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Dear Vasilisa the Wise,

“Aladdin and the Princess,” by Virginia Frances Sterrett

I was planning to tell “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” for the Fairy Tale Lobby Storyswap at the NSN Conference, but now I read there is a 10-minute time limit for each story! My story takes 27 minutes and 17 seconds. I’ve been working on it for a long time and I can say without bias that I have created an outstanding piece of work! I am sure people would be grateful to hear it. I mean, how many times in their lives will they get a chance like this?

But–10 minutes? Really?

Should I just blow off this swap? I mean, I’ve had that “time limit” bluff pulled on me by emcees before, and it just doesn’t make sense! If people are swapping stories, they should be able to tell whichever story they want. The important thing is not how long it is, but how good it is, and mine is really great! Isn’t that ten-minute rule a bit much?

–Outraged in Oakland

Sagacia looked around the post office anxiously, then folded the letter and slipped it into her purse. Simplia closed the door on Vasilisa’s P.O. Box, its tiny “click” sounding like a thunderclap in the awkward silence.

“Tell me when that storyswap is again?” Simplia asked, changing the unspoken subject.

“Well, the National Storytelling Network Conference in Cincinnati goes from June 28 to July 1, that’s Thursday through Sunday,” Sagacia replied as they walked toward the waiting line. “The Fairy Tale Lobby swap is on that Friday morning at 10:45, right after the General Session.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Simplia. “Now I remember! I can hardly wait!” Her tummy grumbled, and she added, “Oh, and aren’t we Fairy Tale Lobbyists having lunch afterwards?”

“Yes!” Sagacia affirmed. “Everyone who wants to can meet at a cafe called ‘First Watch‘ for a Dutch treat lunch. It’s really close. You just step out the front door of the conference hotel, the Cincinnati Marriott at Rivercenter, turn left, walk one block, and–Voila!–there it is. I’ve seen their lunch menu, and they have great choices for vegetarians and carnivores, even for gluten-frees. Their prices are reasonable, too.” Sagacia rattled out the details with élan.

The postal clerk gestured the Simpletons to the window. Simplia placed their neatly addressed box of letters to Groping in Gretna on the counter, and Sagacia opened her purse to pay the postage. There it was: today’s letter, silent, tri-folded, trembling.

“I certainly hope our magical friends will have some advice for Outraged in Oakland,” she sighed.

“I think he needs more than just advice!” Simplia stated insistently.

Sagacia revised her statement on cue. “Well, maybe someone will know how to tell him what he needs to hear.”

“Bingo!” quoth Simplia.