My First Month As A College Student

I became a college student this week.

Yes, it’s true, and I can imagine what you’re thinking right now. “It’s the end of September! What kind of school are you going to that starts their classes so late?”. And if I were you, I’d be thinking the exact same thing. But I will explain.

My classes did in fact start last month – August 28th, to be exact. It happened, but I’d say that I was quite unprepared for college. The summer was not focused on my education, but rather my excessive sleep and several empty promises. I sort of lost my way, I guess. High school tired me out so much and I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with myself. I didn’t even decide for sure where I was going to college until early/mid August, and before then, my plan was to just get a job, earn some money and go with the flow. But it wasn’t as easy or as simple as I thought. I had to choose college in order to have some order and a foundation in my life.

A week before classes started and it finally sunk in what was going to happen. College. The official next big step in my life. I’d be looking back at it for my entire life, no doubt. Though I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t like the idea, I decided to just go through the motions, do what I could. “Do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do.”

Well, in short, it wasn’t so hot at first. The first day felt normal in an odd way; I hadn’t at all absorbed what was going on. I wasn’t as there as I should’ve been. The whole week was like that, and I just went along with it, treating it as something that I had to just get up and do. And I thought that that would be the whole college experience, and I was thoroughly disappointed. I felt like I didn’t fit in there, like everyone knew what they were doing besides me.

But things got better on their own. Earlier on I’d agreed with myself that I’d try my hardest to make something out of the college experience, to not squander it and get good grades and to actually do something. So I guess that’s when I started having to implement it. More and more work got assigned, and I had to adapt.

And this week is when I realized, it happened. It wasn’t like I instantly became aware and successful in college life, but that I came to a realization. It was just after class on Wednesday, and I was sitting right outside of the library, and I was thinking about all the things I had done. I just left class early. I worked on my homework and studied by myself. I saw a cute girl and wanted to say hi. I evaluated what my days had been spent doing and I realized: I was a college student. The way I acted and the things I did finally reflected it. At that moment I felt it, and it was different than how I’d felt on the 28th of August. And it was okay.

Now I hope I’ve avoided turning this into a meaningless babble about my recent college experience. But I hope you guys understand my feelings, and I’d love to know if any of you have been through anything similar. Comment below with questions or comments; I love to hear about other people’s experiences as well.

The Layman’s Guide To Publishing A Book

I must say, a lot of people have been asking me about exactly how to write a book. I’ve written and published my own young adult fiction book, The Month Of June. It surprised me how many people have never met an actual author before. When I tell them, most people react by asking about how I did it. I’ve gotten so many responses of “How did you do that?” or “Can you help me publish my own book?”

It inspires and motivates me when I hear that people like what I do, and that they would like to do the same thing. Publishing a book is a very rewarding experience, and can really teach you a lot. Unfortunately, many people who want to be an author end up giving up on their dreams, thinking that the process is too difficult and a lot of work for just a little bit of payoff. In reality, while writing a book is not a simple thing to do, anyone that really wants to and has the perseverance can do it.

I present to you this guide on how to publish your own book, in the simplest words possible. I understand how frustrating it can be to look up advice but the only things you can find are in confusing vernacular that you don’t understand. Short and sweet but still comprehensive, this guide will tell you all that you need to know to get your own book out there.

 

Step 1: Write your book

This, right here, is probably the most important part of the whole process, and arguably the most neglected. Before you really do anything in the publishing process, you have to have the entire book finished—completely finished.

People wonder what the first step in getting themselves published is; this is it, hands down. I see people coming up with all these ideas for cover designs, marketing ideas, and shelf space in local stores, but their book isn’t complete yet. This is a big mistake. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself when thinking of the big picture, but you just have to remind yourself to take it slow, pay attention to details and write a good, quality book. That will pay off a lot more in the long run than trying to sell a rushed, low-quality book.

