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Pulse gives area teens a platform for creative work

December 09, 2007|By CHRIS COPLEY

I work on The Herald-Mail's teen-oriented section called Pulse. I have a team of about 20 teens, mostly from Washington County, who produce stories, illustrations, poems and other material for the section.

Logistically, putting Pulse together each week is complex. You might think that a week is plenty of time to come up with stories for each Pulse. It might be, if that were all I did in a week. But as assistant Lifestyle editor, I spend most of my time working on Loop, the newspaper's weekly arts and entertainment section, and the Sunday Lifestyle section. Pulse gets about eight hours of my time each week, sometimes less.

Often, it feels like we're putting together the section in a full-out sprint while juggling other duties.

Here's a glimpse of what it's like to put together a sample issue, loosely based on this past week:

·7:45 a.m. Tuesday - I arrive at the office and open the day's Herald-Mail to see how we did on that day's Pulse.

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·8 a.m. - I go through e-mail to see if Pulse team members sent stories for next issue or questions about upcoming stories. We usually work two or three weeks ahead.

·4:30 p.m. - I meet with the Pulse team in the lounge in The Herald-Mail building. At a meeting, the team members and I go over the next issue's stories, brainstorm story ideas and sometimes conduct an interview for a future story.

·Wednesday and Thursday - I correspond by e-mail with my team. I suggest angles to pursue when they're stuck, remind them of deadlines, set up illustrations and photos for stories, and stay in touch with kids who were not at the meeting.

·Friday - Production time. I read stories and send revisions to writers, then begin pagination - the process of assembling the page electronically. Everything, from photos to stories to illustrations, is stored and assembled on computers.

·Monday - I retrieve last-minute submissions via e-mail - an NFL column, an illustration and a movie review. Building the page takes all day - last-minute editing of stories, designing pages to be visually appealing, getting stories and headlines to fit, getting all the little bits and pieces (photo credits, CD covers, page numbers, date, etc.) accurate and in the right place.

On Monday afternoon, we proofread the whole thing, put in the corrections, contact writers for answers to last-minute questions, double-check the corrected pages and send the section on its way to be printed.

Whew!

It's complicated and tedious work, sometimes, but delightful when it's done. I love seeing the faces of team members on the bottom of the page - to know that their efforts are seen by thousands of readers. They have produced a piece of writing or an illustration or shot a photo that is now in The Herald-Mail. It's an accomplishment they can put in their portfolio or scrapbook.

I feel lucky to work with the kids. I've worked with more than 150 students since The Herald-Mail launched the teen writing team in June of 2005. Team members have produced nearly 1,000 stories, reviews, poems, photos, illustrations and other items for publication since then.

I've enjoyed watching them grow, too, as writers and as individuals. They refine their creative work. They get feedback and improve.

The Herald-Mail wants Pulse to be a platform to boost kids in their creative work. Anyone 13 to 18 can join the team, or submit something for publication. I encourage interested teens to contact me.

Chris Copley is assistant Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by calling 301-733-5131, ext. 2343, or by e-mail at chrisc@herald-mail.com.

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