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Posts Tagged ‘Oprah Winfrey’

Going for the Gold

Going for the Gold

Ever wonder what that really means? I have, and I’ve thought about it a lot. It sounds so easy. Sounds like you should be able to just go out there and grab yourself some BIG success. Sounds like something off a cereal box; but it isn’t. Going for the Gold is labour intensive, down in the mud, hard work. It means sacrifice, and determination. It means believing in you when others may not. It also means continuing to move forward even when you don’t believe in yourself.

 

Recently I read an article by Steven Pressfield about aiming high with your goals. As I read it I thought, yeah, I get that! You see, for most of my life I just went along with the flow of whatever came along. I had some really good times, and some really bad ones. I didn’t strive for anything too hard, but I didn’t stop completely either. I had no real goals, other than limited, day to day things. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s vitally important to have both short and long term goals. Sometimes just getting through the day is a worthy goal.

 

But what about when you REALLY want something? Well, this writing gig is like that for me, and it’s showing me what I’m made of. I haven’t reached my gold medal goal yet by a long shot, and am still waaaay back from it, but I have my sights set high and my vision is pretty clear. I don’t know how or when I’m going to reach it, or even if I’ll reach it, but I’m going for it anyway.

 

Resistance

Resistance

Pressfield talks about overcoming resistance in his book, The War of Art, and when I first heard about this thing he calls “resistance”, during his interview with Oprah, I was blown away. You see, we all come up against it, and it seems that the closer we get to our goal, the stronger resistance becomes. We find all kinds of reasons to sabotage ourselves. We allow others to blow up our dreams and goals. We stumble, then refuse to get up. According to Pressfield, those are all resistance hard at work, doing it’s best to stop us from achieving our goals.

 

But somewhere along the way it’s also occurred to me that it takes more than dogged determination to succeed. There has to be determination, talent, and grace. I believe it’s like a trinity; you need all three at the same time to really succeed. That’s what makes Going for the Gold so hard.

 

I said I also believe there has to be some element of grace at work in your life and belief system. I mean think about it! You can’t ever get where you want to go alone. Other people, opportunities, God, the Universe, doors that open and close, all that stuff is at play throughout our lives. Grace, to me, means accepting those bits of good that come our way and being thankful for it. It doesn’t mean trying to use or manipulate them. It means valuing and recognizing the people and opportunities that come our way, whatever the source.

 

I’ve seen too many people try to get ahead by stepping on the backs of others. They think they’re on the stairway to heaven, but they aren’t really. One day one of those backs will break, or move away, and the climber will be left dangling in mid-air. I propose accepting any and all help you can, giving thanks for it, valuing what you are given or taught, and then paying it forward when and where you can. That builds strong stairways. It means that others will continue to help you, rather than try to find ways to tear you down. Now, it doesn’t mean that as you rise, others won’t feel jealous or try to hurt you, it just means that you personally will know that you deserve to be where you are and can keep climbing.

 

We're in it to Win it!

We’re in it to Win it!

One of the reasons we cheer for the athlete who gets the medal is because we see ourselves striving for something more. We want them to win because we want to win. We want to know that it’s possible to win, even when we’re not actually in the game. But make no mistake, those of us in the game, or arena, are working our asses off! If we’re smart, and thoughtful, we’re also trying to help our comrades succeed and win the medals too. That’s because success is a joint effort, and there’s enough to go around for everyone. Besides, it’s so much more fun when we work with, not against, others.

 

I’ve been told I’m not a competitive personality, but I am. I was even told by one boss in the past that I didn’t have an entrepreneurial spirit, but of course I do, just not in the business I was in at the time. You see, I’m competitive against myself, not other people. I push myself to do better, to learn more, and to be better. Right now I’m out actively seeking an agent to represent me and my next novel, and I know from experience that I need this person to help push, pull, and teach me what I don’t know. I recognize that others have experience and clout in areas where I don’t. I could try to go it alone, but I would rather be part of a team that reaches for the same gold medal. For now, that’s my choice. But even within a team, I’m well aware that I’m responsible for myself. I know I’m responsible for putting forth my best effort and not relying on the team to do the work for me. To me, that’s team work!

