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How do I make the blog into a book?

What I like most about writing this blog is that it leads to conversations with people all around the world. I get advice, and sympathy, and connection, and crankiness, and humor, and on and on, until my three page investment turns into days of feeling like I am not at all alone.

pix from eos 006

“Look at all of our friends!”

The blog has taken the shape it has as a result of both the comments I get and the blogs I read. I’m not isolated or impervious; I absorb what I read and what I see and, mostly unconsciously, I challenge myself in response. The community aspect of blogging is so satisfying, but I still feel like a second tier writer, because I haven’t been accepted by the cool kids at the publishing houses and literary magazines.

“So not cool.”

I’ve been getting rejection letters from agents and publishers, telling me that I am a wonderful, talented, exquisite writer, but… but what? Isn’t that what I’ve spent my life working towards? Isn’t that the point? I can’t even begin to understand the market forces that turned publishing into this quagmire, whether there are just too many writers trying to get published, or too few publishers willing to take a risk.

When I was first looking for a graduate program in creative writing, and collecting rejections from the schools I’d applied to, I was told that MFA programs weren’t interested in my writing ability, they were interested in the uniqueness of my story. The writing, they believed, they could teach me, but they couldn’t teach me how to be interesting. I think agents and editors have taken the same view. They’re looking for a hook, a unique story, something the world is currently clamoring for, and if they have to rewrite every word, so be it. Most of them have graduate degrees in writing themselves.

It has been suggested to me that I try to make this blog into book, because dogs are popular lately, because people seem to like my blog posts, and because my novels are not getting picked up. But I don’t know. It feels like I’d be trying to make a piano into a guitar.

I’ve been reading through my blog posts from the beginning, and I’m not as disappointed as I was afraid I would be, but I’m also not magically coming up with an idea for how to structure it. Is it a book about writing the blog, or is it a book of the blog, not self-conscious, not even revised so much as sewn together?

My Delilah

Delilah is perplexed.

When I first started the blog, I was squeamish about memoir writing. One of the things I like most about writing fiction is that I can change things for the better. I can make up lives that I would want to live. It took me a while of writing blog posts to get desperate enough and brave enough to put more memoir and risk into the posts; to tell people who I really am, when I’m not just trying to be acceptable. And a lot of people reached out to me as a result, and showed deep understanding and compassion for me that I would never have gotten if I’d left out the painful parts.

Samson chewing on my brother.

Samson chewing on my brother.

I had a creative non-fiction teacher who said that the best way to write an essay is to bring two separate ideas together, and the drama and surprise will come from the place where the two ideas meet. I kept that in the back of my mind, not really getting it, until maybe a year into writing this blog. I started to notice that no matter how unrelated my chosen topic seemed to be to the theme of the blog – dogs – as soon as I forced myself to find a connection, the essay came together. For some reason, just writing about each topic that interests me can get bogged down, tedious, and flat, but when I try to combine it with the dogs, I find new things, new angles, that I didn’t know were there.

Dina

Dina always had her own way of seeing things.

Miss Butterfly.

Miss Butterfly brings socks and warmth.

Miss Cricket.

Miss Cricket makes everything more interesting.

I feel like every six months or so, I let myself reach down another level, admitting things that are scary to admit in public, showing another layer. And I’ve needed to do it this way, at this pace. I can only push my boundaries a little bit at a time, and only when I feel ready. I think there’s still a lot of room for me to grow, and that makes me worry about turning this into a memoir too soon.

I don’t want to lose this.

Harrumph.

Harrumph.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

167 responses »

  1. Have you ever looked at Jon Katz’s blog on Bedlam Farm? He has written and published several commercially successful books, along with some e-books, and also maintains an active blog. Most of his books are non-fiction, about dogs and animals and his life among them. It might give you some ideas or insight into how to blend your blog writing with book publishing.

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  2. Could the blog be research for a novel about a blogger?

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    • Are you trying to make my brain even more convoluted?!

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      • The other thing to consider is that the publishing world is having a difficult time coping with the 21st Century. I was in a bookstore the other day, a big one, and I was astounded at how poor the variety of books was, and how so many of the ones that were there had the words “best seller” somewhere on the cover. I wonder if serializing a novel in blog format is a workable alternative (complete with donation button). What will publishing look like in 50 years? Do we need to cradle the old way? I don’t know the answer to that but I think it’s a key question.

