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Thirty in Thirty Day 30

Thirty in Thirty Day 30        10 things I Learned

I made it! I challenged  myself to write and post  on my blog every day for the month of September as a way to jump-start my writing practice after several months away from it.

Here’s what I learned:

 

1.    I love and need to write. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I started doing it every day. Writing keeps me centered and is a much-needed outlet for my restless “monkey-mind.”

2.    I need more structure than I realized. I thought I could be somewhat casual about my writing schedule and things would happen when I was ready. Nope. Knowing I had to write and post every day kept me thinking about writing all day. Plus it got me up to my studio and in my chair where the work could take place.

 

3.    I can make time to write every day.  It has to be a priority.

4.    I can write under pressure. No waiting around for the “muse” to show up. I had to be at my desk and let her find me already at work. Knowing I needed to write something every day helped me generate more ideas.

5.    I like to write a lot of different things. I used the month to experiment with various genres and formats: fantasy, realistic fiction, essays, memoir, and even some poetry. Some were easier and more successful than others, but I enjoyed trying my hand at all of it.

6.    I have a hard time following rules when it comes to writing. I like writing to prompts when they spark an idea, but sometimes they are too restrictive. After about a week and a half of writing to the prompts provided I had to go my own way and just write what I wanted.

7.    I like having an audience for my work. I have written for years and have notebooks filled with stories, but most have them have never been shared with anyone. I enjoyed putting my work out and knowing someone is reading it.  It is a bit intimidating to do, but it got easier as the month went on.

8.    I need to be more organized with my work. I need to figure out a better system for keeping track of my ideas and stories. I will not be using Excel since spreadsheets send me over the edge, but I need something I can use effectively.

 

9.    I want to try another writing challenge. I am thinking of doing NANOWRIMO again. This challenge involves writing an entire novel ( approx. 50,00 words) in the month of November. I did that four years ago.

10.  I am ready to get back to working on one project at a time. I allowed myself to jump from one thing to another this month. Now that I have lots of beginnings and ideas, I want to pursue one until it is a shiny finished project.

If you stuck around all month, I appreciate it.

Thanks to all of you who offered feedback. It is gratifying when someone takes the time to make a comment.

I will be back to posting once a week.  Again, Merci!

 

 

Personality Types: They Matter More Than You Realize

Personality Types: They Matter More than You Realize

 

My review of Reading People by Anne Bogel

I was privileged to be a part of the Launch Team for this book and received an advanced copy earlier this summer. The book was released on September 19.

 

 

Through her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and her podcast What Should I Read Next? Anne Bogel has established herself as the Internet’s book maven, attracting hundreds of readers to her website as she extols the power of books and reading.

 

Now she has written a book of her own in which she explores another one of her passions: the world of personality frameworks and why they matter. Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything is the culmination of Anne’s exploration of the popular personality tools in use today.

 

Want to know about Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, StrengthsFinder or the Five Love Languages? They are all explored and explained, as are others.

 

The book is informative, extensively researched, yet quite accessible due to Anne’s gentle style and personal anecdotes that fill the pages. It reads as though you are having a conversation with a trusted friend.

 

Her purpose? To help each of us know and understand ourselves and the people around us, so that we may become better spouses, parents, friends, and co-workers.

Once you know your personality tendencies and those of the significant people in your life, you can apply the information to those relationships.

 

Being able to read the people around us gives us the tools to forge better communication in all areas of our lives: our homes and families, our workplaces and vocations, and our friendships. We begin to walk in another’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. When we can do that, we can make strides towards truly understanding one another.

 

I loved this book and have found myself referring back to it in an effort to change my perception and reaction to behaviors in those close to me. I highly recommend it o anyone who wishes to forge healthier and more productive communication in their circles of influence.

 

If you desire to explore your personality traits beyond the latest BuzzFeed quiz  ( i.e. Which fairy tale character are you?) , and have information that you can use to transform your relationships, pick up a copy of Reading People.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 25 The Key Part 2

Thirty in Thirty Day 25   The Key: Part 2

 

Today I am continuing a story I began on Day 22.   Synopsis: An old man shows up at Annie’s door and hands her an old key with a worn tag attached. The tag has indecipherable writing on one side and the numeral 8 on the other. Annie is confused about the key until she rotates the tag and realizes the 8 is actually the infinity sign.