 

So, the next time you think about Going for the Gold, think hard about what you want, why you want it, and make a plan for how to get it, Dare Greatly, and be prepared to work your ass off!

 

Theodore Roosevelt once said:

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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Waiting

Waiting

I’m in the middle of the waiting game once again. Having submitted my latest novel out for query, I’m now waiting for someone to see that kernel of value, that spark of something in the story, and in me, that’s worth taking a chance on and working with.

 

This is such a difficult time. I’m not a patient person by nature, but I know and recognize the importance of waiting patiently; of allowing things to unfold as they must.

 

But waiting is hard. It can lead to self-doubt. It can bring up every fear you’ve ever known, and make you face it down again and again, on what can seem like a daily basis. I’ve also noticed that people spend a great deal of time waiting. We wait till Friday to celebrate the weekend. We wait till we’re married, till we have children, till we’re retired…till we’re dead. After that last one, we’re kinda done waiting. But what if instead of just waiting around, we DID something? What if we allowed ourselves to let go of the waiting game and got on with living? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of waiting to get on with my life.

 

So, during the waiting period between projects, I allow myself the time it takes to craft the query letter, have it edited for mistakes, and then begin the process of sending out the letters. When an agent (or publisher) expresses interest in your project, they’ll ask for a partial or a full copy of the completed manuscript. Talk about facing fears! I realized that only when we are facing our fears are we moving forward. I realized that all the “waiting” involved in writing actually allows me to take stock of where I’m going, where I want to be, who I want to move forward with. Rather than saying I’m waiting, maybe I should call it what it is; pausing. I’m pausing to make sure I’m on track, that I know where I’m going. I’m pausing to take a few steadying breaths before the roller coaster of life picks up speed again. See, I don’t care for roller coasters either; too scary! So, I’m pausing, not waiting.

 

Patience

Patience

But while I go through each of these necessary steps, I caution myself to be patient. I meditate to help keep myself grounded in my vision and in myself; my purpose. I take this small break and read books by writers whose work I really enjoy. I begin thinking about the next project. I begin researching for the next project. But I’m always cautious.

 

I recently watched an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (yes, I’m a seeker) and heard author, Brene Brown, talk about the fact that people are so cautious, so careful not to go to extremes, that they don’t give themselves permission to cry when they’re really sad or struggling. Conversely, people often feel reluctant to give in to pure joy when something goes really right for them, or when their hearts are absolutely touched by something, or someone. I had my own ah ha moment right there (I’ve been having a lot lately). I realized I do a lot of that. I caution myself not to get too excited when something really good happens, and not to get too despondent when something goes awry.

 

I realized I’m cheating myself of some of my life’s most important lessons and feelings. What am I waiting for? When I’m really down and sad, I should be able to cry. When I’m joyous, I should be able to just shout out, jump around, do my “whoop whoops”, or even cry tears of joy. I don’t need anyone’s permission. In fact, I need to give myself permission to feel, really feel, whatever it is I’m feeling. I need to honour that expression of myself. Then, if I’m sad and struggling, I can pick myself back up and move on. Slowly maybe, but move on nevertheless. When I’m overcome with joy and I express it aloud, I feel GREAT! Then I can calm down and return to my regularly scheduled program. Allowing myself to express what I’m truly feeling in those basic terms frees me.

 

Now, I’m not talking about saying whatever the heck I feel to anyone and everyone. I still believe in treating others with kindness and respect. I don’t mean I should just tell everyone what I think, because sometimes I need time to consider what I really do think. That’s a whole different animal.

 

I’m talking about expressing feelings. I’m talking about giving myself permission to feel what I feel, then move on. It means learning the lessons that come with life, as much as possible. I’m getting there. One tear and whoop at a time. Oh, and I’m grateful every day. When I’m sad, it can help if I can find even one thing to be grateful for. When I’m full of joy, I start with shouting, or whispering, “Thank You.”

