Blogger Guilt – My 2¢

Hey!

Confession: I’m a worrier. I’m always in my head thinking about things that are done and over or can’t be changed. I also worry about things that I can change but I don’t.

You see, I haven’t posted in weeks. I’ve been thinking about it and brainstorming about it but not actually sitting down to do it. I believe this is what’s called a blogging slump in “the community” and it’s been an intense one!

Along with my feelings of not wanting to blog comes an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I feel guilty because you, my lovely readers, read what I write and soak it up and respond so thoughtfully. So when I don’t blog, I feel like I’m not keeping up my end of the blogger/reader relationship.

But despite my guilt for not posting, I feel like an even bigger let down would be to put out crap content just to put out content. I want people to read the things that I say because they’re entertaining or informative, not just because they’re there.

Have you ever felt like this? What do you do when you’re feeling slumpy or inadequate as a blogger? I would love to hear about your experiences and advice!

I want to do better for you. I don’t promise to be perfect or even consistent, but I promise to try to do better. To put out at least a little bit of content that I’m proud of that I think you will enjoy.

Please know that I appreciate you even when I don’t do a great job of showing it!

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Giveaways – Bargain [#5]

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Bargain: Giveaways

Overview: Giveaways are promotional tools where something is given away for free. You can find giveaways in every corner of the internet – Twitter, blogs, Goodreads, etc. The format will determine how it is managed and how the winner is picked. Basically, you’re putting your name in the pot and hoping it gets drawn.

History: Fun fact – Publisher’s Clearing House was founded in 1953. While giveaways probably existed before PCH, we’ll use that as the inception.

Breakdown: 

Pros:

  • Free books and things!
  • Even if you don’t win, you may discover a new/different book that you’re interested in.
  • Giveaways make you follow new people (either on their blog or Twitter) and they’re usually pretty great.
  • Your entry is promoting some really great books and blogs!
  • You may help one of your followers win.

Cons:

  • Frankly, the odds are not in your favor.
  • Entering can be kind of spammy to your followers (especially Twitter and Goodreads).
  • It’s a bummer when you don’t win.
  • Cheating/favoritism is possible.

Personal Experience:

I’ve been extremely lucky lately!

I enter a lot of Twitter giveaways (sorry if you follow me!), so I was pleasantly surprised when I won not one – not two – but four Twitter giveaways this holiday season. Most Twitter giveaways are just follow/RT types. All you have to do is follow the person and re-tweet the giveaway tweet.

The first one that I won was through Shannon at leaninglights. She did 4 giveaways and I won the 4th for a big stack of children’s/middle grade books.

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I ended up giving these to a coworker who has a younger daughter. Her daughter absolutely loved them and even did her book report on the robot one — A WEEK EARLY! My coworker was so excited, so thank you so much, Shannon!

Next, I won a giveaway by Anna Breslaw, author of the 2016 debut Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here.

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She included a handwritten note that was so thoughtful! I will be reading this one very soon. Thanks Anna!

My third holiday Twitter giveaway win was through Nicole, an editor at Skyhorse Publishing. She was giving away some health books.

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I chose The Paleovedic Diet, which seemed like a reasonable and balanced approach to health. Thanks Nicole!

And my final Twitter giveaway win was through Heidi Heilig, 2016 debut author of The Girl From Everywhere. She was giving away some TGFE swag to the first 5 people to tweet screen-caps showing they’ve got the book on hold at their local library.

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Here is my lovely signed bookmark, map, and letter. Thanks so much Heidi!

That’s all for Twitter giveaways, but that’s certainly not all! I also won two blog giveaways recently!

The first was hosted by Nori at ReadWriteLove28. Her giveaway was through Sunday Street Team in November, when they were promoting The Anatomical Shape of the Heart by Jenn Bennett.

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This book has been on my radar for a while now, so I’m thrilled to own my own copy! Can’t wait to read it. Thank you, Nori!

And last but not least, I also won a Christmas giveaway through Kaitlin at Next Page Please! Her’s was unique in that she gave a few options and really let you choose what you wanted.

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I ended up choosing the first option, where I chose 2 bookmarks, 1 magnetic bookmark, some candles, and a book.

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I already own The Winner’s Curse and have a feeling that I’m going to love it, so I picked The Winner’s Crime so I can continue on right away. The adorable bookmarks will be put to good use and I will be burning those candles soon!

I just had a few giveaways on my Twitter that ended on Sunday, so if you aren’t following me, you’re missing out!

I will be doing a giveaway here on my blog when I hit the next follower milestone, so stay tuned.

Bottom line, I love giveaways. I think they’re fun and exciting. Give ’em a shot – what do you have to lose?

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Haul – January 2016

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In January, I managed to acquire 12 books! (Missing from the photo: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead. I would take a new picture but I already put the books away so…)

Thrift Stores (Total: $4.50)

Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Used Bookstores (Total: $1.86)

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Giveaways (Total: $0.00)

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Trades (Total: $2.72)

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

That comes to a grand total of $9.08! Not a bad month.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway (closing 1/31 @ 11:59 MST) where you could win Sword of Summer and Me Before You!

And my other giveaway (also closing 1/31 @ 11:59 MST) where you could choose any of these!

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Little Free Library – Bargain [#5]

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Bargain: Little Free Library

Overview: Little Free Library (LFL) is a book exchange – “take a book, leave a book”. They’re most commonly found as little wooden boxes on posts in peoples’ front yards. The goal is to make books accessible in every community.

History:  Todd Bol of Hudson, WI, built the first Little Free Library (though it wasn’t called that at the time) as a tribute to his mother, a teacher and book-lover. It was a little replica of a one room school house that he put up in his front yard with a sign that said FREE BOOKS. Soon, others were requesting libraries to put in their own yards. With the help of some skilled craftsmen and effective marketing, Little Free Library became a full-fledged non-profit in 2012. Since then, over 36,000 Little Free Libraries have been registered worldwide.

Breakdown: 

Pros:

  • Books are free!
  • You never know what you’ll find. It’s somewhere you want to stop every time you go by.
  • It’s easy to find a Little Free Library near you.
  • They promote literacy and a community of readers.
  • Leaving a book really gives you the warm fuzzies.

Cons:

  • You never know what you’ll find. Sometimes you may not want to take anything.
  • Books are in used condition.
  • Possible damage due to weather if the Little Free Library is not structurally sound.
  • Stock may be low.
  • Some people take advantage, doing a lot of taking and not a lot of leaving.

Personal Experience:

My first experience with Little Free Libraries was years ago, probably in the early stages of Little Free Library becoming an organization (though I’m not sure it was an official LFL). My neighbors across the street put up a little house library with a “take a book, leave a book” sign. I live smack dab in between an elementary school and a middle school, so it made a lot of sense. I was excited about it – I went across the street and checked all the time, usually leaving more than I took.

Fast forward a good 5 years or so and transport across the country to present day. I moved not too long ago and saw a bright pink box while driving from my old apartment to my new apartment. I hadn’t seen any little libraries in my new state, so I was instantly interested and excited!

This is my local Little Free Library.

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It’s separated into adult books up top, kids books on the bottom. There are even little bookmarks made by the kids of the house that it resides at.

This is me leaving my proof of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.

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I leave things in this particular LFL often – books that I’ve tried to sell/trade with no luck. I’ve only actually taken one book from this one which was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I haven’t read it yet, but the book itself is in great condition. IMG_20150904_173341

I figured I should check out some more LFLs for this post, so I consulted their website to find more by me. You can go to their map, put in your location, and it will tell you all of the registered Little Free Libraries around you. Here’s the Denver metro area:

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I visited a few near me. They were darling and it was apparent that their stewards (what LFL calls the owners) truly cared about having books in their communities.

 

This one had a bench next to it for reading or resting. There was an adorable note from a kiddo too:

Hello everyone. Thank you for your continues support of the little free library. <3, Gwen

This one also had a bench. I was impressed by the cool decor and the lights that outline the roof. So fancy!

I liked this one the best for many reasons. It’s super colorful, the shingle roof is so cute, and it was packed to the brim with books! Do you see that back layer?!

