Buck Dawson Authors Award
2019 Carolyn Wood (USA)
Tough Girl: An Olympian’s Journey
Carolyn Wood swam in her first Olympic Games at the tender age of 14. She traveled to Rome in 1960 as a young teenager and placed fourth in the world in the 100m freestyle, failed to finish in the 100m butterfly final, because she swallowed water, but took home gold with her USA teammates on the world and Olympic record setting 400m freestyle relay.
Wood set another world record in the 100m butterfly, the next year, in Blackpool, England at another international competition. She was a four-time High School All-American (1959-1962), and a seven-time individual state champion. In 1992, she was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Wood received her Bachelor of Arts, in English, from the University of Oregon, Phi Beta Kappa in 1976, a Master in Social Work from Portland State University, 1978, and a Master in Education, also from Portland State University, in 1979.
Now a retired English teacher, Wood spent more than 35 years encouraging students to write and recently took her own advice, although often she’d rather be practicing yoga, or outdoors tending her bees and garden, or hiking backroads and mountain trails. Ms. Wood’s work has appeared in Teachers as Writers and Elohi Gadugi Journal. In 2016, Carolyn Wood wrote her first book Tough Girl: An Olympian’s Journey. Tough Girl is a coming-of-age memoir of a young swimmer’s triumphs and heartbreaks on the path to winning Olympic gold at age 14. Some 50 years later, author Carolyn Wood embarks on a solo pilgrimage to walk the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago in an attempt to reclaim her “inner tough girl” as she reflects on coming out as gay in the 1970s after marriage and motherhood, and the disillusionment and loss she experiences when her 30-year relationship suddenly ends.
“Tough Girl artfully weaves Wood’s life story around the tale of her long walk on the Camino de Santiago, an effort to tap into her tough girl resilience so she can begin to accept the end of her long marriage. The ups and downs of Carolyn’s childhood road to the Olympics as well as her journey on the Camino, will thrill and inspire readers.”
In 2018, Wood re-released the book as – Tough Girl: Lessons in Courage and Heart from Olympic Gold to the Camino de Santiago
Recipients of the Buck Dawson Authors Award.