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Monday, October 31, 2016

Preparing for the Writing Battle

By Patty Smith Hall

I believe a person should know what they’re walking into before they go head long into battle and make no mistake about it--getting published is a fight. It takes knowledge and strategies; knowing when to retreat and when to push the boundaries. It is a never-ending learning process--just when you think you’ve got a grasp on the industry, it evolves into something new and ever-changing.

Between 250-300 manuscripts are published annually. This doesn’t include Love Inspired who publishes 240 books per year. So we’re talking 490-540 inspirational books released by publishers every year, That’s 540 slots for both pre-pubbed and published authors to fill. When I asked two editor friends of mine how many submissions they received in a year’s time, both said about 200 unsolicited manuscripts(That means manuscripts they didn’t ask for.) So if you added the number of submissions they probably got from all the conferences they attended plus the proposals they received from published authors, you’ve got close to a thousand plus manuscripts per publishing house per year. 43K for 540 slots. What that means is that as a new writer trying to break into the market, you’ve got to be at the top of your game. Your story has to be solid from start to finish, unique yet familiar. And published writers have to continue to produce at a high level to keep getting contracts.

And the battle doesn’t end when you hold that first book in your hands. Most publishers would like at least 2 books out of an author per year which can be overwhelming if you’ve not a particularly fast writer like me. Their budgets have been cut so that you’ve also taken on the job of marketing and publicity which means a presence on social media as well as book signings and a teaching platform. Then there’s proposals you’ll need to work on so that once the book you’re working on is finished, you have another one under contract.  And don’t forget the business part of it--the royalty statements, the contracts. While you may have an agent, it’s still very important that you understand this part of the business.

Facts you need to know about the publishing world:

Publishing is always evolving

If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, there’s a list of about 5-7 classes you can chose from during your class time. Now certain classes never change--POV, plotting, the basics of writing. But you can see which direction the writing winds are blowing if you look at the classes dealing with genre and business. The first four conferences I attended might as well have been a hen party with all the chick lit classes being taught. Every editor was looking for the next ‘Bridget Jones Diary,’ and no one, I mean NO ONE, wanted to talk about historical fiction because it was as dead as a doornail. Four years later, you couldn’t find a class on Chick-lit at the ACFW national conference. You also couldn’t find classes on two other areas that had publishers quaking in their boots--social media and self-publishing.  Now, e-publishing is a huge topic at most every writing conference. 

As a writer looking toward publication, you need to keep aware of these changes. Follow:
  1. Publisher’s Weekly which gives you daily reports of what is happening in the writing world.
  2. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest
  3. Read Agent’s blogs. Chip MacGeogor and Steve Laube offer tons of information on the publishing front.
  4. Also, look at what ABA publishing houses are aquiring--Christian Fiction is generally two year behind them in ‘fad’ books like Chick Lit, so keep and eye on the ABA market to see what’s coming down the pike.
Publishing goes in cycles

Back in 2008, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest hoping to get some feedback on my first try at a historical romance but I never expected this from one of the judges:

‘You’re a good writer but you’ll never sell this.’ That judge’s argument was against the time period I wrote in which was WWII--everyone in publishing knew that WWII was extremely unpopular with editors. As the historical market was just beginning to take off again, she suggested that I concentrate on another time period or better still, woman’s fiction(that year’s Chick Lit.) But between the time I won the Genesis for that same manuscript and the day Love Inspired Historical offered me a contract, the historical market, and WWII books specifically took off.

So what did I learn through this experience? That genres go up and down in popularity. What may be on every editor’s wish list one day might not tickle their fancy the next. Just keep writing your story. Your day is coming!

The Writing World is very small

Writing is a very lonely business so it’s nice to connect with other writers online through Facebook or on a writing loop, and that’s great--but no matter how innocent your comment may be, THINK TWICE before posting it on any of your social media because there are agents and editors lurking out there, watching. While it’s okay to rant about the rejection letter on that book you were so sure was going to sell, it’s not okay to badmouth the editor who didn’t buy it. Think about it--would you want to work with someone who was so unprofessional and immature as to rant about you on Facebook? And if you don’t think that’s true--I had an author friend who went off on an editor from a very well-known publishing house(I actually saw this on one of my writing loops) and it took four years for her career to recover from the damage she’d done in that one little rant.

