Friday, March 03, 2017

Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith & Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynsations

Whoosh! Race and all Students from Chris Barton at Bartography. Peek: “I don’t think she expected your book to have a 'racial element' and when she got to the line:'where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed,' she made a quick decision to change it even though it makes no sense." See also: Chris' List of College-Sponsored Children’s Literature Conferences in the U.S.

We Need Diverse Books Announces the Opening of Applications for the 2017 Internship Grants. Peek: “Five $2500 grants are available to diverse publishing and literary agency interns. New this year, WNDB will include a metro stipend to each intern….An internship is an important gateway into positions at publishing houses and agencies, but the expense of living in New York City can be a barrier to many well qualified candidates.” See also, Free Diverse Picture Books For Elementary Schools: WNDB is giving away 30 sets of diverse picture books to elementary school libraries. Application deadline: March 15.

Latinxs and the MFA: A Chat with Emerging Author Yamile Saied Mendez from Latinxs in Kid Lit Peek: "I wrote or read during halftime at soccer matches or long dance competitions. I did 'character studies' during carpool (15 year-old boys will say the funniest things when they believe the driver can’t hear them). I learned to let go of things I couldn’t control, like the sea of Legos in the playroom. These habits prepared me for the writing life after the MFA. Nowadays, although I don’t have an advisor waiting for my packet, I have an agent waiting for my revision."

Interview: Eric Velasquez by Jerry Craft for 28 Days Later from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Fear is a construct. It’s just a hurdle to leap over, and I chose to do it. What artists have to realize is if you do something good once, it’s not a lucky shot. If you did it once, you can do it again."

Sesame Street Writers Room: A Fellowship Program for Diverse Talent in Children’s Media. Peek: “Emerging storytellers who are selected to join the Writers’ Room fellowship will receive hands-on writing experience guided by Sesame Street veterans and other media industry leaders. Applications will be accepted from March 1 to March 31, 2017.”

I Spoke to the Woman Behind the Viral #DisabledAndCute Hashtag About Intersectionality by Alaina Leary. Peek: “#DisabledAndCute reminds us that mainstream depictions of disability are limited; disabilities aren’t always easily identifiable.”

SCBWI-Illinois Launches Diverse New Member Pathway, intended to increase diversity among children's book creators and among members of SCBWI. One winner will receive a year’s free membership in SCBWI and be guided by author Crystal Chan. See also, the SCBWI Amber Brown Grant for schools that need funding help for author visits.

Voicing Black Lives by Edi from Crazy QuiltEdi. Peek: “As society focuses more on the contributions of young people, we continue to get biographies of jazz musicians and civil rights leaders rather than Hydeia Broadbent, Kya Allums, Samuel Sinyangwe and Trayvon Martin. Writing stories gives validation to their efforts, their causes and their identities. Imagine a teen in Chicago reading a book that walks a teen through the murder of Trayvon Martin and how that became the birth of a movement.”

The Small World of Small Publishing: An Interview with SoHo Press by Joy Preble from Brazos Bookstore on Soho Teen. Peek: "And there are other authors who know that being at a smaller place with lots of passion and creativity and energy is what they want. We love debuts at Soho. And we’re well positioned to create a lot of noise around a new author."

After a Night at the Library, Stuffed Animals Help Kids Read by Robert Jimison for CNN. Peek: Actual loveys of young children are left them at the library for a "sleepover." Photos are taken of them choosing books and reading together. “When kids pick them up the next day, they can see how much fun their little friends had with books -- and the hope is that it will encourage more children to explore reading.” Bonus involvement idea: Use teenage volunteers to take the pictures.

“These Books Can Help” Reading to Kids About Immigration and Refugees by Jen Gann from The Cut.  Peek: From Bank Street Book Store’s Facebook page: “Don’t be at a loss for words when explaining to children that the heart and soul of America is to welcome others to our country who need a safe place to make a home.” See also: Refugees Welcome Here: Resources and Booklist from Out of the Box at the Horn Book.

Recommended! Jordan Wheeler’s Just A Walk by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature. Peek: “….I love to recommend books by Native writers and illustrators because teachers can use that all powerful two-letter-word, is, when they read this book to kids. That tiny word brings us out of the long ago past and into the present day.”

Overcoming Bias: Authors and Editors Discuss Sensitivity Readers by Matia Burnett from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “(Justina) Ireland compared navigating one such landmine using a stick to writing a narrative that speaks from outside an author’s own lived experience. In both cases, sometimes having a little guidance from an expert is necessary to help ‘see what [the author] didn’t or couldn’t see.’ That’s where sensitivity readers come in.” See also: Experts or Censors: The Debate Over Sensitivity Readers by Lynn Neary at NPR’s Morning Edition and What A Sensitivity Reader Is and Isn't and How to Hire One by Natalia Sylvester from Writer Unboxed.

