Wednesday, May 25, 2011

250 Words or Less...Really?

Tonight I entered my first "writing contest" as an adult writer.  I want to force myself to get my writing out there, in any small way, as a way to hold myself accountable for actually doing some writing (beyond this blog and the writing I have to do for work) on a regular basis.  Also, recently I've been getting random emails from friends, retailers, etc. about writing opportunities so I took these communication bursts as a sign that I'm supposed to start finding audiences and publishing opportunities.  

This particular contest is sponsored by Sherpani and Athleta (two retailers I love for luggage and athletic wear respectively) and the "winnings" are non-monetary - top prize is a "surf safari scholarship."  In some ways it feels safer right now to put my writing in front of anonymous low-stakes audiences (I don't have my heart set on a 'surfing safari' by any means :).  

But the contest prompt made me think about all of the contrived writing assignments I've seen/used in the classroom or on standardized tests.  While prompts in general seem inauthentic beyond college admissions essay prompts  - a real-world "hoop" students must jump through, as an aspiring writer my writing entry opportunities seem to be very prompt driven right now.  While I know my own writing was a feeble attempt at meeting the demands of the prompt, I can't wait to read the writer(s) who actually make the cut in this contest.  The task was: in 250 words OR LESS, describe a solution to a challenge we face.  Ten submissions will be selected by a panel based on the following criteria: What is the important challenge facing us?  Is the solution fresh, concise, innovative and inspiring?  How can we put your plan into action?

So, a problem, solution and plan to a major local, national or global issue in 250 words or less?!  Yeah, right!  I know writers can err on the verbose, but I think even the pithiest of journalists might be hard-pressed to meet all 3 components of that task in only a few paragraphs/less than a page!  Ah well, at least (word-wise) it was an easy initial task to tackle in my "operation get my writing out in the world" resolution :).  

Here's the feeble attempt - it was inspired by all of the reading I've been doing of Nicholas Kristof's NYT column and his co-authored book Half The Sky. I'm so passionate about the issue, but the solution is much, much more complex than 250 words or even 250 pages...

Women Who Listen: A Voice for the Voiceless
By: Jessica Cuthbertson
We live in a dynamic, interconnected society, with information a mouse click away.  How do we use this information to support others? 

The challenge: As Western women, we enjoy a wealth of freedoms and opportunities.  But internationally, we have a long way to go.  Unicef estimates that 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year.  In places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and many others, women and children are voiceless – forced into silent submission.

The solution: A three-step process of awareness, networking, and mobilization, has the potential to make a huge difference. 

Plan of action: 1) Awareness - through using technology to promote and support change, we can educate Western women about the realities of modern slavery and sex trafficking in third world countries.  2) Networking - through awareness, women will listen, engage in the awareness process and work together as a network to share the information with others.  A Facebook page spurred an Egyptian revolution – think about what informed Western women can do!  3) Mobilization into action: a core group of passionate listeners, women who want to give a voice to the voiceless will mobilize into action; going beyond sharing what they’ve learned with others to write letters to policy makers, volunteer, and join forces with others who are working to end modern slavery and sex trafficking. 

The amount of information available to us is overwhelming.  The solution is in our ability as women to listen.  Will we be a voice for the voiceless? 

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