(If you’re having trouble actually writing the book, like coming up with ideas, plots, etc., this article probably isn’t what you’re looking for. Another article, The Layman’s Guide To Writing A Book, will be published and linked here.)

Once you have written your book in it entirety, you will have what’s called a manuscript—a document or folder containing every part that will be in your final book. The manuscript doesn’t count the table of contents, acknowledgements and other sections that don’t have to do with the plot or the content of the book itself. These are still important and will come in later, but are not included in the manuscript or in the process of writing the book itself. It might be a good idea to start thinking of that stuff now, though, to save some time and to make the whole book connect well.

 

Step 2: Choose how to publish

The next step is to choose how you want to publish your book. There are 2 ways to do it; they are both very different and have their own pros and cons.

The first method is just regular publishing, known as traditional publishing. With this method, you take your manuscript and send it to a company, which will take your book and do everything for you.

I consider this to be its own step because there are several things you need to consider when choosing a publishing method. These include your budget, experience, writing ability, book format, and how much time you have. If you’re a first-time author, looking for a good profit, or are willing to put in more effort to actually getting your book out there, then self-publishing is definitely the way to go. If you’re willing to invest a good amount of money into your book, have confidence in your writing, want a perfect, flawless final book, and your main focus is getting yourself on the main stage no matter what it takes, you should think about traditional publishing.


Traditional Publishing Self Publishing
Ease Can be quite difficult. Requires a lot of effort and persistence Easy to do; almost anyone can do it, if they have the right tools
Time (after book is written) Anywhere from about 6 weeks to over 6 months About 2 to 6 weeks
Money Can take a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Different options. Free, takes a portion of your profits, or a package that can cost about as much as regular publishing.
Legitimacy Professional and recognizable. Looks legit; people, companies, and contests are more willing to accept it. Might be seen as sketch or unprofessional. Not eligible for many contests and benefits.
Skill/Experience Knowledge in writing and publishing greatly helpful. Previously published authors or those who have help from others. Not much extensive knowledge needed in the field. Not necessary to have worked with similar things before.
Accessibility Lots of help and problem solving available to you. Editors, marketing managers, proofreaders, and many other specialists are there to help you. Not much help; the help that is given is in the form of FAQs and articles on the website of the company. Very little if any human help is given.
Inventory Must order hundreds of copies at one time Can order as many or as few copies as you wish
Exposure Extensive marketing that will gain exposure for your book nicely and efficiently Extra effort will have to be put forth in order for your book to gain the exposure it needs
Reward Lots of popularity and high potential Creative freedom and good profit

While there are benefits to both, my book The Month Of June was self published, so that’s the option that I have more experience with. I’ll still discuss both options in detail, but I might know a few more details about self publishing because of this.

 

Step 3: start the process

Now,  you’re ready to truly start publishing your book. The only thing standing between you and having your work displayed out to the entire world, is these next few steps.

-Traditional publishing 

The first thing you need to do is choose a publishing company. This is the company that will take care of you and your book during the entire publishing process. Each publisher has different types and standards for what books they choose to publish. The company will read your manuscript and decide if they want to publish it. If they do, they will print it for you, can ship you the copies, and will provide a variety of other services.

A ton of different options available for you as to which publishing company you want to choose. There are a handful of big name publishers out there–Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. They are the publishers of some of the best, most popular, and most lucrative books around. If you’re lucky and skilled enough to get published by one of these companies or their children, then a long successful future with your book is guaranteed. But these companies have very strict standards and are very hard to get into. A successful book is very attainable with a lesser known publisher.

The way I see it, choosing a publishing company and getting published is very much like applying for college. There are so many different options, some more popular than others, some more successful others. Each one also has different benefits and services that are meant to attract new people. You can apply, but there’s no guarantee for getting in, and the better you are, the better chance you have to get into one of the better options. After a long, strenuous waiting period, you’ll either be met with the bitter taste of rejection and uncertainty, or the sweet taste of success and a bright future.

