One Idiot’s Guide to Writing for the Huffington Post

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I’m taking a break from my usual purported humor writing and indisputably annoying bragging about my daughter to write about my experiences as a newbie Huffington Post contributor. I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about becoming a contributor to HuffPo, so I decided to write this guide that I hope will help others. If you only want to read Trump tweets or reports on our search for the perfect hippie college for my daughter, you can stop reading here.  But if you’re interested in getting your writing published and promoted on HuffPo, read on.

A few disclaimers

First, I am new to HuffPo. I can only write about my personal experience and what I have gleaned from reading about the experiences of others, so your results may vary. Also, I’ve almost certainly made egregious errors in this article because, as the title of this article clearly states, I am an idiot. If you find errors, let me know, and I’ll fix them as long as they are comprehensible to my puny brain. You can leave corrections in the comments below or email me at yourmomsguidetolife@gmail.com.

Second, in 2015, HuffPo changed its contributor platform. I’m on the new platform, but I’ve tried to educate myself about the legacy/old platform. There are some important differences between the new platform and the legacy platform.  I’ll explain those differences as needed. Spoiler alert — If you’re on the legacy platform, stay there. The new platform has some significant disadvantages.

Third, there will be some people who will read this article and get pissed at me because they think I should not be telling people how to get on a site that does not pay. Seriously, it’s already happened. Instead, they will insist that I should put my efforts toward getting existing HuffPo writers paid. Point taken. HuffPo should pay. No question. But for those of us who are newbie writers, trying to build an audience and portfolio, HuffPo still has some cachet and usefulness. (Although, as I will explain below, if/when people get wind of how the new platform really works, that cachet will probably evaporate.)

Enough of the disclaimers. On to the idiocy.

Q: How do I get on the Huffington Post?

There are several ways to get on the new platform.

1) Win the HuffPo Lottery — Think I got on the platform because of my superior writing skills and riveting content? That’s what my mother thinks, but the honest answer is “nope.” I got on the new platform during one of its open registration periods. I was surfing the web one day, trying to figure out how to get a wider audience for my writing when I stumbled across the HuffPo contributor platform during one of its open registration periods. I was able to create an author page and start posting content. Voila! I am a Huffington Post contributor! Yay me! So the fact that I am now a “Contributor” has nothing to do with my writing and is solely attributable to a combination of timing and skillful Googling. Please don’t tell my mother.

From what I hear, these open registration periods are rare. (It’s closed now.) Before she left HuffPo, Arianna had grand plans to increase the number of HuffPo contributors from 100,000 to 900,000 – effectively turning HuffPo into Tumblr! Hence, the new, more open platform. I don’t know if that’s still the strategy, but if you want to get on the platform, you should periodically check the Huffington Post Contributor Platform website to see if registration reopens. You, too, may win the HuffPo lottery. (Although I’d trade my HuffPo lottery win for cash lottery winnings any day.)

2) Write something so amazing that HuffPo begs you to let them publish it.
I guess it goes without saying that this did not happen to me. But I’ve heard stories of people publishing something on another forum that was so awesome it caught the eye of a HuffPo editor. They were then contacted by the HuffPo editor who set them up with a contributor account.  Mission accomplished.

3) Use the Huffington Post pitch form — aka send your writing into a black hole. Huffington Post has a pitch form that allows you to allegedly send blog ideas to the editors.  I’m not sure I believe the hype. Before I got on to the platform I used this form several times. Never heard a thing back. I’ve come across random instances where the contact form supposedly worked, but those stories are rare. Really rare. It can’t hurt to try the form, but my sense is that this is not a particularly effective way to get on to the platform.

4) Stalk an editor  When I say “stalk,” I do not mean it in a way that is likely to land you on an episode of Dateline. I mean identify an editor who works on a section your writing would fit, and make contact. Be polite, but be persistent. Back in the halcyon days when Arianna was editor in chief, there were countless stories of people emailing a story directly to her which she would pass on to her minions so that a blogging account could be set up for the author. With Arianna gone, this obviously won’t work now (although if you’re dying to write for Thrive, try sending her an email). The current HuffPo editor in chief is very, very new, so I don’t know if this tactic will be effective with her. (Based on the little I know about her, I think not.) So your task will be to identify an editor and then send him/her an email or make contact on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not going to give you explicit instructions about how to locate and stalk an editor because I suspect that would make most of them not very happy with me. But there is a masthead, and a little Googling will probably get you to a name and email address. (Note: the masthead does not include every HuffPo editor, so get creative to find the ones who are not listed. Think of it as an episode of CSI Cyber — only without the C. Also without the S. But with the I.) Also, the email format is largely consistent throughout the organization, so it’s not hard to figure out an email address if you have a name. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work. I tried it with several different editors a number of times before I won the platform lottery. I never received a response. I like to think that was because they were too busy, but they probably just thought my writing was crap.