Characteristics of a Successful Writer

Perseverance --you’ve got to write even when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or physically can’t. You’ve got to keep at it when the rejects pile up, when everyone around you is telling you to give up, and when you’re so discouraged by it all, you wonder what you were thinking. I wrote my first two books flat on my back when I couldn’t sit up in a chair. Take Dora from Finding Nemo credo as your own--just keep swimming!

Teachable spirit--Sorry to say, but you will never learn everything there is about writing a book. Which is great because the craft keeps stretching you, keeps pushing you to write better, to be better. But if you close yourself off to the possibility of learning something new, you’re cheating yourself and your readers. 

Tough skin--not everyone is going to like your writing. Heck, not everyone is going to read your writing. And that’s okay. You can’t get your feelings hurt every time your critique partners send back your submission bathed in red ink because if you can’t handle that, you’ll never be able to handle some of the scathing reviews on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. So remember, those comments about talking heads or passive writing are not personal, it’s to help you reach your goal of being published.


Preparing for the #Writing Battle - @Pattywrites on @NovelRocket (Click to Tweet)

Make no mistake about it - getting published is a fight - @PattyWrites on @NovelRocket #writing #publishing (Click to Tweet)

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Taking Correction

by Marcia Lee Laycock

Correction. It's never easy, especially when we think we've got it all right. Those words we have slaved over; those characters we built from scratch; those brilliant plot twists we implanted at just the right place. How could they need correction? In our eyes, they’re perfect. But then fresh eyes find the typos. A keen sense of rhythm finds the awkward sentence structure. And even those brilliant plot twists are found wanting.

That's when we must take a deep breath, read our work again and acknowledge that the one with the blue pencil in her hand is experienced and astute. Another deep breath and we make the changes. Then a smile. The work is more precise, cleaner and does express more effectively what we intended it to express. The correction was needed.

This doesn't only happen in our writing life. Our spiritual life needs the same attention. Oh yes, we sometimes think we’ve got it all right. But then something happens and we discover there are things lurking that ought not be there. We find ourselves thinking thoughts that ought not have come to mind. We act in a manner not becoming and realize there might be a streak or two of arrogance and pride buried deep under our self-righteousness.

The Lord has a way of bringing these things to our attention and often it’s not a pleasant process. That’s when we need to take a deep breath, acknowledge our sin and take steps to act on God’s correction. In the end, like our writing, we will smile as we find our lives are the better for it. We see more clearly, and God’s presence is able to shine more brightly in and around us.

Even those chosen by the Lord to be his first disciples had to humble themselves before Him. None of them were perfect, all needed correction from time to time. Often the process was painful – see Luke 22:24-26 where Jesus rebukes the disciples for jockeying for position in the kingdom, or Luke 22:61-62 where Peter weeps bitterly after denying he ever knew Jesus. But always, after the rebuke, comes the forgiveness and the love. Though the disciples disappointed Jesus time and again He blessed them and made them into powerful men of God.
None of us is exempt from the process because none of us is perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 Correction is not only necessary to make our work and our lives better, it is necessary so that we will become the people God intends us to be, able to do His work and His will, able to stand before Him one day as he says, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). 

Erasers are Necessary by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 

Her most recent release is Celebrate This Day, a devotional book for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving. 

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Saturday, October 29, 2016

You're Not in This Alone

by Jennifer AlLee

Human contact. It’s one of those essentials of life that we often overlook. Oh sure, we have contact with our immediate families, but that’s not always enough.

Take the writer, for example.

Writer’s think differently than normal people. (That's right. We're not normal and we're proud of it.) We see what ifs everywhere. We hear the voices of our characters talking to us… and we talk back. We also deal with more assaults to our self-esteem and emotions than you’d think. Often, they come from outside sources, but just as often, they come from ourselves. Talking to a spouse might help, depending on the severity of the situation. Nine times out of ten, even though they try, the non-writing spouse won’t understand why it’s a big deal.

So what’s a writer to do when she feels particularly vulnerable, her armor more dented than the surface of the moon? Reach out to the only people who truly understand her: writing friends.

You can take the word “writer” and substitute any other you choose: Secretary, CEO, pastor, teacher, stay-at-home mom, dental hygienist, and on and on and on. Sometimes, the only way to get out of the doldrums is to have your friends pull you out. And the best friends for the job are the ones who know what you’re going through.