 

 

It had been decades since Annie thought about the Infinity Club. How old had they been when she, Tessa, Ruth, and Claire had started it? Twelve? Thirteen?

Tessa, the mathematician and hands-down brainiest one had come up with the name for their little group of misfits. On their first day of junior high they had drifted together at an isolated table in the dim corner of the cafeteria. They were the pariahs in the dog-eat-dog world of seventh grade culture: shy, socially awkward, fashion disabled, and physically immature.

 

While their initial meeting had been forged in the humiliation of rejection by their more confident and astute peers, the girls had soon formed their own circle of friendship. Their forsaken table became a refuge, a haven from the daily humiliations and taunts from the other students.

 

They vowed to be friends forever and Tessa declared them the Infinities.

Ruth, who loved creating jewelry, made them each a necklace with the infinity symbol, which they all faithfully wore each day.

 

Their lunches soon became opportunities for observing the behaviors and rituals of the popular girls in hopes of emulating them. Claire, possessor of a wry and insightful sense of humor and a set of parents who were psychologists, declared they were conducting a human behavior experiment. She kept a notebook of the club members’ surveillance of the language, dress, and habits of the “It” girls.

 

Annie was the leader of the group. She displayed a confidence born of anger and a sense of injustice that she had carried from an early age. Her inability to “fit in” didn’t derive from shyness or lack of awareness. For her, it would never matter how much she copied the habits of the “Queen Bees” as she called them. The metal arm and claw that was attached to her right shoulder made sure of that. The advantage she had was  the other kids were afraid of her and her mechanical arm and she went to great lengths to reinforce that notion.

 

Part 3 Coming soon.

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 19: The Origin of Ideas

Thirty in Thirty Day 19   The Origin of Ideas

 

 

Yesterday’s post about my Wild Child’s coup for control of the Thirty in Thirty challenge led me to today’s post. Wild Child declared that she did not want to use prompts from someone else because she had her own ideas. So that leads to a question I often see on social media or hear from friends and acquaintances: “Where do you get your ideas?”

 

I must confess that I am always a bit nonplussed when asked that question. My initial response, influenced by Wild Child, and therefore not to be uttered aloud, is “You’re kidding, right? I have to tell my ideas to get in line and take a number.” This is a snarky answer, but actually close to the mark. I have so many ideas jumping around in my head that I have difficulty deciding which to choose. Currently I have three different major projects going, so I am constantly having to choose which one gets my time and attention from day-to-day.

 

Miss Rule Follower, Wild Child’s polar opposite, is more helpful with her response. I will take my cue from her. The short answer is I get my ideas from everywhere, because I think like a writer. The key is to be constantly open to the ideas coming at you all day long. I expect ideas and they show up, often pushing and shoving to get to the head of the queue.

 

Here is a list of ways to keep the ideas flowing:

 

  1. Carry a notebook with you everywhere . You never know when a great idea will show up and you need to capture it before it flits away. My policy is that any purse I carry must be large enough to carry a notebook to write in and a book to read.

  1. Read, read, read. Read widely; read everything. I get great ideas from newspaper articles, magazines, essays, poetry, fiction of all kinds, and non-fiction. I make a habit of reading 1 poem, 1 essay and 1 short story every day, just to fill my creative reservoir with great language and story structure. I also have at least one book of fiction and one of non-fiction that I am reading at all times. I never go anywhere without a book to read. I am always a bit surprised when aspiring writers say that they don’t read. That’s  like an aspiring chef saying they don’t like to eat.

  1. When you read, keep your notebook handy. Write down words or phrases that resonate with you. Save them for later to use as “story sparks” aka prompts. Write down questions you have about what you read as well.

 

  1. Wonder a lot. Ask questions about things you read, things you watch or hear. Write down your wonderings. Ask yourself “What if?, “Why?” “How?” Then write to find your answers. Use your notebook.

  1. Wander a lot. Get out in the world. Go to unfamiliar places. Pay attention to what you see, hear, and notice. Think about how you would describe that sunset, that view, that experience. Again, use your notebook. Let your mind wander as well. Silence and put away your phone, take out those ear buds, and look away from your TV or computer. Ideas come from authentic experiences and noticing things.

