Showing posts with label contests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contests. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11

Passing For Creative: Butterfinger


There are three ways to look at a brand new Butterfinger television commercial, which will begin to air nationally on Feb. 15 and continue through the third quarter: the celebration of consumer generated creative; the hyperbole of hype and hopeful publicity; or the gradual decline of advertising as we know it.

The celebration of consumer generated creative.

For the cost of $28, David Markus, a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, won $25,000 and a one-year supply of Butterfinger candy bars. His spot is a mostly well-framed, cute, mildly funny iPhone app cliche. We don't want to take away from his win whatsoever. Congratulations.

Customers can be creative. And sometimes they might surprise you, like fans of the television show Jericho, who out-marketed the CBS marketing team. Butterfinger was surprised too. It received 600 entries. Some, like this one or this one, aren't bad. Some are, but you can find those on your own.

The hyperbole of hype and hopeful publicity.

A few decent spots aside, the Butterfinger contest doesn't seem to be the success the company thought it would be.

Of those 600 entries, Markus racked up 11,000 views on YouTube, which is far away ahead of the pack, including the contest promo. Most videos averaged about 100 views. On the Facebook/Yahoo video, views are higher with about 3,000 views as the average, which still seems low given the page has about 480,000 fans.

Yet, to read the release, you would think the contest was entered by everyone on the planet. It's loaded with buzz words, such as allowing "fans to take control of the brand and express themselves in a very real way." Six hundred, anyway.

"This approach essentially allowed consumers to talk to each other about the brand they love," said Daniel Jhung, Butterfinger marketing manager. "As a result, we got hundreds of new ideas with a wide range of creative interpretation and depth. The content laboratory is getting bigger and bigger." Maybe.

The gradual decline of advertising as we know it.

Again, this isn't meant to detract from any of Butterfinger's consumer generated marketing. I tend to be a fan of the general concept, and have managed a few in one form or another. But in reviewing the ads, even the decent ones, it seems to strike at the perception of what the general public thinks advertising is as opposed to what it can be.

Sure, there are plenty of creative spots produced by agencies every year (we saw a handful during the Super Bowl), the concept of what makes advertising great is in steady decline. Even at some top ad shops, divergent thinking has somehow morphed into tossing spaghetti and hoping it sticks to the wall.

Great advertising is hardly coming up with something witty or mildly funny or bizarre and tagging a three-second product shot at the end. It's hard work.

It requires someone who can maximize creativity within the least creative of confines and still manage to produce something that connects with people in such a way that not only do they identify with the communication, recognize it as a conversation about what they were thinking anyway, and feel motivated enough to think about it, find out more about it, and maybe even go out and buy it.

And therein might be why the Butterfinger contest seems one off from a real success story. A limited pool of people picked an advertisement they liked best. But what people "like" and what actually works outside of the context of a consumer contest is something else.

And for students hoping to someday pursue the profession as a career, they might keep that in mind before adding to the pile of spots that leave people saying "I could write that ad" as opposed to "I wish I wrote that ad."

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Wednesday, October 8

Taking Photos: Brazilian Tourism Portal


While not all U.S. companies understand social media as a viable communication tool to reach American consumers, other countries seem to be on the front end of understanding it well enough. The Brazilian Tourist Board, EMBRATUR, is offering Americans who travel to Brazil the chance to participate in an essay and photo contest.

Entries will be accepted through November 21 and judged by Peter Guttman, a photographer, writer, and author who traveled on assignment to more than 200 countries. He recently returned from assignment in the Brazilian Amazon.

“The wondrous scenes and memories a photo can record -- especially when traveling -- inspire others to try similar adventures and seek out marvels of the planet," says Guttman. “Travelers with just a handful of pictures can collect memories and amazing stories.”

Despite economic worries in the United States, Brazil experienced a 9.6 percent increase in American tourism last year. And, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, American visitations to South America is still up 5.7 percent, a growth rate that is on pace with the Caribbean for the first time.

While the photo contest Web site interface is notably clunky, the concept still represents a step in the right direction. Most Americans might be passive about creating their own blogs, but an increasing number of them are very interested in participating on platforms managed by someone else.

So what might we do differently? We'd move the consumer marketing concept to the next step by running a photo blog that highlights one photo pick per day. It would give entrants a chance to check the status of their photos and Brazil enthusiasts a reason to return, over and over again.

The top entry will receive an all-expenses-paid return trip for two to Brazil.

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Wednesday, April 16

Blogging For Rights: BlogCatalog.com


“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson

About a year ago, Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com, had an idea. He noted the media attention other social networks received were often based on raising investment capital.

He decided to do something else. He wanted to raise social capital instead.

“We had yet to see an online social community come together to raise funds for a good cause,” said Berkman. “So we saw it as an opportunity to empower and recognize bloggers who collectively focus their blogs for good.”

While Berkman says he wasn’t sure the first campaign would succeed — one that raised funds that directly benefited more than 1,000 students across the United States — he is happy to find Bloggers Unite has come full circle. One year and four campaigns later, BlogCatalog members hopes to inspire again.

This time, on May 15, bloggers are being asked to tackle a topic selected by members — Bloggers Unite For Human Rights. Although no one knew it a few months ago, the timing for a human rights social awareness campaign couldn’t be better. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For most of us, human rights — life, liberty, justice, and freedom of expression — seem so commonplace that they are taken for granted. Yet, all over the world and sometimes just out of sight in our own backyards, human rights are tread with utter disregard. This is a great opportunity to speak out for those who cannot.

In Durfar, Sudan, women and children are raped and brutally attacked by government forces and militia. In South America, human trafficking continues to be increasing concern. In Zimbabwe, journalists are being arrested. And all over the world, censorship, from the Internet to everything, is becoming the rule and not the exception.

What can you do about it? Bloggers Unite For Human Rights.

Dedicate a post on any issue related to Human Rights this May 15 and encourage others to do the same. You can find several badges to display on your blog or submit new badges to Bloggers Unite.

Copywrite, Ink. will be recognizing several top bloggers who join the campaign and list their posts on the Bloggers Unite Discussion Group on May 15. Please give it some thought and consider how ten, one hundred, ten thousand, or tens of thousands can make a difference.

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Thursday, April 3

Cooking Up Contests: Chef Clive Berkman


Notable and award-winning chef Clive Berkman may have come to expect cooking for presidents and celebrities at Charley’s 517 and later Clive’s in Houston, but he never expected to cook up an online contest for his upcoming book Cooking With Clive, Creating “Empty Bottle Moments” With Those You Love.

The contest, which runs through June 15, invites participants to pick 20 pictures from more than 250 featured on his Flickr account. Whoever selects the most photos that will appear in the book will win a seven-course meal for 20 people, prepared by Berkman anywhere in the continental United States.

“I am hoping the winner lives in an area that has tons of fresh meat and locally grown vegetables,” says Berkman. “Then I can work with them to make a menu with local products like lobsters in Maine for a sake curry soup or lamb in Colorado with rosemary and corn polenta.”

Originally, Berkman had set up the Flickr account as a way to share the photo shoot with his friends and family. But as other people started to visit, he decided that he might as well share it with more people. So on March 24, Berkman announced the contest on a blog that he started in April.

“I could have started blogging last summer,” Berkman said. “But I did not want to ramble on about nothing for no reason at all. So I started about five weeks ago as a simple way for people who are interested in my book to stay up to date.”

Adding one-minute video segments on YouTube happened much the same way. He originally wanted to produce a 4-minute DVD that he could send to speakers bureaus and the media, but decided to try producing one-minute video segments in order to reduce production and distribution costs instead.

“We filmed 25 one-minute videos that are unrehearsed and definitely not-scripted,” says Berkman. I didn’t want show glitz as much as authenticity. That way people can see me as an author who wants to share his reflection of a book.”

The first video, which is a trial demo, features Berkman sharing his disdain for green peppers. While not as popular as his Flickr images, it does provide a true-to-life glimpse of who this Johannesburg, South Africa, native really is — someone with a passion for life and food that began while watching his mother teach cooking classes in the back of their home.