Of course, God knows this.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)
He’s talking to members of the early Christian church. Now there was a bunch who really needed to band together. They were persecuted. They faced attacks on a daily basis. Who else but another Christian would understand?

Notice, He doesn’t tell them to get together and pretend that nothing bad has happened. He doesn’t tell them to ignore each other’s pain. He tells them to exhort each other, lift each other up.

In our modern world of emails, Facebook, and such, there’s no excuse for being alone. A timely email message from a friend across the country means just as much as going out for coffee and a chat with your friend from across town. Take some time to reach out today, whether you need to be uplifted, or you think of someone else who could use an emotional boost.

Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on Pandora. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. You can visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her website.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Don't Be a Scaredy-Cat Writer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

The season of spooks is upon us, but that doesn’t mean we can give in to the fears we face as writers. We must face our writing fears and keep moving.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and this person confided that she was afraid she didn’t have what it takes to be a writer. “I’m just not good enough to get a book published, and I don’t know if I ever will be.”

“Welcome to the club,” I told her.

My answer wasn’t what she expected. She had forgotten something we had heard together at a conference many years ago. We’d been listening to an established author talk about his own fear and inadequacies. He told the audience that every time he sits down to write a new book, the fears resurface and he’s certain he no longer has what it takes to make it in publishing.

Hearing him confess his own fears gave me hope. Beyond that, it brought home an important fact. Being published—no matter if it’s a single book or a hundred—won’t necessarily make the fear disappear.

So what’s a writer to do?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Blog-Flinging——Should Authors Use Their Platform To Preach?

By Peter Leavell

Disciples of political and doctrinal ideals are lobbing blogs at each other in attempt to articulate their position. I’m not really a blog-flinger myself—but I’d love my own work hurled at people. There’s a problem though.

I’m not a political advisor. Or an opinion piece writer. I don’t chat with the political pundits weekly, nor do I dig through the volumes of work daily that necessitate a semi-informed position.

I have to face facts. I write novels.

I’m an entertainer. An entertainer of the highest quality, but still, an entertainer.

At Novel Rocker, we’re all entertainers.

For some odd reason, people listen to entertainers.

Do you know what it takes for me to be comfortable sharing my opinion? I’m going to share my opinion about how a person should offer their opinion.

A few years ago, I wrote myself a letter, and I’m sharing the highlights with you.

Dear Peter,

—You get angry at Hollywood actors who mumble their opinion and their quote is heralded as high thought. You’re as much an entertainer as actors. Don’t be a hypocrite. Learn your subject before you offer opinions.

—Offend as few as possible. Your platform wasn't built on offense. The goal is to obtain fans, not alienate them. Yes, truth sometimes divides. But remember Winston Churchill said “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

—If you’re not having fun, they’re not having fun. You’re an entertainer, Peter, and people pay money for your work.

—Peter, airing your thoughts might make you feel better that you’re doing your part for what’s right, but ramifications for the position might not be best for the future.

—Apologize for being wrong yesterday but be right today.

—Put forward ideas that have ramifications not for one presidency or immediate policies, but for generations into the future. The founding fathers of the United States had classical educations in Roman, Greek, and modern European traditions, and you cannot offer opinions unless you’ve studied in a similar vein. All that is said should ring with the truth of eternity.

—Make sure you are good friends with one enemy of every position you hold.

—There are two political parties, but several movements. Champion the movements, and you’ll outlast any party.

— Remain forever positive.

—Chose battles with utmost care. Remember? This has happened many times—regret strikes a few seconds after a comment is delivered.

—Peter, most of all, remember—you’re a Christian. They’ll know you by your love. Finding it hard to love, and instead want to fling blogs to fix people? Then Peter, are you sure you’re a Christian?


Peter Leavell
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stupid Moments

by Yvonne Lehman

By Sharon Blackstock Dobbs

It was you.
You who didn’t feed the cat,
Or lock up all the doors
You who left the garbage the dog scattered on the floor.
You who left the milk to sour in the kitchen sink.
It was you.

You shrug your shoulders, raise your brows and say, “It wasn’t me.”
I know that look of innocence when you are in denial.
Finding all your hiding spots is a monumental trial.
Why can’t you leave well enough alone and let it be?

