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November 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

While up north on the Keweenaw Peninsula, I overheard one elderly local tell a monk that an early October snow was no indication that we’d have a long winter. At the time, I was returning from a brief retreat at a lighthouse keeper’s cottage, and the monks were closing up shop for the winter and selling the rest of their jams while fat fluffy flakes covered the ground. I bought six jars. Who could resist blackberries jammed in rum?

It was like overhearing a riddle, though. My mind pondered how early snow could be anything but a long winter on a peninsula fiercely guarded by Lady Lake Superior who has the power and desire to create her own snow globe? It’s different from out West where a late August blizzard in the Rockies reminds us to prepare, but that long cool, even warm, autumns could follow.

Here, the snow means snow. It didn’t stick, but it didn’t return to blue skies, either. The gray mist and soggy cold rain feel dreary. The snow falls brightly and white-washes the world, removing the dinginess of constant cloud cover. Snow illuminates the globe Lady Lake keeps on the mantle of her ice-water mansion. Snow has returned.

And with flair. Of course — it’s Lady Lake. Why not be a drama queen on the fourth day of the 41 North Film Festival at Michigan Tech University? I walked out of the Rosza Center, following a film on the WWI Hello Girls, and into the lobby with 30-foot glass windows facing east. Snow fleeced the view. The next film up was a work in progress called Copper Dogs about female dog-mushers in our region. Well played, Lady Lake.

Culture and snow fill our winters, so I don’t mind. Travel, for me at least, shuts down. After my terrifying drive in a true Copper Country blizzard at the start of last winter, I vowed to be a winter home-body. Students return to our universities and with them come cultural events. So it’s a good time to hunker down. The film festival filled my well.

Tuesday night, I returned to the Rosza Center to listen to Welby Altidor speak on creativity and collaboration.

Altidor believes that each of us possess creative genius, but it must be cultivated and developed through practice. Creative courage is more than practical tools and strategy, it’s a way life for Altidor and those who dare to embrace it.

Yes, yes, yes! You betcha I was going to drive across snow-paved roads to listen to Welby. He was speaking my love-language — make (literary) art accessible!

Welby was the creative director for Cirque du Soliel, and as a dancer and choreographer, he understands the universal power of telling a story. Art is the great communicator wrapped in many mediums from movement to written words. He began by telling us that every good story includes three elements.

Welby teaches that every good story includes love, power, and transformation. You could compare this to the classical teaching of the Greeks, who perfected the three-act story: pity –> fear — > catharsis. Love seems more universal to me than pity, although I understand the Greeks intended for an audience to love the protagonist enough to pity his or her plight. Power is what we might call tension and leads to the Greek ideal of the audience fearing for the well-being of the protagonist. Catharsis is an emotional release (from the fear) and transforms the audience.

Note that in the hero’s journey, the three acts still apply. Of course, I started thinking, what would Anne Goodwin say… After much discussion on the model of the hero’s journey failing to capture the protagonists who don’t change or return with an elixir, I had an a-ha moment. We change. Not the protagonist, but we — the writer, the reader, the creator changes.

That’s the universality of the hero’s journey. Even if the hero falls flat, the creator of the story needs to provide a transformation for the reader — a greater awareness of self, others, or the world around us. And Welby was speaking directly about creatives and how to build creative teams. We must love our art enough to give it power and transform ourselves and audiences.

Welby’s book (and presentation) center on creative courage. To create transformative work we must start from a place of caring. Like at Carrot Ranch — we gather because we care about literary art. We care about writing. We care about stories and words and what we can do with them. We care about our stories. We care about the stories of others. This is the beginning of creative courage.

What comes next wouldn’t surprise anybody who understands Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it might surprise you to think it applies to art. We need to secure safety. Yes, creativity needs a safe place to plant the seeds. That is also the purpose of Carrot Ranch — to create safe space to practice, explore and discover our literary art. I felt like Welby was looking at our community!

For collaboration, Welby says we next need to foster trust. Our literary community builds trust through positive feedback and consistency. We also learn to trust the 99-word constraint as a creative process. Our weekly collections are creative collaborations.

So what happens next? This is where we get to play with danger!  Welby explains that art pushes limits and takes calculated risks. Writing dangerously is to push deeply into an idea that you might think is on the fringe. It’s breaking the rules to create something different. It’s risking creative failure, submitting to a contest or writing outside your comfort zone. It’s earning the “runs with scissors” badge.