Assuming that the second option will happen, then this step is almost taken care of. Your company will do almost everything for you. First, they’ll edit your manuscript–they will make sure that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Then they’ll format it, which is when they take the text and make it fit into the layout of the book. This is when it goes from a text file you send them, to the actual appearance it will have when fully printed. They’ll all work with you and make sure that it will be just what you want.

Then, they should ask you to write the front matter sections. These are the parts of the book that comprise the first few pages, and aren’t actually part of the book itself. This includes the table of contents, acknowledgements, the preface, and the half-title – that part at the very beginning that just states the title again. I must admit that I have less experience in traditional publishing, so I’m not 100% sure at what point they do this. But I’ve always presumed they do it at this point, so I’ll add it here. Note that not all of the sections are required, and there are actually a few end matter sections as well. Click here for a list of all the different front and back sections.

-Self publishing

This step is actually quite different than in traditional publishing. Unlike its lengthy and more expensive counterpart, you don’t have to wait for any sort of approval to publish your book. The publishing process can begin as soon as you’re done writing it. No approval, no phone calls; you just find a good provider and you can start it off whenever you want.

There are several different self publishing websites you can use. I’ve looked into and even used more than one website over the years. Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and Createspace are the ones I’ve used, and I’ve looked into a few others. They all have slightly different things to offer, but the one I use and highly recommend is Createspace. They are owned by Amazon, so once you publish on there, it also goes on the Amazon website, and they’ll help you make it into a Kindle Ebook as well. They can even get it on the Barnes & Noble website, which will make it available for order in stores!

Whatever website you use, you’ll have to make an account on there, of course. Then you have to make the first basic decisions for your book. Decide what the trim size will be. This is what the dimensions of the book will be when it’s completely printed. The most common trim size for an average novel is about 6″x9″ (15×23 cm), but you do have flexibility, especially depending on what book you’ve written. Obviously, a picture book is not gonna have the same trim size as a sci-fi novel.

Then, depending on what size you choose, they will give you a template, which is a file you download that you paste your book and information into, which will then be printed as the final book. This is the equivalent of the formatting section of the traditional publishing section.

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This is an example of an average self publishing template. You take the applicable information and enter it inside the template

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s The Little Mermaid – Glasgow High School

The Little Mermaid – an awesome classic Disney animated movie, remade and turned into a musical! This version was produced and performed by the amazing folks at Glasgow High School, a public high school in Newark, Delaware. I personally attended this play, and I had a great time! The acting was spectacular and the performance went smoothly–it’s too good for me not to tell you about it.

Plot

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Surely you already know the story of The Little Mermaid, but for those of you that don’t, it is a very interesting story! Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen,  The Little Mermaid is the story of a teenage mermaid name Ariel. Born into royalty, she is very dissatisfied with underwater life, and longs to go above the surface, to learn more about human life.

Her mother, Queen Triton, despises humans and forbids her from going above the surface. She misunderstands humans, for when Ariel was younger, her father was killed by a human hunter. Ariel sees past it, though. She, along with her best friend Flounder, travel to the surface every once in a while in order to collect human artifacts and visit their companion, a seagull named Scuttle. She has a huge collection that she absolutely admires, and sings the song “Part Of Your World” in order to describe her sorrows.

“Part Of Your World” performed by Liz Hamil

Sebastian, a crab working for Queen Triton, is assigned to look after Ariel. Meanwhile, Ariel is busy longing about the beautiful man she saw when she went to the surface, a prince named Eric. Unknowingly, Eric spotted Ariel as well, and is also obsessing over her. He is amazed by how beautiful she is, and vows to come back and find her.

Soon after, Ariel meets her mother’s evil sister, Ursula. Ariel is desperate to go and find Prince Eric, so she strikes a deal with Ursula–she will give her legs and the ability to walk on land like a normal human, just as she’s always wished. But, in exchange for being a human, Ursula gets to keep Ariel’s voice, rendering her mute. If she can get Eric to kiss her within 3 days, she will remain a human forever and get her voice back. If not, she will turn into a mermaid again and her soul will belong to Ursula forever.