      • My teachers in graduate school were wondering the same things, eight, nine, and ten years ago, but it still seems really unclear. I hope someone figures it all out soon.

  3. I think what you do in your blog is pretty special too and wouldn’t want you to lose it. But I do think you could work on a book, even a short one. My suggestion would be to use the posts where you’ve grown as a person and then you relate it back to Cricket and Butterfly, whether it’s overcoming your fear to sing in the choir or your life as a Jewish woman (in fact, I think you could make a whole book out of that one). It doesn’t have to be long to be helpful to someone else. You have a good story – don’t diminish it by overthinking this.

    Nancy

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  4. Rachel, I love your blog. Really, really love it. What I love is just as you say, no matter your topic, I know Cricket and Butterfly are going to be there and that makes me smile. It is a great comfort to me to know that you are not going to throw something so foreign in your posts that I am going to wonder: “Where is Rachel and who is this person writing her blog?” I would love a book of your posts. The book title could be “Gather Round the Water Bowl” or something equally catchy! 😀

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  5. Rachel, my mom feels your pain on this. She has written a children’s book (3 1/2 actually) and just got another note from her agent that things aren’t looking that good. However, Mom’s book and my blog are two separate entities. I am sure you will be published soon. The humans just have to take a lot of rejection. We dogs know about rejection. However, we also know about hanging in there. Woof! You hang in there, too. It’ll happen! (dogsmile)

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  6. “For some reason, just writing about each topic that interests me can get bogged down, tedious, and flat, but when I try to combine it with the dogs, I find new things, new angles, that I didn’t know were there.”

    I think this angle might be worth pursuing. I would play around with it. Kind of like dogear6 above, but not necessarily as personal. Make the non-dog topic something broader, dare I say, politics or religion, but when you relate it to dogs it becomes non-dogmatic (did I just say that?), more observational and therefore, universal.

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  7. I don’t think you CAN lose this. It’s you! Besides, Butterfly would find you probably looking for Cricket.

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  8. I love all of your animal pictures!

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  9. I don’t get them “cool kids” over in the publishing world either. However when you get published, I still expect to get my posts every Saturday evening like clock work. I look forward to my update on Rachel, mom, Cricket and Butterfly. 😀

    Reply
  10. If you can afford the services of a freelance editor, or if you know how to start a croud funding campaign, why not self publish your fiction, that’s the trend with writers these days, or so it seems.

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  11. When you get famous, don’t forget us birds who supported you. Please don’t insist on only blue M&M’s in the green room.

    Reply
  12. This is lovely and insightful. Thank you for your wisdom.

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  13. I have written about 90% of a memoir (remember back when we were kids and they were called autobiographies?) and I know I’ll never be able to publish it. I am not a particularly riveting writer and besides, I just don’t have the patience for marketing. I’ve asked my wife to try to get it published after my death. I don’t expect that she’ll succeed, but that’s okay. Perhaps our nieces and nephews will read it one day and decide to .pdf it and put it up on Amazon as an e-book for 99 cents a download. I’ll try not to roll over in my grave!

    Reply
    • Oh no! I think the switch from autobiographies to memoirs came when people wanted to write more than one book about their lives “Autobiography” sounds so serious and comprehensive; Memoir is like a little slice of life, and there are many more where that came from.

      Reply
  14. Rachel, would you have any interest in reading my book “THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN INCORRIGIBLE”?
    If so please send me an email subject; book, to jerryrscuba@hotmail.com
    I really enjoy your post.

    Reply
  15. All I can add, Rachel, is that I enjoy and look forward to your thoughts and the way you express them in writing. The blog, I think, may be a separate thing from a comprehensive manuscript. I’d love to see you use your talent/artistry focused into a manuscript–whether it be a novel or memoir. Your voice is unique and highly readable. Don’t stop writing.

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  16. You ask the same question in your title, that I have been asking myself!

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  17. I wonder why those of us who are compelled to write find so important to be published. I know the sentiment, Ihave been there, and when my short story recently won a competition and was published in an anthology, I was deliriously happy – for a short time… Then it dawned upon me that this will be read by loads of people I have never met and will never meet. Should anyone criticise it, I will not have access to discuss with them. Some people may not ‘get it’, others will not understand the background. Actually, I liked it better before it was published. It was personal (as all writing has to be to some extent), and now it is out there, prostituted to anyone who has a fancy to like or not like it,. Getting what we desire is not always desirable!