I highly recommend you check out a local Little Free Library. Bring some books that are collecting dust and share them with your community. Maybe you’ll find something you want to take! And if you have the means and desire, consider putting a Little Free Library in your yard to share some much needed book love in your community!

P.S. Check out their Twitter page for some of the most creative and unique little lending libraries I’ve ever seen!

 

 

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Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Review

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Title: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Published: May 23, 2006

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 183 pages

Acquired: From my shelves – originally a thrift store find

Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository

SUMMARY (from Goodreads)

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City–and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.
This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be–and where the next great band is playing.
Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

REVIEW

Nick and Norah’s unconventional introduction to each other should be an indicator of ridiculousness to come. Told over the span of just one crazy night, Nick and Norah set out on journey to figure out who they are (both separate, and together) as the playlist of their lives is on in the background.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is typical and atypical at the same time. It deals with very typical contemporary themes – exes, jealousy, angst, uncertainty about the future – but not as the main theme. The theme of this book is about music.

I’ve been a music-lover my entire life. I started playing instruments in 4th grade, learning several throughout my teenage years. Marching band was a huge part of my high school years. When I quit playing, I kept listening. Going to shows during college, singing in the car, you name it!

So while I read this book, I understood when Norah heard a song and it brought her back to a certain memory. I got it when Nick felt like part of a community as he played. I related when they went to extreme lengths to see their favorite band.

The characters are very realistic and likable. They’re raw and complex, conflicted and vulnerable, hormonal and passionate. They swear (a lot). They are the types of characters that I would want as my friends.

You know when you watch the movie before the book and you can’t help but picture the movie when you get around to reading the book? And how it usually ruins the book for you because you’ve already got these ideas about how things should look in your head? I’m happy to say that’s not the case with Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. If anything, it just added to the experience. Everything that I was picturing from the movie made me enjoy the book even more. When the book and movie didn’t line up exactly, I found myself picturing “movie Nick & Norah” in the different situations. Whether that is a compliment to the movie makers or the authors, I’m not sure.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is probably one of my favorite contemporaries I’ve ever read. I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it and will probably continue to do so throughout the year. If this is how things are going to go, 2016 is going to be a great reading year!

five-stars-rating

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Book Outlet – Bargain [#4]

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Bargain: Book Outlet

Overview: Book Outlet is an online book retailer.

History:  There’s not a whole lot of information available about the history of Book Outlet. Their business is built around selling excess/return books they get from publishers. These books are marked with a teeny mark or dot to indicate they’re of the excess/return variety and so they can’t be returned to the publisher again. They also have scratch and dent items that are “structurally sound and completely readable” but flawed in a minor way (a rip, a missing dust jacket, a scratch, etc.). The result for the buyer (that’s you!) is a new book for dirt cheap prices.

Breakdown: 

Pros:

  • The prices! New YA books are going for anywhere from $1.00-$6.00 or so. And not your grandma’s YA books – I’m talking new and popular YA books.
  • The website is really easy to navigate and browsing/searching is simple.
  • They periodically have sales for holidays which will knock off anywhere from 15-30% of your total.
  • They get new books every day. You never know what they’ll have, so you can check back often.
  • The books are NEW and never read.
  • Shipping prices are reasonable and you receive your books fairly quickly.

Cons:

  • The pricing is high in comparison to some other places you can get books. (See my Goodwill post.)
  • Every book is not available at all times; i.e., it’s not Amazon. Selection depends on the day and the number of copies that they have.
  • That teeny little mark on the edge of the book. If you care about that, Book Outlet is not for you.
  • There are no shipping guarantees available. If you need something by a specific time, Book Outlet is not a good option for you.
  • I’ve heard a couple stories of less than satisfactory customer service.
  • Their website is the definition of an “overly-attached girlfriend”… If you look at something but don’t purchase, you’ll receive an email about an hour later with the following: Capture

Personal Experience:

I’m a cheapskate by nature, so I don’t usually like to pay $4 for a book. I’m really stingy, I know! I’ve been on Book Outlet many times but hadn’t ever placed an order. As promised, I will only write about bargains I’ve experienced first hand, so I bit the bullet and placed an order.

