The National Society of Newspaper Columnists just announced its 2021 Contest Winners and I got a badge – see the sidebar to your right. There were 200 entries from 120 publications for ten categories.
I received Honorable Mention in the Crisis Category, along with two other great columnists. This means, as I explained to my 5-year-old grandson, that I was in a three-way tie for fourth place. His response, true to the character of his very, very competitive nature was, “At least you didn’t get last place!” 😊
This is the first time I’ve entered a writing contest in more than a decade, as I’ve been out of the professional journalism world since my newspaper shut down in 2008. I worked happily at the University of Arizona until a brain injury sidelined me in late 2019. In recovery, I worked hard to get back something of the “real me”, and was able to return to freelance column writing eight months prior to the contest.
This meant I had only 16 columns from which to choose, as my column runs only twice/month due to my still sloth-like cognitive processing. I wouldn’t have even entered had not a columnist at a much larger paper read and loved my column on white privilege. He encouraged me to enter and so I did. Let that be a lesson to all writers to give words of support to each other.
Reading many of the winners today, I recognize my columns probably should have been entered in the social justice category, not crisis, but seeing as I was doing all the sorting and PDF-ing and learning Submittable with my broken brain, I’m pretty pleased with the results.
You can read all the winner’s entries here – and you really should. There’s humor and lifestyle and even sports, as well as the necessary seriousness of social justice and crisis opinion writing. As the press release from the NSNC explains, columnists were extra important during 2020: “From making sense of fraught politics to highlighting unique community circumstances or even allowing a place for laughter, words helped keep us sane during a year like no other.”