 

This journey of writing is teaching me a great deal about myself, about life, and about the value of waiting, or pausing. Whoop, whoop!

Joy!

Joy!

 

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Inspiration Moves Us

Inspiration Moves Us

 

 

As a writer, I’m asked many times, “Where does your inspiration come from?” This is a very good question, with many possible answers.

 

In thinking about the question, it occurs to me there are different kinds of inspiration. We can be inspired by people, places, or things. We can be inspired by events, or acts of any kind, and nature is inspiring in both its simple and complex designs.

 

Writers, singers, and artists of all mediums claim inspiration for their works. What inspires us is unique to each individual. Inspiration often results in an animating action or reaction. Inspire is a verb; meaning it’s an action word. It causes a person to do, think, act, or believe differently than before the inspiration occurred. It honestly doesn’t matter what inspires a person. The important thing is that the person feels deeply affected by the experience, and for artists, sometimes results in the creation of something new.

 

For me, inspiration comes in many forms. People can inspire me profoundly. Seeing others tackle their fears and overcoming them, inspires me to examine my own fears and overcome them. Events can inspire me and have a huge impact on how I view myself and the world around me. Watching the news and hearing of acts of altruism and humane behaviours by others makes me want to reach out and help too. Nature is also extremely inspirational for me. I never cease to be inspired when walking along a long sandy beach, through a deep green forest, or watching animals in their habitat. Places of great beauty, architecture, and art inspire me. A sunset or sunrise touches me deeply. I become humbled by the beauty of art and the talent of the artist, and sometimes they inspire me to reach inside myself, and have confidence in whatever small talent I may possess. To honour the things that inspire me, I have chosen to live in area that’s close to the water, is surrounded by tall trees, and I decorate my home with various reminders of things and people I love.

 

WritingWhen I write a story, I draw on everything that inspires me. I pull from the depths of my own experiences when I write my characters, places and events, even if the story has a fantastical element to it, or is set centuries in a past I could never know. At any time I might be inspired by something and think what a great story that would make. Ultimately, I am intrigued and inspired by the human condition and the world we inhabit.

 

Even when researching a story for characters, places, and events, I become inspired by the facts I read. I am fascinated by regular people who accomplish great feats. I readily admit to being in love with the life altering forces of love. I’ve begun to realize we all have the power to make significant changes to our lives, the lives of others, and the world in which we live. I guess that’s why I allow my characters to follow their dreams, and act in ways which cause them to question and grow. I encourage failure as a means to discover the successes, and in order to appreciate those successes.

 

Recently I was speaking with a woman who commented “Well, all we can do is try to survive.” That comment upset me and caused me to immediately reply, “Not really. We also need to dream and strive to achieve something better.”

 

Now, this woman had grown up extremely poor, and was born in a country that didn’t offer much in the way of education or opportunity, so she’d learned to keep her head down and survive. That’s an important lesson when in crisis. But she also left that country, married, had a child, and kept striving to improve her family’s financial circumstances. Even though she didn’t give her actions credit, something must have inspired her to accomplish each of those things. Otherwise, she’d have stayed where she was and kept plodding along.

 

When I listen to people like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, or anyone for that matter, who encourages change and the belief that we are all capable of acting on our inspirations, I am inspired. I begin to look forward to the challenges of walking my own road, and finding who I’m supposed to be. I love hearing it when others talk of finding that same burning desire; the desire to do more than survive.

 

Writing is a notoriously difficult road to walk. It can often feel lonely. The writer sometimes feels misunderstood by family and friends. The path to becoming published is far from easy, no matter whether the writer decides to work with traditional publishers, or opts to self-publish. It’s damned hard work. It takes a very long time, and there isn’t always a gold star at the end of the day. But when inspiration strikes, the writer, as with any artist, is compelled to share it with others. Why? Who knows? I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. I just know that, for me, it feels right. It feels the most like “me” than anything else I do with my waking hours.

