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Author Archives: auntyemily

About auntyemily

Screenwriter (CBeebies), author of fiction and non fiction books, science communicator, storyteller and poet.

Virtual Summer School

I’m excited to be part of the programme of authors, illustrators and special guests at the Virtual Summer School, hosted by Edinburgh Zoo and The Highland Wildlife Park. Here’s the trailer, see if you can spot me!

It looks amazing, it’s on for the next four weeks and starts Monday. There’s behind the scenes talks, crafts, family challenges and lots of animals. My nephew can’t wait to go – he loves penguins.

Book tickets here.

 

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Science Skills

My nephew (9) had to draw a scientist and label their skills for school. My sister sent me this picture and explained he’d chosen to draw me. Wow! I love it. I especially love that I have the skill ‘fearless’ along with the complimentary skill ‘good at being safe’.

It reminded me of a book I came across recently when I was preparing for an online school event. I wanted to see what authors were doing online to get some tips, so I watched this Scottish Book Trust video:

What started as research into technique quickly changed into me being fascinated by ‘The Incredible and Fantastically Feminist Life of Ada Lovelace’, and by Mrs Puff, her best friend the cat. The whole video is so engaging, as is the illustrated book. As Ada grew up it made me think of Rachel McCrum’s fantastic performance playing Ada when we toured with the Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch.

I am not my father’s daughter

That’s the line that always sticks in my head, about her relationship with her father the poet, Lord Byron.

Ada’s life is fascinating, as is her design for the first computer – the difference engine. If you want to know more, buy Anna’s book from your local independent bookstore.

I looked up the rest of Anna Doherty’s work – I was so impressed – she’s an author illustrator who writes about women scientists and women who are neurodiverse (both topics are close to my heart).

She even wrote an illustrated book about Michelle Obama. And then I discovered her first book was about the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books. I felt inspired seeing Anna’s work and Anna, after watching the video.

And in a small way, I felt proud my nephew chose a woman scientist for his school project – and that woman was me.

 

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Storytelling in Lockdown

It’s been over 3 months since lockdown began and just like other authors, I’ve had my live events and book festivals cancelled due to covid 19. We’ve had to learn new ways to share stories. Here’s a bit about how I’ve been doing that and some story videos for the children you know.

Live in Schools

Last week I did a live Crime Squirrel Investigators event on google meet with two remote primary schools, Badcaul and Scoraig near Ullapool. One is only accessible by boat and in total, there are 16 children in both schools.

The event was lovely – we planned how to take what I normally do live and make it work on a computer screen while keeping it interactive. The teacher Mrs Love, was really helpful and we did a test earlier in the week so I worked out how to share images, music and video while still being live on screen myself. I was a bit nervous about the technology but it all worked.

For example instead of getting volunteers to help me with a camoflage demonstration, I prerecorded myself dressing up instead of the children:

Instead of getting a teacher to help with actions while I’m singing a song, I taught the children the song on guitar live and then played a prerecorded audio version while I mimed along and did live actions. I hadn’t realised quite how exhausting jumping about like a squirrel all the way through a song is and I had to do it for two songs!!

We got families to type answers in to quiz questions on the chat function and at other points the children made true or false shapes with their bodies for a squirrel quiz. At the end of the event, the children asked questions live on video. I really enjoyed it and I was pleased that they did too. Thanks to the Scottish Booktrust for funding this event.

I’ve even purchased a go-pro camera since then, so I can make better films and have a much better webcam for future events. I’m excited about using it for underwater filming and outdoor adventures too – it’s waterproof!

Live on Facebook with RSPB Scotland

Earlier on in lockdown, RSPB Scotland asked if I could make a video to engage with their younger members. We went for a Can’t-Dance-Cameron interactive storytelling session (with dancing and a science experiment) as part of their Big Wild Sleepout event. It was broadcast on Facebook and they added it to YouTube too so you can watch it here:

I could have filmed more outside but I wanted children who couldn’t go out much to feel understood and I wanted to remind them, with our imaginations and using stories – we can go anywhere. The sent me an osmo pocket camera so I learned how to use that and filmed it all myself. It took ages so I vowed to simplify things a lot for the next video. Thankfully the RSPB helped with editing! And thanks to the Scottish Booktrust for funding this event!

