Awesome Q1 2014 at MentorCloud

2014 has been an extraordinary year so far at MentorCloud - amazing advisors, collaborative clients, fantastic friends here at Runway and elsewhere, and increasing interest in our platform from all over the world.

Our vision is and has always been to “Build a Mentoring Planet,” where hundreds of millions of us are connected to support one another in our pursuit of professional and personal aspirations. Over the past 90 days, we have showcased our platform to people from Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, France, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia. Wow! Mentoring is now a global phenomena and is being recognized as the only way for true wisdom to be transferred from one individual to another, from one generation to another.  The new era of mentoring has arrived and we are truly leading the way. Thanks to all our ‘MentorCloudians’ who have joined our journey so far.

The cultures, languages, expectations, aspirations, and local conditions may be different from one user to another, but what we are finding as a common theme is people’s desire to accelerate their lives and careers by connecting and engaging with the right people anywhere in the world. This is so universal. With the right mentor(s), one can be on the fast lane to achieve success quicker, provided there is willingness to work hard, to listen, to be open to new ideas, and most importantly to be accountable to someone else -- in this case, a mentor.

Mentors on the other hand want to share with those they care about and have a connection with. What’s in it for them? We have spoken to hundreds of mentors, and they tell us repeatedly that it is the immense satisfaction of paying it forward, of being able to add value to someone else, the sense of pride and recognition to accelerate their own career, and in the process to learn about themselves and their own leadership style and influence.

Exactly a month ago on the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday, we coined a new meaning for WWW: “World Wide Wisdom,” at your fingertips, to give and receive.

Next time, I will write about an amazing person I learned of recently. It was Sheila Forte-Trammell who taught me that mentorship is a professional responsibility everyone must undertake to see their profession thrive, and this person I am going to write about is doing exactly that. Stay tuned.



MentorCloud's Blog Carnival: Mentoring Edition [vol. 1]

Mentors matter. You matter. 

At MentorCloud, our vision is to ‘build a mentoring planet,’ where hundreds of millions of people around the world can connect to share expertise and to accelerate one another’s professional, academic and personal goals.

We are kicking off 2014 with a Blog Carnival on our favorite topic: mentoring. A Blog Carnival is a means to collate the wisdom of the blogosphere on a particular topic, adding to it our team’s perspectives and reflections. Think of this as an ‘insightful summary’ of thought-provoking articles from authors who are as passionate as we are about that particular topic.

MentorCloud’s Inaugural Blog Carnival on “Mentoring”

Recent years have made mentoring a mainstream strategy for career advancement and entrepreneurial success. The simple notion of asking for another’s guidance, support, and wisdom is experiencing a revival in this new age of global connectedness and social media. From students to working professionals to entrepreneurs to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the power of having good mentors is transformative. Equally powerful is to be a mentor for someone else. As our CEO puts it, “We grow by helping other people grow.”

Mentorship Defined

Mentor Signposts.jpeg

But who is a mentor, exactly? The reality is that anyone can be a mentor, as long as he or she is willing to share their practical knowledge or skill set with another person they care about. A good mentor does three things: cares, shares, and inspires. You might already be a mentor to someone, and you most likely have a mentor or mentors who you rely on for professional and personal advice.

Emerging Professionals contributor Heather Ludwig makes it simple in her article, “Mentoring - the Yoda Way”: quoting politician John C. Crosby, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” But she notes that recent trends in technology and globalization have resulted in “today’s emerging professionals [not] getting the mentoring they need to have a successful career.” Noted Forbes contributor, angel investor, and Babson College Professor Peter Cohan reiterated the exact same issue for entrepreneurs in his seminal article “Silicon Valley’s Mentoring Gap.”

Responsible Mentorship

The issue is not the lack of good mentors. The issue is that many potential mentors do not envision themselves in that role. As Alfred Edmond Jr. of Black Enterprise comments in his insightful article “Mentorship is Earned, Not Owed,” several mentees might selfishly view the mentorship process as an opportunity to exploit resources and connections, without giving back or paying it forward.

