Thursday, April 17, 2008

You're a Winner!

"You can't win if you don't play."
state lottery advertisement

JAN: I've run a contest on my website ever since I put up a website, but for the first time, one of my contests was advertised on a popular online sweepstaks website and I received hundreds of entrants. Some of these entrants appear to be semi-professional contest enterers. They have screennames like Winsbig or Sweeps5000. This amazes me.

Here's why.I've realized that I'm actually afraid of most contests. In fact, one of the first screenplays I ever wrote was a comedy about a woman whose life was ruined by winning the Downy Flake Donut sweepstakes. And A Confidential Source was about how gambling can ruin your life. So deep down, I clearly have some sort of fear about the consequences of easy money. A Catholic thing? A Polish thing? Who can tell?

But it could also be a journalist thing. Because I've written about so many swindles, I don't trust anyone. I'll buy a raffle at a local fundraiser, but anyone who offers me any kind of prize by mail, phone or Internet, I don't trust. I can't tell you how many three-day cruises to the Bahamas and free IPODS have passed me by. In reality, these people want to sell me a time share or want my email address. What's so horrible about that? Still, I marvel at my fearless entrants. But how about the rest of you? Am I the only sweep-a-phob out there? Or has everyone else won their free laptop, and turned into a real player (pronounced play-AHS if you are in New England)?

RO: The only contest I've entered in recent memory was the Al Blanchard contest, (I didn't win, but the lovely and talented Pat Remick did, so I didn't feel so bad) but other than that, I'm just not the contest type. I don't buy lottery tickets either. I don't want anything, I have too much stuff already.

Now that I think of it, Pat turned me on to the Erma Bombeck humor (writing) contest a couple of years ago. I didn't win that either. That's it. I'm done.

JAN: Well I'm off to print out my list of contest entrants and draw a name from a hat. Although I eschew contests myself, it's awful fun to inform people that they are winners..


  1. When I was in college I entered a mail-in contest in which I was supposed to match china and silver patterns and glassware (can you tell this was a while ago?). I won the thing, which came with a check for (as I recall) $200, which was a lot of money in those days. It paid for a plane ticket to Europe.

    When I started writing I tried to write romance (not well, apparently), which is rife with contests. I won exactly once, and didn't even get to enjoy it since I didn't know until they sent me the little plaque. I should point out that the same entry came back from a different contest that week--dead last in its category, with some nasty comments. Nothing like keeping things in perspective.

    I can't believe there are really people (or computers?) out there who troll the Internet looking for contests. Maybe there's a plot in there somewhere?

  2. Hi Sheila,
    At one point, I entered screenplay contests. In one of them, I became a finalist, and although I didn't "win" anything, it emotionally reignited my writing career. But others, on a later screeplay, seemed a lot like scams. A bunch of people in an office over a garage, looking up ways to make money. I know, let's troll for writers -- they are a gullible lot.
    But writing contests are a little different than these "free book," or "free laptop" contests, and I think people just get a kick out of winning.
    I guess we all work so hard at so much -- we like the idea of getting something, no matter how small, from lady luck.