Once we start writing dangerously, we dream! We experience breakthroughs! We grow!

Welby went on to say that many of us are disconnected from our superpowers. Part of our mission in life is to discover them, accept them, and share them with the rest of the world. He asked us to tell the person seated next to us what our superpower is. If you can identify your superpower, you will better understand your voice as a writer.

And don’t think any of this creative business is easy. It isn’t. Welby also points out that there is a war on imagination. He said it hit him hard when he had the opportunity to go to North Korea, and he recognized constrained people the way his father was. It’s rooted in fear of failure. Methods might be taught and learned, but what we really need is creative courage.

A significant shift occurred the night I listened to Welby, and it didn’t have to do with my creative art. I wondered as I took notes, how can my family create fertile soil for the Hub. No matter his condition, our circumstances, or unknown future we need creative courage. I looked again at the seven dimensions of creative collaboration and realized the answers were there.

My daughter went with me to listen to Welby speak. We stepped out into the snow, and I told her that the seven dimensions could apply to her dad. She went home and sketched the concentric circles around each one and posted this statement with her photo on Instagram:

Great talk tonight with @welbyaltidor@rozsacenter. Here’s the mental model he presented; good insight into how to rebuild relationships and goals with Sgt. Mills. Walking the tightrope of late effect traumatic brain injury (LE-TBI) starts with taking care, raising safety nets, and building trust.
#creativecourage #love #veteranfamily #braininjuryawareness #tbiawareness #onestepatatime”

And Welby Altidor replied:

“Great stuff! I love your reinterpretation! Honoured it provided inspiration. Never give up!”

On that fine note, let’s move on to mashed potatoes. In the US we near the festival of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy — Thanksgiving. I’m working on my menu and my novel which seems like opposing creative efforts. But Welby told us that fitting two things that don’t go together is how the troupe creates such memorable choreography and art in Cirque du Soliel. His examples: drones and lampshades; clowns and robots; treadmill and hoop-diving.

So we are going to write mash-ups that pair an unusual superpower with mashed potatoes.

November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 13, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

Fast Hands (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane flung the bowl of mashed potatoes at Horace. The bowl bounced off his shoulder and Hickok caught it midair. Horace hadn’t even moved except, Sarah noted, his eyes had widened the way a cow might look when protesting a lead rope to the milking barn. No one spoke as glops of white, buttery mashed potatoes slid down Horace’s shirt. Nancy Jane growled and slammed the heavy oak door when she stomped outside. Sarah understood her friend’s upset with how poorly Horace had handled Cobb’s interference at the station. More than that, she marveled at Hickock’s super speed.


  1. calmkate says:

    whoa you do like stretching us Charli … I am not a cook but throwing spuds around does appeal 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Really?! Extra points fer unicorns?

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Colleen Chesebro says:

    Charli, you discussed everything I love about the hero’s journey. As I’m working hard on my Sisters of the Fey book, I’m developing a story with eight different personalities and figuring out how they must learn to work together for a common goal. I’m also learning more about me and finding my voice. I’ve learned that I can’t be something other than who I am when I’m creating the story. In a way, I feel like the hero in my own writer’s journey. ❤

    I love this combo for the FF challenge. Onward and upward, my friend. ❤

    Liked by 9 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Colleen, I hope Welby’s model can offer you some structure for your eight different personalities. Sounds like a wonderfully ambitious book! I absolutely love your insight: “I’ve learned that I can’t be something other than who I am when I’m creating the story. In a way, I feel like the hero in my own writer’s journey.” Yes! And I think that’s what struck me too, it that the reader is also on the hero’s journey with us and with the protagonist so it’s three ways. What an intersection literary art can be. Thank you — onward, upward, and reaching for the dreams and transformation. ❤

      Liked by 4 people

      • Colleen Chesebro says:

        Charli, this spoke to my writing journey so much! Thank you, thank you! This was the most magical part (for me): “We change. Not the protagonist, but we — the writer, the reader, the creator changes.” Once that registered, my creativity exploded and things started coming together. I love Carrot Ranch. I learn so much from all of you. Many thanks. ❤

        Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        I love that you had this breakthrough, Colleen! It validates that within a safe space we can play dangerously and grow! I learn so much from each of you, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. […] was written for the November 8th Carrot Ranch prompt, mashed potatoes and a superpower.  Yesterday I wrote about a witch, and I kept that going […]

    Liked by 4 people

  5. The information you brought from Welby is so cool – I’ve been interested in the Hero’s Journey and how it can help me as a story writer, and these addenda serve to enrich that basic template. I hope everything is progressing well for you!

