Saturday, August 2, 2014

#PitchWars 2014--Pick me! Pick me!

You guys didn't really think you'd be getting out of here Disney-GIF free, did you?

I cannot believe it's #PitchWars time already. It seems like just yesterday I was explaining my rationale for all the insanity that was my decision-making process last time around. 

Alright, I'm officially an "old person" around here. 

But I'm glad to be back for my second year as a mentor and my third year participating in what I honestly think is the BEST Writing Contest on the internet. And if you're new around here, I'm a big believer in Writing Contests

Also, links. Get ready because here come a bunch more. 

If this is your first year considering me for your PitchWars mentor, you'll also want to take a look at last year's post. Most of this stuff still rings true, except for my wishlist which is VERY different this year. (Stay tuned!) Anyway, if those ten reasons aren't enough for you, here are ten MORE reasons you want me as your PitchWars mentor. 

10. Last year was really fucking fun. Not only did I really enjoy the three incredibly talented writers I worked with last year, but we've had an ongoing partnership that has been invaluable to me as a writer. I'll let them speak for themselves as to how helpful it's been for them in the comments below, but really. I am incredibly honored to have mentored these women and I am so very much enjoying their journeys as a bystander now. 

9. I curse a lot. What that means is that you don't have to be afraid around me--to ask questions that might be stupid, to bounce ideas you're not share are completely sane, to be candid in our dialogue about your work. I'm pretty hard to offend...most of the time. 

8. Picking me for your mentor makes you eligible for The Clubhouse (as new spots become available), regardless of whether I pick you back. If you don't know, which you probably don't since we kind of keep things top secret around the Clubhouse, it's an online support group for writers on the journey to publication made up of people I've picked/mentored in writing contests. We have monthly meetings and homework (which we call "homeplay" because it's FUN) between sessions, beta read each other's stuff, and just generally have a good community going. It's worth the price of admission, I'd say. 

7. Of writers I've tapped in Pitch Contests in the last year at least 50% of this totally made up number now have agents and/or publishing contracts. The percentage is phony because I haven't counted, but really, a lot of people I work with end up finding their agents, if not through contests themselves then by taking the learning that happens through these channels and turning them into kickass manuscripts. This includes four of this year's PitchWars mentors and two of my picks from last year's PitchWars. Alexandra Alessandri kicked so much ass on our revision that she landed an offer and had to be pulled from the Alternates Showcase on the day the Agent Round started!! Another one of last year's #TeamDannie has a BIG GINORMOUS ANNOUNCEMENT HAPPENING VERY SOON so I can't say anything more than that.  IMPORTANT UPDATE-- SHE JUST ANNOUNCEDCONGRATULATIONS SONIA!!!!!!

6. My child is adorable. This has absolutely nothing at all to do with my skills as a writer or mentor but it's always worth mentioning because, well, she is. And you'll get to see for yourselves sometime next week. More on that from Brenda. :)

5. I'm totally in this for you guys. Every one of the PitchWars mentors works his or her ass off for the good of this community, so I say this not to dig at anybody whatsoever, but as a selling point, I feel like it is one. I'm not in this for brownie points, book sales, or promotional ish. I don't have a book coming out any time soon. I'm so booked on editing clients its not even funny. I'm a mentor because I had an incredibly talented mentor myself two years ago (whose book you SHOULD be buying because it is AWESOME) and I enjoy giving back. 

A few things from last year bear repeating:

4. At the risk of sounding like an arrogant badass, my critiques are awesome to the power of sauce. If you're a member of Scribophile (or want to become one--it's free to join) you can see examples of the work I do with my critique partners there. I operate under the same screenname pretty much everywhere I go online, so I'm easy to find. Because of my critique skillz, this spring I was recruited for The Ubergroup, the most insane and highly efficient critique group on the internets. 

3. I give personalized feedback to everyone. :Last year I gave lengthy feedback to everyone I requested a partial from--and there were a lot of you! But everyone got at least a couple sentences from me that was specific to their manuscript. This happened in the face of all the gmail chaos Brenda is busting her ass to avoid this year (because Brenda is THE AWESOMEST, you guys. For real.) How much feedback I'm able to give will vary depending on how big my slushpile is (63 writers last year, for those who are curious), how the timing of everything works (as a school system employee, this year's schedule is significantly more challenging than last year's which happened over winter break). 

