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Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 14, Number 9: October 2017
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2017 Erika Dreifus


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1. Editor’s Note: What’s New
2. Article/Lessons Learned
3. Featured Resource
4. Upcoming/Ongoing Contests, Competitions, and Other Opportunities (NO ENTRY FEES; PAYING OPPORTUNITIES ONLY)
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters

Greetings, Practicing Writers:

Here we are in October. Everything is humming along nicely for me (and for my writing practice), and I hope that the same is true for each of you.

I’m especially happy to announce that I’ve begun a new column for the London-based JEWISH CHRONICLE. My first “View from the U.S.A.” was published just a couple of days ago: https://www.thejc.com/comment/columnists/voices-from-the-vietnam-war-are-still-relevant-1.445199.

Wishing everyone an outstanding October,



Q&A with Sophfronia Scott

By Erika Dreifus

Yes, it has happened again: I’ve encountered an author online, learned a bit about her/her work via Facebook and other platforms, and happily had the opportunity to meet her “in real life,” too. Sophfronia Scott is another writer whose presence in the writing world enriches my own experiences there, and I am delighted to be able to host her here as she launches her latest novel, UNFORGIVABLE LOVE.

First, a more formal introduction: Sophfronia Scott grew up in Lorain, Ohio, a hometown she shares with author Toni Morrison. Her father was a Mississippi-born steelworker who never learned how to read, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom who always made sure there were books in the house. She holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sophfronia spent a big chunk of her career as a writer and editor for TIME and PEOPLE. When her first novel, ALL I NEED TO GET BY, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2004, Sophfronia was nominated for best new author at the African American Literary Awards and hailed by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation.” She has forthcoming an essay collection, LOVE’S LONG LINE, from Ohio State University Press/Mad Creek Books, and a spiritual memoir, THIS CHILD OF FAITH: RAISING A SPIRITUAL CHILD IN A SECULAR WORLD, co-written with her son, being published by Paraclete Press.

Sophfronia lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, with her husband and son. She enjoys teaching in Regis University’s Mile-High MFA in Denver, Colorado; Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction; and the Fairfield County Writer’s Studio in Westport, Connecticut.

Please welcome Sophfronia Scott!

ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): Sophfronia, let’s begin at the beginning: Please tell us a bit about this novel’s origin story.

SOPHFRONIA SCOTT (SS): I still remember the first time I saw the film “Dangerous Liaisons,” starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The story, the intrigue, the characters and their sexuality burned such an impression into my brain that I felt compelled to read the original novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, published in 1782. After that I consumed nearly every version of the story that came down the pike, including the modern-day version, “Cruel Intentions,” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Reese Witherspoon.

I keep a television in my office, and there came this time when “Cruel Intentions” was in rotation on cable, and I found I was watching it over and over again. One day my husband came in and asked, “Why are you watching this again?” I said, “I don’t know. I think I’m going to write something.” When I mentioned this to my friend, the screenwriter Jenny Lumet, she said there needed to be a version of the story with an African-American cast. That was my light-bulb moment. I knew I could do it, and I knew it had to be set in Harlem in the 1940s.

Not long after that I befriended a beautiful actress named Leslie Lewis, and we were browsing in the Drama Book Shop in Manhattan. She happened to pick up Christopher Hampton’s play “Dangerous Liaisons,” and we were talking about how great it was and how she would like to play those iconic roles. I told her about my idea–then I had a screenplay in mind–and told her I could write it. She has a fierce presence and bright energy and knowing her gave me a sense of what these characters could be like.

I wrote that screenplay–Leslie and I even held readings for it in Los Angeles and New York–but by structure a screenplay is sparse. You have to leave room for the director and the actors to fill in the spaces. Only about a quarter of my vision made its way to the page. When my agent suggested I write the story as a novel, I was more than happy to do so because I could finally make that journey of discovery that is part of the novel-writing process. UNFORGIVABLE LOVE fulfills my original vision in both scope and story.