    With deeply nervous typing, I think I may be posting the first story response this week… Aaaaaah! How did this happen!?

    Write dangerously, though, eh?

    **Gravy Witch**

    I put my plate on the table pulled the napkin from atop my crystal ball centerpiece. A tap of my spoon on the orb’s surface initiated my process to scry for criminals.

    A man shoveling jewels into a bag appeared in the cloud at the center of my ball. I curled my finger toward myself, pulling his spirit from the ball and dropping it on my plate. It settled in the mashed potatoes.

    I tipped my gravy tureen over the potatoes and watched the orb with glee as his body suffered from a heart attack. His soul tasted delicious.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. denmaniacs4 says:

    The Eye of a Potato Superhero Hurricane

    There we were, jawing over a cuppa Joe at Ernie’s Eats. Ernie was in a small businessman funk.

    He gets that way.

    “Spud, its always the little guy that gets the short end of the superhero stick.”

    “I don’t getcha,” I said.

    “Well,” said Ernie, stroking his chin like it was a cat, “Take dine and dashers. You don’t see guys like the Spy Smasher showing up, givin’ them what for, do ya? Nope. Too darn busy smashin’ spies. What I need is…well, you. Spud Smasher! Yeah! Spud Smasher! Mashin’ those dine and dashers.”

    “Dream on, Ernie. Dream on.”

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Ritu says:

    Wonderful experience Charli!
    Here’s my Super Mash entry!

    Liked by 9 people

  8. […] This 99-word story was written for the November 8 Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Haunted Wordsmith says:

    I forgot to put the link in my submission 😦 Great prompt this week. Here’s my contribution:

    Captain Amazing vs Mashed Potatoes

    Captain Amazing was known throughout the universe as the one person you wanted in your corner. He had faced the mighty Balthazar and squashed the Fidget uprising in ’22. After a remarkable career as a galactic superhero, he retired. He had a soft spot for kids, so when Amy cried for help, he had to answer. He misjudged his landing and smashed through the window. Airborne mashed potatoes landed on his head. 

    “Not mashed potatoes! My only weakness!”

    Amy’s mother looked at the puddle on the floor, then at the broken window, and shrugged. She had a turkey to prepare.

    Liked by 9 people

  10. […] Carrot Ranch November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads. Other Carrot Ranch 99 word pieces […]

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Jules says:


    Jam packed post and a food fight. OK just one sided though. I did a mash with the potatoes. A different look at our Three Piggy friends… with some fiction (title is the link to the 4 prompt mash up):

    Educated Boars?

    As one of three brothers, finally living free from our
    adversary, I can be grateful to look out of our
    window and see rainbows after a rain. But we are
    not so foolish to be lax in our preparedness. Our
    larder is full of potatoes that we can broil, boil or
    mash. Our stash is secure.

    Our superpower is knowledge. At any time our
    walls could crumble. We need to prepare for the
    slyest of villains, keep the hounds at bay and be
    wary of all wolfs. Especially those in overalls,
    driving tractors bent on destruction. We are


    Liked by 10 people

  12. janmalique says:

    Your post has a dreamy quality about it, not sure where the magic is sleeping in from.

    As for the challenge, mash is one of my favourite foods. I’ve managed weave a little
    Silliness into my offering Charli

    Liked by 7 people

  13. I’ll be back, Charli!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wielding Power

    It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.
    “Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”
    Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.
    “Betty, I think you know everyone.”
    “Yes, and Ida brought George.”
    Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.
    “Look who’s arrived.”
    Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”
    Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”
    She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.

    Liked by 9 people

  15. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge Nov 8th 2018 […]

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Hi Charli! 🙂
    Here’s my take on the challenge:

    Happy reading! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  17. Ha Ha! Oh I love this prompt, mighty mo’s shepherd’s pie anyone?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. […] Written for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  19. […] Carrot Ranch November 8, 2018, prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  20. […] To enter: […]

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Super Food from me Charli, based on a true story.

