C’mon, kids, put down the phone and pick up a pen

The Conejo Las Virgenes Future Foundation—a community think tank that examines the important issues of the day— hosted its third annual 10×10 Speaker Event Tuesday at the Thousand Oaks Library. Ten speakers, 10 topics, 10 minutes each. Simple, profound and informative. An audience of almost 200 people came away impressed.

One issue touched upon: While the younger generation is bright, eager to learn and full of possibility, their addiction to screens has become insidious. We couldn’t agree more. Teens spend up to nine hours a day on their devices, Dr. Blake Brisbois, a Westlake Village child psychologist, said at the event.

The burden of responsibility today rests with parents, who need to teach their teens the lost art of eye contact, Brisbois said.

This is the age of fast content—short and sweet, quick and dirty, in and out. Kids feel compelled to make an impact on friends and define their brand in 140 characters, and, if they can’t, they feel inadequate, Brisbois said.

The Acorn attempts to break the mold with its popular Fiction in a Nutshell writing contest, which challenges people of all ages (because adults, too, are screen addicts) to stop, think, compose and create.

The digital media notwithstanding, there’s still a place for good writing in today’s world. But in order for intelligent composition to survive, students need to be challenged both in the classroom and out. Schools haven’t forgotten the age-old principles of reading, writing and ’rithmetic, it’s just that more and more, the writing portion has been supplanted by emojis, cryptic hashtags and social media acronyms.

In one sense, The Acorn sees itself as a guardian of the written word, a port of entry for excellent storytelling from authors of all ages and skill levels. It’s our contention that a tall tale replete with a strong beginning, a hook in the middle and a surprise ending is a piece of real art that the writer can be proud of. When’s the last time a social media rant won the Pulitzer Prize?

Fiction in a Nutshell challenges writers to pen a complete fiction story in 100 words or less, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. Beginning, middle and end. Characters, conflict and plot twist. The content has to be composed, not texted, and the words have to be spelled correctly, not just letters spitted out.

Writers in two categories, 18-and-over and under-18, are allowed to submit stories in a multitude of genres—sci-fi, adventure, romance, to name a few. Writers must be on their game to win, and we’re happy to report past winners have proven up to the challenge. Submit your 100-word Fiction in a Nutshell story to newstip@theacorn.com, and please include name, address, phone number and email. The deadline for submissions is Fri., Nov. 3 and winners are announced Nov. 30.

Write on, everybody.