Author Archives: barbandgene

Book Trip #3: Reconnecting in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee

Southern hospitality. We felt it on our paddle through this area of our country, and again during our most recent gratitude tour.

Gene looks at historical murals covering the sea wall in Paducah, KY

Our first stop was Paducah, KY, where we volunteered with Paducah Cooperative Ministries, an organization formed through the cooperation of area churches. PCM “seeks to do God’s work with human hands by bringing together individuals and resources to respond to basic human needs and conditions in McCracken County.” You can find out more about them here.

Heidi Suhrheinrich, Executive Director of PCH, welcomes us to the Moonlight Ride

PCM’s Moonlight Ride fundraiser was the reason we planned our southern trip for the dates we did. In fact, we found out later that these Wisconsinites were the first two riders to register in the event! We weren’t about to miss this! Two of our River Angels, Kenneth and his wife, Lottie, decided to register and ride with us – but they didn’t have bikes. So, Kenneth bought one and Lottie rented one for the day!

Ready to ride with Kenneth and Lottie, our Moonlight Ride partners

648 riders set off at 10 PM under a nearly full moon, bicycles decked out in colorful lights. Our dollar store light sticks were no match for the new-fangled LED strings of bicycle wheel lights adorning many of the local two-wheelers. We weren’t in a hurry, but we probably packed more conversation into ten miles than any of the rest! We arrived home a week later to several packages from Kenneth – new flashing tail lights, flashlights and handlebar mounts, and four sets of multicolored bike wheel lights. I bet Kenneth and Lottie might be the first two registered for next year’s ride!

A new memorial added to Veteran’s Park, honoring those who lost lives in the War against Terrorism

While in Paducah, we also made a stop at Hooper’s, a downtown sporting goods store, to thank them for storing Donna while we were in town. We checked out a new tribute to those who have lost lives to terrorism, and of course, visited the river. A special thank you to Chris for hosting us for a signing at Paducah Books. We enjoyed meeting his customers, signing a few books, and finding several titles that we couldn’t resist buying for ourselves.

In Fulton, MS, our first destination was the Itawamba Learning Center to visit with Elizabeth Triplett, founder and tutor. We learned the organization is continuing to thrive and to change lives through education. Greg, a new member of the team, has helped enormously by taking on the role of grant writer, increasing both their financial resources and their impact.

Our reading and signing took place at the Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library, where we were welcomed by the librarian, Jeffrey, when we stopped in early. He was holding a summer class on robotics, where we met some brilliant young programmers.

With Judy, tutor and quilter, and Elizabeth, co-founder of Itawamba Learning Center

At the reading later that day, we renewed friendships with members of the Learning Center staff we met on our trip as well as new additions to the team. We congratulated Gwen, a student who went on to graduate from the area college, and met her mother, whose picture is with Gwen’s on the quilt Judy made for us. The Blake family River Angels, who hosted us at their home during our trip, even trusted me to read their section aloud before they had yet seen it. I laughed to discover that Alan actually HAD been watching when we got hung up on a stump upon leaving after our stay there! On our way out of town, we stopped at the Itawamba Times to say “Hi” and “Thank you” to Adam, Times reporter and photographer, for his excellent media coverage of both our visits and the Itawamba Learning Center’s work.

We had no book events in TN, but stopped at the Tennessee River Museum in Savannah to thank Vicki for her assistance with logistics, and Kent, for storing Donna for us while we were in town. We also drove (this time) to the office of Dr. Gallien, the kind dentist who found me great relief from a toothache during our trip. Aware that we were taking up his time during his work day, I hastened to shorten our visit, when he comforted, “Right now, you’re the only thing that’s important to me.” What an example of courtesy that seems endangered today – focusing entirely on those with whom we are having conversation. I asked him about his goal of working fifty years before he retires. “I’ve changed my mind about that,” he confessed. “I’m planning on working ’til my toes point up.” A smile on his face, he held his hands out with his fingers bent upward. If that’s so, his patients are the lucky ones.