 

What I know, is that someday I hope to inspire others to follow their own dreams and succeed at whatever it is they feel is their purpose in life. I don’t care if it’s walking on the moon, being the best teacher they can be, or dedicating their life to their family. It doesn’t matter. We are all driven by needs that are separate and apart from money and “surviving”. It gets mixed up in our childhood experiences, in our own perceptions of the world, and who we believe we are. Life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. But it constantly ebbs and flows with new experiences, new opportunities, and new tomorrows.

 

timeNone of knows how long we have on this earth, but I’m inspired many times a day, if I seek inspiration, to make the most of what time I do have. I have many, many dreams for my future, and sometimes wish I’d discovered this path I’m on years ago. Because I’m already in my mid-fifties, I worry I won’t get to do all the things I want to accomplish, write all the stories I’d like to write, and visit all the places I’d like to see. But that’s not up to me. What’s up to me is how I use my days, how I treat the people around me, and whether or not I continue to seek and act on inspiration. As for the rest, I guess I’ll just have to trust that whatever the future holds, it’ll be enough.

 

Please take a few moments to comment and share this with your social networks. Tell me, what inspires you and what do you do about it?

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merry go roundI’m a huge believer in “what goes around, comes around”. This holds true for me in my personal life and in business. Of course I expect to be paid for my work, but I don’t always expect something in return for small things I do for others. For me, this is more an acknowledgement that the universe (or God, or Fate, what have you) is set up this way. I truly believe you get out of life what you are willing to put into it. I also know that human nature is generally one of selfishness. We have to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and pay our bills, but when we step outside ourselves and do something to help another person, purely because we can, then we benefit as well. This benefit most definitely may not be monetary, but it makes us feel better about ourselves, our own lives, and our capacity of effect change for other people.

 

As much as I admire huge accomplishments, like those performed by such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, the Gates family, and other proponents of social change, I’m equally as impressed by the small, individual acts of kindness and assistance we can all perform in our every day lives.

 

As writers, we reach out with our words to audiences we may never meet. We extend ourselves to hopefully touch the lives of our readers in some manner. It may be for pure entertainment that readers read our stories, articles or blogs, but even that small touch point means something. If we are successful and have done our jobs correctly, each reader takes something personal away from our work. The interpretations of our words and stories are as varied as the people who read them, but that’s the beauty of it. It is completely and utterly subjective.

 

How can I helpThat’s all very well and good, but how can we really pay it forward? How can we go beyond our work, our lives, and ourselves to help others? It’s really so easy. Whenever a writer shares information with another writer via social networking groups or blogs, or stops in their busy day to answer a question posed on one of these forums, we can help other writers. When we attend a book signing, reading, or seminar we’re giving, we help when we answer questions of attendees. The questions may not seem particularly earth-shattering, but to the person posing the question, it’s important. If we take the time to answer the questions thoughtfully and honestly, we may be helping not only the questioner, but others in the audience who were too timid to ask.

 

I’ve always been a questioner. I listen to what’s being said, then I want to know how, where, why, when?  That’s how I build my own conclusions. I’m not always right, and I don’t profess to know and understand all the nuances of any particular subject, but I ask. As a writer, I also read. I read industry related articles in on-line magazines like Forbes and Writer’s Digest. I read other writer’s blogs for the information they have to share, such as Bestseller Labs, and Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes. When I’m front and center and asked a question, I do my best to be honest and forthright, and if I don’t know an answer, I admit it. No shame in that, even in a public appearance where we’re supposed to be the “experts”.

Paying it forward can be as easy as forwarding an email you know would be of interest to others in your circle. Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter have become the ultimate sharing sites, but there are literally tons of others. I share everything from inspirational quotes that might brighten someone’s day, to articles I’ve discovered from another writer or journalist that I think would benefit someone else.