ED: Please tell us a bit about the craft process that’s involved when working on a “retelling” project like this one.

SS: The original LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES takes place in Paris and the surrounding countryside and involves wealthy people, titled gentry, playing games of seduction. With a re-telling you can’t just populate the story with similar people with the same things happening and have it all make sense. I had to rebuild it from the ground up starting with my characters and learning who they were and why they might behave in such a hedonistic way. I named them and went through a process of sketching out their backgrounds, their physical characteristics, and possible motivations for how they move through the world. I left room, though, for discovery.

The main elements I kept involved conversations. I wanted to make sure the characters were together and speaking to each other, acting on each other as much as possible. In this story words are wielded like weapons, and I wanted to keep that strategic aspect. My thoughts on this were affirmed recently when I saw “Dangerous Liaisons” on Broadway and I noticed how there was a kind of tension in the audience, how people seemed to be hanging on every single word. I hope that same tension is evident in my novel.

ED: Which of the characters in UNFORGIVABLE LOVE was the most challenging one to write? Why? What helped you meet the challenge?

SS: Cecily was a challenge both because of her age and situation. There’s so much she doesn’t know. I had to let her be that way, making sure her language and actions suited her at every stage of her development, from innocence to experience. In our society today we’re so used to teenagers being portrayed as smart and sassy and sometimes cynical. It was important for Cecily to be different, and she had to be believable. Also, I’ve never been satisfied with this particular character’s depiction–not in the novel or any of the film versions. “Cecile” is often portrayed as kind of dippy or girlish in an almost clownish way. I knew she could be so much more. I do feel the attention I gave her paid off for the novel. I really love the way she turned out.

ED. Readers may not know that UNFORGIVABLE LOVE is just ONE of the books you have on your near horizon. In fact, you have THREE books publishing within a six-month period. Please tell us just a bit about both THIS CHILD OF FAITH (coming in December 2017) and LOVE’S LONG LINE (coming in February 2018).

SS: It’s crazy, right? I didn’t expect these books to come out so close together, but it just worked out that way. THIS CHILD OF FAITH I wrote earlier this year with my son Tain, who is now 13. It’s a spiritual memoir about our faith journey that started when we began attending an Episcopal church when he was 6 and how his faith has sustained him in tough times, including the shooting at his school, Sandy Hook Elementary. I wrote the main narrative; each chapter has a section called “Tain’s Take” where he tells his side of the story.

LOVE’S LONG LINE is an essay collection. I wrote about half of it in my MFA program, during the year I studied creative nonfiction. The rest of the collection I wrote after I finished UNFORGIVABLE LOVE. In the essays I’m ruminating on faith, motherhood, race, and the search for meaningful connection in an increasingly disconnected world. The whole book is inspired by Annie Dillard’s observation in HOLY THE FIRM that we all “reel out love’s long line alone…like a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting.” I’m acknowledging the loneliness, longing, and grief exacted by a fearless engagement with the everyday world. But I also hope the essays show that by holding the line, there is an abundance of joy and forgiveness and grace to be had as well. I’m particularly excited that the book is being published under 21st CENTURY ESSAYS, a new series from The Ohio State University Press and its new literary imprint, Mad Creek Books.

ED: Anything else you’d like to share?

SS: I love my new author website (http://www.Sophfronia.com)! I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t plan on using a design service. I had designed my previous site and meant to revise it myself. But I’ve been so busy I was forced to delegate, and I’m glad I did! Paul Matthew Carr of WebWorkz Digital Strategies was recommended to me and he really “got” me. The site looks colorful and happy, and I love that he used big pictures. Even the events page has pictures! And the events automatically update so once an event is over it disappears from the page so the site is always fresh. It’s fun to post on it, and already people are using it to contact me. It’s just awesome.

ED: Thank you so much, Sophfronia, for taking the time to answer these questions–and for the sneak peek into your wonderful novel via the advance copy I was given!

