They wanted my e-mail, my phone number, my address, and a 200-250 word sample article on one of three topics that they provided. I chose 'Utah lawn care' as my topic because I couldn't find a good angle to go at the other two choices. Keep in mind I had no knowledge of this subject (I live in Maryland.) Here's the piece, which took about a half hour to research, put together, then shorten to 250 words:
Utah Lawn Care: Aeration and De-thatching
With Utah's notoriously hard-packed soil, Utahaians have one major problem involving lawn care: loosening their soil so water, fertilizer, and seed can penetrate the ground and mingle. This gathering of elements is essential, so two activities are especially important: Aeration and De-thatching.
'Aeration' is the process of spiking holes into your lawn using a lawn aerator to allow air and water to mix with the soil. This should be done about every two years, though a troublesome lawn in Utah may need a very thorough initial going-over and possibly a follow-up shortly after. Do not confuse this process with tilling; you are not digging up your yard, just giving it some 'air holes'.
'De-thatching' is the second common solution for choking lawns. 'Thatch' is the layer of dead grass that collects between the soil and the living grass. It hinders the growth of living grass and can even mold. This constricting debris can be removed by combing the grass with a metal rake and yanking up the dead plant matter. Of course, nobody wants to go over a field with a fine-tooth comb, so for wider areas look into renting a 'power rake'.
Once a yard is aerated and de-thatched the ground will be much more permeable. You don't want to drown your yard right after giving it some breathing room, so monitor how much water you give it until you know how much is necessary. A beautiful yard is cultured by providing the optimal conditions for growth, so focus on creating these conditions.
If they accept my piece I will have the opportunity to write more short articles on various topics, and each article I write that is accepted will earn me $3.00. If they judge my writing as '4- or 5-star material' that wage will jump to $3.30 per article. If I complete 100 articles in a month I will receive a $0.25 bonus for each article I've written so far (so a $25 bonus for completing 100 articles) and every article I write after that until the end of the pay period will earn me an extra $0.25 on top of my regular wage. The same thing happens if I reach 200 articles in a month (I believe that means I will receive a $50 bonus--$0.25 for every article written so far, 200 articles, so a $50 bonus plus another $0.25 raise on top of the first $0.25 on top of the original wage for every article written.)
Point is, this is a chance to take a step in the direction I'd like to go. In addition to this, I've also entered a writing contest held by The Abstract Quill, a website that will soon release its first literary publication (much like the WF newsletter.) If I win I receive $100 and my piece will be published. Second place is $50 and publication and third place gets something too. I really hope one of these attempts work. Wish me luck.