Soccer academy founder writes book to help coaches cultivate joy
Soccer academy founder writes book to help coaches cultivate joy

Michael Curless, author of “Coaching Positional Soccer: Perfecting Tactics and Skills,” wrote the book he wished he could have read when he started coaching.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL CURLESS

MOUNT DESERT — When Michael Curless took up soccer at 9 years old, he did so because he found joy in playing the game. He wants to help parents and coaches, especially parent coaches, cultivate that same joy with his newly published book, “Coaching Positional Soccer: Perfecting Tactics and Skills.”

Over the last three years, Curless, who founded Acadia Fire Fútbol Club/Soccer Academy, has put together what one reader described, “as comprehensive a soccer book as you’ll ever find.”

“The book is good for all ages – from 5 year olds to adults,” wrote Curless in an email to the Islander about the more than 400-page book. “The drills can be made easier or harder depending on the players’ abilities. There are over 150 diagrams and over 70 illustrations that help describe the drills and exercises.

“It’s breaking soccer down into different learning chunks. The bulk of the book has a lot of practice plans.”

Yet to be available at local bookstores, the book can be ordered on Amazon, where it has been ranked as one of the top-selling soccer coaching books since its release, as well as Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, BAM! and Meyer & Meyer Sport.

“I wrote the book that I wished I had had when I first started coaching,” Curless explained. “When I was writing the book, I imagined I was writing to a 30-ish-year-old parent that volunteered to coach but had no idea where to start. This book was written for that parent as well as seasoned coaches looking to expand their understanding of the game and ways to improve their team and players.”

Much of the content was based on the 12 years Curless spent as head of Acadia Fire Soccer Academy, which he handed off about three years ago, and comes from his own developmental years in the game.

“Soccer was overwhelmingly exciting and enthralling from the first touch of the ball at my first practice,” said Curless, who played on a professional development soccer team in Austria at 16 years old. “Later, I met some famous soccer players like George Best, Johann Cruyff and Pele that further grew my interest.”

As he finished high school, Curless was offered scholarships by several California colleges to play on their soccer teams, but he opted to go overseas and play professionally.

“I wanted to live and play somewhere where soccer was taken more seriously,” he said. “I grew up watching a show on PBS called ‘Soccer Made in Germany’ that broadcasted a soccer game every week from former West Germany. I always idealized German soccer teams, so after high school, I went to Germany and played fifth division (professional soccer).

“The next year I went to France and played fourth division. I was invited to try out for a second division team in France when I returned home to go to college.”

Although he was recruited by several American colleges to play, Curless decided to retire from the game at the age of 20 and focus on earning a degree.

“If you throw everything into one thing, you can get a little off balance,” he explained about his relationship with the game as a young adult. Then, once he began coaching again in his 30s, Curless had an epiphany. “Soccer didn’t have to be so full of pressure. It was quite a journey to get that insight. I realized, we can coach differently.”

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PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL CURLESS

When he launched Acadia Fire FC Soccer Academy after coaching through Harbor House Community Services in Southwest Harbor, Curless wanted to make the game fun, focus on coaching kids respectfully and not using shame, guilt or anger to motivate players. And, importantly, he wanted to focus on skill development and creative tactics.

“That ideology brought a lot of success to the club,” he said in a conversation with the Islander. “We won everything.”

In 2018, Curless was awarded Soccer Maine’s Premier Coach of the Year. “I took three teams to the state cup finals and two of them won so they had to give it to me,” he said in jest.

“The drills and teaching techniques that are in the book were developed while coaching at AFFC,” he said. “I would ask coaches the question, should we ever repeat a practice? And my answer to them was ‘no’ since we should always be looking for ways to make our coaching better.

“This constant reevaluation of my coaching led to consistent improvement over time in my approach to coaching and the development of the drills in the book.”

To find out more or to order a copy of the book, go to coachingpositionalsoccer.com.

