Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Twelve Finalists!


First, I must MUST say that you all made this INCREDIBLY difficult for me. I’m blown away with the amount of talent that entered this contest. I am so lucky to have read something from each and every one of you!

I know how hard it can be to bare your soul for the world to see, but I assure you, I’m very grateful that you did! I enjoyed all of these. Each paragraph was so different and original. I enjoyed seeing how each of you crafted your words and prose. Thank you for entering!


Now without further ado, I very excitedly introduce to you our twelve finalists and cute kittens!! 


Please read through and PICK TWO paragraphs and place your votes in the comments below.

Happy reading everyone!



It shouldn’t have taken a jolt in an electric chair to make me realize I’m not a Bob. You’d think I’d have figured it out before. I’m not stupid. Really. Some people say I’m gifted. I hate that word. They might as well draw a bulls-eye on my forehead with pink glitter paint. Anyway, I’d gotten into the habit of ignoring my name, Fred. It was like background noise. Or, like the jets that flew over our last house ten times a day. They were there, but I didn’t notice them anymore. 

(Okay, seriously this had me at I'm not a Bob. This is an amazing opening and it stuck with me all week. Awesome work, Shelly! I want to bundle up with a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and Fred!)



When they gave me away to Uncle Dell he said this forest, this here part of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, is where I’ll meet my future and my past. I told him that made no kind of sense. Told him I didn’t want to be here. Told him I didn’t want to be no traditional Cherokee like him. He crossed his arms.

(This is awesome! I want to pick this book up already and read it with my son. The voice, the opening, everything about this grabbed onto me.)


“What is that smell?” I mumbled, stepping out of my car in front of an old country inn. The beauty of the weathered, three-story house did not match the horrendous odor surrounding it. While I admired the long wrap-around porch, the smell of the cow manure assaulted my senses, making me gag. I couldn’t help but pinch my nose against the stench. Being a city girl, I wasn’t used to it. If being in the middle of the sticks meant that I could finally become a professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, then this was what I had to do. Sticksville was my next big stepping stone - well, more like a hurdle. And a sanctuary from him.

(Right away, I fell in love with this main character. This girl is far away from what she’s used to—all to get away from a man. I want to know more. Fantastic opening!) 


The first thing I thought when I saw Jackson Holmes was, “I hate you and I want to kill your father.”

Thankfully those words didn’t pass my lips.

The second thing I thought was, “My, but you are devilishly handsome.”

Unfortunately those words did pass my lips.

Even more unfortunate, I was disguised as a man which packed an extra layer of humiliation to the whole thing.

(Ha! Who doesn't love a good western with a sassy main character?! And devilishly handsome men? This is a very well crafted opening and it's funny. Great work, Mary!)


Tan’eth lay full length on the sun-warmed hillside, using her gleaning sack as a pillow, and reckoned the distance between her left foot and her right. Surely the chains will be no shorter than this, she thought. She slowly inched her feet apart along the grass. Perhaps this long. Or even this. Tan’eth tried to picture the length of her mother’s chains, the links that bound ankle to ankle, and the rhythm of her gait as the chains went slack and taut, slack and taut, with each step. No, not quite this long. She nudged her heels closer together.

(This felt so new and fresh to me. I want to know why she’s trying to mimic her mother’s chains. This also read like a classic to me, a savory delicious one I’d enjoy reading again and again.)


India is not the spiritual home of wishy-washy mantras and life affirming experiences. It is the home of more than one billion people, who work their sun-burnt broken backs raw to keep their families fed and alive. Dreams lie dormant in tired eyes that only dare to sparkle and shine in the confines of a cinema, where Bollywood heroes preach the religion of love dishonestly. The nation survives between shots of morning chai and moist parathas, alive on meagre earnings and hopes that are as momentary as electrical impulses between every cell and synapse. But the colours, the red of the tikka, the rainbow of the rangoli patterns, the faded jades of sweaty sarees, the hues of dust on bright orange temples or mint green mosques; yes, the colours were a defiance to the fate that had doomed them to their brown skins and the poverty induced prejudice that came with it. Sakeena Ghulam, wry, young, poor, a basket of heavy washed clothes on one hip and a hand-decorated earthen pot on the other, belonged to those colours.

(Wow, this is beautifully written and I love the imagery Azra paints. I’m DYING to know more about Sakeena. In a way, I’m hoping this is a memoir because I would gobble it up.)