5) Network If you know someone who has a working relationship with a HuffPo editor, ask that person to recommend you to the editor. Join FB writing groups. I made a useful connection with a HuffPo editor who was a member of a FB group I joined. (More on that later.) I recently tried to help other writers in a different FB group get HuffPo accounts through another HuffPo editor I stalked. (Still waiting on the results of that effort, but I did get a story for another day about how my well-intentioned attempt to help some other writers proved the adage that every good deed will be pissed on by someone. For the record, the pisser was not a HuffPo editor/employee.) I’m sure there are countless other ways to make contact with an editor there in a meaningful non-scary-stalkerish way. Good luck!

Q: I’m on the Platform and have submitted an article. What happens now?

It depends on whether you’re on the new platform or the legacy platform. This is the area where the advantage of the legacy platform is most readily apparent.

On the legacy platform, your first article would be reviewed by an editor who would select the HuffPo section (aka “vertical” in Huffspeak) on which the article would appear. Upon approval, the article would appear like magic on the selected vertical. When I say “appear” that means that the article would show up (at least briefly) on the web page for the chosen vertical. After that first article, you were free to write about any topic you liked and submit it to the vertical of your choice. The article would go through an approval process, but barring a surprise disapproval, the article would appear on the vertical you chose. So if you normally wrote about PMS for the women’s vertical but decided to write about beer of the month clubs for the college vertical, no problem. Bottom line is that if you were already on the platform and submitted an article, it would almost certainly appear on the web page for the vertical of your choice. If the article was not approved, it would not appear anywhere on the Huffington Post website. I’ve heard reports that writers who stuck with the legacy platform still have their articles handled in this manner. What they write will most likely appear on a HuffPo vertical of their choosing.

Articles submitted on the new platform are handled in a completely different way. Once an article is submitted on the new platform, it immediately becomes public with a HuffPo link, on the HuffPo masthead, with no editorial review but with a teeny, tiny disclaimer saying , more or less, “Hey, we here at HuffPo haven’t read this, so we’re not responsible. Let us know if there’s something reprehensible in it. Have a nice day!”

So you can publish literally anything on HuffPo these days, and after you submit the article on the new platform, you will will be able to send your friends links to the article and tell them that you were published on the Huffington Post. Go you! As long as no one complains about the article, it will stay on the Huffington Post unless you decide to remove it. That means I could literally publish my grocery list on the Huffington Post if I wanted to.

Now that I’ve thought of it, I just published my grocery list on the Huffington Post. You can see it here. Share it with your friends! Or report it if you think it’s reprehensible!

So what happens after you have published your article on the new platform?  In most cases, absolutely nothing. Your article will sit there in obscurity except for the people to whom you have sent the link and who you have begged to read it. If you run a search for your article on Google or similar, it will not show up. If you run a search on the HuffPo search engine, it will not show up. It will not appear on any verticals. So you’re published on the Huffington Post, but no one will be able to find you without the link. Depressing, no?

Then how do you get out of HuffPo purgatory? The new platform has a process called “promotion.” I’ve had articles promoted three ways. My first promoted article happened after I tweeted it to an editor who I thought might enjoy it because it involved our shared alma mater. (By stalking her on Twitter, I discovered we had attended the same college.) She never contacted me directly but shortly after I tweeted her, I logged onto the contributor platform and noticed that a yellow box with the word “Promoted” had appeared above that article. I clicked on the article and found that it had been reformatted. A new photo was added. The teeny, tiny disclaimer language was removed. My byline was moved. And after a little searching around, I found that my article had popped up on the front page of the Parents vertical. It was also searchable on Google etc. and on the HuffPo search engine. I felt like a real girl! Er – a real Huffington Post contributor! I’m not sure that the tweet was the cause of the promotion, but the coincidence was striking. And strangely, if I hadn’t logged on to the platform, I might never have known that my article was promoted.

I had another article promoted through an even more incomprehensible process. I had had no contact with anyone on the vertical it appeared on, but it was promoted. So there must be someone who is randomly looking at articles. Go figure.