Sarah Hinckley
Sarah Hinckley covers the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands. Send story ideas and information to [email protected]
Sarah Hinckley
Top Five Favorite Books
Top Five Favorite Books

So, today is National Book Lovers Day and it made me realize, sadly, that I don’t read paperback books anymore. However, in honor of this holiday, I thought it would be fun to breakdown what my five favorite books are. By the way, this was a hard list because all of these books are classic, in my opinion.

No. 5

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This tells the story of Jay Gatsby, an entrepreneur with a shaky past. To be honest, I don’t remember too many details about the story, except for the flashy parties. Of course, who could forget the movie that was released in 2013 with Leonardo DiCaprio. The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is a Minnesota native, released this classic novel in 1925, behind his other works of “The Side of Paradise” and “The Beautiful and Damned.” It will definitely give you insight inside the business world if you have a chance to read it.

No. 4

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Animal lovers…warning! This story is about a man named Billy, who’s narrating his childhood memories about his time “coon hunting” with his dogs, “Little Ann” and “Old Dan.” I won’t spoil anything because the story is somber but has joyous moments throughout. Would absolutely recommend!

No. 3

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Jeff Kinney is the author and illustrator behind the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. There is so much nostalgia with these stories because they’re so relatable. Greg Heffley, the protagonist, has an older brother who teases him and a younger spoiled brother. Yes…some of you know what it’s like being the middle child. Plus, Greg struggles with another modern problems with most kids nowadays. He spends majority of his time playing video games instead of playing outside. There a total of 16 books, but my favorite would probably have to be the second one, “Rodrick Rules.” Again, this one taps into his older brother who is a constant instigator. If you would like relatable characters in a cartoony depiction, then this is the series for you!

No. 2

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Where do I begin? Who doesn’t know the story of the “Boy Who Lived.” I had to include these as a set because Harry Potter is one of my favorite worlds to venture into. My favorite one them to read would have to be “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” There’s nothing like reliving the beginning of Harry’s journey. However, when it comes to book covers, “Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix” gets my vote there. The dark blue catches my eye immediately, plus the mysterious position that Harry is in offers some wonder about the potential danger he is facing. Anyway, this series holds a special place in my heart.

No. 1

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When I think of reading, this is the first book that enters my mind. “The Outsiders” by Susan E. Hinton is the story pertaining two rival gangs, The Greasers and The Socs. There are so many classic characters in this book from Ponyboy, Johnny Cade, Sodapop Curtis, Dallas Winston and so many others. It definitely is recommending for an older audience to its violent nature, but a story that is worth-while. Similar to “Where The Red Fern Grows,” it has an emotional impact, just executed in a different way. This is a heartfelt story that will leave you spinning with emotions afterwards.

Those are my top five books. Each one is special is its own right and have impacted me in unique ways. Taking the time to share this list with you, I have been inspired to find a great book to read!

A Book for Our Times: Author Steven T. Collis Shares a Story of Heroism During WWII
A Book for Our Times: Author Steven T. Collis Shares a Story of Heroism During WWII

Steven T. Collis is a storyteller and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He serves as the faculty director of Texas’s Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center and Law and Religion Clinic. Collis is a sought-after speaker nationwide on religion and law and is the author of Deep Conviction: True Stories of Ordinary Americans Fighting for the Freedom to Live Their Beliefs.

His background studying law and religion led him to his new book, The Immortals: The World War II Story of Five Fearless Heroes, the Sinking of the Dorchester, and an Awe-inspiring Rescue. The book tells one of the most inspiring true stories in military and American history. Collis highlights the sacrifices made by the Four Chaplains and a Black petty officer to save hundreds of soldiers  on the SS Dorchester, during World War II.