Also if Gmail decides to do this to your manuscripts again:


No, I will never, EVER get tired of using this GIF. 

2. What you're getting from me is more than mentoring--it's essentially free editing services. You can read feedback from some of my editing clients here

1. I've had my share of experience      winning        contests.

ALRIGHTY! So now that you guys are all...






Wait! You need to read my wishlist first!!



What I'm NOT looking for this year: 

New Adult :( While I had A BLAST working with my NA Mentee Sonia Hartl last year, I've decided to stick with YA this time. Honestly, this is just to narrow my slushpile because the timing this fall is wonky. As you guys are reading this I am preparing to return to a 40 hour workweek the same day you guys will be sending in your pitches. I am just taking YA this year.

Adult or Middle Grade I don't even read adult fiction and Middle Grade requires a brain that works in this incredibly rare creative way of which I am just not capable. Again, I am just taking YA this year.

Hardcore Genre Fiction: If your book stars elves, orcs, other planets, vampires, or zombies or takes place in the year 3000, I am not your gal this year. I'd like to keep my slushpile to more realistic fiction. So just to be clear no hard sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, time travel, westerns, books in verse or anything that in any way involves clowns or zombies. Because clowns and zombies.

Romance as a main plot. If Sarah Dessen is your idol, you've come to the wrong mentor. There are other mentors who are FANTASTIC at that stuff. I'm not one of them. I like my book boyfriend gritty and my plots full of chaos.

In realistic fiction, any of the following: cozy mysteries, faith-based fiction, horror, historical--unless it's roaring 20s or 1980s I WANT ALL YOUR 1980s HISTORICAL YA IN MY INBOX RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. Or, ya know, when the window opens.

Books that include my personal triggers--NICU baby stories are not good for my soul. Also child homicide.

Books that are similar to what I'm writing right now--Contemporary retellings (no fairytales, please!), military recruits, or books that deal with Cystic Fibrosis. I consider these conflicts of interest and would just rather not get into a project that's too similar to my own.

People in the Clubouse, my CPs, people I crit on Scribophile, or via my editing business. You guys already get to pick my brain. But PM me if you need suggestions for other mentors and name-drop me if you like.

Finally, and most importantly, I am not the right mentor for you if you do not want lots and LOTS of feedback. Ask my girls from last year. We went through their first 50 pages TWICE with a fine tooth comb in addition to me giving them global crits of their full mss. I've been known to put over 400 comments in manuscripts I edit. If you're looking for someone to tell you that your book is perfect just the way it is, I'm not sure why you need a mentor to begin with.

WHEW. Sorry it feels like there's a lot on this NOT list. I just want you guys to use your queries wisely. There are a ton of authors to choose from after all. 


Okay now here's what I AM looking for:


All the realistic YA. This includes straight contemporary, magical realism, thrillers, action/adventure, ALL THE BOY BOOKS, psychologicals, gritty contemporary, light sci-fi/fantasy--think THE APOLLO ACADEMY (if it were YA) NOT ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Your book should take place in modern, near-past or near-future times in the world in which we are all familiar. Well, most of us.

Diversity done well: People with disabilities, mental illness, QUILTBAG, or stories outside of the Western hemisphere really grab my attention. WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS! This includes diversity in the writer as well as the content. 

Anything outside of these that you've pitched me on twitter and I've said, hellz to the yeahz, send it my way.

I want to be pitched by teen writers! If you're a teen participating in PitchWars and you're writing YA, I can pretty much promise you I will request pages and give you some kickass feedback, at the very least. I would love, love, LOVE to have a teen mentee or alternate this year. Seriously, if you're a teen writer with a YA mss, include all the NOTs above and SEND. IT. MY. WAY.

Some specific ideas that would make my year to find in my inbox: Really compelling anti-heroes, very flawed but still likable protags, boy books that speak to mental health issues or disabilities, LGBT MCs in non-coming-out books--Gay YA that's not about being gay, strengths-based perspectives on disabilities in sports, invisible illnesses/disabilities, elements of magic found in very tangible worlds (like CONJURED), books by contemporary conservative writers or about conservative teens that do not feed into stereotypes, really killer authentic teen voice in pretty much any genre, character driven YA with strong plots from start to finish, and multicultural YA from non-Western cultures where the culture itself is a character, but NOT an issue.

