Rejection: What is REALLY in Control?

Rejection, woman crying

Rejection can be so devastating, that the emotional impact registers the same as physical pain. Think about that for a moment. Our brain cannot tell the difference between losing a job and getting hit with a bat.

In fact, for those of you out there who’ve ever been fired spectacularly (too)? You might even prefer being hit with a bat.

Can I get an AMEN?

The sense of “belonging” to a group is hardwired into our DNA, and for very good reasons. For most of human history, life was nasty, brutish and short. We needed to remain in groups to ensure survival.

Rejection was very literally a death sentence. This is why cultures all over the world all have some form of exile/banishment reserved among the gravest of penalties.

Not So Fun Fact

fire, rejection, being fired

Earlier, I mentioned “being fired.” The etymology of this word is LITERAL. As in no one in the tribe liked you.

So they burned down your hut.

Subtlety had yet to be invented.

Pain is meant to teach lessons that keep us alive, in tact, and reproducing. We touch a hot stove? We instantly learn that’s a bad idea. Yet, here’s the rub. Social pain is ALSO meant to teach lessons. Historically, when we acted in certain ways, we could expect rejection (or, conversely, acceptance) from the group. Pain served as a guide and taught us how to be properly social.

The problem, however, is that—while that hand we burned at age two fades from memory—the first time we were dumped, fired, bullied, laughed at in public is likely to never go away.

I know. I missed my calling writing for Hallmark.

Why are we talking about rejection, anyway? For a number of reasons, but first and foremost, we are writers.

Need I say more?

Knowing this, how do we get up? More importantly, how do we keep getting up time after time?

Expect Rejection

rejection, Gladiator meme, writing

To make it in our profession, we must develop rhino skin. Writing is largely subjective. Trust me. Once you put yourself out there, everyone has an opinion. Many feel the urge to express that opinion, regardless of whether it is helpful or not.

Despite the fact that the general population spends almost all their extra time and money on what WRITERS create (Internet, movies, Netflix, books), most will insist we do not have a REAL job.


It’s dumb. I know. Roll with it, and, if it helps? Remember people eat Tide Pods, too. What can I say?

If you want to publish the traditional route, then expect agents and editors to reject you. Hopefully, they’ll be nice about it, but there are no guarantees.

Say you get a book contract. Yay you!

Ah, but that book will hit the market eventually, and then it will be time to face the critics…and the readers.

While I love getting a good book review, they can’t all be good.

This said?

People can be amazing…but they can be so horrid they’ll leave a writer curled in the fetal position washing down cookie dough with tequila.

Blogging is Good Practice

Does every writer need to have a blog? No. Is it a good idea? Sure. Blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE. Or, at least we are supposed to. Blogs are a great place to learn, to refine our voice, to improve our skills, and to…*sigh* learn how to deal with rejection.

When I started this blog almost fifteen years ago, my biggest fans were cheaphandbagsandxanax, sexyrussianbrides, and hotcollegegirlsforyou.

They left the best comments.

“I so lick your blog.”

“You make many good poinsettias.”

“You’re post is much brilliant!”

*sighs wistfully*

I knew they were bots, but I didn’t have the heart to delete the comments because looking at NOTHING was so much more depressing. Week after week, year after year, I blogged to the ether. But, I kept at it and, with time, eventually people began caring what I had to say.

Blogging taught me self-discipline. I learned to write to a deadline and SHIP. It trained out all my most of my okay some of my perfectionism. Blogs don’t have to be Pulitzer-ready. Perfect is overrated. In fact, perfect is the enemy of the finished. Let’s just say that blogging helped me grow up as a person and a professional.

Sadly, though.

Not All Days Can Be Halcyon Days

Works with trolls, too.

It’s great fabulous to go viral. First time I went viral, I didn’t even talk about writing. I figured no one was reading my posts anyway, so I griped about STAR WARS in What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? Wow.

FYI, people are VERY passionate about a made-up universe. That post is over a decade old and still getting comments.

It’s all fun and games…

…until you write something meaty and divisive and get misquoted and it feels like everyone on the Internet wants to run your head through a garbage disposal.

I give you…“Pay the Writer.”