    Reply
    • The biggest thrill I ever had was being on holiday and seeing someone on the beach read a short story of mine, that had been published in a magazine that had been left in the hotel ‘library’, but now y blog has been read in 35 countries (and counting) so I fnd that pretty cool too. I am going to check yours out.

      Reply
    • When I started writing my stories as a kid, I immediately imagined the movies and TV shows they would make of my work, and how terribly they’d garble the message!

      Reply
  18. I wish you well with your journey, Rachel. For me, the memoirs are most enlightening. I wonder, what is that you most want to tell the world?

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  19. Books about animals and dogs in particular have often made me cry and laugh and I am sure most of your blog can be turned into a book. Whether or not to turn your WHOLE blog into a book, as you ponder yourself, is more of a personal debate. If there was a way, I’d do it, copy it all onto word, then turn it back into a blog and then start going through the whole word-book, and edit it. Make it a book. As for the publishing, there is soooooo much out there your problem is shared by millions of writers. However, as a translator I feel that niche subjects are some of the few that you can still sell, and so dog-specialised publishers are worth all your tries. If you do, let us know, I’d happily purchase a copy 🙂

    Reply
  20. I do love a good book about dogs or cats usually, but there are no immortal dogs, and that makes me cry. I’m also clamoring for new, truly good books. I don’t think the publishers “get it.” Sure, you can have a supposed hook, but I don’t want to read hooks. I want to read good stories. However, I don’t just want well-written. I want to be engaged. I don’t want a pretty book that can be made into a maybe, I want a book I can sink my teeth into and not come out of for days (depending on how long I have to read that day). You can’t teach a writer to put that on the page. You cannot edit that into a great book. I want a book where I miss my friends when I put it down, whether its part of a series or simply a single book. Send it back to the publishers, with quotes from here inside;-), if you wish. Not that I have any pull, but you never know what will get their attention;-). I wish you luck and I hope the publishers start taking a few more risks.

    Reply
  21. I like the idea to make a “blog-book”… I follow a german dog-blog what became a book too ( two books to be correct) and it became a huge success. There are even some comments included, I loved it to read all the posts in one book :o)

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  22. Rachel, I think you’re brave to even try to have something published! I have to say my favorite writings of yours are when you reveal more of you. I think your detail in how uncomfortable it is captures how relatable we (as humans) really are. The publishing thing is tough. To gain momentum, my cousin finally self-published a novel, the first in a series… that seemed to help!

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  23. Keep the formula you have: two different ideas coming together. When I read about you, I always look for your dogs and I want to know what they think and your readers want to know also. This would make an excellent book and one that would cross over to any age; children as well as adults.

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  24. Ever consider a children’s book that deals with the life lessons taught via the adventures of Cricket and Butterfly?

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  25. Rach, you can do the two – keep the blog rolling and therefore keep on growing and changing, but begin to take elements from it and formulate it into either a novel or memoire – or a collective…….someone left a comment suggesting that you wrote a novel about a blogger, what if ‘we’ wrote a novel – a group of us weaving our individual stories together, as you said the biggest joy is hooking up with people from all over the world and getting different viewpoints. I am an English Christian living in Paris, corresponding with a Jewish woman who is as crazy about dogs as I am about cooking. We’ve all been through the mill a bit and I guess the blog is in a way therapy fr us – Think a sort of Canterbury Tales of blogging – I am, needless to say – the wife of Bath …………..(I am also a published author – lapsed – blogging has actually kick-started my writing again.) Worth thinking about?

    Reply
    • “The Canterbury Tales of blogging” – that is truly awesome.

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      • Don’t think that this has been done………but we could start thinking about it. I have a muslin friend who is women’s rights lawyer who is French/Moroccan, but maybe coming to live in NYC, she has read your stuff (via me) she would be an interesting addition. I am also friends on here with a Canadian married to a Spaniard living and teaching in Madrid – she has yet another different cultural twist. I think we would need about 12 to make it work and decide if we stick to facts or create a fictional story around these characters….. then when it is a huge success – we can rite what we like as ourselves……..I had the idea of it almost being like an interview wit each character answering an unseen, unheard journalist, beginning with a introduction (think When Harry met Sally) then going back and telling their story? Even if if doesn’t work – we have nohing to lose, just getting to know each other better….