Now, where have you put my glasses? My keys, where are they?
I search high and bending low I fall down on my knees,
My glasses slip onto my nose to the jingling of the keys.
Oh, well…

Maybe it was me.

* * *

Yvonne here.

Like that first entry in the Stupid Moments book, sometimes we have to admit we may have acted… well, less intelligently than we would have liked.

But… the instant Adam and Eve bit into forbidden fruit, stupid moments became a fact of life.

Such experiences can range from laughable to lamentable, humbling to humiliating. Whether they result from brilliant ideas (that weren’t), careless actions, or unanticipated circumstance, the uncomfortable aftermath often remains fresh in our minds throughout our lives.

In this sixth book in the Moments series, 48 authors share 62 stories illustrating that no matter what brings these moments into our lives, it’s what we learn from them that matters.

Sometimes we learn something important about ourselves. Other times we learn not to take things too seriously.

Ultimately, these moments serve to remind us we’re only human, and we always need the grace and redemptive power of Christ in our lives.

Other books in this series are Divine Moments, Christmas Moments, Spoken Moments, Precious Precocious Moments, More Christmas Moments, and Additional Christmas Moments. Loving Moments is scheduled for early 2017. I am now receiving submissions for:

  • Coola-nary Moments – stories of culinary mishaps, extraordinary cooking stories, and recipes
  • Romantic Moments – love stories, dating, falling in love, marriage, weddings, bridesmaids, lost love, etc. etc.
  • Questionable Moments – based on authors’ response to questions asked by God/Jesus in the Bible, or implied, such as: “Where are you?” “Where are you going?” “Do you love me?” “Do you believe?” etc.
  • Christmas Moments Book #4 – for 2017
These stories in the series of Divine Moments books are written by multi-published and first-time-published authors who generously share their experiences without compensation, but with the joy of knowing all the royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse. Since 1970, that organization has helped victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through his son, Jesus Christ.

If you would like to share an experience, contact me at

Submission opportunity for writers with @YvonneLehman on @NovelRocket (Click to Tweet)

Those writing Stupid Moments articles are: Gloria Anderson, Joye Atkinson, Karen Nolan Bell, Mason K. Brown, Roger E. Bruner, Elsie H. Brunk, Janet Campbell, Rebecca Carpenter, Joann M. Claypoole, Sharon Blackstock Dobbs, Susan Shelton Dollyhigh, Dorothy Floyd, Theresa Jenner Garrido, Tommy Scott Gilmore III, Diana Beamis Good, Nick Harrison, Sandra Merville Hart, Helen L. Hoover, Lillian Humphries, Terri Kelly, Alice Klies, Barbara Latta, David A. Lehman, Yvonne Lehman, Lynn Lilja, Diana Leagh Matthews, Andrea Merrell, Maggie Micoff, Marybeth Mitcham, Vicki H. Moss, Shelley Pierce, Deborah M. Presnell, Colleen L.Reece, Toni Armstrong Sample, Gloria Spears, Cindy Sproles, Nate Stevens, Fran Lee Strickland, Barb Suiter, Ann Tatlock, Leigh Ann Thomas, Donna Collins Tinsley, AudreyTyler, Jan Westmark, Kathy Whirity, Dr. Rhett H. Wilson Sr., Debra DuPree Williams, Jean Wilund

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How the WRITING ZONE is a Lot Like the TWILIGHT ZONE

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call THE WRITING ZONE.

Okay, I confess. I borrowed the intro from a television cult classic. But truthfully, have you ever read a better explanation of what it means to be a writer?

Today I’m offering some tips to help you find your way to the writing zone.

1. Be Willing to Call Yourself a Writer: Yes, this one is controversial. There are many who argue that we must do much more than just call ourselves a writer to become a writer. I would only say this, I believe that calling yourself a writer is the first step on becoming a writer. Without that step, it’s hard to move forward.

2. Spend time Writing: This may seem like a no-brainer, but spending time talking about writing—as opposed to actually writing is fairly common. Don’t be one of those who only dream, be ready to walk through to The Writing Zone by spending time writing.

