Archive for December, 2009

The Penguin Parade

December 10, 2009

        Besides announcing writing contests and workshops, a reader reminded me that I said I’d write more about our trip to Australia.  Remember to use your own life  in writing too, if you are a student, a teacher, or a writer. 

        The most amazing experience on our trip that we had was on Phillip Island. Located Southeast of Melbourne and North of Tasmania, it’s the home of the famous Penguin Parade, where at dusk, hundreds upon hundreds of little penguins come out from the sea to bed down for the night in their on-land burrows.

       People sit on bleachers on the beach while we wait for the small penguins to arrive. We’ve been told that penguins are creatures of habit. The first time they make their way from the water to their new burrow will be the path they use every single time from then on.

       When the penguins come up from the sea, a few seagulls swoop down and scare them off. They chase them back to the water, but more penguins arrive, enough to make a mass statement against the gulls!

       As the penguins waddle up the beach, several in a group, more and more clusters swim up from the sea. When they reach the bleachers, we observers quietly rise and walk behind our seats to a lighted board walk. There, we watch the penguins closely while they toddle up hill on the sand.

       We’ve been prepped ahead of time by a ranger. Everyone whispers; no photography at all is taken to disturb their natural habitat. All we hear are the ocean waves and now the penguins talking with each other.

       So how do penguins talk anyway? Chirp. Squeak. Mews. Donald-Duck-Quacks. A mixture of all of these sounds. And as they settle into their burrows, they can be heard in the hills. Dots of their white vests show throughout the blackness.

       Penguin sounds. Ocean waves. Only whispers among us.

       Darkness everywhere, with only lights from the fence illuminating the Penguin Parade, the experience feels spiritual. There is something special in the air and we all sense it.

       As I look on in awe, I wonder if we sent warring beings here, would the world have a better chance for peace?

       When it’s time for Bob and me to get back up the hill to meet the tour group at our van, we hike briskly in the same direction as the penguins on the board walk. They keep up to us, stride for wobble.

       At the top of the hill, the ranger announces a penguin must cross over to the other side of the blacktop to his home. She moves us behind a painted white line and she lifts up a gate for the penguin who is patiently waiting his turn to cross.

       With his quiet audience in place, he shuffles across and waits on the other side for the ranger to open this gate which she does. Next, she closes them both and people resume their own walks.

       Two separate worlds. One understanding.      

Writing Prompts:  1. Write about the best part a trip you took.   It can be visiting a neighboring town, a trip to the park, or an overnight camping trip.  What was that special moment for you?

2.  Write about a moment that was special between you and another person.  It could be you and a good friend, you and an animal, or you and a relative.  What made it wonderful?     Penguin Sounds

Young Writers’ Monthly Contests

December 9, 2009

While in Australia last month, I discovered a magazine, Writers’ Forum, that offers MONTHLY contests to students who are under 16 at the time of submission

*Entries must be no longer than 800 words and need to be emailed as a Word attachment or in the body of the email. 

*The competition is open WORLDWIDE but entries must be in English. 

*You should include a small photo of yourself – – preferably a recent school photo if possible – – as a jpeg attachment. 

*A parent or guardian must declare that your entry has not previously been published.

*The deadline is the 15th of each month.  You’ll be emailing your stories, poems and news features!

*For specific details which will answer any questions you may have, visit:

Haiku Contest – Anyone can PLay!

December 8, 2009

Do you haiku?  Love film noir?  (If you don’t know what it is, Netflix “The Maltese Falcon,” one of the greatest movies of this genre.)

Now write three lines in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.  Can you work in references to “The Maltese Falcon,” Raymond Chandler, an author of other great stories in this genre, gumshoes or dames?

Want to play?  Send your haiku to by noon (California time) Monday, Dec. 28.

Read more reader-written poetry at    or

Winners get published in the Contra Costa Times newspaper or in their online edition.

(Another credit is always good for the resume or college application!)

Contest for Elementary School Teachers! Enter by Dec. 31st

December 8, 2009

GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win a trip to Chicago, Illinois, from April 25, 2010 to April 28, 2010.
The prize includes airfare, hotel accommodations, conference registration, and attendance at the Candlewick-sponsored dinner.

