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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 209

Updated on July 2, 2018

Current Project

Sheez, you people just won’t let up on me. Nag, Nag, and Nag some more. You are all NAGGERS of the highest order.

“When are you going to write another reflective article, Bill? When are you going to write the sequel to “The Day the Corn Died?’ When are you going to finish that ‘Shadows’ novel? When, When, When???”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have people actually ask about my work. It’s flattering to know there are people out there, people I’ve never met in person, who actually give a damn about my writings, but the pressure to create time out of nothing is a bit much.

Whine, whine, and more whine!

So I am here to announce that I am currently working on a reflective piece about the Human Experience, and in particular about the pecking order in nature. It’s a topic I find fascinating . . . there are parallels, you know, between a chickens’ pecking order and we humans.

Or so says this observer of life.

So that article, when it is posted, will hopefully keep those wolves at bay. Then I’ll only have to listen to those asking me to finish my next novel.

I say all this in jest, of course. I love the attention, just like we all do, and I thank all of you for asking about my works-in-progress.

The first question this week is about something near, and dear, to my heart.

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room! | Source

Cathartic Pain

From Eric: “Bill it is the pain. You know my kind of writing. It is painful. I understand cathartic, all well and good and true to me. But Bill I also know you and you write of character's pain. I just assume when your character is in pain -- so are you. Does 'ya got's a band-aid?”

It’s been so long, Eric, since the days when I “made my bones” on HP by writing one cathartic article/story after another, that I think there is a whole new generation of HP writers who don’t even realize that’s what I once did daily. Now all they know me from is the Mailbag.

It’s not that I love cathartic writing. It’s that I find it necessary to do so I can stay sane and go on living.

How’s that for honesty?

I’m an alcoholic . . . recovering, yes, dry for twelve years now, but an alcoholic nonetheless. I mention that because one of my trademark character flaws was refusing to let anyone in to see the real me. I put up a wall for much of my life and would not let anyone see me. Now that I am recovering, and now that I made the decision to live my life without a crutch, I believe it is necessary to keep those walls down and never again hide from all of you.

So cathartic writing keeps me alive, figuratively and literally.

My innards are screaming at me to get with it and do some more cathartic writing, Eric, so I’ll go get a big supply of BandAids for both of us.

Thanks for the question, buddy! See you round the bend in the Looney Bin!


From Fellow Hubber: “Bill, What are your thoughts on the recent announcement about Hubbers being able to apply to become Mavens and run a vertical site? To me, it seems like a lot of daily work for uncertain payout and taking you further from the Hub community. They're about as clear as mud in their blog explanation. P.S. I love you. Keep up the dynamite Hubbing, buddy.”

Who the heck is “Fellow Hubber?” I wish I knew because of that very sweet comment at the end. I love you too, my friend, and I thank you.

I had to go read the HP blog about this opportunity. I failed to qualify on the very first requirement, 25,000 views per month! Sheez! I would die for that many views per month. Seriously!

What do I think about it? Seems like a good deal, but what do I know? I know Maven has some juice behind them. How could that hurt? As for the extra daily work, for those of us with blogs in addition to HP, it wouldn’t be extra work at all, in my opinion. Honestly this seems like a good deal to me. I would probably give it a go if I had that kind of following on either of my blogs, which I don’t, so there you go.

One additional word about HP: I have been critical of them in the past, but I will give them credit here and now. Many such sites have come and gone in the time I have been with HP. Many promised more money and delivered for a time, only to crash and burn. HP remains. They keep trying to improve their site and, by doing so, improve the earnings of writers. My own earnings have increased over the past three months. So my hat is off to HP for the good they have done in a very tough field.

Having said that, my earlier criticisms of them stand!

If You Could Be

From Paul: “Hey, Bill, if you could go back and change something, maybe your career choices at early adult age, what would you change it to?”

