“Our middle-America town of Defiance was big enough to be the country seat and small enough to need only three traffic lights,” wrote Terry Ryan in the first chapter of her memoir The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less (2001).
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Ryan’s mother, Evelyn, supported her large family by entering (and very often winning) jingle and limerick writing contests for companies and brands, an undertaking known as “contesting.”
Ryan’s family was otherwise very poor, and her father contributed little as he struggled with alcoholism: “Family lore held that Dad, as the youngest of seven children in his family, had grown up with no chores or responsibilities and had never developed the routine skills expected of an adult man.”
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio was made into a feature film in 2005.
In addition to this book, With Sylvia Mollick, Ryan was also the co-creator of the comic strip T.O. Sylvester, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle from 1983-1999.
Ryan died in 2007.
If you enjoyed The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, we suggest these Ohio side trips: