The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 948: A yearlong ink quest; and yes, it was just you after all

By the E, Pat Myers

Once again — a couple of weeks past the one-year mark — we give you another chance to try your hand (nose, pancreas) at the previous year’s contests. I’ve done these retrospectives most if not all the years of my Empressment, and the Czar did them at least three times as well. Sometimes they’re wide open without any special theme or restriction, as it is this year. Other times they had to incorporate “three,” “third,” etc, and two years later “five,” “fifths” or the materials traditionally used for fifth-anniversary presents. One year all the entries had to pertain to health care. Another one required all the entries to be written for The Post’s new ombudsman.

In all the cases, part of the fun was to remind readers of the wide variety of contests — and variety of humor — that the Invite offers over the course of the year. Here’s the link to last year’s results (scroll down past the new contest).

As I note in the introduction to the contest, the entries that get into the print paper — and that would include the Inker-winner and runners-up — are likely to be short-form. An elaborate song parody, or an entry that required a picture, such as a cartoon caption, are almost fated to run online only. Don’t let that deter you, though; honorable mentions on the Web get the same magnets and FirStink that the ones in “the fishwrap” do. Besides, last year’s Inker-winner was a double dactyl — an entry that ate up 10 lines of type (albeit narrow ones).

Along with the index page containing all the links, you might also want to look at Loser Elden Carnahan’s online Master Contest List; it’s very easy to scroll up and down to look at the options.

For a couple of years, I sought a wide variety of contests by requiring entrants to send only one entry per contest. People just hated that — it wasn’t worth the effort that some contests entailed to produce just one entry. So now you can send 25 entries for just one contest; you can send one entry for each of 25 contests; or anything in between.


The contest inspired by the nerdy-skewing musings of Extremely Dogged Loser Jeff Contompasis on the Facebook page Style Invitational Devotees produced a smallish set of entries from mostly the regular Losers, but also some new or irregular entrants who spotted in the “is it just me?” format a chance to offer up their nuggets of wry observational humor that they’d likely been carrying around in a pocket for years.

In fact, today’s sure-to-inflame-all-Texans Inker winner (observational), Neal Starkman of Seattle, also gets a FirStink for his first ink. Neal had entered a few previous Invites and made my short list twice, but managed to stay clean of ink until now. Neal is a freelance writer/editor who prepares books, brochures, videos and other materials, as well as an essayist on political and other topics who used to be seen in the now-online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

On the other side of the newness pendulum, today’s second-place prize (self-effacing category) goes to Chuck Smith of Woodbridge, Va., who dominated the Invitational rankings in the Invite’s first years and was the first to reach the Hall of Fame with 500 blots of ink. In the past few years, Chuck hasn’t lived the life of the Obsessive Loser, though he still gets ink fairly regularly. But it’s remarkable how even today, when I’ll mention The Style Invitational to someone I’ve just met, the person will say, “Oh, do you know Chuck Smith of Woodbridge?” Part of it was that The Post’s Sunday circulation in the 1990s was almost double what it is now; a significant majority of Washington area households regularly read The Post. And surely Chuck’s fame was further cemented by the long, tongue-in-cheek feature story by Style section reporter Frank Ahrens on his quest to the Virginia suburbs to discover the source of Chuck Smith’s humor. Here’s a link to the story, written in 1995 when Gene Weingarten was not only in league with the Czar of The Style Invitational, but was also the editor of the whole Style section, and so decided which stories would run in it.

Our remaining runners-up are both rookies who’ve become regular and enthusiastic voices both in their entries and on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook. Gregory Koch is taking a semester off from studies at the University of Connecticut while he recovers from the removal of a congenital brain tumor — fortunately he’ll be getting a brain-region T-shirt so he’ll be able to do any further surgery on himself. And Susan Geariety gets Inks Nos. 11 and 12 and her second mug or T-shirt. Fun fact: Susan, who lives in the San Diego area, is the sister-in-law of 20-ink Trevor Kerr of Chesapeake, Va. Judging from Facebook repartee, they’re enjoying a presumably friendly Invite rivalry.

A fun production glitch removed all the honorable mentions from the print-page file earlier this week, delaying editing for more than 24 hours; I think that’s why Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford didn’t send me her weekly “Haw!” for her favorite entry of the week. I’ll let you know what it was. And there’s no Scarlet Letter this week for unprintability; either the naughty stuff wasn’t funny enough or wasn’t naughty enough.


As mentioned last week, there will be a Loser brunch this Sunday at 11, up at Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art; and on Sunday the 18th we’ll have a D.C. area gathering, this one at Kilroy’s brunch buffet in the Springfield area just off the Beltway. I’ll be at Kilroy’s and looking forward to both meeting new Losers and remeeting the veterans (this time, out of the elements, as opposed to the windblown Flushies afternoon in October). For either or both events — both are at 11 a.m. — RSVP Elden Carnahan from the Loser Brunch page at

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