Favorite reads include YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS by Meg Medina, FRACTURE by Megan Miranda, FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick, ELEANOR AND PARK and FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell, THE WASTED SERIES by C. Elizabeth Vescio, THE APOLLO ACADEMY by Kimberly P. Chase, OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg, CONJURED by Sarah Beth Durst, WILD CARDS by Simone Elkeles, MORE by T.M. Franklin, PROMISE ME SOMETHING by Sarah Kocek, THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass, SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis, UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi...

I seriously could keep going, but you get the idea.


Final Tips--Listen Up! ;P




I do like comparisons to other works, particularly works I've enjoyed. (If you really want to get stalkerish about that, I have a Goodreads account.) I don't like comparisons to television shows. I haven't had cable since high school, so chances are I haven't seen it.

Last year, you could tell me why you're "querying" me. This year, that's not an option, so engage me on social media. The mentors are doing #askmentor on 8/11/14 at 2PM and 6PM EDT on Twitter. So if you're not sure we're a good fit, find me there! Know that I'll be scoping you out, too.

Be sure to participate in the "Contestant Bio Hop" here on my blog when it goes live (details coming soon.) It makes my stalking life easier. :)

Understand that I absolutely will request additional pages before deciding on my mentee. And a dreaded synopsis. (You should have these things ready for agents anyway so stop glaring at me like that.)

Questions? Feel free to drop them below in comments.

UPDATE--please do not use the Blog Contact form to send me your pitch. You may post as a comment here or ask me on twitter, publicly, where everyone can see it. I'm aiming for transparency so this process can be fair and equal for everyone. I will not respond to emails sent through the blog contact form in my sidebar. 

Thanks!!

Alright, you've got work to do. Hop to it.


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48 comments:

  1. While you're not seeking my category, I absolutely loved your post! From one potty mouth to another...haha! Congrats to the writer who gets to work with you!

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  2. I was so incredibly lucky to be picked by Dannie for Pitch Wars last year, and I can’t stress this enough, YOU WANT HER AS YOUR MENTOR!!!

    I learned so much from her, it felt like I took part in a personal writing convention. She didn’t just give me notes on my ms, she took the time to give me tips to strengthen my writing overall. She’ll not only be straight up about what works and what doesn’t, she’ll tell you why. And she’ll continue to root for you long after Pitch Wars ends. I still ask her questions, and we still meet in The Clubhouse (of awesome) to bounce around ideas, talk about what we’re struggling with, and get the kind of community support that makes the journey we’re all on just a little bit easier.

    To this day, I haven’t stopped talking about what an amazing experience I had during Pitch Wars. I signed with a fantastic agent this week, and I can honestly say I’m a better writer today than I was before being mentored by Dannie. And since I can’t say enough wonderful things about her, I’ll sum it up with a Harry Potter reference:

    If people ask me if I still think of Dannie as my mentor in every sense of the word, and say, “After all this time?”

    My reply will be, “Always.” <3

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    1. Seriously made me cry. The pleasure was all mine. You are an AMAZINGLY talented writer and it was/is my honor to work with you.

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  3. FYI, everyone--Dannie's on the fast track to world domination and her writing skills are leading the way. So you need to polish that YA and get it into her hands as soon as possible. You'll be glad you did.

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    1. MWAHAHAH! *straightens tiara* Thanks, Brooks!

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  4. Another year I can't query you, Dannie! At least some other writers will benefit greatly from your wisdom. I wish I'd seen this kind of support back when I was a teen writer. Hell, I wish the Internet or Twitter had existed back when I was a teen writer! Good luck with your mentors, I'm sure they'll hardly need it.

    PS, readers: If you're thinking about querying (applying to?) Dannie, talk to her on Twitter! She's super-responsive and eager to chat, and you'll get a good sense of her tastes right away. Good luck everyone!!

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    1. <3 <3 <3 I'm a fangirl even if I can't be your mentor! I'll be cheering you on, Chris!

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  5. As a vulgar teenaged writer touting a YA specfic with a non-neurotypical MC: holy shit, this post has me absolutely giddy. August 18 cannot come fast enough.

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    1. Interested in hearing all about it, Taylor!

