Nekudat Mifneh 2: Enjoyable Writers' Conference

What an unimaginative title for a blog post about creative writing! From a person who used to be a copywriter, to boot. Couldn't I think of anything niftier?
- Sure I could. But, quite a while back, I decide to avoid unwarranted wisecracks, and concentrate on making my message plain and simple. So here's my message: The writers' conference I attended on November 11th, 2015 at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv, was a huge success: well planned and executed, well attended, enjoyable, and helpful. That's the bottom line; now for the details.

People got there bright and early, considering the heavy traffic into Tel Aviv in the morning. I got there at 08:30 as recommended, and dozens were already milling around, drinking coffee and helping themselves to a neat collection of cute cookies. (Yes, they were as tasty as they were cute-looking.)

In her opening words, Racheli Lavi commented on how gratifying it is to see so many faces -- about 180 of them -- about twice as many as last year, at the first conference. The name Nekudat Mifneh, meaning turning point, is a forward-looking, optimistic choice, communicating a positive and encouraging attitude. Racheli hopes (I'm not quoting her, this is my impression) that this conference will make a difference in aspiring-writers' lives, infusing them hope, belief in themselves, and determination. Her approach does not rely on "New-Age" motivational techniques; it is down-to-earth, practical, accessible, and as clear as a coloful elephant. Which is an allusion to those time- and energy-guzzling tasks we undertake just because we don't know how to say No.
Racheli Lavi on stage. Photo by Peleg Alkalai
Next was keynote speaker Meirav Oz, who recounted her own experience of writing and publishing a book. In her case, she came from the advertising world, and had helpful connections. But Meirav's creativity, her relentless drive, organizational skills, and sheer spunk and determination are the force that got her where she wanted. Her romantic-comedy novel, One Wrong Move, was translated into English and is available on Amazon, in case you're interested. Though this talk was interesting and entertaining, I can't say it encouraged me. It made me feel you must be a veritable bulldozer to translate your ideas into a published novel and see the project through.

Coffee break, followed by difficult choices. Track 1 offered 2 talks: How to attract kids to poetry; and advanced writing techniques. Track 2 was a workshop on creating [fictional] worlds. Track 3 offered two talks focusing on the process of publishing a book. Actually, Track 3 interested me the most, even though I know a thing or two about the process, thanks to a few friends who've been through it and shared their experiences with me. However, sadly, it's just not relevant to me at this point, since I have no manuscript ready for publication. On the other hand, I'd heard about Roni Gelbish the writer and workshop leader, who presented, or rather led,  Track 2. But the subject matter sounded daunting. After all, to write a fantasy or sci-fi novel, one had to use one's imagination. And I was pretty sure I had none. Nonetheless, this is the workshop I attended. And am glad I did.
Roni Gelbish's workshop. Photo by Peleg Alkalai
Roni described a few basic guidelines on how to approach such a novel, encouraged everyone to add their 2 cents' worth, then gave us a few short writing assignments which we completed on the spot, read out loud, and received feedback. (Yes, I know that's how a workshop works; it's just that it's been a long time since I attended or led one.) Roni's feedback was positive and encouraging, and helped us zero in on the essence of our ideas; she sort of pointed her flashlight at the possibilities inherent in them. The atmosphere in "class" was easygoing and non-competitive, and though not everyone took the opportunity to speak up, those who did were pleased with the response. As for me -- I discovered that I wasn't a total washout when it came to imagination. What a relief for a would-be writer!

Lunch break. I chose not to leave the building and just got a sandwich and coffee at the small upstairs bar. That turned into a good opportunity to talk to and get to know a few people. See, at ITA conferences I know many of the regulars. But here, I hardly knew a soul.

Lunch break is also the time to confront difficult decisions: there were three tracks, each with two separate lectures. Track 1 offered a talk about "the emotional truth" in writing, whatever that meant; and a talk about the [indisputable!] value of editing and re-writing. Track 2 included a talk about enjoyable horror (i.e. how to write a horror-thriller); and how to write a seven-volume saga. Track 3 tried to answer the elusive question of how to find time for our writing; and Jumpstarter - raising funds for art & cultural projects, and more.