In 1943, German U-Boats lurked in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, eager to bring down Allied ships. As the Four Chaplains aboard the Dorchester descended into the lower holds, the troops knew something was going on. A vague announcement played over the loudspeakers: Submarines were estimated to be in the vicinity. The Four Chaplains advised soldiers to put on their life jackets as tensions arose. The book further elaborates on Alexander Goode, John Washington, George Fox, and Clark Poling, also known as the Four Chaplains. The Chaplains each came from different backgrounds but fostered a safe environment through prayer and reassurances during a life-threatening time for over 900 soldiers

Then disaster struck. One German U-Boat fired a torpedo directly at the Dorchester, scoring a direct hit. The Immortal Chaplains are well-known for their heroism and were an inspiration to the nation, after calmly helping soldiers through the chaos of abandoning the ship and distributing life jackets, including their own, when supplies ran out. They remained a beacon of hope as the boat sunk, and in their final minutes, witnesses reported seeing the Four Chaplains standing together with their arms linked, praying in their respective languages of faith. They encouraged the panicked men floating in life jackets in the frigid ocean, even in their final moments.

Private First-Class William Bednar, a survivor, reported, “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”

Collis is also a pioneer in storytelling, as he delves into the valiant story of Charles Walter David Jr., the fifth and often unattributed hero. David’s story has predominantly remained untold until now. He served as a petty officer and was aboard a Coast Guard cutter traveling with the SS Dorchester crew. Heroism is at the forefront of David’s story as he dove into the glacial waters several times and fought through hypothermia to rescue soldiers who had fallen overboard while the ship was sinking.

Collis effortlessly tells his readers the story of how a Jewish Rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, a Protestant minister, and a Black petty officer showcased heroism and unity when it was needed most, despite their differences. During conflicting times like ours, the book offers a refreshing perspective that explores the power of faith and sacrifice. It serves as a narration for five heroic men with vastly different backgrounds that put their beliefs and differences aside to work in consonance and placed the lives of others above their own, in a selfless act of outstanding bravery.

The non-fiction book alternates between the points of view of the Nazi U-Boat captain and crew and the survivors of the SS Dorchester. The survivors credit their survival to the Four Chaplains and David; Collis conducted rigorous research to provide the Nazi U-Boat perspective, which he attained through interviews and journal entries.

The Immortals: The World War II Story of Five Fearless Heroes, the Sinking of the Dorchester, and an Awe-inspiring Rescue, is published by Shadow Mountain Publishing and is available on Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM, Walmart, Target, and anywhere books are sold.

To view the book trailer for The Immortals, please visit https://youtu.be/1qP5L9oxdSM.

Can technology help authors write a book?
Can technology help authors write a book?

By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Business reporter

image captionWriting a book is difficult, but could using technology help the process?

Celebrated American author Mark Twain was very dismissive of people who think it is possible for someone to learn how to write a novel.

“A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel,” he said. “He has no clear idea of his story. In fact, he has no story.”

British writer Stephen Fry puts it another way. He says that successful authors are those who know just how difficult it is to write a book.

Every year around the world a whopping 2.2 million books are published, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which monitors the number. The figure includes both fiction and non-fiction titles.

For most of these authors the writing process is relatively unchanged since Twain’s heyday in the late 19th Century. Plot outlines and ideas are written down to be deciphered, developed and refined over time.

These days, however, technology is increasingly making the life of an author a little easier.

For Michael Green, a US data scientist turned novelist, the need to use technology to simplify and streamline the writing process came when he was in the middle of writing his first book.

image sourceMichael Green
image captionMichael Green came up with the idea for the digital platform Lynit to help his own writing problems

With 500 pages of a complex story written, he recalls that the process had become difficult to manage: “In the midst of editing, I got to the point where I started feeling like I had a lot of plots and characters.”

“I had all these documents on the deeper aspects of the world I was creating. I was worried about being able to keep track of it all. That’s when I switched into my more data science-minded approach to solving a complex problem with a lot of different pieces.”

The end result was that Mr Green created Lynit, a digital platform that helps authors visualise, plan and weave together the various elements – such as characters, plot arcs, themes and key events – that form a story.

The app is now in its beta stage, and is being tested by a number of writers. Currently free to use, users can draw and update intricate digital templates or story maps.

image sourceLynit
image captionWriters can use Lynit in a very detailed way

Mr Green says that many novelists begin their work with little more than a general idea of a plot or a particular character. With Lynit he says that the process of adding to this initial idea is simplified.