Shoulda, coulda, woulda . . . that’s a game I don’t allow myself to play, and the reason goes back to my earlier comment about being an alcoholic. The past is gone for me. Reliving it does this boy no good, because my addictive mind instantly wants to go back and be depressed about past mistakes. That’s a dead-end road for this former drunk.

The fact is, if I’m being perfectly honest and La La with all of you, I wouldn’t change a thing. All of my decisions from the past led me to this point in my life, and this point in my life is damned good. Because I’m a big believer in the Butterfly Effect, I wouldn’t want to change anything for fear I would end up in some torrid, tragic love affair in Paris, or the father of sixteen illegitimate children in Bangladesh, or some drunken bum, dead at forty-two from a failing liver.

I’m fine with today, thank you very much. A lot of my decisions turned out okay. I loved my nearly twenty years of teaching, loved my years as a business owner, and loved an assortment of other jobs I had, so it’s all good.

But I can play this game in a detached sort of way . . . if I could go back and choose, I think I would have gone into newspaper writing or radio broadcasting. I think either of them would have been fascinating. Ooh, maybe farming . . . or maybe a vet . . .

But I can’t so there you go!

If I could...I might have been a farmer
If I could...I might have been a farmer | Source

Research and the Truth

From Chris: “To some degree I know the answer, or at least an answer, to this question. But I'd like to hear your reasoning. What is the benefit to a fiction writer to have specific, in depth knowledge of a subject that arise in a story? We all do research for our stories. What is the difference between knowledge we already have sored in our heads and knowledge gained in new research? I have to laugh when people read one of my stories and come to a point where they question a factual point. They suggest I research that part to make sure it is true. If they only knew...”

Chris, I think having in-depth knowledge of a place or event shows in the writing. One can certainly learn the basic facts on Wikipedia, but one cannot get a personal sense of what it was like, or what it looks like, or what it feels like, unless they have been there. There is a huge difference, in my opinion, between knowing facts and experiencing situations. I can write about Vietnam, and I have, but I’ve never been in a battle, so my writing will always lack a certain authenticity.

I hope that’s what you were asking. Now I make up for that lack of experience, at times, but trying to imagine what a situation looked like, felt like, sounded like, etc., and if I do a good job of imagining I can come close . . . but close only counts in horseshoes, right?

Great question, Chris!

Wearing Several Writing Hats

From Eric: “Bill I am having just a bit of a problem between creative and technical. Yes my niche on briefs and court motions and such is to bring in "The human" aspect. Lawyers have trouble with that. But still it is very technical obviously. And then back to my "Sermons". Schizophrenia or Bi-Polar maybe. I know you do both. A little advice here.”

Eric, it is a valid concern, and it is a problem I face often since I have a freelance business which requires much different writing from my creative writing. My answer to you is all you can do is try to compartmentalize. There is no way to completely keep your creative voice out of the technical writing. I, personally, have found it impossible to do. The people I work for have remarked on that, that my writing is distinctive and unlike any other business blog writings, and that is because my “writing voice” will not be subdued.

So I really don’t have any advice here; only empathy and understanding.

Removing Wilder

From Mary: “I have a question for your next mailbag, what are your thoughts on the powers that be removing books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?”

Oh, Mary, this is indeed a sticky wicket!

For those of you unaware, Wilder’s name was removed from an award because sections of her books are considered racist against Native Americans. One section mentioned says “there were no people there . . . only Indians lived there.”

Sigh! I get it. I really do. I understand why Native Americans would be upset with that line, looked at in today’s inclusive light. I also realize that the passage in question was written many years ago, and it is very likely that the section wasn’t meant to be racist at all. So which wins out, literal or intent?

More than anything else, this decision just leaves me sad, sad that everything said, and done, is viewed under a microscope, and dissected on social media, and . . .

I think our innocence has been stripped away, and that makes me sad as well.