TWO RUNNERS UP will receive a collection of Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody books, including a complete set of Judy Moody and Stink titles plus the Sisters Club series (approximate retail value $270)

Open to full-time elementary teachers in the fifty United States and Washington, D.C.,
who enter by 12/31/2009. Winners will be announced on or about 1/4/2010.

Play Find the Blog Post

December 7, 2009

I’ve gone back into the files and found some topics which might be of interest to students, teachers and writers.   If not, send me comment what you’d like to talk about here.

Action in Writing August 31

Drama and Emotion in Writing  June 12

Dreams and Writing  August 17

Favorite Books  July 27

Game – Play the Universe Writing Game  June 9

Ideas for Writing     June 17

Memoirs – Six Word Memoirs  September 1

Mystery – How to Write One!  June 19

Reference Books  July 31, July 24

And a few personal ones:

Of Death and Humor  June 3, 2009  Saying goodby to my dad

Lessons from a Rat  September 2 and those immediately following and September 25 (with photos)

Australia  November 23

$1000 Scholarship Contest Reminder – Dec. 15 Due Date

December 5, 2009

Create a video book trailer for the verse novel “Hugging the Rock” by Susan Taylor Brown. Put together a cast and act it out, create an animation, or use photos with text set to music – it’s up to you.

Win a $1000 scholarship!

For more information

Holiday Writing Contest, Dog Writing Contest and MORE!

December 5, 2009

Thank you Judith Marshall, a writer from California Writers Club who told us about a great website call On it, they have a lot of writer’s contests. I couldn’t see any age requirements. Check for the various entry dates and topics for submissions.

(And if you decide not to actually enter, this site may give you ideas for writing prompts too.)

Example topics:
Celebrations Creative Writing Contest
Hot Earners Contest
Long-Term Earners Contest
Professionals Contest
Seasonal Earners Contest
Teachers Without Borders Contest
Title Madness Contest
Wide World of Sports Contest

When I clicked Dogs, these topics appeared:

Autoimmune disease in dogs: Symptoms and treatments
Best breeds of dogs for runners
Best dog breeds for kids
Causes of Addison’s disease in dogs
Causes of skin irritations in dogs
Common dog pregnancy symptoms
Dangers of dogs eating table food
Dog breeds that don’t bark
Easiest breeds of dogs to train
Guide to using homeopathic remedies for dogs
Homemade dog food ingredients to avoid
How a dog gets worms
How to choose the right dog breed for you
How to crate train small dogs
How to train a dog to sit
Kidney failure in dogs: What to expect after the diagnosis
Overview of extra-large dog breeds
Tips for cleaning a dog sprayed by a skunk
What is dog mange?
When is a puppy considered full grown?

Love This Comic

December 4, 2009

KQED Radio Show’s Commentary, Video or Photo Slideshow Contest for Youth

December 3, 2009

Attention All of You Ages 13 – 27 in California!

KQED is looking for young people to share their Perspectives on two themes: “Coming Out” and “Friday Night.” Perspectives may take the form of a short commentary, video, or photo slideshow.

One grand prize, an iPod Touch, will be awarded to the best overall entry for each theme.

Selected Perspectives will also air on KQED Public Radio and be published on throughout the months of January and March.

The deadline for the “Coming Out” theme is December 15, so don’t wait!

If you’ve got something to say (and we hope you do!) read the details below:


THE KQED Youth Perspective Competition Rules and FAQs
1. Tell me more about the themes.

Coming Out: Submit your reflections on coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, or revealing some other important personal secret about who you are or what you do that changed your life. Pieces should explore topics such as why you came out or how you changed, obstacles you had to overcome, help that you received or outcomes that you didn’t anticipate. Pieces from friends or family members of those who have come out are encouraged.

Friday Night: Friday nights mark a transition from the school week to personal time, sparking a change in many people. How does Friday night represent your world as a whole? What do you do, or not do, on Friday night that represents how your life is changing or how your life is unique? What does your Friday night say about you, your family, neighborhood, city, age, etc?

2. What is the prize?

One Perspective for each theme will be awarded a grand prize, an 8GB iPod Touch.3. Who can enter?

