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Is It Okay To Break The Rules Essay Contest

Writing contests offer many benefits, not the least of which is a deadline.

Yes, yes, yes you should.  Writing contests offer many benefits, not the least of which is a deadline. There’s nothing like a deadline to force you to put your posterior in a chair and some words down on paper. You can also win prize money, get published, establish credibility, build your writer’s platform and grow a readership.  The first step is to enter.  It can be daunting, but to grow as a writer, you need to send your work out into the world. Contests offer that opportunity.

Entering a contest gets you comfortable with sharing your work.  You become disciplined. You get organized about submitting.  You learn to follow the directions in the submission guidelines.  You learn to write to spec.  Take the process seriously, enter consistently and you may just win.  And even if you don’t, your writing will improve with all the invaluable practice you gain along the way.

Entering isn’t enough you say.  I know. You want to win.  Here are some suggestions to make your entry as strong as it can be.

Write something different, but don’t break the rules.

There’s an adage in Hollywood – bring me something the same, but different. If you’re writing a romance, the couple needs to get together at the end. That’s the rule, but you can make your story different by setting it in a unique place like war-torn Iraq or giving the protagonist a different take on the world.  Say two scientists fall in love while studying the sea life in the Galapagos Islands. Writing a mystery?  You need to solve the mystery by the end, but make it different – leave the butler out.

Mind your grammar and formatting.

Grammar counts in contests – as it does in all writing, so take the time to check your grammar. There are plenty of free and inexpensive software programs to help you – Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and AutoCrit to name a few.

Titles matter.

Make your entry stand out right away with an intriguing title.

Proofread your work.

Ever find a typo in a book you were reading? Remember how it bumped you out of the story? You went back and reread the passage at least once to make sure you knew what the author intended.  Please, please, please – don’t let this be you.  Not ever, and definitely not in a contest entry with prize money at stake.

I hope by now, I’ve persuaded you that entering a contest is beneficial and will help you grow as a writer.  So, why wait?  Be brave. Be bold. Enter.

Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association invites you to enter their annual literary contest for unpublished work. In addition to prize money, all entries receive two thoughtful critiques. Publishers and agents attending the PNWA Conference read finalists’ entries. Deadline: March 23, 2018.  

 

Pacific Northwest Writers Association

“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

There have been three major violent attacks in the United States in the past six weeks. A shooter in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546 others attending a music festival. In another attack, in New York City, a man murdered eight people and injured 12 using a rented truck from Home Depot to plow into them. Last Sunday, a man killed 26 and injured 20 people attending Sunday services at a church in a small town in Texas. As humans sharing the world, it is hard to believe how commonplace violence is, whether in the form of a “lone shooter” or as an “act of terrorism.” Instead of feeling the shock and horror we should, we have almost become numb in reaction to these outrageous and revolting events.

As a 17-year-old, I have never known a time in America where there wasn’t violence. I was just 1 year old when the 9/11 attacks happened. I have lived through many acts of violence, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012. That same year, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African- American from Florida, was fatally shot, ironically, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Whether it’s a mass attack, mass shooting or the killing of one person, the action is violence and the result is the same—death. And we are left asking ourselves, “Why?” What can we do about it?

As teens, we don’t have to feel powerless. There are things we can do. One thing we can do is to raise awareness about religion and racism. Interfaith programs at our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can help promote goodwill and understanding through diversity. By seeing that we share faith in a higher power and working together for the greater good, we promote understanding. Programs like Harvard University’s The Pluralism Project runs the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in the St. Paul, Minn., area, where “teens work together to nurture interfaith understanding, reduce prejudice and misunderstanding, and act together on common values through service and justice to transform their worlds. In the process, these young people are empowered to be capable interfaith leaders, both within their own communities and beyond.” This program includes many community-based events like a gardening service as well as leadership workshops for the teens. Having more programs like this one, throughout the United States and the world, will help cultivate more understanding leadership and promote greater understanding among different religions.

Teens can also raise awareness of gun violence. Events such as Seattle, Washington’s “Teens Against Guns Youth Summit,” hosted by the Atlantic Street Center, are a way to bring teens together to actively support the anti-gun movement at a grassroots level. Programs like these can help empower teens to help them realize they can be proactive in ending the cycle of violence.

Another way teens can use their voice to denounce violence and terror is through social media. When she was challenged by another student to prove there were Muslims who condemned violence in the name of Islam, Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided to make a list of all the Muslim groups that did. According to a November 2016 Teen Vogue article, “ The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.” Her Twitter account generated 12,000 re-tweets and the list has been made into an interactive website called www.muslimscondemn.com. Her idea led to a resource for anyone to access the information.

Whether coming together in an interfaith group, rallying at an anti-gun youth summit or using social media to create awareness against violence, teens have a voice. Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation. Maybe Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), said it best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We, as teens, need to be those helpers.

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