September 30, 2013

Meet Charlotte Gunnufson - Author Of Halloween Hustle!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

I'm sure you all realize what day this is...

The last day of September!!!

And I'm sure you all realize what that means...

Halloween is only 31 days away!!!!!

Of course we will be celebrating with the 3rd Annual Halloweensie Contest, guidelines to be posted very soon (which means when I get around to making them up :)), but to get us in the mood we have an interview with debut author Charlotte Gunnufson today and she will tell us about her picture book,  Halloween Hustle!  A copy of the book will be one of the prizes in the Halloweensie contest, so you'll want to know all about it.

First, let me introduce you to Charlotte who says:
Charlotte Gunnufson

I grew up in Minnesota and suffered all the things a middle child normally suffers: my older sister tricked me into eating a worm (You mean spaghetti doesn’t grow in the ground?), my little brother blew out the candles on my birthday cake, and they called me Miss Prissy—which, I have to admit, was true when I was a kid. Clearly, I’m trying to make up for lost time.
I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with my husband Scott and Isaac and Ellen. Perry is all grown up and living in Minnesota. Besides writing, dancing, and Halloween-ing, I love crossword puzzles and playing board games and charades with family and friends.
I’m happy to be a member of SCBWI-Iowa!

Welcome, Charlotte!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We're all delighted you're here!  Can you start by telling us a little about how you came to writing and what your typical writing day is like?

CG:  I actually came back to writing. My first poem was published when I was in elementary school (in an Archie’s comic book). I wrote in my teens and early twenties and then stopped writing for 15 years. As crazy as it sounds, I was inspired to start writing again by a movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. (Yep, that’s how it’s spelled and watching it made me feel like I’d been wasting time.) I started writing again the next day. I write for kids because I love their earnestness and exuberance! I like writing humorous stories with word play, rhyme, and lots of exclamation points!!!

I try to write every weekday and protect my writing time like a mama bear protects her cub. I don’t wait for inspiration because that time can be spent writing. Bonus: a (mostly) consistent schedule helps me be ready to write and knowing I’m going to write keeps my mind open to stories ideas (which are lurking everywhere!). I usually do my best writing in the morning. I try to hold my internal editor at bay for a few hours because she can work long into the afternoon and evening.

SLH:  What inspired Halloween Hustle?
Isaac's project - the inspiration for Halloween Hustle

CG:  I had been writing for kids for a little over a year and relentlessly trolling for story ideas. I opened a bin of Halloween decorations and an art project my son Isaac made way back in 2nd grade caught my attention. (I keep as much of my kids’ artwork as space permits. Okay. Perhaps a bit more than space permits.) I began writing a poem about a dancing skeleton, thinking I’d submit it to a children’s magazine. But then Skeleton discovered he wasn’t just dancing; he was dancing his way to a Halloween party. And, hey, there’s his buddy Frankenstein, and why don’t they just hop on that bus…and the poem stretched into a story.

SLH:  Is Halloween Hustle your first published book?  What was the road to publication like?

CG:  Halloween Hustle is my first book, though I’ve been lucky enough to have my work appear in Highlights, Highlights High Five and Hello, Cricket, Ladybug and other children’s magazines. I submitted the manuscript to several publishers and either received rejections or [Cue crickets]. I hadn’t given up on Halloween Hustle, but I’d moved on to other stories.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry

I didn’t receive the proverbial call. More than a year after I’d sent out the manuscript, I received a package from a marvelous and multi-talented editor at Marshall Cavendish, with abundant notes, whole pages crossed out, and a letter saying the story had potential for their list. I revised (and re-revised), and the manuscript was acquired by Marshall Cavendish, which was subsequently acquired by Amazon Children’s Publishing.

Writing other stuff
Still writing

During this same time period…
My daughter Ellen grew from kindergartener to fifth grader.
My son Isaac grew from fifth grader to high school junior.
My son Perry grew from college freshman to having a real job and a house.
A grain of advice humbly offered to fellow writers: Don’t waste a nanosecond waiting. Be brave, be fierce, and keep writing.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry

SLH:  Do you have an agent?
CG:  I do not have an agent but believe that having an agent the way to go. I’ve queried about a dozen agents with various manuscripts. I’ve received a few requests for additional material (which, of course, I happily obliged!) but haven’t received an invitation to sign with an agent. I’m working to develop a body of publishable manuscripts. It’s a WIP (Work In Progress).