From the reaction, I might as well have written a post called “Punch a Kitten.” Weirdly enough, the notion of actually paying writers with MONEY was a very polarizing post. Who knew? While many authors and readers rallied to my side (y’all were AWESOME), others swarmed to my site to call me the “c” word.

“Cute” NOT the word.

It took all my willpower not to take down the post. I just wanted it all to STOP! But, I didn’t. If writers being paid was the hill I’d die on, there were dumber hills.

If I didn’t stand by my work, who would?

Book Rejection Reviews Can Hurt, Too

rejection, meme, toy car crash

The same thing happens with all books. When I choose something to read, I rarely let reviews influence my choice. The reason? In my opinion, reviewers are often unreliable narrators.

I don’t know if this will help, but, statistically speaking, only two kinds of people are likely to leave a review. Those who LOVED our book…and those who want to set it (and maybe even us) on fire inside our hut with our keyboards.

***Learned that little nugget in political statistics.

Those who enjoyed the book—then simply moved on to the next read—are statistically unlikely to leave a review because they were neither super amazed or dismally disappointed.

People can be wonderful, but they can also be horrid. The same jerks who probably paid us burgeoning writers to do their THREE-PAGE paper for them because writing WAS SO HARD are the same people who’ll write a FIVE-PAGE evisceration review.

I don’t make the rules.

To be clear, I am not talking about negative reviews that are thoughtful and concise about what in particular the reader didn’t like. I’m talking about the turd-slinging that serves no purpose other than playing high-and-mighty while being needlessly cruel.

Jerks Happen

Rejection, trolls, internet bullies

Sometimes I wish I had a “SMITE” button so I could zap these trolls (obviously with slightly-less-than-lethal electricity) so as to remind them that there is a living, breathing person on the other side of their ugly character assassination review. A writer whose ONLY goal was to inform or entertain.

We get it. The author missed the mark. No need to be a troglodyte.


Sadly, though. I do not have that button or I’d protect us all. But, I can’t. And, like my old blog post, you will have to be willing to stand, even if it feels as if you are alone.

Rejection sucks.

But here is a cool trick to help you keep perspective. I do this when I feel low. Go look up your all-time favorite books. The books you are certain are perfection on every page. Then look at the one and two star reviews and you will see the truth.

You cannot please everyone.

If you get a bad review, my advice is to listen and be teachable. Maybe they are onto something you didn’t see and can do better next time. If they’re just being a jerk, then you only need eleven more haters to technically be famous, so?

You’re welcome!

Rejection Defines and Refines Us

I am fairly certain many of y’all have been nodding along and that is great! But, you might want to keep this one bookmarked for a bad day. If you stay at this long enough, you’re going to have days that you wonder why you didn’t learn to be a dental assistant or why you left that exciting life in medical billing.

What were you THINKING?

When I decided to become a writer, my family didn’t talk to me for a year. I said, “I’ve thought this through and corporate sales is not for me. I want to be a writer.”

My family heard, “Blah blah, throwing away expensive college degree going to wear beret and write bad haiku, blah blah, writer, joining a cult, blah blah.”

DO NOT expect to get a lot of support outside of other writers. If you get it? Fabulous! But it’s good to hedge expectations. Even with all the social media that now connects us, this is STILL a lonely profession.

We write to deadlines. There is no clocking in and clocking out. As I mentioned earlier, most people will not believe what we do is actually WORK.

Because ANYONE can write 100,000 words with multiple POVs, character arc, plot arc, amazing dialogue and NO typos. Just like a grocery list!

Where was I?

Oh, yes. You will likely get knocked down but that is actually a good thing. When I started out, I was an ego-centric unteachable @$$ and writing taught me humility. Still have the scars.

But it also taught me that getting knocked down wasn’t the biggest deal. What mattered in the end was whether or not I got back up.

Is Rejection in Control?

Like the characters in our books, our wounds can be our best friends or our greatest enemies. When I wrote my “first novel,” I kid you not, it was 187,000 words long. I just kept on writing then finally thought, “Seems long enough. The end!”

I was too dumb to know what I didn’t know. When I attended my first writing group, I couldn’t wait for all the accolades. I just worried they’d be jealous that I was so naturally talented *hair flip*

THEN…I got my pages.

The bloooood! So much BLOOOOD!

