Dreamworks' film adaptation of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, premiers September 30th!
Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson to Star in Movie of "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio"! [MORE]
- Download the Simon & Schuster press release by clicking here!
- Listen to Terry read an excerpt from the Simon & Schuster audio book of The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio. (© 2001)
- Listen to Terry's interview on NPR's All Things Considered (4/8/01).
- (To listen to the above clips, you need the free RealPlayer 8 Basic.)
Read the following reviews, reproduced below:
Read these reviews, available online
People Magazine: Starred "Book of the Week" - 4/23/01
Publisher's Weekly Review (Starred) 2/5/01
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan (Simon & Schuster, publication April 4, 2001).
Married to a man with violent tendencies and a severe drinking problem, Evelyn Ryan managed to keep her 10 children fed and housed during the 1950s and '60s by entering -- and winning -- contests for rhymed jingles and advertising slogans of 25 words or less. This engaging and quick-witted biography written by daughter Terry (the writing half of T.O. Sylvester, a long-running cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle) relates how Evelyn submitted multiple entries, under various names, for contests sponsored by Dial Soap, Lipton Soup, Paper Mate Pens, Kleenex Tissues and any number of other manufacturers and won a wild assortment of prizes, including toasters, bikes, basketballs, and all-you-can-grab supermarket sprees.
Sometimes she even hit the jackpot, as when a Beechnut jingle contest netted a Triumph TR3 sportscar, a jukebox, a trip to New York and an appearance on the Merv Griffin Show. But the Ryans' means were so limited that even a $25 prize was an economic boon. Between contests, Ryan provides dry-eyed glimpses of her father's violence, family medical emergencies and the crushing poverty of everyday life, showcasing the resilience of a mother who, despite her own problems, spurned television's "Queen for a Day" for making victims of its contestants. The result is a quirky, heartwarming celebration of one woman's resourcefulness, and of the wacky enticements of 1950s consumer culture. B&W photos throughout. Agent, Amy Rennert.
Forecast: Infused with the pathos and pluck of Erma Bombeck, this updated version of "Cheaper by the Dozen" couldn't be better fodder for the TV and radio talkshow circuit - and Ryan is already booked on The Today Show. If her delivery is as compelling in person as on the page, her 10-city tour will propel a full-tilt media blitz.
Kirkus Review 2/6/01
A paean to a housewife in a small Midwestern town who saved her ten children from homelessness by winning hundreds of jingle-writing contests during the 1950s and '60s.
San Francisco Chronicle contributor Ryan describes her impoverished childhood in a close-knit Irish Catholic family, revealing how her mother Evelyn's optimistic spirit counterbalanced her father's reign of terror. A talented writer, Evelyn sacrificed her promising career when she married Kelly, an alcoholic who squandered his wages while denying his ten children the basic necessities of life. As a result, the family finances depended on Evelyn submitting witty prose to product promotions contests and winning grocery shopping sprees or expensive appliances (which were then sold) to stave off hunger. (Ryan cites some of her mother's epigrams, which sing the praises of Pepsodent, Sealy and Paper Mate, throughout her fast-paced narrative.) Evelyn made researching contests part of her daily routine and managed to win pretty much anything the family needed--including money for health insurance. Her grueling life, full of housework and devoid of friends, was redeemed mainly by the love of her children, who worshipped her. Although this has all the ingredients of a sob story, Ryan balances her tales of childhood trauma with humorous anecdotes about babysitting accident-prone children and wrestling irascible chickens. She also recalls how her mother finally developed a social life with other housewives who, although not as financially unfortunate as Evelyn, also managed to fill their cookie jars with the proceeds of advertising contests.
An uplifting tale of domestic martyrdom, told with a remarkable lack of self-pity, that forces us to put our own sorrows into perspective.
Oprah Magazine, April 2001
Pluck Be a Lady: How one clever housewife saved her family
In the mid-1950s, the ten Ryan kids lived on the edge of disaster and dispossession. Dad drank away his machine-shop wages, and his witty, resourceful wife, Evelyn, was too busy at home to take a job. So she started entering contests -- not today's sweepstakes but tests of literacy mettle -- churning out hundreds of rhyming couplets and mini-essays hailing the merits of soap and cat food. And by God, she won. Evelyn's entries kept the family in food, clothing, and bikes. She won every appliance they owned, a car, and even, on the eve of eviction, enough money for the down payment on a new house. In 'The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio,' a good natured memoir as compelling as a commercial jingle and plainspoken about family dramas and lurking sorrows, Terry Ryan, Evelyn's sixth child, does justice to her mother's homebound heroism. Evelyn Ryan created an ingenious variation on women's work and deployed an admirable, peculiarly American form of pluckiness that's great fun to read about. -- Judith Stone
American Airlines / American Way Magazine
Poets have always been poor. Had Keats and Poe lived in the age of advertising contests, they could have learned from the example of Evelyn Ryan. For almost 20 years she supported 10 children and an alcoholic husband by writing those short verses, jingles, and pithy and punning little paragraphs that used to fuel contests and newspaper poetry pages.
Anyone can dream of winning a contest. Mrs. Ryan worked at it, scavenging drawers full of box tops, coupons, and other "proofs of purchase," and keeping pen and notebook handy should inspiration strike. It almost always did. When the clothes washer or family car sickened, or the bank threatened foreclosure, she would dash off another couple of lines, another 25 words on why she used Pepsodent or Oxydol. The major home appliance, the year's supply of soap, the cash prize would show up in the nick of time.
Her story might have become an "Angela's Ashes" with box tops. But Mrs. Ryan was almost unfailingly cheerful in the face of circumstances that would send today's woman to a good lawyer or shrink. The author, the sixth of those 10 children, has inherited Mom's attitude and talent to become a San Francisco writer and cartoonist. According to an epilogue, the other children are also thriving. Mrs. Ryan won that contest, too. -- B.M.
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