The other way I have had articles promoted is thanks to an editor who generously offered to answer some questions I posted on a FB group for writers. She was also a member of the group. She gave me her email, and the next time I submitted something that I thought would be a good fit for her vertical, I emailed the link to her, and she immediately flagged it for promotion. I’ve had a couple of articles promoted thanks to her. She also told me that she would be flagging my profile, which would make it more likely that I would get an editorial review for promotion for my future articles. As a bonus, she’s pretty hilarious herself, so I’ve really enjoyed our communications.

The other bonus of having a supportive editor at HuffPo is that your articles are far more likely to appear on HuffPo’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s great if your article appears on the vertical but the way you really get eyes on an article is if the link is distributed by HuffPo’s social media. Some of my promoted articles have appeared on social media. Some have not. I think it depends on capacity and an editor’s commitment to getting an article out there.

Q: Now that You’ve Been Published and Promoted a Few Times, What’s Your Opinion of Being Published on HuffPo?

Setting aside the pay issue (which is huge but something I have no control over), I think getting promoted is marginally useful to Newbies. People seem impressed that I’ve been published there, and I’m developing a nice collection of HuffPo articles that I can use as samples of my work.

I haven’t seen a huge increase in traffic to my website even though a link to my website has appeared at the end of every article. I know that other writers have had different experiences. I’m disappointed that it hasn’t had that effect for me.

I’m also disappointed that I don’t have the cross-vertical flexibility that writers on the legacy platform have. I’m reasonably confident that articles that fit into my contact editor’s vertical will be promoted, but articles that don’t fit her vertical languish in HuffPurgatory. I feel like I have to court a different editor in every vertical I’m interested in writing for, and that’s a lot of work. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. Although HuffPo has the potential to give you a huge audience, I’ve found other outlets that give me a lot more flexibility as to subject matter, will consistently pick up my material and promote it on social media to a good sized audience, are absolutely hilarious, and offer the possibility of pay. (I’m looking at you, Sammiches and Psych Meds/MockMom. You guys are the best!)

So I’ll probably continue to post material to HuffPo, especially if it fits into my editor/contact’s vertical. But I’ve found myself going to SPM first and HuffPo later. And if an article doesn’t get promoted within a day or two of posting, I remove it from the HuffPo platform and post it on Medium (with exceptions like the Grocery list — which will remain on HuffPo for all eternity or until it is removed for being reprehensible. Amen.)

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A Year of Holiday Tweets from Donald Trump

New Years Day

Martin Luther King Day

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Chinese New Year

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Valentine’s Day

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Presidents’ Day

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St. Patrick’s Day

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April Fools Day

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Passover

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Easter

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Cinco de Mayo

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Memorial Day

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LGBT Pride Day

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Fourth of July

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Labor Day

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Indigenous People’s Day

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Halloween

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Veterans’ Day

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Hanukkah

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Christmas

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Note from Your Mom — With this exception of the first tweet, this is a satire, written by a hater and loser.

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The Gospel of Festivus

Wikimedia Commons

And it came to pass on the 23rd of December in the year of some people’s Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty mumble-mumble, in the City of Kansas in the land of Missouri, that a woman, great with child, who was not a virgin because she had been impregnated by her husband (although the child does not like to think about that even now), went to a hospital to give birth.

And so it was, that, on that date, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And lo, she had one last cigarette before she was wheeled into the delivery room where she was put under general anesthesia — because that’s how babies were born in the Sixties. And she brought forth her firstborn daughter, but she didn’t realize she had given birth until she had recovered from sedation and thought, “Ouch.”

And she wrapped her daughter in clothes she had purchased from Marshall Field’s during a shopping trip to Chicago, reached for her pack of cigarettes, and gave her daughter to the baby nurse so that she could get a good night’s sleep. Because breast was not best in the Sixties.

And because the hospital was in the City of Kansas, there were in the area, a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion, a girl named Dorothy and a Wicked Witch, keeping watch over some ruby slippers. (OK, not really, but if you grow up in the City of Kansas, that’s what everyone thinks, so let’s go with that.)

And, lo, a flying monkey came upon Dorothy and her friends, and they were sore afraid. And the flying monkey said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of marginal interest, which shall be of no importance to all save a few.”

“For unto you is born this day in the City of Kansas, a girl, which shall grow into ‘Your Mom,’ the author of this Festivus Gospel — although she will not actually be anyone’s mom for such a long period of time that her parents will complain bitterly that they will be dead before they become grandparents.”