Red pen, EVERYWHERE! I don’t think there was any white space left. I’d walked away from a sweet job with dental to pursue my dream only to find out I was a talentless hack!

I remember sobbing in my Honda Civic, blowing my nose with Taco Bell napkins because I hadn’t eaten anything that cost more than .99 for the previous six months.

It was decision time. Was I in or out?

How much did I really want to be a writer?

Apparently I wanted it a lot. A couple thousand blogs, several books (and a LOT of trolls) later, here I am. And you know what? Rejection still hurts like hell.

Even rejection that’s just in your head!

Just so y’all know, back in March, the 19th century stopped by to visit me. I caught frigging whooping cough.

Since I was presenting in Idaho in May—actually this weekend so…come see me?—I HAD to let my lungs heal if I hoped to make it there. The doctors said I was too close to getting full-blown pneumonia if I didn’t chill OUT (not my strong suit).

I couldn’t miss Idaho, because it is an INCREDIBLE conference featuring some of the greatest writers in our industry. So, if it wasn’t something on my phone, I pretty much shut down.

Problem is? I’ve missed blogging so long I’ve been literally afraid to POST. I feel like a total failure…as if I really had any control over the last eight weeks. And the GUILT! So much guilt.

What kind of special nonsense thinking is that?

***Thank you to Merry and Mimi and Mary and all the others who kept pestering me to post. I love you ladies.

See, my confession should give y’all hope that all these years later, I am STILL learning! I’m writing these posts for me as much as you.

What Are Your Thoughts on Rejection?

Oh the tales of rejection! I’ve been dumped on Valentine’s Day…twice. In the 90s, I worked for a tech company. One week after my boss told me how much she valued me…she fired me. Talk about blind-sided.

Security walked me and my potted plant out of the building in front of everyone.

One time on Amazon, someone gave me a one-star review because they bought my book by mistake.

I could go on, but y’all have been there. We put all the heartbreak and triumph in our stories. The jobs we lost, the love that failed, the friends we thought would be there forever…until we had to dislodge that knife from our back.

It’s life. The sweet is only sweet because of the bitter.

So what about you guys? Any tales of rejection? Reviews that made you question humanity? Rejection letters with your name misspelled? Do you put those people in books too? Have you let rejection refine you or define you?

And just a reminder for anyone who can make it. Better late than never!


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    • claragbush29 on May 16, 2023 at 3:36 pm
    • Reply

    I so needed this right now. Fighting rejection from literary agents and long COVID. I know your pain. But as always, your advice resonants for me. I’m sorry for your experience with trolls. I’ve had my share. And for omg Whooping Cough. Can’t even. Best of luck at the conference. You inspire me to keep on keeping on. You’re one of the best.

    1. I am with you on that. Editor and writer as well and it is a tough thing to balance.

      I don’t know what long COVID is, but I caught COVID in 2020 and my lungs have been like breathing spun glass until I finally took these past eight weeks to just sleep and rest. I would just about feel a little better and I was rushing back to work so I didn’t get too far behind! This whooping cough? I tapped out. I figured it was a sign I needed to just CHILL.

      I love your blog. too! Man. we have been around a LONG TIME, LOL! We are ANCIENT in publishing years, LOL!

  1. You are like a forever friend who disappears on occasion, then pops up and it’s like you were never gone! Your blog, discovered a good decade ago, has pulled me through some terrible times — laughter truly is the best medicine!
    Both writer and editor here, so rejections can assault from all sides — but a pissed off writer, who is soaking in rejections and looks to me to ‘fix’ their book, has always been the most painful to bear.
    Thanks for surviving — please stay well — we need you!!!

    1. Y’all are the same! I was all “I AM LETTING THEM ALL DOOOOOWN!” But, y’all love me no matter what and your comments have kept me going all these years through some really ROUGH stuff.

      Glad I still got it and can make you laugh!

    • annerallen on May 16, 2023 at 4:09 pm
    • Reply

    You make such excellent poinsettias, Kristen! 🙂 Seriously, this is definitely one to bookmark. We deal with rejection all through our careers.