I'm glad I chose Adi Meir Siso's talk, about how to make time for writing, or generally manage your time effectively. Don't roll your eyes at me! I know you think you've heard it all before. But I found Adi very persuasive, and have already implemented two of her suggestions. "If so," you might say, "how come this blog post has taken you a whole week to write and post?!"  - Well, what can I say. Better late than never?.. Last winter, after the 2015 ITA conference, I managed to post only about the first day out of three... I still have the first draft about the 2nd day, but didn't get even as far as a draft about the 3rd day. Isn't it lucky the ITA keeps precious info in their archives! By the way: For Hebrew readers, I recommend Adi's Hebrew website; the English one is accessible but not quite finished, as I write.

Next, I left the room and switched to the second part of Track 2, the one about writing a seven-volume series. Seems a bit pretentious for beginners? Possibly. But then it has the advantage of making use of an already-created world. Once you've put so much effort into creating something like Middle-Earth, Foundation, Hogwarts, or "just" a quirky county called Midsomer , why stop at one novel? Or two? Or three?...  I hope most listeners enjoyed the talk. I tried to listen, but couldn't figure out what the lecturer was talking about. His lecture was heavily based on A Song of Ice and Fire, which I haven't read, nor have I watched the series Game of Thrones. So I took a break until the penultimate session -- Problems in the writing process, with writer Eshkol Nevo. Nevo is a good speaker -- articulate, accessible, friendly. Makes you feel that, as difficult as writing is, it is an achievable feat. If he writes as well as he speaks, I think that's a good enough reason to actually get my hands on one of his novels. He spoke of the connection (and differences) between creative writing and real life; about planning one's story as opposed to improvising or letting the characters move the plot along; about dealing with writer's block; and about the inevitable writer's loneliness.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at the Questions & Answers stage. Grandmotherly duties and all that. And so I missed the last part of the conference -- the summing up and the freebies. Still -- it was a day well-spent. Stimulating, thought-provoking, inspiring, and helpful. Well done, Racheli Lavi. Looking forward to the next conference. Ta-ta for now.

A Writers' Conference in Tel Aviv

Yippee! There's a writers' conference in Tel Aviv next week, November 11, 2015, and it sounds terrific. This is the second year that Racheli Lavi is holding this conference, called Nekudat Mifneh, i.e., turning point. I couldn't attend the previous one, but I sure-as-hell am going to this one.

The conference is in Hebrew. So, no matter what language you write in -- Hebrew, English, Russian, French, Amharic, Klingon -- as long as you understand Hebrew, you'll be able to enjoy this get-together, and benefit from it.

Like many others who attend writers' workshops and other such get-togethers, I am a frustrated, would-be Writer. Yeah, I write. Always have written, and I am still a graphomaniac, still writing, but haven't published a single book. In theory I know a lot about creative writing. I even led a workshop on creative writing, years ago. At some point, I bravely sent a collection of my short stories to one (only one!) publisher. The stories were rejected. I didn't have the guts to submit them again; I just sulked at my desk. Now where would we be today, had Graham Greene (to name but one writer) sulked at the first rejection, rather than forged ahead, rewriting and resubmitting his manuscripts. Okay, so I'm no Graham Greene... but you get the point.

Besides -- I've been telling myself -- I simply have no imagination! I can blog to my heart's content about where I've been and what I've done. But actually inventing a plot and characters? Not to mention an entire new world? - Forget it; won't happen. Each year, NaNoWriMo comes along, and each year I say to myself -- Maybe next year...

But say you've had the sitzfleisch to complete your stories, or your novel. What next? How do you get the darn thing published? As a translator and an editor, I've seen many manuscripts -- both fiction and non-fiction -- at that intermediate stage. Some have seen the light of day via publishing houses; others have popped up on Amazon, having been published as an ebook by their authors, with a little help from experts; and some are still dormant on hard disks, "clouds", or good old-fashioned desk drawers. Publishing one's manuscript is a complex project, and most of us need advice, guidance, encouragement and virtual hand-holding. I think this guidance and encouragement is mainly what I'm looking for in this upcoming conference.

So, come Wednesday morning, Oct. 11th, meet me at the Turning Point conference, ZOA House, on the corner of 26, Ibn Gabirol and 1, Daniel Frisch streets. Ta-ta for now!

