Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sporty Girl March Roundup

It is officially spring, and I've been told that there are some people who actually have warm temps and flowers. Here in Maine, I'm looking out on ever-present mounds of snow and listening to Siri telling me how it "feels like" ten degrees. Nope. Not jealous at all. With spring comes spring sports, and spring training and amazing photos of people getting out and about. So let's get right to it!

March is Women's History Month and this year was the 35th anniversary of the celebration with the theme "Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives." You can read more about the women honored by the National Women's History Project here

In the world of sports there are many storytellers. The talking heads who grace our TV screens, give us the play by play, and profile athletes are often men but there are some wonderful standout female reporters on the beat. Mary Carillo is one of my favorites. 

A correspondent for NBC Olympics and a tennis analyst since the 1980's, Ms. Carillo was a was champion doubles star herself garnering wins at the French Open, the US Open and the US Clay Court Championships. 

From her NBC bio:
"Carillo has received two coveted Peabody Awards, one of television’s highest honors, one for work on the HBO documentary Billie Jean King, Portrait of a Pioneer and the other for co-writing with Frank DeFord the HBO documentary Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sport. Carillo was named “Best Commentator” by Tennis Magazine (1988-91), “Best Commentator” by World Tennis Magazine (1986) and “Broadcaster of the Year” by the WTA (1981 and 1985). She has co-written two books—Tennis My Way with Martina Navratilova and Rick Elstein’s Tennis Kinetics."

We at Sporty Girl Books seek to honor the stories of women and girls in sports and March has been an exciting month for that.

March 8th was International Women's Day and World Rowing put out the following challenge for photos on Twitter. If you'd like to see more, search for #womeninrowing on your twitter feed!

From NPR's "Only A Game" broadcast comes this article about JV baseball player, Sydney Dore. Sydney Dore is a 14 year old at McKeel Academy of Technology, a charter middle and high school in Lakeland, FL who showed up at Red Sox spring training to thank her inspiration Dustin Pedroia. My fave quote is from coach, Lorne Wheatcraft. "She tried out and there was no way I could say, 'You are not good enough to be on this team.' There was just no possible way to do that." Of course this is just another in a wonderful long line of girls who are being allowed to play baseball. We happily covered Mo'ne Davis and her wonderful showing at the Little League World Series.

I want to note here that we at Sporty Girl Books are also are huge fans of softball. Coaching softball since 1985 is Carol Hutchins, from Michigan. This article about her 1,400th career win comes from the NCAA website. "Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins earned her 1,400th career victory in memorable fashion as the No. 4-ranked Wolverines cruised to a 20-0, five-inning rout over rival Ohio State on Sunday. Hutchins is just the third coach to reach 1,400 wins in NCAA softball history; she is the second winningest active coach." 20-0? Congratulations to Coach Hutchins and the team!

And finally (also from NPR's, Only A Game) is a story about a women's sports team that regularly outdraws many Division I male basketball teams. Utah Gymnastics is the only program that has reached the national championships every year of that event's existence (39). With a pep band, in-between-routine videos and spectator games it has averaged over 10,000 fans for the last 20 years and according to the article had already sold 7,500 season tickets.

In fact, because of scheduling conflicts in Arizona, the 2015 PAC-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship took place last Saturday at the University of Utah where they were the first team to earn back-to-back championships. I'm sure they had plenty of psyched fans! Sadly, one of their leaders and captains, Tory Wilson, suffered an injury and could not finish with the team. Click here for more on that story and enjoy this video of the highlights!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sporty Girl Interview w/ Agent Kathleen Rushall

Welcome agent Kathleen Rushall from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency to the Sporty Girl Books Blog! I'm so happy that Kathleen could be here today--she's been my agent since August 2013 and I'm thrilled to introduce her to Sporty Girl Books blog readers.

1. The four bloggers at Sporty Girl have very different athletic interests and abilities. Can you tell us if you consider yourself an athlete? Why or Why not? If not, do you have a favorite sport to watch?

First off, thank you so much for this interview and the opportunity! I’m excited to be here. I have to be honest; I may be the world’s most un-athletic person. BUT, it’s not for lack of interest or trying. I tried several sports in elementary school and junior high, but to no avail. They just didn’t stick, mostly because I was terrible. But it was wonderful to be part of a team and I like to follow football (go Seahawks!). 