SLH:  What have been your marketing strategies so far?
CG:  Since Halloween Hustle is my first book, I’ve invested oodles of time and not inconsequential funds in promoting it. I developed fun, free, kid-friendly stuff for my website: a giggle-inducing book trailer and dance-along video as well as Halloween-themed crossword puzzles, word searches, and mazes. Illustrator Kevan Atteberry created cool coloring pages and graciously shared his work so that visitors to the website can send Halloween e-postcards to their friends. I hired Taylor Ridling to design the website. Alisabeth Von Presley created the book trailer and dance video, including the music, vocals, and voice over. My son Isaac designed bookmarks for the small price of not having to clean his room.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry 2013
DIY (Do It Yourself) Tour: I’m hosting Halloween Hustle dance parties at schools, libraries, and bookstores throughout the Midwest. Kids craft Batty Hats and Bookmark Buddies, listen to the story, participate in original action rhymes, and then do the Halloween Hustle (Yes! Literally!) and boogie to Halloween classics like “Monster Mash” and “Purple People Eater.” The events are fun (Fun!) for the kids and for me. (Setting up events and promoting them are time-consuming.)  I’m also appearing at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival along with Betsy Lewin (Click, Clack, Moo), Bob Raczka (Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word), and Paul O. Zelinsky (Z is for Moose). Seriously? I know. That’s how I feel. Did the Festival contact me? I wish. Actually, no one contacted me. (Fortune cookie message for fellow writers: Don’t wait. Do!)

SLH:  What is YOUR favorite kind of dancing? :)
CG:  I am a dancing fool and could never choose a favorite! I teach Zumba Fitness® which is Latin based with a dash of Bollywood, African dance, hip hop and more. I get to see students trade in stress for Samba!

It makes my heart happy to see kids dance at the Halloween Hustle parties because they really get into it. It’s so good for them to move, and when they “get the steps,” they gain confidence. They cheer and always ask to do “Purple People Eater” again.

Well, Charlotte, it has made us happy to have you visit today! Thank you so much for coming!

Folks, you can find Charlotte at the following places online:

You can view her book trailer HERE

You can purchase Halloween Hustle at the following online retailers:

And don't forget! One fabulous writer will win a copy of Charlotte's delightful book for writing a great entry in the Halloweensie Contest coming soon to a blog near you.

(Uh, that would be this one. :))

Have a hip-hoppin', Hustlin', Halloween's-comin'-soon Monday, everyone! :)

(And if you have any questions for Charlotte, it's possible she can be prevailed upon to swing by and answer them if you leave them in the comments :))

September 27, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Little Red Writing

Well, would you look at that?  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday again!

Wowee! did last week disappear fast!

I have a tons-of-fun, 3 day old book to share with you today.  I hope you like it!

Title: Little Red Writing
Written By: Joan Holub
Illustrated By: Melissa Sweet
Chronicle Books, September 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: Fairy Tale retelling, writing, bravery

Opening: "Once upon a time in pencil school, a teacher named Ms. 2 told her class, "Today we're going to write a story!"
"Yippee!" said the birthday pencil.
"Slammin'," siad the basketball pencil.
"Sharp!" said Little Red."

Brief Synopsis: Ms. 2 sets her pupils on the story path and let's them loose to write their very own stories.  The other pencils stick to what they know about, but Little Red wants to write "a story about bravery because red is the color of courage."  With a basket of 15 red words from Ms. 2 to use in case she runs into trouble, Little Red sets out to find adventure.

Links To Resources: The obvious resource here is the book itself accompanied by giving kids the opportunity to write their own story!  If they need a little help getting started, supply some story starters.  They can base their story on a well-known fairy tale - like Little Red Riding Hood :)  You can give them a "basket" with 3-5 words that they must include in their story.  You can give them an opening line and let them continue, for example, "Once upon a time there was a lonely princess whose best friend was a bear..." or "The night I threw pizza on the roof Mom got really mad..."  For younger kids, you could make up the story together.  There is a classroom guide aligned to common core HERE but be forewarned it took awhile to load.  Hang in there, though.  It shows up eventually :)

Why I Like This Book:  I love fractured fairy tales.  I love clever.  And I love books that show kids the fun in writing and teach them a little something about how to do it in the process.  In this story, Ms. 2 (the teacher) writes "The Story Path" on the blackboard: "1. Idea, characters, setting  2. Trouble  3. Even bigger trouble  4. Fix the trouble."  She gives Little Red a basket of emergency nouns.  As Little Red travels her story path she discovers that action verbs are better than boring ones, adjectives may overwhelm your story and need to be cut down, conjunctions can get you in trouble with run on sentences, adverbs can be helpful ("We deliver speedily!"), that the right word in the right place can make all the difference, and that it takes courage to follow your story through to the end... but it's worth it when you share it with a rapt audience :)  Melissa Sweet's art (which I love - if you haven't seen Balloons Over Broadway check it out immediately! :)) is the perfect accompaniment for this story as Little Red wends her way through the forest of adjectives and has to face down the Wolf 3000!  (Can you guess what that is??? :))  I also love the little extra touches, like the fact that they attend the Pencilvania School, and the cover page admonition to "Write often and carry a big notebook" :)