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in clothes from Marshall Field’s, lying in bassinet that shall, in years to come, be considered a suffocation danger to newborns. And what with the prenatal cigarettes and martinis, the bottle feeding, the dangerous bedding and no car seats to speak of, thou shalt be amazed that the babe shalt survive to adulthood. But she shall.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of flying monkeys, praising the higher power of your choice (or no higher power at all if you’re not into higher powers), and saying, “Lo, I bring you tidings of comfort and joy. For from this day forward, thou shalt celebrate the birth of the babe on the 23rd day of December as ‘Festivus’ and thou shalt perform feats of strength and thou shalt air grievances on that day.”

And it came to pass, as the flying monkeys were gone away from them into Oz, Dorothy and her friends said one to another, “Let us now go even unto the City of Kansas and see this thing which is come to pass, which the flying monkeys hath made known unto us.”

And they came with haste, and found the parents and the babe. And when they had seen the babe, they made known abroad the saying which was told them by the flying monkeys concerning this child. And they engaged in feats of strength and aired their grievances. And lo, the parents looked at the Tin Man and sayeth, “Thou look like an unadorned pole.” And the friends danced around the unadorned Tin Man pole in celebration of his very high strength-to-weight ratio. And there was much rejoicing.

And behold, there also came three wise guys to City of Kansas, saying, “Where is she that is born the inspiration for Festivus? For we are come to say nice things about the babe to her parents even though we really think that all newborns are boring and look squishy. . . . Yep. This one too.”

And when the wise guys were come into the house, they saw the babe with her parents, and fell down. Because the wise guys had been drinking. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto her gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Only without the gold — the wise guys, being wise guys, just brought frankincense and myrrh. And the babe’s parents wondered WTF they were going to do with frankincense and myrrh and why couldn’t the wise guys have brought a nice engraved feeding spoon from Tiffany’s or offered to pay for diaper service for a year instead?

And, lo, from that day forward until the end of time, the multitudes have gathered each year on the 23rd day of December to perform feats of strength, air grievances and dance around an unadorned pole resembling the Tin Man in honor of the birth of the babe, who has grown into an excellent airer of grievances but a mediocre dancer at best.

So Happy Birthday to me, the First Festivus Miracle. And Happy Festivus to the rest of us.

Wondering what to give Your Mom for her birthday? Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. A little cake would be nice too.

 

 

 

 

 

More College News!

Boo has been accepted to two more colleges: Lewis & Clark College, alma mater of Monica Lewinsky; and Bard College, which is the #1 School for Dinner Parties according to The Onion. Yay, Boo!

And now, so as not to bug the crap out of everyone, Boo will be taking a month long break from announcing college admission decisions. She should hear from Bennington by the end of January. Then, the rest of the decisions will come in March — when we will recommence bugging the crap out of everyone.

But don’t worry, in the interim, I will still be here, bugging the crap out of everyone. Especially Boo.

Boo Has a Choice

Boo got her second acceptance yesterday — to Lawrence University. Lawrence is one of her “wild card” schools. Even though it may seem like we visited every small liberal arts college in America, we didn’t make it to Appleton, Wisconsin to visit Lawrence. Lawrence was recommended to Boo by her college counselor. The more I’ve learned about it, the more I understand why it would be a good fit. Hippie, music conservatory, small, etc. And in one of those little ironies, I’ve learned that my great-grandfather graduated from Lawrence and was later given an honorary degree by the school. (He was a trailblazer in advertising in the way, way back.)

In other good college news, my oldest nephew was accepted early decision to Tufts University yesterday. He is thrilled, and I am thrilled for him. My brother (affectionately known as “the Pinhead”) and his wife done good. So congratulations, Spawn of Pinhead!

Quiz — Who Said It? Trump, Kanye or Your Mom?

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  1. By 50 per cent, [I am] more influential than any other human being.
  2. When you’re the absolute best, you get hated on the most.
  3. I have made the greatest creation of all time. All time.
  4. All of the women . . . flirted with me, consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.
  5. I don’t think there’s a living celebrity with more weapons formed against him, but I don’t think there’s one more prosperous.
  6. I am not a fan of books . . . I am a proud non-reader of books.
  7. I’ve won many awards.
  8. Most people don’t understand the challenges of being so smart and creative.
  9. There’s nobody . . . bigger or better than I am.
  10. You should only believe about 90 percent of what I say. As a matter of fact, don’t even believe anything that I’m saying at all.
  11. I have great feelings of compassion and helping people.
  12. There’s nothing I really wanted to do in life that I wasn’t able to get good at. That’s my skill.
  13. I have made so many sacrifices for others. Maybe the pope should make me a saint.
  14. As a taste maker, I find the best of everything.
  15. Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure,it’s not your fault
  16. I’d like to address the false stories and noise that have been engineered by the media.
  17. The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.
  18. Seriously, I know best.
  19. No one appreciates everything I do for other people.
  20. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.

