(Editor's Note: Yes, this should probably be a blog, not an article.
(Editor's Note: Yes, this should probably be a blog, not an article. But, while it's very personal, it's also full of a lot of writing tips that all writers should pay attention to. And, if you're not a CK Reporter, it's also full of reasons you should consider applying.)
To Senior Youth Reporters, new and old, and to Mr. Peterson and Dana:
After 2 years, I am sorry to say that this is my last day with NextGen and Colorado Kids. It’s been a great 2 years, and it’s been wonderful to express myself and be published. Even as I leave, CK is welcoming new reporters. I invite those new reporters to read this and learn, returning reporters to read it as a refresher, and those who are leaving to read it and remember.
Personally, I started by accident. No one’s quite been able to figure out the weird glitch that had me receiving emails from Mrs. Armstrong (now retired, but fondly remembered by those who were around when she was still with CK) long before I actually applied. But it was these emails that told me that I could be a reporter when I was just 12 years old. I was becoming a writer then, and this was another stepping stone for which I will forever be grateful.
So, I applied. Rereading my application letter, I’m still kind of surprised at how young I sounded just two years ago. It’s funny, too, because I professed my love for words then, but, if I’m not going too far back in my writerly journey, I had no clue what that even meant. I do now, and I think it’s fitting that I’ve lived up to a goal that I didn’t even know I’d set. It’s funny how things like that work.
On the 26th of July, I watched "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief." I was deeply disappointed, and I think I sort of took its numerous terrible qualities as a personal insult. So, when I got up the next morning I wrote a review. I could do that now, and oh how nice to speak my mind to people who didn’t even know me! It was great!
I think it was that Tuesday that I was published for the first time. I didn’t yet know that reporters got a free online subscription to the Denver Post (awesome, isn’t it?), so it came as a shock when I was mentioned as being in the paper. Oh. My. God. I was in the newspaper! My dislike for a movie had actually made it into publication! I remember that my mom was across the street at the neighbor’s house, coming back across the street when I flew to her and squealed in that way that only a very excited 12-year-old girl can, “Mama! Mama! OHMYGOD!!! MAMA I GOT IN THE PAPER, I GOT IN THE PAPER!!!!!!” I then proceeded to send the following email to everyone I knew:
Hopefully, everyone remembers my recent email, "Published!" Well, that was simply being published online.
I'VE BEEN PUBLISHED IN COLORADO KIDS NEWSPAPER!!!!!!!!!!!!! TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!
To those that get The Denver Post, please look in today's paper for Colorado Kids, my story (the same one that was online) is on the back page and is titled "Did They Bother to Read It?" Wow! The editor didn't change a word of it, just the title!
Miss Adrianne: I'm sure that isn't grammatically correct, and I'm sure it'll drive you nuts since you're an english teacher. In fact, I'm sure this email is littered with grammatical errors. I'm too excited to care!
Gramma & Grampa: I'll send you a copy as soon as I'm able, I can't tell you when that'll be, though.
I'VE BEEN PUBLISHED, REALLY PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I get an email every Tuesday from the lady in charge of C.K. That's how I found out, actually, here's the email I got today, telling me. Mike Peterson is the editor:
Here are Mike Peterson’s notes for this week:
At the workshop, we talked about how, if you are reviewing something and you didn't like it, it's okay to say so, as long as you're not just being a wiseguy about it.
Be sure to read the two movie reviews on the back page of this week's CK: In one, the reviewer didn't like the movie. In the other, the reviewer did. Joey didn't tell you a lot about the movie because she didn't want to spoil it (and it's not very long, so it would be easy to say too much), but, you'll see, Ferris went into quite a bit of specific detail so you would understand why she was so disappointed. She didn't get sarcastic or make wisecracks about it, but she explained exactly how she felt, and why.
It would be great if every book we read was wonderful and every film was terrific, but that's not always the case. And part of reviewing is letting people know if they're likely to enjoy the thing you're reviewing. This is a good chance for you to read a "Thumbs up" and a "Thumbs down" review next to each other and see how each writer made her opinion clear.