I ended up with a coupon for $5 off a purchase of $20 during the Black Friday sale, so I filled my cart and checked out. I was reviewing my order in anticipation for my new books when I noticed the total was different than what it was supposed to be. My coupon hadn’t been applied and a book was missing. I quickly figured out that a book sold out in the 2 seconds that it took for me to finalize my order, so I was shy of the $20 minimum, thus the coupon was not applied. One help ticket and a WONDERFUL customer service experience later, I had a refund on that order and it was time to try again.

Here’s a rundown of what I ended up ordering:

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As they arrived:

Unpacked, all lined up:

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(Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too not pictured, as it was already given as a Christmas present.)

Here’s are the top and bottom edges with the marks:

Wolf in White Van, Illusion, and The Isle of Blood are all hardcovers. The rest are paperback.

These two are the “scratch and dent” items:

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Illusion had a slash on the front of the dust jacket (looks like it was a box cutter). It also had some discoloring/bleeding on the inside of the dust jacket. I’m just going to stick a piece of tape on the inside along the cut and it should look just fine.

Wolf In White Van had the teeniest little rip on the dust jacket and spine of the book at the very top. It’s barely noticable. I’m not going to do anything to modify this one.

Overall, I’m VERY pleased with Book Outlet. I would absolutely order again. It’s amazing bang for your buck and a really great experience from beginning to end. I especially enjoy the scratch and dent section. As you know, I don’t really have any qualms about a book not being in pristine condition, so scratch and dent is the way to go. I mean, $0.90 for a brand new 400-page book? Yes, please!

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TBR Jar – Pick #1: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer vs. Dumplin’

As is usually the case with a new year, I’m making some changes. Or in this case, an addition.

I’ve created a TBR Jar! I promise you’ll see a photo/graphic next time around.

I’ve “borrowed” (ahem, stolen) this idea from the lovely Amy at Book Enthral. I’ve seen it done numerous ways, but I think she’s got the best approach.

Every second Monday, I draw two titles out of my TBR Jar and decide which one to read! The book has to be read straight after the book I’m currently reading and a title can only be drawn and put back in the jar two times and then on the third time I HAVE to read it.

This week’s draw was the following:

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

or

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Since I don’t really want to start a new series at the moment, I’m going with Dumplin’! That’s not to say I’m settling by going with Dumplin’, as I’ve heard AMAZING things. I’ll let you know what I think!

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Goodwill – Bargain [#3]

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Bargain: Your local Goodwill

Overview: Goodwill is a chain of thrift/charity stores that can be found in 17 countries across the world. People donate their used and unwanted goods and Goodwill re-sells them, using the proceeds to programs for job training and the disabled. The Book Shelf can be found in most Goodwills – a section full of used books to buy.

History:  Founded in 1902 in Boston, Massachusetts, Goodwill got its start as a mission project of Morgan Methodist Church. Congregation members donated used household items and clothes to provide an opportunity for the unemployed to develop mending skills. Soon they adopted the retail business model and started spreading out across the United States. Today, Goodwill provides jobs to countless people that may not otherwise have the opportunity to work. It also makes gently used, quality goods available for reasonable prices.

Breakdown: 

Pros:

  • They’re everywhere! This is a store locator for the Denver area alone. I could hit up 8 different Goodwills in one day.

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  • It’s REALLY cheap! And pricing is standard based on type of book. There are also opportunities to receive half off discounts based on the color sticker on the book and the day.
  • The selection is wide – you can find so many different types of books.
  • The thrill of the hunt! You truly never know what you’re going to find.
  • The money goes to a great cause.

Cons:

  • You have to go a physical store.
  • Browsing takes time.
  • There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you want or are looking for.
  • You see a lot of the NYT Bestseller and Oprah Book Club books over and over.
  • As with all used books, they may not be in pristine condition.

Personal Experience:

I adore Goodwills. They’re my favorite thrift stores to find books at.

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This is for two reasons – 1) I always seem to find gems at Goodwills (it’s just a weird luck thing) and 2) I always know how much I will pay when I get to the register.

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They have standard pricing on books based on the type (as seen above) and half price depending on the little colored dot sticker on the spine. I walk up to the counter with my $1.07 (a full price paperback + tax) and I’m out the door in no time. A buck for a book? Yes please.

