE, is complete at 109,500 words. I believe my debut novel will attract fans of Wally Lamb and Janet Fitch. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Catherine Porter


Why do I want to spend 110K words with Sandra? Because she's self-loathing? Yikes.

Instead, focus on what in your MS makes me LIKE Sandra. What unique perspective does she bring to these difficult, confusing circumstance that sustains your plot? Many characters are troubled/put upon/mistreated -- what is the spark that makes Sandra SING despite her troubles. Where is her voice here?

I think in trying to dissect the details of your story, you've cut out its heart. Find the heart. Write about that.

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#60 Cat Porter

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 03:26 PM

Okay, so here is my purge of thoughts on this, and maybe someone can help me work some of this in my query? I'm extremely biased; you will see why:

Jenan, I kind of thought that other women who have gone through some or even just one of the difficult experiences Sandra faces would like to see that even despite her obstacles, she comes out happy on the other side. It's Sandra's relateability that makes her attractive to readers (probably more women than men, hence why I have chosen Women's Fiction as my genre). It's also the things readers can conclude between the lines that make her amazing. Despite the adversity she faces, she never retaliates back and hurts another person. She never becomes so hardened that she loses her compassion and sympathy for others. She doesn't resort to alcohol, drugs, or sex to solve her problems. She can't commit suicide because she knows this will devastate her loving parents (and they have never done anything but love and take care of her, so they don't deserve this. Maybe I should mention this in my query?). Her greatest strengths are that she is able to put herself in other people's shoes and that she reasons her way out of so many things.

Her greatest faults are that she settles with the wrong men. She feels like time is flying by even though she is so young, which leads to impatience. She doesn't realize how beautiful and smart she is. Because she gives people the benefit of the doubt, believing they are all kind and honest, she validates her own worth based on their opinions, when really, some people are just plain mean.

It is the rape incident that knocks the truth in her head: no matter how much she hates herself, she knows she didn't do anything to deserve that. No woman or man ever deserves rape. She realizes that bad things happen to good people. She knows that she is a good person who deserves better than what she's had. She starts to recognize her attributes, to step back, take a breath, and quit settling. Most of these epiphanies are also just a natural part of her growing up.

So, once she starts loving herself, something good enters her life (Tom)...by chance, because that's how life works. When you've stopped looking, you finally get what you want, or so people tell me. :P Anyway, this demonstrates that good things happen to good people as well, and Sandra regains her faith in humanity. The whole Tom thing also shows that if Sandra hadn't rushed into other relationships but waited for someone good to come along instead, things would have been different.

Anyway, I didn't include any of this character development because I've read (can't remember where) that you should write about the plot more than the characters in a query. And I included the ending because I've read on several agents' blogs that they are tired of authors beating around the bush trying not to reveal too much about the book, when really, the agent wants to know if the WHOLE book has a good plot and conclusion to see if they want to represent it. I've read on other sites otherwise, but I think the complete reveal just works out better for this book.

Phew! And now for another reveal from me. Sandra is actually me, except I never met my fiance the way that Sandra meets Tom...three times. That's the commercial appeal part about it. Some events within my full manuscript are slightly exaggerated or changed, but Sandra's life is pretty much my own. I'm trying to again protect my parents and other loved ones by marketing this as fiction and not closely based on a true story. A lot of people I know don't know about the hardships I've faced, and I would like to keep it that way.

So, Jenan, I guess the question is, "Why do people like me?" I'm having a hard time answering that because I know that not everyone does, but at this point in my life, I don't think it matters.




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