Upon registering for the National Hollerin’ Contest, I knew I couldn’t be alone. Certainly, in the 42-year history of the event, another random, clueless dreamer must have given hollerin’ a hopeless shot. And if so, he or she must have some priceless advice for a fellow aspiring hollerer. So my mission was obvious: find such a person, if one existed, and seek some sage advice.

Seek, and ye shall find.

What I found was a year-old blog posting by Joshua Foer, a freelance journalist/author/U.S. Memory Champion who randomly competed in the Hollerin’ Contest in 2002. Foer admittedly made a mockery of the event when he, according to his post, walked onto the stage and yelled the most random word I could think of, “GINGIVITIS!!” and then proceeded to bellow out an impromptu oration on the importance of dental hygiene.

Five years later, however, Foer returned to Spivey’s Corner. This time, with the help of hollerin’ champion Larry Jackson, Foer amazingly finished in second place. He was nice enough to answer some questions for me this weekend. And I’ve already taken some of his advice. More on that in a few days…

Anyone Can Enter: How did you muster the courage to compete in the first contest?

Joshua Foer: It didn’t take much courage, because I didn’t know what I was getting into when I entered the first contest. I assumed it was a joke… that you were supposed to scream something funny as loud as you could. I had no idea that hollerin’ is a very serious tradition, with a very proud heritage. Once I learned what hollerin’ is, I felt terrible about my performance.

Anyone Can Enter: After your first visit to Spivey’s Corner, how did you convince Larry Jackson to take you under his wing?

Foer: I called him up. The folks of Spivey’s Corner are rightfully proud of their tradition, and were more than happy to help someone who was earnestly interested in it.

Anyone Can Enter: How much time did you spend practicing for the return trip?

Foer: Larry and I spent two days training, which was enough time for me to not make a total fool of myself, but not enough to get particularly good.

Anyone Can Enter: How did people at the contest respond to your return?

Foer: When I got on stage, I asked how many people remembered my last performance. A bunch of hands went up. People were wary. But I think I won them over in the end. They respected that I’d come back for redemption.

Anyone Can Enter: What kind of advice can you give to a first timer like me?

Foer: I recommend you learn a bit about hollerin’, and listen to some classic hollers, before entering. It would be a good idea to enlist the help of one of the veterans to train you in this ancient art.

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