Essays on Insta: How to Write for the Gram | Yahdon Israel | Skillshare

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Essays on Insta: How to Write for the Gram

teacher avatar Yahdon Israel, Writer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Class Introduction

    • 2. Class Project: Capture and Caption

    • 3. Treasure Hunt: Finding the Right Picture

    • 4. Making Connections: Thinking About Images

    • 5. Digging Deep For Details: Making Connections Real

    • 6. Finding the Way In: Writing Your Intro

    • 7. Guiding Light: Writing the Body

    • 8. Light at the End of the Tunnel: Writing Conclusions

    • 9. Editing for Clarity and Length

    • 10. Hastags: Making Sure Your Posts Get Chose

    • 11. Posting!

    • 12. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

It often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Rarely do we think about those words. Rarely do we articulate what effects images have on us, how we interact with them and what they mean.

Instagram has become such a place for this. The caption is just as important as the capture and  this class-- “Essays on Insta” – will equip you with the tools and provide you with the ability to write about images in a way that will capture more than just the moment, but readers as well. In this class you will learn how to write thought-provoking and insightful instagram captions that compliment your pictures.

So if you’re someone looking to expand your audience on Instagram and build community with the images you post and stories you write, this class is for you.

By the end of the class you should be able to write a captivating commentary on Instagram that fully engages your audience with the pictures you post.

All you need is a smartphone, the instagram app, and a willingness to see. Anyone familiar with basic functions of Instagram will be able to complete this course.

Meet Your Teacher

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Yahdon Israel



Yahdon Israel is a second year MFA Candidate for Creative Non-Fiction at the New School. He writes about race, class, gender and culture in American society. He has written for Avidly, The New Inquiry, Guernica, LitHub, and ESPN Women's. He lives in Bed-Stuy; and runs a popular Instagram page, which promotes literary culture as style with the hashtag "#literaryswag." Follow him on Instagram @yahdon