I’ve found some really great books at Goodwills. Here is the spread of YA at a local Goodwill on one day. The first picture is what I found and the second picture is what I bought (for like $12).

I love browsing the shelves and looking at all of the titles. I go in with an open mind, expecting to find nothing, and sometimes get really lucky. I’ve even gone in thinking, “I wish I could find this book,” and then find it! It’s magic.

Getting books at Goodwill certainly has its downfalls at times. I can’t even tell you the number of times that I’ve walked out of the store with nothing in hand, having found nothing that I needed or wanted. Is that wasted time? Maybe. Or I see a spine of a book I want, only to pick it up and see the pages are water damaged or stuck together with gum. Half off days (alternating Saturdays) are always REALLY busy. You never know when they’ll restock the shelves.

My current gripe is that lately, Denver Goodwill book sections have been… lackluster. They haven’t been stocked. The beautiful shelves have been replaced with little trinkets and clothes. Even worse, they’re using them to display VHS tapes. That’s right, that obsolete medium that no one uses, let alone buys! I don’t even know anyone that has a VHS player hooked up.

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The shelves that actually have books on them formerly held shoes. The books just look sad, don’t they?

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I heard rumors from employees at two different Goodwills saying that they no longer plan on selling books in their retail stores. I was devistated! I tweeted at Goodwill International in this ranty thread. The corporate office passed me off to Denver who assured me that they’re just redoing them and then blew me off.

Regardless of what happens, I’ll continue buying books at Goodwill until there are no longer books in Goodwills. You can’t beat the adventure and the price. And you’re supporting a good cause in the process!

So tell me, have you/would you buy a book at Goodwill?

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Memes – My 2¢

Hey!

Memes.

Most of you know what they are, but for those that don’t, I’ll tell you! They’re those posts that show up on everyone’s blogs on certain days every week. Lists about a certain topic, books we’re excited about, quotes from a certain page in the book we’re currently reading, etc.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve seen Top Ten Tuesdays (top ten [insert topic here]) and Waiting on Wednesdays (a release we’re waiting for). I’ve done quite a few of them – 23 posts in the year 2015 – which is about 1/3 of my blog posts for the year.

As a new blogger, memes were great. They helped me establish some semblance of a schedule, they helped me figure out what to write about, and they helped me connect with other bloggers.

In fact, my most popular post was the Ten Bookish Things I Want To QuitBut I’ll let you in on a little secret…

*whispers*… it’s a sham.

Yes, that’s right, those views were bogus. I vividly remember that day. I woke up super early so I could add my post to the linky first and get a lot of views from people throughout the day. I opened like 47 tabs and left short, meaningless comments on other blogs so they’d comment back. It’s so pathetic now… looking back on it.

Half of the Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesdays were written during October Blog Ahead 2015. I was efficient and I knocked them out one after another. I used a lot of the same books because I didn’t have any other better options. Writing about my favorite books of 2015 in October leaves you with a limited selection. I knew that the content wasn’t great, but book bloggers do memes, right?

Wrong.

The other day, I was scrolling through Twitter and I stumbled upon an archive post by Claire at Cover to Cover called An Open Letter to Book Blogging Memes. She talks about how memes were great to begin with but they became monotonous. How she was longing for more. And then *gasp* she quit memes.

I was shocked… and excited.

I did a lot of thinking during my Holiday Hiatus and memes were what crossed my mind most frequently. While I like that they established a schedule, I don’t like feeling obligated to do something a specific way. They’re some of my most uninspired posts and not something I’m proud of. They’re not something that someone would read and say, “oh, that sounds like it came from Rachel at (bargain)bookbliss.”

I strive to present a unique voice. I want to be genuine. I yearn for originality, inspiration, and passion. I’m ready to move on from memes.

I won’t delete my already-posted memes. They’re under extras > memes on the menu bar. I did delete my pre-scheduled memes though (all 12 of them). I’m quitting cold turkey.

This is very much a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation; I don’t hate memes. They’re just not right for me anymore. It may mean a decrease in posts and less of a schedule. I hope you can forgive this if it means more thought-provoking and authentic posts.

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Penny for your thoughts?