Judy Light Ayyildiz

Educator, Author, Speaker, Workshop Leader

Selected Works

Poetry, Fiction, & Nonfiction
Anthology includes excerpts from three of my published books: MUD RIVER, INTERVALS, APPALACHIA TO ISTANBUL, and FORTY THORNS
Front Cover Art work copyright permission for use by K. Kamal Ayyildiz “Foreword” to works by Dr. Erin Webster Garrett, Professor at Radford University
“Unforced and authentic, which is pretty rare today.”
–-William Packard, NYQ Review
a NOVEL based on an oral biography of a Turkish woman of the past century placed in a historical frame
This novel is a history of Turkey from 1900 to the present, from the sultanate to the republic, of wars, revolutions and the changes within a nation, of a family and of a woman, a saga, a love story between a man and woman and a woman with her country.
Spiritual strength from moving, insightful, yet humorous stories of the people and experiences in Judy's life.
Fiction and Nonfiction, Children Ages 6-12
An American grandson of a Turkish immigrant learns about his Turkish and Ottoman heritage.

Current Events

with author discounts at jayyildiz@​aol.com ;
available Online at www.amazon.com ; Kindle;
www.smashwords.com ; and through TOO MANY BOOKS, TAMERACK,

Empire Books and News: Reception, Reading, Signing
(Open, All Welcome)
4 - 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 22

2015 Festival Marketplace (West Virginia Book Festival!)
Talking, Selling, Signing
Friday, Oct. 22, 1 - 4:30
Saturday, Oct. 23, 9 - 5:00

Judy joined M. Ray Allen and Mountain Empire Press at the Arts' Center with the
August 7 & 8, 2015 Lewisburg, WV Literary Festival, featuring the "Appalachian Series Books" and INTERVALS, APPALACHIA TO ISTANBUL as the latest in the series.

Writers in VA Symposium, 8-1-15. Judy was poetry panelist with Sarah Kennedy and Stan Garroway at Piedmont VA CC, Charlottesville, VA.

Judy 11th book, POETRY, INTERVALS, APPALACHIA TO ISTANBUL, April 2015, Mountain Empire Publications, Appalfolks of America
We had a wonderful opening of this latest book of poetry the last of June 2015 in the gracious rooms of M & K Food Shop on Grandin Road, Roanoke, VA. Several days earlier, I presented the book at the ATA Book Club in Washington, D.C. and read with the remarkable poet, Cynthia Atkins. In July 2015, I was on a poetry panel for the Writers in Virginia Symposium in Charlottesville, VA, along with the poet-professors, Sarah Kennedy and Stan Galloway.

So far, Interals, Appalachia to Istanbul, is well-received and has been lots of fun. It is available through the publisher at Mountain Empire Publications, POB 613, 510 Main Str., Clifton Forge, VA 24422; at www.fortythorns.com (with free shipping); and at Amazon.com in hard copy or in Kindle formal.

On August 7-8, I will be with Mountain Empire Publications at the Lewisburg Literary Festival, Lewisburg, WV.

An opening and signing is being planned at Empire Books in Huntington, WV in Oct. 2015.

Back Cover of Intervals, Appalachia to Istanbul
The front cover artist is Kamal Ayyildiz. The Foreword is by Professor Erin Webster Garrett. The photo was taken by my husband, Vedii, in one of the ancient covered bazaars in Turkey.

Guest on 4-13 for "Turkish Coffee Time" TATV Show

April 2014 Judy leads poetry, fiction, memoir Writing Workshop at Artists on Depot in Bedford, VA, sponsored by The Electric Company

10-2013, In Beautiful Kalkan on the Mediterranean Sea, Book-talking with the British Community

IZMIR 10-2013
Judy conducted a writing workshop for the English Department of Ege University.
She lectured at Izmir University students about What I Write, How I Write, and Why I Write.
She also spoke to a private school located in nearby town of Menamen and was given a tour of the town by the municipality.
Additionally, she spoke to two of Izmir's leading Rotary Clubs. Below, a link to the address to one of those clubs.