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1. Class Introduction: My name is You Don Israel, and I'm a writer student of the N. F. A program at the New School for Creative Writing Nonfiction, and I've been writing for about 78 years. I've been published in Lit Hub, Garnica avidly ESPN Women's. I do a lot of work with Instagram and writing on the Grand. People have several different types of streams. I right. It is often said that a picture is worth 1000 words. But really, do we think about these words, Really? Do we think about what pictures in tow us what they're trying to say and what our connections are to them. With this class that stays on insta how to write for the grand, we teach you how to find the best words for the best pictures that will help you communicate yourself effectively to the world. What I try to do is I galvanize a reading and a social atmosphere, and social media, especially instagram, is a great way to connect image to text. And so what you're going to be learning is how to take your best images with your best text , your best words, and we're going to give you the best way to capture and caption your pictures and your words on Instagram. So if you're somebody who wants to build their readership, who wants to create a readership and he wants to engage a little bit deeper with the images , they post this class of the right one for you. 2. Class Project: Capture and Caption : I came to Instagram about two or three years ago with no intentions of writing. I just came posting pictures using it. It's like what I thought it could do, you know, post a little, you know, snazzy captions here and there and then by mistake. One day I figured out you can actually write on Instagram, and I was like, Oh, snap that you could do this here. So I don't remember what posted was But I remember writing like, you know, about six sentences and copy and paste it to see how long it could go. And I saw it could pretty much go. So then I started writing these posts under the pictures that I felt were like these little mini essays that sort of captured the picture in a way that 140 characters like Twitter. Sorry, Twitter couldn't do. And Facebook I don't know it just Facebook. You can just go on forever. So I think that it had a safe limitation for me is what made me come to Instagram more and more. And then the fact that it was actually being read by people, which was like something that a lot of writing in which I was writing for actual, you know, online magazines wasn't getting done. It was like here was a way for me to engage directly with the public and not have to do the work of chasing people down and tag people in photos and doing all this work. Instagram just threw it into people's timelines, you know, just put it right in people's feeds. So I started thinking of writing on Instagram as, like cooking up food for thought. Like giving people something to engage with, you know, on their daily travels without them having to stop their whole data engagement. So this class essays on insta how to write for the grand will teach people how to do that and the project. What you're going to do for your project is going to be called capture and caption What you're going to do, you're gonna find a picture that you like could be a celebrity family member, a dog, a travel destination, whatever you want to find the best picture you have. And what you're gonna do is going to read a caption that officially and you know, effectively captures that moment in such a way that people look at that moment in your words and a new life. What is going to make this project special is not just the picture but your connection to it. And I think the sooner you get to think about your connections to these pictures, the better you're gonna be able to write about. What you need for your project is your phone. Uh, you need your instagram app if you have one. It would be good to have the Merriam Webster dictionary at have some words on you. And if you got notes, you know, just save your progress as you go along, copy and paste those type of things. But besides that just need your phone. Instagram Merriam Webster optional. I would suggest it, but maybe not, and we're going to begin. 3. Treasure Hunt: Finding the Right Picture: There's a quote from Joan Didion's white album that I think will greatly some mate what we're going to be doing today. And it's a treasure hunt. And for this treasure hunt, the quote is a place belongs forever to. Whoever claims it hardest remembers it most obsessively wrenches it from itself, shapes it renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image. You're going to find that image, and you're going to begin to think about your connections to it. Now there's you can either find the image first, where you can think about the idea you want to write about and then find the image after. Take, for example, Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar win for the Revenue. What I Did Waas. I looked on the Internet, and I tried to find the best pitcher that sort of captured him with his Oscar, which required me to go through a lot of pictures of him with like means of like Oscar winds. You want to get the picture that, like that's most authentic to the moment. And so I found this this great picture of him old and they Oscar looking at the crowd, you know, really iconic moment. And then I started to think about, you know, Well, what was my connection to this moment? Watching the Oscars that night, watching a Revenant, watching that movie, knowing all the jokes about him, never winning an Oscar. And I started letting these things sort of like, you know, swirl in my mind like Okay, what is my connection to him? His sort of never winning an Oscar for these great performances in different movies and then this moment in his Oscar speech, where you know, instead of talking about like for years, I've never been recognized and is finally able to be recognized, he decides, in turn, to talk about you know, the environment, to talk about some serious issues that you don't think you know. A person who's been snubbed for, you know, close to like 20 year career would just take just talking about something else. So watching the Revenant and watching him, you know, fight a bear and in a full of cliffs, and I cut open a horse and climb inside of it and all this for revenge, and then when he