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02 October 2019

How To Read Without Opposable Thumbs | IWSG


The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's optional question is:


"It's been said that the benefit of becoming a writer who doesn't read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect people to want your writing if you don't enjoy reading. Thoughts?"
Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. You can find out how I answered the question below.

I'm pleased to be co-hosting this month along with Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte,



"Simon, what are you doing?" I asked frantically. "You're going to break that!"

The large gray cat ignored me and continued to jab his paw on my Kindle as though he was trying to squash a bug crawling across it. As I tried to pull the ereader away from him, his tail swished back and forth in that way that tells you your cat isn't happy to see you.

"Back off, lady," he growled. "I'm in the middle of something."

"In the middle of what? Trying to crack the screen? Go play with one of your toy mice instead."

"Those toy mice are beneath me. Now be quiet. I'm trying to read."

"Read? But you're a cat. You can't read."

"Of course, I can. You think just because we felines don't have opposable thumbs that we can't read? In the past it's always been a pain because we had to lie on top of books that humans were holding and nudge them to turn the pages. Now that they invented ereaders, it's a snap. All you have to do is press your paw on the screen to get the next page."

"Hmm. I'm not exactly sure Kindle screens were designed to withstand claws. What are you reading?"

"A dog training manual." He leaned forward, his whiskers grazing the screen. "What kind of animal would be dumb enough to fall for playing fetch and walking on a leash? Dogs, that's who." He sat back on his haunches. "By the way, lady, you have a lot of stupid books loaded up on your Kindle. Why are you reading all those ridiculous mysteries and sci-fi novels, anyway?"

"I'm a writer. You can't write unless you're also a reader. Although, I am finding I read less and less the more time I spend writing. And I worry about 'copying' other authors' styles and ideas without meaning to. But I can't imagine not reading." I sighed. "I guess it's a writerly conundrum."

"Who cares if you 'accidentally' copy other authors," he said, doing a pretty good impression of air quotes with his paws. "No one reads your stupid books. What you should be worrying about is why we're out of full-fat milk. You better get to the store and grab some for my afternoon snack. But first, order another one of these Kindles for me. Yours has a lot of scratch marks on the screen. Makes it hard to read."


* * *

And in other news, I recently released a prequel novella to my Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery Series - Robbery at the Roller Derby. It's set around twelve years before the start of Murder at the Marina and tells the story of Mollie's roller derby days and how she met her husband, Scooter.

For those of you familiar with Mollie's antics, you can only imagine the trouble she gets up to as part of a roller derby team. Can she skate her way out of danger or will her nosiness be the death of her?


If you sign up for my newsletter HERE, you download a FREE copy of Robbery at the Roller Derby. 

Alternatively, you can pick up the ebook for 99c/99p at your favorite retailer HERE. It's also available in paperback and in large print.


Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com


What about you - do you think writers should also be readers or doesn't it matter? Have you ever been to a roller derby match? Do you prefer "real" books or ereaders?

107 comments:

  1. I wonder if Simon is looking for a way for cat domination?
    Definitely eBooks for me.
    Thanks for co-hosting today.

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    1. He definitely is. We should all be afraid now that he has a Kindle.

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  2. Hi,
    I really enjoyed reading this. I'm laughing. Next time order two kindles. I agree with writers needing to read. I read a lot but sometimes I find myself writing and falling behind in my reading. It is then that I stop and do a double take and get back into my reading. I'm just happy that it doesn't happen often.
    Thank you for co-hosting.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  3. LOL Simon reading the dog training manual is the best. Now he's given my Nate some ideas and I know for sure he's going to try to take over my Kindle.
    Congrats on the prequel release, sounds like a great read.

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    1. I'd lock that Kindle away when you aren't using it :)

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  4. Great dialogue with the cat. They do know how to manipulate. We need to read. I think that because we are avid readers, we are inspired to write. I do prefer to read paper books, but I've downloaded a few good ones on my Kindle that I enjoy. It's an easy way to support new authors and "carry" many books when you're on vacation.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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    1. I used to really prefer paper books, but lately I've become much more of a Kindle/iPad reader.

