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Archive for the ‘Contests’ Category

And Now for Something Completely Different

In Contests on March 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

Note from Work Stew editor Kate Gace Walton: On Sunday, when I announced the winner of the latest Work Stew writing contest, I mentioned that I would also share a few of the other entries. The whimsy of this fictional (I presume!) submission caught my eye.

THE FAIRY

By Cari Oleskewicz

hcj011_k_back_1_1He walked into the playroom, and Courtney looked up from her collection of Monster High dolls, who were preparing to rumble with the Barbies. The man wore shiny shoes and a dark suit. His hair was slicked back and he raised one eyebrow while he scanned the colored pictures on her walls and the hopscotch rug on the floor.

“Who are you?” Courtney asked.

“I’m your guy,” he said. “Didn’t you call me? About the bedtime situation?”

“Oh!” Courtney frowned and slid her Monster High dolls to the side. “I thought you’d look different.”

“What did you think I’d look like?”

“Like a fairy godmother,” the child said.

“Well, I am, sort of. I’m a lobbyist. How old are you?”

“Eight.”

“Super. Tell me what you’ve done so far.”

She got up from the floor and looked up at him. “Are you sure?”

“Do you want to avoid your bedtime or don’t you?”

“I do.”

“Then I can help you.”

Courtney chronicled what she had done to avoid the ritual. The tantrums, the begging, the promises, the defiance. Nothing worked, so she did what any kid would do. She conjured a fairy.

“We’re going to filibuster,” he said.

“What’s that?”

The man smiled. “Do you like to talk? Do you really like to talk?”

Courtney shrugged. “I guess.”

“Then you’ll be fine. The goal here is to eliminate your parents’ ability to get you to bed.”

“How?”

“Watch. And learn. And bring me all your books.”

Congratulations to…

In Contests on March 1, 2015 at 9:17 am

Ian Be, winner of the latest Work Stew writing contest. This was the prompt:

Describe a moment on the job, real or imagined, when the work at hand suddenly took on new meaning.

I received many good entries (some of which I may publish later…I’ll be in touch!), but I settled on Mr. Be’s piece as the winner for several reasons: 1) I appreciated the glimpse into a work world that too few of us understand; 2) I thought the entry was well crafted; and 3) I admired its adherence to the prompt.

Writing to a prompt is a special kind of challenge: how to create an entry that relates to the prompt without feeling artificial, or concocted? I thought this piece (like several others I received) threaded that particular needle very well. Here it is, all 548 words:

HONOR GUARD

By Ian Be

funeral4Riding in a Chevy Tahoe is not always terrifying. But when your driver is a twenty-year-old recently returned from service in Iraq, the experience can be pretty intense. Specialist Matthews was swerving through dense traffic on Interstate 90, braking hard to avoid collisions, then slamming the accelerator again. His reckless behavior was influenced by driving humvees in a war zone, and his concern that we may arrive late to the cemetery.

We were supposed to be there before the funeral procession. When the drivers approached they would see two soldiers wearing dress blue uniforms waiting by the roadside. We would snap to attention and salute the deceased veteran as the hearse slowed to a stop. A third soldier would be stationed a polite distance from the gravesite with a silver bugle. The bugle was real, but hidden inside was an electronic speaker that played a prerecorded version of “Taps.” The best performers would fake their inhalations to mimic the phrasing of the melody.

Specialist Matthews continued cursing and grumbling, frustrated because the previous funeral had started later than scheduled. He knew there was no way we’d make it to the next one on time. I sat in the back, unable to watch the road when SPC Matthews was driving. Sergeant Kinsey rode shotgun, calmed by his sense of humor. He kept encouraging Matthews to drive faster. He was joking, but Matthews didn’t know that.

When we arrived, the veteran’s family was assembling around the gravesite. Specialist Matthews took the bugle. Sergeant Kinsey and I walked toward the gathered crowd as quickly and respectfully as possible. We stood at attention behind the casket, which was overlain with a crisp American flag.

I could hear sniffles and sobbing. The pastor gestured wildly, accusing the deceased of being an “alcoholic parasite.” The pastor was the veteran’s brother. He blamed his sibling for many things which hurt their family. I glanced over at Sergeant Kinsey, both of us wide eyed as we listened to the passionate scolding.

