Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

The Cowbird Teenage Diaries Step-by-Step Guide

Radio Diaries has been giving teenagers tape recorders to report on their own lives for public radio for sixteen years. Now, we’re inviting new teens to tell their stories on Cowbird.

A collection of Cowbird Teenage Diaries stories will be featured on the NPR  website. Plus, two teens will be selected to work with Radio Diaries to produce full-length audio Teenage Diaries that will air on NPR in 2013. It could be you!


How To Tell Your Teenage Diary on Cowbird


Step One: Sign up

1. Your first step is to sign up for a free Cowbird account at www.cowbird.com. The best browsers to use are Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
2. Create a profile. Go to “Profile” under your name on the left. Upload a photo, modify your name, add an author bio, and your website.  Please also add your age. (No storytellers younger than 13, please!) You may also add your gender, birth date, birthplace, location, and any role that applies to you (For example: student, storyteller, artist, musician, dancer, etc.) Click “Save.” (Note: Cowbird supports and advocates for ethical behavior on the Web. None of the information used to create a Cowbird account will be shared).

Step Two: Tell a story

1. On the top right-hand corner of Cowbird, click on the box that says “Tell a story.”  This will open the story editor window where you can begin composing your story.  First, add a title that relates to your story.  Then, start writing!

Wait, what should my story be about?

We are looking for personal, surprising stories from teenagers today. You can write about anything that’s happened to you, and there’s only one rule: the story must be TRUE. Here are some ideas that might help get you started:

– Tell us about the first time you fell in love
– Tell us about losing a friend
-Tell us about a family trip, a family meal, or another memorable incident at home
-Tell us about a time you got really angry
-Tell us about the day one of your siblings was born
-Tell us about a time you felt brave
-Tell us about a time you got lost
-Tell us about a journey
-Tell us about what you struggle with the most
-Tell us about a great (or bad) date
-Tell us about why you love (or hate) your phone
-Tell us about the most special night last summer
-Upload a family photo and tell us something about it we wouldn’t know by looking at it
-Upload a picture that represents you and tell us why
-Tell us about your morning ritual
-Tell us about your favorite place in the world
-Tell us about the moment you knew you weren’t a kid anymore

Stumped? Take a look at a few stories other teenagers have written on Cowbird.

Keep the stories short, between 100 and 400 words. Remember, we’re looking for true, personal stories. We want to know who you are, so write in your real voice!

2. Add a photo. When you’re done writing, add a photo by clicking on the photo icon on the right. Stories can’t be saved without a photo. Images must be at least 500 pixels wide and 500 pixels tall and up to 10 MB. It is best to upload photos that are at least 2000 pixels wide (at 72 dpi). You should try and find a photograph with yourself or one of the characters in your story; or an object or scene that represents what you’re writing about. We don’t want generic photos downloaded from the web or landscape photos that could have been taken anywhere. The more closely the photo relates to the story, the better! Please make sure not to upload copyrighted material, like pop songs, clip art, or other people’s photographs. You can check out our Culture page for best practices.

3. Add audio by clicking on the microphone icon on the left. (Audio is optional, but encouraged.) If you have access to recording equipment–you can even use a smartphone, or your computer’s internal mic–tell your story with sound. You might describe yourself, interview a character in the story, sing a song or just record the sound of the world outside. Keep the audio to three minutes or less. If you’re going to send us an audio diary, take a look at this Radio Diaries D-I-Y handbook and listen to some of our Teenage Diaries for inspiration. Don’t worry about sending us a reported story like you’d hear on the radio—we just want to hear what YOU sound like. Be yourself!

4. Add your story to the Teens Saga!! This is the most IMPORTANT STEP. On the right side of the story editor window find the ‘What’ button and select the ‘Teens’ saga in the pop-up window. This will add your story to the Teens Saga!

5. Publish it. Click “Publish” and, you’re done! If you want, share your story on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any other social media.

You’re done! Your story will now show up in our Teens Saga.

A collection of Cowbird Teenage Diaries stories will be featured on the NPR  website. Plus, two teens will be selected to work with Radio Diaries to produce full-length audio Teenage Diaries that will air on NPR in 2013. It could be you!

* If chosen to appear on NPR, authors under the age of 18 will be contacted for parental consent.

If you have any questions, comments, or if someone you know is interested in being part of this opportunity, please contact Nellie Gilles.

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