  1. Mine your life. Your family and personal stories are the seeds of great tales that only you can tell. Those crazy relatives and embarrassing moments from childhood are a treasure trove. Use them!

 

  1. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Explore your unique interests, hobbies, and areas of expertise. Share your enthusiasm and knowledge. If you are interested in something chances are someone else is too.

 

  1. Use artwork or photographs to stimulate ideas. Discover the story behind the images or make one up.

 

  1. Learn something new and keep a record of your successes and your failures.

 

  1. Keep an eye on current events, news, and politics. Record your opinions and frustrations. Have solutions? Write them down. The world needs your great ideas.

 

  1. Eavesdrop on conversations at coffee shops, the grocery store, or any other place where people gather. There are wonderful nuggets of stories hidden in the encounters of our fellow human beings. Plus it makes for a useful lesson in dialogue.

 

  1. Pay attention to people as you shop, sit in traffic, or wait in line. Make up stories about them as you observe their appearance, mannerisms, and actions. Not only is this great practice for writing description, it is entertaining as well.

 

In summary, a writer must be a keen observer and student of the world. Or as Wild Child would say, “Pay attention!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 18

Thirty in Thirty Day 18     Rebellion and Rule Following

 

 It was bound to happen.  My ability to follow a structured, prescriptive  program for any endeavor has a limited shelf life. It has always been thus.  Therefore, I was not surprised  this morning  when the inner rebel Wild Child who hides behind my reserved and obedient façade declared she was no longer even going to pretend to write from a list of prompts provided by someone else.  She shook her pen, tapped her notebook and said, “ I’ve got my own ideas!” 

If you are a recent reader of my posts you can spot the trajectory of this defection.  For the first five days of Thirty in Thirty I adhered to the prompts provided by storyaday.org with absolute fidelity.   I was able to make the prompts work with my Work-in Progress with Wild Child and Rule Follower both quite happy.  The trouble started when the website informed the participants that only 5 prompts per week would be provided. The other two days each week we were told to write whatever we chose as long as we wrote something.

Wild Child, seeing a small loophole, began picking at the edges of the portal to freedom.  “Yipee! “ But Prissy Miss Rule Follower insisted that the prompts should at least be chosen from the archives of the website, to preserve the spirit of the challenge. Wild Child chafed, but complied, plotting all the while.

The true rebellion began when I attended a literary festival last week in West Jefferson, NC.  My plucky little Wild Child relished in hearing gifted authors share and read from their work, participating in advice sessions for writers, and engaging in informal chats with fellow local wordsmiths.  I took copious notes, soaked up beautiful language and brainstormed. Writing ideas and prompts of my own filled up the pages of my notebook. 

Each day it became harder and harder to stick to the prompts provided.  The writing challenge that had begun with purpose and joy was becoming a struggle. I reasoned that I was tired from full days at the festival , so I allowed myself more leeway, which proved to be a slippery slope indeed. The ragged edges of that loophole were unraveling as Wild Child attempted to squeeze herself through. 

Last night I wrangled with words that fit the prompt for over an hour and then deleted the pitiful effort in frustration. I argued with my dear spouse over an inconsequential matter and then declared I was giving up writing.  He wisely did not comment on that declaration, which he has heard before. I huffed off to bed, but ten minutes later I was back up and at my computer. I knew what I wanted to write about, so I did an Internet search until I found a prompt that fit. The writing flowed and I was able to continue my streak to 17 days.

The big take-away from this for me is in the form of a question: Why did I keep trying to write to prompts that did not immediately spark an idea?  Or why did I think I needed to write to any prompt?  I can only think that Miss Rule Follower in her first attempt at Thirty in Thirty was trying to do it “right”.  She can be so earnest sometimes. She wanted to make sure the challenge was completed. She forgot that what matters is acquiring the habit of writing every day  in order to  improve as a writer and create a body of work. Thirty on Thirty is the writer’s version of a pianist practicing scales or a swimmer doing laps. It is the regular practice that is the key.

