Every issue, we publish a cartoon (drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Ben Schwartz) and ask our readers to caption it. We wanted to learn more about our most prolific contest contributors. Read more participant profiles here.
It’s never too late for some good, old-fashioned sibling rivalry—not even in retirement. Dinah Rokach lives with her older brother in Silver Spring, Maryland, and together the siblings enter caption and wordplay contests and compete for wins. But the rivalry is never mean-spirited: Most of all, Rokach, who was a finalist in Moment’s contest last fall, just wants to make her brother laugh. We spoke with Rokach about her love of contests, her sibling rivalry and the secret to a perfect caption.
What first drew you to Moment‘s caption contest? How long have you been submitting to it?
I am the book reviewer for The Beacon (not to be confused with the right-wing Free Beacon), a monthly newspaper geared to people over age 50, distributed free in the greater Washington area. My column, which is one year old, is called “The Bibliophile.” In retirement, I have spent many happy hours reading the books which I review and subscribing to e-newspapers and e-magazines online primarily from New York (to stay in touch with my hometown), Washington, DC, Israel and those covering Jewish issues and the Jewish community.
In so doing, I have found these online contest to enter: the New York Magazine competition (since discontinued), the New Yorker caption contest, the Washington Post Style invitational and the Moment Magazine caption contest.
What’s the secret to a great caption?
Wit and brevity from an unexpected angle.
When your caption became a Moment finalist, you mentioned that your brother was a finalist for The New Yorker’s contest—and that your sibling rivalry was now at an even keel.
My brother and I “compete” for the most wins and honorable mentions. We each submit separately and without input from the other.
I show my brother my submissions—after the fact—and, when he spontaneously laughs in reaction, it makes my day. I can’t always wow the judges, but the instant feedback from my sibling is reward enough.
Does your brother enter the same contests as you? Did he become interested because of you?
Yes and yes. I think I’ve mastered retirement better and have been a good example to him, even though I am the younger sibling.
Do you feel a sense of competition with other entrants?
I don’t feel any sense of competition with fellow entrants. At times, I wonder at the finalists chosen—but that is human nature, thinking your entries are better. Although there are other times I am charmed by the finalists selected and concede my skills have room for improvement.
What’s your process for coming up with a winning caption?
When I see the cartoon—I don’t linger; I don’t mull it over. There’s an immediate flash of an idea which I seize on. I may take a moment or two to refine the actual words to make them more concise and funnier. And that’s it. Pure fun with no angst and no downside. I don’t try to take into account how the judge will react. If I amuse myself, it’s a winner in my book. Generally, I don’t have to think long as I am a happy person and tend to see the humor or irony in most situations in life.