Wes: This week we begin the sixth annual Double Take essay contest to find the eighth co-author of the column. The winner will receive at least $1,100 ($550 per semester) for his or her freshman year of college and a valuable line item on college apps and resumes. The deadline is 9 p.m. April 29 with interviews tentatively set for the weekend of May 7-8. This year’s qualifications are as follows:
• A 2012 senior at an area high school. We’ve had three students from Free State, three from LHS and one from Bishop Seabury Academy. We will also consider an exceptional junior with excellent references.
The Challenge Question
I’m 16, and my parents don’t know that I’m sexually active. If I tell them, they won’t let me see my boyfriend anymore, and if I don’t tell them, I can’t ask to get on birth control so I can avoid pregnancy. My boyfriend is my best friend and I love him but if I tell, my family will hate him and think he’s pressuring me. What do I do?
• One-year commitment from August 2011 through August 2012.
• Skilled writer for class projects or school paper.
• Maturity and sensibility. Kids currently caught up in serious drinking, drugs, abusive relationships, etc., won’t be credible and will be subject to public critique — of which there is plenty.
• Willing to share opinions but open-minded to the problems of adolescence. Extreme views, liberal or conservative, do not fit with this format or demographic.
• Able to work as a team over e-mail and to get the job done. The author churn out one 350-word column every Thursday including revisions, 50 weeks of the year.
• Have agreeable parents. This is a very high-profile and occasionally controversial job. Parents should review previous columns if they have any qualms.
Please review the application process carefully:
• Write a 350-word essay responding to the challenge question, offering your best advice. Good answers may not be the obvious ones. All essays will be reviewed by panel of authors from the Kansas City Writers Group, Dr. Wes and Ben.
• List 10 topics you would like tackle as a Double Take author. The ability to generate fresh ideas is important and you’ll be assigned many of the topics you suggest.
• Ask a teacher or other non-parent adult to write a brief e-mail to Double Take e-mail address outlining your strengths and weaknesses in taking on the column.
• Send all materials to email@example.com. We’ll announce winners in mid-May. The top essay will be published in the paper, the others published online. If the winner cannot complete his or her term, the runner-up will finish the year and receive the scholarship. Submission of essays implies release for the Journal-World to publish. Do your own work. Top entries will be searched on the Internet to be sure they are original.
Ben: As far as jobs go, Double Take is pretty weird. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Here are two tips for those trying out.
First off, write memorably. Anybody can write grammatically sound column with the right manuals, but nobody says, “I remember that column. Great comma placement!” Your first goal is to give your best advice; your second goal is to make people remember it. Frequent readers know that I’m an analogy junkie. Other people use stories, checklists or one-liners. Find your natural twist and use it; otherwise, you’ll be a very wise, very boring young columnist.
Secondly, you need good eyes. 80 percent of this job is stepping back and saying, “What’s the problem here?” Termites have a nest; so do problems. Our biggest problems often have basic causes: fear, mistrust, pride, etc. Your job is to find that nest, that basic cause, and expose it. You don’t need a huge brain (case in point), just a keen eye.
This is a great experience. 99.9 percent of teenagers don’t get to do anything like this, and “published columnist” looks pretty neat on paper. If you even think you have a shot, I say go for it.