Saturday, February 28, 2015

Boys Vs Girls


This week I read a blog post by the fabulous author Shannon Hale (here’s the link: http://oinks.squeetus.com/2015/02/no-boys-allowed-school-visits-as-a-woman-writer.html ). Ms. Hale did a school visit and to her amazement and disappointment, found that boys over a certain age were not allowed to attend her presentation. It was assumed that only girls would be interested.
The question was posed as to why we assume that boys won’t like books with girls as main characters.

Is it certain assumptions about the kinds of things that girls like in their stories? You know, roooomance….loooooove……ooeygooey-ness?   It made me think of that line in the movie The Princess Bride: 

Growing up, I read Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys, Choose Your Own Adventure… okay, to be fair, I read the backs of shampoo bottles, soup labels, instructions to everything…. If it had words on it, I was all-in. Now, it’s Dean Koontz, my scriptures, stuff I read from ANWA sisters, and after being nagged about it for a couple of years, TWILIGHT. The latter was the most “lovey-dovey” of books I’d read for a long time. I’m not much interested in kissing books.

My brothers…. They certainly didn’t read the same books I did, but they weren’t very interested in reading back then—at least not like my sister and I, who practically read our way through our local library every summer. 

My kids…. Well, they all read Harry Potter, but only my daughter reads Nancy Drew (she’s crazier about ol’ Nancy than even I was!).  Even my son who loves to read, is not into books that aren’t about animals, or soldiers, or sports, or monsters, or Wimpy Kids™. 

But he’s a boy. Just like I wouldn’t drag him out to go see a ballet, or a Hannah Montana movie (back in the day), I wouldn’t expect him to like girly books.  

But should I? Is it just that girl-centered books tend to talk about girly stuff and boy-centered books talk about boy-y stuff, and each plays to the interests of their focus group?

Or is it something deeper? The blog talks about rape culture and how these assumptions being made play into that. She says:

The belief that boys won't like books with female protagonists, that they will refuse to read them, the shaming that happens (from peers, parents, teachers, often right in front of me) when they do, the idea that girls should read about and understand boys but that boys don't have to read about girls, that boys aren't expected to understand and empathize with the female population of the world....this belief directly leads to rape culture. To a culture that tells boys and men, it doesn't matter how the girl feels, what she wants. You don't have to wonder. She is here to please you. She is here to do what you want. No one expects you to have to empathize with girls and women. As far as you need be concerned, they have no interior life.

Wow. That makes it sound much more sinister than the old nursery rhyme about boys being all snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails, and that they just aren’t interested in girly stuff. 
Have we been perpetuating this culture all along, since…. I don’t know, the days of Moby Dick vs. Pride and Prejudice?

Do I need to get my boys reading more books with girls in the female role? Am I harming them by just letting them read whatever they want and being happy that they are reading at all? Part of me thinks that this is a large part of why people don’t think that boys will read girl books…because they think that you have to use stuff they like to bribe them to read.


What do you think? 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Common Spelling Mistakes

by Katy White

Like so many writers, I'm a grammarian at heart (and a staunch one, at that), with an editor who is rather more outer than inner. So here are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing:

A lot vs. Alot

This is a common mistake, but also an easy one to remember. Alot isn't a word. Think about it this way: there's no such thing as afew. (Allot, on the other hand, is a word and means something completely different.)

Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb meaning to influence or to impact. Effect is nearly always used as a noun meaning a result or consequence. When using effect as a verb, use it when you mean "to bring to pass."

All right vs. Alright

This is another easy one. Although spellcheck won't tell you this because it's been beaten into submission, alright isn't a word. After all, alwrong isn't a word, either.

Anyway vs. Anyways

The right word here is anyway (anyways is considered informal dialect). Save yourself the time typing that extra letter.

Blond vs. Blonde

The difference here comes from the french words for a male and female with yellow hair. Blond refers to men. Blonde refers to women.

E.g. vs. I.e.

E.g. is short for "exe mpli gratia," a latin term meaning "for example." I.e., on the other hand, means "id est," which is short for, "that is to say." Use them accordingly.