Introducing One Stop for Writers New World Building Tool by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers Peek: “Imagine a set of surveys that can be customized and will work for all genres so you can easily bring together the important details for your world.” See also Janet Fox on New, Recommended Craft Books for Writers.

Deadline for Katherine Patterson Prize Extended to March 8. Cynthia Leitich Smith will be judging the contest sponsored by Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal for the Arts.

This Week at Cynsations

Congratulations to Lance and Randy, winners of the Rock and Roll Highway Giveaway!

More Personally - Cynthia

Career Strategies panel with Shelley Ann Jackson, Chris Barton, Jennifer Ziegler & moderator P.J. Hoover
Authors Include Cynthia Leitich Smith
Thank you to Austin SCBWI for the opportunity to speak on the faculty of Marketing Boot Camp last weekend at Round Rock (TX) Public Library. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Levinson. The sold-out workshop focused on booking author events, public speaking, promotional campaigns and career building. Participants also more informally shared insights and tips in breakout groups.

On the creative front, I finished keying changes after trimming 15,000 words from my YA novel in progress as well as brainstorming eleven new plot points to be integrated into the story. Thanks to Cory Putnam Oakes for her support and brainstorming assistance.

See also What Children's Authors & Illustrators Wrote & Drew When They Were Young from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "In Our Story Begins, a book due out from Atheneum this July, a number of children’s book creators recall their youthful creative efforts. Their entries were collected and edited by author Elissa Brent Weissman, and we present a selection of them here. Some of the essays have been condensed slightly from the original."

Let's donate & #Read4Refugees
See also a new teacher's guide for Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall from Lee & Low.

Cynsational Events

Cynthia Leitich Smith will be a keynote speaker for the 33rd Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on April 6 and April 7 at Kent State University in Ohio. In addition, she will deliver the keynote address at The Color of Children's Literature Conference from Kweli Literary Journal on April 8 at the New York Times Conference Center in Manhattan.

Personal Links
More Personally - Gayleen

Anne Bustard and Gayleen
The Austin SCBWI Marketing Boot Camp was fantastic! I've had a good writing week, digging into a project that had been "resting" for many months. It's now much easier to cut off the deadwood, pull out the weeds and get busy growing my story.

Personal Links

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Book Trailer: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Check out the new book trailer for Allegedly (HarperCollins, 2017) by Tiffany D. Jackson. From the promotional copy:

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster (HarperCollins, 1999) in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Cynsational Notes

Tiffany D. Jackson is a TV professional by day, novelist by night, awkward black girl 24/7. She received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves with her adorable Chihuahua, Oscar, most likely multitasking. Allegedly is her debut novel.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Guest Post: Carole Lindstrom on Writing on Two Continents

By Carole Lindstrom
for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations

I recently returned to live in the Washington D.C. area after a three-year stint living in Durban, South Africa.

Why Durban, you ask? Most people do. That is definitely a story I will be writing one day – so you'll have to stay tuned for that one.

My first picture book, Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle, illustrated by Kimberly McKay (Pemmican Publications, 2013), was published three months after I moved to Durban.

Don't get me wrong - I was thrilled to have this be my first published book, since it is based on my Metis culture.

But traditional promotion proved difficult.

I talked to editors, agents and many authors prior to our move, to get their thoughts on living abroad while publishing in the United States. The majority of them said it was not a big deal because of the internet. While I do believe the internet and emails have certainly made it easier, that didn't help when it came to meeting and greeting readers.

I wasn't able to share Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle with children in South Africa as it was very difficult for them to obtain the book there. So the usual routine of contacting local schools and libraries wouldn’t work.

I had to be creative and I had to reach out. As most of you know, the writing community is an amazing group of people who are only too glad to help. And they didn't disappoint. They took the time to Skype with me to offer their guidance and wisdom. That's how great they are!

Nancy Viau and Kathy Erskine gave me great insight about Skype school visits. I would have really felt lost without them.

They were helpful in terms of how the Skype visit should go, how long it should last and what I should discuss.

They also suggested I offer a free 30-minute Skype visit and if they wanted longer, then I would charge a fee.

Before long, I was talking to fifth graders in Mexico about dancing and fiddling.

Illustration by Kimberly McKay

I made a point of staying connected to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators while living in South Africa. Luckily, they have a Cape Town chapter.

I also journeyed back to the states for the New Jersey SCBWI conference, which is one of my favorites. I met so many friends there prior to my move and I wanted to keep that connection, so I made a point to come back every year. I think I even got a prize for traveling the farthest! The prize is really why I did it, shhhhh – don't tell.

But the thing that really sustained me was social media. Seeing my writer and illustrator friends every day on Facebook helped me stay connected and feel a part of the writing community even though I was 10,000 miles away.

I also had a critique partner that I met through SCBWI, Kenda Henthorn, who really was a lifeline for me while living there. She read a lot of my manuscripts and just helped lift me up on days when writing felt overwhelming and I didn't feel worthy of my craft. I would have really felt lonely without her. I can't say enough about the SCBWI and what it has done for me.

In addition, I taught writing classes at bookstores and coffee shops in Durban. Teaching informed my own writing and also helped me learn more about the local culture first hand from my students.

Again, here are quick tips for writing and marketing internationally:
  • Seek advice from established authors in target countries.
  • Offer online author events to schools, libraries, writing groups.
  • Maintain local ties through SCBWI international and its local chapters.
  • Stay connected in craft through online critique exchanges.
  • Teach writing classes in local venues.
Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

I'm happy to be living back in the D.C. area again – and doing school visits across town, instead of across the ocean.

Although, I do miss South Africa and the monkeys that frolicked in my yard, I have so many stories and kernels of stories yet to take root that South Africa will always be with me and I get the fun part of bringing it to my readers.

Cynsational Notes

Carole Lindstrom is Metis/Ojibwe and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Inspiration for Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle came from her grandfather, a fiddler who could play a mean jig.

Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature highly recommended Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle, praising its contemporary setting and inclusion of Metis culture. “I was swept into the story and curious to know more about the Red River Jig.”

Alison Schroeder of University of Manitoba's CM magazine also recommended the book. “This book teaches kids that they don’t need to follow what they are told they should be interested in or good at based on gender, but that they should pursue what they are passionate about.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Author Interview: P.J. Hoover on Creating Promotional Tie-In Extras For Your Book

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

When I first read P.J. Hoover's Cynsations post that mentioned video games related to Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape, 2014), I thought, "She's an electrical engineer. That's not something someone like me could actually do."

Still, it's  a very intriguing idea.

We hear all the time about kids playing video games instead of reading books. What if the video games could actually make them want to read?

When I heard there would be a sequel to Tut, I decided it was time to learn more about the intersection of books and gaming to share with Cynsations readers.

Tell us about the extras you created to go along with Tut. 

Thanks so much for having me here! I’m thrilled to talk about the extras to Tut! I’ll split them into traditional and non-traditional.

For traditional extras, it started when my editor asked for a “bonus chapter” to put at the end of the actual printed book.

I didn’t love the idea of a bonus chapter because I didn’t see it as a big selling point for middle grade. So instead, I sat down at my computer, put together some extras, and sent them off to her. These included:

A glossary
A note to readers about King Tut
King Tut’s Guide to immortality
A Tomb-Builders Guide

The short story is that she loved them! She loved them so much, that for the sequel, she asked for more. So I sat down at my computer again and came up with:

King Tut’s Most Excellent Guide to all Things Shabti
Caring for your Sumerian Monster
Henry’s Phrontistery

(Note that these make a bunch of sense once you’ve read the book.) Again, she loved the extras!

But these still all fell in the range of traditional extras, and being the tech-savvy person that I am, I decided to come up with some more not-quite-as-traditional extras.

The first of these was a game I developed in Scratch (a website developed by MIT that teaches kids to program by having them design games).

Scratch is widely used in schools which is where I first learned about it. Over the course of the next few months, I coded Escape From King Tut's Tomb, a 10-level video game to go along with the book. It’s actually really hard to get through all 10 levels, so on my website, I included “cheats” to go along with the game.

After the Scratch game, I latched onto the Minecraft craze.
One of P.J.'s Minecraft
Tomb Builders

Minecraft popularity has died down a bit in the last couple years, but at the time of the release of Tut: The Story of my Immortal Life, it was the hottest thing.

So I hired some Minecraft developers (in the form of my kids and their friends), rented server space, and we created the Minecraft Tut world.

I was so excited at this point, and so into creating extras to go along with Tut (since they were so much fun), that I sat down and wrote out a Choose Your Own Adventure inspired game to go along with my book.

It’s called Pick Your Own Quest, and in it, you play the role of King Tut. The choices you make determine if you save Egypt from an awful threat, or if you make the wrong choice, you die some horribly grizzly death instead.

I think there are about forty-two different ways to die.

When it was time for book 2, I knew I wanted to write another Scratch game.

Here’s the thing. King Tut himself was a gamer.

Yes, it’s true! In his tomb they found many copies of a very popular ancient Egyptian board game called Senet.

This game is featured in the sequel, Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World (Starscape, 2017). So I coded up Senet in Scratch to go along with book two. Kids can play against a friend or against King Tut himself.

Warning: King Tut is very hard to beat. He also taunts you the entire time you play. For those who don’t know how to play Senet, there is an easy mode and a hard mode. There are also downloadable instructions on my website and information in the back of the published book.

What has the response been from teachers and students?

Both teachers and students love these extras!

I have gotten such great response, from seeing librarians at conferences eyes light up when they hear me mention Scratch, to kids cheering when they find out about the video games.

They love that I’ve taken the world of reading and crossed it over in these unique ways to combine technology.

Kids adore playing video games, and when they hear about how they’re related to a book, it’s like they feel like they’ve been given permission to play. Also it gets them very excited to read the books. I’ll see hundreds and hundreds of hits on my website for the extras, and it just makes smile.

Have the extras led to more school visits?

One hundred percent yes!

In addition to my standard author presentation, I also offer a breakout “Coding Chat” where I’ll talk to kids in technology classes or coding clubs about ways I use technology in my job as an author. I’ll also focus on Scratch and help them get started. I have some “starter” projects that kids can take and easily modify. 

So many schools these days have coding clubs, and the program they almost all start out using is Scratch. So I offer them not only the ability to talk about books and writing, but the vision in seeing how they can take their love of a book and express it creatively.

In addition, and it’s so hard to believe this is still the case, we are still seeing a huge drop in females in technical classes and careers. Lots of schools love that I provide the role model of a strong technical female to their students. I’ve been invited to specifically visit girls-only schools for this reason.

I have information about in-person and Skype author visits on my website.

Have the extras help boost sales? Have you heard from readers who discovered the book because they found one of the games first?

Though it’s hard to determine this exactly, I believe the extras have helped the Tut books gain visibility and stand out in the market when otherwise they might not have.

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life was chosen for both the Texas Lone Star List and the Spirit of Texas Middle School list.

In addition, I’ve also seem my game being used as an example in computer science classes around the country, both at the high school and college levels. 

Scratch also provides a way for me to connect with kids directly.

It’s like its own social networking site. Kids can comment on my games, like them, favorite them. I can chat back with them about the games. Overall, it’s a win.

Which of the games you created is the most popular?

P.J.'s original Artificial Intelligence project
Of the Scratch games, Escape From King Tut's Tomb is by far the most popular. It’s the main one connected to the book, and the first one kids will find on my Scratch page and my website. 

Of the non-Scratch extras, the Pick Your Own Quest adventure is hugely popular. Kids will go through the paths, trying to find a safe way to save Egypt over and over again. They probably go through seeing how many ways they can die also.

My personal favorite is a game I coded in Scratch.

Back when I was in college, I took a class called Artificial Intelligence, and in the class, we had a project assigned. I wrote a game called Castle Of Doom.

I loved the game! Of course that was back in 1991 and the game was on a (most likely defunct) floppy disk for DOS.

I recoded the game in Scratch, and now I can play whenever I want!

P.J.'s game, recoded in Scratch
Tell me about the timeline of creating the extras. Did you do it all at once? Or is it something you are continually growing?

I tend to do my extras in batches, before the release of the books. That way, when possible, I can get information on the extras into the printed books themselves.

For example, the Pick Your Own Quest game is featured in the print books with a QR that links directly to the website page for it. 

The Scratch games take a while to write. I’ll try to spread this out over the course of a couple months, taking my time, so I don’t rush through anything and make mistakes (through I’m sure there are still some bugs in there somewhere!). It’s nice when I do Scratch, because I can hang out with my kids at the kitchen table with my laptop, and it encourages them to create games of their own at the same time. 

If an author wants to make a game, what are the basic steps for getting started? (is one platform more user friendly? have better graphics or sound effects?)

There are two different ways to approach this. 

PJ Hoover with Cynthia Leitich Smith at Texas Book Festival
If an author just wants a kick-butt video game to go along with their book, there is no reason to use Scratch.

In fact, there may be many reasons to not use it. The graphics are not the best (they don’t scale up great). It can be slow loading. It does not have all the functionality a skilled programmer would want.

If the goal is to just have a game that kids can play, any platform can be used.

My reasons for having a game were a bit different.

In addition to giving kids a game to play, I really wanted to tie into the technology curriculum at schools and allow educators to combine the use of my games and my books.

I was really trying to hook those kids who loved math and science but didn’t love reading and writing quite as much. For this reason, I went with Scratch. Almost every single educator out there has heard of it. Many schools have required Technology classes or lessons. Scratch is the number one go-to when teaching kids to code. 