Most veterans serve short contracts in the army, quietly live the rest of their lives, and die in their own due time. Their funerals are solemn. Mundane. Sometimes I’d work five services per day. There was rarely an opportunity to learn anything about the people I was honoring. But this was different. Suddenly the duty I had performed so many times before took on meaning. I felt a deep need to return respect and dignity to this man, whose memory was being torn down by the harsh words of his unforgiving brother.

After the pastor struggled through the traditional prayers, there was a brief moment of silence before Sergeant Kinsey and I raised our final salute. Specialist Matthews brought the bugle to his lips. The slow melody of “Taps” sounded across the cemetery. When silence returned, Sergeant Kinsey and I lowered our salute and proceeded to fold the flag. I clutched the stiff triangle, executed a right face, and approached the next-of-kin. I knelt down, offered the flag to her, recited the speech I had memorized and delivered countless times. The last words spoken at this veteran’s funeral.

“Ma’am, this flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation, as an expression of appreciation, for the honorable, and faithful service rendered by your loved one.”

Whose Hands Are These?

In Contests on February 11, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Time for more fun and games! And there’s a Work Stew mug to be won. Here’s the challenge:

Guess the profession of the person to whom these hands belong.

hands - name the profession 1

Post your answer on Work Stew’s Facebook page or email it to me at kate@workstew.com. I’ll pick one mug winner randomly from all those who submit correct answers within the next 24 hours. Thank you very much to Kathy Bosin for suggesting we play this game and for providing the photo. For a glimpse into Kathy’s (rather idyllic!) world, be sure to check out A Chesapeake Journal, her site about life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. work-stew-mug

Update now that 24 hours has passed…

The answer is: those are the hands of a jewelry maker. I received lots of good guesses (via Facebook and email) but none quite on the mark. Thanks for playing, one and all. Anyone else have an interesting work photo that might lend itself to a good round of ‘Guess the Profession’? If so, send it my way (kate@workstew.com); the provider of any photo used in this way will ALWAYS get a mug.

IMG_391-174x300-2Announcement: Brief Podcast Hiatus

Just a quick note to say that the podcast is on hold for a bit, while I figure out a new schedule that works all around. Work Stew’s Facebook page (which I like to think of as our virtual water cooler) will be maintained as usual, and essay submissions are, as always, very welcome.

About the podcast…

The first Work Stew interview was released in February 2011. I spoke with Gretchen Peters, an intrepid investigative reporter who explained how she went from a job on Rodeo Drive to a hut in Afghanistan. Since then more than 70 other interviews have been released; you can view a complete list here. The ten most downloaded interviews to date are these:

former CIA spy does a reality check on the TV show ‘Homeland’—what rings true, what doesn’t, and the scene that made her tear up.

newspaper cartoonist explains what it takes to be funny seven days a week, for more than sixteen years.

husband-and wife team who make their living as long-haul truckers describe their life on the road.

The voice in my GPS describes how she got there. Turns out she’s an accomplished singer and songwriter.

writer of closed captioning for adult films explains how he got into such an unusual line of work and how he feels about it. One listener commented, “See, there ARE jobs for English majors!”

particle physicist describes what it’s like to be focused on topics that most of the world knows nothing about.

certified mediator explains why he loves getting involved with other people’s disputes.

comedy writer on the path he travelled to arrive at his role on Comedy Central’s hit show Tosh.O.

long-time flight attendant who recently retired from the airline industry to become…a gorilla caretaker. Seriously.

marketer-turned-cook describes how hard she works, how little she earns—and how much she loves her new career.

Why a podcast? Work Stew is a place for people to share their thoughts and stories about their working lives. Essays are one way to do that, and in-depth interviews are another. The hope is to build, over time, a rich collection of distinctive voices, captured in both the written word and the spoken word.

How to listen? You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or you can listen to all of the episodes here: Show Notes and Audio Players

Suggestions? New episodes of the Work Stew podcast are released every two weeks. To suggest an interview subject for a future episode, please write to kate@workstew.com.

New Writing Contest

In Contests on February 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm

10940451_937630669588085_5739336515317359852_nThe Prompt
Describe a moment on the job, real or imagined, when the work at hand suddenly took on new meaning.

The Prize
$200 for the winner, whom I will select and announce on March 1, 2015. The winning entry, and perhaps some other entries, will be published here on Work Stew.

Eligibility and Word Count
Only entries that have not been published elsewhere are eligible. Word limit: 600 words, max.

Deadline
Midnight PST on February 28, 2015

How to Submit
Email your entry to kate@workstew.com. You will receive a confirmation email within 24 hours of sending in your entry.

Work Stew in the News…Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.30.04 PM

“Random Acts of Business,” the essay I wrote to launch Work Stew back in 2011, was re-published in The Huffington Post. It’s located in a section called ‘The Third Metric,’ which focuses on “redefining success beyond money and power.”

nprAlso, Ashley Gross of KPLU (Seattle’s NPR station) talked to me about why I started the site, why I keep at it, and what I’ve learned.

Many Work Stew contributors came along for the ride: photographer Meg Heimovics Kumin and flight attendant-turned-gorilla caretaker John Safkow were featured in the radio version of the story (click the blue ‘listen’ button to hear it).

Devo founder Gerald Casale, python hunter Ruben Ramirez, high-rise window washer David Schmidt, lice remover Lisa Weisberg, former corporate lawyer Kevin McHargue, and carpenter Samantha Cole all made appearances in the accompanying print piece.

cof2014smaller-1Work Stew went to the woods: I was honored to present at Islandwood’s tenth annual Circle of Friends event, where Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, served as the keynote speaker.

My session, which wrapped up a weekend-long retreat, focused on writing as a tool for personal development. In my talk, I got to highlight the essays of several Work Stew contributors. Thank you, as always, for letting me share your stories.

Stewing on Stage: A Brief Story Slam Round-Up

july2013-slam-web1I love swapping stories here at Work Stew. I think of it as a virtual water cooler where someone is always around with a tale to tell.

But there’s also something to be said for telling a story live—on stage, with no notes, to a crowd of people whose faces you can see.

I’ve done that three times now, at the Bainbridge Island Story Slam, and it’s really, really fun. If your community is currently slam-free, perhaps you should get one going? Feel free to reach out via Facebook or email (kate@workstew.com) and I’ll explain the logistics, which are gloriously simple.

In the meantime, for a taste of the tales you might hear at such an event, here’s my latest. The theme was ‘Dating: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’—but, as you’ll see, my story has a small connection to work as well.

My other slam tales, which focused more centrally on work, were about the summer job I had at Yellowstone National Park and my most memorable night shift.

We Have a Winner

In Contests on January 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

10407224_907813289236490_8618266065103811022_nCongratulations to Jill Murray, winner of the latest Work Stew writing contest. The rules were simple: a short tale (600 words max) about a work holiday party, real or imagined.

I enjoyed all the entries: Paul Cohen and Kerry E.B. Black spun engaging stories of love lost and found. Randy Austin entertained with his signature creativity and wry sense of humor. Both Nina Slotkin Fortmeyer and MFC Feeley managed to sneak in surprise endings—no small feat with so few words to use. Non-fiction contributors Julie Davies and Rebecca Kerr gave us good glimpses into their long-ago lives. J. Alper captured what fellow competitor Michael T. Heath so aptly called the prowling of “the corporate savanna” and Mr. Heath himself, in addition to taking the time to offer thoughtful critiques of other entries, contributed a fine character sketch of his own.

Several of these were particularly strong contenders, and I recognize that another judge might easily have gone in a different direction. I myself have wavered between three or four, but in the end I chose Ms. Murray’s: I loved the fluid way in which her story unfolded, the three distinct characters, the pitch-perfect dialogue. Congratulations, Ms. Murray, and thank you again to all who played.

Nothing But Meat
By Jill Murray

“Are you a lesbian?” my boss Dee asked sharply, quick black eyes searching my face.

I set down the poster I was presenting. “Should I be?”

“Well that’s what Kevin’s telling everyone. I didn’t think it sounded right. Didn’t you just break up with someone?”

“Yeah, because he was a bad boyfriend, not because I’m into girls now. Who is Kevin?”

“Well that explains it,” she said, turning her attention back to the poster. “I’m not a fan of this font.”

“I’ll change it… explains what?”

She wheeled her chair out from behind her desk and leaned in confidentially.

“Kevin. From the Christmas Party. He’s probably upset that you don’t remember him, and that’s why he’s telling everyone you’re a lesbian. That and you danced with those girls.”

“Women, and you were one of them!” Wheelchair be damned, Dee could dance circles around all of us. “I thought we were a posse.”

“Well it’s none of my business. I just thought I’d check with you.”

I closed my eyes and the party came rushing back: Me in teal stretch velour, the dress mercifully playing up the positive aspects of my post-break-up weight gain. Dee wheeling up to me, a snow queen from the tips of her frosted bangs to the toes of her white pumps. She introduced me to Kevin as I searched for vegetarian hors d’oeuvres.

“You’re vegetarian?” he asked. “What a coincidence! I’m on the Atkins diet. I eat nothing but meat!”

Dee wheeled away and I watched my lifeline disappear into the crowd as Kevin regaled me with tales of fatty creatures recently ingested. I nodded politely as he told me what he hated most about vegetarians. “It’s that they won’t shut up about it. Blah blah blah who cares? I don’t care what you ate for breakfast.”

When he at last took a breath, I excused myself to the sanctuary of the ladies room. I found Dee there, innocently lacquering her daggered lashes with another layer of black mascara. “Isn’t Kevin great?” she asked. I wheeled her to dinner.

I ate my pasta with red sauce without commenting on it, and drank white wine as conservatively as a young woman at an office party is counselled to do. YMCA came over the speakers, signalling an open dancefloor.

Kevin lurched up to me, breath thick with the stale remains of the open bar, a bulb from the Christmas tree dangling from each ear. “Wanna dance?” he asked, throwing a log of an arm over my shoulders. My stomach lurched with a mix of revulsion at his breath, and envy at his freedom—to drink, let go, lurch, lean, and still do his job without comment on Monday. “It’s nothing to do with his work.”

“No thank you,” I said, ducking out as he brought his face too close to mine.

“That Kevin?” I asked. Dee wheeled back to her monitor, avoiding my eyes.

“He’s a programmer,” she shrugged. “They’re just like that. Bad social skills. You’re sure you won’t give him a chance? Great guy. Really nice.”

 

Work Stew in the News…Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.30.04 PM

“Random Acts of Business,” the essay I wrote to launch Work Stew back in 2011, was re-published in The Huffington Post. It’s located in a section called ‘The Third Metric,’ which focuses on “redefining success beyond money and power.”

nprAlso, Ashley Gross of KPLU (Seattle’s NPR station) talked to me about why I started the site, why I keep at it, and what I’ve learned.

Many Work Stew contributors came along for the ride: photographer Meg Heimovics Kumin and flight attendant-turned-gorilla caretaker John Safkow were featured in the radio version of the story (click the blue ‘listen’ button to hear it).

Devo founder Gerald Casale, python hunter Ruben Ramirez, high-rise window washer David Schmidt, lice remover Lisa Weisberg, former corporate lawyer Kevin McHargue, and carpenter Samantha Cole all made appearances in the accompanying print piece.

cof2014smaller-1Work Stew went to the woods: I was honored to present at Islandwood’s tenth annual Circle of Friends event, where Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, served as the keynote speaker.

My session, which wrapped up a weekend-long retreat, focused on writing as a tool for personal development. In my talk, I got to highlight the essays of several Work Stew contributors. Thank you, as always, for letting me share your stories.

Stewing on Stage: A Brief Story Slam Round-Up

july2013-slam-web1I love swapping stories here at Work Stew. I think of it as a virtual water cooler where someone is always around with a tale to tell.

But there’s also something to be said for telling a story live—on stage, with no notes, to a crowd of people whose faces you can see.

I’ve done that three times now, at the Bainbridge Island Story Slam, and it’s really, really fun. If your community is currently slam-free, perhaps you should get one going? Feel free to reach out via Facebook or email (kate@workstew.com) and I’ll explain the logistics, which are gloriously simple.

In the meantime, for a taste of the tales you might hear at such an event, here’s my latest. The theme was ‘Dating: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’—but, as you’ll see, my story has a small connection to work as well.

My other slam tales, which focused more centrally on work, were about the summer job I had at Yellowstone National Park and my most memorable night shift.

The Envelope, Please…

In Contests on September 15, 2013 at 12:12 am

Krznaric 170The judge of the Second Annual Work Stew Essay Contest was Roman Krznaric. Named by The Observer as one of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers, Mr. Krznaric is a founding faculty member of The School of Life in London, which offers instruction and inspiration on the important questions of everyday life. He studied at the universities of Oxford, London, and Essex, where he gained his PhD. He has taught sociology and politics at Cambridge University and City University, London. He speaks regularly at public events and is the author of several books, including How to Find Fulfilling Work, part of a new practical philosophy series edited by Alain de Botton.

I’m very grateful to Mr. Krznaric, not only for tackling the difficult task of choosing the winners but also for sending along the thoughtful note below. Jump straight to it if you haven’t already.

Kate Gace Walton, Work Stew Editor

Work Stew Essay Contest 2013 – Judge’s Report

By Roman Krznaric

There was a fascinating rattlebag of essays amongst this year’s shortlist of ten entries. Full of wonderful prose combined with surprisingand often disturbinginsights into the world of contemporary work, it seemed a little unfair to be forced to choose only three winners. Certain themes kept cropping up, such as the struggles to deal with financial insecurity, and there were thoughtful essays on more unusual jobs, such as being unemployed and motherhood. Overall, what really struck me was how important every worker is for making the world go around, how we are dependent on so many professions, from the doctor who will come out and deliver a baby in the middle of the night to pre-school teachers and wait staff. I’m reminded of a poem by Bertholt Brecht called ‘A Worker Reads History,’ which tells us that history is made not by the powerful, but by everyday people:

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?

The books are filled with names of kings.

Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?

And Babylon, so many times destroyed.

Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,

That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?

In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished

Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome

Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom

Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.

Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend

The night the seas rushed in,

The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

So, now for the winners. Coming in third place is #16: Impermanent as Everything Else: A Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor. This essay, as the title implies, takes us through a typical day in the life of an adjunct college professor. It was playful and funny, and its experimental form giving snippets of moments throughout the day really gave a good sense of the disrupted or staccato nature of modern working life that so many people feel, flitting from this task to that, juggling work and family and social life, keeping all the balls up in the air at once.

Second place goes to #10: Untitled. This was a behind-the-scenes look at life as a member of the wait staff in a popular restaurant chainand you may not like what you see. The author talks about how the staff ‘checked our ethics at the door’ and then embarked on a cut-throat struggle to earn enough from their tips to survive on, doing everything from altering the credit card slips of bad tippers to licking the silverware. But this writer managed to survive and maintain her dignity.

And in first place, the winner is…#3: Connecting the Dots. I absolutely loved this piece written by a legal secretary about her time working on criminal cases for a top defense attorney. I don’t want to give away too much, but it somehow manages to combine blood-splattered walls and dancing. It’s macabre, amusing, and extremely insightful about the way many workers find ways to survive the traumas and trials of their working lives. And more than that, it’s a superb piece of prose, full of literary panache.

Kate again, returning just to say:

Now that the winners have been picked, we can re-attach names to the entries cited above. Congratulations to:

Anne Muccino, First Prize Winner ($1,000)

Helen Tosch, Second Prize Winner ($400)

Ellie Stanford, Third Prize Winner ($100)

(Interestingly, even with a different judge and no names attached to the entries, Ellie Stanford managed to make the winner’s list again. Remember the goats?)

Congratulations also to the other finalists: Dan Madden, Julie Hall, Tasha Huebner, Tisha Deutsch, Rene Saenger, Jenny Hough, and Delcie Pound. I enjoyed all of your entries, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge the enormous popularity of Tisha Deutsch‘s piece. I’d also like to tip my hat to Delcie Pound. As I try to pack Work Stew with a wide variety of voices and experiences, it was a thrill for me to receive her (totally delightful) submission, reminiscing about a day on the job back in 1937, more than seventy years ago.

Thank you, too, to everyone who entered…thank you to all who read the submissions and shared them around…and special thanks to Michael T. Heath and Paula Kiger for taking the time to comment so consistently and thoughtfully.

And finally: thank you a million times over to Steve Karan, who so generously donated the prize money for this contest. Steve is a musician, an investor, and a friendand he excels at all three. In case you haven’t heard him at the piano before (or even if you have), let’s have him play us out.

Penultimate Drumroll, Please

In Contests on August 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm

After much teeth gnashing, below are my picks for the ten finalists in the Second Annual Work Stew Essay Contest.

I found all the submissions that I published very interesting, and choosing was hard. My main consideration was this: which entries really responded to the prompt by bringing us, the readers, deep into their world and enabling us to understand it in a way that we hadn’t before? In the end, I felt that these ten did that particularly well.Work Stew Essay Contest copy

Entry #3: Connecting the Dots

Entry #7: Untitled (“In the cold dark before dawn…”)

Entry #8: Confessions of a Web Publisher

Entry #10: Untitled (“This is a confession…”)

Entry #11: Pattypan Dreams

Entry #13: Untitled (“It came as a surprise…”)

Entry #15: The Stork

Entry #16: Impermanent as Everything Else: A Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor

Entry #20: Untitled “I cannot wait to drop off…”

Entry #23: Weekend at Camp

Congratulations to the finalists, thank you to everyone who entered, and many, many thanks to those of you who took the time to write such thoughtful comments on the published submissions.

Next, I’ll send the finalists’ entries to our judge, Roman Krznaric, and the contest’s winners, which he will select, will be announced by September 15. Thanks to the contest’s generous patron, Steve Karan, the first prize winner will receive $1,000, the second prize winner will receive $400, and the third prize winner will receive $100. All of the finalists will receive a copy of Roman Krznaric’s book, How to Find Fulfilling Work.

The Much-Anticipated Contest FAQ

In Contests on July 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Work Stew Essay ContestQ1. So, I dug deep and sent you my 800 words. What now?

A1. Now we get to read what everyone wrote in response to the contest prompt. Here’s the plan: in about a week (i.e. by Thursday, August 1), I will start to post, in no particular order, those entries which meet the basic requirements set out in the Terms and Conditions. As we’ve discussed on Facebook, each entry will be identified only with a number; the author’s name will not be displayed. Update: I have started to post the entries, which can be viewed here.

Q2. But we won’t be doing any voting, right? Please confirm that this year there will be none of thatbecause I really hate public voting.

A2. Correct. This year, thanks to a popular uprising (and by “uprising” I mean “extremely polite discussion on Facebook”), there will be no public voting to select the ten finalists. Instead, I will be choosing the finalists myself, after your names have been removed from the entries by my minions.

Q3. Do you really have minions?

A3. No, if you must know, I have no minions. Not a one. But I do have a very kind husband who has agreed to remove your names from the entries for me. I will probably have to watch any number of slacker films (how much Seth Rogen can a girl take???) to make up for it, but such are the compromises of marriage.

Q4. What are my chances of winning, or as Tasha Huebner likes to ask, “Have I won yet?”

A4. Your chances are really very good, assuming you are: a) an actual human b) who submitted a response to the prompt c) of the prescribed length. I received more entries this year than last but—sad for me, lucky for you—it seems that many of them are not legit. Once I weed out the messages that are actually from spam bots and disqualify those which failed to meet the basic requirements, I think we will once again be looking at only a few dozen contenders. Again: this is a little disappointing from my perspective (read: I’ll probably cry myself to sleep tonight), but, um, woo hoo for you!

Q5. What will happen after you pick the ten finalists?

A5. I’ll be sending the finalists’ entries to our judge Roman Krznaric on August 30. Within two weeks, he’ll get back to me with his picks for first ($1,000), second ($400), and third ($100) place. These winners will be announced no later than September 15, 2013.

Q6. What if I have some less frequently asked questions that you have failed to address here?

A6. Write your questions in the comments at the bottom of this post, email me at kate@workstew.com, or ping me on Facebook. I’ll answer as quickly as I can. In the meantime, thanks again to all who entered. One day, this might be a bigger arena, but for now “cozy” has its charms.

Start Your Keyboards…

In Contests on July 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

“Bring us into your world. What is something about your work (past or present) that outsiders typically don’t understand? It can be something required by the job, something that happens on the job, something you feel about the job—but whatever it is, do not exceed 800 words.

Cutting Red TapeSo goes the official prompt for the Second Annual Work Stew Essay Contest, which kicks off today, July 1.

There’s real money involved ($1,500 in prizes), so be sure to read the legalese. But here, in plain English, is everything you need to know to get started:

Timing. The deadline for submitting an entry is 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, July 22, 2013.

Prizes. The winners will be announced by September 15, 2013, and thanks to a very generous donation by Steve Karan, the following prizes will be awarded at that time:

1st place, $1,000

2nd place, $400

3rd place, $100

Requirements. Your entry must be created in response to the official prompt, above, and it may not exceed 800 words—really. It’s also important that your submission has never before been published or distributed to the masses in any way. (The lawyers have a lot to say on this point, so again, please be sure to read the fine print.) Entries should be sent via email to contest@workstew.com.

RomanKrznaricStudio2-by-Kate-Raworth-low-res-300x240Judging. I am honored to announce that Roman Krznaric has kindly agreed to serve as the judge of this year’s contest.

Named by The Observer as one of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers, Mr. Krznaric is a founding faculty member of The School of Life in London, which offers instruction and inspiration on the important questions of everyday life. He studied at the universities of Oxford, London, and Essex, where he gained his PhD. He has taught sociology and politics at Cambridge University and City University, London, and has done human rights work in Central America with refugees and indigenous people. For several years he was Project Director at The Oxford Muse, the avant-garde foundation to stimulate courage and invention in personal, professional, and cultural life. He speaks regularly at public events and is the author of several books, including How to Find Fulfilling Work, part of a new practical philosophy series edited by Alain de Botton.

One last note for now: Mr. Krznaric will be selecting the winners from a group of ten finalists chosen by me (Kate Gace Walton, Editor of Work Stew).* For additional information on the selection process, please look for the Contest FAQ that will be posted on July 23, 2013.

Until then, gather around the water cooler (Work Stew’s Facebook page), join the chit chat on Twitter, or send your questions to me via email at kate@workstew.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Kate

*This paragraph was updated on July 9, 2013. I initially proposed a public voting process (like last year), but a number of comments I received caused me to re-think this. To read a Facebook discussion of the issue, please check out the July 8 Facebook post that begins ‘Contest question…”

Goats Rule!

In Contests on July 1, 2012 at 7:14 am

For the last two weeks, the ten entries that advanced to the finals of Work Stew’s first-ever writing contest have been in the very capable hands of contest judge Pam Belluck. Ms. Belluck is a long-time staff writer for The New York Times and the author of Island Practice, a non-fiction book that debuted to excellent reviews on June 5.

As judge, Ms. Belluck was charged with choosing the first-, second-, and third-place winners of the contest. In the email explaining her selections, Ms. Belluck wrote, “I put a premium on creativity and a sense of surprise, factored in quality and cohesiveness of writing and consistency of voice, and looked for pieces that had layers—images that could be interpreted both literally and figuratively, for example. Also humor, which always earns points with me. (Oh, and the funny thing is all three of my winners have goats in them—is that bizarre or what?)”

Um, yes, that’s extremely bizarre. Reviewing the winning entries, however, it is quite clear to me that the goat thing is simply a happy coincidence. All three pieces have other charms and distinct strengths, and Ms. Belluck’s comments on each (see below) certainly resonated with me.

So:

Thank you to Ms. Belluck for serving as the judge.

Thank you to the Work Stew patrons who so generously donated $1,500 in prize money.

Thank you to everyone who participated, as entrants and/or fans.

And congratulations to the contest’s winners. According to my research, if you pool your money, you could buy approximately nineteen low-end goats. Four if you insist on Nigerian Dwarfs.

—Kate Gace Walton, Work Stew Editor

First Place ($1,000): ‘So You Want to Be an Ex-Expatriate Poet/Nigerian Dwarf Goatherd/Adjunct English Professor/Soccer Mom’ by Eleanor Stanford

Comments from Pam Belluck: Points for the title. Points for ‘When in doubt, reread Pessoa: “I’ve never herded sheep, but it’s as though I had.” Points for: “Name your goats (sheepishly) for the daughters you don’t have.” And points for, well, the point of the piece, as I saw it: “Ask yourself: have you discovered new questions you need to investigate?” and “You should be ready to move in any direction. Whatever you do, don’t close your eyes.”

Second Place ($400): The Village Idiot’ by Scott Stambler

Comments from Pam Belluck: Any piece that starts off with “You have a splendidly low IQ” has an author with some writing chops and an eye for the counter-intuitive. This is also a nice passage–and not just because I’m a flutist and recovering sax player: “Who am I to judge, maybe Plotinov should not have slept with Vladislav’s wife? On the other hand, did Plotinov’s wife have to throw chair at Mister Mayor while he played revered village anthem on his saxophone? The poor instrument will never sound the same. How was it possible chair leg knocked the reed straight down Plotinov’s throat, like a mama bird feeding her baby? For two days, every word Plotinov spoke sounded like he was duck hunting.” And how many times in all of English-language writing do you think goats and Rimsky-Korsakov appear in the same paragraph? I’m guessing this is the first.

Third Place ($100): Untitled by Tasha Huebner 

Comments from Pam Belluck: I liked how she said a “bucket list” is an “asinine term.” I liked the late-in-the-essay poignant surprise of her cancer and the way she deals with it realistically and neither over-sentimentally nor glibly. Goat reference, for those keeping track: “A goat-weighing contest in Bhutan.” Plus it has the Corn Palace, which is surely one of the seven wonders of, well, South Dakota.

Photo credit: goat image purchased from iStockphoto.