The Agent Pitch

How to pitch to an agentI had requests to post the notes from the workshop I just gave for Agent’s Pitch Day.  Here they are.

Congratulations, you are here to move your book forward – this is exciting and a wonderful opportunity. And nerve wracking.
I am here to help you make the most effective use of your five minutes with these lovely agents and publishers.
They are here to find great ideas, great books and great authors. Remember this is a business. They want to be able to sell you and your book to it’s specific public.

They are looking for the right fit.

So know, right now, that this isn’t a beauty contest. This is not a win/lose activity. If there is a fit – celebrate! If there are no fits, you’ve learned valuable information and can make more choices for your book publication life later this afternoon. After dinner. Maybe after a bottle of wine.

Here, from Andy Ross, is what these Agents and Editors would rather not hear

• Reading from Note Cards
• Presenting a memorized talk
• Explaining the entire plot of the book
• Telling the agent that this is the next best seller
• Telling the agent that your book will make a great film.

Here is what we will help you with.
• Figuring out and delivering what your book is about which is different than the plot
• Delivering that essence of the book and your platform in a few words.
• Expressing why you are uniquely qualified to write this book – your qualifications.
• Creating an answer for promotion.

Don’t worry about perfection, that’s not the point

Agents are here because they want to see you in person, so as much as you can, be yourself.

Just in case you end up before an editor who did not list your subject in their “want” list, talk to them anyway. Use your 5 minutes to ask them what they are looking for. What is selling? What genre is hot and what is the up and coming genre? Do they know anyone who would be interested in your book?
Tell them a bit about your book anyway.
Breathe.

What is the book about?
Social justice?
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll?
The clash between expectations and reality?

Rather than list off plot points in chronological order, what is the book’s essence?
There is a reason films cycle around a single idea or protagonist. We can say, Oh Spiderman, and we are done.
How can your idea and book fit into that tiny frame?

Who are you? Have you won awards? Hiked through the desert?
Do you have a massive Social Media following?
Why are you uniquely qualified to write this book?

Platform, this is the overall reason you wrote a book. Platform is also something on which to build a promotional campaign.

Elements of a good pitch
Hi my name is XXXX and I have written a novel based on my experience doing or being XXXX the novel is about a boy, a girl and social enlightenment and will appeal primarily to female readers who buy both e-books and hard copy novels. I already have a following of 10,000 on my blog of the same name. Would you like to hear more?

Hi, my name is Catharine and I’ve written a YA Science Fiction Time travel book series Future Girls featuring female heroines who escape to the past to change their future. I am passionate about delivering the message that teens can change their future by what they do right now.

I am a college professor with two degrees in English and am growing my Facebook Instagram and Pinterest following using both organic and paid advertising in order to increase interest in these books.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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Luring Your Muse

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

This blog first appeared on Writer’s Fun Zone

I’m not a fan of Sara Gilbert per se, but she delivered a great TED talk on the Muse.  Based on that talk (the Muse must have been pleased with her TED talk) she has a book, Big Magic.  I bought it hard cover, I’ve read the whole thing, I liked it much better than that other book of hers.  I talk about the Muse all the time, and Gilbert does a good job defining the Muse and what it means for authors.Blog by Catharine Bramkamp

In the past, writers and artists were not so much responsible for their creative work as they were honored to be the instruments of creative inspiration. The artist was simply a medium for a greater power to flow through them and create work that needed to be born into the world.

As passive as that sounds – that we are merely hands, eyes and bodies at the service of a capricious god, it does take some of the pressure off.

If we are channeling the Muse, then a dry spell, the inability to produce great art, is not entirely the direct result of bad character or lack of will power.  However, it may mean that you angered your god.

Think back, did you  leave the right offering at the feet of your Muse?  Did you remember to thank her for the last creative rush, the one that left you exhausted and spent but also gloriously alive?

Did you wait around, burning your incense, leaving cookies and brandy, yet  she never came and you just spent a month staring at a blank screen?   And now you’re pissed?

That’ s the conundrum.  Wait for inspiration?  Worship, pray and hope?  Or, as Jack London suggested, hunt down inspiration with a bat.   

You don’t need a bat. It is possible to encourage the Muse to visit on a daily basis.  Contrary to popular lore, the Muse responds well to schedules.  She will often drop  by at the same time each day.  Your job is to discover when that is and be there when she visits.

Gertrude Stein once said of the writing process, “It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.”

But for the writing to come, you may have to nudge it along by finding a consistent source of inspiration. Stein claimed her best ideas came to her while she was driving around in her car looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most fit her mood.

Barring counting cows  follow the advice of many, including me: show up.

If the Muse knows you’re home, she is more likely to stop by.

