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Mini Memoir Contest Winners

October 12, 2016

TypewriterAs part of this year’s One Read program, we invited you to take inspiration from “Bettyville,” and write your own mini memoir. The mini memoir could have centered around a big moment in your life, or even a small event from which you learned something profound about yourself.

We received entries about childhood and old age and everything in between. Some memoirs focused on cheerful moments, while others were more somber, but all of the entries were wonderful insights into the lives of our community. All of the writers shared their stories in less than 250 words. Thank you to everyone who entered and shared your stories of inspiration, love, loss and more.

Our two winners are Mary Jo Fritz and Starlight Katsaros. Honorable mentions go to Barbara Carter and Marcie McGuire.

We are excited to share with you the winning stories.

The Atomic Cloud Chamber by Mary Jo Fritz

It was 1960.  I was a senior in Sister Kathleen’s physics class in high school.  Assigned to work in small groups on a project of our own choosing, Rita, Margaret and I chose to build an atomic cloud chamber.  Sister cautioned us that it had been attempted before by students with no success.

Undaunted, we set out to gather the materials we would need, including a 10 gallon aquarium, dry ice and rubbing alcohol.  A trip to a local jeweler’s shop was made to obtain an irradiated watch hand.  Working evenings and weekends, we assembled it in the garage.  It worked for us there but would it also work in the classroom?

It did work!  Radioactive ions shot off the watch hand making small contrails in the super saturated atmosphere.  Sister Kathleen was delighted by our success, saying no groups of boys had ever achieved what we had done.  She directed us to the principal (Father Beier) to show off what girls can do.  Was she an early feminist?  One can only guess.

That memory has echoed within for the past 56 years.  When faced with a difficult situation, it bolsters my self-confidence.  It makes me believe, too, that girls are just as capable as boys in the sciences.  It also emphasizes that a teacher can and does have a strong impact on students.

One singular event, many years ago, was definitely a lifelong memory!

Wild Children by Starlight Katsaros

I grew up with my brother, Shaman, on Missouri farmland north of town.  Our imagination was sparked with adventures in Terabithia and Tom Sawyer.  Their creativity inspired us to set out one day and build our own wild magical place in the world.  We went armed with rustic tools, a hatchet, some string, and a pocket knife.  We explored the land that first day, choosing with care our fort’s foundation.

The fort needed to be built with ingenuity, so using what we could find in the forest and fields of our farm we began to create our first homestead.  We used vines to tie together the logs that we could manage to move.  The largest of these, at maybe fifteen feet, formed the backbone of our fort upon which we laid smaller sticks to be our walls.  It slowly took shape around us with a small circular entrance complete with a fire pit and a triangular extension on the stream bank.  We even found coal in the banks of the stream to light our fire.  Our entrance gave us sovereign presence over the stream.  It was perched at the base of a tree which itself leaned precariously twenty feet over the rushing stream.  We were wild children of the forest.  Our view of the world expanded and took shape from this magical vista.

Phonics by Barbara Carter

It was awful, devastating.  There were tense, hushed parent-teacher conferences.  Worried glances.   I would never be able to read, or spell.  Everybody said so.   At the age of six, I was a failure.  I didn’t understand Phonics.

Then, that terrifying assignment:  Go to the town library, get a book, read it, and report on it.  I felt sick.  I couldn’t read (everybody said so), and I didn’t even know what a library was.

The next day, Mom took me to a room filled with books and a comfortable, smiling lady who didn’t know I couldn’t read.  She handed me a book.  “I think you’ll like this one.”

The next Saturday, I took the book back.  “Did you like that book?”  I nodded, not meeting her eyes.

“Well, if you liked that book, why don’t you try this one next?”

“Can I?”  I looked up.

“That’s why the library is here.”

Each week, the lady was ready with another book.  When I told her I wished I could take out two books, she told me I could!  I started taking out several books each week.

When I had read all the kid books (it was a really small library), she introduced me to the bigger kid books, then to the teen books, then, when I was in 6th grade, to my first adult book, Agatha Christie’s “Murder, She Said.”  By the time I was in 8th grade, I was reading Shakespeare.

And I still don’t understand Phonics.

Letting Go by Marcie McGuire

I knew something was wrong when the nurse kept adjusting the fetal monitor and trying not to look worried. We could all tell there was no heartbeat. When she turned off the machine, the room was still. I turned on my side in bed and closed my eyes, my belly heavy with my dead child. What would I tell my three-year-old at home, eagerly awaiting his baby sister?