December 2013 Conference Speaker at the Kirklareli Municipality and Anadolu University branch on the Universal Importance of Ataturk's Visions Today in light of the 2015 United Nations' Goals for Third World Countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, May 6, 2013
Jackie Kazanci
This review is from: Forty Thorns (Paperback) on Amazon.com
I purchased this book purely to review it for a local Turkish magazine. What a shock!. As a non Turkish person married to a Turk, I found it
amazing. It is essentially a woman's book and covers many issues common to all women no matter where they live. It provides an interesting insight into the
younger generation of Turkish women raised with legal equality as a result of Ataturk and the conflict this presents in a culture where women are still required to be
very good cooks and homemakers. It also gives great insight into the experience of being a non Muslim/​Turk married into a Muslim culture and the overall lack
of acceptance and respect one endures. On another level, it provides us with a history of the modern Turkish republic and the reasons why Ataturk is so revered by so many. It makes for much easier reading on this subject than most of the history books. It is a very well written book. In fact I couldn't put it down. As someone who grew up in Ireland where we take writers like Frank McCourt for granted, this is saying a lot. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Turkish history or to anybody married into a culture/​religion different from ones own.

Betsy Ashton's Review of Forty Thorns

Betsy Ashton's review of FORTY THORNS
Aug 25, 13

4 of 5 stars
Read from July 11 to August 20, 2013

I knew nothing about the role Turkey played in various early 20th century wars until Judy Ayyildiz introduced me to Adalet, whose life was set against a sweeping panorama of the Balkan Wars, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Ataturk.

We meet Adalet shortly after her death. Lee, the narrator, is Adalet's American daughter-in-law. Through flashbacks Adalet's story emerges through beautiful prose and soaring landscape.

Adalet marries young and unwisely as it turns out. At first she calls her husband Burhan "Handsome" but he's not always kind. Through a tumultuous marriage, seven children, multiple infidelities on Burhan's part, Adalet holds the family together, remembering that she's the granddaughter of Emin Aga from Thrace and putting her faith in Ataturk and the rise of modern Turkey.

Read today against the troubles going on in the Middle East and in Turkey in particular, the novel gives great perspective on the challenges of creating a modern, democratic state in a region torn by centuries of strife.

This book should be savored, read slowly with a good cup of hot tea at the elbow. The language is lyrical, the setting spectacular. You don't want to miss a word.

Besty Ashton, is the author of MAX MAD and the forthcoming second thriller in the Mad Max series.

August 15, 2013, Radford University, Interdisciplinary Faculty Development. Judy will conduct a memoir writing workshop for faculty and others.

Sunday, July 21, 2013, Bower Center, Bedford, VA Book discussion between Betsy Ashton, author of Mad Max, Unexpected Consequences and Judy with Forty Thorns. We will discuss the aspects of strong heroes and heroines in our books and in society past and present. Lots of audience interaction, including aone-hour writing workshop.

June 2013 American Turkish Society Book Club
Interview about Forty Thorns with Frances Kazan, New York City

Talk at the 2013 Leadership Conference ATAA

Presenting paper Stevens Institute, NJ at Ataturk: Pioneer of the UN New Millennium Goals