The Little Mermaid is an enchanting play that teaches love, acceptance, and friendship. It’s something that all family members can enjoy, and it was performed really well right here. The musical aspect of it was amazing as well; I applaud the orchestra for doing as good a job as they did!

Cast & Crew

Everyone involved did a spectacular job! I’m really proud of them for working so hard and putting on such a great show. The costumes were as accurate as possible, and did a really great job of bringing the play to life. Here are pictures and descriptions of the main cast and crew:

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Ariel – Elizabeth Hamill

 

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Prince Eric – Jacob Zervas

 

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Sebastian – Ernest Drake

 

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Flounder – Sabina Troncone

 

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Ursula – Julian Turner

 

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King Triton/Queen Triton – Ahlyssa Sooy-Mattson

 

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Scuttle – Nathalie Balog

 

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Grimsby – Scot Nordmeier

There are many more than just those above, of course! I will include pictures of the entire cast in the credits at the bottom of this post. More photos will also be uploaded in a photo gallery that I will upload later.

Interview

Luckily, I got the chance to interview one of the star cast members. Jacob Zervas, a senior at Glasgow and the actor who played Prince Eric. He’s also a personal friend of mine who I’ve known since a very young age. He was open to answering any questions that I had for him, so I decided to do a mini interview and ask a couple questions about the play, the production, and the experience as a whole. Here are the questions and answers below.

Q: So Jacob, that was a really awesome performance you put on last weekend, needless to say. How long were you working on it? How often did you practice?

A: We start rehearsals in November and work scene by scene with occasional run through of what we know. As we get closer to the play we begin having everyone at rehearsal and run either act one or two for 2 weeks and extend practice from 4:30 to 5. The last week before the show has 3 rehearsals that run from 2-9 at night and two Saturdays 9-1. As for the sets,the art teacher and a variety of cast and parents all start helping in build days, mainly Saturdays, building, painting, and doing everything in between, as all of our sets are made from scratch. Both rehearsals and set creation takes up to essentially the night of the show, same deal with costume creation/collection.

Q: Very nice. How difficult was the acting for you? Did you have trouble with any specific parts?

A: I was very nervous with signing in general. I’ve never been a great singer per say, but my confidence and vocal range improved drastically throughout making the show.

Q: I see. Was the kissing part difficult, or did you guys have a sort of unspoken agreement?

A: Well me and Liz have dated before and we’re super comfortable around each other so we both knew at the beginning that the whole kissing thing would be a piece of cake.

Q: Lastly, how would you rate the entire experience, on a scale from 1-10?

A: Everything has there rough spots. There’s always alot of stress when getting down to the wire. But the payoff is so amazing. So 9.5!

If you missed the showings of this play, no need to worry! If you are in or around the northern Delaware area, in early march, then you will be able to catch the play put on by the Glasgow High School drama team. They do something different every year, and each one is just as amazing as the last! If I get the chance, I’ll surely blog about the one they have next year. It’s sure to be a 10/10 performance that you and the whole family will love!


Credits

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(Photo credits are at the bottom. If I used one of your photos, please notify me so that I may give you the proper credit.)

Cast

Ariel – Elizabeth Hamill

Prince Eric – Jacob Zervas

Flounder – Sabina Troncone

Grimsby – Scot Nordmeier

Queen Triton – Ahlyssa Sooy-Mattson

Sebastian – Ernest Drake

Ursula – Julian Turner

Flotsam – Gabrielle Lalondriz

Jetsam – Daria Syphrett

Chef Louis – Adam Goldman

Scuttle – Nathalie Balog

Winward – Devonte Moore

Leeward – Zackary Curles

Mersisters – Amanda Leonhard, Audrey Hernandez, Swetha Surampudi, Delilah Jones, Amanda Ewing, Brooke Ahlstrom
Ensemble

