September 22nd 2011
$150 prize for Magnetic Island story, photo/s, drawing, cartoon
Dear readers, Quite a few of you already know Magnetic Times is on leave. After 14 years of near continuous news website service for Magnetic Island we are away for some time to explore the world and some new creative opportunities in the United States and beyond. We'd intended to let you in on our travels sooner but, being in the middle of an adventure - presently sitting under one of the world's most active volcanos in Hawaii - we've had little time or opportunity to post.
Clearly, we will not be able to report the news of Magnetic as usual, but this does not mean that the little website that tells Magnetic Island news and stories will fall silent. Instead there will be a change in direction, call it an experiment, call it a bit of community fun. Call it an invitation because we want you to be the biggest part of it.
Whilst abroad and once more settled we will mostly be able to receive press releases from the many organisations which provide them, rework them for Island consumption and post them to magnetictimes.com.au. But the local stories which just happen because we hear about them from our many spies will be less frequent.
However. We are now starting a different direction for Maggie Times and that is where you come in. Starting now we will be running a monthly competition with $100 prize money for the best story article, poem, photo (preferably with a killer caption), cartoon or drawing submitted by a reader. A further $50 will be awarded for other worthy entries.
When it comes to stories we are looking for articles with more of a magazine-type approach where the emphasis will not so much focus on news reporting but people's reflections, insights and opinions written in an entertaining fashion. Essentially the material must relate to Magnetic Island and the experience of living here. If you want to write about big issues like climate change or the global economy it needs to have a clear connection to the life of Magnetic Island.
If contributors want to produce hard investigation on issues of the day; great! But you will need to be able to demonstrate you have covered all the bases and can prove that your information is factual.
We will also reserve the right to publish and edit or abridge any contributions as we think fit. We cannot guarantee publishing your work simply because you sent it to us. But we hope we can and we hope you will rise to the opportunity of publishing an article in North Queensland's first and oldest news website.
Getting into the running for our monthly prize also means writing simply and clearly with a reasonable degree of punctuation. Yes, we still believe in full stops or periods as they call them here in the USA. We like CAPITAL letters to start sentences and paragraphs and we like lots of sentences, all hard at work, expressing each idea as it comes without everything rolled into one massive conga chain of words. We like commas too and we are even keen on people making sure they know the difference between the words, "then" and "than" - a mix-up we see almost daily.
Bottom line folks is that punctuation makes sure you are properly understood. Editing and rewriting other's work also takes time and we don't have so much at present so the cleaner your copy the quicker we can check and post it.
Story writing tips
Here are some tips to help your work be more likely to be published with less changes made by us.
*The first paragraph must capture the readers to "read more". This is the message our 1000 plus News Club readers list receive as an email alert so it needs to convey quickly what the story is about in a way that triggers reader curiosity for more. This part must inform and tease the reader by suggesting that there is more juicy stuff if only they would click to find out.
*Your headline/title might take nearly as long to get right as it takes to write the story. This is a creative challenge but real important to distill the guts of the story in a simple elegant hook. And yep, we don't always succeed either.
*Less is definitely more. The web is full of writing and most people prefer visual material anyway. It's a hard slog to keep eyeballs following your words and distraction is just a click away so look for every way possible to cut out all the stuff that isn't really necessary. This may well mean several drafts and looking at every sentence for ways of making it shorter and to the point.
*Doing justice to a good yarn means putting the information the reader needs to know to understand the meaning of the story together before the real telling begins. Look for ways to weave facts and additional but relevant insight and humour into this structure so it is always rich and builds interest.
*Long paragraphs are exhausting to look at let alone to read.
*Read your story out aloud and listen to how it sounds. Is it enjoyable to the ear with a sense of rhythm that carries the reader with you or does it drone on flat and monotonously?
*It's good to imagine your role as that of a close and trusted friend to your reader. A person they would always want to hear from and whose words they trust. Become that trusted well-liked friend to your reader by treating them with respect. Treat your story subjects with fairness and respect too. Your words will be much more believable to all - as they should be.
*Show, don't tell. Let you reader be the judge. Don't tell them what or how to think about your subject. It's condescending and only gets their goat up. If you feel passionately about an issue then let your reader see what it is that fires your passion and maybe thier's will be fired too.
*Magnetic Times will not publish material which is racist, sexist or generally offensive. Sometimes there is a fine line particularly for what some people find offensive but we look for a free expression of opinion without unnecessary insults. We also avoid criticism of private individuals who have not entered the public arena with an action or opinion.
* We prefer articles to have a graphic such as a photo, drawing, illustration which adds to the story but this is not mandatory.
*We love photos but we don't love huge files that need cropping and resizing. Generally a photo should be no wider than 650 pixels wide and if it goes onto the top of a story, which means an appearance in the little opening paragraph on the front page, then just 350pixels is about the limit. Resolution is the standard for web at 72px per inch. If you are not sure what this means then ask a friend or google it. These are very basic requirements. Total file sizes should not be more than 50kb for a top of story image and 150kb for an image set into the story (seen at full page with)
*Again, your photos must be of Magnetic content. If they include images of people then you need to get their permission. Public events are sometimes covered where crowds are involved and we don't seek permission for this.
For net safety reasons images of children are problematic. Occasionally we may publish young people, again at public events, but they will not be named. All photos of children submitted for this comp must be with the clear permission of the parents or guardians.
You may wish to present us with a photo essay. You may have a theme you want to explore and this can be a very powerful form of expression and for us more likely to attract the prize.
Not essential for a photo essay although a brief introduction to your photo essay will help greatly. Captions for photos with a story really help but need to be brief, especially for the top of page image.
Drawings and cartoons
All must be submitted digitally so either scan them or photograph them clearly then use the 650pixel width format mentioned above.
All submissions for the following month's prize must be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org by October 20, 2011.
Sadly our technology doesn't allow people's choice voting so you are gonna have to trust us and our experience on this. We will award $100 as a first prize but we will also be putting up another $50 which may be split between other contributors. All contributions will be considered but we recommend strongly that you follow our comments and tips for the best results.
There are probably other questions you may seek advice on so just use the comments box below and we will respond as soon as we can.
Good luck readers as you become writers. It's a blast to publish and even better when you hear a friend or aqaintence referring to your story. So fire up your pootas, grab your camera or both and tell us a Magnetic story you can share.
George Hirst - your Editor at large
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