when the rules of interaction change…

One of my new years resolutions was to put myself out there. I don’t know if anyone else noticed (yeah right) but I am a bit of a shy introvert prone to second-guessing myself… a lot.

So usually my social life is a little bit of a struggle. It’s an Asocial life.

But this year, I reckon I’ve at least made a step closer to calling people “friends” and actually meaning it, not just saying the word because it sounds better than “acquaintance” or “Yeah, I met them like three times IRL and now we’re Facebook friends”

So, my biggest problem is something that you’re “supposed” to outgrow in primary school (apparently… news to me). I have trouble cultivating friendships of convenience to last, I’m great when I’m in a specific situation, I have people I consider close friends, we have inside jokes in person. Outside of that…. not so much. I have in the past followed an admittedly ridiculous set of lists that I used to follow about maintaining friendships.

Honestly, these “rules” I followed because I’ve been burned by friendships, I’ve had falling-outs that were worse than break-ups. I’ve ghosted and been the ghostee. I’ve had toxic friends, and I’ve also been the toxic friend who lashes out at everyone. I’ve kind of… drifted away and became uncertain how to approach rekindling a friendship’s potential.

But that’s not to complain, baby steps. That was how I was. Now I’m improving. Got myself a solid set of friends init.

My rules have changed. Or rather, my attitude to socialising has changed and my anxiety has decreased.

  • I’m a stickler for keeping my Facebook friend list… actually full of my friends, but  that doesn’t mean I can’t interact with them on different platforms. Twitter & Snapchat are becoming my go-to for casual friendly interactions.
  • Everyone is surprisingly chill when asking for numbers, then I’m getting added to WhatsApp or DM group chats and welcomed into [situation] squad chats.
  • It’s completely fine to bring up something I’ve seen online.  THAT ICEBREAKER THOOO. Most people like when you put them onto things that remind you of them… like duh.
  • Just because I’m friends with a certain person in one situation, doesn’t mean I have to have them integrated into my central friend system. I think that’s the thing that used to make me the most anxious- wondering how all of my friends (with their varying interests and the differing environments where our friendships grew) would interact and if their perception of me would change based on meeting each other. I’ve learned to not worry, and to be wavy about it. Not every day every situation friends must meet.

It has been really nice to see myself grow and interact with people. Even though this term I stretched myself thin, I’m slightly grateful that I was forced to socialise with so many people and so often. I’ve really gained and understanding some of the things that really help me solidify positive notions of friendship.

 

It’s a bit of alright actually, this socialising thing.

 

Stretched thin: A learning curve

It’s summer term.

Well, it would be the summer term, if I was still taking classes.

I’ve learned about my limits. I’ve learned about prioritising. I’ve learned about self care.

So, after the Easter break, I had an overloaded schedule. I was travelling and working almost every single day of the week… and I was not coping well. What exactly was taking up my time?

  • Researching and writing assignments for my MA.
  • Attending the final few days of lectures.
  • Working 3-4 days a week at my university on a charity campaign.
  • Interning 3 days a week at a company in North London.
  • Babysitting after these various classes and jobs.
  • Looking for & applying post grad jobs and internships.
  • Trying to squeeze socialising into the few hours I had to spare.

I don’t want to complain about it, because I signed up for all of this. I was stubborn. I refused to reach out for help, or prioritise properly out of pride, and to be honest I suffered for it- but damn, did I learn.

Basically… I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating right. I only had one working hand and, to be honest, I’m still working on rehydrating myself because despite all of the above, I was still trying to act like I could handle it. Like I wasn’t struggling. Like I had the time to go out with friends and attend events because to present anything other than the image perfection (even if I was failing to juggle everything) was something I could not do.

I need to be able to understand that while I can do so many things at once, doesn’t mean that I should– especially when I’m trying to perform at a high standard. Because I’m still recovering from a burn out. So I need to learn how to say “No.” Which funnily enough was one of the things we were taught on the course, clearly it has taken a while to sink in.

I need to be able to ask for help. Suffering in silence is not cool, it doesn’t make me stronger- only tired. Despite my broken hand, I was still trying to perform as though I had both hands at my disposal. And never actually able to reach those goals, which had me feeling down because I knew people who had situations that I saw as “harder” than mine continuing to do great things- and I’m terribly self-critizing. And I’ve not been able to break the habit of comparing myself to others just yet.