When it was time to leave the hospital, I felt like a failure as they wheeled me to the front door, my arms hanging empty in my lap, my breasts filling with milk. That spring I wanted to rip flowers out of the ground. Suddenly fat and happy babies were everywhere. Over the next few months I would hear many unhelpful comments from friends and strangers, telling me this was God’s will, urging me to try again.

I did eventually try again. Finally, after another devastating loss, I gave birth to a healthy active boy. But never again would I feel safe from worry. I had lost whatever faith I once had, and I envied those who still believed. I had no answers for my living children when they asked, “Why did the others die?” But somehow I found a way to move forward; I tried to teach my children to love the world and not be afraid, naming things that crossed our path, accepting that there are things beyond our understanding or ability to control.

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Thank You for Taking Part in One Read 2016!

October 6, 2016

A huge thank you to everyone who read or listened to “Bettyville” by George Hodgman and participated in any of the excellent One Read events this year. In the month of September, we explored a wide variety of topics that ranged from caring for an aging parent to the decline and revitalization of small-town America. We learned how rescuing strays can rescue us and about resources for training our furry friends. We listened to author George Hodgman talk about his experiences that led to “Bettyville” and had the opportunity to chat with him. As a community, we investigated the topics and themes of this memoir through discussions, arts, films and lectures. We want to express our appreciation to all of you who attended these events, read the book and shared it with your friends, family, coworkers and book clubs.

Thank you for being a part of this year’s One Read!

Do you have an idea for what book our community should read next? Visit this site or any library branch in November to suggest a book for next year.

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The View From Here: Art Exhibit Winners

October 4, 2016

For this year’s One Read art exhibit, we asked artists from Mid-Missouri to submit works that explore the Midwestern landscape, rural communities and other scenes from this area. Thank you to all the artists who participated!

At the awards reception on September 13, the following winners were announced. Congratulations to all!


First place:

“Flyover Country,” photography

by Shane Epping





Second place:

“An Icy Dawn Near Bettyville,” mixed media acrylic with winter leaves and bark

by Hannah Hollilster Ingmire








Third place:

“Hometown Downtown,” oil

by Jeanne Pascale









Special thanks to Orr Street Studios, the Columbia Art League and Columbia’s Office of Cultural Affairs  for their support!

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“Portrait of Betty” on National Museum Day

September 20, 2016

bettyNational Museum Day is Saturday, September 24th, and the Museum of Art and Archaeology is hosting an open house featuring the portrait exhibition on display in the galleries, with a special museum display of some of Betty Hodgman’s treasures and personal items. These items were provided by One Read author, George Hodgman, and are accompanied by this statement about the collection:

This cabinet of curiosities includes many objects of particular significance to the world of my mother, Betty Hodgman, and to the memoir, Bettyville. The tiny map of Monroe County is a commemoration of the place my mother lived almost all her life, first in Madison, where she was born in 1922, and later in Paris where she resided after 1972.

Betty was not only an avid collector of antiques and old things, she was a conservator of objects important to her family. One of her passions was antique hat pins and she kept small vases full of them in our living room and on the bureau in her bedroom. Note the blue baby shoes hanging from the pins. I discovered these tiny shoes, which I once wore, wrapped in tissue and carefully preserved in our basement after my mother’s death.

Betty also loved cloissone—vases, ash trays, napkin rings, bowls– and kept a large collection of these treasures on view in the living room of her home in Paris, Missouri. Although the hat pins and cloissone were important to her, perhaps her favorite objects (and mine) were two small figurines of a pair of merry Chinese children purchased for her by my father for ten dollars in Chinatown in Chicago when he was a salesman in the early years of their marriage.  Value to my mother was always a personal, emotional thing, never merely the figures on a price tag. She also loved the tiny gold shoes shown here. They will be returned to their place on a marble-topped stand in our entry hall after the close of this exhibition.

The photograph of my parents when young was taken at a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Moberly Country Club in the mid-sixties.

Most resonant perhaps is the oil painting of the pink roses that she had done for our living room by a local artist when we moved to Paris. At that time, she transplanted two pink rose bushes which had grown in her mother’s yard for decades, carefully nourished with well water and coffee grounds, to our new home. They still survive and are easily more than fifty years old. So many things in our home—wall paper, decorative plates, roses, the carpet—refer to her mother’s flowers. They are, to me, the dominant image in my mother’s world and symbolize her love for Mammy and for her home. Those original roses still grow in our yard and I try to look after them with care.