Daughter, Cassie, and granddaughter, Ellie

Our last visit was with Gene’s daughter, who drove out to the river to meet us during our trip. “Do you realize how much has changed in your life in the last five years?” Gene asked her, as we strolled the mall. “New job, a wedding, a baby?”

Cassie glanced at her husband, Adam, and hugged her 7 month-old daughter, Ellie. “Yes,” she said. “I’m so happy.” Gene beamed, too – happy for her.

We’re back in WI for August. It’s nice to be home for awhile. Lest you think that the author life is all glamping and travel, our August calendar is filled with meetings, work, cataract surgeries for Gene, and unanticipated kitchen remodeling due to an unfortunate dishwasher flooding incident. Yep – we’re just everyday folks!

‘Til next time,

Barb and Gene

 

 

 

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Book Trip #2: Reconnecting in Northern Minnesota

During our second week of gratitude visits, we traveled to Minnesota, where we spent the first five weeks of our paddle in 2013. We had the occasion to visit and thank many of the river angels who helped us in so many ways – offering us meals, shelter, boat storage, transportation, and even help with repairs. It was nice to reminisce about the trip, but also to catch up with all that’s happened over the last few years. To those whom we didn’t get a chance to see, we are forever grateful for your kindness, and hope to catch up with you in the future!

A special thank you to my brother, Dave, and sister-in-law, Karen, for hosting us in your home on the way up north and on the way back down to Wisconsin. It helped make our drives easier, and gave us a welcomed chance to visit with their family and with Mom!

Our next trip will be south, to Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Stay tuned!

All the best,

Barb and Gene

 

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Book Trip #1: Reconnecting in Iowa and Missouri

Gene’s truck, Lucy, loaded down for fun in Iowa and Missouri

Our first Book Trip ended up being filled with wonderful experiences – better than we ever expected. And, it had very little to do with selling books. Once again, it was about the people that we met, and those with whom we reconnected.

Our first studio experience, Talk of Iowa, on Iowa Public Radio

Sure, Gene and I got to be on the radio for the first time ever: Iowa Public Radio’s program, Talk of Iowa, with Charity Nebbe. With her bubbly personality and excellent interview skills, she calmed our newbie jitters in no time. I almost forgot other people might be listening. Well, except for the cool headphones, the microphones and the brightly-lit “On Air” sign.

iowapublicradio.org/post/paddlepurpose-memoir

Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, welcomed us warmly and found a spot for Paddle for a Purpose on her shelf!

We also got a chance to meet Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, who arranged for us to do a reading and signing while we were in Dubuque. Friends, new and old, attended to hear sections about our service with The Open Closet clothing ministry of St. John’s Church and about the day we spent on the river with the ever-ebullient Connie Roling. (You can read about Connie and her husband, Dave on pages 194-199 of Paddle for a Purpose!) Connie brought several members of her family to listen, Paul and Carol, in the area from Waukesha, surprised us, and we even met some new friends who heard our interview. If you live in the Dubuque area, be sure to stop in and browse at River Lights. You’ll even find Paddle for a Purpose on the shelves!

Staff and Volunteers at The Open Closet

While in Dubuque, we reconnected with Pastor Jay Ilten and volunteered again with The Open Closet. We helped with preparations on Friday, and with Open Closet hours on Saturday, when over 330 customers came to choose free clothing while their children were invited to create painted frames for their silhouettes, drawn by an on-site artist. Ruth, the director of The Open Closet, and her husband, Richard, hosted a lovely dinner where we met even more people involved with the awesome ministries happening at St. John’s.

