As part of this year’s One Read program and inspired by the grit, perseverance and the way those “Boys in the Boat” overcame the odds, we challenged writers to craft tales containing an element of the underdog for this year’s flash fiction contest.
We received plenty of stories about unexpected triumph on the playing field, but we also read tales of cheating death, of immigration and unlikely survival – all told in no more than 250 words. Thank you to everyone who entered and shared the worlds of your imagination with us. Our two winners are Carl Kremer and Von Pittman.
We are pleased to share with you the winning stories.James Earl by Carl Kremer
James Earl, named for the great basso profundo actor (whom he resembles, except for being green) – is the biggest bullfrog in my pond. His great call silences smaller creatures in the area and attracts females (cowfrogs?) from miles away. Others who, while old enough to croak for sex – sound timid when James Earl occasionally tunes up.
He is a miracle, not just for his age (13 is ancient for his kind, and I’ve listened to his calls for nearly that long) but for his phenomenal luck, his resourcefulness, his amphibian intelligence. While he was part of a mass of thousands of eggs, most did not hatch, and most of those who did fell prey as tadpoles to snakes, fish, birds, raccoons and even other frogs. Some of his siblings were eaten as children by larger frogs, perhaps their grandparents. The struggle to survive was fierce, and he might have been a pollywog for years, while other tadpoles grow to adulthood in one season.
He has mastered patient vigilance, sitting in one moist spot for hours, alert both for prey – insects, small snakes, and even smaller frogs – and for predators. Stealthy cats haunt the edges of his pond at night, along with foxes, raccoons, snakes and owls. By day herons, kingfishers, and even hawks drop silently from the sky and he is a prize entree to any carnivore.
And still, aged, wise and wary, he sings, reverberant, stentorian, and deep – for love.Obstacle Number Three by Von Pittman
Josh Carter stood number one in Tactics and number two in Seamanship, with just two weeks of Naval Officer Candidate School left. Nonetheless, he was about to wash out.
A six-foot wooden wall – Obstacle 3 on the obstacle course – stood between Josh and his ensign’s bars. Every officer candidate was required to clear every obstacle on the course at least once. They learned to run at Obstacle 3, throw a stiff leg at the wall, then let their momentum carry them over. The few OCs who had trouble tended to be short and pear-shaped, like Josh. Sixteen tries, sixteen failures. In spite of his academic record, he feared he wouldn’t be a naval officer. He would probably become an enlisted mess cook, slinging chow and swabbing decks.
Everyone in Josh’s training company wanted him to top Obstacle 3 and graduate. Suddenly, the 17th week arrived, his last chance. Josh ran, hit the wall, and got both forearms over the top. He struggled to lift his body, then suddenly pitched over the wall, head first.
Dizzied by the impact, he stumbled through the rest of the course. In the intensity of his effort, he never saw the two classmates who had grabbed his wrists and snatched him over, or heard the cheers from his company.
At graduation, Josh received an academic award in addition to his ensign’s commission. He figured that the lingering sprain in his left wrist had to be from falling over the top of Obstacle 3.
A big thank you to all of you who read or listened to “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown and joined us for one of this year’s outstanding One Read events. Over the past month we have explored the Great Depression and the build up to WWII. We have celebrated Olympic sport and the American spirit. We have investigated the themes and topics in this book through discussions, lectures, films and art. We appreciate the hundreds of you who attended events and promoted this book to your book clubs, your coworkers and your families. Thank you for your support.
We capped off the month with Brown delivering his keynote address at Columbia College’s Launer Auditorium, and he graciously shared his own story as a writer and researcher, as well as that of Joe Rantz and his teammates.
Our sincere thanks to you for being a part of this year’s One Read!
Hear One Read author Daniel James Brown speak about his research and writing process in the creation of “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” He will answer questions from the audience and sign books following the talk.
Tuesday, September 30 at 7:00 p.m.
