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Readers write

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Our readers don't just read, they also write. Sometimes they even become columnists.

Reader involvement is one of the best traditions at the Independent. There's the Front Porch, which features short, personal essays about life; the First Person column, where readers expand on an event or a political point they want to make; and of course the Back Talk section, where we publish readers' letters.

This week's Dog Days issue has a great sampling of our readers' writing. More than 20 readers answered the call for stories about their pets, and you can read a selection of them in the paper and more online at www.indyweek.com .

We're continuing that idea this month with a call for bartenders' best stories from taverns across the Triangle for our Annual Manual issue on Aug. 31, which will be a drinking guide to the Triangle (see the ad on page 61 or go to our Web site). And everyone can vote for your favorite establishments and the ones that serve your favorite concoctions. We hope it's as popular as our annual Best of the Triangle issue--this year, more than 13,000 readers sent us the names of their favorites in more than 100 categories.

And two readers-turned-columnists debut in this week's issue. Jimmy Gibbs is writing a weekly column called "Capital Seen" about people out and about in Raleigh and its environs, and Sidney Cruze begins a food column that'll run the first issue of every month called "Local Tastes," focused on the area's produce and farmers.

Jimmy grew up in Raleigh and describes himself as "a former party consultant, TV producer, social scene columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham and all-around busybody." He says he wants to renew connections and "keep you all in the know with this new, weekly column, because it's all about making a scene." If you're having a party or event or just know a scene he shouldn't miss, e-mail him at jgibbs@indyweek.com.

Sidney also grew up in Raleigh, where she relished the tomatoes her family grew on the south side of their house. She has written for the Philanthropy Journal, The Chapel Hill News, Our State and Carolina Country, and says she came to appreciate local farms and produce through meeting the farmers themselves. "It was a people thing," she says. "I got to know people who are really into food, and then it all dovetails with my environmental interests. It just feels good--all the way down to your toes good. It's not just a thinking thing."

Both are readers of the Independent. Now they're writing for us. There are plenty of opportunities for you, too.

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