The Little Oak Tree

What came next was a request to record a story for the children at Ps and Gs. I chose a simple story I wrote about a little oak tree. It’s got a couple of songs in it too. It’s main aim is to encourage the children to be themselves. The story comes first and then there’s some songs and rhymes from Rachel. I hope you enjoy it, the message is for adults too – be yourself! Watch it here:

Leaf Cafe Live on Facebook

I had a nice surprise when I heard Carol at Leaf Cafe in Hartfordshire was reading Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief live on facebook as part of her legendary 11am daily book reading. You can watch it on facebook here. It’s had over 1500 views because Carol is great at reading stories!

Lockdown

It’s been a strange time. A hard time.

At first I was surviving, waiting to get through it and come out the other side. Now I’ve got to a place where I’ve realised I don’t have very much control over planning the future so I’ve surrendered to that. And as a result, I’m more able to get on with what I’ve got to do right now and I’m less bothered when things I thought were going to happen don’t or can’t. I sometimes have hard days but overall, I’m feeling much better. I’ve been running lots which I think helps. I hope you’re doing okay, whatever is happening for you and I hope these stories help.

I’m writing most days and I’ve had deadlines every week for the last 10 weeks so I’ve had to get on with it. I realised I’m more resourceful than I thought I was because I’ve made my deadlines, even though I was finding it really hard at first. I suppose that’s what we’re all doing, we’re doing our best to keep going and do what we need to do, whatever that looks like for us.

Learn Gaelic

I’ve heard lots more people are learning Gaelic since lockdown began so I’ll finish up by sharing a Gaelic glossary I made for Historic Environment Scotland when I was working as a facilitator out on the Ilse of Lewis. I didn’t share it here at the time I made it, so now’s a good time. It’s an easy introduction to a new language. And it’s full of children’s artwork so it’s really lovely. Why not give Gaelic a go and watch it here:

Read more about the Blackhouse project on the Isle of Lewis here.

I hope you have a fantastic summer holiday and I’ll blog again soon. Sorry it’s been so long!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in Science, Film, Education, Media, Events, nature, storytelling

 

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Recording an Audiobook and Album

I recently recorded my first audiobook ‘Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief’. We recorded a mini album of songs to go with it too! You can download the tracks for free and listen to samples online.

Recording an Audiobook

Alan Windram from the publishers, Little Door Books, brought along his studio recording equipment. We converted my artist studio into a recording studio. Alan coached me to make each line a bit more dramatic and we recorded a page at a time. Later, he edited the book and added sounds so the children know when to turn the pages.

Writing Songs

I wrote a song from the main character, Rosie the squirrel’s perspective. It’s got a catchy chorus with actions for the children to join in on – to make it fun. But I wanted to write about something meaningful too. Spoiler alert for the book here… I’m aware children experience a range of emotions just like we do, so I wanted to write a song I hoped they could identify with when they feel hurt or betrayed by a friend.

It’s about the joy of friendship and then the shock when a friend lets you down. You miss them and you want them to be your friend again but you’re also unsure how real the friendship was because the other person was lying. It’s also about being a squirrel so there’s lots of lines about jumping around and playing hide and seek too. The chorus goes:

All the squirrels stick your paws up, don’t turn your nose up.

All the squirrels wave your tails, it’s time to go!

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Alan wrote a brilliant song about nuts and we worked together on the lyrics to make it into a song about the high point of the story – I wanted to make it more personal to the story and again, from Rosie’s perspective. So for example Alan had written:

Nuts, nuts, nuts, NUTS, nuts everywhere!

Nuts over here and nuts over there

And I changed it to:

Nuts, nuts, nuts, NUTS, nuts everywhere!

Nuts in my tail and nuts in my hair

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One of the suspects, Tappy the Woodpecker, is a great spotted woodpecker who hammers a nut until it explodes. I like writing spoken word and I think of a woodpecker as a rhythmic head banger of a bird, who’s a bit well.. badass. So I wrote a rap from Tappy’s perspective. He’s quite self indulgent in it. Here’s a line:

My beak is the key to break into the tree.