    1. And the stakes only get higher.

    • David on May 16, 2023 at 4:53 pm
    • Reply

    You’re awesome… Not able to weather the rejections as gracefully as you though… Someday I’ll get back to writing when I care less about going through the process ….doesn’t it seem, though, that most people are more concerned with finding the ‘thing’ that makes them unable to consider you for anything rather than any thing that might recommend you? The one thing… I can’t even anymore

  2. My favorite rejection story comes from the comic strip “Peanuts.” The dog, Snoopy, is always writing stories and sending them out to be published. He never is. One day, he gets back two rejection letters from the same editor: “One for this story, and one for the next.”

  3. Timely post. And I *do* love your posts.

    One of my first reviews was one of those you described—long and detailed. Listing every perceived infraction they could think of. This person decided that I had wrote a cheesy historical romance. But not even with the good cheese. Nooooo… With Cheese Whiz. I found it funny at first, but then after re-reading the review, I realized whoever the reviewer was, they had a personal beef with me. *shrug*

  4. Rejection is tough. Especially time after time, even by small independent publishers. Ouch! I can relate to everything you said. But I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who goes through all that. It’s nice to know everyone has to go through the fire. Sort of a rite of passage.

    • Roger L Nay on May 16, 2023 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply

    Good to see my favorite blog is back, kind of forgot about it. Take vitamin C and B1, you don’t need scurvy or beriberi. As far as rejection, yeah, it keeps me from submitting short stories, because I know rejection is the rule and not the exception for unknown wannabe writers. I’ve screwed up my courage and submitted manuscripts for professional critiques and developed near debilitating butterflies when returned, cured soon after reading the comments. I’m glad you’re blogging again and feeling better. You are.. cute.

  5. My all time favorite rejection was actually on an boosted ad post. ‘I rebuke this in Jesus name’. I’m not clear if they disliked that the MC was wearing a swimsuit on the cover (she’s a swimmer, huge part of the story), if they figured out my book had fae, if they disliked multiple love interests, or if they were just having a bad day and wanted the world to burn. I was confused, then laughed about it and THEN called my mom to tell her DO NOT ENGAGE THE TROLLS because I don’t just have just a momma bear mom, I have a rabid attack momma bear mom, and she had just commented on the post so was likely to see it.

    So there’s my story for your amusement. 🙂

    Hoping you’re feeling better! Whooping cough is no joke, and it’s horrifying that you caught it.

    • Cher Gatto on May 16, 2023 at 8:32 pm
    • Reply

    A dear friend told me after reading one of my recent novels, “I thought I knew you. But now I have no idea who you are?” Ouch. She went on to say we needed to share a cup of coffee so I could tell her about my childhood! Yikes! I’ve been carrying that one around for weeks!

  6. You’re awesome and I love you. I believe bookmarking this post is a good idea.

    • Angela on May 17, 2023 at 1:05 am
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    Go Kristen! Get well. Don’t overdo it. Stay sane. I want to keep reading your blogs so I need you to do all these things. 🙂 Oh, and rejection? I was fired once because I couldn’t wash dishes fast enough. Things have moved on since then. I figure the best revenge is to succeed.

  7. It’s not that I’ve given up writing…I just enjoy making videos more at the moment. And graphics. Because at heart I’m a storyteller, and there are lots of ways to tell stories…right?

    • Cheryl on May 17, 2023 at 9:29 am
    • Reply

    OMG I’m sorry to hear about the whooping cough, jeez! But *thank you* so much for resting for all this time because I’ve been excited to *hear & see you* at the conference ever since I heard you were on the docket. Yay!!!!

  8. Being sick when you’re self-employed sucks. Being sick when you’re a writer and have stories clamoring in your head sucks even more. Hope you’re well on the mend by now and get to enjoy that conference.

  9. I’m so glad you’re back! You always make me smile, and sometimes even LOL.

    • Jean Lamb on May 17, 2023 at 11:47 pm
    • Reply

    David Brin, in a book called Earth, had a troll attacked with an Emily Post Virus to convince that being polite was really much more effective than possibly losing everything on their hard drive (Harsh Measures were hinted at). Charles Stross had some highly imaginative penalties for spammers in Rule 34.