*              *             *

See also Racheli's Facebook page about her Hebrew editing software, and about the conference:

נקודת מפנה 2 -- כנס הכותבים, 11 באוקטובר 2011, בית ציוני אמריקה, תל אביב. 

How to throw out papers

Well, at least one kind of papers: newspapers, magazines, brochures, leaflets. But mostly newspapers and magazines. The ones from yesterday and the ones from last week, last month, possibly last year.
- Oh, you don't understand the question? You mean you simply pick them up from wherever you last left them, and throw them into the appropriate rubbish bin / recycling container, whatever, and go about your business without giving it a second thought? Well, bully for you, as Teddy Brewster used to say in Arsenic and Old Lace. Amazing. I'm in awe. You need read no further.
Clara Rimon (L) & Nehama Weinberg (R) as Abby & Martha Brewster; Bob Chadis as Teddy
in The Little English Theater's production of Arsenic & Old Lace, ZOA House, Tel Aviv, 1968
But you guys who are still with me, you know what I'm talking about, don't you?...
Every once in a while, when she had an hour or two to spare, my mom used to sit at her desk with a heap of papers, a pair of scissors, a pile of used envelopes, a collection of pens, and a very serious, concentrated expression on her face. It was sorting time. She'd re-read every bit of paper before sentencing it to Life or Death. Death meant being crumpled and tossed into the wastepaper basket; Life meant she had to decide whom to pass it on to or where to file it. Recipes went into an envelope marked with the name of her cooking-fan friend; articles and photos of dancers went into her Ballet scrapbook; interesting articles went into different envelopes, according to which friend or cousin or second-cousin or third-cousin-once-removed might find them interesting. And she actually put them into envelopes, addressed, stamped and mailed them! Long before email, scanning, and other such wonders. Even before photocopying and faxing were easily available. Xerox machines may have been standard equipment in offices, but certainly not in people's homes, certainly not in Israel.

And now, I find myself tempted to continue in her footsteps. Albeit with the help of modern technology. But the first stumbling block is making the time to read, or at least leaf through, all these papers, weekend supplements, High Holiday supplements, monthlies and various magazines I either subscribed to in a moment of weakness or get in the mail, unsolicited.

At the moment, just for example: in addition to back copies of Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom (don't lynch me! I have my reasons!) piled up on the dinette chair and floor, we have
Ikea bin #1
Ikea bin #1Ikea bin #2, the coffee-table, as well as various spots in my study (not shown here, but take my word for it.)
These contain issues of: ESRA magazine, The Good Life (aka Club 50) magazine; Ikea catalogsNational Geographic; The Marker magazine; Rishon Lezion's Cultural Center program for 2015-2016, and more.

It breaks my heart to throw out so much valuable, edifying, fascinating info... I asked my eldest for moral support. Her reply was swift and decisive: Out, out, out!

Okay, okay, I'll throw them out. Except for that excellent review of...
Oh, darn! There I go again.

What? You feel cheated? I gave you no pointers on how to throw out papers? Sorry. I do apologize for letting you down. But if you happen to think of a good tip or two, do send them my way. Thanks!

How to find well-paying clients

Any translator (practically...) can get work if he/she is willing to work for peanuts. Not that I've checked the current price of peanuts. For all I know, a bag of peanuts may be pricier.
But how do you land those oh-so-coveted customers who are willing to pay you top dollars for your work?

This question keeps coming up on the translator forums I belong to.
On the one hand, we translators and editors exhort each other to charge decent rates for our skills and hard work; on the other hand, a high rate scares away many a potential client.

So I've sat and looked through my Work folders, in search of a pattern.

Rewind to the bad old days:
I've been translating and editing, to this or that extent, most of my adult life. But let's concentrate on the past 9 years or so, ever since I became self-employed. Of those nine years, let's ignore the first 2-3 years, when I worked mainly for translation agencies. When you're just starting out and don't have connections, the only thing to do is sign up with several translation agencies. They don't pay top rates, of course; but some are better than others. Gradually, you gain confidence and build your reputation. Then -- if all goes well -- people start recommending you, passing on your name, referring potential clients to you. Many of those clients, however, are reluctant to pay top $. They have no idea what translation entails; they think it's like "typing in a different language"; or else they're just used to haggling, bargaining, trying to get a "good deal" out of service providers.
So, you want to know: Where are those high payers hiding??? Who are they?

