I’m Somebody Now!

10 Feb

by Roger White

OK, that does it. Even I have my limits. I received a Call for Contest Entries the other day from the National League of Associations. They’re wanting $75 a pop to enter publications or stories in their “internationally recongized competition of professional communicators.”

You read it right. Their competition is internationally recongized. And I are a professional communicator.

In the (censored) years I’ve been working at one of Austin’s 1,843 nonprofit associations (nine out of ten people in Austin work for Dell, a nonprofit, or the state, according to my non-scientific findings), the number of organizations that send me professional communications contests has tripled. Maybe even fourpled.

Granted, there are legitimate competitions out there in which our association competes in a number of communications categories. And these contests offer not only a shot at awards (and the corresponding banquets with free grub), but also valuable critiques and comparisons with peers in the business. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it helps us learn how to do our jobs better. But.

Some of these places that have been sending out the feelers lately, I don’t know. The National League of Associations? This begs the question, “Is there an International Association of National Association Leagues?”

On up the chain, you’ll have the Interplanetary League of International Association League Guilds. I think.

I get the image of putting two mirrors face to face, I’m not sure why.

There are other such dubious professional organizations. I do believe many of these exist only to engineer such contests, in which they:

(1)   Charge exorbitant entry fees

(2)   Offer genuine photocopied “Certificates of Recongition” (with no substantive critique) to everyone who enters, dead or alive

(3)   Tuck away a tidy sum

Everybody gets an award suitable for framing, and the contest company keeps rolling for another year.

Now, far be it from me to disparage an institution as venerable and respected as Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges, but this here National League of Associations sounds eerily similar to my experience with Who’s Who.

I must take you back. Waaay back, to my junior year in college. I won’t tell you how far back this is, but let’s just say that M*A*S*H was still on prime-time television, Toto was the hot new band, and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was one of the most respected NASDAQ firms in all of Wall Street. By the way, did you know that in order to reach the thirteenth level of a pyramid scheme, every living person in the world would have to be involved? Plus a few dead ones.

So. Ah, yes, I’m in college. I actually got my ducks in order that year, made good grades, got reinstated on my college newspaper staff (because they could not prove that I was driving or that any of that stuff was mine), and came in third playing drums in a campus talent show. By the end of that semester, I got an official-looking letter in the mail saying I qualified for Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges. Hot damn! Third place at the talent show probably clinched it.

Well, my folks got the same letter, and, sure enough, they ordered that year’s official Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges Compendium of Honorees. Oh, brother. It was a book as fat as the American Heritage Dictionary (unabridged), containing no less than 25,000 names and bios in tiny, little print. My mom still hasn’t found my name.

Remember the movie “The Jerk”? Steve Martin? Yeah, that scene. “The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here! I’m somebody now!”

Here’s another good example. Have you seen ads in the backs of magazines and newspapers for the National Poetry Contest? There is no entry fee, but each contestant gets a chance at not only prize money, but—staccato breath here—publication in the prestigious National Anthology of American Poems and Prose!

Aha. My gut tells me that although prize money is frugally doled (if at all), every would-be Walt Whitman gets published. The money-maker here is that 43,011 frustrated poets purchase this lovely leather-caressed Anthology of the American Spirit of Gullibility for only $69.99 to see their work hardbound. Voila! They’re published poets!

It’s a sure tipoff that a scam is brewing when one of the anthology’s featured poems begins thusly:

“There once was a young man from Nantucket . . .”

But, hey, I got a neat certificate of recongition.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

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4 Responses to “I’m Somebody Now!”

  1. Jennifer February 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    I think I’m going to start a League of Extraordinary Associations. And I will be the mysterious, cravat-festooned leader.

    • oldspouse February 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

      Extraordinary comment! And I love festoons! The chocolate kind, not the coconut.

  2. polymathblues February 19, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    hahaha, back when I was 17 years old, I actually got “published” in one of those poetry anthologies, and I think my mom bought a copy… I also made it into the High School version of Who’s Who back when I was a senior… my mom was so proud! How gullible we are when we want to believe we’re awesome 🙂

  3. Trinity River February 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Ha Ha. Got to love it. Welcome to somebody land, and the privilege of paying $75 for it. Many moons ago I owned a small book shop. The 2 most memorable offers I received were the right to be in the book of “Women Executives” for the mere sum of $150, and an offer from the King of Nigeria to deposit 1 million dollars of his money in my bank account.

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