  10. Thank you. I needed to read this now. I took have readers who let me know when I have gone too long between posts. I also submitted a book for publication nine years ago that was sent back unread because the editor was thinking about writing a book about the same subject. His book was published this year and I wrote a positive review of a book that is quite different from mine although dealing with the same subject. I still have to get past the emotional barrier that I constructed when he returned my chapters without reading. Thank you for a pep talk that may get me over the hump.

  11. Biggest rejection that knocked me down for far too long? Agent requested a full MS, came back (after a polite nudge or two) with a full page of editorial notes and an offer to take an R&R (revise & resubmit). I revised extensively…while my father-in-law was declining then dying…and sent the R&R off after another round of beta reads and edits. Then….


    even after another polite nudge or two.

    Still working my way back into the writing world after that one.

    • C.Love on May 19, 2023 at 10:24 am
    • Reply

    Always enjoy your posts, glad you’re recovered enough to be back at it. Knock ’em dead at the conference!

    • Cheryl on May 19, 2023 at 11:59 pm
    • Reply

    Reporting: Kristen rocks the house talking Villains at the conference.
    Owning The Room.

  12. Once again, a great post, Kristen! And I’m very interested in how it went for you at the Idaho Writers conference. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this event. I’m not that far from Boise, and it would have been lovely to have met you. Maybe next year?

    1. I feel SO badly I didn’t promote it sooner! See? I told you! I have enough guilt for EVERYONE! The presenters were FANTASTIC. One of the best conferences I have ever been to. I don’t know if they invite the same people back so soon, but I will ask because Idaho is my favorite conference. To your point, though, I would HIGHLY recommend going to their list of presenters and checking out all the cool stuff they have on their websites. EVERY PRESENTER was FANTASTIC. In fact, in upcoming blogs you WILL be hearing more about all I learned.

      Yes, it sucks you didn’t make the conference. I would have LOVED to have met you. BUT, all of us were limited to speaking for an hour and I can tell you…you barely can scratch the surface. So, while you will have to wait for the next time to do the networking and the fun stuff, even I am going to their pages today on my rest day to dig in deeper because what I got—though LIFE-CHANGING—was only a taste. I can promise you.

      I know I was rather whining in this blog and I really still was burned out. I came home and, for the first time in maybe years, had a great night’s sleep and I feel energized and happy and hopeful…even though everything hurts because I walked 20 miles in dress shoes loaded down like a sherpa.

  13. I got fired once! Why? Because I was sick in bed for a few weeks. The truth, I believe, was that it was coming up to raise time for me, and he wanted to replace me with someone they didn’t have to pay as much. Actually, they used someone already employed by them, so probably they didn’t have to pay any extra for him to do my job.
    Fortunately I have been retired for the past 13 years and do not need to make a living by writing. I can simply enjoy the process of creating book and cover design (I was a graphic artist). I self-publish on KDP and do all of the formatting etc. too, and find it enjoyable.
    I have almost no reviews at all for my several books, but the ones I do have are 5star rated and excellent reviews. I believe that is only because I have sold very few books, not because I am a particularly good author. But it doesn’t really matter to me any more. There was a time when I would have been devastated by a bad review. But at this end of my life, I have different priorities. I don’t care if I sell many books. I have probably given away nearly as many as I have sold. 🙂 I have had a loot of people tell me how much they have enjoyed my books though they have never written a review for me. And that’s OK too.
    I wish everyone commenting here, as well as you, Kristen, all the best in the writing, marketing and selling of your books and in getting more good than bad reviews.

  14. So glad you’re on the mend. What a wonderful post. It give us the hope to keep on going in spite of rejections and negative reviews.
    I recently received a review that stated the book she read was aimed at the wrong audience. It should be YA. and she stated 12-18. She said this because there was no excessive violence (except for a crucifixion of a child’s father in front of him and his mother, and guerilla warfare where people were killed!) and no overt sex. Two girls were sent to a brothel, but she passed over that as nothing. Now, I would not want a 12 year old to be reading about girls being sent to a brothel, and the questions that might raise. I suspect she said what she did about the age-range because it deals with the growth of a young boy (6 at the beginning of the novel) into adulthood, and how he overcame his hatred of the Romans. A so-called coming of age novel. (I hate that term.)
    Does this mean that to be a novel for adults we have to have overt violence and sex? Seems this person thinks so. Anyway, it’s the first book in a series, and the second book has enough adult themes to satisfy her. But then, if I marketed the first book to YA, they would go on to read the second (hopefully) which is definitely adult. Death, contemplated murder, miscarriage, child death!
    A less than helpful review of my first book said ‘Good idea. Poor execution.’ Rather than upsetting me, it annoyed me. Totally meaningless. (1* review if I remember correctly.)
    I had my fair share of rejections from agents and publishers until I found one that would accept my work.
    New writers should expect it, although I don’t expect it makes them feel any better. But I wish that before they jump into self-publishing they make sure they haven’t been rejected for poor grammar, punctuation, etc like the one I’m currently reading.