Removing Wilder
Removing Wilder | Source

I Need to Go Write

The pressure is on, now. I have to go finish that article about the pecking order so I can get some of you nags off my back . . . he said facetiously. Keep pushing me, folks. I don’t ever want to become complacent, and if I have even a sliver of writing talent, I don’t ever want that talent to go to waste . . . so keep pushing me to get off my butt and write!

Wishing you all a spectacular week of life!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Never perfect, Dee, but we keep trying my friend.

      Thank you!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      3 years ago

      Your advice on research and truth is helpful. I agree with you that we do our best to write the facts but we are not perfect.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Rajan! Thank you sir!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Great questions and great answers. I learn a lot each time I visit. Thank you for keeping this series going.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      NO worries, Frank. I packed up my six-shooter. lol

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      3 years ago from Shelton

      LOL on the introduction to this mailbag.. hope you don't go shooting up the place..LOL

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are funny, Eric! It has been delivered!!!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just to let you know I am sitting here with bated breath waiting for the mail delivery today :-)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, that would break my heart. So sorry about books should be torn to pieces, but a collection like that? heartbreaking!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from the beautiful south

      Oh to have my Little House Collection back! I gave the complete set to my daughter years ago for her daughter just to show up unexpectedly one day and see them torn like a tornado all over her room....): You can just imagine my feelings. Live and learn.

      Happy 4th!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nothing at all, Pop. PC Censorship at its worst.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I'll be working at the farmers market on the 4th. Should be fun!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And ain't that cool, Bill, being perfectly content? Thanks my friend and Happy 4th to you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm thinking that is very possible, Flourish!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your thoughts, John! True all the way through, my friend.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure Bill. Flourish, my collection will forever stay in my bookcase.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Bill! I really do. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for your thoughts, Kristen! As always, you are spot on.

      Happy 4th to you and yours!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      More cathartic writing coming this week, Mary. I don't think I'll ever truly stop doing it. Even in my novels it manages to infiltrate the story. :)

      Happy Tuesday to you my friend!


    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is my pleasure, Rochelle! Just giving back to a community I love. Thank you for the comment.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Peg, perhaps that is what they are doing with Maven. I truly don't know, but as long as there is a HP, I'll be here doing my own thing. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Right you are, Venkatachari M, about freedom of expression. Thank you for sharing that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The whole thing just makes me sad, Mary! Anytime a book is banned, we all lose in my opinion. You stated it much more eloquently than I did, so thank you.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      3 years ago

      Censoring authors and rewriting history is dangerous business. Nothing good can come of it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the 209th edition of the Mailbag, Bill. The length of the series is very impressive. I hope you have an enjoyable 4th of July.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent week for the mailbag Bill. I’ll have to read the blog post about Maven, didn’t know anything about it. I agree with you, shoulda, woulda, coulda gets me nowhere. I am perfectly content with where I am. Have a wonderful Fourth.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      Kristen should save her Little House book collection because the way things are going they will one day be very rare, particularly uncensored.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Gondwana Land

      A very interesting collection of questions and answers this week Bill. I will never have enough traffic to become a Maven either tsk tsk. History should stand and nothing written in the past should be judged by today's changed moral code, well that is my matter how politically or socially incorrect. Mark Twain for one would be in a lot of bother.

      As for cathartic writing, I think in a way, almost everything I write is. Keep up the good work Bill and keep churning out whatever you feel motivated to write.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I love your soapbox. I can always count on you to tell it like it is. This PC censorship drives me nutso and I wish it would end before I do. :)

      Thanks so much...nope, Maven doesn't want me. I'll try to deal with the disappointment lol

      Have a great 4th of July my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Shaloo! As for your question, I've thought about it, but I like to stay active on HP. Besides, money has never been my motivation for writing on either of them. :)

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Rochelle said it better what I wanted to say...Thank you, Rochelle. I liked the 'lilt' to this mailbag, Bill. I felt a 'lighter, happier' you! Neat!! Thanks, as always, for sharing with all of us!!! ;-)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, great mailbag as always. I was saddened to hear about libraries pulling Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books this weekend. I bet she would be rolling in her grave. I’m so glad I have a collection of her books at my home’s library. As for Chris’s question, the reason we need to do research for fiction novels is to make it believable, logistics, and for us to “write what we know” to hook agents and editors. For nonfiction, you have to know your field and have a platform depending on the subject matter, unless you have the credentials to proof it. Have a safe and cool 4th of July.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Once again, bill, great questions and great answers.

