Sunday 19 June 2011

From my comping library: 2. Small but perfectly formed

The 1980s was the peak time for small press comping magazines. There were around half a dozen self published subscription-only magazines, much like Grape Vine is now. Enterprize was produced by Mary Cann, Jane &  Malcolm's Competition Solutions by Jane and Malcom Marsters,  All-in-Won by Julian Johnson and Win With Lynne by Lynne Suzanne. There were several others which I didn't subscribe to - maybe you remember one of them, or even contributed to one?

As well as  their monthly, or even fortnightly booklets, these magazines often produced occasional specials - annual collections of winning tiebreakers or booklets of advice and inspiration from the well-known comping writers of the time. They were also a platform for people who only produced occasional publications to advertise their own little books.

 I have a lovely collection of these which I still re-read now and then to give me inspiration and motivation, especially if I'm  going through a lean spell, win-wise.

First of all, the annual collections of winning tiebreakers from Enterprize. it seems odd now to think that it was possible to fill a whole 36 page booklet with tiebreakers from just one year, but that is what Mary Cann did year after year - and she only included the best ones as she was often pushed for space!

Jane and Malcom Marsters produced a very useful two-part "Tie  Break Builder" which suggested lists of  words, phrases and rhymes on a variety of subjects. These made a very useful starting point for creating quick but original tiebreakers. You can see that i still use them regularly by the sticky notes in some of the pages.

Mervyn Coverdale is a comper that many of you will know, especially if you belong to the London Competitors Club. He produced three very useful little booklets. One of them is a general introduction to tiebreaker writing, covering all the basic techniques, and the other two take themes of holidays and personalities and list winning tiebreakers that used some of these techniques

Members of the London Competitors Club will remember Aubrey Morris, who was the club President until a few years ago. He wrote a two-part booklet called  "How to Win Prizes" which covered all aspects of comping (or at least all the aspects that existed at the time! Comping has changed a lot since the booklets were written in 1979) from working out orders of merit to finding out factual answers. I wonder whether he could have ever imagined the arrival of Google when he was writing those books!

And  finally, most "old school" compers find it impossible to think about comping writing without their first thought being of Joy Thorpe, one of the most prolific and popular comping writers ever.  I can remember being totally awe struck when I went to my first London Competitors Club meeting and found that I was sitting just a few feet from her! She wrote regular columns in several comping magazines until not very long before she passed away a few years  ago,  and  many of you will have cringed at her "Rottweiler" approach of tearing apart the losing tiebreakers of her willing victims. Joy wrote a little booklet called "How to be a Winner" which was packed with motivational thoughts and emphasised the power of positive thinking.

Do you have any comping reference books from years  ago? Are they still in use, or gathering dust on a shelf or in the loft? I'd love to hear about them.


  1. I still use my copies of Jane & Malcolm's Tie-Break Builder for inspiration. They helped me to win a Kenyan safari many years ago when I was just getting into doing slogan competitions. I wrote to Jane and told her that their books had inspired me. I got a lovely reply with lots of hints and tips for the safari as they had won one a few years before.

  2. Great article, Jane - it makes me hark back to days when everything was simpler, NPN entries could go AIOE without fear of bankruptcy due to postage costs and the voting competition was a mere glint in Satan's eye...

  3. Fascinating to read about the history of comping! I think I missed the golden tie-breaker years though, which is a shame. Sounds like there were so many of them around then. The internet really did revolutionise the hobby didn't it, amazing to see how much it has changed over the years!

  4. No wonder you miss tiebreaker comps, brinkofbedlam, you write so well you must have been brilliant at them!


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