  15. My first book “Passing Whispers” (which is not on the market anymore) received comments that ran the gammet of “I will never forget this story for my entire life” to “that’s two days of my life I’ll never get back”. One comment in particular haunts me. 3/4 of it (and it was a lengthy review) was very complimentary. Left me exhilarated and flattered more than becoming Miss America. But one quarter of the review veered off course and insinuated that one part of the book was so unnecessary and odd that it completely ruined the story for her. So of course, instead of focusing on the wonderful compliments she left, I saw only the negative. It sucked all the air out of my big, red balloon. Now keep in mind she was the ONLY person who seemed to have this opinion… but it didn’t matter. She was a real, honest to God critic. She said so in her blog! So she was the sole judge of my writing. No jury trial for me. My peers were busy writing best sellers. No appeals for me, either. It was straight to the electric chair. And not to be attended by just 6 carefully chosen witnesses, but open to the entire public who apparently had absolutely nothing else to do that day but watch me fry.
    To make matters worse it was released as an ebook with a promise that if it sold 400 copies in 3 months it would be released as a paperback. Piece of cake I thought. How many boxes of girl scout cookies have I purchased over the years from my fellow employees? They OWED me. My publisher swore that I never sold more than 50. I assured her that ALL my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers assured me they bought a copy. My publisher told me “people like that always lie. They don’t want to be bothered and they just tell you they got a copy. How would you know?” Ouch.
    Well now, all the aforementioned people in my life who never wrote more than an absence note to the teachers for one of their sick kids, expected me to become rich and famous. Watching them wait for me to make the grand announcement that I would no longer be working at the hospital because New York and Hollywood were beckoning me was sheer torture. Eventually, the rumors of my upcoming place on the NYTimes Best Sellers List faded away like the pieces of confetti on the ground after the circus leaves town.
    So as you see, not only are writers rejected, but because of our huge and glorious imaginations, those rejections are much more dramatic and painful.
    But please know that I always enjoy and learn from your blogs. Always!

    1. Lisa that was like RIGHT OUT OF MY HEAD! Scary place to be! I have SO been there. Thanks for sharing your experience. It sometimes helps to see we are not the only people being absurd. You really put a lot of thought into this and I am so thankful for such a lovely comment on this post.

  16. Thank you so much for writing this! I laughed, I cried, I shook in remembrance. I’ve been fired twice in public, invited so-called friends to a party and no one showed up and school was on Monday!! I’m a senior citizen who write fan fiction (I know, not the real thing) and I blog and I love reviews. But the thing is, I don’t get a lot of reviews. In fact my latest, while read, has received, get ready, none! To be fair, hardly anyone reads this fandom but still rejection hurts. People didn’t know that I wrote the story for one fandom and because some people said it didn’t fit in I rewrite it.
    To quote my Beta, I write for me. That repeated phrase haunts me every time I finish what I believe is a brilliant piece of writing. No spelling mistakes, grammar is perfect, phrasing fits the time frame (1870’s old west, no less).

    But enough about me. Reading is subjective unless it’s mandated by jobs or school. I never read reviews unless I’m buying something or going to a new restaurant. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It helps to know that we’re all on this journey together and sometimes people don’t get it. Maybe I ought to write more reviews, because other writers feel the same way I do. Hmmm.

    1. Sallie, I don’t usually ask this, but could you drop a link to your Old West work. I am a big fan of Westerns. YEs, it IS hard, especially when you really don’t get much outside validation for what we do. I is why YOUR COMMENTS are so vital for keeping this blog alive. If I had to blog into the void? I don’t know how long I’d be able to sustain that, so you are VERY appreciated.

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

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