An aid workers impressions as she travels the world building toilets.
Latest public adventure: to be determined.
Poems, photos and ramblings abound.

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May 28, 2012

Ch - Ch- Changes

It's time for some changes around here.

* * * 

Looking outside my window, I see we are in the middle of a presidential election here in Egypt. There are signs for candidates on everything. Their smiling faces photo-shopped over images of construction and a prosperous Egypt.  Posters that look almost home-made plastered on cars, bill boards, flying over the each square and fountain at each round-a-bout.

The polling is finished and a runoff between the top two contenders is sure... but not before some of the candidates challenge the first polling with irregularities and whatnot.

Oh it's complicated, but maybe not that complicated. And it is changing. The revolution hasn't made it all better yet, but it's changed the country. It seems people are starting to understand that it's going to take some time, but they are still impatient. One of the more outspoken Egyptian bloggers seems to have a pretty good idea about what's going on here... here's a link to his latest rant (definitely worth the read).

* * *

If you were outside looking into my window, you'd see that in the next three weeks we're leaving Cairo. We're off to the next adventure. There will be a short pause between family installations, but this little home we've known is gettin' stuffed into boxes as we speak.

I'm not sad this time. I don't have the nostalgia of having worked or invested much emotionally here - which is funny because it's been one of the most emotional times of my life (having a baby and all).

* * *

They say babies change fast, but this is ridiculous! In the past week my new baby son has learned to crawl, to sit up from laying or fall down to sitting, and to pull up to standing and cruise around. I've enjoyed watching him discover gravity and friction and gyroscopes.

And he got his first two teeth.

* * *

In other news, which is not a change: I am entering the Foundling Review's Pachas 50 word short story contest again. (That's the writing contest in which I got honorable mention in last year.)

I'd been told that my writing has good imagery, but needs to be worked more. So, since the first Pachas contest, I've chosen another number (i.e. not 50) and am re-writing several old poems I had written. I find the word limit (not more, not less) is fitting to force me to whittle down and shape some of my pieces and make them better. I've also done away with the line breaks on some. I must not be good at line breaks yet because I think that they often come across as pretentious.

* * *

April 17, 2012

A little awesomeness

I enjoy participating in “blog-action campaigns”. They are for causes I believe in (like good science and good aid) and they give me motivation to tell a quick story. 

* * * 

This year some of my favourite aid bloggers are organising the second annual “Day without Dignity” campaign aimed at highlighting the dignity of people aid is trying to help. The theme this year is Local Champions and you should check out the call to arms and the other contributions, which are generally more awesome than my own. 

* * * 

Sometimes I joke that I measure the awesomeness of a project by the number of sacks of cement that were used, but in all seriousness the awesomeness of most water and sanitation projects is derived from the local masons. Masons are the dudes who mix up the cement, who slap it around on broken trowels to build up foundations and to build down wells. But they do a lot more than play with cement.

* * *

Meet Joseph. He’s a mason. He’s organized. He’s short and he smiles a lot. He likes meeting new people. He’s also a beneficiary of aid: he’s been labelled an “internally displaced person” and lives in a crowded camp in a crappy tent. When I met him I worked for an NGO building toilets, showers, and such things in his camp in Kenya. 

He is what made our project awesome. 

He helped us with our toilets: made sure we built enough, made sure they were easy to build, and made sure people would use them.  He helped us with the shower grease traps. He helped us find more good masons. 

But he did more than just build stuff and play with cement.

He initiated a successful system whereby any of the IDPs could borrow the NGO tools if they needed them for work they wanted to do on their own plot.

He got involved in health promotion activities and trained others.

He started his own NGO or masons cooperative to help with building up the resettlement areas, especially championing the importance of sanitation.
For months after our project was finished he called me to tell me about what he was doing and it was always awesome. 

* * * 

Meet Nur. He’s a mason. He’s also short, and more rotund than Joseph. He has a round face and wares a beanie. He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Somali, but we liked each other. I met him in Mandera in Northeastern Kenya and I got to know him over several years.
Telling you about Nur and how he made the projects awesome is harder than for Joseph because he was subtle. I had great affection for Nur because he treated me as technically competent in a world where the engineering advice of a young white woman was not always welcomed by teams of old black men (understandably). When he needed to talk to me he would sit with someone who could write in English and write me a letter, then he would come to my office and deliver the letter to me by his own hand. He continued to write me letters even when I was based in Nairobi.