This book would pair well with Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Before we all head off to read all the other Perfect Picture Books, I'd just like to let you know that on Monday we'll be having a special guest!  She's pretty entertaining, so you won't want to miss her debut appearance!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  And PPBF bloggers, please be sure to leave your post-specific links in the list below so we can all come visit!

September 25, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #106 - The Light Bulb And The Lab Coat (PB) PLUS The August Pitch Pick Winner!

Do you know what time it is?

It's time for Would You Read It Wednesday!

Come on down, everybody!

There are still a few seats in the front row.

Don't worry.  I won't call on you unless your hand is raised :)

Okey dokey!  First, it is my pleasure to announce the winner of the August Pitch Pick and that is

LISA! with her pitch for The Golden Egg!

Congratulations, Lisa!  Your pitch is already on its way to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts!  And congratulations to all our brave pitchers.  You all did a wonderful job!  And thank you to all our stalwart voters without whom a winner would not be possible.  You are all lovely! :)

Speaking of snacks...

Oh.  We weren't?

Well, we are now :)

So, speaking of snacks, today, thanks to the lovely Kathy, we have the perfect Something Chocolate!  Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars!  Allow me to wax poetic about their many virtues:

1. Plenty of chocolate (obviously!) which, as I keep reminding you, is a vegetable since it is derived from a bean.  = Health Food!

2. Plenty of peanut butter, which is an excellent source of protein, so important for fueling our brains for a long day of writing.

3. People often refer to peanut butter as PB (as in PB&J) and here we are in the world of picture books - also PBs!!!  Coincidence?????  I don't THINK so!

Let's eat some and see if we all have an amazing-better-than-usual-brilliantly-productive PB writing day!

Now that our mouths are all full (glass of milk anyone?) today's pitch comes to us from Donna.  Donna is the author/illustrator of children's picture book, LUCCI- THE NO SMOOCHIE POOCHIE.  She loves kids, books and animals, but most of all, kids' books about animals. She lives, writes, and pursues learning the craft out in beautiful Central Texas Hill Country with a husband and a menagerie.  You can find her online at:

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Light Bulb And The Lab Coat
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 8-12)
The Pitch: What if a bird building her nest was responsible for Thomas Edison's first successful light bulb? My story finds Edison and his associates up against the clock and investors' expectations to deliver an incandescent bulb, capable of bringing safe, economical light to homes. Mr. Edison befriends an orphan robin by providing it a home in his lab, and the robin, in turn, provides the inventor companionship, inspiration and the answer to his quest. The Light Bulb and the Lab Coat, intended for ages 8 - 12, combines a small 'element' of fiction with factual information to elicit a child's sense of wonder, and what could be a complex process becomes a fun read.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Donna improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in January so you've got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Donna is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to announcing a writing contest pretty soon...  Maybe next week! :)

Alrighty folks.  That's it for today's show.  Please tune in Friday, same bat time, same bat station!

Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

September 23, 2013

NYS Sheep And Wool Festival Contest/Giveaway for Can't Sleep Without Sheep

[To all my regular devoted readers, this post is a special one for the NYS Sheep And Wool Festival and you may read it or skip it as you wish :)]

Come Join The Fun At The 2013 New York State Sheep And Wool Festival!!!

October brings fresh apples, autumn leaves, and the NYS Sheep And Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY!

Come join me on Saturday October 19 from 11-3, with a special story time at 12:15 when I'll read Can't Sleep Without Sheep!
While you're waiting for the Sheep & Wool Festival to get here, you can do something fun!

In Can't Sleep Without Sheep, Ava has a hard time falling asleep so she counts sheep.  But she has to count them so many times that they get tired and quit!  Ava has to find something else to count instead!
illustration copyright Mike Wohnoutka 2009
For a chance to win a free, signed copy of Can't Sleep Without Sheep, you can do one of two fun things!

1.  On a piece of paper, write down what animal Ava could count instead of sheep and why it would be a good choice for falling asleep.


2. Draw a picture of an animal Ava could count!  (You can draw on your own piece of paper or use this free downloadable page)

Bring your entry with you to the Merritt Bookstore booth in Building B on Saturday October 19 by 1 PM (but come at 12:15 if you want to hear the story!)  Please make sure your name is on your entry.  After the story, we will randomly choose one winner to receive a free, signed copy of the book.  You must be present to win.