For the first weeks, you may show up in good faith but the Muse may not reciprocate.  She may  be wandering around your house, checking the base boards for dust, reading the books in your library and judging if you are really serious, or if you’re actually playing Candy Crush and it just looks like you’re working.  The Muse is not that easily fooled.  To attract the Muse, you need to be writing.

And by writing I mean anything you want, anything that comes to mind. Like warming up the water in the shower, you turn on the words, let them flow and pretty soon  they will become the right temperature, and you then can step into the shower and relish the flow.

I believe in the Muse, I believe in luring her to my side with promises of wine, chocolate, and attentive listening.  I believe in thanking her for her efforts on my behalf. And if I could, I would book her as a guest on Newbie Writers Podcast.

Make your offering today.  Your writing will start to improve by tomorrow.  I swear by the wild red hair of my Muse.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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When Your Characters Go Rouge

From our upcoming book –
Don’t Write Like We Talk
What we learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Why characters matter, Catharine BramkampYou have your character all figured out. You’ve even created the hero according to last week’s suggestion of deconstructing the characters in a comic book

Some authors identify their characters by zodiac sign.

Some write extensive backgrounds, time lines, favorite pets, the parent’s story.

We write long biographies for every character who appears in the story.
All of this work can be excellent exercises, and valuable as you flex your writing muscles; however, most writers will confess that their characters, the good characters, are not so easily controlled. What many of us have discovered: as soon as you think you know everything about your character and as soon as you sit down and think, well today my character will drive to the store fight a dragon, and fall in love with the prince — they suddenly will not cooperate.

Like children, fictional characters are strangely resistant to The Plan. You remember the week after your precious bundles of joy showed up? You created the ultimate calendar of success based on the 98 books on child rearing you  read during the last nine months.  You tracked to the hour  developmental benchmarks.  You wavered between placing the child in the advanced  Yellow Tiger class or holding him back for another six months as a Blue Bear.

You delivered multiple children to multiple lessons:  piano, trumpet, bongo. You spent months of your life driving  to band, ballet, tumbling practices. You  spent hours cheering from the side lines during little league, soccer, la cross.  And what happened?  At twenty, your precious bundle announced he wants to be a chicken farmer, an option markedly absent from the Goals List (subtitled Acceptable Careers Mom Thinks You Should Pursue).   

Fictional characters will do much the same thing. Characters in your story   or novel will just blurt out comments, pursue the villain down unmarked streets and race so quickly away from your expectations that you have no choice but to just hold on for the ride.

Take notes along the way.
As traits and details about your characters emerge, just keep track.
Create a running reference list chronicling his coffee preference, her favorite drink, what she hates, what he’s afraid of.
Remember to note her eye color or if she starts flipping back her hair when she’s stressed.
These notes will help with consistency as well as keeping your hero and heroine on track, not your track of course, but theirs.
The picture will emerge. Sketch it out as your character comes into focus.

Someone needs to farm those chickens.   

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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Why Your Characters Matter

“First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.”

~Ray Bradbury

Ask me about a favorite book – and I’ll describe the heroine.

We often, if pressed, remember key points of a plot, but what really sticks in our heads are the characters.  We remember the who over the how, and before the what.   

Do we love Jane Austen’s books because of the  intricate plots? Not really.

The story? Please, we know the story. What we love are the characters, the strong women who get into trouble because they blurt out what they are thinking, the handsome hero who is just misunderstood, the spunky friend for whom we wish as much happiness as we wish for the heroine. We may not relate to the plot, but we certainly identify with a well developed character.

Listen to what you say when you play a movie for the fifth time, it’s not

about the plot or the story — you just want to see the hero or heroine again.

“I love him.” You murmur under your breath.

That said, how on earth do you do it?

One way is to open a comic book. (Bonus, the trip to the comic store can be called research.  You’re welcome.)

Comics have great heroes.  Take a look at three or four heroes and deconstruct them:

What motivates them?Why characters matter, Catharine Bramkamp

What do they look like?

What are their tags?

What is their super power?

Their kryptonite?

Love interest?

Why do they wear a mask? (Think of this metaphorically for your own heroine)

As simplistic as is sounds, just taking a look at Iron Man, Batman, and/or Cat Woman can give you a strong idea of how to create an equally strong character.

Once you have your character, start throwing obstacles at them, and watch what they do.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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How to Start Writing A Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poetsStarting Your book by Catharine Bramkamp

Just start.  Sometimes we get caught up in the promotion and the expectations for our books, because they are like children.  We incubate the tiny human for nine months, they are painfully born and here they are!  And before we’ve spent any time at all getting acquainted, we think, ah, this child will be a police officer, construction worker, cowboy or Indian chief.  And we will be so proud.  You picture the graduations from multiple universities. You picture yourself bragging to your friends about your wonderful child who is wonderful because you are the perfect parent.