You won't like the answer.

The high payers are those who get well-paid themselves. Professionals who know how much they themselves charge for their work, and who realize that you, too, are a professional who expects to be well paid.

A couple of cases in point:

1. A successful medical equipment company, let's call it In the Pink, needed a Hebrew-to-English translator and marketing writer. The specific product and service were sought-after, and not cheap. The accompanying brochure was very professionally created, both in terms of text and graphics, by a well-known Israeli firm that charges relatively high fees. I submitted a price quote based on NIS 100 per "unit" (=250 words in the target language), which was at the time a bit higher than the unofficial ITA-recommended rate. This was about twice as much as I was getting at the time from translation agencies. But the managers at In the Pink did not blink. They could easily afford it, and were used to paying professionals what they deserve.

Next, the company asked me to give them a quote for original copywriting in English based on an hourly rate. I was at a loss. I knew that I shouldn't ask for the low rate I'd been getting from Yankaleh, the local producer of cheap cosmetics, nor from the no-name pizza manufacturer. The In the Pink boss saw my distress, took pity on me and offered me $100 an hour, saying this is what he pays his other foreign-language writers. That translated to NIS 400 at the time. I was dumbfounded and barely had the presence of mind to nod a "Yes, that'll do," trying to stifle a happy chuckle.

2. A successful educational-software company, let's call it SmartKid, needed a translator for its scripts in math and chemistry. This is a highly specialized field, and since I had relevant experience, having worked for a similar company for nearly ten years, I had no compunction about asking for NIS 120 per unit. Once again, a company that is used to paying its software designers, developers, and educational content writers top bucks, will not rear up or balk when faced with translation charges. They will not risk ruining their product.

3. Other clients who did the right thing by me were, among others: well-established lawyers; senior profs at good universities; upmarket fashion boutiques; high-end skincare manufacturers who charge a small fortune for their products and can't afford to make fools of themselves; successful architects, engineers, designers and graphic artists who charge high fees for their services; public speakers who need to get their message across; and so on.

You get the picture.

Of course, we can't limit ourselves to working only for the well-off. But keep this in mind: If at least half of your clients pay you handsomely, you can afford to be considerate and charge less from people who truly can't afford large sums, but whom you would like to help nonetheless.

Last but not least, and worth repeating: Connections, connections, connections. Network. Mingle. Leave your desk and go meet other translators in person. Be nice to your colleagues. Offer to collaborate. Reciprocate. And cast your bread upon the waters.

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To Russian, with love

Kak dilla, my friends?

The fact that I've lived in Israel all my life, have Russian-speaking friends, have been seeing and hearing it all around me, and still don't know any Russian, is beyond me. I love languages. I've read Russian literature in Hebrew and in English translations. I've been baffled by the language, attracted to it, and at times extremely annoyed by it.

In the late 1950s there was a [relatively] large wave of immigration from Poland and the USSR to Israel. Our elementary school, like the other schools in town, got a boost of Russian- and Polish-speaking kids. I became quite close with several of them. Chief among my Russian friends at the time was one Shoshana Kaufman, who later became a math teacher. The practical Shoshana both liked me and saw how we could help each other. I wrote brief compositions for her in Hebrew, checked and corrected her English homework; she started teaching me Russian. Though I don't recall getting much beyond the alphabet, both print and script. Her handwriting, using a fountain pen with a flexible nib, was beautiful.

Another way Shosh helped me immensely was with War and Peace. I was supposed to write a paper about Love in the novel, and there was no way I could read the entire novel and write the paper by the deadline. Shosh took my Hebrew volume and her Russian volume for comparison, and marked in my volume the chapters that had to do with love... And thus I skipped all the war descriptions and philosophical discussions, concentrating only on the romantic story-lines. Mind you, though I got a good mark, my teacher -- the unforgettable David Levithan -- did find my paper lacking. "What about the love of God? Love for one's country? Love between friends?" he wrote in his comment. But I was 17... To me, only romantic love mattered.