2013 Rockbridge County Library talk/signing

new photo by Karen Ayyildiz


by David Barudin

Forty Thorns (Published Dec. 2012, Remzi Kitabevi, Istanbul) by American poet and memoirist Judy Light Ayyildiz is the sweeping drama of the intrigue and day-to-day struggle to survive during the Turkish Revolution, and covers the time period from 1912-1980. Early in this time, the people of the nascent Turkish Republic (and former crumbled Ottoman Empire) had opposed the armies of Russia, Great Britain, the Allies’ occupations, and Greece. The story is told through the eyes of Adalet, the author’s late mother-in-law. The title derives from Adalet, age 12, tasked with plucking 40 evil thorns from the cursed wedding dress of her older sister so that the ceremony could proceed. It’s a formative metaphor in the unfolding action surrounding her dynamic family.
Ayyildiz spent seven years researching this novel, based on Adalet’s oral memoir, and in interviewing Adalet before her death in at age 92. Not a life chronicle or work of journalism, the book takes a zip-zag timeline fitting the old woman’s memory, darting back and forward as she recounts her life. The result is a family saga and a girl’s growth into womanhood that parallels and symbolizes the rise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Turkish Republic.
The book succeeds spectacularly in portraying Turkey in its entirety, from ancient roots to the present, and particularly during the founding of the modern nation. Ayyildiz creates her story in much the same way Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone with the Wind depicts the American South in its demise in a similarly bloody American Civil War—through the eyes of a woman caught up in the conflict. She does it with the light touch of a master writer at the top of her skills.
With little effort Forty Thorns brings to life the upheaval of a country and the conflicts raging in Adalet’s revolutionary family. Several of them comprise an inner circle of the emerging Republic, and are the meat of the story. Through them we see the epic proportions of the events playing out behind them, presto, rolling magically in front of our eyes. Readers are likely to stop during Forty Thorns and ponder how Ayyildiz does it.
The author is Mitchell-esque in letting the book unfold through her characters’ eyes seeing the struggle for freedom and then to govern. The country is heading in an opposite trajectory than Mitchell’s South, that of victory and the birthing of a nation. The two stories are similar in their end result of showing us the tumult and regeneration of a war for independence clearly distilled and defined. Both books impart insight on the immeasurable challenges and loss endured by determined heroines during hard and dangerous times.
Adalet is toned down from the flamboyant Southern coquette, but the Turkish Scarlet story is real. And Ayyildiz’ achievement is in letting Turkey’s stormy creation be told through a vulnerable and courageous woman. Forty Thorns will find a lasting place in the hearts of its countrymen and in the bulwark of Turkish literary history. Indeed, in worldwide interest for generations. It’s like watching Tara ablaze in a dark theater on the big screen.

David Barudin
The reviewer’s by-line has appeared in many U.S. magazines and newspapers. A former journalist and publisher of Southern U.S. travel magazines, his first novel is currently being considered for publication. He holds a Masters in Arts in Creative Writing from Hollins University in Virginia.

June 12, 2012
Forty Thorns by Judy Light Ayyildiz
A Dignified Story Of The Balkan Tragedy and Nation Building
Book Review by Ergun Kirlikovali