Professionals who have benefited from good guidance in their own careers should then take the time to pay it forward by becoming mentors themselves. Jay Baer, social media guru aptly sums it up this way in his message for 2014 – “Remember the virtuous circle. The more people you help, the more people you’ll have helping you.”

Yoda Student Master.jpeg

There are plenty of opportunities for mentees to accelerate this cycle. By respecting your potential mentor’s time and energy, you establish yourself as a conscientious, worthwhile mentee. In Crosby Noricks’ article, “How to Lean In to a Mentorship That Works,” she outlines five ways to approach a mentor: appeal to their interests, engage them on their turf, ask pointed questions, compliment them, and - when applicable - establish clear timelines and expectations.

"The Gift That Keeps On Giving"

By identifying oneself as a valuable asset to a mentor, a mentee also increases his or her potential to serve as a mentor for someone else, distilling and contributing to the knowledge passed down from the prior relationship. As Julie Winkle Giulioni notes in “Why Mentorship is the Gift That Keeps on Giving,” there’s a positive feedback loop for mentors as well. Mentoring can provide tremendous growth opportunities for mentors, who can hone critical leadership skills, improve their own work and performance, and stand out as an exemplary role model within one’s organization and network. Rather than emphasizing the search for helpful guides, Giulioni highlights the allure and importance of presenting oneself as an ideal mentor.

Inevitably, strong mentors embody traits and skills that are desirable for a much wider variety of potential mentees than they might have time to coach. As On Mentoring author Alan Saporta notes, sometimes "silent mentors" - or "someone in your life you select to learn from without ... having a formal mentoring relationship with them" - have as powerful an impact on a mentee's development. Through positive or negative reinforcement, mentees can mimic or condemn behavior, therefore creating a subtle but significant shaping mechanism that can tremendously benefit an individual.

How To Build a Better Mentor

Regardless of how valuable a mentor might be, their skills could always be improved. The Stanford Social Innovation Review posted “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders,” a must-read for mentors seeking to enrich and fortify their relationships with their proteges. Jennifer Przybylo and Nina Vasan provide a thorough checklist of actions a mentor must consider, including “humanize yourself,” “foster community,” and “make regular appearances.” These informal qualities are more valuable, and feasible, with the introduction of social media. As angel investor Aaron Pitman comments, finding and keeping up with a mentor has become extremely simple with the inclusion of social media, so relationships have more potential for growth.  

Mentor Mentee Spokes.jpg

Like with any relationship, though, be sure to seriously consider your mental and emotional state before engaging in a mentorship. In her article, “Revisiting Some Basics: For Mentors,” Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones compiled some preliminary considerations for anyone interested in mentoring. She advises professionals to evaluate themselves, their workloads, their motivations, and their potential benefit to a mentee before agreeing to bring someone under their wing.

Of course, mentors aren’t perfect, and mentees shouldn’t aspire to walk directly in their leaders’ footsteps. In fact, the failures of a mentor can be just as enlightening as outlining their successes. Regi Campbell, an experienced CEO and entrepreneur, astutely described the “Six Reasons Mentors Tell ‘Failure’ Stories.” Campbell breaks down how failures can make a mentor seem human. “If you’re a mentor, open up. Loosen up. True strength is revealed in vulnerability, so tell your mentees where you’ve screwed up. Let them learn from your mistakes.”

Different Mentors for Different Needs

The effects of good mentorship can last a long time. Jon Titus, formerly with Design News, dedicated the final blog post of his career to “The Importance of Mentors.” He described how various mentors through his life, beginning in high school, influenced his career path and offered “guidance without issuing ‘orders’ to do something… and helpful advice and suggestions based on their experiences. [They] had a solid moral and ethical foundation on which they based their actions.” Importantly, Titus comments on the deep personal relationships he built with his mentors.

Noted workplace psychologist and LinkedIn influencer Marla Gottschalk stresses the importance of a carefully-selected Fab 5, "a group of key people to serve as a 'catalyst,' encouraging both exploration and excellence." By developing a broad foundation, professionals can access a strong knowledge base, derived from a varied group of mentors.