      I get your point about 'if you could change something.....' It's too easy to dwell on things and beat ourselves up and that's depressing so what's the point? I'm guilty of that and I know it's self defeating.

      I agree with you about the Wilder question. History is history; we can't change it by deleting anything to do with it. It serves as a lesson and as a pointer that we have in fact moved on. It should remain as a lesson LEST WE FORGET.

      Now, bill, just get on with that cathartic writing!

      Wishing you a week full of wit and well-being.


    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Love your reflections on "wouldacouldashouda".

      We are who we are because of, and in spite of our past mistakes or triumphs.

      The past is unchangeable, the future is unknown, the "now" is a gift -- that's why it's called "the present". (And yes... I heard that somewhere, maybe in slightly different words.)

      Thanks for your dedication to this series. I love reading it, though I seldom comment. You inspire many.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Emese. Thanks for the plug. I've never had huge numbers online...yes, I'm over one million on HP, but it took me much longer than most to hit that mark...and my blog only reaches about fifty people. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora and Happy Monday to you. I didn't even know about the Maven thing until the question popped up, so we all learned this time.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Verlie, if you ever travel south to my neck of the woods, I'll buy you that coffee.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Linda! Society has become so worried about offending people that it has eliminated common sense from the formula.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, I completely agree with you. This kind of over the top PC drives me crazy.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! I hope your week is a little less hectic and at times relaxing.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your emailed question, Alyssa! I'm on it for next week.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      Great answers, Bill. I had the same reaction to the Maven announcement. It seems as if they will be stripping all the high traffic writers from HubPages if the exodus is successful. And I wonder where that will leave the rest of us when traffic to the site dims.

      Cathartic is good for the writer and hopefully educational and entertaining to the reader. Bravo on letting your long-held issues out in your writing. And thanks for another informative post.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image


      3 years ago from Ohio

      Look at me, on time today! haha! I can't wait to read your new project. It sounds very interesting! I also was disqualified from the Maven at that 25,000 views. I can't even imagine such a number of visitors on my tiny blog. Another great mailbag! Thank you, Bill! Have a wonderful week!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      It's a good mailbag with more questions and more to digest and learn.

      I have also been to that Maven "Invite" blog and got shocked at that pre-requisite of 25,000 views per month. I can't earn it even in one whole year.

      This freedom of expression in writing is prohibited in all corners of the world. The journalists get killed, books get burnt, people are trolled on Twitter, etc. All those "Rights to People" are fake.

      Anyway, thanks for this great mailbag.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill, happy Monday to you.

      Regarding the pecking order, there is definitely a hierarchy in the animal world yet it seems to be man who has trouble accepting that.

      It's good to see a full mailbag again.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the Wilder books. I have a problem with books being withdrawn or censored. It is akin to burning books or trying to rewrite the past.

      I feel that denying people this type of literature is selfish and leads to more ignorance. We can look at books such as these and reflect on the thoughts of the time. These deeply held beliefs or ingrained brainwashing, if you prefer, was something of the time. Plus when we read something like “there were no people there . . . only Indians lived there.” I think it makes us stop and question what our own beliefs are today. We have to ask ourselves, 'am I a free thinker or are my thoughts just dogma spouted by the church, media, and schools.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      3 years ago from Beautiful South

      Loved your mailbag today, Bill. I was wondering if you were invited to write for Maven, and I can't believe you didn't make it. But I can't believe that some of the people who made it did. It's obvious they are looking for quantity over quality.

