Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And the Winner Is …

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who enter contests and those who don't. 

My grandmother was absolutely positive that she was going to win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. No one knows how many magazines she bought over the years, but I believe her Reader's Digest subscription will continue in perpetuity. Each year, during Prize Week, she would get her hair done and dress up every day, refusing to leave the house because she was convinced that Ed McMahon and the Prize Patrol would knock on her door any minute with a giant cardboard check. We teased her about it gently, rolled our eyes behind her back, and secretly hoped she would win. She never did and I, personally, will never forgive Ed McMahon for disappointing her.

Some people are born lucky. In our family, the winner is my youngest boy. In fact, he is so successful at raffles that we now only enter his name. Most recently, at the annual elementary school fall fundraiser, in addition to the chocolate covered pretzels he won at the cake walk, his name was pulled during the raffle, winning a really cool felt pumpkin bucket full of gummy candies that we handed out for Halloween.

I'm not a big risk taker, so most of the contests available to me (gambling, the lottery) don't appeal. Oh, we all have our price, and mine is $100 million. On the rare occasion when our state Lotto jackpot reaches that high-water mark, I buy a ticket. Just one, as I'm only willing to flush one buck down the toilet at a time. So far, I am not a winner.

My fellow writer, Cindy Fey, recently entered a writing contest. That is so ambitious and productive. I'm more of a fill-out-the-form-and-drop-it-in-the-box kind of contestant. Just this weekend, at the grand opening of a new L.L. Bean store at our local mall, I filled out a form to win a $1000 family kayak package. I have no idea what I would do with it if I actually won this contest, as no one in my family has ever been kayaking, but hey, sometimes you have to take a chance.

A few years ago, I saw the Julianne Moore movie, The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio. It was based on a book by Terry Ryan about how her mother, Evelyn, "raised 10 kids on 25 words or less" by entering jingle contests during the 1950s and '60s. Evelyn won more than 200 contests, with prizes ranging from food and watches to European trips and sports cars. 

My brain is cluttered with advertising jingles, frequently blocking out important information like my children's names. I've tried repeatedly to delete these maddening little snippets from my hard drive with no success. I still know how to spell bologna; I still know where Bandaids stick; and I still know what kind of kids eat Armour Hotdogs

Despite the number of cells my brain has devoted to jingles, I was intrigued by Evelyn Ryan's story. I love that she used her talent to help her family at a time when her options were limited. In addition to her talent, Evelyn learned to jump through all the quirky hoops required of these kinds of contests. It must have been a full-time job. As a life-long direction follower, I appreciate her tenacity and attention to detail. Watching the movie, I became nostalgic for a time I don't remember where these kinds of contests were commonplace. 

So, a few weeks ago I was inspired by Evelyn to enter an online giveaway through a blog called Tippy Toes and Tantrums. The idea was to win holiday cards offered by Tiny Prints by writing a holiday greeting. Guess what? I won! Here's my greeting:

A little merry, a little glow
A little love and mistletoe.
The gift of thanks, the gift of cheer
With peace and joy throughout the year.

Clearly the moral of this story is that I should stop trying to write the next Nobel Prize winning novel, the next Newbery Medal winning children's book, and the next Pulitzer Prize winning editorial, and stick to writing schmaltzy greeting card copy. 

What's your winning story? Tell me about it by clicking here.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Just this weekend I was visiting a friend, and we had split up to do our own shopping at the mall (an exotic experience for me). I finished a bit early and sat down for a smoothie. The Massachusetts state lottery had a booth nearby and, flush with the excitement of the day, I spent five dollars on lottery tickets and won -- five dollars.

My one real winner story concerns a streak I had of hitting winners on something like four out of five scratch-off tickets. My total takings probably came to less than four hundred dollars, but the came on top of a nice tax refund and a tuition-reimbursement check just as I was about to leave a job and appreciated the money. Of course, now that I really want to leave a job, fortune has turned its attention elsewhere.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

I just hope the Tiny Prints win didn't use up all of your contest winning karma!

Thanks for the link!

Sue Roupp said...

Two years ago I entered three poems in a University of Wisconsin-Madison, Writers Institute (their annual writers conference)writing contest.

I arrived that first morning in the large conference hall for the opening remarks prior to the rest of the conference beginning. I hadn't had my morning coffee and was heading for the coffee urn inside the hall like a bear drawn to honey.

Eyes open, nodding and smiling at many colleagues little did they know I was upright and dressed but my brain was still waking up.

Those in charge began their opening remarks with announcing the winners of the "Poem or Page Contest". Nice, I thought, still heading toward the coffee.

Honorable Mention: the winner is Sue Roupp. What? Stopped dead in my tracks as applause gathered steam I turned bewildered and smiled. Wow. This was a prestigious win. My brain started to pay attention to the world outside of it.

Continuing to the coffee urn, third place was announced. I tuned out but applauded another poet. Then second place: Sue Roupp. What? What? The applause was deafening and people started to hoot and holler. Even my brain was amazed allowing me to smile.

This time I turned around and sat down to savor my winnings. I still wanted my coffee but something wonderful was happening and it was more important.

Then first place was announced: Sue Roupp. Whoa. Clapping, stomping feet, hoots and hollers and I stood up feeling like I had won the lottery of literary prizes. And I had.

It turns out that while I don't seem to win cars or trips etc. in my professional writing life I work hard and do get recognition sometimes. It seems we are lucky in different things and we just have to notice and appreciate where the luck in our lives occurs. It is always there somewhere even in the tiniest event. So take another look at luck and winning and I think we will see that somehow in some way we are all lucky and all winners.

Girl on a Hill said...

Congratulations, Sue! I won $200 at my last corporate employer's Christmas party years ago. And a bottle of cognac at a friend's company party. I still have the cognac. The $200 is long gone!