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  6. Ooohhh… one of my characters is gay. She just is. It's not an "issue" tackled in the book other than personally within one friendship. She just happens to be gay. The end. So hard to put that in a query, b/c she is not one of the two MCs. >_<

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    1. you could just say diverse cast of characters, or something. And you've mentioned it here, so now I know. :)

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  7. So, since it's always a grey area here, I'm going to ask: I have an urban fantasy that's obviously contemporary (starts in South Dakota of all places) but it does get crazy as it goes on and several cities become backdrops for massive battles against deity-like humans. I'm guessing that's something you DON'T want?

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    1. tell me more about your story itself. what's the pitch? who's the MC? what does he/she want?

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  8. Oooh, so glad you were forthright about what you DON'T want. Since I'm a solid MG writer, I won't be pitching to you this year. BUT, thanks for your awesome #baitandpitch workshops and I'm still following your awesomeness on Twitter.

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    1. My pleasure, Jen! Fingers crossed for you!

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  9. Ok so we need to talk. Or I mean, only if you want. Anyway I'm a 19 year old writer (19 is still a teen which you're looking for teen writers *wink wink*) All jokes aside a few months ago I took the risk and set out on the road to pursue inspiration. I effectively have chosen to be homeless while I write, bringing with me only my notebook and my computer to transfer my writing into when I reach a place with free wifi. It's been rough, but life changing. My book follows the same lines. A young teen on the road looking for purpose without realizing his. Along the way he forms friendships, love of course, and gets into more trouble than he imagined including a city wide fight. These stories being a combination of my actual experiences and some exaggeration. First year hearing about pitchwars and I suppose what I'm asking is whether or not this is a pitch worth sending to you. No matter the answer I look forward to your reply and appreciate your time.

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    1. Hi Teller,

      Yes, 19 is definitely still teen!!

      This is very intriguing. So long as it is clearly fiction and NOT memoir, I'd be interested in reading more about this project.

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  10. An addiction counselor who swears? Why hell yes.

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  11. Oh, I wish I thought we'd be a good fit: I'm YA spec mystery (girl has to move in with her storefront psychic grandmother and solve the mystery of her mother's ghost). Hat tip from one cussin' trucker to another.

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    1. hmm. that might be magical realism, depending on how heavy the paranormal content is. If it's closer to MR than Paranormal, I'd take a look. Otherwise I'd check out the mentors that want Paranormal--there are a few agents looking for it now! Making a comeback!

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  12. I also was lucky enough to make Dannie's last Pitch Wars team. Something Dannie does that not all mentors may offer is to read and critique the work of her alternates and not just the winner. Understandably not everyone can offer that, but Dannie worked all three of us very hard. She also had great suggestions about swapping work with each other, chatting as a team and other experiences that I think are part of her unique mentoring style. You will grow as a writer if you're lucky enough to work with Dannie.

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    1. <3 <3 <3 Thanks so much, Christy!

      FTR: This time we are only supposed to critique the alternate's first chapter, and only one alternate. But I will definitely expect some team work from #TeamDannie! I think it worked out well for you guys last year.

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  13. Dannie, I mentioned this in an email this morning. Please take a look at this sort-of-brief summary and let me know what you think!

    Eva is a brash 17-year-old peasant who's abandoned her parents' barren farm to live with a well-off uncle. As soon as she arrives at her new home she meets her neighbor Johann, who is sexy, smart, funny - the works. He's also a thief, and when his latest robbery goes awry Eva and her siblings are mistakenly identified as his cohorts. They have to flee town, and after a few hairy experiences reach the village of Khale. Long story short, they go snooping at night, trespass in a temple, and accidentally disrupt the prep work of a ritual that was to be performed the next day. Problem is, this ritual was aimed at saving the life of a young boy and the village elders guilt trip Eva & Co. into fixing their mistake. The deal is this: complete the ritual, become agents of the Khalean goddess, and with her guidance find the long-lost relics that can save the kid.

    The rest of the story is devoted to the difficulties of their journey - it sounds bad ass to have the power of a goddess at your disposal, but when you have no training to wield said powers it makes for one big, annoying monkey wrench.

    There's some other elements at play too, such as Eva's self esteem issues and her fear of being married off to whoever her uncle chooses (and of course Eva and Johann start to get close.......).

