Word choice. Sentence fluency. Organization. Revise.
Edit. Beginning, middle and end. These are just some
of the phrases young writers hear during English classes
and writing lessons across the country. Of course, these
things are important parts of the writing process. Without
them our writing would simply be a jumble of words making
no sense to our readers. But thinking about all of the
requirements of "good writing" at the same time can make
it seem like an awfully big, and overwhelming, task.
In Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,
writer Anne Lamott suggests the idea of a one-inch picture
frame. Smaller than most of the frames scattered around
your home containing pictures of family or friends, a one-
inch picture frame could only show a small piece of a bigger
picture; perhaps a hand, or a tree, or the petal of a flower.
A smile or a grimace. A squinting eye. A dog's muddy paw.
Look at the picture a little closer. Bring it into focus.
What color is the mud on the dog's paw? Is it sticky? Wet?
Does it smell bad? The hand you see, is it hanging relaxed
or waving? Is it a large hand or small? Are there rings?
Author Wendell Berry is a master at describing even the
smallest piece of information with intricate detail.
Consider this paragraph from his book A Place on Earth,
in which the main character is standing in his doorway
looking out over his yard:
Rainwater has collected shallowly beneath the maple trees,
making a large irregular pool stretching from the walk
along the edge of the porch to the lilac bush beside the
gate to the chicken yard. The rain is falling slowly in
large drops so that the circles it makes striking the
surface of the pool remain intact. For a moment at the
center of each circle the black branches of the trees are
mirrored perfectly, and then distorted and fragmented as
the circles interlink and subside and renew.
Obviously there is more to his yard than a rain puddle,
but this one paragraph is easily visible through that one-
inch frame. The act of writing is the act of piecing these
small pictures together like a puzzle, slowly revealing
the entire picture for our audience to see. The dog's paw
is muddy; perhaps this is related to the field through
which he is running. The hand is clenched into a fist;
perhaps this is related to the purple bruise on the cheek
of the person standing a foot away. Piece by piece a writer
reveals the scene, the dialogue, or the information. Piece
by piece the writing reveals the picture to us.
Next time you sit down to write, whether you are tackling
a school assignment or writing for pleasure, think about
that one-inch picture frame. All that you have to write in
that moment is whatever you can see through the small frame:
a paragraph about your Golden Retriever puppy, a few
descriptive details about the shagbark hickory tree, or
one snippet of dialogue between two characters in your story.
Once the big picture is clear, you can think about word
choice and sentence fluency.
Stephanie Dethlefs has been a writer pretty much since she
could first hold a pencil. Her writing can be found at www.Neighborhood-Kids.com and www.HybridMom.com. She is
also the founder of the Young Writers Studio in Bellingham,
WA, where she lives with her husband and two small children.
Always keep writing.
We cover elementary to college teens. Each week we
carry 12 or so opportunities for all ages. Read each
market closely. Some cover a wide range and others
address a very small age group. Always read the directions!
We need guest articles. Have you considered writing a
guest article for WritingKid? Are you a student, a parent,
a teacher? All are eligible. Just make sure the topic
touches upon writing and runs no more than 500-550 words.
Those under 16 receive the book of their choice. Those
over 16 receive $10-$20, depending on the quality of the
piece, the amount of editing required and the obvious
amount of research. Send any submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and label it SUBMISSION TO
FIRST-CLUE MYSTERY REVIEWS http://www.firstclues.com/book-reviews.html
First Clue Reviews are book reviews written by students
that give their unique perspective on books featured on
this site. Reviews are categorized by school district,
and provide the student's first name only together with
their age and grade.
Capper's column "Space Place" is for original drawings,
poems, jokes, stories, etc., by children 12 and under.
Contributors receive T-shirts. (Include birth date, home
address and shirt size with submission.) CAPPER'S is a
nationally distributed monthly tabloid publication with
a national paid circulation of approximately 200,000. It
emphasizes home and family to readers who live mainly in
the rural Midwest.
CALIFORNIA YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS CONTEST http://www.playwrightsproject.org/programs.htm
Each year Californians under age 19 submit original scripts
to the California Young Playwrights Contest. Every writer
who requests feedback receives an individualized script
critique. Selected writers win script readings or full
professional productions in Plays by Young Writers.
Distinguished artists from major theatres select festival
scripts and write comments to the playwrights. With support
from a dramaturg, each winning writer strengthens his or
her script and participates in every step of the production
process. Contest winners between the ages of 15-18 will
receive a full professional production. Winners ages 14
and under will see their plays performed as rehearsed
readings. Deadline June 1, 2009.
BREATH & SHADOW http://www.abilitymaine.org/breath/write.html
Breath & Shadow accepts work only from people with disabilities.
