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How I Became a Copywriter + What I’ve Learned Writing Other People’s Bios

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I wasn’t expecting this gift. Writing bios was never on my radar back in the days when I would dream about my future writerly life. In the spring of 2011, I took an e-course by Tara Gentile called The Art of Action and in it, I was introduced to an amazing copywriter named Kelly Diels. I was smitten immediately.

I stalked her for a while. Her prose is like crack. And then, one day, she emailed me to say that she’d noticed my work and was impressed. She said I reminded her of her (!) and she offered a free coaching session!

I have never jumped so fast. It felt like I’d made it to the big time. It was that conversation that first got me thinking about my own career as a copywriter.

I ended up taking two e-courses with Kelly —Artful, Heart-full Blogging and Write Me, I’m Yours. I learned more about the art of writing in her classes than in all my college English courses combined. And, I reasoned, if she thought I was similar to her, who was I to argue?

To dip my toe in the water, I wrote up a little ditty on my blog and offered my bio writing non-expertise for free to a few good friends. On and off, for about a year starting in the summer of 2011, you could hire me to write your bio. But no one did. I was a little ahead of myself, which I usually am. The folks that got the freebies loved my work. But I hadn’t built up enough street cred at that point to make people feel comfortable exchanging monies with me over the internet.

Finally, in 2012, I retired my biography abilities and focused on other projects.

Besides, I thought, it didn’t make any sense. I’m nothing if not impractical. Copywriting didn’t fit the dreamy, shalom-filled business I thought I was building. But the idea never completely went away. And every once in a while I would see someone’s About Me page and my brain would flood with all these ideas of what that person could do to make their magic shine.

So. Earlier, this year, because the whim wouldn’t leave, I created a sales page and announced to the world that I was bio-ing once again. Right away, four people messaged me to say they were interested!

I’d never had that kind of immediate response. My street cred had come in, apparently! I got to work. And business flourished. I only take a handful of clients each month, but the spots almost always fill up.

Writing someone else’s bio terrifies me.

Every single time. It’s scary to sing in another person’s voice and then share that song with them, hoping against hope I’m not out of tune.

When you need to combat fear, it helps to make a record of what you know. In the last several months, I’ve learned a few things about myself, my work, and what biography really is.

These Three Things

I am naturally good at this. I have no idea how. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t really even study. To a certain degree, this is a talent I’ve been given. It is my responsibility and joy to use it well.

Copywriting is an art. This helps the dreamer in me. The craft is important. It’s one thing to be gifted. But success is 10% natural ability and 90% blood, sweat, and tears. No matter how good I am, it’s always my job to study and learn and improve.

Writing bios makes the world a better place. I get to see my client. With clear eyes, and especially the parts that they struggle against. People don’t just hire me because they don’t want to write their own bio. They hire me to help them SEE. To find the light switch. It’s an exercise in shalom.

I believe in your light. I want to empower you to see it, too. Writing bios is healing. For everyone involved. And I am in the business of creative healing.

I asked the Story Sessions Community if anyone had questions about how craft their own bio. Several people replied and I’m working on my answers this afternoon. I’ll post them here tomorrow as soon as I’m finished. If you want to learn how to write a better bio—for yourself or other people—please, come back tomorrow and check out the Q&A.

And if you have a burning bio question, comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it!

So much love.

P.S. I write a newsletter all about Voice. It’s full of resources on how to use yours to make the world a better place. You can sign up for that here. Bonus, when you do, you’ll get a free book I wrote, too.

P.P.S. If you do need someone to write your bio, I have one more spot available in September and a few openings in October and November. Here’s all the info, if you’re interested.

Monday Memoirs :: A Blessing For 7th Grade

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“I’m three now, but in a minute, I’ll be 18.” +Sadie Maria

A few months ago, my mom gave me a box filled with papers that I wrote when I was 11. It is shocking how well I knew myself back then.

I wanted to be a writer. I was afraid of popular people and bears. I wanted peace and no wars. I needed love, understanding, and imagination.

I don’t remember that part of 11 years old. I don’t remember the thoughtful little girl I used to be. I remember the insecurities. Getting the pictures developed from my birthday party and realizing with dismay how awful my butt looked.

