How did I feel when Associated Content informed me that my article, Obama Advocates Change at Leesburg, Virginia Rally, won a 2008 People’s Media Award for Best Article? Set off the fireworks! Grab the champagne! I was excited, honored, humbled and grateful to my loyal readers and supporters on AC. Thank you to the AC staff who selected my article from all the worthy contenders and to all of the writers who nominated me for a People’s Media Award.
But most of you reading this article, my official acceptance speech, are probably more interested in insights as to what made the article a winner. With 200,000 Associated Content writers creating millions of articles each year, what did this writer do with this particular article that made it award-worthy in AC’s estimation? My insights are speculative because AC didn’t announce to the winners the reasons their articles were chosen beyond their meeting the award criteria of “insightful, unique, moving and poignant.”
When I think about why my article, Obama Advocates Change at Leesburg, Virginia Rally, was selected as one of three Best Articles of the Year in the 2008 People’s Media Awards, my thoughts go first to the children.
This assignment could have been like any other. Associated Content issued a call for content asking writers across the country to submit articles about political rallies and meet-ups they attended in advance of November’s election. Type “political rally” into the AC search engine, and it turns up 678 results. What made Obama Advocates Change at Leesburg, Virginia Rally stand out? I’m convinced it’s the children.
I have always advocated teaching children about the political process by discussing issues with them and bringing them to the polls. When I set out to take my own children and one of my teenage son’s friends to an Obama political rally, I had some notion of including their reaction to the rally in my article. Then, a chance enounter with 2 little boys, Jacob and Aaron, at my daughters’ elementary school, set the budding theme to blossom.
Jacob asked me to deliver a message to Obama if the opportunity arose:
“If you see Obama,” he said, “tell him 2 little boys really look up to him.”
Those words captivated me, and this incidental encounter ultimately helped define a theme for my article, Obama inspiring children’s interest in the political process.
I want to especially thank the children — my son Andy who asked me to take him and his friend David to the rally; David, whose political commentary enlivened our experience; my daughter Cindy, whose astute observations helped focus attention on particulars we might otherwise have overlooked; my daughter Amy whose enthusiasm buoyed us; and Jacob and Aaron, the two little boys whose admiration for Obama made an unforgettable impression.
I suppose I should also thank Barack Obama, now our president, for inspiring our nation with his ideas for its leadership at this difficult time in our history. Also, I need to thank Kofi Annan, the Ghanian diplomat, former UN Secretary-General, and Nobel laureate, whose eloquently expressed political philosophy tied my observations of the kids’ interest in the USA’s watershed 2008 election to a universal truth about the democratic process:
“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”
The award-winning article contained a combination of first-hand experience, detailed yet selective observations, direct quotes, and research — all elements AC encourages. Of course, the article contained up-to-date election prognostications by experts.
Having offered my opinion of what AC found worthy in the article, I will throw out a caution about formula writing. Writing from the heart beats copying someone else’s successful framework every time. Examine the three articles that won the PMA awards this year, but don’t rely on them to create your own award-winner for next year.
Learn what you can from these articles without sacrificing your unique style or neglecting to recognize the serendipitous experience that might turn an ordinarily competent article into an extraordinary one. When the intensity of serendipitous words or observations tear you away from your intended path, startle you, capture your heart, clue you into a universal truth, or otherwise divert your thoughts, that’s your article focus.
Thanks to all of you for your faithful reading and comments as well as your heartfelt advice and support. 2009 has gotten off to a grand start with our site’s new look, and now we have the PMA announcements to inspire our writing for the coming year.