    ‘It’s a special dinner, made to make you strong. That’s why it’s blue, just like Superman.’
    ‘OK Mom.’
    Celia looked at her nine year old son as he ate. Mashed potatoes were the only thing he could manage just now, but it was a start.
    Tomorrow she would add red dye as well as the blue, and it would be Spiderman to encourage him.
    He snuggled down under the covers, exhausted, but he’d eaten most of what was on his plate.
    ‘Mom?’ he asked sleepily.
    ‘Yes love?’
    ‘Batman hasn’t got any superpowers, so please don’t give me black potatoes.’

    Liked by 13 people

  22. Super Power Heroes

    See how the engineer’s designing a structure to retain the gravy?
    The starving artist here, she’d rather sculpt and splatter than put fork to mouth.
    Her twin’s a musician. He’ll plop and slop and get every sound he can from this meal. Every fork’s a tuning fork in his hands.
    The historian’ll tell you all about pomme de terre, and how the reason it’s associated with the Irish is because the English couldn’t be bothered to steal them from under the ground.
    That one’s a magician, mashed potatoes disappear in a flash.
    Me? This lot is my mash up.

    Liked by 8 people

  23. Mash Flash (or, if the universe gives you potatoes, make vodka)

    “Pal, you sleepin’?”
    “Not anymore.”
    “Started readin’ that book, Creative Courage. Been thinkin’ on Shorty’s post.”
    “I know Kid, it’s intriguin’ ta think on what Anne Goodwin would think.”
    “It is Pal. An’ I’m inta the epiphany of it ain’t gotta jist be the protagonist that changes. Could be the writer or the reader- any an’/ or all.”
    “It’s a trifecta all right. Makes sense, long as someone gits some elixir.”
    “Pal, have you been inta the elixir?”
    “Yep. Ornery come by, brought some product.”
    “He never comes by.”
    “Came fer the mash.”
    “Ain’t corn mash, it’s potato flash.”

    Liked by 8 people

  24. […] Based on the author’s actual experience, and Stirred together for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  25. […] Written for the November 8th Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  26. tnkerr says:

    Super Carl

    Carl knew he was different from his classmates. Yes, he had superpowers like all the other kids, but his gifts were more eccentric. He couldn’t see any practical applications for them.

    Carl had the ability to manipulate plants. He could also transform himself into a gelatinous substance, like potatoes mashed with an electric mixer.

    School was torture and constant teasing until he slathered up the opponent’s lanes at the track meet against Eastwood High. Their star runner, Flash, never left the starting blocks, he couldn’t gain any traction.

    All the trees and shrubs in the schoolyard fell over laughing.

    This one was almost too much fun.

    Liked by 8 people

  27. […] week’s flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch was too good to pass up: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes […]

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I love this: Once we start writing dangerously, we dream! We experience breakthroughs! We grow!
    Here’s my offering. Not sure how dangerous it is though. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  29. […] #Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  30. syncwithdeep says:

    Thanks for the prompt Charli. I have stretched my story to 86 words after a long time. here is my take

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Keep stretching Deepa. This one is closer to the count so I did include your submission. I encourage you to keep trying to hit that 99-word sweet spot. It will do magical things for your writing!


  31. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (11/08/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Liz H says:

    An ordinary superpower for a Monday morning, for wherever we find our inspiration~~ 😉

    Into the Wild?

    Lizzie stared at the monitor, hands folded in her lap. The cursor blinked.
    Sighing, she trotted off to the kitchen for more coffee.
    Returning, she sat again and watched the cursor blink.

    [Continue ]

    Liked by 5 people

  33. Lisa L. says:

    Oh boy, this one feels daunting! I have been too long away. Is there are badge for “gets feet wet and starts writing again?” I need that one! Will work on getting something done for this…have to start somewhere.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. […] This week, Charli Mills challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be… […]

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I enjoyed your post, Charli. Here is my piece for this week: I will be back later to read all the lovely entries.