 

This is not to knock the use of prompts. I have had terrific pieces of writing that have come from using them. In fact, my middle grade fantasy project started from a prompt in a writing circle group. Writing a fantasy wasn’t even on my radar at that time. The right prompt at the right time can be powerful. Conversely, a prompt can also be a constricting influence on the imagination.

For the moment, peace reigns. A truce has been struck. Wild Child has taken control of the ideas and Miss Rule Follower is keeping track of the writing sessions. Each one has a role that suits her personality. It takes both imagination and discipline to be a writer. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that there is joy in the balance.

 

Thirty In Thirty Day 16

Thirty in Thirty Day 16

So again, the rebel in me did not want to use today’s prompt provided by storyaday.org.  Sometimes a prompt just doesn’t resonate at a certain time. I decided to use a phrase from I book I have been reading. When I came across it a week or so ago, I wrote it in my notebook because it evoked such a powerful image.  It is from Michael Chabon’s biographical novel, Moonglow.

 

 

The prompt: “ a brain letting in shadows and leaking dreams.”

 

I am continuing to explore my characters for my middle grade fantasy. I am spending time again with Mariah, who is the  mother of my protagonist , Olen.

 

 

It’s no use. After Elder Phineas and Master Robert showed up at our home last night, I knew my fate had been decided.  The Elder Council has called a mandatory town meeting for this afternoon. That can only mean one thing: banishment.  I think it devious and cowardly that they have chosen to do it now while Reuben is away on a harvest. But that is typical behavior for the Elders. I was surprised when they showed up last night, making their threats and looking for contraband. They didn’t find the books. They were well hidden.  Still, they have enough “evidence” for trumped-up charges if they choose. They claim I have not been a proper mother for Olen nor a productive member of the community. One of those claims is valid. I have hidden myself away in the cottage since The Fall. I saw no point in joining in with the other women to gossip and shop and pretend that life is fine.  As to being a poor mother, well I disagree. I might not have been like the other mothers, but I did take good care of my son in the way I thought was right. I tried to instill imagination and wonder into his mind and heart by telling him stories of Before  and about the Maker. I guess that was a mistake. All of that has just brought Olen trouble in school . I have made him discontent with my refusal to let go of the past.  I just wanted to keep the memory of the old world alive. No one else talks about it anymore. Their minds are now as clouded and dim as our surroundings. Life has become nothing but survival for them. What’s the point in that? Without dreams and hope, well…

 Anyway, I am not waiting until the sentence  is handed down.  If I must leave Tirren, it will be on my terms. I don’t know what is out there, but I will take my own path into the wilderness. When everyone is at the Council  Hall, I will make my escape. No one will expect me to be that bold. Who knows how long I will survive beyond the village walls? Perhaps the end will come mercifully soon. My departure will make things easier for Olen and Reuben. For me it is too late.

 

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 14

Thirty in Thirty Day 14

 

Another day filled with author talks and readings at the Ashe County Literary Festival After a long day, but fulfilling day, I needed something “short form” to complete my challenge. I found another great prompt from the archives of storyaday.org.

 

Prompt: Write a familiar story in an unfamiliar or unconventional way.

 

I decided to choose a familiar historical figure and create a poem. When I taught in the primary grades I often wrote such poems to help teach important concepts. Children ( and adults, too) easily learn and remember information that is taught in rhyme or song.

 

It’s not great  ( or even good) poetry,  but it serves the purpose and the prompt. Day 14 of Thirty in Thirty is complete.

 

George Washington

 

 

George is called Our Nation’s Father

Famous for when he crossed the water

Of the Potomac, front of the boat

A daring feat, some would note.

 

Quite a horseman in his day

In the pitch of battle he would stay

Even when his horse was shot

George fought, a coward he was not.

 

Our first President by acclamation

He led our new, idealistic nation.

He served two terms and then was through.

Said he, “ It’s time for someone new.”

 

He may not have chopped a cherry tree

But a forthright and truthful lad was he

He led the country as it began

And is remembered as an honest man.

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 13

Literary Festival! 