To learn more about Sophfronia and UNFORGIVABLE LOVE, please visit

Sophfronia Scott was so incredibly generous with her time and comments that there’s an entire segment of our Q&A–pertaining to the successful management of a novel manuscript as an MFA student–that I was unable to include in conversation above. HOWEVER, I am happy to provide it to you in discrete form over on my website:

Bonus Q&A with Sophfronia Scott: http://bit.ly/2wY5Kii.

Deadline: November 15, 2017

“The Gaius Charles Bolin Fellowships at Williams College are designed to promote diversity on college faculties by encouraging students from underrepresented groups to complete a terminal graduate degree and to pursue careers in college teaching. The Bolin Fellowships are two-year residencies at Williams, and two scholars or artists are appointed each year. Fellows devote the bulk of the first year to the completion of dissertation work–or in the case of MFA applicants, building their professional portfolios–while also teaching one course as a faculty member in one of the College’s academic departments or programs. The second year of residency (ideally with degree in hand) is spent on academic career development while again teaching just one course.” Eligibility: “The Bolin Fellowships are awarded to applicants from underrepresented groups, including ethnic minorities, those who are first-generation college graduates, women in predominately male fields, or disabled scholars. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who intend to pursue a professorial career in the U.S. Ph.D. candidates must have completed all doctoral work except the dissertation by the end of the current academic year. MFA candidates must be recent recipients of the degree; only those with degrees granted in 2017, or to be granted in 2018, are eligible to apply.” Confers an annual stipend of $50,000. “The College will also provide health and dental benefits, relocation and housing assistance, academic support including office space and a computer, and an annual allowance of $4,000 for research-related expenses.”
Deadline: December 4, 2017

“With the mission of diversifying the broader media landscape by investing in the next generation of necessary voices, BuzzFeed’s Emerging Writers Fellowship is designed to give writers of great promise the support, mentorship, and experience necessary to take a transformative step forward in their careers. During the four-month program, the writers in this fellowship will benefit from career mentorship and editorial guidance while also receiving financial support. The learning process must be financially viable for emerging writers if it is intended to open the gates to writers traditionally locked out of opportunities in media. The fellows will focus on personal essay writing, cultural reportage, and criticism. During their time in fellowship, writers will be expected to pitch, report, and write with the added benefit of panel discussions with editors and writers from throughout the industry, and assigned readings. Mentorship within the program will focus on teaching writers how to thrive as freelancers as well as on staff at media organizations; this mentorship will hopefully continue well after the fellowship itself is concluded. Ideal candidates for the BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellowship must have ambitious ideas and a proven desire to publish cultural criticism, personal essays, and reported pieces that create an impact on cultural conversations. The three writers selected for the fellowship will work with BuzzFeed News’ senior editorial staff; this is a full-time position based in BuzzFeed’s New York office. The work produced during the fellowship will be published on BuzzFeed. Fellows will receive a stipend of $14,000.”
Deadline: November 1, 2017

“Awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words) in English. Regional winners receive GBP 2,500 and the overall winner receives GBP 5,000. Translated entries are also eligible, as are stories written in the original Bengali, Chinese, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan and Tamil.” NB: “Entrants must be citizens of a Commonwealth country….There is no requirement for the writer to have current residence in a Commonwealth country, providing she/he is a citizen of a Commonwealth country.”
Deadline: November 23, 2017

“The 5th Edition of the International Prize for Micro-Stories is organized by the César Egido Serrano Foundation. Writers from anywhere in the world may participate. Originals whose theme will be free (two per author, maximum) will be written in any of the following languages: Spanish, English, Arabic or Hebrew. An overall first prize of 20,000 dollars is awarded for the best story in any of the languages authorized in the contest. Three prizes of $1,000 each will be awarded for the best stories in each of the other remaining languages admitted in the contest, that are not winners of the main prize. The stories cannot exceed 100 words….The texts will be original, unpublished in all media (paper, blogs, electronic publications, etc…) and must not [have] been awarded prizes in any other contest.”
Deadline: October 22, 2017