My friend, Iza Trapani, will also be at the festival reading her delightful book, Baa Baa Black Sheep!  Please visit her site for a chance to win a book from her, and be sure to come see her at the festival on Saturday between 9 and 12:30 or on Sunday from 10-5!

If you're excited to share you entry ideas or drawings, you are welcome to post them in the comment section below.  You can also take a picture of your drawing and email it to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I will be glad to add it to this post so visitors can enjoy your artwork!

Have fun writing and drawing!  I look forward to seeing you at the festival!

September 20, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Day The Crayons Quit PLUS A Giveaway Winner!

Yay!  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I have a FANTASTIC book to share with you today, and I know I usually try to put the book at the very top of the post for people who visit later just to see the book, but today I have to squeeze one little housekeeping detail in first.  (And a mention to please read to the end for the announcement of who won Erik's book from Monday!)

As you know I intended (ahem) to catch up on the updating of the PPBF list over the summer.  Well, that was a ridiculous fantasy.  I can never seem to remember that I have LESS time in the summer, not MORE.  Needless to say, I haven't done it yet.  But, I am doing it now!  Yes I am!  And I have a new plan.  Which I hope is going to work and make it much more user-friendly for everyone!  (It's only a little bit hare-brained :))

But I need to ask you guys one little favor.

Well.  Two.

Er.  Three.

1. Can you please be sure to put the intended age range on your post.
2. Can you please say if it's fiction or nonfiction.  I usually assume fiction if it doesn't say, but sometimes it's just not clear.
3.  Can you please just list the 3 or so most prevalent themes.  It's a time-consuming job to update the list, and adding a book to 1- 4 theme groups is manageable, but 12 makes me want to crawl in a hole :) And if I haven't read the book it makes it very hard for me to know which 3 or 4 I should pick.

I promise to reveal the whole scheme when it's a little closer to completion, but I'm still in the early stages of working on it and have a LONG way to go, so bear with me :)

Oh, and one other thing.  Penny very kindly let me know this week that the old Perfect Picture Book link was no longer working.  Aarrgghh!  Somewhere along the line the URL for Perfect Picture Books changed.  I have no idea how.  But Beth was able to ascertain that it happened last January.  I, of course, was oblivious.  So, could you all please check that the link back to PPBF that you're adding is the correct one from here on out?  It should be:

Alrighty!  Now onto this book which you are going to LOVE! :)

Title: The Day The Crayons Quit
Written By: Drew Daywalt
Illustrated By: Oliver Jeffers
Philomel Books, June 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: colors, emotions, getting along, humor

Opening: "One day in class, Duncan went to take out his crayons and found a stack of letters with his name on them.
Hey Duncan,
It's me, RED crayon.  We need to talk..."

Brief Synopsis: One day when Duncan wants to color, he opens his crayon box to discover that the crayons have quit.  RED needs a rest.  PURPLE wants Duncan to be neater.  BEIGE is tired of feeling less important than BROWN.  What's a boy to do?  Luckily Duncan comes up with the perfect solution!

The green page from The Day The Crayons Quit
copyright 2013 Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
Links To Resources:  In this book, Duncan's crayons write to him to express their feelings about the way he uses them.  Try writing a letter back to one or more of the crayons.  Write a letter that you imagine one of your toys might write to you.  Why would the toy be happy or sad or jealous or angry or any other emotion you can think of?  Classroom activities, writing activities

Why I Like This Book:  This book is imaginative and clever and fun!  The letters are laugh-out-loud funny.  The drawings are perfectly and believably child-like (and all done in crayon!)  It's a perfect marriage of text and pictures which is what picture books are all about :)  And because the crayons all behave like kids, there are plenty of feelings and behavior that kids can understand - jealousy, competition, feeling unappreciated, etc. - all things that everyone struggles with from time to time.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Now, before you all go off to read each other's PPBF selections and then onto your weekends,  I'd like to announce that the winner of Erik's book from Monday's giveaway (as randomly chosen by is...

Yay for lucky Robyn!!!  (Who, very fittingly, claimed that the vegetable she was most like was chocolate.  My heart over-floweth!  Someone besides me is finally counting chocolate as a vegetable!  After all, it does come from a BEAN! :))  Congratulations, Robyn!  Please email me so we can work out how to get your signed copy of The Adventures Of Tomato And Pea, Book 1: A Bad Idea to you!!!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  And PPBF bloggers, make sure to add your links below!