Can you hear the silent cries? Of a lonely baby here? A grandmother there? Can you feel the pain of broken families? Lost siblings and parents? Destroyed lives? And little dreams? Can you sense the sights and sounds of those subtle impressions of turbulent yesteryear? So close to your heart and soul, and yet, so far to your tired mind and daily grind.... So painful and vivid, and yet, so lacking and forgettable. Then, in the middle of vast nothingness, profound suffering, and unrelenting deficiency… you come across hope, magnanimity, and dare I say, renewal! I am, of course, talking about countless weary Turks today who trace their lineage to the infamous Balkan Tragedy. You touch the little dreams of these tormented people, and “Puff!”, they turn into magnanimous giants… “What a heart!” you conclude, “after all that torment, all that pain, all that loss, not a single manifestation of depression or rebellion or, god forbid, hate…”
These are the sentiments that tossed me like tumbleweeds into a forgotten past of a sad geography while I was reading Forty Thorns. Frankly, I was not quite ready for what awaited me in the unassuming pages of this heart wrenching literary fiction.
In one episode when the main character, Adalet, was describing the sights and sounds of that last “escape train” from Bulgaria in October or November of 1912, I thought my heart was pounding so hard that it would escape my chest.
I was reading as fast as I could, perhaps not paying due attention to the genuinely brilliant story telling that the writer generously put forth, with the hope of coming across some evidence of personal value. When I read the lines where Adalet hears voices of a baby, I thought this was my eureka moment… my moment of truth and I began to review an oral history that I hold in my own mind:
A little baby boy grabbed my attention. He was crying but there was nobody around to care of him. What was his story? I approached and picked him up. I noticed a piece of crumpled, old paper, pinned on his tiny baby clothes, with some faint words scribbled on it, apparently in haste: 'Akif's son Ratip. Born in 1911. Kirlikova'. (My name.) I didn't know what to do. So I handed him over to the Ottoman Official whose name tag read.... Yes, unbeknownst to Adalet, and probably to most readers, there was another inconspicuous rider on that escape train: a one-year-old baby with no parents, relatives or even acquaintances accompanying him. A solo traveler who was totally left in the care of the Ottoman officials. That one-year-old, orphan baby boy was my father and I was desperately looking for clues in Forty Thorns about my dad's presence on that train. Alas, I did not have any! I still owe the writer a debt of gratitude, however, as she brought me so close to that eternally elusive moment.
I totally understand that as Adalet, the main character, was too concerned about the well being of her own family to worry about a homeless baby, one of perhaps hundreds, even thousands,on that train. I might read the book again to see if I have missed any clues as it is a fantastic reading, after all.
When I retire, in about, say, a million years from now, I plan to tell my parents' story. On one side, my father, a one-year-old baby from the village of KIRLIKOVA in 1912, which is located in the borderline area of rolling hills where Bulgaria meets Greece today, but neither apparently meets humanity. And on the other, my mother, half of whose parents and grandparents were also slaughtered but in another Balkan town, Skopje (Uskup in Turkish), and by another Balkan Christian group, Serbians. My mother's story is similar, but involves no train as it was not deemed safe enough; just on foot alongside ox-pulled-cart caravans and through roads least traveled, for safety reasons—some safety; half the family could still not escape painful death at the hands of marauding revolutionaries.....
We, Turks, do not tell our tragedies; we just want to forget about them and move on with hope towards the promise of rekindling and rejuvenation. While it may be understandable, that does not make it right. So, I thank Ayyildiz for telling her mother-in-laws’ compelling story, which happens to be my father’s story, give or take a little, and quite possibly yours, too, and in fact, the story of most Turks today.
I am not surprised that Forty Thorns has just won 1st Place in Literary Fiction awards and also become a finalist in Historical Fiction given by the International Book Awards. (See the link: http:/​/​www.internationalbookawards.com/​2012pressrelease.html .)
Those who scream genocide of this or that today would be eternally ashamed to level those charges against Turks if they knew about half the cruelty and deaths Turks suffered at the hands of Balkan Christian nationalists during the many Balkan Wars (1877-1913) and Anatolian Christian nationalists during armed revolts (1882-1922,) World War One (1914-1918,) and, finally, the Turkish Independence War (1919-1922.) It may be said that from 1877 to 1922, Muslims, mostly Turks, were subjected to unspeakable tortures, brutality, mortality, and forced migrations, all of which are still conveniently ignored in the West. The fact that Turkish suffering is untold may explain why it is still largely unknown today. This wonderful novel, Forty Thorns, is only the tip of the iceberg of that period of history.
I am moved by the incredible resilience of those Turks during nation-building years. How can one create something out of nothing? Who are those people with true grit? After reading Forty Thorns, I felt I knew nothing about matters of suffering and loss, as I have not experienced anything even remotely close to what Adalet and her family, friends, and others have gone through: torment, disappointment, adversity, scarcity, and more. But eventually, some sense of triumph. I feel I am doing this book injustice by this review as I have dwelled so much on suffering and loss and not enough on renewal and nation building during the Ataturk years of the Republic of Turkey. One must read with compassion to see how women and children are empowered and educated in those years of grinding poverty, endless wars, and exhaustion. I will defer this task to the book. The reader will appreciate what I mean as the story sadly unfolds.
Finally, I do not want to spoil the fun by telling who did what, but I feel compelled to quote this poignant Turkish poem on page 328, composed by the main character, Adalet, with riveting simplicity and profound impact, with heart and soul, for which I am humbly proposing this new English translation, to make it even more heartrending, just like the way it truly is in its magnificent original Turkish:
My Joyful World is torn apart,
Shrunken on its axis.
The candle of love went out,
My heart became a shrine-keeper.

May your candle of love never go out….

Forty Thorns, a review
By Mildred T. Sandridge

Judy Light Ayyildiz , challenged by her Turkish mother in law, Adalet, to write this history, presents a biography that spans her lifetime and an important era for Turkey. Ayyildiz is a devoted daughter in law, who blends herself skillfully into the life of Adalet in kindred spirit, a unified kismet. The writer manages to let us hear the sound of Adalet’s own voice, weaving the history of Turkey into Adalet’s personal experience. Time and place shift to tell a complex story of life, death, love, birth and hope. Adalet is portrayed from her girlhood to motherhood of seven children, and continued experience in conflict of war and personal strife.
Chapters of ancient history and ancient goddesses thoughtfully parallel Adalet’s spirit with Mother Earth, linking the author and her mother in law. Motherhood is a dominant theme of the story. The reader is challenged to remember many names of a large family, extending for three generations. Contrasting cultures unite, even as predictable emotions of family grief bring tensions together of all humanity completing the story of a life. Ayyildiz is able to meld time, place, cultures and her own present day. Translations of the story that came to her in Adalet’s native language was necessary, although the two women bridged all of this with a common language of the heart.