      • I’ve just nominated you in my latest post, hope you don’t mind?

  26. Look into self-publishing, i.e. on Amazon. I have heard podcasts (James Altucher for one) talking about the new paradigm of “no gatekeepers.” The music industry and the publishing industry are the two primary examples where the “gatekeepers” that used to decide who gets published or not are no longer in control.

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  27. Many WordPress.com authors have turned their blogs into books. We wrote about some of them, if interested: https://en.blog.wordpress.com/?s=book

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  28. My belief is a writer should write what is in their heart and what they are truly interested in. You have talent and you know how to use words! Go for it.

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  29. Two thoughts: Publish your book yourself. So many opportunities for this now. Who needs ‘real’ publishers now? And you have your blog to advertise it. The other thought is to notch your blog up a bit? I’m not sure why you want to publish a book, but you clearly have a large following online. There are plenty of people who make a living from their blogs. I surely haven’t figured it out, but I think with your talents and stories, I bet you could. It may be finding the right connections, getting the right media attention etc. Good luck! ❤

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  30. Writing instructors, editors, agents–if any of them really did know anything about writing, they’d be doing it themselves.
    Agents won’t help you unless you don’t need help. Trust me, I know. Editors and publishers are, many of them, ignorant, besides being possessed of poor literary taste.
    These all erect obstacles to the writer, and the only thing you can do is to keep on crashing into these obstacles for as long as your soul can stand it, in hopes that one day you’ll crash through.
    I’ve been down that road, collecting rejections from mountebanks who couldn’t write a decent story if their lives depended on it. For every really good editor out there, you can find a dozen dopes.
    Follow Sir Ernest Shackleton’s motto: “Fortitudine vincimis–by endurance, we conquer.”

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  31. I think a memoir about your life written through the eyes of your dogs would be an excellent idea and you will write it when you are ready to push your boundaries a little further. I can’t wait to read that book.

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  32. Terrific idea – one of many things I like about blogging is meeting so many new authors and how ideas come and to be on the ground floor of the creativity of writing. Very exciting and I say go for it – 🙂

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  33. If it’s your dream, don’t ever give up. Believe me, I know how frustrating it is, but I refuse to give up– even if one really good blog is all I ever leave behind.

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  34. I’d self-publish if I were you. Then you can make all your own rules, work with the people you want to work with from copy editor to book designer to market person. Honestly, I think self publishing is a lot less work and aggravation then trying to find a traditional publisher, especially since most of them only accept manuscripts certain times of the year. But I wouldn’t worry about that — just write the book and go from there. Being an author is truly a rewarding experience, especially getting emails out of the blue from people who loved your book! (And a cute thing fans have been doing too is taking pictures of themselves holding my books — I love that so much!)

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  35. Self publish vote as well. You are very talented and passionate about your “dog-kids” so many folks might never know the world through your eyes, and that would be a shame!

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  36. I love your blog – I would (of course) love to read a book based on it! That said, I would also love to read any novel your published, either traditionally or via self-publishing.

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  37. Underborrowedskies

    Try Kindle direct publishing, Rachel- its very straightforward to use. You can publish with photos, anywhere in the world ( people just choose the appropriate Amazon that they normally use) and you are in control- not an editor!
    Theres even a guide to download. Theres no hard copy to buy, but people can read your lovely stories on a pc, ipad, tablet, iphone- and a kindle!
    The world is yours for taking- good luck!
    If you need any help to get started, just email me.
    Heres mine to see what it looks like when done and Ill add the link to the set up page.
    What are you waiting for!? Go publish!
    Looking forward to seeing the first one from you!

    Val

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?k=tails+in+korea

    http://kdp.amazon.com

    Reply
  38. So enjoy your blog and stories as they unfold straight from your heart! Corporate America at its finest. They seem to know exactly what their looking for and don’t quite see the value of writers like you. Perhaps an ebook idea? Sure would be an awesome avenue to convert your blog to ebook forms with multiple publishing. Hardly a writer here, but I love ebooks and anxiously await the authors continuation of their story!

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  39. More people read ebooks than paper books these days and as other people have pointed out, it’s a lot easier to publish. Quite a few ebooks from unknown authors seem to come as a series. They’ll give you the first book free in hopes that you like it and buy the sequels.