September 18, 2013

Would You Read It #105 - The Superhero Rejects (MG) PLUS The August Pitch Pick!

Good Wednesday, Everyone!

First off, I have to apologize for not posting the winner of Friday's book giveaway on Monday as I promised.  Monday's post was all about Erik and his new book, and I didn't want to steal any of his thunder. (Also, that post was WAY long enough already and I was afraid you might doze off and not fully appreciate the news :))

So, that being explained, I would like to announce the winner NOW.  Are you ready?

The winner (as randomly chosen by of Iza Trapani's brand new, hot-off-the-presses, beautiful, fabulous Little Miss Muffet which shall be personally signed by Iza is:

Sue Heavenrich!!!!!

Congratulations, Sue!!!  Please email me so we can organize Iza signing and mailing you the book!  And thanks to everyone for reading about Iza's wonderful book, bravely sharing your fears, writing some pretty amazing Muffet verses, and just generally joining in the fun!

Now, before we go any further, I realize many of you are fainting from lack of proper nutrition, so let's get right to Something Chocolate, shall we?  There's a nip in the air this morning, so I'm in the mood for a lovely mug of hot chocolate.  How does that sound?

Mmmmm!!!  Delish!  In case you were wondering, yes, there are mini marshmallows under the whipped cream :)

Now that you're feeling fortified, let's give someone a chance to have their pitch read by editor Erin Molta!  It's time for the August Pitch Pick!

Our 4 wonderful pitches are:

#1 Darshana
Karina The Dancer (PB ages 4-8)

Free-spirited Karina wants to be a dancing star like her older sister. So she signs up for Indian classical dance, but her colorful attire, hip-shaking moves, and improvisations land her in hot water with Guruji, the teacher. Karina learns that to be a star, you just follow your heart, and do what you love.

#2 Lisa
The Golden Egg (PB ages 5-8)

The golden egg that doesn't hatch creates quite a stir among the feathered friends on the farm. The Eggsperts are called and the Whisperers weigh in. In the end, Mother Hen must decide whether to follow their advice or listen to her heart.

#3 Carrie
The Cartwheel Queen (PB ages 3-6)

Overjoyed with her new-found ability to do a cartwheel, Queen Carina assumes the throne over her backyard kingdom of Cartwheelandia. Cheers and cartwheels explode through the crowd, but stop short with Carina’s heart-broken little brother. Carina makes it her mission to turn her brother's "I can't" into the confidence of a Cartwheel King.

#4 Alicia
The Savage Queen (YA)

Roma Whitewood is charged with treason for trying to protect the only family he has ever known as they are murdered before his eyes at the hands of the King's Royal Army. The country Roma has always called his own, betrays him as his punishment is to be stripped of his citizenship and sent to work in the treacherous labor camps, where he meets Lyra and she opens his eyes to the truths of the world that he had been overlooking his whole life. All of the stories his mother told him as child, that he never even dared to believe, all begin to come true and Roma must face the ultimate decision: be oppressed or join the Uprising with Lyra. There's more to Lyra than she's telling him, but Roma can only put his trust in the hands of the girl who had been by his side every moment in the camps. She was going to escape, or die trying, and Roma was going with her, no matter the outcome.

Please choose the one you think is best and most deserving of a read by Erin and cast your vote in the poll below by Sunday September 22 at 5 PM EDT.

Thank you!!!

Today's pitch comes to us from Wendi.  Wendi Silvano quit teaching in 1994, when her 3rd child was born. She has been writing for children ever since. She writes picture books, emergent and early readers, early chapter books and educational materials. Two of her picture books have won the Children’s Choice Award. She lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. You can visit her website at This pitch is for her first MG book.

Working Title: The Superhero Rejects
Age/Genre: Early MG
The Pitch:  Morphus is ashamed that he doesn’t have a normal, exciting superhero skill. All he can do is morph into lame objects like paperclips, rubber bands and light bulbs. And it’s particularly embarrassing when you are the brother of one of the most infamous graduates of ZITS (The Zapdor Institute for the Training of Superheroes). He and the other Superhero Rejects are relegated to practice their pathetic skills in the old gym in the basement when the villainous Scorpius attacks the school and puts everyone into a hypnotic trance… everyone that is, except the Superhero Rejects. Can they save the school and prove they are “real” superheroes too?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Wendi improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in November so polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Wendi is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to sharing a very fun book with you on Friday for Perfect Picture Books and also announcing the winner of Erik's very first published book, The Adventures Of Tomato And Pea, Book 1: A Bad Idea!  If you haven't had a chance to read his interview and enter to win, there's still time!  Hop on over HERE.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!  May the muse be with you :)

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