As for getting started, having a programming background helps. But anything is possible if there is a vision and the motivation to make that vision become a reality. 

Are there costs associated with creating the extra content?

My cost was only my time. But it was fun time, time well spent, and I loved every minute of it! Also, now I have some really fun games that even I love to play.

Tell us about Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World.

I’m so excited for this book! It feels like it’s been forever since book 1, Tut: The Story Of My Immortal Life, came out. And it has been two-and-a-half years! The story picks up a few months after the end of the first book. And because they did such a great job of summarizing it, I’ll go with my publishers blurb:

Meet Tut! He used to rule Egypt. Now he's stuck in middle school.

Having defeated his evil uncle and the Cult of Set, who tried to send him to the afterlife, the perpetually fourteen-year-old King Tut is looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation. But then Tut discovers that his brother Gilgamesh has been captured by the Egyptian god Apep, Lord of Chaos. Gil helped to vanquish Apep thousands of years ago, and now Apep is back for vengeance.

It’s up to Tut and his friends, Tia and Henry, to find Gil and stop Apep before he succeeds in his scheme to swallow the sun and plunge the world into darkness forever….

Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World will appeal to fans of fast and funny mythological fantasy. Don’t miss Tut’s first epic adventure, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life.

Thank you so much for having me here! It is such an honor!

Cynsational Notes

P.J. with Nefertorti. Her other
tortoise is named King Tort.
P.J. Hoover wanted to be a Jedi, but when that didn't work out, she became an electrical engineer instead. After 15 years of designing computer chips, she decided to start creating worlds of her own.

Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World, her sixth book, releases today.

When not writing, P.J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, watching "Star Trek" and playing too many video games.

She is also the assistant regional adviser for Austin SCBWI

Monday, February 27, 2017

Guest Post: Varsha Bajaj on Finding Your Book at Target

By Varsha Bajaj 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

On November 9, 2016, I was at my local Target store.

I had bought milk, eggs, bananas and dog treats and I wandered into the books section because that’s where I am known to stray when I need comforting.

Right there beside Dr. Seuss and under Eric Carle was This is Our Baby, Born Today (by Varsha Bajaj, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016).

I pulled out my phone and clicked a picture, as if I needed proof for my friends and family, in case it was a huge mistake and they pulled the copies off the shelves the next day.

Then, I lurked around the aisle trying to collect my errant thoughts.

This book was born in January 2012 during my son’s senior year when the school requested that I send pictures of him between the ages of 0-5. I sat surrounded by hundreds of pictures with the impossible task of selecting five. Babies were now on my brain and in my words.

After months of writing and many failed versions and drafts, I realized the heart of my story.

While the baby is the mother’s alone in the womb, the circle of love gradually expands after birth and includes at first the family and then the world. The arrival of a baby is cause for celebration.

Around the same time, I read about the plight of elephants and their dwindling numbers.

My connection to elephants goes way back. I remembered the wooden elephant from my childhood home in India who was the hero of some of my earliest stories.

It struck me that if we celebrated the birth of every elephant, they would not be endangered today. The baby in the story became an elephant and the rest of the words followed.

This manuscript found the right editor thanks to my agent, Jill Corcoran.

The words found the perfect illustrator, Eliza Wheeler, thanks to my extraordinary editor, Nancy Paulsen.

I’ve been lucky to see my books grace the shelves of bookstores before.

But this was different.

While I wish everyone visited a bookstore, I realize and mourn the fact that only a small section of people frequent and support their local indie or Barnes and Noble.

Target manages to reach a much wider base.

I hope that the readers of this book will be sympathetic toward elephants and realize that these gentle giants need our help.

I hope that these young readers will wander into a bookstore or their local indie as teens or adults.

I hope there are people who will wander to the book section after buying their milk, eggs, bananas and dog treats and pick up a copy of This is Our Baby, Born Today.

Cynsational Notes

Kirkus called This is Our Baby, Born Today a gentle rhyming story and said it "works on two levels: the playfulness of the young elephant and its friends ensure that young children will be able to see themselves in the story, and given the depiction of the natural scenes, at least some young readers will become fascinated with the lives of elephants as well."

Varsha Bajaj came to the United States as a graduate student in 1986. She earned her master’s degree in counseling from Southern Illinois University and worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in St. Louis. This is Our Baby, Born Today is her third picture book, and she is also the author of the novel Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood (Albert Whitman, 2014). Her next book, Our Earth, Our Home, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books in 2018.

Varsha with Kathi Appelt at the This is Our Baby, Born Today launch party.

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