Thursday, November 12, 2015

6 Essay Contests for High School Students

As I remember it, the rub with essay contests for high school students was that first, there are a lot of crappy ones so the good ones are hard to find, and second, it takes a lot of time and discipline to write a solid, thoughtful essay for those worth entering. Here are five I think are worth the time. Good luck, all! 

1. SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) is accepting entries into its essay contest for high school students until February 16, 2016. The topic, Why is it important that we have news media that are independent of the government?' is both timely and near and dear to my heart. Write on, young citizens.

2. With a hefty $2,000 prize at stake, the Ayn Rand Anthem Essay Contest is open to 8th - 10th grade students. The deadline is March 25, 2016. Other essay contests related to Rand's books are also offered.

3. The 11th Annual DNA Day Essay Contest, sponsored by the American Society for Human Genetics, has set its deadline for March 11, 2016. This year, students are asked to either defend or refute the Society's position on genetic testing for adult-onset diseases and conditions. 

The organization's website offers a rubric as well as pitfalls to avoid when participating in the contest.

4. Hiram College has announced its second essay writing contest. The theme is "Borders," and the contest (with cash prizes) is open to 10th and 11th graders. Entry deadline is January 7, 2016.  

5. We The Students essay contest is accepting entries until February 7, 2016. Hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute, the contest is open to students ages 14-19 in grades 8 - 12. 

This year, students are asked to discuss in writing to what extent, in in what ways, our government has compromised individual liberties for the sake of general security or welfare. 

6. Profiles in Courage Essay Contest - read winning essays from recent years and get writing tips directly from students (and contest winners) on the organization's Facebook page.

Speaking of writing tips, the organization posted one from JFK, circa 1955.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Don't Be THAT Guy on LinkedIn

Shortly after publishing my first post on LinkedIn, I received a message from a Hubspot rep who had been pursuing my employer as a client.

First came the connection request, which I approved because we had a connection or two in common, so I thought there could be a legitimate reason we should connect. On the heels of that approval came a long and silly introductory note that began with the following.
"I have been reading your Linkedin posts for a while now and I think we might share a psychic 6th sense because literally ALL of your posts are verbatim my thoughts regularly. Especially the one about these sensationalist headlines the world has been completely swept by."

I do not make this stuff up.

In case you haven't had your morning cuppa, I'll repeat: it was my first, and only, post on LinkedIn, at least to this date.

Obviously, I'm pretty sure we don't share that 6th sense, because if we did, she'd know I wondered if she was accusing me of plagiarism. You know, because ALL of my posts "are verbatim" her thoughts.

Scary stuff. And snarky, on my part, I'll admit.

The takeaway:
Don't be that guy on LinkedIn. And if you know that guy on LinkedIn, remember, severing a connection is easy.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Do Your Images Say? What Do You Want Them to Convey?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, you really need to choose your pictures carefully. Below, two examples I came across this week.

This one is good, because it's believable. 

And borderline great, because it's funny. 

This one is not so good. Because, we were never that close. 

Communicate what you want to communicate, people.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stunners: People Like to Share Pictures and LinkedIn Will Publish Just About Anyone's Post

Fridays! I like to use them as a social media catch-up day. Because a metric ton of MUST READ articles appear every minute, I try to be selective. And I hate clickbait.

So when I was drawn in with the great headline WHAT DO PEOPLE LOVE TO SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA? I was miffed that the answer was....
...wait for it...!

I took my rant to a new (to me) venue and created my first LinkedIn post.
~ - ~ - ~ - ~ -

What did you write today? And where?

If you're a freelance copywriter and would like to use this space for a guest post, I'd love to hear from you. Let me know in a comment on the LinkedIn post, or find me on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Picture This: in PDFs, All Over Your Site, Images Matter

Ah, pity the poor alt tag. I have championed the little bit of code for years. And the hard-working descriptors still matter.

But not as much as the images themselves.

Google's been busy (< anyone want to nominate that for shocking headline of the year?) updating its image search protocols this summer. Among other things, the search superhero is now pulling images out of .pdfs and indexing them too!

Anyway, the good news for me and my oft-overlooked alt tags is they're still mighty important.

Writing for the Web 2015

The same can be said about meta descriptions and title tags. And of course, one could argue that using the right image is the most important thing about images and your website.

But, hey, I'm talking about alt tags here. They really never got the respect they deserved, and still don't.

Speaking of respect, if you're looking for a writer who thinks talking about alt tags is might have found her.

Full disclosure: she's extremely selective about freelance projects these days. But if you think your alt tags need a little TLC, I know how you can reach her.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Where Do You Find Writing Jobs?

"Our focus is building tomorrows business leaders," said the ad. Apparently, they're not focused on using apostrophes. 

As a writer, I have mixed feelings about a job posting like this. The organization has a real need! But who proofs its ads? Third graders? 

Where do you find writing jobs? 

Craigslist has had its share of bad press, but is still a good place to look for jobs (or "gigs," which, at least to Craigslist folks, are not the same thing). 

Linkedin certainly seems to have lost its focus re: jobs lately. 

I'd like to see more boutique placement firms like 10-til-2 leading us to great opportunities, but I'm not seeing it happen as fast as I'd like. 

I am seeing a general increase in content-, marketing- and PR job opportunities here as summer wanes. What about you? Where do you find writing jobs? 

I'd love to hear from you! Contact me here or on Twitter. Yep, I tweet, when I'm not writing. Or looking for a job... 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hemingway, We Hardly Knew Ye (But, Nice App!)

Full disclosure: he isn't/wasn't my favorite author. But, he's one of those icons, right?

Hemingway House and Cats. There are always cats.And, gotta say - nice app!

The Hemingway App is designed to make us all better writers.
Banish adjectives!
Write declarative sentences!
Make a point!
Keep it short!
(And, presumably, don't overuse exclamation points.)

Well. Fiddlesticks. A post with two Wikipedia links. I've done all the damage I can for one day.