Gwen, Executive Director of Almost Home, ministries of St. John’s Lutheran Church

Speaking of awesome ministries, Gwen Kirchoff, our host in Dubuque and director of Almost Home, St. John’s title for the umbrella of ministry services, explained more about the new community partnerships they have developed since we were last there. “St. John’s is involved in so many things that benefit the community,” she said. “We’re known as the Little Downtown Church that’s Doing Big Things.” New initiatives include:

* expanding the existing 12-bed Guest House men’s shelter by creating 6 transitional living apartments
* partnership with Habitat for Humanity to construct the apartments and remodel the kitchen
* Path to Employment program provides intense case management, mentorship and monitored linkage to employment to prepare homeless individuals for living-wage employment and housing
* Partnership with North Iowa Community College provides classes and vocational coaching
* Partnership with Greater Dubuque Development Corporation researches jobs that are needed in the Dubuque County area
* Partnership with Resources Unite connects men to job coaches
* Let’s Put Daddy to Work program uses grant money to hire homeless fathers so they can afford to pay child support
* Homeless men are hired to work at the Guest House
* Free bus passes are provided for necessary transportation to interviews
* Dress for Success area in The Open Closet stocks business attire, such as dress slacks and white shirts suitable for interviews and employment
* McDonnaugh Foundation and Mercy Hospital provide scrubs for individuals working in health fields
* Black Hills Energy Company provides used heavy construction clothing
* New steel-toed boots are provided for those going into a construction program
* Claire Cares makes lunches and delivers them for men to take to work, puts on a Christmas dinner, and makes winter care bags
* The As You Grow consignment store donates children’s clothing that isn’t sold or picked up, and J & J Consignment does the same for adult clothing
* Holiday Inn, Best Western and Divine Word Seminary donate gently used bedding and towels
*The Open Closet provides sweats and new underwear and socks for health rooms at six elementary schools
* Sleeping bags and tarps are given to homeless during the winter, and the church is opened up as a cooling center during extreme summer heat
*The Red Basket program provides feminine hygiene products and Depends for older men and women
* Pre-assembled emergency bags are assembled for specific boys’ and girls’ sizes can be given out whenever needed
* The Open Closet is available on special nights for women from the area women’s shelter, so clients who may have lived through trauma can feel safe. Only women volunteers assist during these times.
* The Alliance for Opportunity helps people who are behind on rent or utilities to go through case management to get vouchers written out to landlords or energy companies
* The Open Closet gets volunteers from surrounding colleges, the Dubuque Eagles Eyes on the Future Youth Leadership Program, Mary’s Inn for pregnant women, Catholic Charities, Hills and Dales program for the disabled, Capable Volunteers (Part of Resources United), and the Living on the Outside program (women from the Elm Street Correctional Facility)
* Thrivent Action Teams help with special projects like providing shelving, totes and baby products
* Wartburg Seminary sends seminarians for field work at St. John’s to learn about working with area businesses, other non-profits, and the city government
Thank you, St. John’s, for your example, seeing the needs in your community and making connections which help make the greatest possible impact, serving those in need and accompanying them on a path toward independence.

A morning hike group selfie with Professor Joe

 

In Hannibal, our last stop, we got a chance to catch up on five years of family news with Professor Joe Coelho, from Quincy University, as we hiked together through a nature preserve. We not only got some exercise on a sweltering day, but learned more from Joe about the flora and fauna of Missouri. One thing that gave us a chuckle is that chipmunks are a delightful rarity in those parts. We offered to send him a box of them from our yard in Wisconsin. (You can read about Professor Joe on pages 221-224 of Paddle for a Purpose!)

We can’t wait for our trip to northern Minnesota this July. If you want to schedule a book event, or just get together to say hi, we’ll look forward to seeing you!
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What I Learned from “The Friendliest Group on Facebook”

When I began writing my memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, I felt a need to immerse myself in the world of memoirs, in order to more fully understand the genre. I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, Dirty Shirt, by Jim Landwehr, and – Packers fan that I am – The LeRoy Butler Story: from Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap, among others. I also joined the Facebook Group, We Love Memoirs. They billed themselves as “The Friendliest Group on Facebook.” Why not check it out? I thought.

We Love Memoirs has a strict policy against self-promotion, which didn’t matter to me – I didn’t have anything to self-promote. I did, however, get acclimated to the group, which was rather small at the time, but had members from all over the world. I participated in the conversation threads, contests, and sometimes quirky games. The conversations were not just about reading, but also about the people’s lives in the places where they lived. I met people (authors and not) from all over, including Europe, Australia, South America, Canada, and various states here at home. This group lived up their self-appointed moniker. I even saw posts of WLM members meeting up with each other as they traveled to other places around the world!