For its spring 2018 Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston (http://museandthemarketplace.com/), GrubStreet offers “numerous partial need-based scholarships–for general audiences, for writers doing great work in the literary community, and for writers from historically marginalized backgrounds. No previous publication or MFA required….If you are eligible, we welcome you to apply for multiple scholarships by submitting this form multiple times.”
Deadline: November 7, 2017
Guest Judge: Dana Gioia

“New York Encounter is sponsoring its second annual poetry contest to celebrate the theme of its 2018 event, ‘An “Impossible” Unity.’ The Encounter is an annual three-day public cultural event in the heart of New York City. It strives to witness to the new life and knowledge generated by the faith, following Pope Benedict’s claim that ‘the intelligence of faith has to become the intelligence of reality.’ The Encounter’s poetry contest invites all poets writing in English to submit up to 3 poems (maximum 40 lines each), related in some way to the theme.” Prizes: “Cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100 will be awarded to first, second and third place poems. The winners will be invited to read their poems on the New York Encounter stage…during the 3-day festival which will take place January 12-14, 2018. Winners will also have the option of having their poems published on the NYE website after the reading.”
Deadline: “Review of applications begins November 15th and will continue until the position is filled.”

“Trinity College invites applications for a one-year pre- or post-doctoral fellowship to promote diversity at our nationally recognized liberal arts college in Hartford, Connecticut. Ann Plato Fellows will join the faculty in one of over 30 academic departments or interdisciplinary programs, interact regularly with colleagues and students on campus, and work on their own research. Pre-doctoral fellows will teach one course during the year; post-doctoral fellows will teach two courses. Trinity hires one fellow each year.” NB: “Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who will contribute to enhancing diversity at Trinity College by increasing ethnic and racial diversity, maximizing the educational benefits of diversity, and/or increasing the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of students. Pre-doctoral applicants must demonstrate that they will complete all terminal degree requirements (except the dissertation) before beginning the fellowship year. Post-doctoral (or post-MFA) applicants should have no more than five years of teaching or relevant experience subsequent to earning their doctorate.” Fellowship runs September 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019. Stipends: “$50,000 (pre-doctoral) or $55,000 (post-doctoral), plus health benefits, office space, computer, conference travel expenses, and assistance in finding housing near campus.”
Deadline: October 15, 2017

“The aim of these fellowships is to seek out and support writers who embrace risk in their work and their own singular vision. Writers who have not yet contracted to publish a book are invited to apply.” Fellowship includes: six months of editorial support to prepare a piece for publication in A PUBLIC SPACE; $1,000 honorarium; chance “to meet with members of the publishing community, including agents, editors, and published writers”; and chance to participate in a public reading and conversation in New York. NB: Application requirements include the submission of a previously unpublished PROSE piece.”
Deadline: November 17, 2017

“A professional writer and/or storyteller is sought for the position of Writer/Storyteller-in-Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. The three-month residency, from September to December 2018, will require the successful candidate to provide mentorship and practical artistic advice to developing writers and storytellers at the University of Manitoba, to give a limited number of readings and/or performances on campus, and lead an informal non-credit workshop. The remaining time is to be devoted to the writer or storyteller’s own artistic projects. The successful candidate will receive a salary of $15,000.00 CAD (less taxes), plus rent-free accommodation and return transportation.” NB: “All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.”
Deadlines: “Applications are accepted year-round and reviewed by a distinguished Academic Advisory Committee. However, they are only reviewed twice a year with review periods beginning March 1 and November 1. Notifications in early May and early January.”

