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Best selling author Daniel James Brown visits University of Oregon

The lights dimmed in the EMU ballroom. It was time for Connor Benson, a third year rower on the University of Oregon club rowing team, to introduce Daniel James Brown, the author of the New York Times best selling book The Boys in the Boat. 

As soon as Benson mentioned that the book was about the University of Washington rowing team, the crowd let out a huge groan.

“I am not a Huskies fan,” Brown said as he walked to the podium. “I’m a Golden Bear.”

Oregon club sports, the UO Honors College, Pepsi and Lane County all joined together to bring Brown to the University of Oregon campus. The idea for this event came from former Oregon rower and alumni Debbie Knechtel, who helped connect the sponsors with Brown’s agents.

Brown has been in travel mode ever since his book came out in 2013. Despite traveling all around the country, he still enjoys it because of the effect the book has on people.

“It can move people and sometimes even change their lives,” Brown said. “So when I go to these kinds of events, I get a lot of feedback. I get a lot of energy that makes me want to move forward and write more books.”

Crawford Campbell is a first year rower for the club and has found a lot of motivation from the book.

“It really struck me,” Campbell said, “and struck me in the sense that I really wanted to join the rowing team and experience it for myself.”

Ruoxi He, the coxswain for the women’s varsity team, was very impressed with how Brown was able to capture the difficult terminology of the sport. Brown has never been a rower, but he was able to effectively invoke the emotions and feelings that are involved in competitive rowing.

Brown defined himself as a fanatic for the very small details. He said he worked on the book for four years. “If you took all the hours and pulled them out, probably three of those four years was research,” Brown said.

Brown spent those years of research by going through microfilm of old newspapers and interviewing the best college and olympic rowers. To make sure that he got every detail correct, he would have rowers look over the book and fix any mistakes.

That desire to be correct to the minute detail has gotten The Boys in the Boat four awards in its two years of existence. The awards for Brown are sweet – his previous two books were close to winning but it never happened.

As the event reached its end, Brown read the last three paragraphs of the book which describes the end of the olympic race. The same people in the audience that groaned in the beginning, were now hanging on every word.

Follow Keoni Conlu on Twitter: @kconlu13


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Keoni Conlu

Keoni Conlu