Friday, February 17, 2012

Luck Had Nothing to Do With It

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 kids in 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan is an amazing story that I love, love love. Terry was one of Evelyn Ryan's ten kids, who discovered a paper trail after her mother died that begged a story to be written. Terry's father was an alcoholic who drank away much of their income, leaving Evelyn with the need to find creative ways to survive. Her solution was to enter contests; not the random sweepstakes kind. The "contesting era" of the 50's and 60's required entries of jingles and poems for everyday products. Evelyn became so good at these short, witty poems that she won over 200 confirmed contests plus many more. These prizes included a Ford Mustang, trips to Europe, televisions, appliances, clocks, and the list goes on. 

What I loved most is that beyond the winning, it was a tale of a mother who was strong despite the obstacles, and she wanted her children to grow up and thrive. She didn't have much but she used her brain, and taught her children that the "greatest poverty is poverty of the mind." The writing itself was wonderful, in that it built up suspense and made you want to root for Evelyn to win every time. I also loved reading about the process she went through to actually write the jingles and then enter these contests. Fascinating!

For picnic or party, Jell-O's a boon —
Made by nine, all "set" by noon —
With taste and shimmer-shake appeal,
Jell-O jollies any meal.
(-Evelyn Ryan's entry)
This book has been made into a movie recently, starring Julianne Moore. As usual, the book is much better, but the movie is decent.

You simply have to check out the website, and especially read the Q&A part with the author. Sadly, it reports that Terry Ryan died of cancer in 2007.

GIVEAWAY TIME! I have had so much fun getting this blog started, and I appreciate all of you who took a risk and took your time to come by. I'm giving away a brand new copy of THIS book, along with a one-of-a-kind handmade bookmark by my daughter. Just make a comment below! (I'd love to hear how you were creative in overcoming an obstacle or if you ever won a great prize!)

Sorry, no winners this time! 


  1. As Christina's younger sister I have been lucky to read most of these treasures she has found. I always love the Sundays when she's been to the library and brings books to our parent's house. I especially enjoyed The Bean Trees and the adventures of Taylor & Turtle...couldn't put the book down yet I didn't want it to end.

    1. Glad you consider yourself lucky and not forced to read books thrust upon you by your big sister!