      I love Chris' question and I agree with you. A person can't write with "heart" about a place he or she has never visited.

      The Laura Ingalls Wilder flap: In my opinion this is another example of rewriting history, and I believe that this country is getting into extreme PC censorship. Larry and I both have Native American ancestry, but sometimes the truth hurts. That is still part of our history. Their thinking was different in those days. Today we can't whitewash the past without removing an integral part of it.

      That's my soapbox, dear friend. Have a great day!

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      3 years ago from India

      Another informative mailbag...Since you mentioned your blog here, let me ask.. Haven't you ever thought of focusing on your blog rather than HP? It could become more profitable in the long run.

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      Emese Fromm 

      3 years ago from The Desert

      So, you don't have 25,000 views per month on your blog? that was a surprise to me... those who read your mailbag would benefit from reading your blog, too. And the number would go up... Just sayin' ...

      Every issue you brought up made me think. I want to comment on it all, but I need to go now, get busy doing some writing of my own.

      Just wanted to stop by and say hi. Happy writing, Bill.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Happy Monday, Bill and a great writing week! Thanks again for the question and answer on Maven. Good to know what others are thinking when I's m not even sure what to think.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Oh gosh, you've out did yourself Bill. Lots to ponder in this mailbag. I think I'll need another coffee. Thanks!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Gosh Bill, I hope you don't think we're going to let you relax a bit. This series will not end until you stop writing it.

      I am flabbergasted by those who ban books because of the language contained therein. Laura Wilder's books (and those of Twain as another example) are a part of our history. It's like denying the thought processes that spawned the Holocaust.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy 4th to you, Melissa, and thanks for nagging. Yes about the Wilder just saddens me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will do my best in the next Mailbag, Mary! Thank you for the question and for being here.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shannon, you can give me a shove any old time you want. As for Little House, I happen to agree with you...enough is enough with the censorship. I personally think any type of censorship is wrong.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      I hadn’t heard about the Laura Ingalls Wilder issue but really disagree with messing with history. I mean our historical documents say “man” and not “man and woman” but we don’t scrap them.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      3 years ago from New York, New York

      Aw, sounds like you are refueling here to write your heart's content out and so happy to hear. Won't nag you though and just happy that you are doing what comes naturally to you and makes you happy. That said, stopping in to wish you the very best holiday week ahead now!! :)

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! That was a very full mailbag-nice way to start my week. I am one of those "when is your next Shadows book gonna be done?" naggers. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one bugging you! :)

      The Wilder "controversy" saddened me too. A portion of that series was written in Minnesota and these books were read to us by our teachers in 1st and 2nd grade. I loved those books and might even give them a tiny bit of credit for wanting to some day write my own. But, its been 40 years since I read them, so I can't really remember specifics...

      Ah well, moving on. Hope you have Happy 4th of July!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This mailbag has a lot of substance. Maybe, because they are questions I also ask once in a while. Bill, you mentioned about having a distinctive voice and we do have this, well developed in some but not in others like me as I still grow in my writing. But compartmentalizing is a bit difficult. I am sure you have some techniques you use to do this which you can share with us.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Bill, I will give you a shove any time you need. It could be therapeutic....You know, like when a toddler hits their sibling or another kid to vent some frustration. LOL. Just kidding. I'm all about the non-violent shove. And I certainly need a good push every now and then.

      I hadn't heard the Little House series was being censored. In my opinion, that's just nuts. It was a reflection of the thought process of the time the story takes place. Besides, when I was in high school, I read graphic novels that contained things like sex and burning bodies. I can't really compare the two, except to say that if one can reflect a particular culture and be extremely graphic, why be so upset over a rather tame novel that doesn't quite jive with the views of today? It's all about perspective. I think that intent should most definitely be priority. I mean, if it isn't, what will happen to the creative process of the best minds in the industry in the very near future?


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