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  40. I enjoy your blog, Rachael, and I totally understand how no matter what you write you wind up connecting it to your dogs. I’m the same with mine. I always go back to the topic of my heart which is the unfolding and evolution of the soul. I love your personal stories…that’s what keeps me coming back

    I collected a lot of rejection letters until one day I received an acceptance from a publisher. For me, it was worth the wait. ❤

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  41. I think the dogs adventures would be a wonderful book. I also think if it’s not to intrusive for you to write about how ‘exposing’ your inner self is helping you. It doesn’t have to be you you can add your fiction make it someone else. I’ve also heard that Gumroad is a good place to self publish. Not sure haven’t really looked to close but have seen people use it.

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  42. I think a memoir would do well, you have had a very interesting life and have a unique outlook. I don’t know much about it, but I see a lot of people are self publishing or doing ebooks.

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  43. Rachel, after reading all the wonderful posts here it is clear, many of us like the idea of you writing from you dogs viewpoint….in their words, if you will. Your wit and humor and keen sense of what bugs all of us…(you are not alone ) …. would be well served in a condensed book format…but do keep blogging to keep yourself fresh. Here is a contact in England that is a start up on-line publisher. My number is 07860861989. Jade Byrne
    Dandylion Publishing : email: dandylionpublishing@outlook.com – I do not know much about them, haven’t tried them yet but their service is free and I am no techie so on-line help sounds good. They make money if you want hard copy otherwise it is free. Whatever you do, use your photos…they are fun too. Being a fan of hard copy books, it is difficult for me to publish e-books but since I have been exploring the concept, if money is a goal; e-books are the way to go. Someone mentioned doing a series…I agree. From my research that is what draws in the larger readership, and the bucks. Good luck with whatever you choose and thanks for being you!

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  44. Hi Rachel, Two ideas. First, go to writers’ conferenv=ces and send your book proposal with chapters to attending agents in advance. That is how I met my agent, who is wonderful. It took me three conferences over 5 years, but the perseverence paid off (now I am finalizing the proposal and she will start sendig it to piblisheres around Sept!). Second, there are publishers who do publish blog books. One from Sweden contacred me about 9 months into my blog’s presece and offered to publish it. I would have to dig out the name but it sounded like not a bad offer…royalties and some marketing included. Linda Watts

    Reply
      • Would you like the name of the blog publishing company? As for agency, things are proceding well, one step at a time! I think when you have a strong proposal with a good manuscript you can make progress with an agent at a conference. I have tried sending stuff out to agents and editors before this but only succeeded in person.

  45. I have no idea how one might turn their blog into a book. If you find out, would you share the secret? Many unique stories rolling around on the blogs…

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  46. There is no easy answer, Rachel. It’s very, very difficult to get a mainstream publisher. It’s not particularly difficult to self-publish, but it isn’t easy to attract readers. You have a big head start, though, since so many people read and enjoy your blog. Whatever you choose to do, I wish you every success!

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  47. Aloha, Did you receive my recent email? It could not be more apropos to your most recent post. To give you some grist for the mill in the meanwhile.

    Two years ago I received almost exclusively positive letters from literary agents in response to my queries for Aloha, Paws & Prozac, which from what I hear is unheard of. I came close to one deal that fell through because of the agents fear of working with an unknown author.

    Even the positives turn into negatives in the publishing industry, which changes on a daily basis these days. Agents are losing their jobs and manuscripts need to be “book ready” when submitted. You have a loyal following, which after writing a book that many people love, I still don’t have. Wow, that was more grist than I had intended. I didn’t read all your followers comments, but I do like the one that mentioned choosing the blogs that affected you profoundly.

    When you really think about it, your getting life changing advice (for lack of a better term) from those you might never meet. It also interesting to imagine what these followers are like based on the way they interact with their animals.

    Grist is making me tired…

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  48. Hello!What an interesting blog do you have. We have already followed your blog. It would be great if you supported us 🙂

    Reply
  49. Nina Amir turned her blog into a book, and now has a career teaching others how to do it. She has a website with good tips, some on-line tutorials, and I think she does webcasts. She gives information on marketing, too. I heard her lecture, and was pleased that she could make the process of marketing acceptable even to the most introverted in the audience.

    Reply
  50. Either way, Bailey and I will be forever readers of your blog/book/memoir/post-it notes/etc. ❤

    Reply

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