My daughter started 7th grade this morning. I am a wreck with how grown she’s becoming, in mind, body, and soul. She’s started taking selfies all the time. She read somewhere that it boosts your self-confidence. When she does something that makes her feel embarrassed, she laughs and shrugs, “I’m awesome.” I am in awe of my girl already actively combating negative self-talk.

She’s a natural encourager. She seeks out and befriends people who often get written off as odd or awkward. People praise me for how kind she is. And I’m so proud, but I didn’t teach her that. I struggle with it myself. She’s taught me a lot about how not to care about being cool.

On the way to school this morning, she told me she surely wouldn’t forget her backpack because she notices when she doesn’t have her purse—even when it’s empty! I had to stifle a giggle. When she was in preschool, she learned quickly not to forget her lunch bag. Because it was very likely I’d forget if she didn’t grab it, and then we’d have to turn around, go all the way back home, and both of us would be late for school.

She’s been through a lot in her 12 short years and it’s easy for me to get caught in the hard stuff. To lament about what breaks my heart the most.

But today, with her smile so bright, and the way her brother sleepily complained that he needed to go to school with her because he was going to miss her too much, I cannot help but celebrate the tiny miracles she constantly invites me to notice.

My middle school experience was brutal. My uncle died of cancer. Friends abandoned and betrayed me. I got made fun of a lot. I felt uncool, stupid, and naïve. I learned what depression was. I’m sure there was good, but I don’t remember much of it. I was just very glad when it was over.

I don’t want to put that on Sadie. I can’t write her story, but I can point out the beauty as I see it. We can look for the tiny miracles together.

I want to keep a record, like my mom did. As the years go by, if Sadie starts struggling to remember who she is, I want to be able to show her the thoughtful little girl who knows herself so well. I want to do my part to bless this journey she’s on.

I asked my Story Sisters to help me write a blessing for Sadie’s new school year. Beth, Morgan, Rachel, Abby, Gayl, Jenny, Elizabeth, and Shona each added lines to help create this powerful piece.

May it bless you, too. And the middle schooler you have. Or the one you used to be.

A Blessing for 7th Grade

 

As the bells ring out

And blank pages fill up with stories of epic summers,

May you walk through new doors boldly,

Share your voice confidently

And embrace your thoughts and ideas passionately knowing

That who you are is good and that

Your place in this world

Matters.

 

As the books pile up on the new-to-you desk

And the folders that refused to be three-hole punched spill out

Of your favorite new binder,

May you always love your self,

Your whole self, your holy skin, your heart of hearts,

Without fear or shame.

 

Sadie, I bless you with knowing

Your own heart and

Finding friends who will also love its sacredness.

With whom you can laugh

Until you cry and your belly aches!

May you be a girl who gives others

The gift of finding

The joy in every situation.

 

As your fingers fumble with the combination of

Your very own locker

In excitement and nervous joy,

May you carry kindness in palms held open wide,

For yourself and all who you meet.

 

May you try, and fail, and try again.

May you see your golden soaring moments and

Your bruises as blessings, equally sacred.

 

As the tables fill up in the cafeteria

And the friends you made this morning usher you

Over to sit with them,

May you remember the kid

Who needs a friendly smile.

May you be exceptionally kind,

Even in the face of cruelty.

 

May you never doubt your worth.

You are beautiful,

A unique individual created by God.

 

As you savor the laughter that fills study hall,

And breathe in the fresh, sweet air of the open courtyards,

May you find many happy moments,

And feel the sun on your skin often.

May you smile and know that you are loved.

 

May your teachers be kind and interesting.

May you have grace for their human-beingness

When they are not.

 

May your feet find holy ground in the most mundane places.

May glory rest between your fingers like ink.

May you always hold Light close, a lantern

For your footsteps.

 

May you never lose your muchness.

 

May this school year be filled with all kinds of good things.

French class and english reports,

Art and music and basketball and friendships that last

A lifetime.

 

May the girl you are now ever

Embrace the inspiring woman you are

Becoming.

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If you’re into Monday Memoirs and you want to get better at using your voice to make the world a sweeter place, sign up here for the weekly newsletter. Bonus—when you do, you’ll get a book I wrote about saving the world and other beautiful nonsense.