“As the author gets a new idea that they want to bring into the story, they are able to input it into a natural framework. They’re building a visualization.

“Piece by piece, they’re adding to the story. As new ideas come in, they change, maybe by creating new nodes [or interactions], new relationships.”

Once a writer has got his or her book published, technology is now also being increasingly used to help authors connect with their readers.

image sourceGetty Images
image captionIt is safe to say that Mark Twain would have had little time for the suggestion that technology can help writers

This can be via the simple use of social media, with some writers happy to chat at length to their fans. Alternatively, authors can turn to specialist firms such as Chicago-based Hiitide.

Its website and app allows writers to participate in live paid-for question and answer sessions with their readers. And writers of self-help books can create and earn money from learning courses.

Evan Shy, Hiitide’s chief executive, says that the courses are “immersive workbook versions of the books”. “They help you better understand the material, and integrate its principles into everyday life.”

As an example, he points to Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, which largely draws its inspiration from the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism.

“Users don’t just learn about stoicism [via the Hiitide course],” says Mr Shy. “They can decide which virtues they want to embody and be held accountable for those every day,

“And they can participate in an exclusive Q&A with Ryan Holiday himself about the book.”

image sourceEvan Shy
image captionEvan Shy says that Hiitide can help writers make more money

Another tech firm, California-based Crazy Maple Studios, says it helps authors bring their books to life.

Instead of just giving the readers words on a page, its four apps – Chapters, Scream, Spotlight and Kiss – add animation, music, sound effects and even game play to digital books – whereby the reader can decide what a character does.

“The digital revolution and the advent of e-readers made the first big shift in the publishing industry,” says Joey Jia, the firm’s founder and chief executive. “It lessened the impact of ‘gatekeepers’, but it didn’t go far enough.”

New Tech Economy is a series exploring how technological innovation is set to shape the new emerging economic landscape.

According to Mr Jia, authors are likely to increasingly turn to technology as a result of a need to compete in a world in which potential readers have many options on how to spend their leisure time.

Experts, however, still caution against an overreliance on technologies aimed at helping writers.

image sourceCrazy Maple Studios
image captionCrazy Maple Studios can turn books into graphic novels

“Technology can also be distracting, particularly if you’re one step away from social media, or jumping down a research hole,” says Melissa Haveman, a ghost writer and author coach.

“A quick five minutes can sometimes lead to hours of lost writing time. One of the pieces of advice I’d give on technology is to find work what works for your personality and natural writing styles, and then use it.

“But authors can sometimes fall into the trap of trying everything in the hope that it will be the magic piece, which really just turns into another distraction.”

Yet Michael Green says he believes technology will become even more prominent as a new – and a tech-savvy – generation of writers becomes more prominent.

“What I’m finding with the Generation Z and even younger writers is that they’re looking for technology to give them guidance,” he says. “They see it as a tool to learn and grow with, rather than extra work.”

Alexander McCall Smith and Maggie O’Farrell in Scottish Book News
Alexander McCall Smith and Maggie O’Farrell in Scottish Book News

JUST OUT: Prolific Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith recently told The Herald that he “loses track” of the number of books he produces, but averages around five a year. He has six novels planned for 2021 and has already passed the half-way point, with number four – The Pavilion in the Clouds – published last Friday. Set in a Sri Lankan tea plantation during the final days of the British Empire and in St Andrews, Scotland, the story centres around the family who own the plantation and their mysterious governess. It’s published by Birlinn, £14.99.

EVENTS: Maggie O’Farrell is among the literary stars appearing next week at Fringe by the Sea, the multi-arts festival festival which continues in North Berwick until August 15. On Tuesday (August 10), Ghillie Basan will be talking about her books, The Scottish Brunch Bible and A Taste of the Highlands. Denise Mina will join Brian Taylor over a lunchtime blether to discuss her forthcoming novel, Rizzio – ‘a radical new take on one of the darkest episodes in Scottish history’, which took place in Mary, Queen of Scots’ Holyrood Palace chambers.