finally is supposed to get this revenge of the end of the movie. He's sort of like Let nature takes us to take its course. So I thought about that. I thought about like, how that plot of the movie sort of paralleled with this whole Oscar win. And I was like these, you know, these ideas sort of, you know, weigh in. They sort of connect. Then I thought about the definition of the Revenant. I didn't know the definition, And this is why I'm telling you to get that marrying Webster at. So I looked up the word and I saw that it meant a ghost, a living ghost who sort of haunts the living or a visible Ghost s Total wants to live. And I was like, Wow, like, how crazy is that? That the actual word of the movie and a weird, ironic way sort of informs the narrative of both the plot of the movie but also like Leonardo DiCaprio's history and career with the Oscars. And so I kind of just started from there. So, like, you know, I wrote the first sentence. It absolutely terrifies me how haunting words are, how much they linger in your mind, even when you don't know what they mean, especially when you don't know what they mean. And so that was sort of my way in. That was sort of my entrance into the essay. Was this thing I did not know anything about? Not Leo's career, not the plot of the movie. I know both of those things, but it was the entrance was the thing I did not know which is the definition of the word revenue. And so I use that sort of as the guiding light, which I'm telling you to write about your guiding light of how to write about everything else. Now that you found that picture that you're going to write about, the next thing you're going to do is make connections. 4. Making Connections: Thinking About Images: So now that you've found that picture you're going to write about, the next thing you're gonna do is make connections, some great books to start thinking about ways to make connections. I've had my recommendations. John Burgers Ways Have Seen on Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson. The Devil Finds Work, James Baldwin and the Women by Hilton ALS. The reason why I suggest these books is because they each do the thing of taking a lot and making it a little. So each of these books don't run over 130 the average 150 pages. But you know, the James Baldwin Book does a lot to talk. It sort of reviews 20 movies closed 20 movies, 135 pages. The All Michael Jackson, by Margo Jefferson talks about the depths of Michael Jackson's public and private career as entertainer and 145 pages. Ways of seeing just point. If IQ eights and sort of thinks about the connection between images and pictures, images and text, actually, um, like less than 200 pages, and the women just talks about everything from Malcolm X to his mother and 145 pages So these are ways that you could think about. You know, these books will give you a real great start about thinking about how to make connections but taking the express lane to these connections. What you're going to do is you're going to stare at the picture, gonna look at it, and you're gonna think about your first interaction with it. You know, you can think about it directly with how you actually got the image. Like so, did you go on the internet to get it that, you know, sort of rummaged through your mother's closet? Did you rummage? Do you know your old high school stuff? You could think about your actual connection to that moment. Like, were you there? Do you remember being there? Did you witness it on TV? What were some of the things happening during that time? You think about it as a political exercise. Social personal. Um, who's in the photo? You know, that's a great start to begin with. Like, is it a famous person? Is it a family member? Is this you know what? Who's in it where it where is it happening? When did it happen? And what were some of your first intimate memories of that photo. Those are some of the things you're gonna have with you when you begin to think about that . Those connections and it would help if you wrote it down, because sometimes looking at them and sitting with them will help you build. These Could make it needs connections stronger. As you go deeper into this project. Once you have your connections laid out in front of you, what we're gonna do is we're going to get our shovels and we're gonna dig deep for the details. 5. Digging Deep For Details: Making Connections Real: hope you got your shovels ready. I hope you ready for the digging deep. So now that you have your picture, you found your picture. You've made your connections. What I need you to do is think about the details of the picture of your connection to the pitcher and what makes this picture special to you. You're going to think about five details and I want you to use all of your senses. I want you to use everything at your disposal that you have to find the details of this picture that connect you to this picture. In a way, no one else is connected to it. So don't think about what anyone else's connection is to the pitcher. Think about your connections. So let's say, for example, going back once again. So I'll give lead by example of the Leo Nardo DiCaprio connection. And the details I had was I was I am a big fan of Leo's performances in a lot of his movies and being a big fan and, you know, watching the Revenant probably two or three times. There were scenes I knew like the back of my hand, but it wasn't just enough to just know these scenes what you had to do. And this is what you know, thinking about the details allows you to do is allowed you to talk about these details as if they were yours. So it was like I was talking about. I took ownership over these scenes as if I was the one editing and cutting and as us where I wrote the movie myself. And so I want you to think about those details that you can, like talk about as an expert. Because this is what this is about is about talking about these connections in these details, like the expert of your life that you are, hopefully should be. So think about five details. You know, if you need sensory, you don't think about, you know, some of things. You saw some of the things you heard what it smelled like. You know, uh, what it felt like, You know, if it was food is great. What does it taste like? You know, and you may not have the culinary, you know, language, but you have your language, and that's what I want you to get to get to your language and how help and have these details help you articulate yourself the best way they possibly can. So now we got the picture. We got the connections, We got our shovels, we dig for the details, and now we're gonna find our way into the essay. 