Before long, I noticed that the admins promoted many books by member authors – when they were newly-released, or if they were free or on sale. And, once in a while, special party days gave authors a chance to talk about their own work. But the rule against self-promotion (and Clarissa the Crocodile, who gulped down offending posts) kept things from getting out of hand. I soon discovered a companion group as well, We Love Memoirs Authors Group, which offered writing and marketing advice with a side order of well-earned wisdom. I turned to them occasionally with questions, and found them eager to share advice with a newbie like me.

On most Sundays, WLM highlights one author with a Sunday Spotlight. At any time during the day, members can ask questions of the Spotlight author – not just about their book, but about anything. I met some awesome authors this way – by popping in and asking some questions about their books and their lives.

When WLM finally got to announce the release of Paddle for a Purpose, I was congratulated by a group of now over 4000 memoir enthusiasts, many of whom had become FB group acquaintances. I asked about having a Sunday Spotlight and was given the date of May 20th. (Thank you, Julie Haigh!)

Nowadays, an author is expected to help “market” their book -which basically means to put yourself out there. A publisher can help with ideas, visibility and encouragement, but the book launch, readings, signings, appearances, and the use of social media are expectations if you want the book to do well. After an amazing book launch with wonderful friends from all areas of our lives there to share the excitement, Gene and I have been enjoying appearances and loving the creative pictures you’ve shared of yourselves reading the book. But, we’re finding that marketing can also be old-fashioned, time-consuming hard work.

My Sunday Spotlight reminded me of something we learned during our trip. On the river, we soon developed a motto, “It’s not about the paddle; it’s about the people.” During Sunday’s conversations, I communicated with people from England, Maine, Canada, Ireland, Uruguay, Sweden, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, and France. We talked about my memoir and our trip, but also about kayaking, canoeing, bicycling, and Mark Twain. Authors and readers shared their experiences navigating with barges and living on barges. They shared their experiences with volunteering for charities and their bucket list travel destinations. It occurred to me that memoir writers and readers desire most to share each others’ life experiences, and that sharing them with one another is one positive way we can learn to understand each other more fully and care for each other more deeply. I plan to remember that my true marketing goal is to share our story with people who are interested to read it. After all, “It’s still about the people.”

 

 

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Grateful

One of the most awesome things about living here in Waukesha is the support that I’ve found from area small businesses. When it comes to donating prizes for fundraising, space, time, and money, the businesses in this community never fail to come through. But during the past month, I have been especially grateful for the way that some of our favorite places have supported home town authors like me.

 

On April 27th, the Book Launch for Paddle for a Purpose was held at Le Caffe Bistro, located at S30W24896 Sunset Drive. We chose it partly because of the warm and cozy atmosphere, but also because it is where much of the book was written (and revised) from an armchair by the fireplace,  a sugar-free mocha and a warm scone or fresh wrap by my side. The staff never failed to make me feel welcome, and continued this tradition when I inquired about having my Book Launch there. Sherri’s planning was meticulous, her staffing, baked goods and special drinks flawless. With a packed house, she saw to the details so that we could just enjoy our evening. Thank you, Le Caffe Bistro, for your support!

 

From the moment we told the owners of Martha Merrell’s Books, Norm and Eve Bruce, about Paddle for a Purpose, they were “on board” with the story of our service kayak adventure. Located at 231 W. Main Street, they became the first bookstore to order Paddle for a Purpose to display on their shelves. They offered to host readings and signings as well.

A former second grade student, Kari, now a teacher herself! 

Less than a week after our launch, Martha Merrell’s held a book signing event for us during the Art Crawl. They took care of selling our books inside, so we could sit outside on a beautiful day, concentrating on greeting customers and signing books for readers. And at the end of the day, they even donated to the charities described in our book. Thank you, Norm and Eve, for your kindness and over-the-top generosity!