His mother wasn’t his only inspiration. Berkman also had the pleasure of working under noted chef Victor Broceaux, best known for his work at The Four Seasons, Forum of the XII Caesars, La Fonda del Sol, and Tavern On The Green.

“He pushed me every day to be my best,” says Berkman. “But although I was grounded in classic French, my style cannot be only described in one word.”

Like some seasoned chefs, Berkman prefers to present an eclectic approach to cooking by finding the best ingredients available and then creatively combining them into something special and cooking them with the best techniques.

While he is still motivated and inspired by standards set in New York, the recipes in his book are simpler and more user friendly. The idea is not to simply give people specific recipes, about 100, but to also share his passion by reminding people that every meal is an opportunity to create a unique moment with loved ones.

“I truly believe that if we pursue creating moments with our loved ones, it can strengthen our relationships,” Berkman said. “Eating together is designed to bring people together, which is where the subtitle of my book comes from.”

The subtitle, which references Empty Bottle Moments, refers to how decorative glass bottle collections resemble guests at a dinner party. Every bottle may be unique, but together they create a celebratory visual metaphor for people.

“I tell [people] that in a sense, we’re all in the kitchen because it’s a symbol of life, full of joy and spills, glorious successes and burnt dishes, tender moments and unnerving chaos,” Berkman includes in his book. “We’re all in the process of learning, growing, and laughing with each other. It’s there that we develop our recipes for cooking and for life.”

In addition to New York, some recipes are also influenced by Berkman’s home. He enjoys sharing these recipes because people are often surprised to discover South African food includes hints of Dutch, British, Portuguese, Indian, and Greek cuisine. The 256-page book with approximately 80 full-color photos will retail for $30. For more information about its summer release, visit here.

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Friday, February 22

Blogging For Kindness: My Den


Sometimes the old saying that “children are a reflection of their parents” holds some truth. At least that seems to be the case for Dan, a hobby blogger who writes My Den.

After learning about the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it, Dan turned to his daughter. They set out to do something together.

“One of the first considerations when I got involved in Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness, was to involve my daughter in the campaign,” says Dan. “I wanted to inculcate a sense of compassion for the less fortunate, especially important, to me anyway, in a society almost obsessed with materialistic wealth.”

Dan, who says he is innately thrifty, had an idea. Why not find something that could benefit the environment and the less fortunate. Together, that’s what they did. After borrowing a van from a friend, they visited 100 to 120 households over a three-day period, asking neighbors for their recyclables.

Once collected, the recyclables raised almost $200; enough money to buy rice, canned food, beverages, and milk powder (and one Barbie doll, a Christmas gift for a 9-year-old girl). Although Dan posted about what they did, like many bloggers, their gift remains anonymous.

“Our donations, like many others, were anonymous and were left at the collection boxes located at a major supermarket chain,” says Dan. “I was at a loss as to who to donate the money to until my daughter saw a television commercial about The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box project.”

The Boys’ Brigade’s mission is to bring cheer to the less fortunate by collecting food items and fulfilling Christmas wishes through The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box. The gift items reach out to more than 3,000 individuals at 180 organizations in Singapore.

But more than that, Dan and his daughter have since committed to do at least one social project together every month. In January, they visited a seniors facility for a day, bringing food along with their kindness. All of it began with social media. Dan began participating in Bloggers Unite shortly after getting involved with Blog Action Day, another program inspired by previous BlogCatalog campaigns.

“Participation in the last Blog Action Day as a platform for change impressed me tremendously,” said Dan. “Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness was my first with BlogCatalog, and I am more than willing to participate in future campaigns, having seen the benefits and ability to do some good.”

Dan joined BlogCatalog approximately six months ago, but has been blogging for almost two years. My Den, which focuses on his love for literature, was his first hobby blog. He also publishes Third Rock From The Sun, which is an environmental awareness blog, and Freebies & Stuff, which reviews free software, desktop utilities, and Web services.

“My Den has definitely gone through many changes since I first started it,” says Dan. “It was a platform for my involvement in joining social campaigns and as my main blog to strike friendships with fellow bloggers. One of the posts that I’ve always derived tremendous satisfaction from was the first publication of a short story that I had written — A Live Unlive — which talks about the plight of the mentally ill.”

It’s an interesting story. One that touches on a subject easily overlooked, but so are a lot of things, like recycling, making a small donation, or sharing an act of kindness with your daughter. It’s nice to know some people don’t overlook these things. People like Dan. Congratulations again!

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Friday, February 15

Blogging For Kindness: Original Me Tees

Not all blogs are cut from the same cloth. Original Me Tees is a good example.

Nathania Johnson, an online marketing consultant, uses the Original Me Tees blog as a promotional tool for her online T-shirt store. The idea originated as an extension of a Caf├ęPress store, which she recently switched to another online print on demand service called Printfection, where you can see her designs.

”The idea is that people dress to express themselves,” says Johnson. “And while we all have differences, we can connect through common threads.”

One common thread for bloggers last year was the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness. It asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The campaign interested Johnson because it gave her a strong idea — wearing compassion.

“It was something I really wanted to put time into,” she said. “It’s a great way to contribute to the blogosphere and the world in general.”

Johnson’s post was one of several recognized by judges after she submitted it for contest consideration. Rather than perform an act of kindness specific to the campaign, she highlighted several charities that she frequently contributes to, suggesting that readers “try on one of these charities to see if it fits in with your personal wardrobe.”

“I felt like mentioning all of the non-profits because I was contributing to them,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, I tend not to talk about any specific monetary donations to charities. For me it’s a spiritual thing. It just feels a bit self-gratuitous.”

Johnson is not alone in feeling that way. Several bloggers said they struggled with the last campaign because they were writing about themselves as opposed to a subject. For many, it was only after people left comments or expressed that they were inspired to contribute an act of kindness that the bloggers understood how sharing kindness tends to spread.

In addition to mentioning several charities, Johnson highlighted several simple acts of kindness beyond supporting non-profits — everyday things you can do to “accessorize” giving. Just three examples include: allowing others to go first, giving up the better parking spot, and being generous and sincere with compliments. Providing options was extremely important to her.

“Everyone is different,” says Johnson. “While supporting Brad Pitt's project to rebuild the 9th Ward of New Orleans might appeal to one person, building wells for villages in the Central African Republic might resonate strongly with someone else.”

She says she views blogging the same way. Shee always considered BlogCatalog best for metabloggers — people who blog about blogging — but she sees Bloggers Unite as a great way to trend in new directions. Expanding niches would certainly benefit the blogger network, Johnson said.

“I've only participated in Bloggers Unite one time so far, but I would participate again if they keep it non-political,” she said. “I used to be quite active with my account for my classic movie blog. There are a lot of good conversations that happen on BlogCatalog.”

Johnson said she is a bit less active since losing her classic movie blog, after her hosting service had a server crash. And, until recently, she hadn’t even found the time to update her other two. In addition blogging for companies where she works, she is actively involved with photography and Improv, and spends as much time with her family as she can.

“I have a wonderful husband, two fantastic kids, and two cute cats,” She said. And a big heart. Congrats again Nathania!

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Friday, February 8

Blogging For Kindness: Ark Of Hope For Children


Last November, I had the pleasure of getting to know the Corbett family through Bloggers Unite, a social awareness campaign spearheaded by BlogCatalog.

The Corbetts are raising 10 children, five of which were adopted from the foster care system (there are 13 family members in all). They are planning to adopt more children as their vision, Ark Of Hope For Children, becomes a reality.

The Ark Of Hope For Children is a planned mini-community that will include 3-6 single family homes on 80 acres of land to provide a nurturing environment for up to 32 children currently sheltered by the Florida foster care system. Even so, the Corbetts are not inwardly focused. They invest time helping others as well.

In fact, their contribution to their community was a perfect match for the last Bloggers Unite campaign, focused on Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The Corbetts submitted a post about a large-scale event they hosted to help those in need around the holidays.

”My family has always volunteered at Gainesville, Florida’s Bread of The Mighty Food Bank,” said Blair Corbett, who wrote the post. “As the holiday season was approaching several years ago, we were informed of a six story building of welfare recipients that was often overlooked because they weren’t quite homeless.”

Rather than sit on the sidelines, the Corbetts adopted the building six years ago. This year, the family and eight volunteers organized a holiday meal for more than 80 people. The meal, consisting of purchased food from local food banks and supermarkets, included everything you might imagine: six turkeys, 10 pounds of ham, lasagnas, 30 pounds of mashed potatoes (real), ten pounds of stuffing, corn, beans, angel food cakes, Jello, and sweet tea.

“We pre-organized as many volunteers as possible to help cook the food, but our guest kitchen chefs became ill, which left all of the cooking to Verna [his wife] and my family,” says Corbett. “Fortunately, the manager and two employees of a local fast food restaurant pre-cooked some food at their location, which was a blessing.”

The sudden outbreak of bronchitis in their community wasn’t the only challenge, but the Corbetts continued to rely on faith. When the shortage of help became overbearing, they paused to pray. When the front door latch of their fully-loaded van broke at the last minute, they rigged up a rope to keep the door shut. When the electricity suddenly went out in the 6-story building, they spent hours trying to find the right breakers.

Yet, for every problem, Corbett says their “mess became their message.” No matter what, you have to be grateful for what you have. And on Dec. 23, they had each other.

“I learned to appreciate life early, after losing my father when I was 12, and my stepfather when I was 18,” says Corbett. “I began following Christ in my mid 30s. Sure, many of our kids are physically or mentally challenged, it has been an uphill climb for our family as we continue to work toward building the first of six foster homes, and it was a tough decision to leave the normal workplace in 2000 to work full time for Ark of Hope. But if you live humbly and unselfishly, I believe you will live in lavish riches that will last for eternity.”

Sometimes those riches are like those experienced by the residents that night. They knew someone cared enough to serve them and listen, even if it was for a short time. The gift was beneficial to the family too, he said. His children, ranging in ages 3 to 24, learned valuable lessons about the joy of service and from prayer requests.

Some residents asked for prayers to have health problems alleviated. Some asked to be reunited with family, whom they had not seen in some time. Most were simply thankful for the food and people to share it with. The Corbett's granddaughter, Krystal, was grateful for the stuffed animals some residents slipped beside her during her nap. And the Corbetts were thankful they could share their story.

“Both my wife and I love taking part in Bloggers Unite because it's an opportunity to write about something we do that has the potential to multiply our efforts,” says Corbett. “Every day, there is something you can do. No matter how small, you can make a difference. We envision the power of Bloggers Unite to be something that will get a lot more people caring about and for others.”

In addition to organizing, cooking, and serving the meal, the Corbett family distributed more than 2,000 pounds of dry goods to the residents afterward.

Update: Recently, Miss Marion County USA joined with the Corbetts to help raise funds. For more information about their efforts, visit Ark Of Hope For Children.

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Tuesday, January 22

Blogging For Kindness: Mental Stimulation


“The world, Rich, needs more togetherness,” she said. “More healing. And I feel Bloggers Unite brings people closer together.”

Simply stated, but inspired.

Dee Graham (a.k.a Iriegal) is one of those bloggers, like many I have met through BlogCatalog’s Bloggers Unite social awareness campaigns, who turns blogging stereotypes inside out and upside down. And maybe that’s because there is no “them.”

You see, Graham was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. But she seldom has time to allow this fact to shed a dour shadow on her life. Instead, she says, she chooses to live life rather than allowing her life to live her. It’s just one of many reasons that she opened a computer repair business last year.

“It was a big step, but I love what I do. I love the freedom of being in charge of my own destiny,” she says, and that includes blogging. “I can’t see myself not blogging. I love to write and I love the connection with people.”

In fact, blending these two passions is what has since led her to create not one, but five different blogs. A Fe Mi Page Dis Iyah to share her love of Jamaica. Time to Eat Mon to share a surprising variety of Jamaican drinks, dishes, and recipes. Postal Jokes to cover an endless assortment of postal humor that touches every corner of the globe. Dark Child where she explores news, politics, celebrities, and everyday life within the African American community. And Mental Stimulation, which she considers her personal blog and where her second place blog post appeared.

As part of the Bloggers Unite campaign, which this time asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it, Graham added on to her 10-year volunteer commitment at a local youth center and decided to visit the senior center.

“I know how lonely it can be during the holidays, especially for the seniors with no family in our community,” Graham said. “I started working with Gladys and she appreciated our time together so much that I decided to stay the week.”

For an entire week, Graham served meals and spent time with Gladys, a 72-year-old woman who sometimes lives at the neighboring senior living center and gets lonely now that her children are older and busy with their own lives. Most of the time, they played hearts or spades, but Graham made a small grocery shopping trip for her as well.

“She was really proud of her children. Her daughter is a nurse and her son is in the military,” Graham said. “Oh, she beat me, by the way.”

For her inspiring account of her service, which was accompanied by a photo taken by the receptionist at the senior center, Graham will receive a 1/2-page advertisement in Blogger & Podcaster magazine. However, Graham never intended to win.

“I’ve been a member of BlogCatalog since August and they’ve become a new family,” she says. “That is what I can truly say about BlogCatalog for me. Family. It is a part of my daily life. Much like doing things for people.”

You don’t have to do big things, she adds. Just small acts of kindness that help your community. But this is no surprise coming from a woman as persevering as Graham.

Her passion for writing grew out of using it to heal after a painful divorce almost five years ago. Her passion for people was made evident in October, when she wrote about her daughter for the first time. Her daughter has autism, which keeps them apart much longer than they would like.

“She is my heart,” say Graham. “It was the happiest time for me in a long time.”

Simply stated, but inspired. Or perhaps better stated, if I am using it correctly, “One Love” as they say in Jamaica.

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Friday, January 11

Blogging For Kindness: Listening..Learning..Living


Sometimes a single photo can lend even more to a story, which is why Bokjae (a name given to him by his Korean business contacts) included this one with his post as part of a social awareness campaign organized by BlogCatalog. The campaign asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it.

Bokjae chose the picture of John Gebhardt comforting a young girl. She was the sole survivor after her family was executed by insurgents in Iraq. Here, she is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.

“In all honesty, we believe John Gebhardt is the real winner because he is one who cared enough to do what he did,” says Bokjae, who originally learned about the story from a friend. “He is the real hero and it would be nice to reference John and his wife Mindy.”

Absolutely. According to the story, the nurses said Gebhardt was the only one who could calm the girl down. So he took it upon himself to hold her every night until she was closer to recovery. It’s amazing story, one that Bokjae says “it touches our hearts and its more than kindness, it’s Love of God who works in willing vessels!”

Although Bokjae, a retired telecommunications manager and qualified electronics specialist, isn’t quick to recognize it, the same can be said about him. He is a full-time caregiver to his wife, who is a stroke survivor.

“At the encouragement of a friend, we started our blog to share our experience through the process of stroke recovery from a caregiver's and a survivor's point of view,” says Bokjae. “One thing we have learned is that there are many kindhearted people in this world who really care. It’s very encouraging.”

Although being homebound, Bokjae is no stranger to service. After retiring, he and his wife became very involved in their local church and several organizations, helping orphans, seniors, and people enrolled in drug rehabilitation programs.

It’s not uncommon in Malaysia, he said. Everyone gives generously to worthy causes, including the corporate sector.

“Malaysians are a caring lot!” explains Bokjae, sharing his enthusiasm for his country. “Malaysian bloggers are no different from those around the world, except for the nuances in expression and Malaysian way of using English!”

In fact, since he first started blogging, he continues to be impressed with the friendships he has made. Blogging, he says, helps break down international boundaries, enhances tolerance, and builds understanding between cultures.

These are also among the reasons that Bokjae decided to participate in Bloggers Unite. He said it was opportunity to contribute something positive to the world, never believing that the judges would select his post.

They did. As one good deed deserves another, he will receive a full page ad in Blogger & Podcaster magazine, an iPod Touch donated by BlogCatalog, and admission to the next BlogWorld conference.

Congratulations again, Bokjae. And on behalf of the judges, thank you for sharing this amazing story as well as your own. It makes us look forward to sharing five more Acts of Kindness stories in the weeks ahead.

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Sunday, November 18

Blogging For Hope: Verna Corbett, Keep It Simple

Shed No Tears

Verna Corbett and her husband Blair know something about children. All together, they are raising 10 children, five of which were adopted from the foster care system. But even more amazing, their hearts remain bigger than this family of 12.

Every day, the Corbetts do their best to heal the pain endured by their five adopted children. Most of them have suffered through extreme neglect as well as severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their birth parents.

Even though they have been valuable members of our family for over five years now we still see weekly, sometimes daily, effects of the abuse they suffered through,” says Corbett. “Some people call me an angel or think I’m just so wonderful, which is just not the case. I am a normal woman who gets frustrated like everyone else that has a heavy heart when it comes to hurting children.”

For Corbett, joining one of 10,000 bloggers who participated in Bloggers Unite, the fourth social awareness campaign organized by BlogCatalog, was natural. So natural, unlike most bloggers who were already BlogCatalog members, she submitted all of her blogs the day before the event — just to participate in the campaign.

While all of the posts are touching testaments to her family’s efforts, one penned by Corbett, Innocence Gone, provided a stirring glimpse into Ark Of Hope for Children, an inspiration that has become a lifelong labor of love and commitment to help heal the hearts of children who have been abused.

The Ark Of Hope for Children is a non-profit organization that will build a Christian-based community of homes to provide stable, loving care for previously abused and neglected children, who are currently among the 32,000 children sheltered by the Florida foster care system (there are more than 512,000 children in the foster care system nationwide).

“We’ve purchased 80 acres to build 3-6 single family homes to act as foster homes, which is fully owned by our 501c3 non-profit organization,” said Corbett. “Each home will house six children plus a pair of on-staff foster parents. Brothers and sisters will then be able to remain together because of the increased bed space.”

Currently, the family is raising funds to pay down the $130,000 balance on the 80-acre property before beginning to raise money to build the homes, but they have other needs as well. To help raise additional funding, slated for the first home, the family has also joined Change.org. Change.org allows people to donate to specific needs to the organization.

Keep in mind that the Corbetts are doing all of this while raising and caring for their own family, which already includes five children saved. Corbett says it can be challenging, especially since the non-profit is separate from their family, but they have faith.

“After we had adopted our children, we would get calls from the school our children went to and the Gainesville (Florida) Shands Hospital informing us of other children who needed good homes,” Corbett said. “This led to a vision that is much bigger than what my family can do. We don’t have many material things that a lot of American families have, but we have God, faith, and love that people can see.”

According to Corbett, more than 162 other BlogCatalog bloggers are now included among those who see their love, faith, and devotion to being part of the solution. She includes the entire BlogCatalog team, who she says were very helpful and gracious in approving all their blogs at the last minute, just for the opportunity to participate in the campaign and enter the Blog For Hope Contest sponsored by Copywrite, Ink. in cooperation with BlogCatalog.

“We want to encourage more people to partner with us and help children who have been through abuse find ways to move past the long-lasting emotional trauma,” explains Corbett. “Doing this effectively will enable them to break the chains of past abuse and move on to lives filled with faith, hope and love. Without this hope, they too often grow up to face homelessness, welfare, and imprisonment because they were never equipped with the knowledge of how not to become like their relatives that abused them.”

Among the prizes, Copywrite, Ink. will be donating any proceeds from “Shed No Tears” T-shirts, which Corbett’s post helped inspire. Knowing that T-shirts tend to help raise awareness more than any tangible funds, I can assure you that this pledge is simply not enough.

The Ark Of Hope needs your support as the Corbetts are doing more than their part; several contractors have offered to provide their services at cost. If you cannot donate for any reason, consider sharing their story with others. If you cannot share their story, save a prayer for them and the lives of 32 more children that hang in the balance. Prayers, at least, are free.

You can start by simply reading Verna Corbett’s winning post. Congratulations again, Verna. And on behalf of the judges, thank you for touching our lives and allowing us to help tell your amazing story.

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Sunday, November 11

Blogging For Hope: Jane Sweat, JerichoMonster

Stop Verbal Abuse


Barbara Sweat (aka Jericho Saved/Jane), who publishes the JerichoMonster blog, never intended to become a popular television blogger (“Best TV Blogger,” in fact, after winning a recent contest held at Hey! Nielsen, where she took first place).

Originally, she was inspired to blog because of her love for the CBS series Jericho, which became the fastest television show cancellation reversal in history after fans sent more than 40,000 pounds of nuts to CBS (among other things). Her blog was one of many that increased awareness about the cancellation protest. A short second season is expected in January.

Sweat is still a dedicated fan, but her blog has since evolved from covering one show to covering many shows and topics. Now, she frequently interviews fans, bloggers, journalists, critics, production crew members, and celebrities.

Recently, she also participated as one of the 10,000 bloggers who contributed to the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign organized by BlogCatalog. The challenge called for an end to abuse. (The blogger was allowed to choose the type of abuse.)

“I felt and feel that verbal abuse is a very important topic to discuss even though it may be uncomfortable,” says Sweat. “Exposing all types of abuse allows bloggers to reach people who may feel helpless and hopeless. Using JerichoMonster, I felt, was a way to reach people who may visit my blog, never expecting to find a topic about abuse, and who might not otherwise search for this type of information.”

Sweat says the topic is especially relevant because she had endured verbal abuse from her mother all her life. As the words and labels embedded themselves, she recognizes that they began to shape her feelings about the world and, more importantly, herself. They no longer speak.

Sweat’s Bloggers Unite post chronicles how verbal abuse sometimes escalates from put-downs under the guise of jokes into disparaging comments that aim to control, manipulate, and intimidate, leaving an impact on the victim forever. It also alternates between facts about verbal abuse and two fictional characters developed by her and her friend Beth.

The characters, Edna and Margie (who are two “elderly sisters” purported to live in Jericho), were created for Amy Vernon’s “Jericho Guest Blogger” experiment at the Remote Access TV blog. Although the characters are most often used to make observations about the fictional town as if they were part of it, Sweat thought that Edna and Margie’s conversation could drive the point home about abuse. The “voices” are their voices and the stories are very real.

“I can recall my mother, for example, telling me that I was worthless,” said Sweat. “It hurt … but if you look at the person who is verbally abusing you, you may find they are the ones who feel even more inferior.”

Sweat’s post earned second place in the Blog For Hope Post Competition, sponsored by Copywrite, Ink. in cooperation with BlogCatalog. Among the prizes, Copywrite, Ink. will be donating any proceeds from Bloggers Unite “Verbal Abuse” T-shirts to the Family Violence Protection Fund. The post helped inspire a simple design that aims to dispel the myth that names don’t hurt people.

As her writing partner Beth added: verbal abuse is one of the most overlooked forms of abuse. While there are no physical signs and it leaves no bruises that can be seen, it can damage self-esteem, especially in children when their parents and siblings represent their most trusted sources of information. Parents and siblings tend to be believed.

“It was an honor to help blog about such an important issue,” said Beth. “And I was very glad that I asked to participate in the Blogging Against Abuse contest."

Sweat says they were encouraged to blog about abuse after learning about Bloggers Unite at BlogCatalog, where she has been a member for six months. She also said that she originally joined BlogCatalog to learn about social media and how to drive more traffic to her blog.

Since, she has discovered a community of bloggers who share advice about a number of blogging issues. Participating in Bloggers Unite campaigns is especially rewarding to her. And, from what she says, she is not the only one.

“It has definitely made a difference to people who read my blog, and it has made a big difference to me,” Sweat said. “Being allowed to share my experiences has been very cathartic. I really hope those who abuse others will find the post and break the cycle.”

Sweat and her writing partner included a number of sources where victims and perpetrators can find help, counseling, and support. The judges commented that their post has the potential to touch everyone because everyone, at one time or another, is the victim of verbal abuse. In addition, we sincerely hope Sweat learns that the next step in healing is forgiving the perpetrators, which removes the power and influence of the abuser.

It also greatly aids victims in their ability to heal. And, as I sometimes remind people, we are neither the labels that others assign nor the behaviors we sometimes exhibit. The power of choice resides within us all. Excellent post. Congratulations again, Barbara.

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Sunday, November 4

Blogging For Hope: Lisa Wines, O My Word

artheals
Lisa Wines, who pens of o my word, is as authentic as they come. The youngest of six children who moved from Philadelphia to Phoenix, she graduated a year early from high school and chose a life filled with drug smugglers, prostitutes, their attorneys, and other “interesting” people. Wines also knows about abuse.

“I have experienced different kinds of abuse in life, primarily a rape while in college, where I was held captive in a guy’s house for a couple days and then hospitalized,” says Wines. “It’s interesting that I didn’t write about my own experience. I guess I’m not ready for that.”

Instead, as one of 10,000 bloggers who participated in Bloggers Unite, a social awareness campaign organized by BlogCatalog, Wines decided to write about her friend Robert Miley, an artist in Arizona who developed an art workshop curriculum for abused and at-risk youth.

“I have known Robert Miley for years and have always been touched by his work with abused children,” she says. “I think art can be magically healing. People can express their emotions, rage, sadness, fear, through art, and get beyond the pain and move forward.”

Wines’ post received first place in the Blog For Hope Post Competition, sponsored by Copywrite, Ink. in cooperation with BlogCatalog. Among the prizes, Copywrite, Ink. will be donating $250 to Robert Miley’s Release The Fear in her name as well as proceeds from “Art Heals” T-shirts, which her post helped inspire. According to Wines, her post also represents the most she has done for Miley’s worthwhile endeavor.

“I had been self-absorbed for many years … working myself to death. I never seemed to have time for Robert’s or any other charity. But he would lure me in here and there,” she said. “I have helped him with minor writing tasks and have shown up at meetings and events. But I have never played a major role. I was very happy to finally draw attention to his work through my blog.”

While it doesn’t read like a new blog, o my word is relatively young to the blogosphere. Wines, a freelance commercial writer, started it in March as an essay blog that features observations and confessions about her life. Filled with little bits of wisdom from living an unconventional lifestyle, she shares anything and everything that happens to strike her. Often amusing and always straightforward, she also writes about her adventures as an American living in Paris

“I love my o my word blog, but have a love/hate relationship with my political blog,” she confesses. “Things are bleak in America today, so I get tired of bitching. Instead, I prefer reminiscing or telling stories about my life.”

In some ways, the Miley post in an exception, sparked by the Bloggers Unite campaign. Wines became interested in the campaign after reading how many bloggers were making a difference. She immediately thought of Miley.

“I think children need to feel safe, and then feel that they can be loved,” she says. “They need a way to express themselves and to shed the shame that is always associated with abuse.”

The six judges — two from BlogCatalog, two from Copywrite, Ink., and two who are not affiliated with social media — thought so too. Their decision to recognize Wines’ post was based on this program’s ability to help heal the pain associated with abuse. Although unrelated, Miley’s program is similar to “Gaining Your Voice Through The Arts,” a juried art show that highlighted artists who also use art as a means for healing in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Like Release The Fear, Gaining Your Voice focused on teaching people to transform their pain and suppressed emotions as an abuse victim into something else. By doing so, it helps abuse victims change the way they think about their experience and helps others to gain their voice as well.

It’s a solution — whether written in a blog or splashed across a canvas or captured in a photograph — that has been proven to work. Just ask Wines. Despite her own painful experiences, she still maintains an infectious sense of humor — the least of which is exemplified by her request for donations to buy some Depends. (Not really, but that’s what makes it funny.) Congratulations again, Lisa.

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Saturday, October 27

Posting For Hope: Bloggers Unite


On Sept. 27, BlogCatalog became the first social network to ask its members to collectively call for an End To Abuse. On thousands of blogs all over the world on the same day, BlogCatalog members and other bloggers did.

Google revealed more than 66,000 mentions of “Bloggers Unite” and abuse; more than 10,000 of those included “BlogCatalog,” linking back to the campaign so other bloggers could be discovered. Collectively, it represents a powerful call for awareness and action that is hard to ignore: links, comments, etc.

But are these the measures? In terms of increasing awareness across the Internet perhaps. But more important than any numbers are the individual posts themselves. Each, on their own, had the power to touch people’s lives. These represent the real outcomes.

To highlight a few, Copywrite, Ink., in cooperation with BlogCatalog, invited any blogger who participated in this campaign to submit a link and other measurements for consideration in our Blog For Hope Post Competition.

Six judges painstakingly read more than 100 entries, representing a mere sliver of Bloggers Unite posts written by thousands of bloggers. From these, we tasked ourselves to select eight. While there are no losers, we’re pleased to highlight a sampling of the work from caring individuals who made a difference. The work speaks for itself...

Highlighted Bloggers — Three Powerful Posts

First Place — Lisa Wines, O my word

Wines wrote about an everyday hero. Robert Miley (pictured), an artist in Phoenix, has developed a workshop curriculum for abused children and at-risk youth to discover themselves and gain empathy for others through art. Art is often used as a medium for children who have suffered abuse to transform their pain and association with the abuse into something manageable. Wines’ efforts to recognize Miley through Bloggers Unite brings awareness to a technique that helps victims cope with abuse.

Second Place — Barbara Sweat (Jane), Jericho Monster

Sweat chronicled how verbal abuse sometimes escalates from put-downs under the guise of jokes into disparaging comments that aim to control, manipulate, and intimidate, leaving an impact on the victim forever. She then gave readers information from several sources and prompted the victims of verbal abuse to contact the state branch of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence if the abuse crosses into domestic violence.

Third Place — Verna Corbett, Keep It Simple Solutions

Corbett revealed a very personal story of how, by learning more about the foster care system, she was personally touched and moved to action. Her family has adopted ten children from the foster care program and is now working to build a group of homes for siblings, children and youth on 80 acres of land so they may receive the caring, understanding, and unconditional love they deserve.

Honorable Mentions — Five More Touching Posts

Hartley B. Singer, PetLvn summarized dozens of powerful posts to call for an end to animal abuse. He includes information about what you can do to help.

The NAFASG Team, NAFASG captivated readers with a powerful tribute to a Nurin Jazlin, who was abducted and murdered. The story is shocking; the call to action memorable, with scores of people joining their efforts to end child abuse.

CreativeBlogger used ProBlogs to share the undeniably tragic story from Africa — adults infected with HIV sexually assaulting children, which is a death sentence beyond the abuse these children already endure.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel, Jewelry Tales, gave up space to recount her personal story of abuse, demonstrating true courage in sharing her story so that others might know they are not alone.

Saphyre Rose, Sun And Moon Sorcery, who is a 25-year cancer survivor, stopped us with a powerful introduction: I was a victim of abuse. She shares her personal experience and prompts victims to have the courage to take action.

In the weeks ahead, I will be contacting the first three bloggers, mentioned above, to make arrangements so they may receive additional recognition. For details, please visit the competiton post. We will also be profiling one of the first three bloggers, every Sunday, starting next week. Thank you for touching us. Thank you for making a difference. And thank you for giving us hope.

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Tuesday, September 18

Blogging For Hope: BlogCatalog.com

“Sept. 27. will be the first time in history that social network members will collectively promote a single social awareness issue on hundreds of blogs all over the world on the same day,” said Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com. “They chose the topic and it’s a call to end abuse.”

If there is any truth to the idea that one good deed deserves another, then BlogCatalog.com’s Call To End Abuse, which is its third social awareness campaign, certainly qualifies. While the topic is broad, the blogger-driven campaign promises to raise awareness of abuse-related subjects and related non-profits around the world.

In cooperation with BlogCatalog.com, Copywrite, Ink. is inviting any blogger who participates in the campaign to submit a link to their Sept. 27 abuse awareness post along with two weeks of measurable results for a contest designed to benefit others while drawing additional recognition to bloggers who do good.

Blog For Hope Post Competition

The Challenge. Simply post about some form of abuse on your blog as planned on Sept. 27 and then track any measurable results (traffic counts, comments, links from others, recognition from charity or media, donations collected or made to a charity as applicable, etc.) for two weeks. Your name and address must be included on the e-mailed entry (we will publish pseudonyms upon request; this information will not be used for any other purpose).

The Submission. Please submit the link to your post in the body of an e-mail along with any measurable results to blogforhope@yahoo.com by no later than 5 p.m. PST on Oct. 10, 2007. Title the post “Blog For Hope Entry.”

Entry fee. Nada. Zero.

First Place.
• $250 (U.S.) donated to a recognized charity of your choice in your name.
• Six months of premium services from BlogCatalog.com
• Choice of any “Bloggers Unite” T-shirt, mug, or other product.
• Your blog and post topic profiled on Nov. 4 by the Copywrite, Ink. blog.
• A “Bloggers Unite” product design based on your post, which will include your blog address (proceeds will benefit charity), and design featured on the Back Lot Projects store blog with a direct link to your post. Additional recognition on BlogCatalog.com, Copywrite, Ink., and National Business Community Blog.

Second Place.
• Three months of premium services from BlogCatalog.com
• Choice of any “Bloggers Unite” T-shirt, mug, or other product.
• Your blog and post topic profiled on Nov. 11 by the Copywrite, Ink. blog.
• A “Bloggers Unite” product design based on your post, which will include your blog address (proceeds will benefit charity), and design featured on the Back Lot Projects store blog with a direct link to your post. Additional recognition on BlogCatalog.com, Copywrite, Ink., and National Business Community Blog.

Third Place.
• One month of premium services from BlogCatalog.com
• Choice of any “Bloggers Unite” T-shirt, mug, or other product.
• Your blog and post topic profiled on Nov. 18 by the Copywrite, Ink. blog.
• A “Bloggers Unite” product design based on your post, which will include your blog address (proceeds will benefit charity), and design featured on the Back Lot Projects store blog with a direct link to your post. Additional recognition on BlogCatalog.com, Copywrite, Ink., and National Business Community Blog.

Honorable Mentions.
• Up to five honorable mentions to be included in the winners release.

Winners will be announced on Oct. 27, 2007. Entry assumes that you agree to allow us the right to republish portions of your post in the event you win and make yourself available to answer a few e-mail questions for the winners’ profiles to be published at Copywrite, Ink.

Judging. Post will be judged on the basis of the quality of the post (be accurate, clear, concise, human, and conspicuous), the abuse subject or charity mentioned in your post, and any additional measurements submitted. Judges will include two members of BlogCatalog.com, two members of Copywrite, Ink., and two outside judges with no affiliation to either company.

Additional. You do not have to be a BlogCatalog.com member to enter. We reserve the right to not award some or all prizes if no suitable entries are submitted. Neither BlogCatalog.com or Copywrite, Ink. employees are eligible to participate. All decisions by the judges are final. The first place cash prize will NOT be awarded to the first place winner personally (but rather to a charity instead) and therefore the winner shall not be entitled to receive an income tax deduction for such prize contribution.

If you have additional questions or comments, feel free to post them in the comment section of this post. The sole purpose of this contest is to have fun, recognize causes against abuse, and bloggers who use their blogs for good.

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Sunday, September 16

Writing Fan Fiction: Ray Hayton


On August 31, we announced the winners of an unofficial Expanded Universe Short Story Competition fan fiction contest to promote Jericho for the fans, expand its universe (outside of the town where it largely takes place on television), and demonstrate the possibilities of its rich story line. Today, we’re proud to present the work of Ray Hayton, also known as hrayton at Jericho Rally Point. We hope you enjoy this story that takes us back to the opening of the show. Congratulations to Ray Hayton!

Letters To The Lost
by Ray Hayton


Brian Weber was ten years old. He and his sister Tricia attended Olive Elementary School in Novato, California, a small town located a few miles north of San Francisco.

They were walking home from school on Sept. 19, just like they did every day. And then it happened.

A bright flash lit the horizon to the south of them; and Brian was just old enough to know what that meant. Tricia sobbed hysterically, more upset that she wet herself than what the implications of the bright light meant.

Brian already seemed to know that his mom and dad were never going to be coming home again. He felt the tears welling up, but didn't let them spill over. His little sister needed him.

Tricia was six. She was in first grade this year, and the two of them walked to school every day together. His mom always told him, "take care of your sister, Brian, and be careful today."

Brian took this responsibility seriously. So he grabbed Tricia’s hand began to run home, six long blocks from school. While Tricia went to her room to change, Brian started making some peanut butter sandwiches. They always made everything better.

The two of them always made it home from school about an hour and a half before his mother did. She worked in Sausalito, the town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. His father owned a small software development company in San Francisco, and he always worked later.

Brian froze for a second, feeling dizzy and sick. Then, he slowly smoothed the peanut butter across the bread. Things will be fine. Just make some sandwiches. The power will come back on.

Outside, he could hear people shouting; a siren somewhere off in the distance.

When Tricia came down, Brian got her settled in at the kitchen table with a coloring book, a peanut butter sandwich, and a glass of milk from the fridge. And then he slipped outside to take another look at the monstrous cloud to the south.

His neighbor, Mr. Friedman, was running toward his house. Mr. Friedman's son, Josh, was a year older than Brian. He was kind of a jerk, but they did hang out occasionally.

"Mr. Friedman!" Brian shouted. "What's happening!?"

Brian hated the whine that he could hear in his own voice. It revealed how he felt. It said he was about to cry and couldn’t do anything about it.

"Brian! Are your parents home by any chance?"

Brian shook his head. Friedman muttered something under his breath for a moment, put his hands to his head, and looked up at Brian standing in the doorway.

"Okay," he said. "Brian, I want you and your sister to meet me at our house in ten minutes, okay? It's very important that you guys come over in a bit, all right? Pack a small bag … for a sleepover … but I have to go now."

As Mr. Friedman started jogging toward his home, Brian went back inside.

"Look, Brian!" Tricia said, as she held up the coloring book. "I finished the ponies!"

"Cool, Trish!" Brian responded, "They look great! Hey Trish, how would you feel about having a sleepover at the Friedmans’ tonight?"

Tricia thought about it for a second and then her whole face lit up. She knew Abby Friedman well enough. She babysat them occasionally. She was 15 and Tricia absolutely idolized her.

"Will Abby be there?"

Brian nodded, "I'm pretty sure, Trish."

She nodded.

Brian wolfed down his peanut butter sandwich, hurriedly packed a small bag, and then went in to help Tricia pack hers. He added some snacks and a couple cans of soda from the fridge to his backpack. And then he added some coloring books for Tricia.

Brian grabbed the yellow legal pad from the kitchen counter, and wrote a quick note out for his mom and dad.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Mr. Friedman asked us to spend the night. Tricia and I will be over there. Okay? Please don’t be mad. I love you. See you later.

— Brian and Trish


Brian taped the note to the front door and they started walking toward the Friedman home. The entire family was packing their old Bronco. Within minutes, they were gone.

All up and down Cherry Street, indeed, all over Novato and the San Francisco suburbs, notes on front doors rustled and flapped in the wind.

Letters to the lost.

Disclaimer: Jericho and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Neither Ray Hayton, Richard Becker, nor Copywrite, Ink. is affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.

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Sunday, September 9

Writing Fan Fiction: Myles McNutt


On August 31, we announced the winners of an unofficial Expanded Universe Short Story Competition fan fiction contest to promote Jericho for the fans, expand its universe (outside of the town where it largely takes place on television), and demonstrate the possibilities of its rich story line. Today, we’re proud to present the work of Myles McNutt, who also writes about television on his blog Cultural Learnings. We hope you enjoy the story that takes the show's universe far forward. And congratulations to Myles McNutt!

Dear Journal by Myles McNutt

Dear Journal,

People tend to exaggerate things when they talk in the post-bomb era. They don't have statistics or facts; it is commonplace to hear people throwing around statements like "everyone's lives are more difficult because of the bombs."

I stand an exception to this statement, a constant reminder that blanket statements are still a faux pas, even in our new nation. In all honesty, my life was easier in the wake of the attacks. Business was better than ever, in fact.

A world traumatized with fear is a psychiatrist's dream come true.

I won't deny being opportunistic after the bombs dropped. Before I had always approached my job with the greatest of care, treating each patient with my utmost attention. However, I was lured in by the curvy temptress of “opportunity,” who provides a bright, bountiful, and selfish future in this time of great turmoil.

Hundreds of patients walked into my office suffering from fear and anxiety. Before, I had to dig deep to find the root of their issue. Now, I listened to their concerns, nodded my head, and informed them that I thought their problems stemmed from the bombs. It was always the bombs.

Off they would go with a prescription that might never be filled, thanks to the government’s tight control of the drug supplies. I sat back with my cheques and wondered whether I was being honest with myself.

It was when I sent poor Ms. Gillis back off into the streets of the Big Apple with her worthless prescription, knowing full well I did little to earn the $500 sitting in front me, that I heard a noise.

"Excuse me, Dr. Forest?"

The voice at the door startled me. Her silhouette was tall and curvy. I swallowed.

"That's my name," I said in the disinterested voice I didn't have before the bombs. "You here for an appointment? There's a long waiting list, I'm sure that my reception…"

"I've already spoken to your receptionist, she said you'd be free," the woman informed me as she stepped further into the room. Electricity being at a premium, the lighting is always dim. I could make out her long brown hair and business suit. She didn't look or sound as if she was damaged goods.

"Well, I guess I could see a patient during my lunch…"

"Actually," she interrupted again, "I'm not a patient. My name is Keri Thorne and I represent an agency doing work in the … relief effort. We were wondering if you would like to assist us with a project."

I was intrigued: I had heard of some psychiatrists going out with relief teams to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, but I had never been approached.

"What kind of project? I have appointments booked for a month or so, but I can head out into the field at the end of…"

"Actually," Thorne said with a bit of an impatient tone, "We don't do field work."

"Oh. Well then…"

I was too perplexed to guess at just what she did, but too nervous to ask. She was standing dangerously close to my desk.

"We work with those individuals who are getting in the way of the relief effort, if you will."

I still didn't know what she was talking about, so I simply nodded and she continued.

"It has come to the point where communities that once fought one another are turning their eyes toward the government's actions or, as it may be, their inactions," she said. "And so, we need to keep them from becoming a problem."

"So, why do you need a psychiatrist?" I managed to spit, the question burning in my mind.

"We're having some troubles in rural areas and some of the radicals are becoming more difficult to deal with. They are fiercely led, and those that we are capturing are … anxious, if you will."

I could have sworn she winked at me when she said it.

"Um, so, what do you need me for? If you're working for the government, which I think you are, surely you have access to…"

"Oh yes, Dr. Forest, we have all the tools we need to keep the situation under control," she said. "We just need to make it seem more, you know … official. Having a doctor present would make all the difference in, well, closing their prying eyes."

I finally understood what they were asking. They wanted me to be the doctor who gave them permission to destroy the minds of the people fighting for their communities, their livelihood. I swallowed loudly, again, and I think she noticed.

"I'm sorry," I said slowly as a shiver came over my body, "But I won't be able to do it. I, well…"

"I'm disappointed, Dr. Forest. From what your receptionist said, you've been willing to take advantage of these people before. I figured that serving your country might be…"

"You call that serving your country?!"

I was shocked by my own outburst, but Thorne simply frowned and started walking toward the door.

"Dr. Forest, this conversation never happened. Someone else, someone luckier than yourself, will benefit from our new future," she said, walking out the door. I never saw her again.

The next day my medical license was revoked and I learned that my colleague a few streets down had resigned from his practice and headed west with the government. I lost my job and my livelihood in that moment. But I regained something greater — my conscience.

I write this from a refugee camp in the Midwest. In front of my tent, there is a line of people waiting for me to ease their fears and help their condition.

They are no longer cheques to me, but people. And my job, in the post-bomb era, is to make their lives easier.

Dr. John Forest

Disclaimer: "Jericho and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Neither Myles McNutt, Richard Becker, nor Copywrite, Ink. is affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.

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Sunday, September 2

Writing Fan Fiction: Nick Lysne


On Friday, we announced the winners of an unofficial Expanded Universe Short Story Competition fan fiction contest to promote Jericho for the fans, expand its universe (outside of the town where it largely takes place on television), and demonstrate the possibilities of its rich story line. Today, we’re proud to present the work of Nick Lysne, also known as Redzephyr at Jericho Rally Point. We Hope you enjoy. And congratulations to Nick Lysne!

Checkmate by Nick Lysne

Under heavy pressure, the knight was forced to pull back behind the defensive line of infantrymen, mere pawns of the kingdom. He had been making progress, but that was put to an end with the introduction of the queen.

The bishops kept a narrow-eyed watch, ready always to intercept any threat to their king. One of the towers had fallen moments ago, and the entire offense had shuddered, pushed back.

Cam pursed his lips, his fingers still resting atop the retreating knight. His eyes swept across the board as he considered his options and those of his opponent. He would be safe for now. His hand left the white knight.

"Almost had you," Hermon chuckled with a kind smile adorning his old man's wrinkled face as he too surveyed the board.

Cam grinned. "Almost."

Hermon advanced one of his pawns in support of his other forces.

"You know, I'm really glad you all showed up, Cameron," he paused, taking a sip of his tea. "I've not had this much fun since before the Day! Hell, it was some time before ... and now Julia has someone to play with, too. Things were getting tough for her."

"Come on, Hermon... You're the one doing us a favor!"

The white queen advanced two spaces.

It had been a couple of months since the Day. Cam had been lucky; his family and most of his friends had not.

If the bombs had gone off even twelve hours earlier, he would have shared their fate. He had begun to think of his survival as a complete and total miracle, despite being non-religious.

The day before, he had been out of state, picking up his long awaited prize from eBay: a military surplus Humvee. It had cost him about twenty grand, and he could barely afford it. But Cam had always wanted a real one — none of that glamorized civilian stuff. When he returned to the apartment, he had been greeted by his friend Mike, and Mike's daughter, Natalie.

The old man shook his head and shifted one of his knights to the side.

"It's nothing, honestly. We have more than enough."

The television had gone out first. And it was when Cam had gone to turn it back on, he saw the cloud, far in the distance. He realized it would take much more than a another push of a button to make his TV work again. Natalie, barely eight years old, was very curious about the big, bright spectacle out the window. Mike had been unable to find adequate words to explain it to her. He hadn't been able to explain it to himself.

"We can't stay here forever, though," Cam said, taking a pawn and covering his attacking bishop with his remaining rook. Hermon took the bishop anyway, sacrificing a rook.

"There are a few places you could try that aren't that far away."

After a tense conversation, they had taken as much as they could carry from Cam's apartment. His rifles, handguns, ammunition, food, clothing, blankets. All of it was stowed in the back of the Humvee before they locked up and headed to Mike's own apartment.

"There's Jericho if you continue north."

Cam tilted his head. "Jericho?"

Collecting what else they could fit, they had hit the roads and started on their way. The plan had been to check on family and friends, starting with the closest ones.

"Julia and I made the trip up a few weeks ago ... they're hanging on pretty well, from what I could see."

It took longer than they wanted, running into traffic jams and roadblocks. Over the course of the next several days, conditions spiraled away from the shrinking number of police and mobilized guardsmen. Cam and Mike both had had to shoot bandits; lucky to avoid being shot themselves.

Hermon pushed forward in an aggressive strike that cost Cam dearly.

"Hah!"

"Damn!" Cam laughed. "Would they take us? Jericho, I mean."

After almost two months, they began to get desperate. They were lucky enough to find an abandoned house with a large fuel tank and extra gas cans. They stocked the Humvee again. It had served them faithfully, running long after most other vehicles failed. Running after taking a few bullets for them.

"But with that new mayor, I'm not so sure," Hermon frowned, continuing his attack. "Check."

Cam's heart fell. He was almost hopeful for all Hermon’s talk. He moved his king out of danger, but lost his second bishop for it.
They had been starving when they found the house, nestled in a thicket of trees. It was off the road by a good margin, and one could not actually spot it from there.

It was the aroma of baking bread that had caught their attention next. And Natalie, being the child she was, went right up to the door and knocked.

Their concern for her turned out to be needless. Hermon, a baker by trade, and his granddaughter, Julia, wouldn’t harm anyone.

Hermon sprung his trap.

"Don't worry. You go on and you ask for Johnston Green, and tell him you're my friend. He'll help you. Also, check."

Cam moved his king once more, but he could see that it was too late to save the fleeing monarch.

The old man offered a toothy grin. "Checkmate."

Disclaimer: "Jericho and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Neither Nick Lysne, Richard Becker, nor Copywrite, Ink. is affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.

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Friday, August 31

Testing Contests Online: Jericho Fan Fiction


On July 29, we launched the Expanded Universe Short Story Competition with the dual purpose of expanding the Jericho universe and promoting the show where it could not otherwise be promoted. Did it work? Consider the mini work plan…

The Objective. Promote Jericho. Demonstrate the potential depth of a storyline beyond the show. Create a communication bridge between the buzz marketing efforts of fans and the start of the new season (which is still to be measured).

The Solution. Launch a Jericho-themed short story contest that asked writers, contest entrants, and Jericho fans to write about the world beyond the town, while encouraging others to learn about the show.

The Results. More than 50 sites, blogs, and social networks (the majority of them not related to the show) promoted the contest, driving more than 2,000 unique visitors to our blog last month.

Approximately 60 percent of these visitors did not originate from Jericho-related sites and sources; thousands more bypassed our blog all together and visited the CBS Jericho Web site direct or Wikipedia entries as suggested material for background information. We received about two dozen entries, which is a solid return given the specificity of the contest and fan-oriented prizes.

The cost per impression, employing only social media, was minimal. About one cent per impression. The promotion for the show doesn’t end here. After we announce the winners, we will run the first three finishers in the weeks ahead.

The Winners. We asked our judges (not all of them Jericho fans) to rate submissions based on originality, clarity, humanity, and vividness. No names were included on the printed versions, ensuring every story would stand on its own.

It was not easy. Suffice to say that we may be announcing winners today, but there were no losers. Toward the end of the selection, even the most finite details were considered, including whether the writers had met the contest criteria.

Looking back, I wish I would have included additional slots for honorable mentions as one theme was persistent across all judge comments: all of the entries had merit. While some stories were better crafted than others, the passion that most submitters had for the show was not only apparent, but admirable.

The vividness of the stories was exceptional. Every perspective was unique, ranging from foreign correspondents covering the crisis and preachers finding their purpose to the comfort found in family pets and being isolated at an archaeological dig on that day. So, even if not listed here, I strongly encourage all of the authors to share their stories as they deserve an audience. With that said, these are the three who will be sharing for the next three Sundays on our blog…

First Place. “Checkmate” by Nick Lysne (British Columbia, Canada)

Second Place. “Dear Journal” by Myles McNutt (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Third Place. “Letters To The Lost” by Ray Hayton (California, U.S.A.)

Congratulations to you all. We look forward to sharing your stories in the weeks ahead and will be contacting you this weekend. We will also be writing about Jericho consumer marketing efforts tomorrow, but please do not forget we will be running the first place story this Sunday. All our best!

Disclaimer: "Jericho” and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Copywrite, Ink. is not affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.

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Saturday, August 11

Mixing Messages: CBS To Jericho Fans

On one hand, CBS is doing everything right with Jericho (although seeing a corporation encourage what started as a hip fan-based “Jericho Digg-a-thon” is a bit out of the ordinary). On the other hand, CBS went with an exhibition game featuring the Bills vs. Saints last night.

While there is nothing wrong with that (football is big bucks, even in preseason), it rightfully raised the dander of some fans. The reason? Miscommunication or a lack of communication all together.

When you have several thousand fans promoting a show at a set time every Friday night, they feel kind of silly when their friends call them, e-mail them, or twit them back to ask “What show?” It’s not the first time this week someone noted CBS seems to have two messages…

“We want them to watch at 8 o'clock," Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, told The New York Times. “And we need them to recruit viewers who are going to watch the broadcast."

“So at the end of the day, as long as I'm getting paid for it, I don't care whether you are watching CSI on CBS at 9 p.m. on Thursday night, on your DVR, if you are getting it on Amazon.com, or CBS.com,” said Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, Inc. to The New Yorker's Ken Auletta three days later. “So once again, the distinction, you are still watching CSI.”

Wow. If that’s true, then Jericho fans have a lot more leverage than I imagined. If that’s true, then Jericho fans are almost certain to have a third season. If that’s true, then “if” seems to be the operative word when it comes to Jericho.

Sometimes people seem unsure about my suggestion to develop consistent messages from a core message system that resonates throughout a company and then outward through various audiences, regardless of the company’s size. But the quotes above provide the reason. CBS cannot be dependent on the Nielsen ratings and free from it at the same time. Can they? And here I thought quantum physics was more likely to be found in Eureka.

There are six days left to enter Copywrite, Ink.'s contribution to consumer-generated Jericho buzz:. The free “Expanded Universe Short Story Competition” entry deadline is Aug. 17.

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Saturday, July 28

Expanding Jericho: Season Two Fan Fiction


It seems Jericho fans had plenty of reason to cheer this week. CBS recognized fans for sending custom label water bottles; launched a blog called The Salty Scoop; made plans to promote Jericho Season 2 at Comic-Con in San Diego; and sent out a promising message from Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, publicly stating that while the rerun ratings are modest, 23 percent of the viewers currently watching first season Jericho reruns never watched the show before (hat tip to Jericho Saved).

“Just as encouraging, this research shows that one million viewers who left the show after the mid-season hiatus have returned this summer to catch up on the episodes they missed,” Tassler said. “We still have a LONG way to go. But, I wanted to share this news and express our continued appreciation for your support of " Jericho." You have quickly and firmly established "Jericho" as the show with the most passionate and vocal fan community on television. Please keep spreading the word.”

All right. We’ll lend an unofficial assist that we will promote deep …

Every now and again, I have an idea that I want to see come to fruition. One of them is the expansion of the Jericho Universe. While the waters have been tested a bit by fans, we kicked an idea around the office last week on how we might capture new viewers while expanding the Jericho Universe. Done.

Expanded Universe Short Story Competition

The Story. Write a 250- to 1,000-word short story about something happening in the expanded universe of Jericho (outside of Jericho) with original characters. While Jericho can be mentioned, please refrain from using anything that may interfere with future plot lines. Your name and address must be included on the e-mailed entry (we will publish pseudonyms upon request).

The Submission. Please submit the story in the body of an e-mail (no attachments, please) to expanduniverse@yahoo.com by no later than 5 p.m. PST on Aug. 17, 2007.

Entry fee. Nada. Zero.

First Place.
• The story published on the Copywrite, Ink. blog on Sept. 2, 2007
• An authentic hand-signed autographed picture of Skeet Ulrich (above)
Jericho- The first season on DVD (upon release)
• Choice of Copywrite, Ink. “Covering Nuts” or “Remember Jericho” T-shirt

Second Place.
• The story published on the Copywrite, Ink. blog on Sept. 9, 2007
Jericho– Official 11x17 reproduction poster
• Choice of Copywrite, Ink. “Covering Nuts” or “Remember Jericho” T-shirt

Third Place.
• The story published on the Copywrite, Ink. blog on Sept. 16, 2007
• Choice of Copywrite, Ink. “Covering Nuts” or “Remember Jericho” T-shirt

Winners will be announced on Aug. 31, 2007. Entry assumes that you agree to grant us first electronic rights (only) for publication on this blog in the event you win. If you do not win, you retain all rights. And by entering, you also agree that the story you submit is your own original work.

Tips. As we tell any writers, be accurate, clear, concise, human, and conspicuous. Since we are writers, spelling and grammar count. We also reserve the right to edit the stories and/or not award some or all prizes if no suitable entries are submitted.

If you are unfamiliar with Jericho, you might visit the Emmy-nominated site for backgrounders. If you have any questions, feel free to comment.

If you need additional inspiration, visit tomorrow because I’ll be posting a fan-fiction piece that I wrote last weekend (geez, hope you like it). Naturally, my example is not eligible to win nor can anyone else employed by Copywrite, Ink. enter.

Disclaimer: "Jericho” and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Copywrite, Ink. is not affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.


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