6. Finding the Way In: Writing Your Intro: have you ever talked to, like a really good storyteller who, like, you know, takes you from one place to another? Part of the reason why they're able to do that is because they find these great ways to open a story. You know, sometimes some people take off in the middle, sometimes is not good to the end. But a really good storyteller is able to get you from the beginning and rapture you and take you away to the end. And to do that, you have to find a great way to open. And so you're opening is what I want you to think about is, you know, think about a great quote that you heard that connection to the picture. Think about, you know, a great stand up joke. That sort of, you know, summarizes what you're gonna be talking about or anecdote a good story, you know? And I would suggest, you know, for the first time, if you're gonna do this, be funny. Be fun. Find something engaging. Think about you actually telling the story. This will always help in writing. Is imagine people in front of you listening to this as if you were telling it. So don't think about it only as a writing exercise, thinking about think about it as sort of like a, you know, a public speaking exercise. What story would best help you articulate to your listeners what you're talking about, but also keep them engaged. So think about your most engaging opening piece like your icebreaker. Find one and use it. So now let's walk us through it. What do we have? We have the picture check. We have the connections check. We dig deeper details. We found our way in, and now that we found out way in, we're gonna do some guiding light work, you know, making sure we are walking people safely through the tunnels of our minds and our imaginations to get us through to the end. 7. Guiding Light: Writing the Body: All right, So now that you have your way in, what you're going to realize is that all the details you've written down may not all be necessary for use and the body of the paragraph That's going to be good, because a good intro is automatically going to tell you what you're writing about. So don't be afraid to get rid of the details that no longer fit. They helped you get in the door, but now they're not gonna help you stay here. Which is fine if you go to a club. You never feel guilty about the doorman because they did their job and your details help you do your job. But now this is another job. It's a deeper job. And now we have to make sure that we are, you know, finding, you know, sort of staying in on the path of what we came to do, which is tell a great story. So what guiding lights do is they keep you on track and they keep you able to figure out where you're going. So look at your opening, look at the details and the connections, and start and start to organize these details in a way that gets you from your entrance, Your opening intro paragraph also in a few sentences and think about like, sort of the middle. So you're going to think about this theatrical story. So your first opening is just year. You're opening your body is sort of your interpretation of the opening using the details that you have and let's see what we have by the end of that. So now that we're in, we're in the tunnel where in the crevices of your mind, and you're walking us through what this open and story has to do with what you're actually writing about. So to take you back for an example for the Leo Post. You know, I opened up with this idea of the Revenant of not knowing what the word means. And then I take you as a guiding light through the details of the actual movie. And so I start to write this thing about, you know, I just give you, like, a synopsis of the plot. You know, I summarize, you know, sort of some of the scenes to me that needed when the details come in. You know, I talked about him being mauled by the grizzly bear. I talked about him being buried alive, but one of the people in this company I talked about, you know him sharing meet with a native and the movie vending. The native in the movie was killed, and then I start to come around to this idea of the Oscar. So these details I had were all ready in place. But they all aligned with the beginning of my opening, which is not knowing sort of. You know what the word revenant meant. And so I use what I didn't know as the way into what I didn't know about the movie. So you see how these sort of ideas, you know, sort of rub against each other to create, you know, a good tension of like, you know, me as the storyteller, starting off where you are as a listener, as we both don't know where this story is going. But then you start to see that as I tell the story, I actually knew more about the story that I lead you to believe. And so what it seems like in the beginning is I don't know what the connection between me and this picture is. But as I start to go through, I become the guide for you to start to understand. Oh, he does. And I'm helping you work yourself through it. So think about your guiding light as you are the guy. Now for another reader to get through from your beginning to your middle and to your end, we're pal ing them up. We found the picture we made the connections we dug deep for the details were guiding people through the caves of reminds and the tunnels of our imagination. And now we're finding that light at the end of the tunnel and we're getting them there. And that's what's next. How to write your conclusion. 