 

 

 

I can’t end without mentioning another excellent coffee shop that continually supports area authors – Cafe De Arts, located at 830 W. St. Paul Avenue. The atmosphere is creative, eclectic and friendly, and the staff is always welcoming. I’ve worked on my own writing there and attended many Book Launches for colleagues. They also host Friday Night Free-For-Alls several times a year, when the public is invited to hear students and staff of the AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, as well as a special guest author, read selections in a variety of genres. Thank you, Cafe De Arts!

Do you have businesses in your towns that welcome and support authors? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. And, don’t forget to frequent their businesses and thank them for supporting your communities!

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New Page for Readers’ Photos!

Paddle for a Purpose, displayed in the WI section of Martha Merrell’s Bookstore in Waukesha

Now that Paddle for a Purpose has officially been released, we’re finding it popping up now and then – on social media, in messages, and even at my favorite hometown bookstore, keeping company with such books as Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. As a first-time author, this is humbling, anxiety-producing and exciting, all at once. I hope the stories that inspired us during the river journey in our little wooden kayak, Kupendana, will be a source of encouragement to  those of you who read them.

It is with this mind that we decided to start a Readers’ Page on our website – a place where you can view each others’ photos, comments, and stories. We hope the page will be dynamic, growing and changing with new ideas related to service and/or travel. But we are starting with a photo gallery we call, “Paddle for a Purpose Sightings” You can find it on the main page, under the tab with the same name.

If you would like your picture to be included on the page, just send me a photo of yourself with Paddle for a Purpose anywhere you happen to be. Include your name and location, and I’ll post it on the page for other readers to see. (You can send it to bgeiger1@gmail.com, or tag me on my Barbara Ann Geiger Facebook account.) Check in, every now and then, to see all the places we travel together!

At the end of May, we’ll have a random drawing to choose two winners of gift certificates to my publisher’s website, http://www.electiopublishing.com. Good luck! Let’s see how far we can go!

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And…We Have a Cover!

 

Three days to release, and Paddle for a Purpose has a cover design! The process was longer and involved more emails (and less sleep) than I anticipated, but I love the final look. My publisher took all our ideas into consideration, and tried a couple different designs before we settled on this one. I love that when you look closely, you can see a map behind the title! The back cover will have a synopsis, three author recommendations, and a short author bio, over a faint background of Gene and me in the kayak. I hope you like it, too. It sure will be easy to find on bookstore shelves. Thank you, eLectio Publishing!

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It’s About the People

“It’s not about the paddle; it’s about the people.”

Early on in our journey, this quote became our motto. I can’t take any credit. It was originally coined by Gene, in response to a quandry brought on by an accident in the headwaters. After repairs were made, we faced a choice between foregoing some river miles or missing one of our planned service stops.

Our new motto became a litmus test whenever we considered a change of route or a modification of our itinerary. We thought of it when people emailed us to ask if we could stop and have lunch with them, or invited us to stay in their home to talk with their children about service to others. We considered it when people asked us to stay overnight to meet their friends, or paddle a few miles out of our way to meet the spouse of a volunteer we met during a day of service. You see, each morning we asked God to put people in front of us that God wanted us to meet. We learned when you ask something like that, you’d better be ready for an answer!

The greatest joy of the trip, even better than the amazing river, the spectacular wildlife, and the peacefulness of daily life lived in the outdoors was meeting interesting, kind and generous people all along the way. Since we’ve been home, we’ve kept up with some of these friends through emails and social media. Jason and Jeni, who since helping us overcome a river crisis, have gotten married, bought a home, and had a beautiful baby girl. Jennifer, who started After School Adventures in the neighborhood by her church, left that flourishing program in church hands and with her family, relocated to Texas to serve with Pioneer Bible Translators. And Elizabeth, who recognized a need, began a GED tutoring program in her town, and, with dedicated volunteers, is still changing lives.

Handmade Quilt sent by the Volunteer Staff at the Itawamba Learning Center

Elizabeth recently sent us this beautiful quilt, handmade by Judy, one of the Itawamba Learning Center volunteer tutors. Among other pictures, it has a photo of a student we met, who went on to attend the area college.