And, if there is someone special you would like to bless this new school year, please, add a line in the comments below!

 

When in Doubt, Use All the Colors (a Working Title for a Link Up Post)

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Alright friends, it’s time to come clean. I’ve dabbled in this art before.

Every once in a while, I get the urge to do this. But then I don’t because, well, it’s a crazy thing to do.

And that’s true, but the problem is, the urge won’t go away.

So. I’m surrendering.

You may have noticed I’ve been posting on my blog this week a bit more than usual. You may have even noticed, if you were paying very close attention, that I announced the birth and rebirth of two different weekly series.

Are we tracking yet? If not, no worries, I’m almost never tracking.

Here’s the secret sauce: I’ve decided to give blogging every day a go-round one more time.

But this is a little bit different. In the past, I haven’t held myself to any kind of strict stick-to-it-ness. In an effort to be gentle on myself (a noble cause), I’ve been inconsistent with you. It’s funny. Because the tagline of my very first blog was “My inconsistent journey to be consistent.” Old habits, you know?

I want to do this differently. I am telling you right now that until the end of the year, I WILL be posting a new piece every Monday through Friday. Rain or shine or girl drama be damned. We’re doing this.

And every Friday, I will link you up. They won’t all be blog posts, I’ll share whatever has grabbed me that week. And if something grabs you, or if you write a piece that you feel needs to be shared, I would love to hear about it.

Art That Hooked My Imagination This Week

My husband, Jermaine, and I are currently working our way through the West Wing series. Last night we finished the first episode of Season Three, which aired less than a month after 9/11. As the credits rolled, Buffalo Springfield sang out, There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear. There’s a man with a gun over there. Tellin’ me I’ve got to beware.” I couldn’t help but get choked up. My heart and prayers are tongue tied in Ferguson right now. Sometimes, the only salve is a song.

In happier news, as I type this, Tara Gentile is teaching an incredible class on how to Market, Launch, and Sell Your Next Big Thing on CreativeLive. If you are a creative entrepreneur, I would highly recommend checking this out. You can watch now and tomorrow for free and/or you can buy all three days of the class (it started yesterday) for $99 or so to have to watch anytime. Also! Brigitte Lyons will be teaching a portion of the class tomorrow afternoon (12:45pm PST). I am so smitten with her PR savvy. Both of these women are whip-smart. If you have the chance check this out, doooo it.

If you’ve ever taken one my classes where I share resources of sheer awesomeness, then you’ve probably heard of Jonathan Fields and the Good Life Project. He’s a wicked insightful interviewer and the depth of these episodes always astounds me. If you’d like to check them out, but you’re not sure where to start, Chris Guillebeau (another ah-mazing creative entrepreneur with quiet power) curated a list of the Top 7 Interviews from GLP. I haven’t watched all seven, but I can attest to the ones featuring Charles Duhigg, Lissa Rankin, Seth Godin, and Brené Brown. Also, Chris has a new book coming out on September 9th (which is also my kid’s birthday!) called The Happiness of Pursuit. I’m reading it now and it is gooooood. I signed up to receive an early copy and help him with the launch. So, you’ll probably hearing more about that from me later. He’s kind of amazing. The empire he built blows me away. If you want a sneak peek into his genius, I highly recommend his free ebook, 279 Days to Overnight Success. Brilliant stuff.

If you’re a writer looking for top notch resources, I have two newsletters that are my absolute favorites. Hope Clark of FundForWriters sends one every Friday afternoon that’s chock full of contests, grants, publications, and even publishers. Not to mention several thought-provoking guest essays. I look forward to it every week.

And then there’s Alexandra Franzen. In style and brand, she’s thousand miles away from Hope, but in content and gold, they are so aligned. I believe she sends her newsletter whenever the muse strikes with a new illumination. I am always grateful for its presence in my inbox. She’s a copywriter with moxy for days. And she blesses her subscribers with all kinds of writerly tips and hints and templates for that thing you need to write (but have no idea how the hell to format it).