As I wrote here in the past, it can get very annoying when you're in your homeland and you don't understand a word of what it said around you. But that's not the main reason I've finally decided to learn Russian. First of all, it's a challenge, and my aging mind (tfu, tfu!) can use the exercise. Second, we're about to take a trip to Russia! More about that, I hope, when the time comes. (August)

So once again, I'm collaborating with a friend. This time it's Anna, the woman who usually occupies the exercise mat to my right on Monday and Thursday afternoons. We meet at our usual table in the nearby mall, an hour before class begins. Yes, it's a bit noisy, but it's air-conditioned and convenient for both of us. I'd been nagging Anna for a while now to let me help her practice her English. Like me, she has a daughter in Canada. But unlike me, she also has a granddaughter there, who no longer speaks Russian -- she's Canadian through and through. Anna was reluctant to take me up on my offer, until I came up with the suggestion that she teach me Russian in return. So we spend roughly half an hour on English and half an hour on Russian, then wipe the sweat off our brow and rush to exercise class to unwind from the effort. Yes, it's a big effort. Whatever text she reads or hears in English, Anna first translates in her head into Russian, then into Hebrew. And whatever word Anna teaches me in Russian, I make her repeat it half a dozen times before I even attempt to reproduce it. No matter how hard I try, I cannot reproduce the trilled R nor the glottal(?) L. I can barely hear the difference between a hard consonant and a soft one, let alone pronounce them properly.

So far, I'm nearly comfortable with the alphabet; I have a list of words that are [nearly] the same in English and in Russian; I'm collecting easy, useful phrases, and am enjoying some cute words, like "ootka" - утка -- meaning "duck", and despairing of ever being able to order ice cream -- мороженое --  in Russian.

До Свидания!

Wonderful ITA Conference - Day One

The 2015 ITA Conference, which took place at the Jerusalem Crowne Plaza, 16-18 February, was wonderful, for more reasons than just its content. And there's no reason to go on and on about the truly varied content -- it's all in the program. If you've been to the conference, your program is probably well-worn, having been consulted over and over again in your attempt to decide which session to attend. I cherish my post-conference programs, with my notes scribbled inside. But even if you haven't been to the conference, the program is still available online. There you'll find also bios of the speakers and summaries of the lectures, in English and in Hebrew. See Hebrew program here, and English program here.

Day One of the conference traditionally features super-useful, hands-on workshops which I never attend. I have no intention of learning to use computer-aided translation tools (Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast and others) at this point in my career. If I change my mind, those companies will be only too happy to sell me their products. Some of the other workshops are for beginners, which I am not. And some are business-oriented, which is Very Important, but not relevant for me at this point, when I am trying to spend more time on being a Good Granny than on being a good business woman. There was one workshop that I'm sorry I didn't attend: Translator as Author: Advanced Translation Workshop, by writer Roni Gelbfish (in Hebrew.) Of course, I can follow her blog, attend her ongoing workshops, or I can just read her books. As Dorit Rabinyan said in her excellent talk, the one just before the chairman's closing remarks in the afternoon of Day 3. Dorit, whose carefully crafted novels have been translated into many languages, also gives creative writing workshops, but says that she feels a bit of a fraud for doing so. Because, she says, you can't really teach anyone how to be a creative writer. If you want to write a novel, you've got to read, read, read. Read good novels. Read the ones which fascinate you over and over again, to get the hang of it; to see what makes them work.

As I've said before, I can't stand reading the Hebrew translation of an English book, because my mind is constantly doing "back translation", trying to guess what the original sentence was. What I do sometimes do, is take the same book in Hebrew and in English, and compare the translation with the original. Fascinating -- if the translation is good; infuriating, if the translation is lousy.

Oh, by the way: Just because I don't feel like leaning CAT tools doesn't mean I've stopped learning. My colleague Lior Bar-On just posted on FB the following quote: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young." - Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain".  We're all agreed on that, right? Which is why I plan to take up Russian. Anyone know a good teacher in Rishon LeZion? Possibly in return for English conversation lessons?

But I digress. Back to Day One of the conference. What I try to do is arrive in time for the 3:30 coffee break before the end of the workshops. Great opportunity to say my first Hi to colleagues, and sample the cakes. Which I did, in the company of veteran translator and editor Helene Landau and others. At 6:30 everyone gathered in the lobby, all bundled up in winter coats and scarves as advised, for the short trip to the Gala Event at the Bible Lands Museum. Suffice it to say that I found the museum interesting; if you're interested, go visit -- the website or the place itself. However, most of us translators are not in the peak of youth, and standing around in a museum can get tiring. Luckily, people found some plastic stools, which they carried with them from room to room.