He started as a daily worker mason, but soon it was clear that he was a quiet leader, that he was technically competent and smart, and that he was honest. He was soon running several sites, keeping track of materials consumption, and basically doing more than his share of work and sometimes doing it better than his superiors. Needless to say, as our team grew over the years he was hired as the only full time mason position.

He was what made our projects awesome. 

He improved the well and tank designs. He taught other masons how to improve their works. 

He trained lay community members on hygiene, maintenance, and use of their water supply. 

He helped ensure that the community feedback was incorporated into the project properly by interpreting it (not the language, but the ideas, which is harder than it sounds).

He was a community leader himself. 

He was awesome and he made our programs awesome. 

* * * 

Water and sanitation projects generally build things, which is part of why I love my job. I get dirty. I stick together piles of rock and sand with water and cement powder – but really I don’t. 

I don’t build anything. 

The masons do. 

They build everything. 

They also build the community and are often the key to how sustainable a project is. 

And they’re awesome.

February 24, 2012

A rant or two...

Recently a little article entitled "7 worst international aid ideas" from the Matador Network has been making the rounds on the Facebook and the Twitter. A friend of mine shared it, then her friend commented on it. Then I filled up her page with counter-comments... then I deleted them because I thought they needed a blog post, rather than a discombobulated commentary on Facebook. 

A long blog post at that: Aid is criticized in the media (and it should be, like anything), but often people focus on things that are exaggerated by some sexy, dramatic, shocking story and hence myths are born. Here I'll comment on the article, then I'll talk about exaggerated issues. As an aid worker, I obviously believe in aid and I think you should too, despite its issues.

First, I like the article: I think it did a good job of choosing several higher-profile examples of dumbassery that occurs everyday (1, 2, 3, 4, and 6), as well as highlight two bigger issues (5 and 7) that no one really talks about, but should.

Second, the article is talking about bad aid ideas, not problems with aid. There is a subtle, but important, distinction here. 
> Bad aid ideas like this: What should we do to help the poor? Oh, let's send them used underwear.
> Problems with aid are more like this: Why isn't aid working? Oh. Shit. That's a hard one, but let's blame the NGOs. 

* * *
The 7 Worst Ideas + 2 more bad ones

#1 - SWEDOW, or "stuff we don't want", a now ubiquitous term coined by my favorite aid blogger Tales from the Hood (though I like to say "shit we don't want"). 'Nuff said. The article got it covered,  just to say there are a bazillion examples of this: used bras, pillow case dresses, motel soap bars... the list is endless. 
I personally would choose another as the WORST example: old, outdated baby cribs "that do not pass new safety standards".  Most mamas living in a poverty stricken slum in Nairobi don't want a crib, don't have room for one in their home, and much less one that could perhaps strangle their child. 
(Here is some more on SWEDOW from Good Intents are not Enough, an excellent blog about aid. I couldn't get the link to Tales from the Hood to work... sorry.)

#2 - TOMS shoes is SWEDOW, but with a hint of bad CSR (corporate social responsibility) - or vice versa. Not much to add here, this probably is one of the WORST examples because it is so popular. TOMS raised a hullaballu in the aid-blog world sparking the "Day without Dignity" campaign by Sandra over at Good Intents (my contribution to that campaign). 

#3 - Crazy dudes with guns claiming to save kids. Bad. Very Bad. Crazy dudes without guns are bad enough. I am glad there are not very many examples of the armed type, but sad to say there are too many of the unarmed type. I'd put the hot aid-worker marrying a warlord in this category as well. The article definitely got the WORST crazy dude example, especially since this one was made into a movie... (nice transition to #4).

#4 - Crazy celebrities and their stupid ideas, perhaps a subset of number 3? I might say that when Nick Kristof purchased the freedom of 2 prostitutes maybe a WORSE example. 

#5 - USAID "buy American" is indeed the WORST example because this is a government (and a big one), not a corporation, but this is basically an example of bad CSR. Grants for aid (by a do-gooder government or corporation) who then says "Okay but you gotta use (or even worse, you gotta promote) our products in your project" whether or not their product is the most appropriate for the project or context. 
  Some commentary on the Facebook feed mentioned that USAID has loosened their guidelines on this recently, but not by much.