My beak is my sound and my sound is Tappy.

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Recording Songs

We recoded the music tracks at the Little Door Books Studio in Oban, the studio incudes two cats who are hiding:

I felt pretty nervous about recording vocals but Alan said when it’s for young children, it’s better to be clear and enthusiastic so they can hear the words. So don’t worry too much about being an operatic or a fancy singer. He said to imagine I’m Rosie the Squirrel singing. So I’m channelling my inner Squirrel on these tracks!

Here’s who did what:

  • Audiobook – written and read by Emily Dodd (me!)
  • Woodpecker Rap – written and rapped by Emily Dodd
  • Stick Your Paws Up – written and lead vocals by Emily Dodd. Alan Windram backing vocals and he plays every instrument – amazing!
  • Nuts – melody by Alan Windram. Lyrics Alan Windram and Emily Dodd. Lead vocals Emily Dodd. Instruments – Alan Windram.

The Launch

The audio book launched last month at New Lanark Book Festival. You can download the tracks for free here, along with the Crime Squirrel Investigators Audio Book! Or come to an event to see a live performance soon.

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Buy the Crime Squirrel Investigators physical book at all good book shops. It’s Illustrated by Giulia Cregut and published by Little Door Books.

 
 

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Crime Squirrel Investigators Book Launch

Thanks to everyone who came along to Waterstones to celebrate the launch of my new book Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief, published by Little Door Books and illustrated by Giulia Cregut.

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Photographer extraordinaire Chris Scott came along too and he took some brilliant photos. Thank you Chris! Here’s the launch, in photo highlights…

It began with an introduction from publisher Alan Windram:

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Then I introduced myself and the Italian Illustrator, Giulia Cregut. I pointed to the banner because the two of us look quite similar to the two squirrels, see above! (yup, I’m the larger squirrel!)

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

And then we set the scene for the story, guessing objects from the forest. If you’d like to hold a giant Ameican pine cone that’s bigger then your head… come to an event soon!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

We listened to the sound of the forest and then four volunteers helped make the smell of the forest, here’s one of them in action, wafting the pine oil with a fan…

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then it was time for the story of the Naughty Nut Thief. Crime Squirrel Investigators Rosie and Charlie investigate three prime suspects after Rosie’s secret nut store is ransacked!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launchThen it was time for a red squirrel true or false quiz, make a ‘T’ or an ‘F’ with your body:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then Rosie the naughty water squirter popped out to meet everyone, I definately look like a squirrel here:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then my lovely friend Elspeth Murray came up to help Alan with actions. And we taught everyone the Beyoncé squirrel song, here we all are dancing!

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And more actions!

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Then we learnt more about one of the prime suspects, the wood mouse with a camouflage demonstration:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Next it was time for hip-hop with the great spotted woodpecker rap, yep I really did rap as a woodpecker. Thankfully everyone else joined in with beats and actions:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

I was a bit scared about rapping (it’s new for me) but thankfully we had a professional drummer, Ruairdh Graham from Niteworks to keep us all in time! He also made me practice beforehand – thanks Ru!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then it was time for a couple more picture quizzes, look at the shell and guess who ate the nut. All based on the real nut munching animal science the book is based on:

NUT-HUNTINGAnd the finale was a song about nuts! Again thanks to Elspeth and Alan for actions:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then it was Q and A time, I got to sit down at last. This looks like a serious question:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch And so does this:

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Hurrrah! It was all over:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

There were thankyous and the book signing:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

And that was it! I want to say a big thanks to Elspeth Murray for chairing and action support (she got flowers) and to Lindsey Fraser my agent from Fraser Ross Associates (she got flowers but she’d gone to the ballet by then!) and to Ruairdh Graham for beats (he got beer) and to Giulia Cregut for illustrations and to Alan Windram and Susan Windram at Little Door Books for publishing the book.

Thanks to my pals Amy, Anna, Jenny and Mel for serving drinks!

Thanks to Waterstones West End Edinburgh for hosting and to all you people who came, there were over 100 guests and we sold out – it meant so much to have your support for the book (and such enthusiastic actions!).

