Monday, February 04, 2008

Next Stop...A Wisconsin-Shaped Plaque

I very often have a self-deprecating personality and sense of humor, because I generally find people who can poke fun at themselves and don’t take themselves too seriously more engaging and tolerable than those who are completely self-absorbed.

Birds of a feather, I guess you could say.

However, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a few hundred words of self-aggrandizement in these paragraphs, I promise to go back in my next post to calling myself a dork, and probably acting like one, too.

You see, I got some pretty cool news today, but as soon as I start to talk about it, it’s going to sound a lot like bragging. I prefer to call it, um...sharing.

My newspaper column, What The Parrot Saw, received a second-place award in its division in the 2007 Better Newspaper Contest held by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Granted, the division was for columnists who are six-foot-four, with three g’s in their first name, the word “parrot” in the column title and who’ve voluntarily gone swimming in Lake Michigan in January. And I still took second place! (The winner was a former women’s basketball player and wetsuit owner named Georggette, for her column, “My Parrot Outsquawks Your Parrot.” I don’t know how she won.)

No. Really, the divisions were based on circulation, and I don’t even know how many other columnists were in my division. But I’m not going to balk at second place. It was quite a pleasant surprise.

And I have to say, it came at a pretty good time. I’ve been in need of a shot in the arm regarding my column inches as of late. I love the idea of being a columnist, but there’s always that pesky challenge of filling the space every week, you know? Rather daunting at times. But when I ponder whether it’s time to surrender the space for a while, the answer always comes back a resounding, “No!”

When I started my column almost six years ago, I set a few broad goals. The first: get my first column written and actually published in the newspaper. If I would have jumped in right away, instead of listening to the doubt, I might have a dozen years of archives by now.

The second goal: keep it going. It would have been a worse fate than not starting at all if I would have written a handful of columns and then decided I had nothing to say. It’s entirely possible that I don’t have anything to say, in both my column and on this blog...that’s up to you, the reader, to decide. But I’ve at least been finding about 600 words of filler each week for my column.

And the third goal, which was soundly squashed by some almost before it came out of my mouth: maybe get one of those fancy wooden plaques in the shape of our state to hang on the wall. (The plaques are for first place. I received a certificate, which will still probably be framed and hung somewhere to brag about. I share.)

I may never get the plaque. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t.

But the second-place award this year caused me to stop and think that using a stronger verb here or there, replacing a few dangling modifiers and clichés, creating a more clever punch line once in a while, and perhaps not writing about condiments so often...just might be the recipe for first-place accolades somewhere down the road.

At the very least, it put me back in the right mindset, because the question of giving The Parrot a rest hasn’t even entered my mind in the last 12 hours.

Sorry, folks. You’re stuck with me for a while longer.
(We now return you to your regularly scheduled self-deprecation.)

“I don’t deserve this award,
but I have arthritis, and I
don’t deserve that, either.”
—Jack Benny


  1. Woody Allen is fond of saying "Eighty percent of success is just showing up."

    I think we can amend that now to "Ninety percent of success is showing up and getting a WI-shaped plaque for it."

    In all seriousness, absolutely heartfelt congrats on this. It's enough to have your words in published format but to receive recognition for them? Mighty fine!

  2. I'm going to jump on the percentage thing. Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is 90% mental,the other half is physical." I'm sure that applies to column writing as well...

    Congrats my friend. Until your paper joins the world wide web i'll just have to go by the work you do here and if that's the case, there should be a "spygate" type investigation into whoever won first place cuz you probably deserved it!!!

  3. Well done my friend. Parrots and "g's" aside, I'm mighty proud of you.

    Now, excuse me while I go look up the word "aggrandizement" in my dictionary...

  4. Ggg - You are my hero!! What a nice surprise to learn of your award ;o)

    But, seriously, congrats!! You rock!!

  5. Wow.

    I haven't read your column about parrots, but I'm sure it's great. Very impressive that you come up with 600 words a week about your feathered friends.

    Enjoy the accolades and don't even worry about how much you sound like a show-off.

    Truly, heart-felt congrats to you.

  6. Thanks, all y'all, for making me feel like I'm a lot cooler than I really am. I appreciate the words.

    And SBW...fortunately, my column isn't actually about parrots, or I wouldn't have lasted six words, much less six years.

    Column One:

    "Name your parrot Polly.
    She wants a cracker."

    The End.
    I retire.

  7. Gregg, I knew that. I was just being silly. Congrats on writing about something other than parrots.

  8. I am not surprised.

    You should be proud, Ggg.

    Thanks for sharing ;).