    There's humor, action, fantasy, a little bit of romance - all good stuff, it just happens to take place in a medieval world, which is one of my main concerns in choosing you. Please let me know your thoughts!

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    1. Not for me, but thanks for asking! :)

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  14. As I suspected.... Thanks for taking a look!

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  15. Hi Dannie!

    Okay, seeing how awesome you are, I was wondering if my YA Fantasy Romance novel would be a good fit for you :)

    It's set in a portmanteau of Iran & United States, and it's about a seventeen-year-old boy who has the potential to become the best human ‘Hunter’ in his family. After falling for his ‘Defender’ girlfriend, he decides to go against his blood, and endangers his life and is loved ones, only to discover the dark forgotten past he can never change.

    I'm a 25 years old writer and artist from Iran. Hope you like 'foreign' writers :)

    *finger-crosses*
    ~Maxtina

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  16. Does being 20 technically put me out of the teen running? (;

    How hard-and-fast is that no-retellings rule? Would a gritty near-future Adam-and-Eve be an immediate no?

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    1. 20 is not a teen. :) I know because when I was 20 I had half a dozen grey haira and mourned my teenage years.

      The retelling thing is an ethical decision--because my WIP is a retelling. I love them and this sounds intriguing but due to the conflict of interest, I'd have to pass.

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  18. Hi - I'm narrowing down my list of mentors and wanted to double check with you that this isn't too sic-fi for you...

    31 lives in The Society, a self-sustaining city on the ocean intended to solve the world’s problems—war, famine, disharmony. Children are genetically engineered with specific traits: telepathy, telekinesis, and born without a gender. Turning fifteen means that 31 and the rest of its brood must ingest serum to transform them into the gender The Society has chosen. While adapting to their changing bodies, the brood undergoes the Selection, rigorous testing to control the population and ensure only the fittest become Societians. Twenty are chosen; the remaining are exiled, sent to drift across the ocean to their deaths.

    Thank you for being open to some "pre-pitches" so that we don't waste one of our four slots. I want to find a mentor that is very passionate about my story. If you're not immediately drawn to it, please let me know.

    Thanks again! - Joy

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    1. Hi Joy,
      This sounds intriguing. It's hard to say I'm passionate about a story of the query alone, though, and I think that'd be the case with any mentor.

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  19. Ok...so you like to curse and want gritty thrillers featuring LGBT MCs in non-coming-out stories. But do you really mean it? I ask because I happen to have exactly that, but have burnt a few betas out for being 'too explicit', even though I don't think it's too bad, just maybe in a scene or two. Would you entertain the risk or should I look elsewhere? What if what you find is not your cup of tea but you've already said yes?

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    1. My past mentees can tell you I don't say things I don't mean. I write stories about kids who have terminal illnesses and use drugs to cope. And I edit everything under the sun, plenty of things I wouldn't read for pleasure. As long as the gritty is presented in a way that is age appropriate (i.e. NOT YA Erotica) I'm in.

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  20. Hi Danny. This is my first Pitch Wars and I'm just trying to figure out the ropes. Excited! Would you be interested in Romeo and Juliet in modern Belfast?1st person YA, 2 POV, grief, family issues, and sectarianism? Thanks for considering!

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    1. Hi! Afraid I'm passing on all retellings due to a conflict of interest with my current mss. But there are definitely other mentors looking for them and this sounds intriguing!

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    2. No worries! Thanks for the response and happy writing!

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  21. Hi! I'm a teenager and I've written a YA fantasy set pretty far in the future. I wanted to know if it would be okay to submit to you even though my book isn't what you would call realsitc?

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    1. Hi Becca--absolutely. Any and all teen writers are welcome in my inbox! :)

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  22. Hi, Dannie,
    Just to let you know I’m seventeen and sending a YA Contemporary submission your way in approximately ten minutes. :)
    Lillian Woodall

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  23. Oh, how I WISH you were looking for contemporary adult paranormal fiction (think Silver Lining Playbook meets Ghost) because this post SPOKE to me, my friend! And OMG you used a Stitch gif. I think you may just have to become my new best friend. :-D

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    1. SILVER LINING'S is probably one of my favorite adult books of all time. But I think Quick's YA novels are better. I would not be the most helpful mentor for an adult work but I am cheering you on Michaela!

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