“The Women’s International Study Center (WISC) seeks applicants for residential fellowships [at] Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, New Mexico….Artists, writers, scholars, professionals, innovators and entrepreneurs, as individuals and in groups, are encouraged to apply for residencies available throughout the year. WISC seeks proposals aligned with our focus areas–broadly defined as the arts, sciences, cultural preservation, business and philanthropy–inspired by the three generations of women who built and lived in Acequia Madre House. Proposals by women are accepted, as are those of anyone working in these focus areas as they relate directly to the interests and experiences of women.” See additional information regarding guidelines for individual and group applications. NB: “Individual applicants selected for a fellowship will receive a $1,000 stipend for a residency lasting four or more weeks. Stipends for shorter residencies will be prorated by the number of days at $36/day.” Group members selected for a fellowship share stipendiary funds.
Act fast if you’re interested in this one. RECOMMENDED READING, the weekly fiction magazine of Electric Literature, is open–for just two weeks–for general fiction submissions (previously unpublished work only). As noted on our Practicing Writing blog in a “Monday Markets” post, this two-week window opened on September 20. It closes October 4. Pays: $300, for fiction ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 words. Visit https://electricliterature.com/recommended-reading-will-open-submissions-for-two-weeks-da30e4d3e448 for more information.
MILKWEED EDITIONS will be open to single-author collections of poetry beginning October 1, 2017. Submissions will close once we have received 800 manuscripts, or on October 31, 2017 (whichever comes first). Manuscripts must be at least 60 pages long. Please submit a query letter along with the complete collection. You’ll find more information available at https://milkweed.org/submissions.
The spring 2018 issue of RATTLE will feature “Immigrant Poets”: “The poems may be written on any subject, in any style or length, but must be written by those who no longer reside in the country of their birth. Please explain how this applies to you and affects your poetry, if at all, in your contributor note. We no longer publish prose essays, but instead use these contributor notes as micro-essays at the back of each issue. The poems themselves don’t have to be about immigration–we want to celebrate and explore the range of work that immigrant poets are producing.” The deadline for these submissions is October 15, 2017. Then, the summer 2018 issue will feature “Athletes”: “Athlete” might not be the first thing you think of when you think about a poet, which is why we thought it would be an interesting group to explore. The poems themselves don’t have to be about athletics so long as the poets consider themselves athletes, with some reason. When you submit, be sure to include a brief note about your athletic background and how it affects your poetry, if at all. We no longer publish prose essays, but instead use these contributor notes as micro-essays at the back of each issue.” The deadline for these submissions is January 15, 2018. Pays: $100/poem and a print subscription. Visit https://www.rattle.com/submissions/calls/ for more information.
THE SUBURBAN REVIEW, based in Melbourne, is “interested in publishing the work of writers from all over Australia and the world.” For its next “open” issue, they’re looking for fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Pay rates range from $75-$150 (presumably in Australian dollars). Deadline: October 22, 2017. Visit http://thesuburbanreview.com for more information. (Thanks to http://duotrope.com for the tip on the current window.)
“NINTH LETTER will be accepting submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a special online edition to be published at ninthletter.com in Winter 2018….The theme for this issue is Community. Without all of us, we’re nothing. What does community mean to you? Send us your work that remembers where it came from, that knows it takes a village, that knows the power of common ground and common concerns. Show us your factions, your fellowships, your (inter)dependence, your cliques. Show us your roots, your beliefs, your needs, and who you share them with. Show us what it means to be better together.” Deadline: November 5, 2017. Pays: “Authors whose work is selected for this special feature will receive a small honorarium ($25 per poem, $75 per story or essay) and a complimentary 2-year subscription to Ninth Letter.” More info available at https://ninthletteronline.submittable.com/submit. (Thanks to http://WritingCareer.com for the lead on this one.)
“At CARTE BLANCHE we believe there is more than one way to tell a story. Our mandate is to provide a venue for narrative of all forms from fiction and nonfiction, to poetry and photo essays. CARTE BLANCHE is published three times a year: in the winter, spring/summer, and fall.” Its next submissions window opens October 1 (and will close on December 31. Pays: “a modest honorarium per submission. We hope to increase the amount in the future.” Guidelines: http://carte-blanche.org/submissions/.
A reminder to check in once every so often on the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL site. On http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics, you’ll see a list of anthology projects in development on an array of themes. “If we publish your story or poem, you will be paid $200 one month after publication of the book and you will receive ten free copies of the book your story or poem appears in.”
Re-opened for submissions: LAMBDA LITERARY’S POETRY SPOTLIGHT, which “aims to represent the best LGBT voices in poetry today. We’re open to high quality work of any style and subject to be featured on our site each week — poems need not have queer content, but we ask that all submitting authors self-identity as queer. We no longer consider previously published material for our web feature, but simultaneous submissions of unpublished work are welcome as long as you notify us immediately of their acceptance elsewhere. Please submit up to 5 poems (not exceeding 10 pages) in a single document.” Pays: “We are able to offer contributors a small honorarium for their work.” Submission window re-opened mid-September and will close again March 13, 2018. More info: https://lambdaliterary.submittable.com/submit/34564/lambda-literarys-poetry-spotlight.
Also accepting submissions again: literary magazine COPPER NICKEL, which considers “poetry, fiction, essays, and translation folios.” Pays: “$30 per printed page + two copies of the issue in which the author’s work appears + a one-year subscription. (Per-page payment could vary slightly from year to year based on funding.)” Additionally, there are “two $500 prizes per issue — the Editors’ Prizes in Poetry and Prose — for what we consider to be the most exciting work in each issue, as determined by a vote of our in-house editorial staff.” Submissions will close on March 15, 2018. Visit http://copper-nickel.org/submit/ for more information.
RASCAL, which recently published its first issue, “is an ecology, literature and arts journal operating out of several parts of the world….We publish poetry, essays, photography, and art, along with a smattering of genre-bending and genre-defying work. We publish in multiple formats, including online, e-book, and an audio version for the vusually impaired.” Pays: “Poets and visual artists are paid $20 per acceptance. Essayists are paid $.02 per word. An “acceptance” usually consists of 1-2 poems, 1-5 photographs, 1-3 pieces of visual art, or 1 essay. All payments will be made via Paypal.” There are also prizes: “An editor’s choice prize of at least $100 will be awarded each year to two outstanding pieces in the journal. An Adeline ‘Apfel’ Ray prize of at least $150 will be awarded to the piece that most advances ecological understanding. Other prizes may be awarded as resources permit.” See the website, http://rascaljournal.com, for additional guidelines and payment details.