As an adult, I played intramural dodgeball. I joined because I thought no one would take winning or losing too seriously…I was wrong. The movie Dodgeball could have been a documentary. But it was still really fun!

2. Even though we are not all involved in an organized sport, we all love to read books that feature girls who love or play sports. Do you have a favorite book from this genre?

I agree! I particularly love young adult and middle grade literature about proactive, sporty girls finding their voice. One of my recent favorites that's a great example of this is a book on my list, written by Kristine Carlson Asselin called ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT. 

It’s about a teenage girl, Penelope, who joins a misfit hockey team on a dare…from a really cute boy, Jake. Penelope has always enjoyed ice-skating but she grows to love hockey and is really good at it. The hitch? She’s not supposed to be on the team. She’s been lying in order to make it to practice. She’s blowing off her after-school job at her family’s restaurant, Slice Pizza, and they really need her. Especially now that they are about to be featured on a reality cooking show…

One of the things I love about this book is that it shows how hard it can be to pursue a passion, such as a sport, that takes hours and hours of practice and dedication…especially if you feel like you are letting someone else down. Kristine handles this beautifully and readers are really going to enjoy following Penelope’s discovery of the right choice for her.

3. Aw, thanks, Kathleen! (Did I tell you she's a great agent? AWYSI comes out April 21 and the Goodreads site is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18800714-any-way-you-slice-it)

I’ve read recently that some agents and editors are seeing trends toward more sporty girl books, are you seeing this trend in your slush pile? If not, what are you seeing?

Young adult and middle grade literature has long sought to empower girls, which is one reason I’ve always been drawn to it. Recently, I am seeing an even stronger preference for stories featuring dynamic female leads who face tough choices with strength.

I think this is even reflected in our pop culture. I mean, Disney recently made its first film featuring two sisters (and not focused on a romance!), and it was a runaway hit. We could also look at Maleficent, where a female villain was brought to life and the concept of true love went deeper than a romantic relationship. Books and TV shows like Game of Thrones that feature women who are as layered (and as powerful or complicated) as their male counterparts are inspiring. 

Girls are being given lead roles instead of being dependent on the male character to propel the story forward. I think this is much needed and refreshing. It reminds me of one of my favorite original ‘sporty’ girls in literature: Alanna, a girl who pretended to be a boy so she become a knight in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the of Lioness series. I’m certainly on the hunt for children’s literature with brainy, assertive, layered girls leading the plot.

4. I love it! What book is on your night stand?

You could build a pretty solid fort out of the books on my nightstand. Some of them include RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard, SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi, EL DEAFO by Cece Bell, ZODIAC by Romina Russel, ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven, THE CURE FOR DREAMING by Cat Winters and MORTAL HEART by Robin Lafevers. Oh, and because I’m a neat freak, I am also really loving THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. J

5. What’s on your MSWL (ManuScript Wish List) and how can people query you?

Like we were talking about earlier, I am always on the lookout for layered YA that empowers girls with strong female leads, bonds between girl friends, and characters supporting each other—whether it’s contemporary, historical or fantasy!

I’d also love to find new contemporary YA or MG with an unforgettable voice and great hook. I’m certainly open to a touch of magical realism in my contemporary YA and I’d love to find something that straddles the literary and commercial line. Surprise me!

I’d say it’s a given that diversity is important and that goes for all my wishlist items! I’m loving my fantasy reads right now and am looking for more diverse or multicultural YA fantasy w/ beautiful writing, strong world-building, and a truly memorable voice. For fantasy (as with all YA, really), I'm less about naive girls who need saving and ALL about crafty, proactive protagonists who create their own opportunities.

For more information on what I represent (because I do picture books and nonfiction too!), check out my bio on our Marsal Lyon Agency website as well as the MSWL website below:

Thanks so much to Kathleen for sharing some of your favorite books (I know I've added to my TBR pile!) and for saying such nice things about ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Athlete Spotlight: Sadie Johns, Basketball Player

Sadie Johns, 14, is another of athlete from my church youth program. Thanks so much for being on the blog today!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in Cary, North Carolina. I'm in ninth grade, I play basketball and sometimes do horseback riding. I have two brothers, I love to read and write,  and I play trumpet in my school band.