Lay vs. Lie

In present tense, lie means to be in a resting/horizontal position. Lay means to put something down in that same state. So you lie down or you lay your head down. The past and past participle are where it gets tricky. So follow this chart:




These are just a few words and tricks to remember. What common mistakes do you see in writing?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Please buy me!!

I think writing a book is tough work but trying to sell your book and yourself to a publisher is no small feat either.  A while ago I signed a contract with a small publishing company and was elated that they wanted to publish my non-fiction book.  When my manuscript was passed to an editor it was apparent that it needed some major renovations.  I got a call one day and my heart sank as I was told that I basically had to rewrite and rethink my entire book.  The structure didn't work, the tone was too researchy, it was boring and not useful.

I could have given up.  I wanted to but I didn't.  Instead I listened...carefully.  I listened to every bit of feedback I got and started all over again.  My publisher had taken my book off their schedule - my manuscript and  I were in limbo.  It took work to get someone to pay attention to my manuscript again because in their minds it just was a no go.  But I persisted and hassled a very lovely, very busy editor until she finally scheduled some time to re-read my manuscript.  We scheduled a phone meeting and she hadn't yet read the entire manuscript, we scheduled another phone meeting, it was delayed, another meeting was scheduled and she asked if we could delay it another week.  At that point I felt like it was over - but something inside told me to keep pushing, not to give up and that my book was good...maybe even important.   I responded with the following email:


As much as I would love to accommodate, I feel that if we once again delay this phone call any time past this Friday at the latest I may most unfortunately set my own hair on fire.

With all the love and appreciation my heart holds,
Charla
 
 
Crazy right?  She emailed me back quickly, told me to put down the matches and we had a very productive phone call that Friday.  She is now very much on board with the book, she even likes it and is eager to see it published.   I believe that part of my success was due to my tenacity but part of it was also having respect for the market and being willing to accept difficult feedback.  Publishers need to sell books, they know their market and they know what has sold in the past.  I wanted to write a clever, heavy book.  My publisher wanted me to write a book tired worn out moms would be interested in picking up amidst the chaos of their lives.  My editor encouraged me to tell stories, relax and add some humour - what at first sounded to me like "dumb it down" was actually just "make it an enjoyable read".  My editor helped me find my voice as a writer, she pulled out flavor and color and now I think people might actually want to read my book.  Tenacity and humility I think are a wining combination in writing and in life.       

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Water ....I need water!

By Lacey Gunter

So I don't know how many of you read one of the news articles this week about Sao Paula and their big problems with water shortage.  If you missed it, you can read the NY Times version here.  The story was rather alarming. I contemplated to myself what life would be like if I only had access to running water every few days. I know it's possible to live this way and in many poorly developed countries this is not all that uncommon. But to me the idea seemed mortifying.

The LDS Church harps on being prepared for emergencies and disasters, and water storage is high on that list of preparations. But as I thought about it more, how long are a couple 55 gallon drums of water going to last you if your city has to cut off water supply several days a week for an indefinite amount of time? Emergency water storage is obviously only a temporary solution. If that scenario persisted for any long period of time you would either have to move, come up with your own alternate source of fresh water or drastically modify your life style.

What would life look like if the third option was your only choice?  I'd be willing to bet that for most of us any creative pursuits would have to be coached to provide time to meet the basic necessities of life, especially for mothers. Can you imagine bucket showers,  hand laundry, and hand dish washing all on a limited water budget? And can you imagine basic sanitation? It's one thing when you are out roughing it in the wild and you can just dig a small whole to deal with your business. But no plumbing in the middle of a city or the suburbs is a whole different ball game.

Then I thought about the even more subtle things, like the fact that showers are my biggest emotional reboot times. That's the time I give myself pep talks to meet the challenges I am facing, organize my day and do a fair amount of creative brainstorming. Somehow I don't think the occasional bucket shower is going to do that for me. And Heaven knows I would feel too guilty using up enough water to make a relaxing bath. It all would be very challenging.

I am so grateful for the simple blessings that come from running water. Climatologists are predicting a ten year drought for most of America. So I don't know about you, but I am definitely going to be praying for rain for both us here in North America and for the people living in Sao Paulo. 