On Wednesday, aspiring authors can learn the tricks of the trade from Emma Salisbury. The creator of gritty Edinburgh-set thrillers and a successful police procedural series featuring DS Kevin Coupland, Salisbury presents A Masterclass in Crime Writing in the Marine North Berwick Hotel.

On Friday, hugely successful author Maggie O’Farrell will be in the Belhaven Big Top discussing her books, including bestselling novel, Hamnet, and memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am. Later in the afternoon, Helen McClory will be talking about her novel, Bitterhall.

Full programme details at fringebythesea.com

AWARDS: A Series o Scunnersome Events: The Boggin Beginnin has been awarded a Scots Language Publication Grant. The first in a planned series of translations of the popular Lemony Snicket children’s stories, it’s one of 10 new books to receive these grants this year. Author Thomas Clark said he was “fair-trickit” with The Boggin Beginnin’s award, adding: “The opportunity to make this fantastic book available to young people in their ain leid is a real dream come true.”

Other titles to receive the grants include The Itchy Coo Book o Aesop’s Fables by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson, Colin Burnett’s debut novel, A Working Class State of Mind and Kirsty Johnson’s Phantom the Ginger Mog. 

Funded by the Scottish Government and administered by the Scottish Book Trust, the Scots Language Publication Grant is in its third year and “provides assistance for publishing new work (including translated texts), reprinting existing historical or culturally significant work, and also effective marketing and promotion of existing and new work”.

Scottish Book Trust CEO Marc Lambert said he was impressed by the “diversity in genre and subject matter” of this year’s awardees, which range “from children’s stories to poetry; from classic tales we grew up with, to ancient Chinese poetry”.

The full list of books awarded the Scots Language Publication grant is as follows: 
A Series o Scunnersome Events, Book the First: The Boggin Beginnin (Itchy Coo) by Thomas Clark and illustrated by Brett Helquist; A Working Class State of Mind (Leamington Books) by Colin Burnett; Berries Fae Banes (Tippermuir) by Jim Macintosh; Hard Roads an Cauld Hairst Winds: Li Bai an Du Fu in Scots (Taproot Press) by Brian Holton; Laird Graham an the Kelpie (Giglets Education) by Jax McGhee; Norlan Lichts (Rymour Books) by Sheena Blackhall, Sheila Templeton and Lesley Benzie; Phantom the Ginger Mog (Wee Stoorie Press) by Kirsty Johnson and illustrated by Mandy Sinclair; The Day It Never Got Dark In Dundee (Rymour Books) by Ian Spring; The Itchy Coo Book o Aesop’s Fables in Scots (Itchy Coo) by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark; Wheesht (Foggie Toddle Books) by Susi Briggs and illustrated by William Gorman.

www.scottishbooktrust.com

Book Club: 13 takeaways from ‘Summer on the Bluffs’ discussion with Sunny Hostin
Book Club: 13 takeaways from ‘Summer on the Bluffs’ discussion with Sunny Hostin

“It’s a love letter to Black love in all its forms…I hope people will take away from it that this world exists,” the author said.

Last week, the Boston.com Book Club hosted a virtual discussion with author and “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin on her new novel, “Summer on the Bluffs.” Moderated by award-winning writer Deesha Philyaw, author of “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” our conversation covered Hostin’s writing process, the real-life places on Oak Bluffs that inspired her, why “love is at the center of everything,” and Black excellence.

Ahead, we share the top takeaways from the event, and you can also watch the full recording here.

There is a real home in Oak Bluffs that inspired the story

Sunny Hostin has been summering on Oak Bluffs for many years. Every day, she takes a walk along the same seven-mile route, which winds by a home that has always caught her eye. She started imagining the people who lived in the home and what their stories might be. She wondered: If someone were to inherit a home like this, what history and secrets might they inherit, too? Later, it would become the inspiration for Chateau Laveau, which Hostin considers to be the main character of her novel.