#6 - Food looking like landmines. Oh god, say it ain't so. Definitely the WORST example of confusing packaging of aid products. Other examples that I have seen include oral re-hydration salts and water purifiers that look the same, chlorine tablets that look like medicine...

#7 - Aid as foreign policy. This one is a little heavy and really beyond my expertise. But I agree, it is evil (though not only American).

So, that's my take on the article's 7 WORST ideas. I would add 2 things to the list... 

>  Orphanages: Please read more by Good Intents who asks "Does funding orphanages crate orphans?" and has many other enlightening posts on the subject.

>  Products that don't always work: I hate the LifeStraw because, while it may work for a little while, it is going to ware out and get gummed up pretty quick. I also think it's a little un-dignified to walk around with a straw around your neck. Another example is the bio-sand filter, which seems cool because it can be made by local masons, but which doesn't always clean the water. Both of these would often give the idea that the user is drinking safe water, but that in fact she isn't. Dangerous.

* * *
7 myth-buster comments on Why Aid Doesn't work

My subtitle is a little misleading: I do think that aid is helping. Aid is making the world a better place, although I would have to say that poverty is not being eradicated: the subtle distinction between "helping" and "working" that I won't address here. 

Anyway, let's get on with it. My goal here is to address a few misconceptions highlighted about how aid works (or doesn't work). 

> 1: "Emphasis on building large dams" - First, I don't think there is an emphasis on dams in development. No grand conspiracy to dam all the rivers of the world. Second, sorry to my environmentalist friends, but dams have the possibility of being an excellent project for a developing country to alleviate some poverty. I don't like dams either, and no they are not always good, but they aren't all bad either (electricity, jobs, exportable commodity...).

> 2: "NGOs that crowd out weak or disinterested governments": NGOs substituting for governments is indeed bad news and happens all too often. But sometimes the goal is to save lives, not to develop the country, in which case substitution can be appropriate and acceptable. Also, NGOs don't have as much power as this statement implies. NGOs are more often manipulated by governments for political gain than the other way around.

> 3: "The creepy emphasis on combating the 'brain drain' ": Well, it works both ways - aid can increase and decrease brain drain. In the long run, it probably will decrease it. Again, there also isn't any hidden agenda on this.

> 4: "The principle of paying immense salaries to mildly-qualified foreigners and putting them in charge of local specialists": Oooooooh, a touchy one.  When this happens (and it does) it is indeed bad. Very evil white men. Neo-colonialist. Bad. Bad. Bad.  
  (Full disclosure: I am a foreigner paid to be in charge of aid projects.)
  BUT, it actually doesn't happen that often in NGOs. The basic fallacy in this statement is "mildly-qualified" and "immense salaries". Foreign aid workers are brought in with skills that the host country doesn't have. You might not think so, but host governments regulate this pretty well, and NGOs are pretty transparent about it too. Addtionally, local hire salaries and expat salaries aren't usually very different for the same job. (Full disclosure: expat benefits are often significantly better than for a local hire.)
  The other fallacy this brings up is that aid-workers have to suffer to do good work. How ridiculous is this idea. So for me to do good aid work, I need to be a volunteer? To get good people, you need a living wage. I volunteered for 2 years (Peace Corps), then I needed to make a living. And I do. And I am not ashamed of the money I make. I deserve it. I'm good. You want me out there doing aid work. Trust me. (And by the way, it isn't a lot. But it's enough.)

> 5: "Spectacular programs to eradicate various diseases, instead of spending much less money to provide the basic medical services that would control them, and take care of many other ailments as well": Says he who lives in a country where malaria has been eradicated... First, eradicating certain diseases can be the most cost effective program ever, especially in the long run. Imagine how much money in curative care that would be saved if malaria were eradicated globally, not to mention savings in terms of deaths and suffering. (I've had malaria, trust me one suffers.) Second, providing basic medical services that would control them also is VERY expensive and complicated.

(The next two are not in quotes because these misconceptions didn't come from the Facebook comments, just one I know exist.)

> 6: All those NGOs with high overheads are inefficient, ineffective because they are just lining their greedy pockets: Basically, overheads are necessary to do good work and the "overhead figure" is easily manipulated. Again, I'll refer you to Ms. Sandra and her wisdom over at Good Intents here or here. She has basically written the book on this myth. No need to really re-hash it.

