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Enter 'This I Believe' essay contest

Local residents are invited to enter the second annual "This I Believe - Jefferson County" essay project.
   The first very successful project resulted in a published book of essays, and the Jefferson County Cultural Coalition has once again provided a generous grant to help host a reading event and publish a second book of essays.
   Anyone who lives (or has lived) in Jefferson County is eligible to submit a 350- to 500-word essay according to the five simple guidelines below.
   Last year's reading event was a great mix of youth and adult essays, humor and heart, and organizers hope to have a terrific event again this winter.
   The deadline for submission is Jan. 11, 2013. Essays should be emailed to: Michele Gemelas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
   A panel of current and retired educators will read the essays prior to publishing to assure they have appropriate content for publishing and to decide on 15-20 essays for the reading event.
   "Take an hour or two over the holidays to think about your beliefs and do a little writing. This is the best kind of writing -- no grades, no judgment -- only introspection, life experience, and self-examination required," Gemelas said.
   Guidelines:
   "We invite you to contribute to this project by writing and submitting your own statement of personal belief," she said. "We understand how challenging this is, it requires intense self-examination, and no one else can do it for you."
   To guide you through this process, they offer these suggestions:
   . Tell a story about you: Be specific. Tell the story of events in your life that have helped shape your own personal philosophy.
   Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heartwarming or gut-wrenching, it can even be funny, but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your own personal beliefs.
   . Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. That's about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.
   . Name your belief: If you can't name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on a core belief, telling the story of why this belief is important to you.
   . Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don't believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial "we." Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing. Avoid writing an opinion piece about civic or political issues.
   . Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. Read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.