Monday, February 24, 2014


     I've been a member of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators since 1995.  I've been to a lot of conferences since then, and I know the etiquette.  Don't go in expecting instant gratification. Don't push yourself on agents and editors, demanding their recognition of your brilliance.  For the past three years I've attended the national SCBWI winter conference expecting nothing at all, except... to be one of the winners of the annual joke contest.  And each year, I have suffered deep, crushing disappointment.
     Here's how the contest works.  The founders of SCBWI, Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, come up with a theme, which Lin announces soon after the conference opens.  A box is set up for submissions, and blank forms are provided nearby for contestants.  Then, two or three times during the course of the two-day conference, a couple of winners are announced and awarded prizes.  Simple, right?  HA!  That's what they want you to believe.
     This year's theme was: create a headline for a famous children's book character's involvement in the Winter Olympics.  I dashed off a couple of jokes right away, but then, each time winners were announced, I listened.  I paid attention.  What kind of jokes were being selected?  What seemed to be the criteria?  And when I thought I had the formula figured out, I submitted a few more jokes.  As far as I could tell, I couldn't lose.
     Oh, but lose I did.  And what made it worse was the quality of some of the jokes that won.  One of them didn't even involve any children's book characters: "Does a Russian bear Putin in the woods?"  Some of the other winning submissions conformed to the rules and were also clever, but, as we shall discuss below by comparing and contrasting, mine were cleverer.

     1.  HUMPTY DUMPTY.  I submitted: "Humpty Dumpty's Dreams Crushed in Giant Slalom When he Becomes Giant Slalomelette."  I did not win.  Someone else, on the other hand, won with: "Humpty Dumpty Arrested for Possession of Crack."  Let's compare these two submissions, shall we?  Both involve puns (which, through my research and analysis, I had determined increased the odds of winning).  But only ONE of the two had anything to do with the Winter Olympics.  Which one was that?  Oh!  MINE!

     2.  ARRESTS.  I submitted: "Harriet the Spy Detained by Russian Secret Police."  I did not win.  In contrast, I return to the winning entry discussed in #1.  Yeah, I get it.  The egg is cracked.  But possessing crack is illegal no matter what country you do it in, right?  Not Russia in particular, right?  My entry, on the other hand, while it did not specifically refer to the Sochi Olympics, directly related to the history of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, two countries that  practically made a fetish of unmasking and arresting each other's spies.  AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO REMEMBERS BORIS AND NATASHA?  I rest my case.

     3.  INDIVIDUAL EVENTS.  I submitted: "Disappointment as Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin Fail to Medal in Ice Dancing Competition."  I did not win.  Someone else submitted: "Lunch Lady Wins Luge; Loses Lunch."  That person won.  Okay, it was clever.  I admit it.  But, seriously.  Which is the better visual?  A lunch lady vomiting over the side of her luge, or a tiny, hideous, enraged man on ice skates trying to dance with a full-sized, comatose, skate-clad princess?  COME ON, PEOPLE.  Lifts?  Throws?  Triple axels?  I'm sorry.  To me, there is absolutely no contest here.

     4.  I submitted one more, although I can't think of any winning entries to compare it to.  It was: "Cinderella Fires Fairy Godmother; Hires Johnny Weir's Costume Designer."  Get it?  Because Johnny's outfits are so much more inspired than the tired old ball gown the Godmother dreamed up?  Get it????  Reader: I did not win.

     Although my spirit has been crushed, I would settle for a belated consolation prize.  Like, maybe, some comments assuring me that my jokes really should have won?  I would be grateful for any crumbs you could throw my way.  And so would Humpty, Harriet, Cinderella, and Rumplestiltskin.  I can't speak for Sleeping Beauty.


  1. You are hilarious. Don't worry about winning -- think of the joy you give through your witty blog!

  2. Thank you, Yvonne, for easing my pain! You always come through when needed!