Fiona Piper, Noelle Tinkler, Yasin Ahmad, Dominick Jones, Bailey Hiller, Jennifer Leonor, Morgan Wilson
Pit Orchestra

Christopher Celfo – conductor

Carol Stiltz – Flute, piano

Matthew Hetzler – Clarinet, Bass

Kirsten Haden – Oboe, English horn

Andrew Hetzler – Violin

Brian Williams – Trumpet

Amy Boyd, Stephen Bockius – French horn

Misty Fiske, Keith Gallion – Piano/keyboards

Behind The Scenes

Stage Managers – Danielle Nichols, Nicole Kyle

Sound Technicians – Connor Vanderslice, Michael Just

Lighting Technicians – Robert Garrison, Carly Korup, Skyler Ross

Curtain – Brennan Nichols

Stage Crew – Jarel Acosta, Connor Hartland, Robert Davis, Brennan Gallamoza, Ashleigh Baaden, Kayla Davisson

Chief Set Build/Design – Brennan Gallamoza

Student Set/Build Design – Michael Just, Zach Curles, Delilah Jones, Dominick Jones, Kristie Yarnall, Yanaidis Jaime, Shakire Ortiz, Scot Nordmeier

FX Technician: Adam Goldman, Herb Goldman

Production Assistant – Carly Adams

Additional Credits

Music/Orchestra Director – Christopher Celfo

Drama Director – Scott Staab

Choreographer – Nichelle Lanier

Costume Design/Alteration – Marti Diffley

Student Director – Heather Wilson

Photo Credits – Carly Adams, Samantha Saville

 

 

The Wisdom of Crowds – a 1-week long experiment done by me

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” -Confucius

Ah, people. Billions of us have existed and communicated with each other for thousands and thousands of years. And arguably the most important parts of our survival as a species: knowledge, wisdom, and communication. Without those, we would be nowhere.

These ideas are the basis of the famous social concept, The Wisdom of Crowds. Developed by James Surowiecki, it states that if given a large quantity for people to guess the exact amount of, the average of all their guesses will be more accurate than any one individual guess.

It sounds crazy, but it actually works. A BBC documentary as well as a few TEDx videos have been done about this theory. The documentary even demonstrates the theory, when a professor tells students to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar. The average of all their guesses was less than 1% off from the actual number of jellybeans. Additionally, this was done in the early 20th century, where Sir Francis Galton was able to accurately guess the weight of a bull by averaging the guesses from 800 villagers.

Seeing this concept for the first time, it really intrigued me, and naturally, it made me want to try it myself. So that’s exactly what I did. Here is the whole entire process of me replicating this experiment, and analyzing the results!

(bottle of skittles) Continue reading

How To Turn Your Handwriting Into A Custom Font (with pictures)

This seems to be one of those things, y’know? One of those things that begins as a fleeting idea in your mind, and then you Google it to see if it’s really possible. Then, you find out that it is indeed very possible, and you end up bookmarking it, promising yourself that you’ll do it once you have enough time. One of those things.

That happened with me, honestly. As with many things, I put this on the back burner, hoping to do it once I had some time–but I never did. I pretty much forgot that this was even a thing, and so I never got around to doing it. Until today, that is. I was thinking about something interesting that I should do, and I remembered about this idea, the thought creating your own font using a pre-printed template. I looked into it more, and as it turns out, it’s a LOT more simple than I thought! The whole process, from start to finish, took me less than an hour in total, and the results were better than I thought they would be.

Perhaps you have wondered about this yourself. Maybe you have been curious about what your handwriting would look like if it were typed on a computer screen, or to try to trick someone into thinking a typed essay was handwritten. I’m showing you this guide so you’ll all know how easy it is; hopefully you won’t have any reservations, and maybe you’ll even try it out yourself!