Last of all, Taylor Swift released her latest single earlier this week. There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the video, and I get that, but overall, I’m a fan of the spirit of what she was trying to do. And I couldn’t not fall in love with the song. In fact, this post would have been finished three hours ago if I hadn’t stopped to Shake It Off a half a dozen times. Good on you, Ms. Swift. Brava.

As For Me and My Own Art

My friend Elora and I launched round two of the Rebel Diaries this week. It’s a class for people who have something important they want to share with the world, but they’re struggling to figure out how to do that in a way that honors their art and integrity and at the same time doesn’t needlessly offend or alienate other people. We know these kinds of things are hard and scary. We’ve been through it. We’re going through right now. There’s a lot at stake, but we’ve become pretty good at the art of saying what we need to say in the kindest, most genuine way possible. And so we created this class to help others do the same. We often joke “middle fingers taut.” And we mean it. With so much love. If you’re reading all this and nodding along emphatically, you can register here.

This is my favorite and most read post of the week, What Would Jon Stewart Say? I am delighted, honestly, to have more than one post at all. I was also pretty daggone proud of this bit of my memoir and the connections made in it between sex and ambition, though it may have been one of the least read. It’s very close to my heart.

I had two home cooked Pinterest wins this week. This homemade Cheeseburger Helper recipe from Good Deal Mama (Pssst: the secret is the cornstarch) and these no-bake energy bites by Smashed Peas and Carrots (I have no time for coconut flakes. I added chia seeds instead). It’s kind of cheating, because I’ve made both successfully before. But still. They’re yum like whoa.

And finally, the Hot Shot Instagram from the last week:

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Take heart, there is beauty in the construction phase.

So much love.

Ohhh! PS. In addition to my daily posts, starting this Sunday I’ll be sending out my own regular newsletter. I have wrestled a LOT about the content of this beast. And last week, I realized that I wanted it to embody Voice. And ultimately become a platform both for people whose voices we need to hear, but also practical and inspiring resources for how to use your voice to be the change in the world. It’s not fully fleshed itself out yet in my brain. And though I’m hoping it does soon, that’s okay. For now, I will simply show up every Sunday, write my heart out, and trust that it will bless my subscribers. If you’re interested in getting in on that, sign up here. Bonus, you’ll get a free book I wrote when you do.

Happiest of Fridays!

Introducing: The Bible, a New Thursday Affair

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Do you ever decide to take a project on and then you get started and realize you’re in way over your head?

I do. All. The. Time.

In fact, that exact situation sounds vaguely familiar right now.

But, there’s no turning back. Er, well, that’s not entirely true. I could most certainly turn back. Or at the very least stop typing. I’m excited about this, though.

Call me crazy. I’ll probably answer.

As it turns out, I’m blogging through the Bible.

Again.

I started this project almost exactly five years ago. It’s been a wild half a decade, and I’ve changed a lot, as people do. But also, in surprising ways, I’m very similar to the idealistic 28-year-old I was back then.

I’d been married for just over a year and we’d been attending Cedar Ridge for a little less than that. I was just stepping into some of my more progressive views, working it out with fear and trembling. I found myself in a serious wrestling match with the Word of God and I needed an outlet to get through it.

I had read about David Plotz, a self-proclaimed lapsed Jew who had decided to write a book working his way through the Hebrew Bible. I wasn’t the editor of Slate, but it seemed like a pretty good idea. I’m an ambitious sort and I like to get things over with. I got myself The Bible in 90 Days to use as a format to structure my posts.

That’s where I made my first big mistake.

I somehow equated that format with the time length of my project. I determined not only to read the Bible through in 90 days, but also to blog about it in that timeframe.

Really, it’s shocking that I didn’t finish.

I made it to day 16, which honestly, is pretty daggone good. It took me a year to get that far. That was around the time Jermaine decided to enlist. I started seminary and began to question this incredible book even more. Between the time it took to develop a post and my burgeoning doubts, I just couldn’t do it.

I think eventually I came to believe that meant I wouldn’t ever finish. It wasn’t gnawing away at me. Up until last week, I’d completely forgotten that I started.

Enter Timehop. It’s an app. You download it on your phone and every day it invites you to take a stroll down memory lane—what you were doing on this day last year. Three years ago. Five years ago.