Noon was long gone when the first gust of northern wind pressed against the bakery rooftop and squeezed its way down the cramped flue. The embers, brushed to the corner of the great masonry oven, jumped to life as the wind swept past, spitting out several halfhearted flames. Rhona watched from her seat at the bakery counter. The flames twisted and writhed angrily as if to chide the breeze for waking them, and she beheld them enchanted. A moment passed, the flames settled, and the spell broke.

(This was wonderful because Carrie grabbed me into a moment with her main character. It was slow and steady, yet kept me wanting to know more about Rhona and her spells. Well done!)


Want to know why I hate Tuesday, December eighteenth? It’s the day my mother died. You’d think an only child without a father would get a premonition about something as horrendous as her own mother dying. But I didn’t. No goose bumps. No sinking sensation of doom, or being orphaned, not even chills. No idea whatsoever until four-thirty that afternoon. That’s when Mom came home and told me.

(I particularly liked this one because it made me think. I’ve seen lots of stories where the parents are dead or dying, but the last line to this hooked me in. I was like, wait mom’s dead, right?! And now she’s coming home to tell her daughter something. Who doesn’t love a good creepy story?!)


Harrison entered a room where time either stalled or fell into reverse. Dust drifted around him with hardly a ray of sunlight seeping through window slits in the walls. He had been there only once before when he was seven years old. Broken doors hardly stood straight on rusted hinges. Wooden splinters littered the carpeted floor. The shattered remains of chairs crumbled under the weight of his feet. He dragged his heels along the ground disturbing fallen pieces of his past.

(There is so much imagery and story unfolding in this one paragraph. It is crafted beautifully and the very last line made me fall in love with this. I want to read it again, and again.)

(10) Sabrina Marchal

We don’t choose who saves us. Sometimes it’s that one teacher, who never says much, but who catches you smoking in the bathroom and simply opens a window. Sometimes it’s that librarian, who lets you linger after closing while she clears up. Very rarely, it’s someone who intends to kill you.

(The voice here really held onto me and the last line left me more than curious. Great work!) 

(11) Heather

If my Uncle Levi’s car creeps down the driveway, it will mean they’ve found Mom and Dad. Nobody knows where I’m hiding to watch for his car. Even though Nana still calls it the chicken shed, there haven’t been chickens here as long as I can remember. There’s only a dirt floor and Papa’s old car, a big, white Buick with fuzzy dark red seats that spark if you slide across them. Wooden planks on all sides. Darkness and the smell of seeds or hay or corn. Something the chickens used to eat. If I bend down just a little bit, I can see outside through a hole in the wood: the driveway, the apple tree, and the curve of the road with fields on both sides. Green and slippery in the rain. Soon Nana will start calling for me. She will have my blue jacket over her arm. Luke, Luke she will say, stretching out my name. The same way she calls Calico if he hasn’t shown up for his dinner, when the saucer of cream is waiting for him with skin forming over the top. Protection against what’s coming.

(This immediately took me back to some of my favorite authors as a kid, specifically E.B White and Jean Craighead George. The first line builds mystery right away and I want to know why Luke is feeling as though he needs protection from what’s coming. A really great build up here.)


“One shot to the head is all it’ll take.”
Tobin lifted himself slowly to his hands and knees as pain racked through his tired and beaten body. He glared through his one good eye at his attacker, its silhouette inhuman and ominous. Tobin wasn’t afraid of death, and was already all too familiar with its work. “Just do it already.” Ice cold air plumed his words into a thin vapor before him.

(This is full of raw emotions and I felt bruised and beaten alongside Tobin, loved the imagery, especially the inhuman silhouette.)



124 comments:

  1. Hi, thank you for choosing my paragraph! Really, really pleased to be picked as a finalist! One question; can anybody vote or only the contributors?

    Azra L.

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  2. Azra Limbada (without a doubt - so beautifully written!) and Sabrina Marchal

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  3. Thank you so much! I'm so happy to be a finalist!

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  4. Azra Limbada. Very nice

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  5. Azara Limbada, Vivid and captivating! And Shelly Steig.

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  6. Mary Frame and Holly Hughes

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  7. (6) Azra Limbada and (8) Holly Hughes

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  8. Azra Limbada and Mary Frame

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  9. Number 6 - Azra Limbada. I love how the character "belonged to those colors." I am enamored of your imagery!

    And...

    Number 10 - Sabrina Marchal. You had me at "someone intends to kill you." Gripping!