Formalized Mentorship

Though mentorship can be a fairly ambiguous concept, there are structured programs that offer mentorship on particular topics. The Leeds School of Business (University of Colorado, Boulder) runs a Professional Mentorship Program, which emphasizes academic achievement and career placement. In a post on the Leeds blog, Jillian Trubee describes how her mentor’s ongoing support has positively affected her major and career prospects.

Mentor Comic.jpg

The UK’s NIH Research Clinical Academic Training scheme trains nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals with the guide of accomplished subject-matter experts. This quasi-academic situation hearkens the question: what’s the difference between a “mentor” and a “teacher”? As Professor Annie Topping quite thoroughly explains, a mentor can serve many roles at once, including but also exceeding that of a teacher.

Mentors v. Other Leadership Roles

Authors Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith of Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning further clarified the delineation between mentor, coach, and leader. Rather than expecting performance deliverables like a coach would, mentors work on improving their mentees personally. Georgia Feiste outlines in “Mentoring as Part of the Leadership Role” Bell and Goldsmith’s SAGE mnemonic. The acronym, which stands for “surrendering, accepting, gifting, and extending,” is key for any mentor to keep in mind. 

A very important distinction between a mentor and a supervisor is the mentor’s distance from the outcome of his or her mentee’s work. In “Mentorship,” Jennifer de Graaf notes that “My mentor understands the industry, knows me personally, and has exactly zero stake in the results of my decisions unlike those other resources.” This separation allows the mentor to provide the unbiased, “outsider” perspective on the topics about which mentees seek guidance. That being said, many mentorships evolve naturally and without any formal agreement.

"What Life is All About" 

All in all, mentoring is a dynamic, nuanced topic that manifests in hundreds of forms. What’s clear is that mentoring is a positive act, with both sides interested in improving themselves and others. For those interested in learning more about the art of mentoring, JumpStart’s Annie Zaleski provides further reading in “8 Must-Read Mentoring Articles.”  

Graduate Ma’ayan Plaut, writing on the Oberlin blog, sums it up:

“You know what I love about all of this? The cycle, the circle. I have mentors, my mentors have mentors, and I'm gonna be (I am?) one, too. We're here to help each other, whether it be someone to talk to or talk up. Learning from each other. It doesn't really stop when you say stop. In all these situations, it's about being open to the possibilities. … it's what life is all about.”

We couldn’t agree more. Mentorship is the best way to prepare aspiring professionals for their upcoming careers, students for their academic challenges, and entrepreneurs for the long road ahead. It’s the only way for practical wisdom to be transferred from one person to another or from one generation to the next. By being a mentor and seeking a mentor, we can “build a mentoring planet” together.

MentorCloud wishes you a very happy, prosperous and success-filled new year!



Make a pact with yourself and time.... to make an Impact.

I was recently talking to my good friend Jacqui when these statements just popped out of me during our insightful conversation: "We shouldn't leave this planet like we leave a casino - made some money, lost some, met some interesting people, had a good time for sure, bye bye". This blog is a further reflection of those statements.

It is well-known and proven time and again that individuals who make an Impact get recognized as heroes. CEOs who constantly innovate and take their companies to new heights (e.g. Steve Jobs - RIP), Social entrepreneurs who come up with new models for empowering millions of people (e.g. Mohammed Yunus), Leaders who work tirelessly to bring freedom and social justice (e.g. Gandhi, Mandela - RIP), Teachers who inspire students to learn and Doctors/Scientists who develop new cures to alleviate human suffering (e.g. millions of such individuals around the world). In all these cases, the individual's actions have left permanent footprints on people and society.

What kind of footprints do we want to leave behind? Those left on a sandy beach can get eroded easily by wind or waves washing ashore. Those left on 'settling concrete' are likely to stay much longer.

In my opinion, every aspiration, ambition, goal in a person's mind is analogous to 'settling concrete.' They must be noticed, attended to and nurtured at the right time. We all have the power to do so by being passionate and caring Mentors. I believe and have experienced it time and again personally, that we know more what we think we do (of course, there are some people who think they know more than they actually do and that is a topic for discussion at a later time, not here!!!).