As of summer 2012:

FORTY THORNS is now available in al ebook and ibook formats through Smashwords Premium.

Nothing but Time is available on Kindle.

Forty Thorns U.S. Distribution through Pathway Book Service.

Roanoke, VA opening July 26, 2012 7PM
Talk, discussion, signing, and reception-open to public. FORTY THORNS, Literary Fiction Award, 2012 JXP Media Corp. Los Angeles, CA

Leyla Ozcengiz, translator of FORTY THORNS into Turkish and Judy signing in Marmaris on the Aegean Coast
May through the first of July 2012, Judy spoke to Turk-American University Women in Istanbul, lectured with workshop at Erciyes University Kayseri (Anatolia); signed in Ankara, lectured at Kader Has University in Istanbul, signed in Antalya on the Mediterranean, Kalkan, Izmir, Kusadasi, Marmaris, and again in Istanbul.

FORTY THORNS, released December 2011

YWCA Woman of Achievement in Education 2010

May 2011, Fjords 40-60 page literary-arts journal, "The Flood," a short story from my WV memoir in progress titled THE WEST VIRGINIA DIET; "View from the Top Floor," (poem) a winner in the 2009 Nazim Hikmet Festival; "Pawley's Island 1987" (poem)

Radford University Women's Studies Committee and Club
March 31, 2010

WRITING FROM YOUR LIFE conducted by Judy Light Ayyildiz

a MEMOIR WORKSHOP in which you will explore roles you have played, events that changed your direction and people who have shaped your life. Bonnie 250 11:00 - 1:00

Judy will read from her own memoir works 4:00 - 5:00 Muse Banquet Room
Reception to follow

Marshall University Department of English
Spring 2010
Visiting Writers Series
An Open Invitation

The Department of English and the College of Liberal Arts
proudly announce our Spring 2010 guest writers.
Judy Light Ayyildiz
February 4 • 8pm
Memorial Student Center 2W16

One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, WV 25755

Tel: 304/​696-6100
Email: stringer@​marshall.edu
Visiting Writers Series
Spring 2010

This project is being presented by
Marshall University with financial assistance
from The West Virginia Humanities Council, a
state affiliate of the National Endowment for the
Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this program do
not necessarily represent those of the National
Endowment for the Humanities.

Judy in Catalhoyuk 11-09

An evening of wild words, keen minds, and good fun. Hosted by Mary Crockett Hill.
Featuring poets
Judy Light Ayyildiz (Nothing But Time: A Triumph Over Trauma;
Some of My Ancestors Are Ottomans and Turks; Mud River)
Jessie Graybill
Danielle Spratley (PANK and Drunken Boat)
Followed by a Q&A and poetry open mike in which members of the audience are encouraged to read their poetry.
Poetry Lounge
When? Tuesday, Jan 5, 8 pm
Where? Studio Roanoke
30 Campbell Ave. SW, downtown Roanoke, VA
$$? FREE! Donations appreciated.
Poetry Lounges are held on the
first Tuesday of the month.
Studio Roanoke’s

Many thanks to the Authors Guild!

Announcing the publication of the 3rd Edition of MUD RIVER published under the auspices of the Authors Guild "Back in Print" program in special alliance with iuniverse.com. To browse: click link.

Judy wins prize at Nazim Hikmet Festival 4/​2009

Of 250 entries, 8 share equally the win. Contest judged by Kathryn Stripling Byer, NC Poet Laureate; Jon Thompson, Prof. English NCSU-editor, writer; Greg Dawes, Prof. Foreign Languages and Lit NCSU-editor, writer; Erdag Goknar, Ass. Prof. Turkish,Slavic and Eurasian Studies Duke Univ-translator, writer; Joseph Donahue, Fellow, Dept. English, Duke Univ-poet,writer; Hatice Orun Ozturk, Asso. Prof. Engineering NCSU-poet, translator.