    This was a tough choice, they are all so good! I feel happy and completely inadequate to be chosen amongst such fine writers :)

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  10. Heather #11 - great intro..cant wait to read more!

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  11. No. 6 Azra Limbada

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  12. Heather #11. Beautifully written and "Protection against what's comming" is a great sentence to end the paragraph. Geoff

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  13. Heather (#11) !

    Mary Frame (#4)

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  14. Mary Frame & Sabrina Marchel.

    Mary, totally loved the way your character says exactly the wrong thing. Also, she sounds pretty kick-ass! (for lack of a better word!)

    Sabrina, loved that little incidental slip at the bottom, which changed the whole feeling of your paragraph. Really drew me into the character with those few sentences!

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    1. Sorry, that's me, Azra L!

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  15. Number 12 by Kim Harnes and number 6 by Azra Limbada

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  16. (12) Kim Harnes (not sure what it is, but I love dialogue openers. Such potent shock!) & (1) Shelly Steig is great stream-of-consciousness hilariousness!

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  17. Heather number 11 brought back memories of a chicken house that was a part of my youth. I can't wait for second paragraph!! Doley Bell

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  18. (10) Sabrina Marchal & 6)- Azra Limbada

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  19. Love #11...yes, what is to come?

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  20. If you are a finalist, please do vote. That would be wonderful! And please don't forget to VOTE for TWO! Thank you, everyone! And congratulations finalists!

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  21. They all look wonderful, but #1 by Shelly Steig and #10 by Sabrina Marchal are my pics!

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  22. My votes are first, #1 Shelly Steig, and second, #5 "my mother's chains."

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  23. #1 Shelly Steig

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  25. #1 Shelly Steig...wow! and #6 Azra Limbada...love it!

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  26. My votes are #6 Azra Limbada and #10 Sabrina Marchal

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  27. This is so exciting! Thank you Naomi! You picked all the same ones I would have, making the voiting challenging. Of course Holly ;P and I'm torn between Mary and Shelly (now I have Frankenstein thoughts running through my head.)

    Okay, 1 (Shelly) and 8(holly). Good luck everyone! <3

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  28. 6 azra and 7 carrie

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  29. Shelly Steig!! I need to know the rest of the story!

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  30. #1 and #4 are my votes.

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  31. #4 Mary -- I can totally picture the scene... and its already hilarious. I'd totally keep reading.

    #5 Amanda -- I am totally intrigued by the chains and why she'd be musing over the comparison. The whole thing grabs me.

    Congrats finalists and good luck! I'll be playing it the #PitMad :D

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  32. These were all very good, but the ones that grabbed me the most were (1), (7) and (11). Brilliant stuff.

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  33. #8 Holly Hughes - that last line really got me!

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  34. My vote is for (1) Shelly Steig and (10) Sabrina Marchal :)

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  35. (6) Azra Limbada and (12) Kim Harnes, both paragraphs were interesting and I enjoyed reading them both!

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  36. Azra limbada's was really beautifully written. You can tell alot about the character just from that paragraph. Also really liked Carrie McRae

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  37. My vote is for #1 and #2. Both have great voice.

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  38. Azra Limbada and Kim Barnes.

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  39. (6) Azra Limbada and (10) Sabrina Marchal both really appealed to me.

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  40. # 1 and # 8. They both really set a scene and a mood an made me curious.

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  41. Azra Limbada and Ariel

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  42. Numbers 5 and 6 Amanda Avallone and Azra Limbada

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  43. Holly and Heather are the best.

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  44. Azra Limbada (6) and Mary Frame (4)

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  46. Azra limbada (6) beautifully written.

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  47. (1) Shelly Steig

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  48. I say 5, Amanda Avallone's, as I was intrigued by the oddness and the imagery and especially 1, Shelly Steigs, as I feel like I can relate to not being a Bob AND I need to know how this Fred character ended up in and survived an electric chair!

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  49. I really like Azra's and Mary's :-) Good luck to all!

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  50. I'm delighted to have made the top 12! Thank you so much for setting up the contest Naomi and thank you to all who've voted for me. Since I'm a good Southern girl, I won't vote for myself. Here's my two choices: 4--Mary Frame's opening is pithy, creative and captivating. 10--Sabrina's story resonated with me because I was ALWAYS in trouble in high school--and a few good teachers stepped in to help me. Plus that last line is a killer!

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  51. love #11< Heather.