Step 1: Print out your template

For this entire tutorial, I’ll be using a website known as MyScriptFont.com. This website is very specifically dedicated for this exact purpose–for creating your very own customized font. I’ve heard about this site from a few different sources, so I decided to go with it.

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This is the page you will be directed to. The first thing you have to do is to get one of their pre-made templates. Basically, all this does is it tells the website what each letter is supposed to look like. e.g., whatever you write in the box labeled “E”, it’ll let the website know that that is what the letter E is supposed to look like. Simply click on either one of the template links (I prefer the one that says “PDF”, although for some it doesn’t make a big difference) and download it like you normally would.

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This is what the next page should look like. Each one of the squares has a watermark made to show which box corresponds to which box. It starts with the uppercase letters, then the lowercase letters, then the symbols, then the accented letters. All the characters that you’d need on a regular basis, really.

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This is what my hard copy looked like. My printer was out of ink so I used the public one at my school, but any printer at all will work, so long as it has a good amount of black ink and it prints nice and evenly. See how the letters in the boxes are really light, barely noticeable so that you can only barely make it out? It’s supposed to be like this, actually. This ensures that the only thing that scans is the letters that you write, and not the watermarks themselves.

Step 2: Fill out your template completely

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Now, fill out all of the boxes with the correct letters. Again, the watermarks should be very light, but you should still be able to see them well enough to make out which ones are which. Use a black felt pen for the best results and dark, uniform letters. I decided to use a regular black pen, but if you happen to be a perfectionist and want your font to be real solid, then a felt pen would be the way to go.

Step 3: Scan your template

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Once that’s all done, you simply have to scan the template, in order to get the information back to the website. For people who don’t do it regularly, scanning may seem like something difficult or foreign, and you may feel tempted to push something aside once you find out that it requires a scan. That’s far from true, though; this is my first time scanning something myself, and it was actually pretty simple.

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The process varies depending on what computer you have, what programs are available, and what scanner you used., but if you already have things set up, it should be a breeze. I simply went into Microsoft Paint, selected the “From scanner or camera” option in the ‘Files’ drop down menu, and then clicked “scan”. If your template is aligned right on the scanner, then it should pop up in your previously blank MS Paint document, and at that point, all you need to do is click “Save”.

Step 4: Upload your template

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Now, here’s the fun part: where you actually get to see what your new font will look like. Click “Choose File” and then find the file that you saved in the previous step. Oh yeah, and the awesome part about this step? You get to name your font, too! I chose “Times New Hayden”, since that’s what I’ve always imagined that I would name my font, if I ever were to get around to making it. Anyways, once you name your font, click “Start” (don’t mess with the output format, by the way), and it should lead you to a page that shows you a preview of what your font will look like. It should show some or all of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. If it all checks out, then click the blue text there at the bottom and download the file. As you can see, my lowercase ‘0’ is a little too far to the right, but it’s manageable.

Step 5: Install and start using your fontfontcreationsteps2

This is the final step you have to take before you can finally use your font. Go to your document in the File Explorer, or, to make it easier to find, move the file onto your desktop. However you do it, you now have to right click on the file and select ‘Install’. This just tells the computer “Alright everyone, this is a legit font. Let them use it whenever they want”. It does require the administrator password though, for me at least. After that, the font is officially installed on your computer and is ready to use. All you need to do now is test it out…

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It works!! A completely new font was just created from scratch in a relatively small amount of time. I’m very pleased with the results; I expected to have many problems that would require a ton of troubleshooting, taking up at least the rest of my afternoon. But that, in fact, was not the case. I had minimal problems with the maximum results–something that is great to have with projects like this.

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This is how Times New Hayden looks compared to my actual handwriting. Pretty neat, right? This is a fun project that I strongly recommend doing, for anyone with a little bit of free time looking for something cool to do on the Internet. The possibilities are endless!

To download and use Times New Hayden yourself, click here. Otherwise, feel free to comment below with what your experiences were like with this project, or any tips, advice, or questions you might want to share.