> 7: There is one solution that will alleviate poverty: Nope. That's the thing. It's complicated. 
   Something that worked in India won't always work in Africa. In fact, something that worked in village X might not work in a village 5 miles away. 
   It won't just take more money. That money needs to be well spent. 
   A little technological gadget won't solve it. Not even the cell phone. 

* * *

But you know what'll help? Continuing to question aid, continuing to think about it, and continuing to do it.

January 28, 2012

One year more... or less

One year on from the revolution of January 25th here in Egypt.

We asked
the delivery guy
if he was going
to Tahrir square.
He said
"No, this is not
the time to go to the square.
This is the time to work.

* * * 

January 21, 2012

What's on the roof?

Roofs are more interesting in Egypt than at home.

In the US, roofs are mostly gabled. We might have tar paper or shingles or skylights, and in some cases even solar panels - but that's about as interesting as it gets.

Roofs that I've seen lately are flat and much ado is had upon them. A lot of buildings are half built... (speculation as to why: Did they run out of money? Do they leave them like that for tax reasons? Is it just the normal pace of construction?) ... and the top floor of a half built building is a lot like a flat roof.

In Syria I mentioned the satellite dishes, nestled across every bare square inch of rooftops, searching for the mother ship. In Damascus they changed the law and now there is just one dish per roof. More developed? I say, not as interesting.

In Egypt there is no such law. Roofs are littered with soft circles of all sizes as far as the eye can see, gazing towards ArabSat or NileSat, sucking in billions of channels. A half built building with no heating or windows will already have the dishes starting to sprout.

On our roof there is an elevator motor house, some water tanks, satellite dishes, a sunny sitting area, and a picnic area with a stove and some decrepit stationary bicycles. On a clear day you can see the big pyramids across the Nile. I would enjoy it more except that it is extremely dusty.

The staples of an Egyptian roof are (of course) the aforementioned dishes, the water tanks, and bird houses. We have speculated about the bird houses. Are they for foul (roof-top livestock)? Are they for the swarms of pigeons that seem to occupy them anyhow? Do people hang out in them? It seems people put a lot of care into them. Designs and gay painting. Large structures of wood.

I have simple dreams. I'd like to visit one of these exciting roofs.

January 14, 2012 turn

One adventure has come to an end. I entered 10 writing contests or tests of some kind. Here's a link to my kick off post from more than a year ago. I know I took my time, but I wanted to find a variety of interesting contests. (Honestly, I was also lazy at times and busy at other times, but that's life.)

I got a little ego boost because I won one of the contests I entered. Of course that means I didn't win nine of them, but I didn't expect to win any!

I entered essay contests, poetry contests, some with different kinds of judging, some contests were goals I set with myself to beat, I submitted to a variety of literary magazines. There is a summary of contests 1 through 7 here. Number 8 was a 50 word essay contest - and the only one I won! Numbers 9 and 10 were poetry submissions to good literary magazines, and none were accepted for publication.

I did this to learn: I wanted to learn about what sort of online writing opportunities are out there and I wanted to see if I could win anything. I am really happy with what I accomplished. I had a lot of fun looking for different contests and things online, there are a ton of fun things out there.

What I learned about myself and my own writing is that I need to  make it a habit. Those pieces that were recognized as "good" by outside sources were those I had worked on for a while.  Feedback I got often was some version of "Nice imagery, but needs to be worked more."

So what's the conclusion? It is that I need to make it a habit. Let's see if I can do that:
A blog post a week for the month of January... This one counts for week 1, but I'll do another in a few days (it's been brewing already).

December 1, 2011

Next page

Be forewarned, some not so PC phrases and four letter words will ensue shortly.

* * *

Tahrir square is full again. Is gassed again. Is exaggerated again.

Elections started in Egypt on Monday. It's complicated. This infographic tries to explain the election process. There are party candidates or individual candidates, professional or worker seats, and about 19.000 symbols for each one. To me it seems even more fucked up than our own dear electoral college (which is retarded). I mean not fucked up in an evil way, but in a confusing way. Why do people come up with crazy election processes? Just get the people to vote, count the votes, and majority wins. Maybe it can't be that simple, but it also doesn't need to be quite so complicated (and I'm not just talking about Egypt here).

I've been following these elections and those in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Twitter. Well, all those Egyptian activist complaining about irregularities here should check out the Congo scene.
People died.
Just sayin'.