Anyone between the ages of 13 and 27 years old may submit a Perspective for possible publication or broadcast, however, you must be a resident of California to be eligible for the competition to win a prize. (If you’re under the age of 18, be sure to get your parents’ or guardians’ permission before entering!) Employees of KQED and their relatives are also not eligible to win prizes.

4. How long can my Perspective be?

Your Perspective can be anywhere from 20 seconds to two minutes long. For written Perspectives, that usually translates to 350-375 words, depending on your rate of speech.

5. When is the deadline?

Perspectives for the “Coming Out” theme need to be received by KQED editors by December 15, 2009. Perspectives for the “Friday Night” theme must be received by KQED editors by February 8, 2010.

6. What is the process for submitting a Perspective?

Step 1: Make a video, create a photo slideshow (with audio or without), or write a short commentary. However you express yourself, do it. Use the themes, “Coming Out” and “Friday Night” as a jumping-off point to reveal something about yourself or the world you live in. Read more about the themes below and listen to some Perspectives at to learn more about the series.

Step 2: Send us your Perspective. Email your entries to Mark Trautwein, Editor of the Perspectives series, at For text commentaries, simply email them as an attachment. For video commentaries, upload your video to an online video sharing site, such as YouTube, and send us the URL and embed code. For photo slideshows, create a slideshow using a photo sharing site like Flickr and send us an email, including a link or URL to the photo set. If you want to include audio, simply include the accompanying audio in your email.

Remember: Be sure to hold on to your original photos, video, and audio. When you email your entry, include your name, city, age, and a phone number and email address where we can reach you. When you upload your work to a video sharing site, be sure to set permissions to allow embedding on third-party websites. Also be sure to tag your video with the phrase “KQED Youth Perspectives Contest,” and your theme, “Coming Out” or “Friday Night.”

Step 3: If your written commentary is selected to air, an editor will contact you to schedule a time for you to record your Perspective in a studio. If your video or slideshow is chosen to be featured on, an editor will contact you as well.

7. For slide shows, can I simply upload my photos?

A photo slideshow uses images to tell a story. Just as a writer is careful about what words she uses, a photographer gives thoughtful consideration to the photos selected, the order of the photos, and the captions that accompany each photo. A photo slideshow should have a narrative structure.

8. For videos, should I simply videotape myself talking?

Only you know the best way to tell your story, but we encourage you to get creative. Think of the images in your home, city, or neighborhood that communicate your ideas. While we love your pretty face, we want to see the world you live in, too. Most importantly, have fun.

9. Can I enter multiple Perspectives? Can I enter Perspectives on both themes?

Yes, but remember that each entry must be original. Participants may only be awarded one grand prize.

10. What information must I supply when I enter?

Each entrant must supply their name, city, age, phone number and email address.

11. What type of file format should I use?

Prepare your content in the highest resolution you can, and hang on to the original files. For audio, we prefer MP3 files.

12. Do I need to save my original video, audio and photo files once I’ve uploaded my submission?

Yes. KQED may need to edit your photos, video or audio using specific applications. We may also recommend small editorial changes.

13. How will entries be judged?

Entries will be judged in their submitted form on creative expression, originality, and storytelling. The judges will include, but will not be limited to, KQED staff. Winners will be notified by February 29, 2010.

14. Can my friends and I enter together?

While group entries may be broadcast or published, prizes will only be awarded to entries submitted by individuals.

15. What if I still have questions?

Send questions to Amanda Stupi at or call (415) 553-2414.

16. What else do I need to know?

Well, the really legal stuff might come in handy, so here it is:

A. Once you have entered your Perspective following any of the methods noted above, KQED may edit and publish or broadcast your entry without paying you any compensation:

By submitting your entry into this competition, you hereby grant to KQED and its assigns the royalty-free nonexclusive right to copy, sublicense, edit, modify, publish, transmit, make derivative works, distribute, delete or display the content of the entry and elements embodied within the entry, in whole or in part, worldwide, in any media including television broadcast and via Internet download, streaming, transmission, exhibition or distribution by any computer-mediated networked communication systems, whether now existing or later invented in perpetuity, without limitation and without consideration or acknowledgment to you, including for advertising/publicity purposes without further permission, notice or compensation, except where prohibited by law. You understand, however, that KQED is not assuming any obligation hereunder to broadcast or distribute any Perspective submitted into the contest.