8. Light at the End of the Tunnel: Writing Conclusions: So now that you sort of work your way through your intro in your body, you know you've got them into the cave, You've walked them through the cave and you see the light at the end of the time. What, you're going to think about our some concluding statements for your essay. You're going to think about what this open and story, what these details that you have all say about you and this picture in this moment and this may take a sentence. This may take two sentences, may take three sentences. The trick is, is to find the best sentences or sentence that, you know, bring, you know, beginning in the middle to an end in a way that makes people go well, did not see that coming right, because when you initially walking into the cave it was dark. Then you let him through the cave, and it wasn't so dark. But the trick is now to lead them out of the cave. So to go back to the Leo Post, I talked about not knowing what the word revving it meant. I, you know, it sort of took you through the plot of the Revenant so that I could show you that I knew you know something about the Revenant. But my high moment was actually looking up the word, and that was what I use for my conclusion. Now my conclusion is about five or six sentences. But what you see is it's starting to the lightest, starting to get brighter. And, you know, I'll read you some justice so you can see what it sounds like. Uh, you know, talk about the plot of the movie. I paralleled it to sort of like the plot of his life of not getting an Oscar. And then I say, You know all this for an Oscar? I thought, You know, the movie, the light, his life. He's doing a lot for both. But this was before I ever looked up the word to see that a revenant is a visible ghost that returned from the grave to haunt the living. And so now you get this thing of seeing like how the plot of the movie and his life are sort of this idea of this man who constantly is sort of ignored, you know, kind of being taken out by whether be the academy of the people in the movie and the rev in its whole ideas to constantly continue to come back, come back and come back. And so, as I start to conclude the essay, I'm starting to revolve around these ideas of his vengeance upon both Fitzgerald in the movie and the Academy Awards. So when he finally wins his Oscar, you see this culmination of both moments coming together, right? And that's what happens in the You know, the actual essay is I say, That's what was so area about watching his movie. I was being haunted by the harrowing reality of your life. You had done damn near everything to get revenge in the movie and damned everything to get this Oscar in real life. When you finally got both, you didn't take revenge. And the movie you let fish Aeroflot, the river to be scalped in your speech. You talked about protecting the environment and the land belonging to the indigenous. You did. What evidence do you let nature run its course? And so what if you're thinking about what I did is I subverted the beginning with my ending . So you what you understand towards the end of the essay is that I always knew what the word revving it meant. But what I did was I recreated that journey for you as to how I started with this image of not knowing what the revenue meant, taking you through how I discovered it and then ultimately discovering and then making this discovery public. So I daily what you're doing for your reader as your writing is, you're walking them through your mind of how you get from knowing something or not knowing something Teoh either knowing it or knowing something else about it. And so when you think of your introduction, you think of your body is the guiding light. You think of your end. You're thinking of starting from one place and ending at another. And if you're starting from one place and coming back to the same place you started, that same place you started should never look the same. It should look completely different than the way it once looked. So you go from looking at this Leo pitcher and go and oh, he just won an Oscar to going. Wow, he's a revenue, and that's the point of finding your way out and finding the light at the end of time. So we're going to continue to recap. We found our picture. We made the connections. We dug deep for details. We found our way in. We have to God and light. And we found our light at the end of the time. Next, we're gonna talk about leaving the breadcrumbs so that the people confined their ways out to editing for clarity. 9. Editing for Clarity and Length: So this is where we get to the more technical aspects of writing. So, you know, you have your actual piece of writing in front of you. Just a note. I personally type everything on instagram. I live Feed it. It's like intellectual hibachi. So I edited as I go along in front of you. So you know, as your like again, I'm editing it. I'm chopping it up. Some people may not like this approach. Some people may want to edit before they pose. So if you're someone who long hands, which is right it All right, settle out. Check for your punctuation. Your spelling. You know, if you're someone who writes it on their phone, a good exercise or a good recommendation, Something I recommend is copying and pasting your post as you write it and, you know, copying it until I called Microsoft Word. You know, app. You probably have or notes I have an iPhone. I really can't speak for Android. I hope you have Google notes. I'm pretty sure you do, but just copy and paste your post as you're going along with That said the best way I've realized editing works is by reading it aloud hearing how it sounds back to you. You know, sometimes you get a lot of the rhythms. You catch your own rhythms of your sentences you catch just by able to hear it out loud, you get to see Well, no, that doesn't sound quite right. Or you know, that comedies to be there and not here or you know, that I spell that were correctly or sometimes you may miss words altogether because you're so much into your own mind. You know, you don't get to hear it, so read and get out loud and catch forces you to catch those things. So for this segment of it, just go back. Look at what you what you have laid down in front of you and tighten it, tighten it and tighten. So now we've done a lot, so I'm not even gonna lay it on top of you. You just edit it just made things tighter. And now we're gonna talk about one of the best parts of social media Hashtags 10. Hastags: Making Sure Your Posts Get Chose: Now that we've done the hard part of writing, we've done the writing. Who done the entrance? We did the guiding light with the bodies that you know we did editing. We did all of that. It's time for the fun part. It's time for Hashtags. Many of you who are taking this class may already know what Hashtags are, but for the first time was, I think is best. I explain. Ah, hashtag is something like a digital footprint that allows you to find your things on the Internet and a larger forum. It also allows you to