* * *

Inspiration comes from other bloggers. My friend T. over at About the Bees blog just had a baby boy too, and she's blogging.  On the other hand, J. over at Tales from the Hood seems to have let it go.

I've been busy or lazy, depending on your perspective. Thinking about these two respectable folks motivates me a little.

Not to be like them, but to be like them.

To say something despite my new found obsession (i.e. my son) and to say it until I've said it so many times in so many different ways that I am done saying it.

* * *

September 24, 2011

Evil for good

Serendipitous events have encouraged me to write about work: The mighty Mr. J. over at Tales From the Hood blog has initiated an Aid Blog Forum. His goals are to generate conversations around certain topics relevant to aid work. You can see his call to arms here.

His first topic up for discussion is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR, if you're an acronym junkie). As J. points out, there are many forms. Here's my low down on a couple.

* * *
In the USA

In everyday life in the States, it seems we generally think of CSR as something "certified," for example fair trade coffee or conflict-free diamonds or pretty much anything having to do with REI.

This is marketing, pure and simple - and it works. Prices are raised a little. People choose to pay a little more and support "goodness". Profits are made. That's cool.

But are we (consumers) thinking about it properly? What does "certified" mean? In my examples above, certification means there is some kind of control or regulation of the process by which the product is produced. It's never black or white, but I know that sometimes this "certification process" is totally bullshit.

Those local farmers in Rwanda, Kenya, or Ethiopia who made your fair-trade coffee probably didn't get the global market price for their coffee and still have trouble feeding their kids. In certain contexts it's pretty easy to bribe someone to get "evil diamonds" mixed in with a batch of "good diamonds", and they sparkle just the same.

It's not to say to hell with CSR in this form, it's just to say that it's not always such a pink and shiny simple solution to the world's problems. It is a step in the right direction. It gets people thinking about world problems. And sometimes "certified" might actually mean something. But I doubt if we will save the world this way.

(You may have noticed I didn't bash REI... eh, I admit I'm a fan. NOT for their CSR BS, but rather 'cause they make good shoes and gear, and it's worth it when you get a good sale on.)

* * *
In Aid Work

In aid work, I think of CSR generally as philanthropy by a corporation and can come in two forms: stuff or money.

Stuff has a high probability of being categorized as SWEDOW (stuff or shit we don't want, copyright J.), and usually that means the "needy" folks being "helped" don't want it either. (See Footloose post for an example.)

Of course sometimes there are products that could be useful to the "needy" folks and then donated by a corporation, and can thus do some good. An example: A water quality expert was on his way to a big disaster brought some machines to donate to local chlorine producers to increase their production capacity of this much needed product. Why this is a good example: The product was needed for the context, the recipients were already using the product, basically the whole donation was made with forethought about contextual need and appropriateness (and in fact communication with some folks on the ground before hand).

But if forced to get off the fence, I'd say that stuff donated for CSR is pretty much stupid. No, not categorically, but usually. And when I say usually I don't mean 51% of the time, but more like 95-99% of the time.

Money donated by a corporation can have negative connotations associated with it in the aid world, but money is money is money. If it's donated well and used well, then to hell with idealistic hang-ups.

A colleague once said "I wouldn't want to put a Wal-mart logo on my wells..." Why the hell not? We put US-AID or ECHO or OFDA or whatever other humanitarian donor logo you like on our wells. We put our silly NGO logo on the well. Why not Wal-mart? Because they are big and evil? Fine they are evil, all the better to take their money and use it for good! (Evil laughter ensues.)

Good donor-ship is a huge topic in and of itself, as is good use of donor money (i.e. good projects), but if there is a little common sense employed, aid can really benefit from a diversification of donors - including corporations.

The sad thing is that common sense isn't always employed. To save the world, NGOs need money. They don't often have the power (or the balls) to say "No" and don't often have the time (or the money) to educate a new corperate donor of the real needs of a strong project. This too often leads to bad projects, or worse to harm.

* * *
Corporate Social Responsibility isn't going to save the world, but like anything, if used intelligently it can be part of the solution and I am all for harnessing evil for good.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as my blog post makes it out to be.
-Fist of all, I am being pretty naive to think we can harness all evil for good. A lot of corporations don't give a rat's ass about saving the world, but rather focus on taking over the world.
-Second, I have assumed NGOs know what they are doing (not always the case) and that "normal" institutional humanitarian donors are some sort of saints (not always the case).
-Third, I've left out some important scenarios... but you don't really want to read 75 pages of blabber anyway.