Many a times, lessons you have learned from your life/career experiences, stories you have heard, challenges you have faced and creative solutions you came up with - all of this go into an archive someplace, so you always don't know they are there. They tend to pop out and flow like a river when someone (Mentee) approaches you with a question or comes to seek your insights. When that happens and the Mentee recognizes exactly what to do and actually accomplishes something, believe me, you have made an Impact - a lasting one at that.

So, make a pact today with yourself and time (that is ticking away non-stop) that you will make an Impact on as many people as you can by sharing your expertise as a Mentor. The Impact you will see yourself making will be very satisfying and rewarding. Be a Mentor and Connect with a Mentee, today, and begin the process of Impacting. The clock is ticking....and hundreds of millions of aspiring individuals are out there wanting to settle nicely and reach their full potential.



Life Lessons from Mountains and Rivers...

I love nature and am passionate about preserving it. There is a wonderful native american quote that says: "We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." So, we all share a responsibility to safely deliver our beautiful planet to our future generations. Coming back to the topic of Mountains and Rivers, I did my undergraduate at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India where the 'Mountains Move' and 'Rivers Stay Still.' Basically, our campus buses were named after famous mountains in India, and our dorms were named after famous rivers:-) This is more a nostalgic fact that came to my mind and not what I want to leave you with today.

Lessons from the Mountains: 

  • They stand tall and strong. As professionals, we must stand tall by having high ideals and values, and demonstrating strength of character as we build our professional brand and progress in our career journey.
  • Mountains are the first to receive water when it rains, but they do not keep the water for themselves. They retain enough to sustain the local vegetation, and allow all the remaining water to flow down the mountain. Similarly, we must also inculcate the habit of holding on to whatever minimum we need, money or things, and share the rest freely with others. Just like how we enjoy watching a beautiful waterfall, others will recognize when you share what you have, passionately and sincerely.

Lessons from the Rivers:

  • Rivers flow hundreds and thousands of miles, and nourish the land along the way. The land becomes richer because of the river flowing by it. We can do the same by making a positive impact on the people we come across everyday.
  • Rivers never flow in a straight line - they crisscross the landscape and find the best path to reach their destination. Similarly, as professionals and entrepreneurs, we also need to be prepared to navigate through life's challenges and stay the coarse until we reach our goals.

Final words to take home -

  • Rise and Share like a Mountain.
  • Enrich and Persevere like a River.



The magic of 'accelerated success'...

When the right people come together at the right time, magic happens. The magic I am referring to is 'Accelerated Success.' I have written earlier about one such magic that happened between me and my mentee Srikanth - who is now a senior at MIT and co-founder of two start-ups. Our vision at MentorCloud is to see this magic happen 'Hundreds of Millions of Times, globally' where people with high aspirations are able to find and engage with other experienced people that are willing to share their knowledge. At MentorCloud, we imagine a world where - An engineer in India is able to learn and grow with the help of a subject-matter expert in Boston & vice-versa - A first-time entrepreneur in South Africa is able to learn entrepreneurship best practices from a mentor in Silicon Valley - A fresh woman graduate in Utah is inspired and guided by a woman executive in New York. This is what we refer to as 'Mentorship Beyond Borders.' With today's social media revolution, this is possible and MentorCloud is paving the way.

Ignition in a car happens when the spark comes in contact with the fuel.

Success Acceleration happens when the aspirant comes in contact with the right mentor.



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Ice Cream, Entrepreneurship, and Mentoring

Yesterday, the "Let's get the Taharka Brothers' ice cream truck on the road!" campaign to raise funds through Kickstarter was a big crowd-sourcing success: they asked for $28,000 but raised $34,557 in a thirty day period.

Why present the entrepreneurial success of a small ice cream company in a MentorCloud blog post?

On 16 July 2013, Taharka Brothers' CEO Devon Brown gave an interview on the radio show here & Now.

Brown is an entrepreneur who invests in improving the futures of other young African American men in Baltimore. He and a group of friends started Taharka Brothers Ice Cream. The company’s training program uses profits from the ice cream business to teach young men about entrepreneurship and business.