Thank you for hearing my excitement! I have to go figure out what to do about the sore throat I gave myself from screaming with glee so much…
That was a great day, and I hope every single person who reads that gets to experience the thrill of being published. It is perhaps one of the greatest honors I have ever received, and I have cherished it for two years.
And now for the things that every reporter needs to know:
• Never say “amazing” or “fantastic.” It drives Mr. Peterson up the wall. In his own words, “Amazing would be if the pope, the queen, and Justin Bieber walked into the room right now and the pope proceeded to join the queen and Justin Bieber in marriage,” and “Fantastic is when a little elf pops out of the ground at your feet. If it doesn’t pop out of the ground, it is not fantastic.” This has been a running joke among CK reporters for years, probably before I came along, and certainly after I leave. Be as amused as you like, use it for a laugh when you need one, but always heed it in regards to NextGen/CK works.
• Interviews are very fun, but do not make the same mistake I did: make sure you’re camera is charged before you go. Even if you’re certain that it’s charged, double check and plug it in anyway. Always be pleasant and polite, thank the interviewee, and try not to show how nervous you are (because you will be nervous; it’s normal, but don’t let it get the best of you). If it’s an author that you really like, bring some books to be signed. Record the interview if you want, but always take notes. Technology tends to be finicky when you need it most. And when you write it, do not do it in a question-answer form. That’s another of Mr. Peterson’s pet peeves.
• Mr. Peterson has many pet peeves and, however much you may be annoyed by them, it’s usually just best to do what he says. That’s how you get published, sometimes.
• Mr. Peterson can, occasionally…test your patience (and I get to say that because I won’t be here tomorrow! Mr. Peterson, if you read this, I mean this in the best way possible; truly.). Always remember: Mr. Peterson is an adult and, even more importantly, he’s basically your boss. You aren’t going to get fired, but it’s still best to just go with it. However! If something is important, if you really want to write this story but don’t know if you should, if you feel strongly about something and he disagrees, or if your parents are concerned about something, feel free to annoy him. If something is that important, be persistent. Don’t let it go until you’re satisfied.
• Feel free to be that kid. I was. Before I started, it was 3rd-8th grade. Then I went and skipped into 9th when I was 12, and they decided I could stay. Now it’s 8 years old-14 years old, and it doesn’t matter what grade you’re in. Make them think. If you need to know something, ask. Always be that kid.
• Don’t advertise, but if your parents have a business (like mine do), you might be able to write an article about what it’s like to be in that situation, as long as it’s not promoting said business. This is hard, possibly unfeasible, and I’m still not sure if it’s allowed. I entrust the quest of finding out and (if allowed) doing it to posterity. Make sure you follow through.
• Dana and Mr. Peterson are awesome. They always pull through when you need them and they are truly wonderful people. I am so honored to know them, and I hope that I can stay in touch with both of them. They are also those wonderful, rare people who actually respect children, and (to an extent) allow children to view them as equals.
• Always follow through! If you get an assignment, write it. Always. No exceptions. Absolutely no excuses. When you ask for an assignment, you make a commitment, saying that, assuming you get that assignment, you will write the article. It is a contract, and you should consider it binding.
• Pay attention to your grammar. Unless it’s horrendously obvious, Mr. Peterson doesn’t fix it. Don’t find out how mortifying it is to hear that, when your father showed a professional book editor your article, she pointed out that you said “I” where you should have said “me.” If you aren’t sure, look it up.
• Carry a camera with you where possible. Mr. Peterson says everywhere, but, let’s face it, that’s not always feasible.
• Articles shouldn’t be this long, as a rule. This is a special article, and I’m not writing to be in CK.
• Pay attention to all those tedious rules in English class, like “Show, don’t tell,” and “Know your audience.” I know we all get sick of hearing them, but they actually have a point.
• Have fun! This is a commitment, yes, but it’s also fun. You don’t get paid with money, but you get paid with books, movies, toys. You get paid with that little picture of you in Colorado Kids, with your name and age under it, and then those words that you so carefully strung together, displayed before you for everyone to see.
Thank you all for wonderful memories and a fantastic two years (they popped out of the ground, Mr. Peterson, I assure you. ;-D). I wish all the new and returning reporters the best of luck and the greatest of fun. Happy Writing!