I need to feel comfortable unplugged. I spent almost every waking hour on the in front of a luminously bright screen, which did not help me get as much sleep as I needed. (I believe it has something to do with the blue screen?) I’ve recently downloaded a set off applications that mimic artificial light when the sun goes down- so that my brain knows the time to sleep is soon. I’ve even started to leave my laptop downstairs and my phone across the room instead of giving into temptation of accessing them when I’m frustrated by how long it’s taking for sleep to visit me.

I need to make time for myself, I need to take care of myself. It’s not normal to literally be crying over spilled milk  (in private, quietly and ashamed) because everything else has you so high strung that a small spill feels like the end of the world. In joining my council library, I’ve given myself access to thousands of books with no extra stress on my wallet, which has given me the opportunity to actually read for pleasure with no guilt, and I have never been more thankful.

And now, as my load has lightened, I honestly do not need to put myself through so much stress again in the year. Having this experience so close to the three months that I have to  work on my dissertation? I’m trying to find the silver lining. Kinda succeeding too.

 

I only wanted to see the study zone

 

Why am I like this?

What is self control (in relation to books)?

Clearly I don’t have any…

It all started last week, when I realised I had only one week left to have any reason to travel to Kingston from my house in SE London… I have a dissertation to write, and I can’t justify travelling for an hour to get to the lovely post-grad library section on campus… I can’t work at home because procrastination is the devil incarnate, (suddenly, all my chores seem more important than my education somehow…)

So I was out buying last minute cheap additions to my costume (don’t ask) and I decide to stop by the local library.

Let me tell you, I haven’t used a council library since I was 8 and my Greenwich Library card was terminated because I was a child who used to keep books forever and/or damage them so badly that my parents had to buy them from the library. Greenwich council, I am sorry, please forgive me.

I used my secondary school library a lot, I became the best of friends with the librarian. Our friendship meant that I could spend my lunches hunched over a book or watching the star wars rap flash animation instead of standing around in the cold (or pollen or heat, depending on the season). I got first pick of the new arrivals, my opinion was valued, how many other 14 year olds answered questions like :”Is this book (with a sex scene) too mature for your age?” on weekly basis? (The answer was always no, because the smut available online was way more graphic than the brief paragraphs in question)

I looked at my local library as I walk down the highstreet… it just looked sad and small, but apparently one of my university alumni recommended it as the  place to write a dissertation when summer comes around. But… it still looked sad and small, so I went to the library 5 more minutes away.

And I fell in love again.

I only went in to see their study zone, on a whim. Instead, I have signed up for a Bexley Library Card. The librarians were so nice to me, they gave me all the information I needed to know  about the Bexley Libraries and I got their sympathy and well wishes as my broken hand is always a conversation starter- even though it’s a boring story.

So now I can take out 12 books at a time for at least three weeks. For my purse and overburdened bookshelves, this is a bit of a godsend. I was even shown to the YA department… where I browsed diligently for 15 minutes before picking the top 4 books that I needed to read ASAP and take off of my TBR list:

  • The Art of Being Normal | Lisa Williamson
  • Vanishing Girls | Lauren Oliver
  • I’ll Give You The Sun | Jandy Nelson
  • Stars Never Rise | Rachel Vincent

I’ve already read them all.

I know I was trying to read a book a week this year (and I’ve been failing), but it seems like I’m catching up on lost time. It’s turned into a book every other day right now. On my return to the Library I’m going to observe the Sci-fi Fantasy section… I’ll need you to pray for me and my bag next week, I’ll probably take home the full 12 books of my allowance.

For real though, I’m so glad I stepped foot into a non-school library for the first time in however many years again. Looking forward to my TBR list shrinking further and making friends with the librarians (maybe they do placements? who knows?). Anyway, now I have a beautiful addition to my keychain.

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& then I broke my hand…

I have had such a good few months. I levelled up successfully to 23 years on Earth, started my internship, managed to get along well at my part-time fundraising job, finalised my dissertation title and topic, attended the London Book Fair, gave the last of my presentations and started to work on my last 3 essay assignments.