So, for the past two weeks, I’ve had this daily reminder of project I’d creatively dubbed Brandy’s Bible Blog. I started reading these posts, ready to cringe at what I assumed would be ignorance and crappy writing.

But I had to admit, it wasn’t half bad.

I’ve sort of stayed pretty far away from the Bible these past several years. I think I needed a break. I needed permission not to read. My personal battles with the Creator of the Universe are closely linked to the fear that there’s a pissed-off deity somewhere up there and he is seething with anger toward me. To let that lie go, I needed to put the Bible down for a while. I needed that to be okay.

And that’s what I did. And it was more than okay. My faith and my life has flourished. I feel ready now. A desire, even. To go back into those hard and beautiful pages and discuss and work through what I find. A few dear friends come to mind who have also wrestled with God in a similar way.

I started this project for a couple of reasons. The biggest one was just to read it all through. That’s still a charging force.

But.

I’ve done a lot of work on my blog to position myself as a safe space for both Christians and non-Christians. I feel like there might be something there that makes this project extra important. I’m not an expert, but I tend to have thoughts.

Perhaps, as I work through the Bible, with boldness and humility, you might find comfort. And, maybe, at the same time, you might feel safe enough to step of your comfort zones.

So, here’s the basic plot of this project.

I’m stretching it waaay out. I’m going to post once a week. Every Thursday. The part of me that likes all the crazy things is seriously rebelling against this plan. It’ll take me almost two years to finish.

But it feels good in my gut. I don’t have the time in my life right now to stop everything for 90 days. Plus, I’m hoping you’ll come along with me. I‘m hoping that if the Bible has been a sticky subject for you, this might be a beautiful re-introduction.

I’ve heard people say they read the Bible all the way through and they don’t even remember chunks of it. Here’s hoping I remember chunks.

Because I’ve already written the first 16 posts and I’m doing this once a week, I won’t actually have to do any real work until the end of the year. But I will be updating the original pieces to make them as relevant and interesting as I possibly can to you right now.

Next week, we’ll officially get started. If you want to play along, read Genesis 1:1 – Genesis 16: 16 by Thursday August 28th 2014. Or, you’re welcome to simply show back up here and read my scribbly thought bubbles.

Either way, I’m excited! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my blog. I think this is going to be fun.

If you’d like to sign up and get the weekly updates of these Thursday posts and all the rest (that’s one email a week), you can do that here. Plus, I wrote book and when you sign up, you’ll get that, too.

What Would Jon Stewart Say?

Daily Show

 

The thing is, I’m not very funny.

But when The Daily Show goes on break, the world falls apart. Right now, a town in Missouri is boiling over. There’s an oh-captain-my-captain-sized hole in all our hearts. And people all over the United States are giving money to dump buckets of ice on their heads.

Obvs, SOMEBODY has got to try to bring the jokes.

I may not be a hilarious and wildly successful Jewish man in my 50s. I may not even be the dashing but goofy British guy who steps in when Jon makes those movies he makes. But I am named after a delicious adult beverage. And damn it, that means something.

In life, no matter how inadequate I am, and no matter how little I know about what is actually going on, when there’s a void to fill, I step up! So, let’s just pretend I have a good show for you tonight, ladies and gentleman.

So, here we go. My feeble attempt to shine my funny little light on that moment in history so aptly titled Shark Week.

First, of course, we can’t not talk about #Ferguson. I have to say, this is not an ideal way to start. Because not only am I not a funny person, but this is not fucking funny.

Instead, I’ll just make fun of Matt Walsh.

Last week, an overwhelmingly insensitive article he wrote went viral as people expressed their outrage that he chose that week to dub himself an expert on mental health. The good news is, that was not only jerk move he made. In an act of astonishing arrogance, there was also this gem.

With witty and creative priggishness, Matt explains his strategy for not jumping to conclusions about Mike Brown’s innocence or that all police are evil:

“I like to call my strategy “don’t be a reckless, ignorant, hysterical instigator who immediately diagnoses a situation based on whatever overarching political narrative you subscribe to, and then reaffirms those assumptions by quickly ingesting an assortment of Tweets and half-cocked headlines from notoriously ideological news outlets,” or the DBRIHIWIDSBWOPNYSTRTAQIATHCHFNINO method, for short.”