This child will live all the dreams you were forced to defer.

This child will make the income that eluded you.

This child will take advantage of new technologies, new attitudes, and better fashion.

And on her second birthday, the child will demonstrate that no, no she will not.  And all  you are left with  is sixteen years to get used to your dissapointment.

Yeah, writing a book is just like that. All those expectations about publishing?  Like as soon as your book is published you will become younger, thiner, and richer?  May not pan out.  All those hopes for a transformative experience the minute the book is accepted for publication?  You still must do the laundry.

And all those  accolades?   People don’t really care that much, they don’t understand the process or the effort.  Oh, you wrote a book.  I just won third place in the local rodeo for roping tanks.  And the both of you stand there and you think, my kid said something about wanting to rope inanimate objects. 

You cannot control the outcomes. Not for your book and not for your child.  But as you know, you can control the daily interaction.  You can listen to your child, you can take them out on adventures, you can love them.

You can be in every moment possible.

That’s how you manage any great big huge project.

Once you let go of the outcome (I know, sounds kind of zen, and it kind of is), then you can concentrate on the work.  Decide what you want from the writing experience.  Do you have something to say?  Begin by saying it.  Do you have  a beef against the small cowboy child who yesterday  roped  the  full coffee maker?  Write about that.    

You start because there is something about doing that will feed your soul.  You begin because you are essentially raising a book and it’s all about the daily tasks and efforts.

Think of book  publication as  High School Graduation.  You are finished with all the daily work, all the moments, all the concentration, all the homework.  And now the child and the book have graduated – it’s official. 

I would like to say that now the work is done.  But it’s not. The work has just changed.

Believe me, it’s more fun to do the first phase, the writing phase, than the second, the post publication phase.  As my friend commented, the hardest years for raising a boy is between 18 and 23, because all you can do is take the call that starts with “I’m okay”.

To learn more.
Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

How do you organize a book?  I am a Scrivener fan, so I’ll tell you what I told the Sierra writers club this October.  Specifically, how do you organize a book when you are writing furiously for NaNoWriMo?

There are books and blogs devoted to Scrivener and I recommend looking those up.  However, I also know how easy it is to spend your days mastering  a system for writing instead of actually writing.  So here are the basics for Scrivener. I recommend just starting and worrying about the advanced mechanics after you’ve finished your November Novel.keep your novel organized

What I like:

Cork board

You can create that iconic novel system – the 3 by 5 cards scribbled with plot points, right on your computer.   Write down the summary of your plot or just a few random note that will best remind you of what you want to say and better, what the character has to say.  You can arrange the cards any way you’d like and the full notes and material will follow.  Like magic.  Bonus, you can actually print out these cards into real 3 by 5 cards if you want to shuffle them and lay them out on the floor which I did for Future Sky because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

It worked.

Document notes

These are notes you make on the right hand side of your manuscript.  It’s space to yes, make notes on your document and they also stay attached to the main work.  I put photos in here, notes for later and sometimes deleted scenes that don’t work but are relevant to the story.

Sections in the binder

These are discrete essay spaces to place scenes, descriptions, everything that goes into a novel.  These are linked to those 3 by 5 cards so don’t  your sections Chapter One, Chapter Two.  You’ll never know what the pages are about.  Name them as descriptively as you can so you can easily find them and move them around.

Keep the action and characters to their own individual sections, that way it’s easier to re-order and shuffle.

Research

Use the research section to capture characters and setting and research notes.   Uncheck the box to the right under General – Include in Compile so when you select Compile or Project statistics to see how many wonderful words you have written – you won’t fool yourself by counting the lengthy research you dropped into the project – that’s cheating.   Yes I know what I said last week.

Project

Use project statistics to track your word count.  Easy and you can stay in the program as you track your progress.

That’s just the basics because we all should be writing.  But in December, explore this program more, it’s one of the best tools I’ve experienced for writers.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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How to Keep Writing Your Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

It’s NaNoWriMo.

How to keep writing You’re writing a book
I’m writing a book
This is fun, this writing of books.
But now that the first few hours of ecstasy has worn off. How do you keep writing that book?
Cheat
Scheme
Win

I wrote the raw drafts for five books during five consecutive Novembers.  They have all been accepted for publication (the release of said books is another matter).  I love writing a raw draft in a month, I get a kick out of writing dangerously, recklessly.  But the system does have its drawbacks.   Like when you get stuck during your third hour of writing.

What next?

Rather than tell you how to manage your plot and your character, because at this stage in a draft, all you need is a fearless hero/heroine and for pages and page you keep putting stuff in their way:  drain pipes, data, dragons, it  doesn’t matter, this is November, it’s all about the word count.

How do you drag yourself through the slog of word counts? 

I cheat.