And then I broke my hand. (23 years of my life gone without serious injury, until Friday 15th April 2016)

My left ring finger to be exact. A spiral fracture. I actually can’t use my pinkie finger because the two are taped together, and every time I try to use my middle finger in any way- I hiss like a cat being lowered into a flea bath (it hurts like hell). Oh, and my injury is now in a plaster cast so I have a greying Zoidburg claw instead of a left hand.

Do you know how hard it is to type with literally seven fingers? I never realised how much I used leftie so much, until it was gone from me. Washing my hair by myself is no longer possible (I guilt my mum into helping me), I have to wear a strange rubber thing over the plaster so as not to get it wet and ruin my body’s attempt of healing.

Exam and deadline season have been a right mess to deal with.

Yesterday was the date of my (only, and hopefully last) exam. Normally I would be excited at the prospect of enjoying summer evenings in the park, sipping on cider in between job applications . Now?

I just can’t wait to wash and moisturise my hand when the cast comes off…

To be able to type at full speed again because I have a dissertation coming up…

To take off the nail polish on the fingers obscured by plaster and bandages.

Adulting and Auditing- Building Reader Communities

Apparently I do not sit through enough lectures on my course.

Why do I say this? Because on Wednesday I attended a panel on Building Reader Communities at Greenwich University. Unlike my regularly scheduled lectures, this event was held in the evening, and also… there was wine (a major plus).

Building Reader Communities? I thought it would be focusing on something like what the Royal Burough of Greenwich is doing to improve literacy rates in the council. But that’s what happens when you click attend to an Eventbrite event that you haven’t read the description of properly.

I was wrong. But pleasantly surprised.

In as little words as possible, this panel was hosted with people with experience in building a repertoire with consumers, heavily featuring recommended reads or acts, online fundraising campaigns and general fan interaction. I casually called it the “fandom conversation”.

The panel consisted of 4 (originally 5) people whose interaction with their communities in the physical and online world helped them in their endeavours. Our panelists were the Co-Directors of the Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby; Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press (they do translated “un-sellable” books); Alexis Kennedy, CEO of Interactive Fiction Studio Failbetter Games and Kate Russel, a tech reporter and author of Elite: Mostly Harmless, a novel based in the Elite Game World who attended via pre-recorded message.

We discussed the various ways that they have used their position in reader communities to promote their work and courses simply through interaction. Alexis Kennedy and Kate Russel both talked about crowdfunding and appealing to existing markets looking for new products- which were games based on literature, and literature based on games respectively. Meike Ziervogel was passionate about how publishers can do more for their authors in representing and creating a brand that communities are curious about, and therefore investigate.  Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby focused on how they try and elevate new author’s voices, especially those of Greenwich Uni’s Creative Writing students during the Greenwich Book Festival.

From them, I have learned 5 basic tips about building a reading community from. Below,  in no particular order are these 5 tips for building a successfully engaged, enthusiastic community, with some quotes from the panelists as back up.


Unfortunately due to drinking wine and taking notes,these quotes cannot be properly credited, which does suck tremendously.


1. Be aware of the fact that community and audience are not the same. A community is more likely to enjoy your product if it is interactive, and audience implies passive consumption of your product.

“Audience is passive.”

2.  Be genuine and interact with your community. Don’t just peddle your wares, take note of what others are doing and give them feedback because they will be more likely to return the favour. Interaction can also lead to hiring from the community.

“Find something you love and show interest in the genuine community.”

3. Be regular and consistent. Have a regular appointment to post a blog feature, set a number of tweets that need to be produced a day. Anything that keeps you constantly active in the community can only help.

“Keep the show on the road or you might not be able to continue to do so.”

4. Be creative. Pair this with consistency, find new or perfect old ways to engage with your community and bring fresh perspectives to them. Do not wait for your genius to be discovered, trust your gut and write for the sake of writing [if you write], not to sell.

“Go and create!”

5. Hold your nerve. In what you believe and in what you like and what you know the community has been proven to like, sometimes this is where bigger corporations can fail.

“We’re good at knowing whats good.”