I have a similar approach. It’s far too complicated to write all the way out, but I call it the DONTBEAJERKMANYOURPRIVILEGEISSHOWING method, for short.

He goes on to say that it’s “childish and absurd to hate all the police” and that “Only one thing causes looting: the greed and selfishness of the people doing the looting.” I’m grateful to him for not jumping to conclusions.

This is the point, right before the commercial break, and not every time, but when the gravity of the story and wrongness of the people covering it reaches that tenuous sweet spot, Jon begins his illustrious rant. I’m not going to pretend I have the chops a rant like that requires, but I have to say something.

Alright. Deep breath, here goes:

Here’s the thing, Matt, I don’t hate the police. I’ve never personally been in a situation where I felt unsafe because of the presence of a police officer. But I know people who have. And most of those people aren’t white. This isn’t an overarching political narrative. It’s racism. And when post after post pops up on my Facebook feed proclaiming “Stop hating the police!”, I can’t help but think that it’s all a grand distraction from the real problem. A boy died at the hands of a police officer. It shouldn’t have happened and it’s not the first time. And so I feel that we’ve all earned the right to be a little wary of the police force. And if officers want us to trust them, the way to do it is not by shaming us into it. The way to do it is with honesty and humility and mercy. Over and over again. Until we can’t not trust them. Because when someone is placed in a position of power, they choose how to wield it. If there are droves of people scared of police officers, it’s the police who are doing something wrong.

And, exhale.

At this point, we’d normally break for commercial. I imagine Jon takes another deep breath and a swig of ice cold water. He shakes off the rant and prepares to welcome his latest incredible guest.

I would do that. Right now, I’m sipping sparkly water (because bubbles) and I shook it off. But, this is a blog post and I don’t have an amazing guest. Although my friend Tiffany is coming over later to watch Newsroom and she does have that wow factor. Two related points:

If I was able to secure a famous guest, I would invite Jon Stewart and it would be wonderful and awkward. And I wouldn’t try to be funny. Because, clearly, that’s his job.

Also, perched precariously at the top of my bucket list sits the desire to one day be a guest myself on the The Daily Show. So if you happen to have any contacts . . .

Alas, I don’t know anyone sitting at home waiting to be interviewed for the Brandied version of The Daily Show (which, from now on we’ll call The Drunk Daily). In lieu of an interview, I will instead yield the platform to a few voices in this conversation that deserve the biggest, widest stage you could ever imagine. Since I can’t give them that, my blog will have to do.

First, I am honored to share shalom with the gorgeous Osheta Moore. I raise my hands, too, friend.

Sarah Bessey’s post has little more fire than usual. And I agree, we should be fired up. I also agree, damn it, this is NOT about looting.

Sarah introduced me to Stacia. And Stacia is overwhelmingly gifted as a writer and activist. All of her posts on Ferguson are powerful, but the sidewalks one really got me in the gut.

Jack Mirkinson wrote an important piece for the Huffington Post on Why What Happened to Reporters in Ferguson Matters So Much.

And finally, my friend Morgan wrote this piece yesterday. She beautifully articulates a lot of the hurt and the hope in my heart right now.

I can’t make it all okay. It pisses me off because it could have been my husband. If things don’t change, it could be my son in a couple years. But it probably won’t ever be me and I’m sobbing as I type this (I told you I’m not funny) because it’s just not fair. I don’t want to be privileged. I don’t want to raise my kids in a world where racism still exists.

But I am. And I do. And since all I’ve got is my blog and Jon Stewart’s good looks, I’ll use what I have. So here it is, your Moment of Zen:

Photo Credit: Michael Nagle of the NY Times

Who am I?

Ohhhh. Kay.When I was in kindergarten, I used to get in trouble for daydreaming. Now I make my living as a professional daydreamer. Some people say I glow. Other people question the sanity of those people. But I do what I can. I’m spunky and awkward, often at the same time. I take myself far too seriously. And, I’m really glad you’re here. Seriously. I live for this stuff. If you decide to stick around, there’s a free book in it for you.

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