Use the term "disability" broadly to encompass anyone with a
physical, mental, emotional, cognitive, or sensory impairment
that significantly affects one or more major life functions.
Payment is upon publication. The pay scale is $5 - $15 for
poetry, $15 - $25 for fiction, and $15 - $25 for nonfiction.
Accepts writing from people of all ages, from children to
seniors. Especially encourages youth to submit their work to
Breath & Shadow. Young writers (21 and under) should include
their age on their submission so they can judge their
contribution appropriately. In some cases, mentoring and/or
writing and editing assistance may be available to young
writers. Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and
BRASS MAGAZINE http://www.brassmagazine.com/legal/contributor-submission-guide
Brass Magazine is a lifestyle money magazine written for young
people, by young people about the money side of life(TM). With a
mission to make money interesting, simple and relevant, brass
features up-and-coming young adults making a difference, along
with fundamental money tips that apply to young adults. The
audience is made up of 16- to 25-year-olds around the country.
They're smart; they're techno-savvy; they like to listen to
their peers; they are tuned-in; and they don't like being
talked down to. We're interested in seeing original, well-
written articles, tips, and hints that will help our audience
understand how young adult lifestyles and money interact.
Send short snippets of information (100 to 300 words) or
standard-length articles (400 to 700 words).
If you are under the age of 25 and want to connect at
a real level with young people who have unique perspectives
to share, write to email@example.com to talk about an
assignment. But all young people can contribute to the site.
Be-Mondo is an online media channel where socially active
teens talk, listen, and react to important global issues.
GIG BOOK CONTEST - PHILIPPINES http://gigbookcontest.blogspot.com/
Open to anyone age 17 years or older anywhere. Entries must
be stories written in English and intended for children age
6 to 12 years. The theme must be something that seafarers'
families - especially children - can identify with. The
story must, in the judges' opinion, resonate well with
children whose fathers are mostly away at sea, and
preferably promote positive human values (e.g. love, respect,
honesty, compassion, care, humility, responsibility,
understanding, strength, courage, resilience, etc.). The
word count must be 1,000 words or less, and the plot and
sequence must be capable of sustaining a 24-page illustrated
book. Deadline May 31, 2009. There will be five (5) to ten
(10) winners. Each winner will receive a cash prize of
PhP 20,000, a Winner's Certificate, and the opportunity to
have their winning story published as a full-color, fully
NRA CIVIL RIGHTS ESSAY CONTEST http://www.nradefensefund.org/writingcontest.aspx
The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund(NRACRDF) is once again
sponsoring an essay contest celebrating the Second Amendment
as an integral part of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The theme for the essay is "The Second Amendment to the
Constitution: Why it is important to our nation."
Essays will be judged in two categories: Senior (grades
10-12) and Junior (grades 9 and below), with separate prizes
awarded to the winners in each category. First prizes are
$1,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds; second prizes, $600 in Savings
Bonds; third prizes, $200 in Savings Bonds; and honorable
mention, $100 in Savings Bonds. Deadline December 1, 2009.
PLATT FAMILY SCHOLARSHIP PRIZE ESSAY CONTEST http://www.thelincolnforum.org/scholarship-essay-contest.php
First prize $1,000, second prize $500, third prize $250.
Our topic for 2009: "Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln:
Getting Right with Lincoln." From his campaign announcement
in Springfield, to his victory speech in Chicago, our new
president has repeatedly made references to being inspired
by Abraham Lincoln. Which other presidents have been
inspired by the Great Emancipator? What lessons can be
learned from Lincoln's presidency by President Obama?
The scholarship essay contest is designed for students
who are FULL TIME, undergraduate students in an AMERICAN
COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY during the Spring 2009 semester.
The July 31 deadline is designed to give these students
time to finish their essays, if need be, after final exams.
It is NOT open to high school students.
TIKKUN YOUTH WRITING CONTEST http://www.tikkun.org/submissions/index.php?submitmode=under25
Deadline: June 15, 2009. Article length: 700-1,000 words.
Do you have a vision for how to change the world? Are you
engaged in an exciting, youth-led social justice campaign?
Do you think regularly about the intersection of politics
and spirituality? Are you an aspiring writer? Now is your
chance to publish an article in Tikkun. For more than two
decades, Tikkun has been the go-to publication for cutting-
edge analyses of international human rights issues, U.S.
domestic and foreign policy, ethics, and contemporary
spirituality. The magazine regularly features articles by
leading scholars, activists, pastors, rabbis, imams, and
other visionaries. Must be under age 25. Top five entries
will be published in Tikkun's September/October 2009 issue.
Top twenty contestants get a free subscription to the
Contact WritingKid (the Business Stuff)
FundsforWriters/Writing Kid make no warranty as to the
accuracy of the contests, awards, etc. but we do try to
check them out in advance to the best of our ability.