Greenwich Book Festival is held during the 27th and 28th of May this year (2016).
Elite: Mostly Harmless Elite:Dangerous is available for sale on Amazon, Kate is working on the second instalment of the series.
Failbetter Games have just launched Fundbetter in order to crowdsource for the production of their smaller, narrative-drivenn games.
Peirine Press have recently announced a winner for their flash fiction online competition an will be publishing breach by Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes in August (2016).

When it rains, it pours.

When I was little and we used to visit my parents’ family “back home” there were two things I loved the most about the weather.

  1. Summer in England is Rainy Season in Trinidad & Tobago.
  2. The rain is warm and hard, but not often.

It’s Rainy Season in my life.

I’m in the second term of my MA Publishing course now. I feel like the time has gone too quickly, I am learning so much and I have learned so much. I’m actually making progress on  surrounding myself with like-minded people and I have an understanding of the industry that the person I was a year ago was only vaguely aware of.

As January came to a close and I realised that I was already halfway through February, (oh, not to mention that Easter is early this year which means I have a lot of March off) I finish classes around April. I feel like I’ve taken the International Baccalaureate all over again, instead my five terms have been halved.

I’m getting the chance to help bring a short story anthology into print. I’m coming up with and practising a pitch for a hypothetical mobile app that I think could increase the number of readers-for-pleasure in those aged twenty-five and under. I’m still looking for that placement, and I’ve yet to be discouraged or focused on putting all of my eggs in any one basket. And finally, I’m coming up with the bare bones of what I think could be a study on Fantasy fiction for my dissertation.

It is a lot to handle- and yet I am doing it?

For a while I was feeling overwhelmed. I think I don’t often let myself go through the short panic, I used to let it consume me for at least a month before the pressure got to great and I perfected my fail or fly baby bird imitation.

Before when I was going through these situations in life, it felt like I was taking an ice-shower in Hoth- too cold to do anything other than stay in place and wait for it to pass by so I could finally make a chance to move on. Now, it feels a lot more like the hot rains back home, lying in the conservatory alcove opposite the stone mermaid and under a galvanised roof and listening to the raindrops pound against it. I have red stained lips on account of all the salted prunes I’ve been eating and the bottles of Chubby Reggae Red I’ve been drinking. The mosquitoes aren’t biting my legs and the dog is hiding from the rain with me. A book is lying across my lap and every now and then the wind changes direction and I get a little rain sprayed in my face- but it isn’t enough to drench me.

And I am fine.

 

 

 

W’happening Weekend 2016

The first instalment.

I was distracted my Nanowrimo, then Christmas, then my coursework got the better of me. But now I’m back and now ready to share with y’all what has taken my fancy mediawise and whatnot.

So outside of class…. what am I reading?

Welcome to Night Vale (a novel)

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I started listening to WTNV the podcast back in my third year of uni. It helped me through a very solitary summer of manual labour, and I really love The Story of You (its a fan favourite. if you know, you know). So when I heard about the novel being written and that it was to focus on the mystery of the Man in the Tan Jacket (the door to door salesman) I was intrigued… because of all of the characters I want to know about, I want to know about Emmett… I mean, Everett… I mean (other name) some more.

There was also a moment while working as a magazine distributer during last year’s London Book Fair where I saw someone walking out of the venue with their nose buried in what was CLEARLY an advanced copy, or maybe a proof? I just know I really wanted to leave my position and chase after them demanding they hand it over. But I didn’t. So I gifted it to myself for christmas.

BOYYYYYYYY

The novel has all the trappings of the biweekly podcast episodes with cameos/references to my fave WTNV characters… but damn, its nice to focus on one (or rather two) stories for an extended period of time. To quote the WTNV host Cecil, in all it is “Weird at last. Weird at last, God Almighty Weird at last.”

Watching

Love and Hip Hop

I’m gonna be super real right now. I never have watched Love and Hip Hip before in my life. My dad never let me watch reality TV growing up and it wasn’t till Jersey Shore that I started to watch my guilty pleasures (mostly on MTV or VHS1)… which then lead me to 16 and Pregnant, and the Teen Moms and Geordie Shore (but that’s where my Reality TV experience ended… until now)

According to the first episode, there have been new additions to this season. Lil B (You know, from Chicken Noodle soup with a soda on the side… I let it rain, I clear it out) who is now rapping under her given name- Bianca. Rap duo Bad Bitches On Deck… though in the three episodes I’ve watched it looks like they might not be a duo for much longer. A girl so small that she reminds me of Lady Gaga in waifish-ness… and the main reason I started to watch the show.

