Last December Media Wales honoured Professor Judith Hall. The Head of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine’s department of anaesthetics and intensive care beat 29 other competitors. She was named the 2008 Western Mail Welsh Woman of the Year at a gala ceremony at Cardiff International Arena. This was a real achievement that brought the recipient well earned honour and a terrific trophy. The Welsh world applauded.
Not to be outdone the American Biographical Institute of Bur Oak Circle in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina thought they’d have a go. Their “Woman of the Year Representing Wales”, described as something given to those who have “had a positive impact on the lives of others,” comes in the form of an elegant cherrywood wall plaque with black insert and gold lettering. It’s a great honour to win one, they assure us. “To reach great heights, one much posses great depth”. Plaques cost a mere $295. No ceremony to attend. No need to buy a new frock or have your hair done. Just send out the cash. A bargain, I thought.
The writing world was once riddled with these sorts of things. There were poetry anthologies which jammed works in like sardines and charged contributors a fee to appear (“to offset high printing costs at this time”) and then charged again if you actually wanted to receive a copy of the book. There were competitions which were free to enter but then cost if you succeeded in making it to stage two. Naturally everyone did. And the fees there were hefty. There were also some wonderful offers to print your specially selected prize winning poem up as a wall chart, on lush paper woven by virgins underwater in Ecuador, and then rush it to you by extra special care airfreight. $600 a pop. Hard to beat.
The one I particularly liked was the bargain offer to put your poem to music for the FM radio market. There wasn’t one of these but we’ll skip by that. Fees started at $800 depending on the type of actor’s voice you wanted. Gravelly deep cost more than feminine high, apparently. You had to accept recitation in standard American. Nothing else available.
Most of these obvious scams vanished as the world shifted from hard paper to digital internet and filled with Nigerians asking you for your account number and sort code so they could send you several million. It is really good to see the determined and lovingly old fashioned people at American Biographical identifying a continuing need. If one of their blandishments drops through your letter box on its cream and stylish paper and with its endearing solicitations then bin it. Shred and throw. You don’t get honours for cash, not anymore.
Adapted from The Insider in the saturday 4th April, 2009 edition of The Western Mail