Judy's winning poem was written while she was in Istanbul last year, sitting in her favorite seat in the Ayyildiz flat.

Click here to See interview of Ayyildiz family on tv-internet www.turkishamericanvideo.org (LtoR) Semahat Demir, Vedii, Judy and Kent (Moonstarfilms.com)

“Our great author of Catch 22, Joseph Heller, told of his experience with Guillain Barre in No Laughing Matter. Now Judy Light Ayyildiz equals--and in some way surpasses--his account in her book Nothing But Time.”
–-Walter James Miller, NYU Professor Emeritus and acclaimed author of 68 books

“Offering numerous successful efforts that are as clear as they are diverse, Mud River is a quick, memorable read. Often given to outrageous metaphor and delightful humor, this poet is nevertheless capable of telling a horror story with the best of them, especially when plopping the whole thing into a basket of flowers.”
--Black Water Review

“Easy Ideas for Busy Teachers activities incorporate creativity as well as thinking and reasoning...upbeat language...sensitivity toward the difficulties that face students of this age.”
--Mary Ann Johnson, Book Page Editor,
The Roanoke Times

With a master's degree from the Hollins Writing Program, West Virginian native Judy taught creative writing for over 20 years, developing curriculums for all ages, including the Women’s Center at Hollins, Elderhostel, Roanoke College Continuing Education, Hollinsummer, Writers’ conferences, and many grant programs in public and private schools. She has won honors for her poetry and fiction, and has been widely read in literary publications such as NYQuarterly, the new renaissance, McGuffin, Collage, Sow’s Ear, Mickle Street Review, Black Water Review, Artemis, The Observer Kingston, Jamaica, Hawaii Pacific Review, Passager, Turkish Times, Ana Magazine Turkey, The Women’s Journal, Northeast Journal and Potato Eyes. Work has been anthologized in Pig Iron, the Lonesome Traveler Press, Clique Calm Books. She is a frequent presenter for writing workshops, conferences, and readings and has been heard on CSpan Book TV, radio, and at health and healing centers. Smuggled Seeds, Judy’s first book of poetry won "The Gusto Press Discovery Award" which resulted in publication. The second, Mud River, published in first and second editions by Lintel Press, was critically acclaimed by William Packard, Amanda Cockrell, and Fred Chappell. From her many years of teaching experience grew the co-authored three supplementary creative writing texts with Frank Schaffer Publications, T. S. Denison Instructional Fair, and McGraw Hill: Creative Writing Across the Curriculum, Easy Ideas for Busy Teachers, and the Writer’s Express. Writing and teaching have brought her numerous awards, scholarships, and honors including AIE Study Grants, Virginia Commission for the Arts, VCCA, Roanoker Magazine, Collage Magazine, Wesleyan University Writers Conference, Gertrude Claytor Memorial Prize of American Academy of Poets, The Jim Wayne Miller Prize, Writers Digest, Poetry Society of Virginia, The National League of American Pen Women, and Fellowships at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She was an editor of Artemis for 13 years, a founder of the Blue Ridge Writers Conference, and is liaison for the Roanoke Chapter of GBSFI. Recently, her memoir Nothing but Time was on a required reading list at the University of Virginia Department of the Chaplaincy, was a Virginia College Stores Association Annual Book Award Finalist, and a Library of Virginia Outstanding Book Award Nominee. Judy has recently completed a novel based on the past 100 years in the country of Turkey told through the eyes of a remarkable and progressive woman: Never Forever. Judy lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and is pleased to say that her three grown children are all artistic and humanistic. Her husband of 44 years is a retired surgeon. Judy is available for special writing workshops and for presentations (see "Events" for types. She is the Guillain-Barre Syndrome Roanoke Valley Chapter Liaison.

“Overall, Nothing but Time is a beautiful study of a woman’s psyche as she experiences great trauma and portrays how one can balance her own recovery with her responsibilities to her children and her partner. With wonderful metaphors and a healthy dose of humor, Judy engages the reader and turns a depressing situation into an inspiring story about courage in the face of a huge setback in life. She shows that even her illness itself was a metaphor, a truth from which she could learn more about herself and the unrealized parts of her life.”
--Eser Turan, Managing Editor, Turkuaz Magazine


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