The radio interviewer asked what Devon Brown thought set him apart from his less-successful peers. He talked about how he would see friends taking business cards but not following up, not taking advantage of their opportunities. Brown said he followed up on every contact and made sure to thank those who helped him. He asked for mentoring and took advantage of the advice and support his mentors shared. He ended with a moving tribute to his mentors.

Devon Brown's success is a great example of what the combination of hard work, some luck, making the best of opportunities, and good mentoring can do. We celebrate the Taharka Brothers team and wish them continued luck and prosperity.

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Hopper Conference, Partnership Book

MentorCloud is preparing to present at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (“GHC-13″) in October 2013 and is also  working with partner People to People (P2P) to publish a new book called Triangular Partnership: The Power of the Diaspora.  A pre-production version of the book will be distributed at the 5th Annual Global Ethiopian Diaspora Conference on Health Care and Medical Education (28 September 2013, in Washington DC).


Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (“GHC-13″)

Katy Dickinson and Andrina Chaffin of MentorCloud will be presenting a poster called “Lifetime Value of Mentoring to Technical Women”  at GHC13.  Katy Dickinson is also moderating a Student Opportunity Lab (SOL) topic at GHC13: “Empowering Technical Women Through Global Mentoring” - with TechWomen alumnae Sukaina Al-Nasrawi of Lebanon, Adla Chatila of Lebanon, Heba Hosny of Egypt, Maysoun Ibrahim of Palestine, and Trish Tierney of the US Institute of International Education (IIE). GHC is the largest technical women's conference in the world.  Registration is now open and GHC has announced that Keynotes and Plenary Sessions will include Maria Klawe (President, Harvey Mudd College) and Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and Founder,

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is presented by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).  Katy Dickinson is on the ABI Advisory Board. More information: "Grace Hopper and AAUW Conference Prep" (4 June 2013 entry on Katysblog).


Triangular Partnership: The Power of the Diaspora

The developing book will contain chapters by leading subject matter experts on “Triangular Partnership” - a term used by People to People (P2P) to describe the relationship between three global groups:

  • Diaspora
  • Developing Countries Institutions
  • Western Institutions

People to People (P2P) is a MentorCloud partner, a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care, reducing the spread of diseases, and providing technical assistance in promoting and improving environmental health – particularly in Ethiopia and in diaspora communities.  P2P Founder and President is Ethiopian-born neurologist Enawgaw Mehari, MD.

As a sample, you can see MentorCloud’s chapter “Professional Mentoring – Fostering Triangular Partnership” by Katy Dickinson and Ravi Gundlapalli. More information: "Publisher?" (3 July 2013 entry on Katysblog).

Images Copyright 2012-2013 by Katy Dickinson and People to People



AAUW, IISc Presentations by MentorCloud

This has been a traveling summer for Team MentorCloud: IMG_9753

In June, Katy Dickinson presented at the the American Association of University Women (AAUW) national convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Other presenters at this remarkable event included Lilly LedbetterLinda Alepin, and US Senator Olympia Snowe. On behalf of MentorCloud, Katy Dickinson presented an “Online Mentoring” Special Interest Group (SIG) with Deepti Gudipati, Director, Leadership Programs at AAUW.

More pictures and details are on American Association of University Women in New Orleans (11 June 2013 entry on Katysblog).


In July, Dr. Ravi Gundlapalli presented an interactive session at the Bangalore campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on "Accelerating your career success". "Work hard & use time wisely" began his talk to over sixty IISc students and few faculty members. The event was hosted by the newly formed student club EntIISc: Entrepreneurship and Innovation at IISc, and was supported by IISc Students' Council and IISc Alumni Association. During his 45-minute session, Dr. Ravi shared lessons learned from his own entrepreneurial journey and introduced an easy-to-remember 5-step process called KARMA for aspiring students and entrepreneurs to accelerate their success:

  • K - Know your strengths, goals, mentors and alumni to call on for advice
  • A - Act with confidence, passion, sincerity, persistence
  • R - Reflect on how you are progressing, what is working/not working
  • M - Measure progress, resources, perception & branding of your journey
  • A - Acknowledge help of others, reward yourself for successes achieved