My girl Cardi B.

Cardi is the first instagram I followed for jokes and selfies. She’s so personable and real about her life and situations its hard not to love her, crooked teeth and all. Cardi’s going through, what I guess you would call a professional glow-up? She used to be a stripper, and now she’s a rapper, events host, she’s walking on the catwalk at NYFW- now my baby is on TV. Like, I’m literally here for her antics. And, as usual her catchphrases and reactions are perfectly gif-able.

Listening To

Charly Black – Party Animal DJ BrainDeaD remix

I am preparing man. Carnival is coming soon, my mum’s back in Trinidad absorbing all that sun and enjoying family recipes and I’m slyly jealous, but trying to create my own vacation between studies, chores and sleeping by listening to this song.

It’s a good combo of dancehall and twerk tunes (its tagged as #twerkhall on soundcloud where it is in the top streamed dancehall songs at the moment). Breh. I’ve never been so distracted while brushing my teeth before. Legitimately, dancing to this song might help me lose weight or something… I’ll get back to you on that.

Things getting left behind in 2015

  1. Not drinking all the water I should be, replacing it with soft drinks, booze or orange juice is no longer an option.
  2. Spending my days off dozing in bed instead of exploring my city and my interests.
  3. Putting off these driving lessons because I know that one day I will not be relying on my parents to do all the “big shops” when I want specific things.
  4. Not putting myself out there socially- small social circles are cool, but it’d be nice to spice it up every now and then init.
  5. Procrastination- My biggest weakness to date…
  6. Saying I love books but not reading anything new – I want to read at least 2 books a month (I mean, I’m aiming for a book a week but still)
  7. Buying things I want, but don’t need and can’t really afford.

 

Wish me luck fam…

Halfway Through #DiverseDecember

Applying to my MA course I started my cover letter with this sentence:

I am a black girl who loves to read… and I’m also a black girl who has been let down by the industry that provides the majority of her entertainment.

The lack of racial diversity the entire industry is a big problem in my opinion. There are only so many books you can read searching for representation, eventually swearing off of books because they’re not for people like you. It’s alienating as a reader to be repeatedly shown you are unimportant and invisible in fictional worlds, especially if reading is an escape from those Real Life Problems™️.

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Source: TheDailyDoodles.com

We’ve been talking in lectures about the evolution of Publishing as a whole. As a Publisher, my job will be to acquire content, manipulate the content and attempt to make a profit. It sounds like a simple enough business model right? And despite this, there are still large audiences who are not being catered to.

This is where #DiverseDecember comes in. It’s now been officially over two weeks since I found out about this twitter campaign (I can’t believe it’s halfway done)… So I want to talk about the difference it has made in my To Read List and the importance of campaigns promoting diversity in Publishing like We Need Diverse Books, Diverse YA, Creative Access and  Inclusive Minds.

BAME Authors, like BAME students in a majority-white class, are pigeonholed and made the “go-to” spokesperson for their entire race and culture. Like, how stressful is that- carrying an entire race and culture on your shoulders? They’re criticized for writing  or talking too much about race and they’re criticized for not writing or talking enough about race.

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“What’s the Black POV on [topic]?” or “This race-thing again?”
 Marlon James recently said in an article for the Guardian Books that BAME writers, if they want to succeed have to pander to the views of publisher’s main consumers (middle class white women). Which then leads writers to fall into the trap of the single narrative that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned us of, in order to succeed. I’m talking acacia trees and sunsets, rastafarians, steel pans and lounging in hammocks, curries, arranged marriages and “mythical” religions, martial arts, “weird” delicacies and lotus blossoms… You see what I’m getting to right?

Like #ReadWomen2014, the hashtag is about promoting different kinds of reading. #ReadWomen2014 was about reading more books from female authors, because despite the fact that the majority of the industry audience and workers are female, the most celebrated writers are often men. For example, YA literature is full of female writers, and yet John Green has been labeled the savior or “crown prince” of the genre.