 

 

Today was a great day for a book lover and writer. I attended the first day of the Ashe County Literary Festival, “On The Same Page.”  Early this morning I spent two hours in a critique workshop with Georgann Eubank. Next we enjoyed  an hour with a fabulous NC author, Robert Inman, sharing his newest work and his ideas about the  writing process. Attended a luncheon called The Writer’s Movable Feast.  After a fabulous lunch, five  authors circulated among the tables and talked about their work and answered questions. Then tonight there was another 2 hour workshop on the writing process in crafting short stories  led by Tim Gatreaux.

The festival continues through Saturday. Looking forward to the other sessions.

 

Since I was involved in reading and writing  most of the day I decided that a very short response to the day’s events was enough. I chose to craft a haiku to succinctly capture my impressions.

Writers and readers

Gathering together and

Celebrating words.

 

Thirty in Thirty Day 12

Thirty in Thirty Day 12

Happily Ever After?  Snow White Ten years later.

 

The prompt for today was make yourself laugh or cry with your writing.  No crying here. I had such fun with a new take on a fairy tale yesterday, I decided to go with that again. So I wrote about what comes after “Happily Ever After.” Good laughs for me and I hope for you as well.

 

 

Dear Messrs. Grimm,

Thank you so much for your request for an update on my story. Yes, it was a “fairy tale” for the ages.  While I am flattered that on the 10th  anniversary  your readers want to know what happened next, I am fairly certain the rest of the story may not be as well received as the original.

You have assured me that your readers are sophisticated enough to realize that “happily ever after” may not be entirely accurate. Fair enough.

You have requested details of the wedding, honeymoon, and our lives afterward, including news about our “growing family.”  You seemed unfazed by my response that the Prince and I prefer our privacy. I believe your response was that since we are part of the Royal Family and supported by onerous taxes ( your words, not mine) on the citizens, then we cannot hide behind the crown. Fine.

This letter will contain all of the information that I am willing to share. You may use it as you wish. There will be no in person interview at the castle nor any pictures provided.  You asked for a real story and gentlemen, you are going to get it.

When I rode away from the dwarves’ cottage with the prince, it was the happiest day of my life. Since then it has been a series of compromises, adjustments, and disappointments.

 ~ The wedding; I was like any other young woman and had visions of what I wanted my wedding to be. I desired a small affair in the palace gardens with my woodland creature friends and of course, the dwarves in attendance, along with Edwin’s family. I wanted a simple dress and flowers in my hair and a lovely picnic afterwards.

 Eddie’s mother, Queen Evelyn ( or to me Evil-a) would not hear of any of  that. She insisted on an indoor wedding  in the grand ballroom with all of the leaders of the other kingdoms in attendance. She refused to even discuss inviting my animal friends or the dwarves even though they were my only family. Her words were “No vermin and no half-humans will be allowed into the castle.” I had to wear the gown that had been handed down through the family, a heavy, ugly, ruffled affair that smelled of mothballs. I seethed through the entire affair and was relieved when Edwin and I left on our honeymoon.

 ~ The Honeymoon I thought that we could be rid of so much interference in our lives, but I was sadly mistaken. Our “romantic” trip through the countryside was turned into a series of “state visits” arranged by King Phillip to shore up relations with the other kingdoms.

I was bored out of my mind with the endless processions, balls and formal dinners. Whenever I could manage I would escape to the gardens of the palaces we visited. I spent much time hiding behind hedges and rose bushes. Edwin was sympathetic, but he has been trained toward duty to the crown.

Don’t get me wrong. Edwin is the best part of my life in the castle. He is kind, romantic and thoughtful. But he is cowed by his parents and is burdened by the expectations of being heir to the throne.

 ~ Family Life Speaking of heirs, let your readers know that we have six .  Yes, six babies in ten years. I have spent most of the last decade in maternity clothes and exhaustion. The first four were girls, so, of course we kept going until there was a male heir. After that we needed a “spare”. Thank goodness the last one was a boy as well.  I love my children, but six under the age of seven is too much. Someone is always wet, or crying our getting into  mischief. It’s not so different from living with the dwarves except that there were no dirty diapers. 

I’m sure your readers think that I have help with the children.  Well…you cannot believe how many nannies we have gone through. The work load is too much for them. Just trying to keep everyone in clean underwear and socks is a constant battle. And don’t mention trying to find  all of the shoes when it is time to go out. I’d quit too, but I’m the mother.