Saving the world is pretty complex shit. Read the other posts in this CSR series by clicking here, and new information will be brought to light, man.

September 19, 2011

Sitting here in limbo...

Some of my posts are about writing.
Some are about personal things.
Some are about work.

Lately I've sort felt as if I am in limbo, between here and there, in all these subjects.

(Some of my posts are about places too, but there is no limbo about that. I'm in Egypt.
Egypt, herself, may be in limbo, but I'm simply an observer.)

* * *
On writing: 

Well my 10 contest adventure is coming to a close. I have now entered 10 contests online... Actually 11: I submitted an extra one because a previous entry seemed to be to a defunct organization. So, on the countdown, I will cut out the defunct submission and now say 10.... Results so far: 1 win, 8 losses and awaiting 1 result.

The limbo: Am I encouraged? Am I discouraged? In the scheme of things, am I a loser or a winner? Hell if I know. 

* * *
On Personal Things:

Limbo at it's finest. Somewhere between being a daughter and being a mother.

Building a cabin with my mom and sister.
Building a baby with my husband.

Both make the earth shake in strange ways that I like.

* * *
On work:

As a workaholic, the past months of not working have been a little hard for me. I admit it. I miss working. I miss toilets. I miss staff. I miss being on the phone for 18 hours straight. I miss logical frameworks. I miss bullshit meetings.

I read a lot about work (about aid work). I read technical documents that I never had the time to read. I read aid blogs. I read criticism of aid work. And there is a lot of criticism out there. Sometimes it tires me. Sometimes it excites me. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I think it's crap-dribble from ignorant people... (and not only when I disagree).

But why's that put me in limbo?
Because I know I am lucky as hell to be able to take this time off to be pregnant and to be a mom for the first time, but I still miss it.

* * *

I have a choice: either be okay with the limbo or do something. I don't much like conclusions, but as long as they are vague enough, maybe they can be useful. So since I've been reading a lot about work, since I don't know where to go with my writing adventure and since my mom is coming to visit me for a while and will probably motivate me...
I should just try to write more about work here.
We will see. I don't want to end up a crap-dribbling idiot.

August 16, 2011

You win some...

I haven't won any of the 10 public writing contests yet.
Feeling like a loser.
But life goes on. . .

And Ha!
The results for Contest Number 8 are in and I got an Honorable Mention!
Okay, so I didn't get the 1st prize for 100$, but I am counting this as a win in my adventure. (As always, I make the rules.)

The Foundling Review is a bonified, professional online literary magazine, and as honorable mention the piece is published there.  The contest was judged by professional editors and a guest author. So, to me, an honorable mention is a win: it is some recognition by strangers, by professional writers and editors that what I wrote is somehow worth reading.

* * *

The piece itself, as you remember from Eight is Infinity, is a 50 word short story entered in the "Pachas 50-word Fiction Contest". My entry is called "Painting" and started a while ago as a poem that I wrote for my wonderful friend Adrianne for her wedding day, she will recognize it. You can read my 50 word short story here on The Foundling Review website - and also read the winning entry and the 2 other honorable mentions because they are all very cool.

* * *

For the last two contests, I decided I would submit poetry to online journals to see if anything would be accepted for publication. This decision came about because in undertaking this adventure I have found that I, personally, hope more for publication in a journal than winning a contest. So a very personal feeling which maybe tells you about how my goals have changed.

Also, it has been more than a year that I have been on this adventure, and while I will continue to write and submit stuff to contests and other things online, I sort of want to wrap up this 10 writing contest thing. 

* * *

Contest #9 will be a poetry submission to The Foundling Review. (I chose this because of the last contest... seems if those editors liked the 50 word story, maybe I have a better chance?)

Contest #10 will be a poetry submission to Le Petit Zine. (I chose this one because I really like the style of most of the pieces they publish - vivid and interesting. The authors all seem to have a grasp of where to end lines, which is something that is hard for me so I probably have no chance.)

Each submission will consist of a few poems, as per each magazine's guidelines.

* * *

P.S. Today is my birthday. Puts me in limbo? More on that later.