The newsletter is published just once each month, but there’s *always* something new at our Practicing Writing blog: fresh market news, current contest and job listings, links to writing-related articles, newly-discovered craft and business resources, and so much more. Regular blog features include:

–Monday Markets for Writers
–Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer (formerly “Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress”)
–Friday Finds for Writers
–Sunday Sentence

Please visit, and comment! http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing/

And for those of you practicing writers who are interested in matters of specifically Jewish cultural interest, please also visit My Machberet (http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/my-machberet). For the curious, “machberet” is the Hebrew word for “notebook”.

Information contained in THE PRACTICING WRITER is collected from many sources, with the purpose of providing general references. It is researched to the best of our ability but readers should verify information when necessary and appropriate. THE PRACTICING WRITER and its editor/publisher disclaim any liability for the use of information contained within. Thank you for subscribing.
For updates and additional opportunity listings between newsletters, please check in with our “Practicing Writing” blog, http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing.
ABOUT THE EDITOR: Based in New York City, Erika Dreifus is the author of QUIET AMERICANS: STORIES, which is an American Library Association Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. A member of the advisory board for J JOURNAL: NEW WRITING ON JUSTICE, she has taught for Harvard University, the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Adult Education, and the low-residency MFA programs in creative writing at Lesley University, the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts, and Oklahoma City University. From 2014-2017, Erika served as Media Editor for Fig Tree Books LLC. . Please visit http://www.erikadreifus.com to learn more about Erika’s work, and go directly to http://www.erikadreifus.com/quiet-americans/book-clubs/ to arrange for her to visit your book club!
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