B. Your entry must be original and you must have all rights necessary to grant KQED permission to use the entry.

By participating in this contest, you warrant that your entry is an original work and that KQED’s use of the entry will not infringe upon or violate the rights of any third party. Just as one example, you must have the permission of any people pictured in your Perspective. Winners and selected entrants and/or their parents may be required to sign a statement confirming this.

C. Promotion and Publicity.

By entering, in addition to granting KQED the right to publicize portions of your entry, you grant to KQED the right to use your name and likeness in advertising and promotion without further compensation or permission.

On any companion website for your Perspective maintained by or on behalf of you, you agree, for the duration of the competition, to place in a prominent manner that the entry is being entered in the “KQED Youth Perspective Competition,” and to tag your work accordingly on YouTube, Flickr and other media sharing sites. Failure to do so may result in your entry being disqualified from the competition. You also agree not to claim or imply for any reason that KQED is a producer or co-producer of your video.

D. Responsibility for Acceptability of Entries.

You are responsible for ensuring your eligible entry is received by the deadline. KQED is not responsible for incomplete entries or technical difficulties of any kind that may prevent you from timely submitting an eligible entry.

E. Agreement to be Bound

By entering, you agree to be bound by the decisions of the judges and these official rules and to comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations as well as all rules and terms of use posted on and the photo or video sharing sites used.

F. Entry and Compliance Disputes

Entries which are mutilated, incomplete, illegible, inaccurate, forged, irregular in any way, or otherwise not in compliance with these official rules are void. In the event of a dispute concerning who submitted an entry, the entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized holder of the e-mail account from which the entry is made on the photo or video sharing site used. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person to whom an email address is assigned by an internet access provider, online service provider or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted email address.

Automated entries of any kind, including but not limited to entries submitted using any bot, script, macro, or contest service, and third party entries are not permitted and will be disqualified.

KQED will validate all entries and will determine, at its sole discretion, whether each Perspective meets the entry criteria detailed herein for acceptance as an entry into the contest.

G. Release from Liability

You agree that KQED and related individuals or entities shall not be liable for losses or injuries of any kind resulting from acceptance of prize(s), participation in the contest, individual, joint or collective technical malfunctions of the telephone network and/or transmission line, computer on-line system, computer dating mechanism, computer equipment, hardware and/or software, or any delay or distortion of an entry resulting from data transmissions that are garbled, incomplete, misdirected, lost, mutilated, delayed, corrupted, mechanically duplicated, illegible or otherwise not in compliance with these official rules. You also agree that KQED is not liable for damage to a user’s computer system (including, without limitation, any server failure or lost, delayed or corrupted data or other malfunction) due, either directly or indirectly, to an entrant’s participation in the contest or downloading of information in connection with the contest. KQED reserves the right to modify or cancel the contest in the event that any portion of any website used to administer any aspect of the contest becomes technically corrupted.

H. Contest Sponsor

Northern California Public Broadcasting, Inc., the owner and operator of KQED, is the sponsor of this contest and is referred to throughout these rules as “KQED.” Any reference to KQED includes Northern California Public Broadcasting, Inc. and all stations owned and operated by it.

For more information:

Need a Writing Exercise?

December 2, 2009

Writing Exercise: Here are the top ten words of the year followed by the top ten phrases of the year. Your job? Choose one or more and use them in an essay/personal narrative, short story or poem.

Or try and be funny and use them all!

1. Twitter
2. Obama
3. H1N1
4. Stimulus
5. Vampire
6. 2.0
7. Deficit
8. Hadron
9. Healthcare
10. Transparency

Meanwhile, the 10 top phrases were:

1. King of Pop
2. Obama-mania
3. Climate change
4. Swine flu
5. Too large to fail
6. Cloud computing
7. Public option
8. Jai Ho!
9. Mayan calendar
10. God particle

List by Melanie Kramer, AOL