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  5. I can just see Simon leading the way in dominion over dogs, but I think he'll have to do more reading. :)

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  6. Simon reading could be very dangerous.

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    1. I know - I might have to keep an eye on what he loads up on his Kindle.

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  7. Just been reading ‘about us’. I thought I’d had an adventurous life, until I read your wonderful account ��

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  8. LOL Simon hate to tell you my daughter has one of her cats leashed trained. hahaha

    Congrats on the prequel! I agree with the more time I spend writing, I'm finding less time to read, but twice a week I get 45 minutes while the youngest is at his Tae Kwon Do class.

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    1. We have friends who trained their cat on a leash. Of course, half the time she just lies down on the ground until they pick her up :)

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  9. I "read" via audiobooks on my rare blood runs. Stephen King says you cannot write well unless you read. I agree. Audio books help me understand better the flow of dialogue and how the pacing is so important. Thanks for liking my adventure with Alex and the ghost of Mark Twain on my own IWSG post, Ellen!

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    1. I've been getting more into audiobooks lately. I think you right about how listening helps with thinking about pacing and dialogue.

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  10. I'd patent that cat-ereader idea if I were you. I once did find myself writing similar to what I was reading, but my review pile is so monstrous now, that I wouldn't know which style to copy (a benefit???) I didn't realize your novella was out! I'm off to purchase a book now :)

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    1. Hmmm...you might be on to something with patenting a kitty cat ereader. The screen saver could be of mice. Thanks for picking up a copy of Robbery at the Roller Derby :)

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  11. Oh, Simon! Maybe he can swipe the screen using his tail instead of his paws? It would be gentler on the Kindle. :)

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  12. I think Simon needs some little booties to cover his claws so he won't scratch the next Kindle screen. You had me laughing as I read. So entertaining and you bet I signed up for your newsletter, not only for the free book either! Well, kinda. LOL. Love Molly's stories.
    JQ Rose

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    1. Love the bootie idea! Thanks for signing up for the newsletter :)

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  13. That Simon!
    My pupper preferred YouTube.
    Congratulations on a new release!
    And thank you for co-hosting this month, Ellen.

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    1. I'd be scared to see what kind of YouTube videos Simon would watch.

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  14. I've never been to a roller derby, but it sounds like a super-fun place for a writer--plenty of potential for mayhem.

    Thanks for co-hosting.

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  15. Congratulations on your release!

    Writers should certainly spend a lot of time reading. There's no other way to discern what we like and gain inspiration for our own style and voice.

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  16. I love Simon and he's right this time. A double bonus. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  17. Hilarious! Thanks for the morning giggle, and thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  18. Simon is always a fun addition to your blog posts. (I still think he should be included in a future book...) Speaking of which, that usually-wise kitty is wrong about one very important thing: LOTS of people are reading your books. :)

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    1. Simon would completely take over any book he's in, so I think we'll confine him to the blog. But, I'm planning on using some of Simon's traits in a character in my next series - a talking chameleon.

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  19. If Simon actually read one of your books, he'd see (but never admit) how wrong he is. Congrats on the prequel - Mollie is a hoot!

    I love reading all types of books. I don't think being influenced by another author is at all the same thing as plagurizing. Those of us in the ameteur sleuth business have all been inspired by Agatha Christie, et al.

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    1. So true - Agatha Christie is the ultimate inspiration for amateur sleuth writers

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  20. Do you think writers should also be readers or doesn't it matter? I think they should be readers too. They just go hand in hand.

    Have you ever been to a roller derby match? I've not, but I would have loved going to a roller derby match.

    Do you prefer "real" books or ereaders? Real books for me. There's nothing quite like the smell of a good book.

    Have a fabulous day, Ellen. ♥

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  21. Congrats on your novella! Always printed books if I can manage it. :)

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  22. Simon, Simon, Simon - cat scratches on a Kindle. Not good. :)
    Congratulations on your new novella!
    I read both print and e-book, but I like print best. I just find e-books to be less expensive and they definitely take up less shelf space.

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    1. Living on a boat, ebooks have their appeal for not taking up space.