For this year’s One Read art exhibit, we asked area artists to contribute works that explore a range of experiences and views of water, whether from shore or flying across the water itself, “in a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.” We were absolutely thrilled by the response and the range of artworks submitted.
At the exhibit’s opening reception on September 9, the following winners and honorable mentions were announced.
First place: “Row, Row, Row,” fiber art, paint and paper, by Leandra Spangler
Second place: “Down by the River,” fiber art, by Rebecca Douglas
Third place: “Sunset,” oil on wood panel, by Katherine Barnes
Hannah Ingmire, “The Magic World of Under the Water” (mixed media)
Scott McMahon, “Light on Water” (video)
Robert Sherman, “Silver Fish” (photograph)
Tom Stauder, “Boys in the Boat” (wood sculpture boys)
Jerry Thompson, “Booth Bay” (water color)
A very big thank you to the Columbia Art League, Columbia’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Orr Street Studios for their support and promotion of this event. The One Read art exhibit will be on display at Orr Street Studios through September 20.
The full line-up of this year’s One Read programs is now available! Pick up a copy at any library branch or bookmobile, or see our online guide.
We have a wide range of exciting programs scheduled for the coming weeks as we explore the themes and topics in Daniel James Brown’s book, “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” We will even have a visit from the author himself on September 30.
Join us in September for:
NOTE: This contest is now closed. Winners will be announced by October 10.
In 1936, the crew team from the University of Washington won Olympic gold. They shouldn’t have. They were certainly talented and determined enough to win, but the odds were stacked against them, with one team member sick, their boat given the worst lane assignment, and them missing the signal that started the gold-medal race. This year’s One Read selection, “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown, follows members of this ragtag group of rowers as they struggle through the Great Depression, physical adversity, and personal tragedy to become one of the greatest crew teams in our nation’s history.
Taking inspiration from “The Boys in the Boat,” we invite you to tell a story about beating the odds in 250 words or less. The moment can be significant or subtle, but all stories must contain an element of the underdog, of someone unexpectedly prevailing, or of a character getting up one more time than he or she is knocked down.
Starting September 2, entries may be submitted using this form, mailed or dropped off at any library or bookmobile. (See full rules below for details.) Winning entries and honorable mentions will be published on this site and winners will receive a $20 book store gift card.
Entries are due by September 23. Participants must be age 16 or older and residents of Boone or Callaway Counties. Read on for complete contest rules.Contest Rules Eligibility
- The contest is open to those 16 years of age and older.
- Participants must reside within the DBRL service area (Boone or Callaway County, Missouri).
- Entries will be accepted through Tuesday, September 23, 2014. (Mailed entries must be postmarked by that date.)
- One entry per individual.
- Submissions must be 250 words or less in length.
- Submissions must be in English.
- Submissions must include writer’s name, age, address and email address or phone number for eligibility verification and contact purposes.
- Entries must be in text format and typed.
- Entries may be submitted through the online form or by mail (DBRL, ATTN: Lauren/One Read Writing Contest, PO Box 1267, Columbia, MO 65205), or dropped off at a DBRL location.
- Submissions must be original, unpublished works.
- Each participant must be the sole author and exclusive owner of all right, title and interest in and to his or her submission.
- DBRL’s publication and use of the submission in accordance with the terms set out herein will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party (including copyright), or require any payment to or consent/permission from any third party.
- The submission must not contain any material that is inappropriate, indecent, profane, obscene, hateful, tortious, defamatory, slanderous or libelous.
- The submission must not contain any material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.
- The submission must not contain any material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any jurisdiction where the submission is created.
- The submission must not contain any commercial content that promotes any product or service of the sponsor or any third party.
- Entries will be evaluated and the winners chosen based on creativity, grammar and emotion evoked by the writing, as well as adherence to the guidelines outlined above.
- Two winners will be announced by October 10.
- Winning entries and those receiving honorable mentions will appear on the One Read website.
- Winners will be notified by phone or email and will each receive a $20 bookstore gift certificate.