 The antique brush and mirror belonged to Betty’s mother. The silver cranes– which fascinated me as a child– were a wedding gift from my father’s aunt, Sade Sizer of Kenilworth, Illinois. They stand on the piano that my mother played for decades and she could look at them during her hours and hours of practice, her reflection shining back to meet her gaze. I remember her often there at that piano.

The deck of cards refers, of course, to bridge, one of my mother’s favorite pass times. She played in bridge groups in Moberly and Paris for more than a half century with many of the same partners. Despite her illness, she was—and this was a special gift—able to play bridge relatively well three weeks before her death at a luncheon at our home with her old friends.

On bad days there was the movie “Dirty Dancing” which never failed to uplift her. Some of those days came during her chemotherapy during the last year of her life. One of the photographs shows her, from behind, waiting at Boone Hospital for a treatment.

 I brought her the Louis Vuitton scarf from Paris where I bought it in a boutique on the Rive Gauche. I’m not sure she ever wore it. She had the tendency to guard her special things rather than wear them out. She did, however, wear the bedroom slippers featured here day after day during the last year of her life. They are of great sentimental value as it seems they traveled with us through a million miles of difficult experience. To me they are as valuable as gold and more beloved than any precious substance that I might have inherited.

I hope you will think of Betty as you peruse this display.

                                                            –George Hodgman

Please come to the Museum of Art and Archaeology to visit the “Portrait of Betty” display Saturday, September 24th, and see the collection of invaluable items George Hodgman is sharing with our community.

Saturday, September 24 at 1-3 p.m.

Columbia, Museum of Art and Archaeology, Mizzou North, 115 Business Loop 70W



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Program Canceled & Rescheduled

September 13, 2016

The program “The Development of the LGBT Movement and the HIV/AIDS Crisis in Mid-Missouri” has been canceled for Thursday, Sept. 15.

It has now been rescheduled for next Thursday, Sept. 22. Same time, same place!

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Author’s Talk With George Hodgman

September 13, 2016

George-Hodgman-author-photo-credit-Sigrid-Estrada-copyJoin us to hear author George Hodgman speak about returning home to Paris, Missouri to care for his aging mother, and how that experience became his memoir “Bettyville.” He will also answer questions and sign copies of his book following his talk.

Thursday, September 22 at 7pm



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KFRU’s David Lile Interviews One Read Author George Hodgman

September 1, 2016

On August 31st, KFRU’s David Lile interviewed this year’s One Read author George Hodgman about his memoir, “Bettyville.” Listen to Hodgman speak on the writing process, his struggle with maintaining some privacy of his mother, and the possibility of adapting “Bettyville” into a TV show.

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Mini Memoir Writing Contest

July 6, 2016

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

“On Betty’s Journey, I have learned something I had not known: I am very strong, strong enough to stay, strong enough to go when the time comes. I am staying not to cling on, but because sometime, at least once, everyone should see someone through. All the way home.” – George Hodgman, “Bettyville”

Great minds only need simple tools by Antti KyllonenIn this year’s One Read selection, George Hodgman tells the story of returning to Paris, Missouri after working for years in New York City and finding both his hometown and his mother in extreme decline. The book is full of stories from his childhood, woven among his present-day struggles and triumphs as his mother’s caregiver – memories, events and conversations that formed the man he now is.

Taking inspiration from “Bettyville,” we invite you to write a personal essay of 250 words or less – a mini memoir – that recalls a pivotal event or interaction that significantly shaped your personality, crystalized your worldview, or otherwise echoed through the years of your life. The memory you choose may be a monumental moment – like the birth of a child or loss of a loved one – or seemingly small, but it should be a moment that stands for something important and from which you learned something about yourself.

Starting September 1, 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 in the Columbia Missourian (online and in print). Winners will receive a $25 book store gift card.

Entry Form

Entries are due by September 26. 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).
Contest Deadline
  • Entries will be accepted through September 26, 2016. (Mailed entries must be postmarked by that date.)
Submission Requirements and Guidelines
  • 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: Kat/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 and the Columbia Missourian’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.
Content Restrictions
  • 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 vivid language, grammar, effectiveness of details chosen, and emotion evoked by the writing, as well as adherence to the guidelines outlined above.
  • Two winners will be announced by October 12.
  • Winning entries and those receiving honorable mentions will appear on the One Read website and in the Columbia Missourian (online and in print).
  • Winners will be notified by phone or email and will each receive a $25 bookstore gift certificate.


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