My first way  is to give myself really small, ridiculous goals.  I write them all down using colored felt pens, I make big squares on a calendar and post the calendar for all to see.  On each square I write, say, 1,600 words.

Then I do a little more.  If I do a lot more I re-align the goals so they are either smaller goals or the time shorter.  I make big Xs through each accomplished word count goal. 

I dance, I do more and get ahead.  I cheat against my own system. It’s enormously satisfying and it keeps me focused.

Can you “earn” a day off on Thanksgiving by writing 3,400 works on Wednesday? 

Can you start early and bank up your words?  Seriously, who will know you didn’t start at Zero on November 1.  Start with 10,000 words on November first.  You are a rock star!  You are amazing! See how great that feels?  Only we will know.

Maybe your November is packed.  I wrote Future Sky in October – same rules, 50,000 words in a month, but I used October as my month.

NaNoWriMo is not about rules, it’s about community and about stretching yourself, challenging yourself.  It’s about writing as fast as you can and jumping over data, dragons and drain pipes.

If you need to start ahead, if you have a special needs novel that needs more time, take it.

It’s all about getting the words down.

Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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The Next Steps to Writing a Novel

What are the steps to writing?

Last week we discuss the first step to creating your masterpiece, or the great American Novel, or a how-to book on beer brewing.

The first is to start, or even just stand up and know, in your black little soul, that you are going to do this.

Next steps?Article on the first step to writing a book

Figuring out exactly how to go about it.  I know, you wanted this last week – what are the five easy steps to guarantee a best selling novel?

Unless you are the favorite child of the senior book editor for Random House, there are no five easy steps and no guarantees.

But there are ways to start so you can build a book, and take satisfaction in the process.

Initial step:  If you don’t like the work, nothing will work for you.

Step 1 – Stand up and wobble a bit – think of yourself as a writer.

Step 2- Read everything in the genre in which you’d like to write – actually this is on going, and if you love your genre, every book, every lecture, every book store visit will be a joy.  If you are only writing in this genre because you think it will make money, you life will become hell on wheels. Stop it. 

If you love to read romance novels, then go ahead and write them.

But if you’d rather write fantasy – write it. Don’t chase the market, write what you love best, it will show.

Step 3 –  Outline your idea for your book.

Step 3.5  Failing that, consider your main character – who is he or she, what do they want?

Step 4 – what gets in the way of your main character?  What prevents him or her from getting their heart’s desire?

Step 5 – repeat step four.

Plot is just one damn thing after another.  Story is the way your character overcomes all those damn obstacles.  Together, they make up your novel.

It’s not a complete list, but it is a way to start.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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Inspiration for Writers

Writing inspiration Catharine BramkampDon’t Write Like You Talk

What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Some people work with prompts to start their ten minute write.  Which I think is a wonderful idea, it’s like warming up before a run, or something.  I don’t run.  Don’t listen to me.

In Don’t Write Like We Talk, we include a prompt in every show.  To stream line the process, here are a few writing prompts.  Feel free to print them out, share them, use them.   

  • Writer’s Block:  When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.
  • Write about writer’s block.  Believe it or not, when you are really stuck in your work, try writing:  I am really stuck, over and over.  Or try writing non-stop for ten minutes.  The act alone can help you break through.
  • I love holiday letters that chronicle perfect families,  wonderful lives, but gloss over some of the rough parts: the latest arrest, another  job loss, the school record for detentions served.
  • What would happen if we sent our friends and family holiday cards that spoke the absolute truth? Would our year look different from what  we post on Facebook?  Would our holiday missives sound  different if they weren’t mailed to elderly aunts and cousins we still want to impress?
  • What does that look like?
  • Write a holiday letter that only tells the truth.
  • Don’t mail it.
  • Have you ever not said something and were later glad you didn’t?
  • Write about the times you wished you kept your mouth shut.
  • If you need to increase the tension in a fiction  chapter or lift a sagging story line, allow your  character to blurt out some inconvenient truth to the wrong person.  It will keep things lively.
  • Ever do that yourself?
  • What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What was the worst job your character ever had. How did it shape her character, how did it shape yours?
  • Write down a memory from your grandparents.  Did they have a story they told and re-told?  And your initial reaction was “not the story about Grandpa and the bear again”.  This time, remember that old story and write it down.  See what happens from there.  I know, maybe nothing.
  • What have you done recently that was memorable but has no accompanying photos?
  • is it possible to experience something and not have a photo of it?
  • Write about an adventure that managed to happen without any photos.
  • Write out your favorite joke. Now write it as if it went horribly wrong.  Wrong set up, wrong punch like,  just wrong.  If that too funny?  Or just horrible?  Write a story about someone telling a joke badly.  Or someone telling a bad joke.
  • What is stored in the garage right now, gathering dust?
  • What part of your life does it represent?
Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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