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  52. I am digging 1 and 4. Rad contest.

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  53. #11! what is "coming"??? tell me more

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  54. I vote for Azra Limbada! Fabulous!

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  55. azra - I want to read more :)

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  57. I vote for Holly Hughes (#8) and Amanda Avallone (#5).

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  58. I vote for Holly Hughes (#8) and Ariel McManus (#9).

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  59. azra and jennifer! 3 and 6

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  60. Twelve brilliant nuggets! All inspirational and imaginative. My favourite two are probably Azra Limbada and Holly Hughes!

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  61. They are all great! I vote 8, Holly and 6, Azra.

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  62. Azra limbada no. 6

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  63. First choice #6, Azra Limbada...I loved it! You took me to India all the way from Chicago! It was very vivid, I want to read more of this!

    Second,#10 Sabrina Marchal, I could relate to this piece, I had a great college professor who had inspired me..and passed away shortly after.

    Great work everybody!

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  64. My favorite is writer number six, Azra Limbada, very interesting work and number 12 Kim Harnes, raw, that's for sure!

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  65. #6 Azra Limbada, no questions asked..by far the best!
    &
    #9 Ariel Marie McManus very good piece.

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  66. love, love,love number 6, Azra Limbada and number 4 Mary Frame.

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  67. #10 and #12 are my picks.

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  68. (6) Azra Limbada and (8) Holly Hughes

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  69. My vote is for Shelly and Azra!

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  70. #4 and #5 for me. Great contest, Naomi!

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  71. Congrats to the talented 12! These are some amazing first paragraphs. I really like the neat vagueness of Shelly's (#1) paragraph but I have to say I love Holly's (#8) paragraph the best. The contradicting facts and the precise details in the date and time make me think that the character is a very meticulous person. I like her (or him )already!

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  72. (6) Azra Limbada- Well written, I can relate to some of the things written!!
    Well done

    (3) Jennifer C. McDowell
    Different and a good start!!
    keep it up

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  73. They were all so good, but my favs are:

    #10 Sabrina Marchal. Hooked me, I wanna know who saved/killed her.

    #8 Holly Hughes. Everyone thinks they're instincts and premonitions will serve them, until they don't.

    Good luck.

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  74. They're all terrific. How to choose, how to choose . . . oh, golly.

    #8, Holly Hughes
    #11, Heather

    :-) This is fun,Naomi!

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  75. I liked
    6)Azara Limbada and
    10)Sabrina Marchal

    -Amanda

    I review books here: http://ohsocleverreads.blogspot.com/
    and here: http://alross2012.wordpress.com/

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  76. Wow, what an impressive collection!
    Here's my vote:
    #8 Holly Hughes
    #10 Sabrina Marchal

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  77. So hard to choose between these amazing openings, but my top two are:

    (6) Azra and (10) Sabrina

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  78. I'd definitely say #1, Shelly's is the best, with a wonderful first sentence that truly grabs you and wants you to continue reading.

    The second place would go to #2, because of the wonderful sense of Indian heritage.

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  79. I absolutely loved 6, imagined it so vividly, and 9 really drew me in.

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  80. Azra Limbada and Sabrina Marchal

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  81. Azra Limbada and holly hughes

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  82. Bonnie M. McMorris - March 21st. 2013

    Heather Jackson Heather is developing into a very sensitive, caring writer. I, too, remember an old chicken coop and waiting for Mom and Dad!

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  83. What a great contest! I would love to read more from Shelly Steig and Mary Frame. Thanks!!

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  84. Shelly and Ariel win my vote!

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  85. #1 and #8 -- Shelly and Holly both hooked me and made me want to hear more.

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  86. Wow, I never even realized the top 12 had already been selected and even voted upon!! I can't believe I made it to the top 12, with so many great first paragraphs! Thank you Naomi, and everyone who left such nice comments. It's just what I needed to boost my confidence!!

    Sabrina Marchal

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  87. Azra Limbada.

    The description of India, the colours, the hard-working people and the poverty is so real. It's how I remember India to be.

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  88. Azra Limbada and Sabrina Marchal. Profound. :)

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  89. #8 (Holly Hughes) and #10 (Sabrina Marchal)

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  90. Holly Hughes and Sabrina Marchal

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  91. All really good but as a reader, #2 and #4 intrigued me the most.

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  92. Azra Limbada and Mary Frame!

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  93. All great but #9 and #12!! I'm a new follower via GFC xx

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