 

What does this gain me for my work, my books? Maybe nothing, but perhaps just one person will be interested enough to look a little further and see what else I have to say, or share. Maybe they’ll Google my name and see that I’ve written a book, or have a blog and website, and check it out. Maybe they won’t be interested, but forward the information along to someone else who might. The truth is, I’ll never know, and I’m good with that. I don’t need to know what’s in it for me every time I do something. There are enough people like that out there, scrabbling in business to make a sale, to undercut the competition, to lure the customer in. It isn’t that I’m above all that, I was in sales for over ten years, so I know how hard it is to earn every dollar. I’m also far from independently wealthy. In fact, my husband and I are pretty monetarily strapped right now, trying to live on his small pension since being downsized out of a huge corporate company after thirty years service (that’s another discussion altogether). We have to watch every penny that comes in and goes out, but I can still do small things that don’t cost me anything but my time.

 Book writingAs writers, we often feel pressured to “produce”. We’re always working on the current WIP, the next project, marketing, promotion, personal appearances, etc. So who has the time to help someone else? Heck, we may be struggling to figure it all out ourselves. I know I am. That’s exactly when it’s important to share what information we have and come across. It doesn’t take a great deal more time to share a timely article you’ve read with followers on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. As writers, we also know how important ratings and reviews of our work are, so if you’re reading something, take a few moments to post a review and rating! You know how thrilled the other writer will be to hear your comments, and what it means to algorithms (if you don’t you need to learn about this too, then share your findings).

 

In fact, there are so many ways we can “pay it forward” as writers. Don’t worry about what’s in it for you, just get out there and do it. You may be surprised where it leads down the road.

We're off to see the Wizard...

We’re off to see the Wizard…

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In The Spirit Of Love

In The Spirit Of Love

When my debut novel, In The Spirit Of Love, was finally released via Echelon Press, LLC in November, I was over the moon. Before it was actually out there, live and open to the world, I had no idea how I’d feel. Then I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and there it was! I sat in my tiny little office space (just a corner of a room really), and started to shake. Then I got all teary. Then I jumped up to find my husband and parents, whom we’re temporarily living with. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe that people all over the world would be able to seek out, download, and actually read the words I’d laboured over so long and hard. We celebrated with champagne and orange juice even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, my mother downloaded a copy to her Nook, and I cried a little more. Then I got up and went back to my “office” to begin the task of promoting it to the world.

That’s when it hit me. People were going to be able to read my words and judge them. They’d decide whether the story I’d crafted was good, bad or mediocre. But first, they had to know about it. My work wasn’t done. In actual fact, it had just doubled, or tripled. Now, not only was I going to have to keep working on my current project, the sequel, but I was going to have to start devoting a good portion of each day marketing and promoting the heck out of this now released one.

 

Statistics

Statistics

Then I made a tactical error. I started reading, at first hourly, the ratings on the sites it was available on. I don’t claim to understand how the ratings work. I don’t think anyone does, but I avidly went to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, and OmniLit to see what the “numbers” said. They made no sense to me, but I knew they were important, so I watched. My emotions see-sawed with the numbers on the screen. The lower the number, the better, so when the numbers went down, I rejoiced, but when they went back up, which of course I knew they would, I still felt let down. I started getting edgy. How could I get those numbers down and prove, to myself, that my book had merit and that others were buying it. I had no way to know how many were buying it, or even where. I also didn’t know yet what people thought of it, so I focused on the rating numbers.

A few days went by like this, and I’m sure I drove my family nuts with it. Then I remembered something I’d heard Oprah Winfrey say once. She recounted how, in the beginning of her career, she too focused on the “ratings” of her new show. Her staff and producers did the same. They compared her to her contemporaries and determined whether or not they were on the right track with them. They told her she had to “keep her ratings up” to be successful and win the “game”. Then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She said she realized she didn’t have to compete with anyone. She only had to do her very best every single day and be herself. The rest would just have to work itself out. She told her producers and staff not to bog her down with talk of ratings, as this just interfered with her vision for herself and the show. She didn’t want to get caught up in the hype. She just wanted to do a good job and bring whatever wisdom and light she could into the lives of her audience. Well Amen. I had my Ah ha moment.