Thoughts Tonight on Sacrifice


Facebook is full of all the embracing friends, smiling faces, clever costumes, and photo ops with published authors and/or famous writers that make up the ANWA Annual Conference. I glance at them from time to time on my phone as I:

Awake with a start at my little girl’s snore, realizing I missed my alarm and my preschooler will NOT be attending school today, so I roll over and look at all the things my phone tells me I missed;

Check my phone as it dings with more updates while I wait for my 11-year-old and aforementioned other children to put shoes on so we can get to that emergency doctor’s appointment to check out the mysterious and worrisome spots covering the 11-year-old’s body;

Log on to Facebook to inform the people in my ward, and then those who attended a going-away-part at my house this week while I was at work, that I have a child who may have the chicken pox, and to watch their kids carefully because he’s likely been  (highly) contagious for a week now;

Check during a break at work to see what’s happening in the world.

I’m sad. I love the ANWA Conference, and this year because I am working all night and having to sleep and do the Mom thing during the day, there’s just not any time to even pop in for an event or an afternoon session. It’s just one step further away from the dream of earning a living writing.

Then, I see some other things on Facebook:

Postings from a friend who is married to a cop, of their child’s birthday party, with a caption: “Since Daddy can’t be here, here are some pictures of XXX’s party for him! We love you, Daddy!”;

A link to a news article talking about a veteran of WWII;

A post about the Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded this past week; and lastly,

A link to a GoFundMe page for my friends, the Masch’s—Scott needs a kidney. His wife Connie, found out that she is a match and able to give him one of hers, and she is beyond ecstatic. All they talk about is how much they are blessed and how much the Lord is mindful of them.

I think about the sacrifices I make for my family. Some are big, some are not so big. My husband sacrifices for me; friends have sacrificed; there’s our clergy, our military, our public safety—so many sacrifices made for each of us. Sometimes we really feel it, and sometimes, it’s not a big deal.

The Savior gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. We know how much He felt it, that He sweat great drops of blood and wished to have the trial removed. But praise be, He completed it.

What is it that these sacrifices have in common?

Love.

From the fun party I wished I could’ve attended tonight, to the long hours my bishop puts in away from his family, to the lives of those who gave them in service of country, to the ultimate Atonement of my Savior, the common denominator is love.

Not only the giving of love, but the growing of love. When I do things, little things or big things, the love I feel for the person(s) I am sacrificing for gains strength, speed, momentum. That blessing is not always instant, but it is always there.

Conversely, when I acknowledge the sacrifice someone else makes for me, I feel my love for them grow as well. The extent to which I ponder the sacrifice and understand its depth is the extent to which my love grows.

Do you think this is by design?


Is it by what we are willing to give of ourselves that we can measure our love?

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Sat Me Down To Write A Book


I sat me down to write a book,
For Kindle, Google, and the Nook.
My laptop propped between my jean-clad knees.

My spouse gave me the look,
My intentions she mistook.
I donned my grubby clothes for trimming trees.

The leaves and branches I did shook,
Knowing I’d not be off the hook.
My cuttings served to irritate some bees.

Thrice stung, I raced round yard and took,
Screaming words, all gobbledygook.
I’ll not mention them today, if you please.

My sweetie thought I was a crook,
Disrupting her while trying to cook.
Alas, she thought I attempted my best tease.

It would be a rare nor’ cold chinook,
Before she let me near my book.
She kept me outside like a rare disease.

Finally, her wrath forsook,
Mercy on her love she took.

Better writing than trimming, she agrees.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Hubby Does a Guest Post!



Tonight's guest post is by my husband, Brice, who stole the computer from me because I was wailing about not wanting to write anything. (For this behavior, he tried to write down that I called him a “vile betrayer!” but I actually just called him a “dreamyacht.”)

Here's what he has to say:

I specialize in very short format stories for children.* The most important elements for children's verbal fiction are:
1. Include something they like, like dinosaur princesses or robot snails.
2. Either keep the plot moving smartly along or take as many detours as you can.
3. Unexpected is good. It keeps them interested way longer than familiar plot arcs and characters.
4. Dramatic gestures, interpretive dance, and crazy faces really help a story come alive.