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  23. Congrats on your recent release!
    After reading about your reading cat Simon, I’m beginning to wonder if my sons and your Simon been meeting behind our backs.
    Thanks for co-hosting today.

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    1. I'll have to check with Simon to see if he's been chatting with your sons :)

      BTW - When I click on your blogger profile, it doesn't take me to your current blog. Just thought you might want to know.

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    2. Thanks for letting me know. I think I fixed it.

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  24. Thanks for co-hosting. The truth is I don't enjoy reading like I used to. My editor brain kicks in which destroys the mood. I've become really picky in what I'll purchase for reading material. I love your kitty. Blessings

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    1. I find I read differently now that I'm writing. There are times when I have to remind myself to just sit back and enjoy, not try to study it.

      BTW - When I click on your blogger profile, there isn't a link to your blog/website so I can't visit and comment back easily.

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  25. I can't imagine life without reading - I've always found it a way to relax, distract my brain, & enjoy!

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  26. Well, I never thought of that particular benefit of Kindles: easier for cats to read! :-D

    Can't wait to hear how Mollie meets Scooter. I'm guessing sugar is involved.

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  27. Hi Ellen,

    Absolutely, every writer must first – and always – be a reader. How can we know what hasn’t been said in a best-selling book that we haven’t read? Personally, I want to know. I want to know what works, and why. For instance, the engaging story of your feline e-reader ; - )

    I dearly love books you can hold, and smell; the scent of ink, the feel of paper pages. But when the book is half the size of a breadbox, I’ll wait for the movie. I have grown attached to my Kindle of late; on the road as often as I am. It’s much easier to transport.

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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    1. Someone else mentioned the smell of books - it's so true. I've come to rely more and more on my Kindle these days. Takes less space and ebooks are cheaper.

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  28. I've read a bunch of answers to this question. No one has answered other than writers read. I did find one writer online who confessed to that but I've never heard of him.

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    1. It doesn't surprise me that most say that they read. Although, I have seen people say how they pause their reading during certain times.

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  29. Oh! What a great, clever post! I'm a big believer that readers make better writers. There's no way my writing hasn't just now benefited from reading Simon The Cat.

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  30. Congrats on your new release! I love to read. I mostly read books from the library but also some e-books.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I check out books often from my library.

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  31. One of my favorite Psych episodes is when Juliet goes undercover in a roller derby league! Sounds so fun;)

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  32. "Order another one of these Kindles for me. Yours has a lot of scratch marks on the screen. Makes it hard to read." Ha! Loved these lines and this entire piece. Thanks for a much-needed laugh.

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  33. Guess I'd better keep my Kindle away from my cat!
    Thanks for co-hosting!

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    1. Might need some sort of lock for it. Simon has figured out how to open the case on his own.

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  34. I'm just grateful my cat can't work an Ereader. He'd be running the world in no time. Haha. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  35. Love Simon's reading choices!
    Congratulations on your new release.

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  36. I just love your Simon stories, Ellen, and I burst out laughing at "a dog training manual." I don't care if I am at a bar at the Las Vegas airport. Good luck with your book. It looks like fun! Thanks for cohosting today!

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    1. Hope you didn't get too many weird looks when you laughed out loud at the bar :)

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  37. Simon is adorable! Writers owe it to their readers to be readers. They also owe it to themselves. Think about how much bigger your world gets after reading a book. I wouldn't give that up for anything, and my writing is better for it. Happy IWSG Wednesday!

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  38. Simon is so clever. I enjoyed that. I mostly stick to ebooks because of my eyes. Thanks for co-hosting. Happy IWSG Day~

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  39. There's nothing wrong with trying to copy other writer's techniques. You'll still have plenty of your own voice in there no matter how hard you try not to.

    Thanks for cohosting this month.

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    1. I love this--> "You'll still have plenty of your own voice in there..."

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  40. I agree with Chemist Ken. We immerse ourselves in how-to-write books, but it's also good to read good writing and learn what works and what doesn't.

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    1. I agree - Ken makes a really good point. And reading how-to-write books is great, but reading to see those principles in action is important too.