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Thank you to Chris Scott for taking these photos. I dedicated Ollie and the Otter to Chris because he encourages so many with his brilliant pictures. If you enjoyed these photographs, you might like the Can’t-Dance-Cameron book launch photos or The Grouse and the Mouse book launch photos

If you would like a Crime Squirrel Investigators event at your school or book festival, you can apply for Live Literature funding from the Scottish Book Trust here and find my author profile here

 

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Art for Sale

The average wage for a published author in the UK is 10k a year. I live off events mostly, it’s hard to manage and even if I sell LOADS of books I just get pence per book. Some books I’ve written were for a flat fee, so however many sell around the world, I get nothing.

I love art and I work in an art studios in Edinburgh, Coburg House. Coburg House has a shop, it’s open every weekend 11 – 4pm. I had the idea – why don’t I try to sell some of my art?

I choose five pieces with help from the artists at Coburg. I comissioned Javier Ternero, the picture framer to mount and wrap the pieces. They looked so much better mounted. Then I posted a picture on instagram of a collage I’d created, just before it went into the shop. Instagram is an image based storytelling app. This is the photo I shared:

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I didn’t realised how vulnerable it would feel – sharing something visual you’ve created and giving it value by selling it. What if noone buys it? What if people don’t like it? Thankfully I had some supportive comments on instagram. And then something wonderful happened…

The same night I posted the picture of my collage, I got a message from the new manager at the shop at Strutt’s North Mill. That’s the mill in the background of the picture. She said she loved it and wanted to sell it in the Mill shop in Derbyshire. She asked if I had any other prints too. It was such an encouragement. So then, instead of selling the original in the Coburg House shop, I got the original made into prints with Edinburgh Arts. They mount and wrap them too. Here’s the wrapped print:

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I was amazed when I saw it – the prints looked like collages – they even looked like they were made from ripped newspaper. They were delivered to the mill by a friend who happened to be driving down that way and they are available in the shop there to buy, along with the original.

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My other pieces (originals) are still at Coburg House Shop in Edinburgh for one more weekend, this coming weekend. Just in case you wanted to buy them!

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After this weekend they will be heading down to the Mill shop to join the other pieces for sale there. Let’s hope somebody buys them!

Just to let you know, Coburg House in Ediburgh has an open studios weekend coming up, I totally reccomend going. It’s the weekend of 27th and 28th July. There are 80 artist on four floors. Fine art, jewellry, textiles are more. I sadly won’t be there. But you should go! Please also go to the shop this weekend and buy my work! 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in illustration

 

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Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Last week I went to Italy and met Giulia Cregut. She’s the Italian illustrator for my new book ‘Crime Squirrel Investigators the Naughty Nut Thief’. Here we are:

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Little Door Books found Giulia’s lovely illustrations at Bologna Book Fair here, a year ago:

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It’s called ‘The Wall’. It’s actually several walls where illustrators from all over the world put up posters and leave contact details. That way, people like Alan and Susan from Little Door Books and this random man can find them.

Alan and Susan were looking for an illustrator to match the Naughty Nut Thief text from me, they found Giulia’s work and a year later… we have a book!

Here we are showing off that book by Giulia’s poster that got her the job:

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I found the book fair quite overwhelming, it’s huge. It’s the biggest children’s book fair in the world. A book fair is different to a book festival although my Mum uses the titles interchangeably when she’s usally referring to book festivals.

For clarification, book festivals are places where the public come to see authors and illustrators do book related events. Book fairs are where industry professionals come to do business. Publishers, agents, rights people – it’s a very different ball game. They both include books but that’s it.

This is the Publishing Scotland Stand, Little Door Books and the other Scottish Publishers displayed a selection of their books and did meetings:

20190412_160953To give you an idea of scale, there are over 1000 stands like this one with publishers from all over the world. I felt like a very small person in a very big industry! I wondered around and took photos of the illustrations I found inspirational, here are just a few of many that stood out to me:

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Feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I drunk coffee and consumed bread based products. This is the face of a person who’s eaten croissants, pizza, Panini and Bolognese bread (yep – that’s a thing) for 3 days:

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There aren’t many authors at the fair but Publishing Ireland had a party so I got to meet Chris Haughton, he was really nice:

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Bologna is a UNESCO city of music and the oldest university town. It’s also famous for its meat. Hence the sausage chandelier in an eatery I visited with Little Door Books:

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And our very lovely food, with more bread:

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If you would like to read Crime Squirrel Investigators The Naughty Nut Thief, you can on 1st May when it gets published. Or come to the launch on 2nd May at Waterstones, Edinburgh. With woodpecker hiphop, science, songs and a water squirting squirrel. Get your tickets here.