Sounds like you're pretty busy and involved in a lot of different activities. How long have you played basketball? What position do you typically play? And how tall are you, anyhow?
I've played Cary recreation basketball for two years and I've played school ball for two. I normally play the 5 or center as I'm six feet tall.

Wow, six feet tall. Sounds perfect for basketball. Can you tell us some of the highlights from your last season?
Some highlights are when I scored six points, had seven rebounds and two assists in one game. My team was really proud of me.

I bet that did feel wonderful. Basketball is definitely a team sport. Can you share your experiences learning to work with and trust your teammates?
#32 in the huddle
My teammates have to trust me to know when and where to be and to catch the ball, and I have to trust them to do the same. One excersise that really needed us to trust each other is when we took a weighted ball and our partner layed down on the floor with their arms by their side. We held the heavy ball over their face and dropped it. They where not allowed to move their arms until the ball was dropped. They had to trust us not to drop the ball on their face or to drop it too early.

Yikes! That is a really good trust exercise. What are some of your favorite recent reads?
I am reading a book called REBEL ANGELS. It is the second book in a trilogy about a girl named Gemma Doyle who is trying to restore the "saftety value" on magic that's been released in to different realms.

Speed round:
Pizza or sushi? Pizza
Bike or run? Bike
Ebook or paper copy? Paper copy
Dance to loud music or talk with friends? Talk with friends
If you could be any animal what would it be? An eagle. I've always wanted to be able to fly, and eagles have a sense of power with them. The way the watch the water and know exactly where to sink their talons in to grab a unsuspecting fish from the water is amazing. Plus, they're beautiful!

I love eagles, as well. Thanks so much for being on the blog. I look forward to hearing about your many successes in future seasons!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sporty Girl Basketball Books for March Madness

March Madness is almost upon us. Here are some of our favorite sporty girl basketball books.

Picture Books

Basketball Belles by Sue Macy 
This dynamic picture book about the birth of women's basketball will keep young readers riveted. Raised on a cattle ranch, Agnes Morley was sent to Stanford University to learn to be a lady. Yet in no time she exchanged her breeches and spurs for bloomers and a basketball; and in April 1896 she made history. In a heart--pounding game against the University of California at Berkeley, Agnes led her team to victory in the first-ever intercollegiate women s basketball game, earning national attention and putting women s basketball on the map. 

Middle Grade 

Kyle Jean, Hoop Queen by Marci Peschke
Kylie Jean is usually good at everything she tries. So how come learning to play basketball is so hard?

Game Time, Mallory! by Laurie Friedman and Jennifer Kalis
Mallory can't wait to play in her town's new girls' basketball league! What could be more fun than trying something new and being on a team? But Mallory's basketball career gets off to a rocky start. None of her friends are on her team. And no matter how much she tries, she can't make a basket. 

Rebound Time by Jake Maddox
After her parents' divorce, Sarit's dad moved across the country for his new job. Sarit feels lost without him there. To make things worse, her dad was also her basketball coach. Now that he's gone, Sarit doesn't even want to play basketball anymore. Can Sarit learn to love the game without her dad on the sidelines?

The Big Break, A Julie Classic by Megan McDonald
It's 1974, and Julie Albright has just moved to a new neighborhood and started at a new school. So when she finds out the basketball team is "boys only," Julie is determined to fight for her right to play. Will a petition with 150 names be enough to make the coach change his mind and give her a chance?

Young Adult

Head Games by Nicole Leigh Shepherd
Taylor is calm, cool, collected, and ferocious on the basketball court. A total all-star. Not so much in real life. She may be tall, gorgeous, and an incredible catch, but just try telling her that!

And lately, Taylor doesn't know which way to turn: The summer showcase game is almost here. Her BFF Hannah roped her into a fashion show (eek!). And she can't decide between Zach-the super-popular, super-tall, super-off-limits basketball dynamo-and Matt-the sweet boy from her math class (who may just be dating her BFF's older sister). It's enough to make any girl's head spin!