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  41. Ha! LOVE Simon's take on the world :)

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  42. Oooh, yes! Ebook readers are sure to be a hit with the feline crowd. Hadn't thought about that. Now, if I could just get my cat to leave a bookmark before he settles in with mine....

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    1. Too funny about getting your cat to leave a bookmark :)

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  43. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Yes, I think writers should also be readers. Never been to a live roller derby match but I have been to a roller berby practice. A co-worker from years ago was on a team and took me to one of her practices the one and only time we hung out. She soon got fired and I never heard from her again. As far as books go, as I get older, I find I prefer my novels and long-form content on my e-eader, shorter works, graphic novels and other illustrated content are still best in print. Honestly though, I'll read or listen to whatever is available. BTW- loved Robbery at the Roller Derby. Hope to review it soon.

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    1. How fun that you got to go the practice session! Thanks so much for your kind words about Robbery at the Roller Derby :)

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  44. Artist study the masters... it makes sense that authors should consider it too (though I think it's more important to read current and widely diverse novels instead of those written by dead white men.)

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    1. "Artists study the masters" - good way of thinking about reading for writers. And I agree that reading a diverse selection is really helpful.

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  45. Your newest release is a blast! Tell Simon I read your books and love them. :) I still read equally between paper books and ebooks, but my TBR list is super long on my Kindle too. There's never enough time!

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  46. Simon is up to his usual shenanigans!
    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  47. Your cat is a snot :-) So cute.

    Your series sounds interesting too!

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  48. Congratulations on the prequel release! Maybe they need to make screen protectors for Kindles like they do for phones.

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  49. Great to hear you've released a prequel. I enjoyed Murder on the Marina.

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  50. The new grandkitten in our house loves to watch videos on YouTube, but she has not yet learned to read. I'll have to tell her Simon is making her look bad.

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  51. Well, i cannot solve the dilemma for you, but please keep writing because your readers need you!

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  52. I prefer "real" books but like to read eBooks too. Congratulations on your latest. I need to get a copy. Have a great weekend.

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  53. I prefer my e-reader. Easy to hold, easy to turn pages (as Simon can attest), and I never lose my place because I forgot a bookmark. BTW, in "read" books, I never dog-ear a page. Horrors. Loved Robbery at the Roller Derby. I've never seen one in real life but plenty on TV. Congrats. You did a fine job with the atmosphere.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  54. I prefer my ereader but like physical books also. My bookshelves are filled with books so I need to purge before I can begin buying them, though. So, the ereader is helpful. And it also makes reading at my fingertips, whether I'm at the doctor's office or the tax accessor's office or waiting for a train to pass in town. Thanks for co-hosting thing month. I enjoy reading your blog.

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  55. Congratulations on the release! Thanks for co-hosting.

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  56. Enjoying the prequel novella, and hoping Mollie makes it out alive—otherwise those other books take on a spooky new attitude!

    I know what you mean about the dilemma. Reading in my genre sometimes gives me pause, but for the most part I’ve not found a conflict, and I HAVE found a lot of insight into how to make a mystery work (and occasionally, how not to). Thanks for co-hosting, and read on!

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    1. Oh, and I mostly read on the ereader these days, for much the same reason you do—we are traveling so much, and there’s no room for a bunch of real books. Fortunately, I don’t have a cat, so no scratches on my screen (hey, Simon, I love ya, but if you come scratch up my Kindle you’re in trouble!).

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  57. Another brilliant story - welcome back, Simon. I understand when you say you're finding you read less and less the more time you spend writing. Not that I'm as prolific or comparable as a writer. But when I get in a writing sprint/marathon/spree, my reading dwindles. However, sometimes - like recently - I stopped reading so my outstanding reviews didn't grow. Reviews = writing?

    Many thanks, Ellen for hosting and entertaining us all - fur babies included.

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  58. Thanks for co-hosting this month, Ellen! Good timing with the prequel release. :-) I’m happy Simon is back and I applaud you for coming up with these new cat stories every month, on top of all the other creating you’re doing. It would be so fun to have a look into your mind! So much imagination and humor!!!

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