#DiverseDecember was started by bloggers Naomi Frisby and Dan Lipscomb with the aim to celebrate the work of BAME writers, encourage people to read diversely and to “spread the joy of stories”. The twitter page and hashtag is full of people recommending their favourite classic and contemporary authors of colour, authors and stories from around the globe, other campaigns promoting diversity in publishing and stories about BAME-centric literary projects like Nikesh Shula’s upcoming letter collection “The Good Immigrant” and the fact that Nosy Crow is currently accepting submissions from BAME authors. For someone who used to struggle finding particular authors, the hashtag is a god send. It is so wonderful to see people promoting books that they have loved and want to share with others.

The importance of hearing BAME voices in literature is for more than just having a wider selection of reading. It’s a positive affirmation of my Black-British existence. In my youth I often felt as though I didn’t really have a place in this country, or the one my parents immigrated from.  Learning of the history of your country, and finding out that the only way you are connected through it is through the effects of conquest in the name of Empire, is not the one. I’m sure that many BAME readers must have felt the same kind of disconnect, and campaigns like this only serve to bring us closer to each other and our dual-identities.

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Change doesn’t have to be completely radical, the Publishing Industry isn’t going to get diverse in the snap of our fingers. We can’t collect all seven Dragonballs and ask Shenron to grant our wish… Marketing doesn’t have to be a pushing tactic- it’s easier to pull in this case, as I’ve learned from the last guest speaker of the term- Sam Missingham (the queen of twitter).

The audience is here. We’re identifying ourselves as potential customers.

We’re just waiting for someone to point us in the direction of something we would enjoy. Most of the time, its a close friend or relative- but what if it was direct from the source?

Imagine the profits.

Imagine the books (and apps, and events and the potential for other media tie-ins!).

Imagine the audience returning time and time again because they know you are serving up exactly what they’re looking for?

Yes, I’m thinking about #DiverseDecember from a Publishing Student point of view right now. But a year ago, when I had just graduated, all I wanted to do was read books for and about people who looked like me. As a consumer, I am grateful for this campaign because I’m finally seeing myself as part of the process, and part of the story.

I can’t believe I did the thing.

It’s November 30th as I write this. The last day of the NaNoWriMo challenge that has taken over my life for the past thirty days.

The first time I attempted this challenge, I was highly motivated to win. I had joined an online writing community, I attended write-ins, I didn’t have a job or class to go to so I could literally designate entire days to upping my word count and fleshing out my characters.

This year?

Not so much.

I went in blind, with nothing but a brief idea of what I wanted to occur in my story. I found that as I am a frequent reader of sequential works, I’ve picked up the habit of working with trilogies in mind (Thank you Robin Hobb) and even though I have hit the 50k word mark… The story has not progressed as far as I wanted it to…  but then there’s always book two and three!

This year, I’m an MA student 2 months in with a lot more on my plate. November is busy enough with the countdown for Christmas starting and a lot of family birthdays to prepare for. I got distracted often… There was an entire week where I didn’t write a single thing! And then there were the nights that I would spend on my google documents, struggling to catch up to the recommended word count (Do not recommend).

Skipping 1667 words a day is totally fine if you miss one day… when you miss several days… multiple times… and you’re demanding more of yourself than ever before… you might stress yourself into illness.

Which I did.

And it wasn’t fun.

At all.

But I’ve finally completed something. Too often I’ve become swept up in a monthly challenge only to have my enthusiasm fade out as the days progressed. I’m talking about the Monster Girl Challenge on my IG and the Journal Writing Challenge I started on Tumblr… wow.

It feels good to finish something creative that isn’t for class.

I’ve always had a big sense of admiration towards authors and writers who churn out worlds and characters every year. Now, having completed the process myself (minus all the editors and beta readers because I’m not planning on submitting this novel for publication), that respect and awe has increased five times over.

Even though my novel isn’t the best… and hasn’t ended up as I had hoped, but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved. I mean, 50023 words in thirty days on top of an MA course? That’s an achievement. I’m crying.

I’m like the proud parent of an ugly baby*, no one can tell me a thing.


 

*No harm intended, most babies are cute, some just need to grow into their features.