Almost Famous for a Week Contest

To get what Scott's got takes serendipity — or a winning entry

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click to enlarge THE HOT SEAT: Just think, all this could be yours. - Scott Harrell
Scott Harrell
THE HOT SEAT: Just think, all this could be yours.

You know, people are always asking me about this gig. I get calls and e-mails from freelance writers, journalism students and creative writing teachers from time to time, but more often, folks just come up to me at shows and ask me about it. Queries run from the insightful ("How do you draw out an interviewee that only seems interested in giving stock quotes?") to the inane and slightly insulting ("So when's the last time you actually had to pay for a CD?"). Three questions, however, are always asked, in one form or another:1. How did you get into getting paid for writing about music?

2. How can I get into getting paid for writing about music?

3. Is writing about music really the easiest, laziest, most half-assed way for a fan to make some money, horde free CDs and hang with rock stars?

To briefly address the first and second questions, professional writing is a bit like playing original music. You can have all the talent in the world — and be either self-taught, thoroughly schooled or somewhere in between — but it still takes that serendipity of exposing your talent to somebody who'll believe in it enough (or see the potential for their own gain) to pay you to do it in a bigger forum. You've gotta be willing to do the footwork, and to do it for free, or next to free, until that happens.

And regarding the third, if you think it's so easy, why don't you try it your damn self?

In conjunction with Laramie Cigarettes, F'ed Up Malt Liquor, and the Coalition of Snarky Pop Culture Chroniclers (none of which actually exist, mind you), I'm a little proud and a lot leery to announce my own Be A Rock Critic For A Week Sweepstakes. That's right, here's your shot at what you might think is notoriety and free shit, but really is too little sleep and an almost pathological fear of answering the phone.

Here's the deal. Got an idea for a music column? Think any certain area or genre of music isn't getting enough coverage in the Planet, and want to cover it? Convinced I'm a dick, and want to elaborate on that for 1,000 words? Pitch me a story via my e-mail address. (No phone calls or faxes, please — if you don't have e-mail, or even know the location of the nearest library, you have no serious interest in communicating whatsoever and are therefore unfit to be heard.) After New Year's, I'll select a winner based on originality, style and grammatical competence, and give 'em a week to file a column. Come into the office to work the phones, use an outdated iMac, steal Snider's bag lunch, ogle the babes (we have many, of both genders), and fight with the Coke machine. Whatever it takes.

Just think of it as my Christmas gift to one person, and a potentially scarring rejection for everyone else who happens to enter.

And yes, the winner will get paid, provided the finished column is publishable.

There are a few caveats, naturally. Professional writers are disqualified; if you've contributed to a 'zine or a school paper, that's fine, but if you've ever been cut a check for a writing gig, please, let somebody else have a shot. Don't pitch a feature on your band. Don't pitch a feature on your best friend's band. Don't pitch a feature on Klik because you're stalking the singer and you think an interview is a perfect way to break the ice (she's not stupid, you know). And don't pitch a feature on whatever big band's coming to the St. Pete Times Forum in January, in the hope that we'll get you backstage. Remember, we don't normally run stuff after the fact. Have some integrity, and be creative.

That's about it. Get crackin', and happy holidays.

Contact Scott Harrell at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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