Girls between the ages of 8 and 14 can express themselves online, and in the real world, at MissOandFriends.com. Last year, the company published six books. one of which featured original poems and fiction written by girls from around the world, titled Write on!: The Miss O & Friends collection of Rockin' Fiction.
This summer, the on-line community has a new contest, Miss O Music. "Girls are telling us that they love to sing, and that they want to be able to get their songs published. So that's why we are doing the singing contest," says Juliette Brindak, Miss O and Friends' co-founder. Contest winners will have the opportunity to get their original tunes recorded and sold.
"We are trying to give girls what they want," the 18-year old businesswoman adds. "We are really trying to help girls build on their dreams, build on what they love to do."
The contest is open to everyone in the website's community of tween girls. And the girls will vote for their favorite songs.
"Girls can upload their original songs and lyrics onto our website," Brindak says. "They are going to be voted on. They are going to be selected and then produced by an A-line producer and put on to a CD compilation and sold in stores or through iTunes."
Brindak asked veteran record producer and songwriter John Boylan to help select the winners. "For the original material, we will be judging the singer's ability and the quality of the song itself," he says. "People are also going to be allowed to submit their performances of songs that they already know, famous songs or hits. Those will be judged strictly on vocal ability, pitch, time, quality of singing."
Boylan, who has worked with the Muppets and Sesame Street, says he is excited about the Miss O Music contest. "This is the first actual project I've done in this particular age group. I've generally done [projects geared toward a] younger age."
He says talented young people need this opportunity. And, he adds, so does the entertainment industry. "Right now the problem in entertainment is getting yourself heard," he explains. "The record companies are in terrible trouble right now, and the traditional ways of finding new talent are simply not there anymore. So, this is a great opportunity. I expect some really special people to come and submit stuff to us."
Marissa Ditkowsky, 13, is planning to compete in the Miss O Music contest. "I write songs all the time. Some of it comes from real life," she says. "I take all these emotions that I feel and other people I know have felt, family, friends, I take it and put it into these songs."
Marissa entered the writing contest last year, and one of her short stories was picked for publication. Her mother, Alita Ditkowsky, says the new contest is another great chance for her talented daughter, who dreams of becoming a singer. "I've said to Marissa, 'you have to take all opportunities and see where they take you,'" she says. "It's really up to the girls to make the decision on the Internet about what they like and what they want. So she understands that if they don't pick her, that it's not her, it's what their preference is."
That's another benefit of the various activities offered on the Miss O and Friends web site, says Juliette Brindak. It is not about winning, it's about building self-esteem, and discovering and expressing one's voice and talents.