What, dare I ask, does this have to do with you? Well, if you are a dinosaur princess, I would like to talk to you about starring in my next book. The role of robot snail is already taken, sorry. For the rest of you, I can tell you that three of my four suggestions will work for your writing as well (although I make no guarantees about which three). This list is handily parallel to my last list:
Looks like a dinosaur princess to me!

1. Know thy reader, what what?  If they're here for a nice PG rated romance, you can change the settings, characters, etc., but make sure at the end of the day that they get some tension about whether the girl gets the guy, plenty of longing, some exciting kissing, and a happy ending.
2. A nice fast pace with lots of plot developments can keep people interested even if there's not too much else going on. Terrible at plot? Try being literary, with atmosphere, alliteration, and apatosauruses. Ok, it turns out I'm bad at being literary.**
3. Totally stuck on your story? Add in the oddest thing you can think of for a scene or two, then once your characters react to it, take it back out again and rewrite the scene focused on the emotions and interplay they had.
4. Good cover art, illustrations, marginalia, or maps really appeal to some people. If you get published, post your victory interpretive dance on youtube with a link to buy your book. You might go viral.

And there you have it, folks! Until next time, when I might actually get around to writing my own MMW post!

* Jeanna interprets: AKA bedtime stories.
** It’s true, he is really bad at being literary. But he’s really good at being funny, random, and imaginative, all of which is waaaay better than being literary anyway.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One of those fantastic writing breakthroughs (which you’ve probably already had)


by Kasey Tross

[Where have all the bloggers gone? It’s been quiet around here lately, I know, but don’t worry, we’re just working on some administrative stuff and ironing out some new writing schedules- pretty soon you’ll be seeing a more normal flow of MMW goodness each week!]

So, I am finally back to work on my novel- again- and in the time I’ve spent not working on it I have been doing a lot of reading in hopes that some of those mad author skills would rub off on me somehow- maybe through osmosis?

Well, this time it seems to have worked. Because I really like what I’m writing. I’m finally feeling like I’m writing the way I want to be writing and the way I am capable of writing. And that’s a really, really good feeling.

So, one major thing I realized was missing from my work was imagery- in my first draft, I was very focused on just getting the storyline out, which I did (well, mostly) but my characters still felt very 2-D, and I just wasn’t getting a sense of setting as much as I would have liked. I felt like I was describing stuff, but mostly just because I felt like the reader needed to know what it looked like, but it wasn’t furthering my story and drawing me in the way I felt it needed to. 

Let me give you an example: In the first draft (okay, maybe the seventeenth or so) my opening scene had the MC standing in front of her new home. It’s a rundown place, with long weeds, etc., etc. And I described it pretty much like that:

"The dust settled onto the gravel driveway, the late afternoon light catching every particle. Kate stared at the boxy white frame house that slumped nearby in a patch of weeds.”

I was close in that example- I used the word “slumped”- but it was still lacking. Later, I got a little more flowery- I wanted to tie in the setting to Kate’s mood, and draw some metaphorical comparisons, so I tried this (oh, and I changed POV to first person too):

"Dust particles kicked up from our car's arrival shimmered in the late afternoon light, and the long grass in front of the house undulated like waves in an ocean. The effect made me feel off-balance, like getting off my horse Mosby after a long afternoon riding - when my feet slid from the stirrups and hit the ground it felt like the whole world kept moving around me, and I had to put a hand on him to steady myself.”

(Don’t worry, I described the house “slumping" later on.) That was closer, but still felt detached. I wasn’t getting a sense of my character’s voice.

Finally, I realized that I could select adjectives that did a better job of conveying my MC’s mood in this scene, so now I’m here:

"Dust particles shimmered in the late afternoon light, tossed airborne by our car's unceremonious arrival, and the long weeds in front of the house swayed like waves in a murky yellow-green ocean. 

"The effect made me feel off-balance, like getting off Mosby after a long afternoon ride. When my feet would slide from the stirrups and hit the ground it felt like the whole world kept moving around me, and I'd have to put a hand on his powerful neck to steady myself.”