Answers: Trump 4, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17; Kanye 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20; Your Mom 3, 8, 13, 18, 19

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Fictional Billionaires Who Will Not Be Serving in the Trump Administration

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By now it is apparent that President–Elect Trump would prefer to have only billionaires in his administration. Despite the power and prestige usually associated with serving in a senior administration position, Trump has faced difficulties in attracting billionaires who are willing to sell their souls and serve. Having run out of real life billionaires, Trump extended offers to several fictional billionaires. All of them turned him down. Below are Trump’s notes about the offers.

Richie Rich (Personal Asst. to President) — We could stay up all night and tweet things! Also can make prank phone calls to foreign leaders! “Hello? Is this Kim Jung-un? Love your hair! Is Don King your stylist?” (Great black man, Don King.) So fun! RR declines. 🙁 Thinks he’s too mature for us to get along and is afraid of inciting nuclear war. Dumb! Also must finish 4th grade. Plan B — Ask Barron if he’s interested. Nepotism be damned.

Jed Clampett (Secretary of Energy) — Good credentials! Knows all about black gold, Texas tea. Loves fossil fuels. And eating road kill. Flattered by offer but reluctant to move away from his cement pond in Californee. Also afraid I might grab Ellie May’s cat(?). Much obliged but no thanks.

Scrooge McDuck (Secretary of the Interior) — Can barely understand a word he says. May be speaking Spanish. Or Australian. Sounded like “Squawk! . . . Don Jr. . . Squawk! . . . Eric . . . Squawk! . . . Hunting rifle . . . Squawk!” Really only understood when he yelled “Fuck You” at the end. Note to self — find Huey, Dewey, Louie and Donald (Duck, not Trump) and refuse to pardon them next Thanksgiving. Just like families of terrorists.

Jay Gatsby (Second Vice President) — My kind of man! Extremely rich thanks to questionable business practices. Knows how to throw a party. Should have made him my running mate instead of Mike “Mr. Serious” Pence. Cannot serve because he is fictionally dead.

Khaleesi (Secretary of Defense) — Can use dragons to defeat enemies. Element of surprise. ISIS will not expect dragons. Or army of neutered former slaves. Iron throne would look fantastic in Oval Office after gold leafing. Brief call. I love the women. No one respects the women more than I do. But this woman is scary AF. Too scared to ask her to join cabinet.

Thurston Howell III (Secretary of Transportation) — Knows defects in transportation infrastructure. Boating accident left him stranded for years with poor people who could not find manufacturing jobs on deserted island. Sad! Too busy with litigation against Harlem Globetrotters related to ownership of resort on island. Note to self — tell kids that blind trust should invest in resort.

Mr. Monopoly (Housing and Urban Development) — Who better to run HUD than a guy who has made a fortune building cheap hotels in Atlantic City and then going bankrupt? Good conversation about real estate acquisitions using fake money. Cannot serve because he had to go to jail. Directly to jail. Did not pass Go. Did not collect $200.

Oprah (Anything she wants) — not fictional! Who knew? Also, thinks I’m a dumbass. Told me to go to hell! Will show her! Will not invite her to my next wedding! The best wedding! The most luxurious and classy wedding. To a 23 year old whose resemblance to a young Ivanka is purely coincidental.

Boo Is Going to College!

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Boo got her first college acceptance today — to Mills College. Mills was a late addition to her list of colleges and falls into the category of “keeping options open” if, for some reason, she decides to stay close to home. Still many more decisions to come (not to mention a few more applications to complete). But it’s a relief to have one in the bag.

Trump Tweets The Gilmore Girls

[Editor’s Note — I discovered that our President-Elect spent the long Thanksgiving weekend doing what many of the rest of us were doing – watching “The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” And of course, he tweeted about it. I hope it goes without saying that his tweets contain SPOILERS. But spoilers are really the least of your problems because these tweets are likely to ruin the show for you forever.]

WINTER

Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life Season 1 Air Date 11/25/16 Pictured: Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham

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SPRING

GILMORE GIRLS

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SUMMER

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FALL

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Musical Theater Reviews by Donald J. Trump

Unbeknownst to most of America until the “Hamilton” dust-up this week, it turns out that our President-Elect is a renowned theater critic. After careful research, I was able to locate a collection of some of his most memorable reviews. Unsurprisingly, he’s quite opinionated. Enjoy!

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