2011-07-09 / Editorials & Letters

Lighten up: Sometimes you really are a winner

By Dawn Weber

Columnists do it weekly.

Or, some would say, weakly.

Or - in my case - monthly, quarterly, or whenever The Beacon sells enough ads to have space for my pieces.

Considering that my rate of getting published is sporadic at best, I was surprised - and super-pleased - to be chosen as a finalist in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Contest in Humor, under 50,000 circulation.

In fact, I dang-near missed the news that I was a finalist.

Yep. It was like any other day - wake, kids, dummies in traffic, whatnot. Pounded away at my job, attended three boring meetings... in the evening I decided to read all my Very Important E-mail:

“You Have Won Nigerian Lottery! Contact Barrister Abu Dabba-Doo With Bank Info...”

-Ooh! Lucky Me! Quickwhere’s my bank statement?

“My Name Natalya I am Interesting to date with you...”


Lighten Up columnist Dawn Weber accepts her award for third place in the 2011 National Society of Newspaper Columnists Contest in Humor for papers under 50,000 circulation from Don Fry, writing coach and emeritus faculty member of The Poynter Institute. The Society named Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times best online columnist/ blogger. A columnist from the San Francisco Business Times won first place in the under 50,000 category with a writer from the Sausalito (Calif.) Marinscope taking second. Courtesy photo. Lighten Up columnist Dawn Weber accepts her award for third place in the 2011 National Society of Newspaper Columnists Contest in Humor for papers under 50,000 circulation from Don Fry, writing coach and emeritus faculty member of The Poynter Institute. The Society named Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times best online columnist/ blogger. A columnist from the San Francisco Business Times won first place in the under 50,000 category with a writer from the Sausalito (Calif.) Marinscope taking second. Courtesy photo. -Thanks “Natalya,” but I’m not in the market for a Russian bride. Although, some days, a housewife would do nicely...

“Get Rich Quick - Work from Home!”

-*Snort.* Doing what? I’m afraid to ask.

You can see here why I check my e-mail about once a week. Delete, delete, delete some more.

My finger poised over the DEL key, one entry caught my eye:

“Congratulations,” Oh boy, I thought - more Nigerian Lottery. Great. My finger descended on the button until...

“After lengthy review, the Judges of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual conference have selected your entry as one of the finalists in category D: Humor in newspapers under 50,000 circulation.”

And then it went black.

I could not believe it. I just couldn’t. People, NSNC is Serious Stuff! A Society full of Very Important Past and Present folks: Heloise, Roger Ebert, Andy Rooney, the late Mike Harden, my buddy, Jerry Zezima... Art Buchwald is in their Hall of Fame. Dave Barry was a past speaker at their conference.

Did these fine journalists at NSNC really want to include me? I mean, sometimes, I cuss. Proudly and often, I shop at Walmart.

By verifying the sender and contents of the message, I eventually deemed the NSNC email legit. So I danced around, called my mom, posted on Facebook and generally annoyed the be-jeepers out of everyone with the news.

It seemed like forever, but the awards weekend finally arrived. I basically drove straight from a beach vacation to Detroit for the NSNC conference. Sand in my cell phone, butterflies in my belly.

I was still a little bit in shock. Sometimes I wonder why I write a column: Readers approach me in person sometimes to tell me they enjoy it. But efforts to syndicate it and/or do anything else with my pieces have been - so far - fruitless.

Hey - that’s O.K. My skin has grown thicker - and more wrinkly - as I age. And I must have done something write, er, right - because I was nominated for a national award.

Arriving at the NSNC conference, I was whisked away with the rest of the columnists. Wined and dined by several prominent Detroit businesses, where we visited the Quicken and Compuware offices, the Motown Musuem, the Heidelberg Art Project, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and the American Coney Island restaurant.

I have to say - I liked Detroit. It’s a rusty, scrappy town, but its people are trying, working hard to reinvent. They’re pushing to move forward in the wake of a struggling auto industry, with a focus on attracting young, hipster, IT types to the area.

Detroit doesn’t quit.

I grew up in Greater Youngstown - I know a little bit about rust and scrap. About struggling industries. About reinvention. About tenacity and hard work.

Youngstown doesn’t quit.

On June 25, at the NSNC Awards Dinner, I won third place in the humor, under 50,000 circulation segment for my “Lighten Up!” column. Yep. I’ve only been writing the pieces for a little more than two years.

Not bad for a funny little Walmart shopper from Brownsville.

Anyway, I’m not in this to win awards. (Or make money. Or even quit my day job, for that matter.)

I am here to make people laugh, to make people smile.

And I don’t quit.

Dawn Weber is a national award winning columnist, and a Brownsville wife and working mother of two pre-teens. She blogs at http://www.lightenupweber. blogspot.com

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