The dust particles aren't settling anymore, nor are they kicked up- now they are “tossed airborne”, which conveys a much more unsettled, off-balance atmosphere. The car’s arrival is now “unceremonious.” Likewise, the grass is now being described as “weeds" (even though it might be grass- who knows, this MC is in a Mood with a capital M right now) and the “ocean” I describe is now “murky".

I ditched the word “undulated” because I realized that there are very few normal 16-year-olds who might use that word when “waving” or “swaying” would work just as well (and I decided that “waving” sounded far too cheerful and instead went with the more sickly-sounding “swaying”).

I also added a couple of extra adjectives to describe her horse, because I want the reader to understand what he means to her. His absence is a very big part of this scene and her mood: her mother has sold her horse, and he’s basically been her best friend- well, her only friend- for the past 7 years.

To give another example (not in the quotations above), I traded out the phrase “buzzing insects” for “incessant drone of flying insects.” Basically, I want to show that right now this character is wound pretty tight, and everything about this new life of hers is grating on her last nerve.

One more example that provides some contrast- at another point in this scene I had my MC wondering if her mother’s description of the house needing some “fixing up” "might involve a large iron ball swinging from a crane.” In the original (*cough*twenty-third*cough*) version of the story I left it at that- just a snarky side comment. In the next version I actually had her imagining it in her mind, the satisfying crash it would make. In the newest version I decided I could use that imagery as a stark contrast to the other imagery I was using and play it up with some vivid details:

"I squinted my eyes and made a "pkksshh" sound in the back of my throat as I imagined the solid impact of the steel ball crashing through the ramshackle siding, splintering two-by-fours left and right, tossing paint peelings and window glass into the air like New Years Eve confetti.” 

The “confetti” reference not only paints a very clear mental picture, but also gives us a clear indication of how the MC feels about that scenario- Cruddy house I’m being forced to move into getting smashed to smithereens? Sounds like a party to me!

For the first time the other night I read through my first few chapters and felt like I really knew my MC- I got a sense for who she was, how she was feeling, and what she was all about. Yay! Welcome to the 3-D world, friend!

So I’m very excited about where this breakthrough might take me, though judging by what I’ve written above it means my novel will take approximately eighty-two years to finish. *sigh* Oh, well. I’m already making big plans for how the landscape of this new town will play into the theme of the novel and will subconsciously motivate my MC's actions. Woohoo!

Okay, so here is my assignment for you this week:

Go to your current WIP. Do an adjective inventory:

- Are your adjectives, similes, and metaphors reflective of your character’s mood and personality? 

- Are your descriptions simply utilitarian or do they help to further the tone of the scene you’re portraying?

Remember, your thesaurus is your friend!

I know, I know. You’re probably rocking this stuff and I’m just late to the party. But, you know. Just in case. ;-)





Saturday, February 7, 2015

Silly Poem Saturday

By Lacey Gunter

There is more than enough sad, negative and depressing things going on in the world right now. It's high time we all had a good little chuckle. So I declare today to be Silly Poem Saturday (or whatever day you happen to read this post). Here are few silly poems I enjoy and one of my own.  Please share one you like, or better yet, one you wrote in the comments section and have a splendidly silly day.


EARLY TO BED
by Mary Mapes Dodge

Early to bed and early to rise
If that would make me healthy and wise
I'd rise at daybreak, cold or hot,
And go back to bed at once. Why not?



SNOWBALL
by Shel Silverstein

I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first - it wet the bed.



WHEN I'M AN OLD LADY
by Joanne Bailey Baxter
When I'm an old lady, I'll live with my kids,
and make them so happy, just as they did.
I want to pay back all the joy they've provided,
returning each deed. Oh, they'll be so excited.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)

I'll write on the wall with reds, whites and blues,
and bounce on the furniture wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets, and oh, how they'll shout.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)

When they're on the phone and just out of reach,
I'll get into things like sugar and bleach.
Oh, they'll snap their fingers and then shake their head,
and when that is done I'll hide under the bed.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)

When they cook dinner and call me to meals,
I'll not eat my green beans or salads congealed.
I'll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
and when they get angry, run fast as I'm able.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)

I'll sit close to the TV, through the channels I'll click,
I'll cross both my eyes to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks and throw one away,
And play in the mud until the end of the day.
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)

And later in bed, I'll lay back and sigh,
and thank God in prayer and then close my eyes,
and my kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
and say with a groan. "She's so sweet when she's sleeping!"
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids.)