The photo shows her with the Itawamba staff on her graduation day, her mother on the far right.

 

 

This summer and fall, we look forward to several book tours along the Mississippi and Tenn-Tom waterways that will give us a chance to visit and catch up with the amazing folks we met on our trip. We plan to be in the St. Louis, Hannibal and Dubuque areas in June; Brainerd, Bemidji and Little Falls areas in July; Paducah, Fulton, Savannah and Demopolis areas in August; and the La Crosse, Ferryville and Twin Cities areas in September. (If you are from these locations and know of libraries, bookstores, or churches that might be interested in meeting us, we’d love to know.) As we arrange programs, readings, and/or book signings, we’ll list them on our website. Look for the “Appearances” tab on the main page.

Gratefully,

Barb

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Check Out Our New Look!

Now that we have a release date (April 3) for the memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, we’ve been busy updating our website. To share our excitement with you, we’ve added a countdown to the release date, and to make it easy for people to order, we’ve added a link to eLectio Publishing. You’ll be able to order Paddle for a Purpose right from there, as soon as it’s available. Before then, feel free to click on the link to look over eLectio’s varied selection of great books!

We’ve added new features to the website for readers, too. An interactive map is available here to help readers follow along as they wind their way to the Gulf of Mexico within the pages of Paddle for a Purpose. Markers on the map show towns where we stopped to volunteer with service organizations. Clicking on each marker pops up a photograph, a link to the charity’s website in that community and a brief description of what they do. Feel free to explore the links and support the wonderful things these organizations are doing to help others.

In addition, we’ve added five pages of photo galleries with pictures of the people, places and wildlife that are mentioned in the memoir. As readers enjoy the small moments on the water, the conversations with people we meet and our camping exploits, they can refer to color photographs which couldn’t possibly all fit in the book itself. The interactive map and the photo galleries can both be accessed at the top of the home page on this site. We hope the interesting sights whet your appetite for the many entertaining and heart-warming stories of our Paddle for a Purpose!

Barb and Gene

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An Author with eLectio Publishing: A Dream Come True

A few years ago, when I was barely into the first draft of Paddle for a Purpose, when I wasn’t sure it would ever be polished enough to be published at all, I read Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir by Jim Landwehr. Jim was a colleague of mine at All-Writers’ Workplace and Workshop. I was eager to read his first book. Like mine, it was a memoir, and it was about canoeing! I loved Jim’s humor, gentle storytelling style, and emphasis on family relationships. His publisher? eLectio Publishing.

Intrigued, I visited eLectio’s website, and learned their mission included discovering and publishing works by both new and established authors, and publishing God-honoring stories…stories that exemplify Christian living. A seed was planted. If my story was ever ready to send to publishers, I wanted to send it to eLectio. I wanted to work with a God-honoring publisher. I certainly met the criteria of an unknown author. Maybe I had a shot.

Last fall, after more drafts than I ever would have predicted I could write, the manuscript was finally ready. “I have a publisher in mind for you,” said Kathie Giorgio, my writing coach and founder of the AllWriters’ studio. “I think eLectio would be perfect.” I agreed, but together, we still came up with a list of over twenty small presses for submission. Despite plenty of options, my heart was set on eLectio. I submitted to them first, determined to give them a head start before submitting elsewhere.

“Don’t worry,” said Jim, when I didn’t hear back. “They’re really busy. But, I’d be surprised if you don’t hear from them.” I hoped he was right, but submitted to another group of publishers. If God did have a different publisher in mind for Paddle for a Purpose, who was I to submit to only one?

And then, after a few weeks of hoping, doubting, praying, trying to distract myself… I got the email. Christopher Dixon, of eLectio Publishing, wanted to speak with me. Oh, my heart raced! After talking with him, I could barely contain my excitement. It was really going to happen. Paddle for a Purpose would be published. I would be an eLectio author!

Still in the middle of the process, I am grateful, each day, for the opportunity to work with eLectio – for their faith in me and in the quality of my work and the merit of our story. Click on the link to check out their website and see if you don’t agree. I couldn’t have found a better home.

Barb

 

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