The after-dinner speaker was the inimitable Simcha Jacobovici, and believe me, there's so much stuff about him and his work on the Internet, that I had a hard time deciding which link to use! If I recall correctly (I didn't take notes), he spoke mostly about Jesus from a historical and archaeological point of view; see, for example, his blog post Jesus' Marriage to Mary Magdalene: A Historical Fact! My mother would have loved it. You see, one of her nephews kept asking her whether she'd "found Jesus" yet. To which she'd reply sweetly that she's not looking for him, and as far as she knows, he was a nice Jewish boy.

Okay guys and dolls -- today's lecture is over.
Do come back for the next installment.

What to wear to the Conference

Why on earth should I choose to write about such a trivial aspect of the conference, when the three days were so choc-full of Really Important Goodies*? And when I say "the conference", I am referring to the ITA 2015 International Conference, which took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Jerusalem, 16-18 February.

Well, because people look at each other during the conference. Whether in the plenary hall, in any of the other, smaller halls; in the wide corridor where coffee and cake-cake-cake-and-more-cake are served; in the dining hall; in the queue for the loo; in the lobby, the elevator, the front desk, and so on. And because one of my fave colleagues, who couldn't make it to the conference, expressed the hope that "people are dressed well", it got me thinking. And looking.

Besides, as anyone who's followed my blogs knows, I'm forever agonizing over what to pack for various trips and occasions.

Short answer to the question in the title is: That depends on whether you're there as a speaker, a representative of a company, or as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill translator or other language-smith. The issue of how the "ordinary" translator (and I use that word as a cover-all for language-related occupations) dresses just happened to pop up on Agenda, [one of] the translators' forums on Facebook. It's a closed group, so I can't provide a link nor quote directly from it. But I can give you the gist:
Translators who work from home like to be as comfortable as possible. PJs are acceptable. An old sweatshirt and sweatpants are practically de rigueur. Slippers, Naot clogs, flip-flops (weather permitting); sneakers are nearly "elegant". Women forsake underwire bras and tight jeans. Men forsake -- what? I don't know, you tell me. We all feel as snug as a bug in a rug (remember -- it's winter as I write this). When, sooner or later, we must go out for something urgent like picking up the kids (or the grandkids, in my case) from nursery school or replenishing the coffee supply, we throw on something a bit more respectable and leave the house, hoping not to bump into an ex who used to think of us as smokin' hot.

Then along comes The Conference. Gosh, what shall I wear? For the Gala evening? For the workshops? For the lectures and other sessions? How much should I pack? I need to be color coordinated, that makes it easier to choose. The blue jeans will go fine with the striped shirt and/or the blue polka dot sweater. Which means I shouldn't bother with the pink/red items. But what about the new purple thingy? Nah, better not bother; it's a bit tight around the waist and I know I always eat too much at the conference. Shoes or boots? Boots are sexier, and add a much-needed inch to my stature (No, not Uggs). But shoes are more comfortable. Heels? Are you mad? Who wears high heels to a conference? - I'll tell you who: the speaker from France. High-heeled shoes complete with sexy black pantyhose, elegant skirt (!) and top. Whereas one of the best [Israeli] speakers I heard wore scruffy jeans and some nondescript pullover knit top. Why? Because that's what we're used to wearing. And how on earth can we be expected to concentrate on hours and hours of lectures if we're uncomfortably clad?

Years ago, before the first presentation I ever gave at an ITA conference, I called my friend Marion in L.A., a public-speaking coach. In addition to public-addressing tips, I asked her for dressing tips. Her advice was to wear clothes about one notch above what the audience would be wearing. Seemed very sensible to me. Though not feasible without going out and buying something smart. Which I did, at Dorin Frankfurt's -- but only at end-of-season prices.

Anyway, I just went through all the conference pics uploaded to the ITA page on Facebook. Three times at least. And I was happy to note that most people looked both happy and comfortable. Which is the main thing. I hope they didn't agonize too much over what-to-wear and what-to-pack. Who cares. It was great to see you all.


* The important goodies shall be dealt with in a separate post. Since I sat for 2 whole days taking notes, I might as well put them to good use!