WAITING
by Lacey Gunter

Texts on my telephone,
Emails in my box,
Dishes in the sink,
And a laundry full of socks

The kids are yelling "Momma!",
My husband wants his dinner,
The dogs are barking for a walk,
And time is getting thinner,

But I am busy writing
A story that will rock,
Only trouble is
I’ve got writers block!
 




Friday, February 6, 2015

A Clean Start

by Mare Ball @ ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK

I like to think I honor God in all aspects of my life.  I'm pretty clear about how He wants to me live, and I have been for most of my adult life.  Lately, however, I've discovered I've made some choices mindlessly - choices I didn't think God cared much about. And I'm paying for them now.

I'm talking about food choices. I never thought much about my diet, only that I probably ate too much.  Like every woman on the planet, I've had moments of "that's it, I'm getting rid of this extra weight. I'm joining the gym, blah, blah, blah." And I've lost 10 or 15 pounds.  Then I get lazy, and it all comes back.

In December, I had blood work done that showed I have very high blood markers for rheumatoid arthritis (in addition to fibromyalgia, which I was diagnosed with in May.) This was shocking, as I have no swollen or painful joints - just bad blood work. After getting conflicting reports from rheumatologists in my area, I ended up at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. The doc there suggested I start meds right away, because it looks as though RA is coming.

I did tons of research on RA and read a book called The Inflammation Nation, which was completely eye-opening, and changed my thinking on what I've been eating all my life. RA (and fibro) is an inflammatory disease where the immune system is on overdrive. It's constantly on the attack, which eventually destroys joint tissue.  Untreated, or uncorrected, people with RA can end up in wheel chairs.

I'm also reading The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, a book about honoring God and our bodies by getting back on track with food - eating whole foods, real food, and getting the junk and processed food out of our lives. I well up as I read parts of it because I'm realizing how misguided my eating pattens have been.  I've not been fueling my body, but poisoning it with things like sugar and too many carbs and "white trash" like white rice, white bread and white potatoes. I've simply been a mindless eater.  Not a conscious one.

I'm praying God will change my thinking on this, because RA is caused by inflammation, which is caused by sugar, the wrong kinds of carbs and "white trash." I didn't know.  I'd heard some of these things before, but I didn't have any health issues - until now - so I just figured I was doing OK.

My Mayo doctor told me I have three months to change my diet and see if we can get my blood work back to normal. By the grace of God, I don't have any joint issues yet, and I'm hoping I can turn things around before I do. 

So, I gave away the boxed, processed items in my pantry. The bulk of my grocery bill is now produce.  I have leaves and sprouts popping out of my 'fridge the moment you open its door. I've discovered I like rutabagas, pea shoots, parsnips, bok choy and Japanese sweet potatoes, things I never tried before. I've learned I don't like turnips and will not be buying those again. I try to have some form of kale every day. 

In overhauling my diet, I've realized this is a spiritual journey for me. Eating was an area of my life I never asked God about. Rick Warren sums up the problem in one sentence: Dedicate your body to God.  Period.

If I do that - daily - I will eat properly. I will feed my body with what it needs to stay strong and healthy. The Daniel Plan reminds me that my body does not belong to me. It was purchased at a price, and God gave it to me to use in the service of others. This never hit me so hard as it has recently.  God has given me a wake up call,  and I pray I correct my course. My family is supportive, for which I'm so grateful.

I found a great cook book called Clean Start (you can read about that HERE) that I'm working my way through, and I've found many recipes we are enjoying.  There are even a couple treats included that are pretty good. 

I have not had a life-changing event such as this in many years, and I regret I did not pay attention to my diet 20 years ago.  Thankfully, we have a God who gives us second chances.



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