put your things in a larger forum. So, for example, when I finished my Leonore DiCaprio post hash tag, Leonardo DiCaprio hashtag Oscars has tagged the revenue over the three things that it was most uh in connection with in relation to. But it also allowed other people was has tagging Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscar's Revenant. Anyone having this conversation on Instagram was able to find my post in turn, and what this did was it took my likes to a potential potential, like 100 likes to close to a 200. And that's what also, another part of, you know What's so gratifying? My writing on the Internet is that more people are able to read your work and tell you about it. And, you know, I got a lot of comments. Probably close to 2021 comments about the post, everything from while this is dope. So this gave me goose bumps. Now, I'm not so sure that those people who would have said that wouldn't have said that without the Hashtags. So just think about some of the hashtags that your post sort of some eight. So like, let's say you did Family Re Union A. You know, a picture of a family reunion. Hashtag family reunion. If you did like you went somewhere to eat hashtag the restaurant you A that has tagged the dish, you know, hashtag, hashtag hashtag. But think about the hashtags that go along with what you did For those who want to be a little bit more bold and a little bit more daring, this is your time to invent your own hashtag. Think about a hashtag that you think you want to start and you know if you want to start a you know, a story Siris of like you know hashtag, you know, eating at eating at Brooklyn restaurants. If that doesn't exist, you can make a lane for yourself. So some people will use the hash tags that already exists. But I'm hoping a lot of you would create your own and see how far it grows and how far it comes over the time that you write on Instagram. So now we've written our post. We've edited this post and we've hash tag this post. The last thing we have to do is post. 11. Posting!: So now that you've done the work of writing it and you've done the work of editing and you've done the work of hash tagging, the only thing left to do is to post it simple, is gonna click share and is gonna upload onto the grand. Now, what you may realize is you're going to probably get different people liking your things. You're probably going to get more people liking your things, and you're probably going to get comments. And these comments are not gonna be like, Oh, dope. But they're probably going to be a little deeper, you know, the interaction is gonna get, you know, interesting or never seen that before. Oh wow, someone's gonna tag their friend and tell you they tell their friends to read this. And that's the point of this right is to get more people to interact with your work on a deeper level. And it all came from the fact that you interacted. You were the first person to interact with your own work on a deeper level. So that's what posting it will help you see, is the direct relationship between how you transforming an image for yourself will in turn transform it for others 12. Final Thoughts: all right. So my final thoughts on this is you know, I know that we all come to social media with this idea that we want the likes and we want the follows, I mean with shares. And we want all these things. But the main point of this class is to teach you how to create a world for yourself to inhabit, but also share this world with others. And that's what social media sort of does. It takes these intimate worlds that we have, and we're able to literally share them with others. At the end of the day. The reason why I you know, one of the teachers classes I wanted to help people share the things that they find important with other people. But I also want it to help people who share things for other people to be respected, to be read, to be, you know, liked. And so this class, while it's about helping you get more followers while it's about hoping to get more likes and more comments, it's also about helping you become a mawr effective communicator with the people that follow you with the people that you're around. And it also helps you understand a bit more of yourself. You know, im pretty sure some of you, at the beginning of this project didn't even see how important some of these images were until you're forced to write about it and think about it and then forced to, you know, explain it to somebody else. So the whole idea of this project was to let you see how important the things that you look at in this world are. So with that going forward, some of you may not be as satisfied with your post as you probably thought you were going to be. But it's all right, you know, the more you do it, the better you get. You know, when I started, you know I stopped, you know. But the more I did it, the more people start liking pictures. The more people started following the more people started taking their friends to follow. But I hope that you do this for yourself. I hope that this is not something that you know, starts and ends with how many follows or likes. You get hope it starts in with you wanting to understand the world a bit more deeply and you explaining this, You know, this understanding with others and I think that that's the only type of social media interactions that matter are the ones that transform you and transforming me. But I follow you and create a real conversation. So now that you've done the work of writing it and editing and hash tag and posting, it's time for me to see what you all have done. So screenshot your post, share them in the project gallery for me to see and for your student, for your classmates to see for all of us to see how far you've come from the beginning of this to the end. And I am excited to see what some of you have been writing about some of the pictures you've written about. And I'm looking to be transformed about how you've written about the things that matter to you. And if you need any help, I'm right here, you know? Ah, hashtag away. I'm a post away and I'm here to help so But let's see those posts. So, yes, this is a literary swag. Skill share Exclusive. Thanks for watching things for enrolling in the class. Thanks for learning. Thanks for digging things for connecting. Thanks for posting. Thanks for hash tagging. Thanks for attending. We have