I’m no Oprah Winfrey, but that piece of wisdom makes sense to me. I guess I’ve always been of the opinion that I can only do the best I can at whatever I take on. I can only be myself. I write because it’s what I love and want to do, not because I’m being “rated” for it. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean the ratings don’t matter. In book sales, in business, they do. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be successful and make a decent living at this writing gig, I do. But now I check them once a day, just to begin to understand whatever trends they might indicate. What I don’t do is agonize over them anymore. I don’t judge whether or not I’m a good writer by them. What matters to me is whether people who read the books are enjoying them, so those are the ratings and reviews I focus on. If they’re positive, then I’m on the right track in terms of story line. If and when I get poor reviews, and I’m sure I will, then I’ll pay attention, take them with a grain of salt and take what I can from them.

The Magic of Reading

The Magic of Reading

I keep talking about how my lessons in writing mimic my lessons in life. This is another of those instances. Of course I want to be a successful, prolific writer, but only I can determine those terms. So I’ll work my butt off to get the word out there, I’ll promote my work when and where I can, I’ll continue to write the very best stories I can and grow into my craft, and I’ll have to let the chips fall where they may. Just like in life, it’s all any of us can really do. The rest is all just hype.

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Change is inevitable

 

 

Woohoo, I’m working on my final edits for In The Spirit Of Love! It’s a ton of work, and at first glance, I felt a little overwhelmed with all the little red marks and comments my publisher attached to the manuscript. On second thought though, I realized it was my opportunity to clean up areas that needed cleaning, tighten sentences that were sloppier than they should be, and review – again, my finished product before sending it out into the big wide world.

It’s not often we get a chance for this kind of do-over. Or is it? As I sit, hour after hour going through the manuscript line by line, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels to life. How many times have we wished we could just go back and erase something we said or did? I don’t know about you, but for me, lots.

Just about everyone I know has regrets; things they’ve said, or didn’t say, missed opportunities, or things they’ve done that have hurt others (intentionally or unintentionally), but wish they could change.

With life, we hopefully learn, and as Oprah Winfrey says, “When you know better, you do better”. Well, I’ve learned a hell of a lot, and I know I could have done better in a lot of areas. As parents we’re always second guessing ourselves. There are always ten thousand things we wish we’d done differently or better. Being a parent means learning to live with guilt and regret, but most of us get enough right to raise reasonably sane and productive adults who contribute to society, love themselves and value the importance of family, religion and doing the right thing.

But what about actually making a change? What about do-overs in life? Well, we may not be able to go back in time and change the past, but we have full control of changing the present and the future. We can make amends to those we’ve hurt, we can apologise for hurtful words or deeds, we can choose to make different decisions and thereby change the future. We can even choose to change the world if we want.

I recently attended a large incentive and rewards trade show in Toronto and was fortunate enough to attend a seminar by keynote speaker, Scott Harrison, Founder & CEO of charity: water. I really hadn’t paid any attention to who was speaking, I just went to the seminar because my boss asked me to. I came away with a deep appreciation and respect for this young man who was able to pull off one of the greatest do-overs I’ve heard of. Going from popular event promoter in New York City living a carefree life of parties, booze, drugs, and irresponsibility, Scott made a decision to change his life, and thereby changed the course of many lives. I sat in that packed amphitheatre and listened to his story and was amazed at what one man could, and has, done to make a difference in his own life and for so many others. Wow. Very cool. I encourage everyone to check out Scott and his organization to learn more about this 100% fixable global problem of insufficient clean water.

I think too often we think we can’t change things, we can’t change ourselves or our direction in life, or that our efforts and deeds don’t matter. We can, and they do. Every day we make decisions on how we want to present ourselves to the world, how we want to interact with our fellow human beings, and how we contribute to this life and planet.

It’s true we can’t change our past – it’s done and over, but we can change our outlook, our direction, and our future. For sure not as easily as I edit my manuscript, but in editing the words on a screen, I’m reminded of the bright possibility of tomorrow, and of the do-overs yet to come.

 

 

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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