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Thanks to Imago for the chance to visit Bologna (Gill) and a non bread based meal (Simon). Thanks to Little Door Books and Giulia for being yourselves. And to Lindsey Fraser for support from afar. 

Pre-order Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief from all good book stores.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Events, illustration, nature, Writing

 

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CSI: The Naughty Nut Thief Cover Reveal

I’m super excited to reveal the front cover of my soon to be published book!

CSIcover

It’s beautifully illustrated by Italian illustrator Giulia Cregut and published by Little Door Books on the 1st May 2019.

Rosie’s secret hazelnut store has been ransacked and her best friend Charlie agrees to help her to find the naughty nut thief. The crime squirrel investigators only have left-over nutshells as a clue, so they watch the different ways the three main suspects eat hazelnuts to try to solve the crime. Help the two squirrels discover the naughty nut thief and learn about the different ways animals eat nuts along the way!

I hear I’ll get advance copies of the book any day now (so excited!) and I’m all set to record the audio book in a couple of weeks. You’ll be invited to the book launch in Edinburgh in May. It will include water squirting squirrels, science and songs!

If you can’t make that I’ll be at festivals and events throughout the year so you’ll hopefully see me and the squirrels soon!

Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief can be pre-ordered now from all good book stores.

UPDATE: Get tickets to the book launch on 2nd May here.

 

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DK Find Out: Energy

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Just a quick blog to let you know I’ve got a new book out this month!

DK Find Out: Energy is all about Energy (no surprize there!) and it’s for 6 – 9 year olds. Here are a couple of inside spreads:

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To see the rest of it, buy it or order it from your local library!

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If you like science you might want to come to see me at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. On the 11th August I’m doing an event called ‘Powerful Forces’ for age 7 – 10 years. It’s all about volcanoes, tsunamis and wind. Get tickets here.

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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Education, Science, Writing

 

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Tunneling Under the Forth

AlistairMoore

I recently worked with two brilliant men, Rab McKenzie and Alistair Moore to help them write and share their mining memories. I’m really excited to share them with you here…

Tunnelling Under the Forth
There are three iconic bridges crossing the Firth of Forth, between Edinburgh on the south side and Fife on the north side. But did you know that deep beneath the Firth of Forth is a mining tunnel that crosses over too? Alistair Moore is the chartered mining surveyor responsible for making two tunnels meet in the middle, back in the sixties before we had GPS. Here’s how he did it:

Press play above or click here to watch on YouTube.

The Valleyfield Colliery Disaster

In 1939 there was a mining disaster at Valleyfield Colliery that claimed 39 lives. Tragically it could have been prevented. Robert McKenzie shares what happened using his extensive research on the disaster, he says mining is in his blood. His story commemorates the lives that were lost:

Press play above or click here to watch on YouTube.

Digital Stories

Digital stories are true stories that last 1 to 3 minutes. They’re first person and in the story makers own voice with still images or video over a story sound track.

I worked with Rab and Alistair over several workshops while they crafted and shaped their stories. They also chose images and I recorded their voices and put everything together in these YouTube videos.

We also had help from Kirsty McAlister at the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative.

Earlier in the project, I worked with primary school children, their stories were factual but we broke the rules when they used their imagination and told the story from the perspectives of pit ponies and canaries!

You can read more about that part of the project here.

Other Projects
If you’re interested in digital stories and local history, you might like some of the other projects I’ve worked on, just click on the links below.

Working with the Arnol Blackhouse and children on the Isle of Lewis to share stories from the Blackhouse (including a story told by a chicken and a piece of peat!)

Working with Trinity House Maritime Museum to share maritime memories of Leith and Newhaven

Working with the Govan Reminiscence Group and Britain from Above to create memories from Govan

 
 

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