    Liked by 6 people

  36. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge, November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Norah says:

    Great post, Charli with lots of insights and thoughts to digest – more palatable than a plate of mashed potatoes. You’re always good at dishing up something for us to think about.
    I enjoyed your flash fiction. I love the action in the piece, especially Hickok’s speed. I also enjoyed the emotion and Sarah’s insightfulness.
    I’m late to comment so have enjoyed reading all the stories submitted in the comments thus far. Talk about a mash of stories, but one thing they all have in common is the entertainment factor. Here’s a link to my story, “If Only”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Liz H says:

      Another good reason to eat yer spuds! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ah, yes — the s-mashing stories this week do have entertainment value whipped in like butter. I think you would appreciate Welby’s thinking. Pretty certain he fosters a growth mindset. The prompts are always challenging for me to apply them to my characters and ponder how they would handle the prompt. Friendship is your superpower you teach to others, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Thanks, Charli. I like what you have shared of Welby’s thinking. I’d love to attend the talks with you so we could discuss them with each other.
        Love your mashed potato puns. 🙂
        As you use the prompts to help extend understanding of your characters, so I like to use them to remind myself of ways I can improve. You know that growth mindset thing? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        I love that growth mindset thing, Norah! 😉


  38. […] week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed […]


  39. Deborah Lee says:

    I actually wrote something this week!

    Such wonderful stories from everyone. Love them!

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Annecdotist says:

    I’m in just before the deadline – sorry to be so late this time especially when you’ve given me an honourable mention in your post. I don’t yet know what I think about the framework – I like it so far and like what you’ve done with it but I won’t know I’ve digested it until I’ve raised some objections!
    But I agree something has to change, and it’s going to be trickier to effect that change in the reader as you can’t know where they’re coming from. And I love how your daughter has applied it to the family situation – you might find a tiny hint of that in my flash! I found that aspect of your post extremely moving and it’s influenced my choice of superpower. Unfortunately I picked it out before I’d absorbed the word “unusual” but, if challenged, I’m ready to defend my choice!
    But the greatest of these …
    Bridging: Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants & Connect
    PS. Thanks so much for displaying my launch advert.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Liz H says:

      Beautiful flash…going the distance!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      All our discussions regarding the hero’s journey and what about those who aren’t hero’s or don’t return with an elixir sparked how I thought about Welby’s model and how we change in the process of creating art and reacting to art. There’s no way we can fabricate the change in another, but if the process changes us, perhaps it will be read (or viewed or heard or experienced) with authenticity. I’ll be ready for your thoughts after you’ve digested! And we’ve experienced another shift in our family this week, and it amuses me that Sgt Mills has become our family art project. But we seem to be better for it. Happy to post your launch date! I wanted to give our community a head’s up.

      Liked by 2 people

  41. […] via November 8: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Getting into the game at the last minute! But since I grew up on a potato farm, I couldn’t let this prompt pass by without submitting something! Here it is, Charli. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

    Where farmers get their strength

    “Grandma, what it was like when you lived on a farm growing up?”

    “It wasn’t an easy life, Nick. Everyone worked hard – my parents, brothers, sisters, and hired hands. We got up before the sun, and worked in all kinds of weather – from blistering heat to frosty mornings.”

    “What did you do?”

    “I milked the cows, shoveled manure, drove a tractor, and picked potatoes. But that was nothing compared to the hours my parents put in to keep things going. It was like they had superpowers.”

    “Where did they get their strength?”

    “Mashed potato – it was their kryptonite.”

    Liked by 5 people

  43. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge, November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  44. […] Flash Fiction Challenge: November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  45. oneletterup says:

    What a yummy prompt!!

    Mash Master
    “More garlic!” He shouts. “I’ll do it.”
    Masher in one hand. Stick of butter in the other.
    “And cream.” “Garlic and cream.”

    Twenty years old. Slouching. Half awake.
    Scruffy beard. Stained sweatshirt.
    Waving them aside.

    He scoops up twelve cloves. Minced and done.
    Their eyes water from the steam. Whirr of the beaters.
    Minutes pass.
    “Taste!” he commands.
    They obey.
    The garlic bite smoothed out by the creamy russets.

    The pot of potatoes transformed.
    They watch awestruck.
    His eyes brighten. He stands up straighter. Grinning.
    It’s magical.
    “You’ve done it again,” they cheer.

    The Almighty Master of Mashed.

    Liked by 4 people

  46. papershots says:

    Hi Charli! Glad this challenge is back! Hope you’re well 🙂 I’ve missed this one but I’ll try not to miss the next ones. Thanks again for all this

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Hi Charli, I lost the sense of time for two months. Here’s the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. […] November I read this article at Carrot Ranch and the words creative courage really stuck in my head. As soon as I started […]


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