Hostin wanted to depict all kinds of Black love throughout the book

“In my mind, love is at the center of everything,” said the author. “I wanted to explore relationships. It’s meant to be a light, beach read, but if we are exploring the lives of Black folks, it has to be nuanced; it has to be complicated. And at its center, is our love for each other.” Hostin expertly weaves together depictions of the love between family members, friends and especially Black married couples, because that kind of Black love is not showcased nor celebrated nearly enough.

A ‘historian at heart,’ Hostin did research for each character

Hostin is a voracious reader of nonfiction and African American history and—hearkening back to her tenure as a federal prosecutor—did thorough research when developing her characters to make sure she got every detail right.For example, she took the time to figure out what a woman like Ama, elegant and self-made, would collect and have as hobbies. Ama collects fine art by Black artists and keeps bees for the sake of sustainability. She is a beacon of Black excellence and the image of her character grew and changed as Hostin gleaned more knowledge.

Hostin didn’t truly feel like a writer until ‘Summer on the Bluffs’

Hostin’s memoir was painful for her to write, but the words came to her easily, since she was recounting her own life. This novel, however, was a different experience entirely. She was able to create her own world and have control over that world and also learned how to speak through characters. “I told my editor one day toward the end, ‘I’m freaking myself out! I’m alone at home and I’m having conversations with these people in my head,’’ said Hostin. “I was feeling weird and she said, ‘No you’ve become a writer. Your characters have become real to you,’ and I think that’s how it changed me. This, I felt, made me a writer, made me a creative.”

Black women are the author’s intended audience for this book—including herself

Hostin typically covers social justice stories as a co-host of “The View,” which can often skew heavy, and when she was looking for books that she could escape into (and one that featured successful Black women at the fore) she couldn’t find nearly enough. So she decided to write her own, despite some skepticism. She knew that there was an audience of readers anxiously awaiting a book like this one.

You can visit every place mentioned in the novel

Every location Hostin included in the novel is a real place on the Vineyard—so you can use the novel as a guide when planning your next island getaway.

Hostin has a favorite character you might not expect

While she originally suspected it to be Perry because she too is an Afro-Latina woman married to a doctor, Hostin’s favorite character is Ama—the elegant godmother—for her complexity and her agency. The author fell in love with Ama for her unapologetic nature.

The hardest scenes for Hostin to write were the ‘steamy’ ones

A self-proclaimed “nice Catholic girl,” Hostin didn’t plan to include any sex scenes in the novel. Advertisement:

“My editor said, ‘I love the pages—where’s the sex?’ And I said, ‘There’s no sex,” and she’s like, ‘It’s a beach read, they’ve got to get it on,’” said Hostin. “That was very difficult for me to write actually; I blush when I read it now.”

It was important to show ‘the full picture’ of Black men

Hostin was pushing to dismantle the notion that Black men are a monolith. Even when just considering the differences between characters Omar (based on Hostin’s loving husband) and Carter (based on her father), readers can gain a better understanding. “Our men are so complex, and I am surrounded by strong Black beautiful men,” said the author. “I’ve got to really show the world the full picture of these Black men.”

‘Summer on the Bluffs’ is the first in a trilogy

Called the Summer Beach Series, all of the books will take place in historically Black beachfront communities. The second novel—which Hostin is about 150 pages into at the moment—will take place in Sag Harbor, New York, and the third will be set in Highland Beach, Maryland.

The secrets came first when writing the novel

Hostin’s mother once told her that “we are as sick as our secrets” and the author used that piece of wisdom as a starting point for her story, giving each character a secret early on in the writing process and then expanding the plot from there.

Hostin makes ‘writing appointments’ with herself

The author will carve out a couple of hours during her busy life to just write. From 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., she heads into her office and plans to write then no matter what, even if it’s forced at times. She believes this is the best way to finally finish a book.

The author hopes readers will be inspired to write their own stories

“It was meant to be aspirational,” said Hostin. “It’s a love letter to Black love in all its forms…I hope people will take away from it that this world exists. I hope that they will visit the Vineyard…and I hope more people are encouraged to write their stories.”