3. Invest Financially in Your Writing: Take classes, attend conferences, buy books, join organizations. Do your homework first, but be ready to put your money where your pen is. Here’s a series of posts I wrote about Dollars & Sense for Writers.

4. Develop the Art of Patience & Enjoy the Journey: Finding success in publishing rarely happens overnight. Realize that you’re in it for the long hall and do the next thing. Relax and enjoy the journey, but keep moving forward.

5. Make Writing a Priority: In the beginning, it’s hard for some friends and family to understand the commitment it takes to become a writer. Beginning writers don’t often get paid for writing and it’s easy to assume it’s a hobby. For some writing is a hobby, and that’s fine. But if you’re serious, then act like it. If you don’t take writing seriously, then no one else will.

6. Realize that Failure is an Option—a Good One: We often learn more when we fail. If we never experience failure, it’s a sign that we’ve never tried anything difficult.

7. Talent is a Very Small Part of the Equation: Talent won’t take you far. Diligence and perseverance are where you find the strength for The Writing Zone.

8. Don’t Try to Go It Alone: While writing is a mainly solitary pursuit, we still need others to help us. We need to be a part of a writing community so we can give and receive encouragement and get perspective on what we write.

9. Don’t Kill Your Creativity with Negative Self-Talk: We all do it. But talking down to ourselves will have a negative impact.

10. Comparison is a Death Trap for Writes: It’s easy to look at others and think we’re gaining perspective. The truth is, we aren’t. Everyone’s writing journey looks different. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

11. Keep the Faith: There is a reason you started on this journey. Write it down and put it where you can see it. I believe God made me as a person who processes life through words. If I tried to give up writing, I truly think I’d die.

These are the things that have helped me find my way to The Writing Zone. What would you add to the list? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Adventures of Writing

The life of a writer can be pretty exciting. Yes, I really believe that. As writers we often say we have a solitary life, because many of us are introverts, and our lives outside our writing world are often limited to social media, or visiting with the characters in our books. So how can a writer’s life be exciting?

Everyday is a new adventure. The adventure is up to you. Maybe you write romantic suspense and your character is on a cross-country trip—can you say research/road trip? J I recently attended the ACFW conference in Nashville and visited with an author who traveled to all the places he included in his books. He has travelled all over the world for no other reason except he is a writer.

Maybe traveling isn’t an option for you, but that’s okay. You can still travel vicariously through online research.

The fork in the road leads to all kinds of possibilities. You get to decide what your characters do next. Will you make life miserable for them, or will you show a little grace and allow a moment of relief? The world traveler I referred to above stated he likes to make his characters experience a lot of pain. So much so that he is often brought to tears as he writes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in tears as well when I’ve been writing. Talk about living an emotional rollercoaster—definitely not boring.

Social media. I know many authors consider social media a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about your interests. Perhaps you enjoy pictures, then try Instagram or Pinterest. Or maybe you don’t have a lot of time, but your publisher wants you to market—Twitter keeps things short and sweet. Plus you get to choose who you follow, so you get to see the kind of things you want to see. Maybe you like to interact with readers, friends and family, but you don’t have the time meet in person, then Facebook could be a great tool. Facebook groups are an easy way to interact with readers and keep up with family and friends. But user beware many people find Facebook to be an addicting.

Sense of satisfaction. If you create writing goals and meet them then you will receive instant gratification. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishing ones goals. The greatest sense of satisfaction I get is when a reader enjoys one of my books and tells me. Those moments bring out the kid in me, and I’ve been known to do a little happy dance.

Let’s make the most out of our writing lives today and enjoy the process a little more than we did yesterday.


Can the mystery of Christmas unite two hurting hearts?

Bailey Calderwood gives all she has to her job as an interior design assistant, but her best isn’t good enough for her demanding, bed-ridden boss. For some unexplained reason Mona has turned against her. At least not everyone is out to get her. A mysterious admirer is sending her cards and flowers. Could it be her boss’s son who’s recently returned home in time for the holidays?

Stephen Belafonte rushes home from France to be with his mother after her stroke, and is surprised by the rift between his mom and Bailey, her assistant. When his mom demands he fire Bailey, he’s torn between respecting his mother’s wishes and doing what’s best for the family business. Can Stephen find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? 

Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing.

She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.

Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Connect with Kimberly through
Twitter: @kimberlyrosejoh
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