Boost by Kathy Mackel
Thirteen-year-old Savvy's three-point shot is deadly. But she gets pushed around on the basketball court. Her older sister, Callie, is on varsity cheerleading, but she's not light enough to be a flier - her coveted position. Both girls need to boost their level of competition to get into the action. How far are they willing to go to be the best?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Publishing Industry Interview with Literary Agent Alexandra Penfold

Today, Sporty Girl Books Blog extends a warm welcome to Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary Agency. Alexandra has been in publishing for over a decade. Her undergraduate degree was an interdisciplinary major in Entertainment Business and Marketing. From there she went on to be a book publicist, and an Editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-author of New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks and Publisher’s Weekly just announced the sale of her picture book FOOD TRUCK FEST with illustrations by Mike Dutton to FSG. I am so lucky to work with Alexandra. She is a business savvy, editorial agent, with infinite connections and a writer’s understanding of how frustrating this business can be. One of the things that drew us together was our mutual love of sports and fitness.

Alexandra, thanks for being on Sporty Girl Books Blog today. Tell me a little about your sports and fitness past and present. How does it shape the stories you like to represent?
I’m a lifelong swimmer from a swimming family. I think I took my first lessons with my mom when I was around 6 months old and it’s been a great passion of mine ever since. I swam competitively in middle school and high school and I still swim today.

Swimming is largely an individual sport, but there’s also an important team dynamic whether you’re cheering on the sidelines, counting laps for a teammate, or swimming a leg of a relay.  I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m interested in characters who challenge themselves, who are trying to find balance, who are negotiating friendships and/or just looking to find their place in the world.

It feels like we are seeing more books about sporty girls? How have you seen the demand for sporty girl books change in the industry?
I definitely think we’re seeing more of a demand for sporty girl books for all ages and I think the books being published cover a wider variety of sports than in the past.

More authors are pushing against the tradition teen female figure skating/romance trope. How do you see the content of sporty girl books changing?
I love seeing books where the sporty girl is the protagonist, not just the athletic sidekick of the main character. It’s also nice to see a broader range of sports represented in books aimed at young girls.

What do you look for in a sporty girl book?
While I’m drawn to books about female athletes, ultimately the story has to stand for itself. The very best sports books show us something about life, about the human experience.

What area of writing craft done poorly leads you to most commonly decline a manuscript?
I read a lot of queries and partials for stories that are good in concept. They may have a great hook or take a clever idea and twist it all around, but if the voice doesn’t ring true, it’s unfortunately going to be a pass for me. Narrative voice is tricky and while you can fix a lot of plot holes or inconsistencies and you can teach someone to improve their dialogue, if the writer hasn’t landed the voice, that’s very hard to overcome.

What area of writing craft done well impresses you the most?
The other side of the coin is that I’ll fall for an authentic voice in a heartbeat. Give me a fresh, real voice and I’ll put everything aside to finish that manuscript.

What new projects are you working on as a writer?
I could tell you but then I’d have to…you know. Just kidding. But seriously, I’m always turning new ideas around in my head, but I never talk about them until they’re in a finished place. Sometimes I find talking about my in-progress projects takes my energy and focus away from completing them. There’s a danger in over-talking an idea, I say, just go for it.

From your mouth-watering pictures on Facebook, I know you are an incredible baker. Donuts, pies, cookies… you seem to be able to bake anything! What recipe/type of food are you hoping to conquer?
I’m always looking to improve my pie-making skills and I’m very pleased at how my lattice weaving is coming along. Though people often remark on my baking, I also enjoy cooking. I’d love to be able to make Korean and Thai food with enough skill and confidence that I could go off recipe and improvise without courting disaster.

If you could have any kind of pie but it would be the only pie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Apple pie. I know that sounds a bit dull, but there are so many different types of apples and different ways to prepare apple pie, that I’m sure it could keep me happy for years.

As you know, my main character uses speed-round questions in awkward situations and to spur conversation. Here are some specially tailored for you and your love of food. Speed round!
Tea or coffee? Coffee!
Donut or muffin? Donut, of course.
Cake or pie? Gah. Cake. No, pie. No, cake. Ok. I’m just going to go for it…pie.
Bike or run? Run.
Ebook or paper copy? Paper. Don’t you just love that new (or old) book smell?

Another huge thank you to Alexandra Penfold. Just a quick note that she is currently closed for submissions. Find out more about Alexandra and other Upstart Crow agents here or by clicking on the logo.