Feb. 1, CT Young Writers Trust
Connecticut Foundation for Open Government
Finding the next generation of writers
I helped judge last year’s contest with 580 entrants. Some of the writing just blew me away ...
Saturday, January 23, 2010 9:25 PM EST
By JAMES H. SMITH
Bristol Press /New Britain Herald
Our reporters and photographers and some editors met the other day to talk about reporting, writing and photojournalism. I call them idea meetings and they are meant to turn ideas into stories, stories we think we should write because you, our readers, would want to read them.
This time we talked about how to and how not to write them, turning to the masters — E.B. White and William Zinsser. White: “cut the deadwood,” and quoting his teacher, Will Strunk: “omit needless words.” The best writing is lean writing.
White wrote “Charlotte’s Web,” and spent a career at the New Yorker writing columns about anything that came to mind, or “suited his fancy.”
Zinsser started his career at the old New York Herald Tribune, a “writer’s paper,” compared to say, The New York Times, with it much more stringent and structured style.
“There’s a kind of writing that might be called journalese,” wrote Zinsser in his seminal book “On Writing Well,” which has sold more than a million copies, “It’s the death of freshness in anyone’s style. It is . . . a mixture of cheap words, made-up words and cliches . . . You must fight these phrases or you will sound like every hack . . . (and) you will never make your mark as a writer.”
It is good for writers and editors to consider such matters and try to make our daily offerings the best they can be. Let me say that I know some days are better than others, yet we try hard seven days a week to bring you clear, compelling writing that informs and maybe even uplifts.
We used to do it, in my lifetime anyway, with manual typewriters — what a wonderful sound a newsroom full of writers made pounding away on manuals. Now with our keyboards and computers, it is almost the sound of silence, but we are still putting one word after another trying to make sense in print.
Which brings us to the next generation of writers, bloggers, tweeters and who knows what? I really can’t imagine E.B. White tweeting nor caring to.
And so I’m glad to hear of two demanding high school writing competitions looking for entrants right now.
Teenage writers from throughout Connecticut, aged 13-18, are encouraged to send their prose or poetry to the Connecticut Young Writers Competition sponsored by the Connecticut State University system. I helped judge last year’s contest with 580 entrants. Some of the writing just blew me away and coming up with the winner was one hard chore. Locally, Central Connecticut State University hosts the first round of entries and comes up with a county winner in prose and poetry. There are cash prizes and the possibility of being published in CT Review, the Connecticut State University literary journal. The eight county winners compete for the state prize. Poems and stories and essays are due Feb. 1. Get detailed information at Ct.edu/initiatives/ctyoungwriters.
The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government has announced its annual high school essay contest with a $1,000 first prize, $500 second, $300 third, and $50 honorable mentions.
It asks students to write on three subjects, including this: “Newspapers, television and radio stations are legally responsible for what appears in their publications or broadcasts. Should the law permit people who have been libeled, slandered, ‘cyber bullied’ or whose privacy has been invaded to sue the owners or operators of social networks such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter for such offensive statements by indivdual account holders?”
High school teachers in the state have been alerted to the contest and its April 15 deadline. The foundation can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
How good it is to see young people being encouraged to pursue thoughtful writing.
James H. Smith is executive editor of The Bristol Press and New Britain Herald. Reach him at email@example.com or 860-225-4601.