 

`The Castle  I am sure there are many romantic notions about living in a castle. Let me dispel those quickly. First it is cold, musty, and drafty.  Secondly, I live with my in-laws. Enough said.

I think I have answered all of your questions. I will not respond to any further correspondence from you.

Sincerely,

Snow White

Thirty in Thirty Day 9

Thirty in Thirty Day 9

 

 

 

Below is today’s prompt from storyaday.org

 

Set a story in the opposite setting to what you wrote last time (e.g. Indoor->outdoor, contemporary->non-contemporary, realistic->fantastic

 

 

I have recently been working on my middle grade dystopian fantasy, so in the spirit of today’s prompt I wrote a contemporary short fiction piece.

 

 

Maggie was finally home. She perched on the plastic bathroom stool in the middle of the musty, dark living room surrounded by boxes and cartons. The only sources of light came from the moonlight squeezing in the tiny kitchen window and the street light beam shining in the screen door. As she placed the half-empty can of Coke on the floor she felt the restless kick, kick, kick of the baby. She rubbed and cradled her belly crooning, “ I know, baby. We did too much today, didn’t we?”

 

She scanned the pile of dusty boxes, shook her head and sighed. “Where do I start?” She stuck her feet out and looked at her swollen ankles. Her legs ached and her head felt as if it were stuffed with unraveled yarn. She ran her hands through her short, brown curls and sighed again. Reaching for a box that she could reach without standing seemed like the best idea. She grunted as she pulled it toward her. She squinted in the dim light to read the words “Maggie’s stuff” written in her mother’s block letters. “Well, that’s a helpful label,” she muttered.

 

As she began breaking the masking tape with her ragged thumbnail, she heard the sound of feet scuffling through the leaves on the sidewalk out front. Just as Maggie managed to heave herself into an unsteady stance, Paige breezed in the door carrying two large pizza boxes.

 

“House-warming time!” Paige looked around. “Maggie darling, where are your lights?’

 

“They aren’t getting turned on until tomorrow. I forgot to call the power company until this morning. I know, I know. Don’t look at me like that. It’s not that bad, really.”

 

“But, you can’t keep forgetting things like you’ve been doing lately. It isn’t like you. How can an efficient accountant suddenly become so inept? You’ve got a baby due soon. Are you going to forget to feed and change him?”

 

Maggie laughed, “I am pretty sure that babies come with built-in alarms so that won’t happen. Besides he’s to blame for my foggy brain. Honestly, you’ve got to admit that I’ve had a lot to think about in the last few weeks. Did you bring anything to drink with those pizzas?”

 

“Out in the car. Back in a sec.”

 

As Paige dashed outside, Maggie finished opening the box. She pulled out an old white gift box that collapsed and spilled its contents as she tried to lift it. Photographs, newspaper clippings and wrinkled satin sashes sailed to the floor. Maggie set the ruined box on the stool and walked over to the ribbon of moonlight that illuminated some of the box’s scattered treasures. Fanned out before her were pictures of herself that she scarcely recognized. Had she ever really looked like that?

 

She heard Paige behind her. “ What’s all this? How did you manage to make such a mess in that little bit of time? Maggie, who is that in those pictures?”

 

Maggie took the 2 liter soda bottles from Paige and shrugged.  “That’s me. They’re from child beauty pageants I was in back in Arkansas. I don’t know why my mother kept them. Hey, why did you bring so much food?”

 

“Oh! I forgot to tell you. Frank and Julie are coming by to help. They should be here any minute. Don’t look at me like that, They want to help. Now what’s this about beauty pageants?” Paige picked up a handful of photos. “Gosh, look at you in those outfits and makeup. You look like that JonBenet kid that got killed. Look at that blond hair and those eyelashes. I never remember you looking like that.”

 

Maggie snatched the pictures away.  “The hair was dyed, the eyelashes were as fake as those smiles. I didn’t really look like that. It was all phony, just like my life there. I hated those pageants! That was all my mother’s doing, It was her way of coping, I guess. We lived a make-believe life. Nothing was real until we moved here. That’s why I wanted to move back into this house. This was where I actually got to live a normal life. Here with my grandmother.”  Her shoulders sagged as tears began to stream down her face.

 

 

 

 

 

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