Students asked insightful questions throughout the session: how to build great teams - how to protect your ideas - how to take an idea and convert into a viable product - how important is fund raising - how to select mentors - how to be a good mentee - how does one choose when to quit job and become an entrepreneur... The complete video is available on

Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson and MentorCloud


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TiE Mentoring Success Metrics

IMG_8433 TiEcon “The World’s Largest Conference for Entrepreneurs” was held 17-18 May 2013 in the Silicon Valley, California. MentorCloud powered the TiE Silicon Valley MentorConnect program presented as part of TiEcon.  MentorConnect has several elements, including a web-based platform (MentorCloud) and a series of speed mentoring events called Open Mentoring Sessions.  Two such sessions were held recently, one in December 2012 at the TiE Silicon Valley headquarters, then a much larger two-day event presented at TiEcon in May 2013.

The combination of MentorCloud's web-based platform, reinforced by regular in-person group meetings, is powerful and effective - promoting growth in both community engagement and satisfaction.  TiE SV MentorConnect uses this combined structure for communication.  There has been strong improvement in positive feedback from all participants, detailed below. MentorCloud is proud to support the TiE program!

December 2012 Metrics:

  • 82% of Mentees rated the event as "Highly Recommended or "Recommended"
  • 90% said that the event "exceeded" their expectations
  • 95% said they would recommend a similar session to their friends

May 2013 Metrics from TiEcon: Responses from 138 of the 185 Mentees:

  • 98% of Mentees were satisfied with their MentorConnect experience. (64% awarded the highest possible rating of 7) - see pie diagram below
  • 96% said they would recommend a similar session to others.  (70% awarded the highest possible rating of 7)
  • 92% said they would like to continue conversations online after the TiEcon program
TiE 2013 Mentee Satisfaction Rates 1=Strongly Disagree 4=Neutral 7=Strongly Agree

Responses from 30 of the 49 Mentors:

  • 93% of Mentors were satisfied with their MentorConnect experience. (80% awarded the highest possible rating of 7) - see pie diagram below
  • 97% said they would recommend a similar session to other Mentors. (83% awarded the highest possible rating of 7)
  • 97% felt that their time was well spent
  • 93% felt that the Mentees were well prepared and asked excellent questions
TiE 2013 Mentor Satisfaction Rates 1=Strongly Disagree 4=Neutral 7=Strongly Agree

Selected Mentee quotes collected at TiEcon 2013:

  • "There is no other place where you can get access to this kind of expertise and mentorship."
  • "The #1 reason to attend TiEcon."
  • "The MentorConnect Progam is a clear demonstration of TiE's commitment to entrepreneurs and building future leaders."
  • "This is for everyone."

Selected Mentor quotes collected at TiEcon 2013:

  • "Awesome."
  • "Entrepreneurs should always reach out to successful entrepreneurs."
  • "I learned more than the mentees!"
  • "Excellent structure of organization of mentor and mentee interaction."

For more on this topic, see "Combining In-Person Meetings with Web-Based Mentoring".



Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Connecting Women Business Owners

IMG_9051 This week Billie Dragoo (named among the top 10 women entrepreneurs in the nation by Fortune Magazine, CEO RepuCare, and 2013 National Board Chair - National Association of Women Business Owners - NAWBO) has been in the San Francisco Bay Area meeting business and political leaders. Ruth Stergiou (CEO, Invent Your Future Enterprises) and Katy Dickinson (Vice President, MentorCloud) have served together on the Advisory Board of the Anita Borg Institute for many years. Ruth Stergiou brought Billie Dragoo and other leaders from Billie's home state of Indiana to the Silicon Valley to talk about mentoring, learn about MentorCloud, and for a tour of the Plug and Play Tech Center by Canice Wu (President, Plug and Play). Last night, US Congresswoman Jackie Speier and the Advisory Council of Invent Your Future Foundation hosted a reception to honor Billie Dragoo at San Francisco's exclusive Metropolitan Club.






Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson