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Double Take: Contest on to select new co-author

Dr. Wes: Today begins the eighth contest to find the 10th co-author of Double Take. The winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship from Dr-Wes.com, plus $100 from Central National Bank for the winner’s freshman year at college. Even more valuable is the line item on a college app. In addition to writing Double Take, co-authors make TV, radio and live appearances with me. This year, so did the runner-up.

Submission deadline is 8 p.m. Friday, April 26. Interviews are tentatively set for the weekend of May 4. Here’s what it takes to join a remarkable group of young people for the 10th anniversary of Double Take:

• 2014 area high school senior or exceptional junior. We’ve had five winners from Free State, three from LHS, and one from Bishop Seabury; seven girls and two guys; one junior and eight seniors.

• One-year commitment from August 2013 through August 2014.

• Skilled writer for class projects or, preferably, yearbook or school paper.

• Sufficient maturity and sensibility to be credible when writing about sex, relationships, substance abuse, school, technology, mental health, etc.

• Happy to share open-minded opinions about the problems of adolescence, while working as a team over email and churning out one 350-word column 50 weeks a year. Able to withstand public critique — of which there is plenty.

• Comfortable with radio and TV appearances.

• Agreeable parents. This is an increasingly high-profile and occasionally controversial job.

Review the following carefully, then submit all materials to ask@dr-wes.com:

• Write a 350-word essay offering your best advice to the challenge question (at top right of page). The best answers are rarely obvious. Essays are blind reviewed and ranked by judges that include members of the Kansas City Writers Group, a teacher not in the purview of the contestants, the current co-author, a second teenager and me.

Challenge question

I’m a 16-year-old guy who has always wanted to join the military. I want to go in at 17 and my recruiter thinks I’ll be ready, but my parents refuse to sign off. They don’t even want me to go if I’m 18 and graduated. I think it’s an honor to serve my country, like my grandpa did, and high school is just not for me. My parents say too many useless wars have been fought by kids my age, and too many have died. I say it’s my life, and in a year and a half they’ll have no say. What do you think?

• List in your email 10 topics you’d like to tackle in Double Take.

• Ask a teacher or other adult (not your parent) to write a brief email outlining your strengths and weaknesses as a columnist.

We’ll announce winners in mid-May, and publish the top essay in the paper and the others online. Submission implies publication release for the Journal-World.

Katie: The most difficult part of writing every Double Take column is the first sentence. Let me share my writing process to give contestants a head start. While my computer fades into screen-saver mode, I shift my position on the couch at 10-second intervals. I run to the kitchen for a handful of M&Ms. I engage in a staring contest with my rabbit. I make another M&M run. Time disappears into the night or the next morning.

I do not call this procrastination. That would require attention to Pinterest. Instead, I use this time to consider the week’s topic, forming and reforming opinions until I reach a thread of advice I would hope to follow myself. The M&Ms are essential in forming this advice.

Each letter or topic is like a puzzle, deserving a well-considered solution. They push me to analyze adolescence while living through it, using what I’ve learned, observed and experienced to consider the issues that confront teens from every social strata and life path.

Given the diversity of topics, co-authors must write about issues with which they have no personal experience. I’ve never had a job. My experience with boyfriends is sparse. The closest I’ve come to substance abuse was reading Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I do not use SnapChat.

Yet, in the end there’s only one prerequisite for sharing opinions on what it’s like to be a teenager: simply being a teenager and knowing teenagers and thinking about how we are.

As you ponder the first sentence of your submission essay, channel your unique worldview. Wes has the professional perspective covered. The teen take is yours.

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