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, August 19, 2014

Crossing the Ice with Jennifer Comeaux

I'm so happy to welcome Jennifer Comeaux to the blog today. Jennifer is author of several ice skating themed sporty girl books, the most recent: Crossing the Ice. It's just out this month!

 The blurb:

Falling hard never felt so good.

Pair skaters Courtney and Mark have one shot left at their Olympic dream. They vow not to let anything get in their way, especially not Josh and Stephanie, the wealthy and talented brother and sister team.
The heart doesn’t always listen to reason, though…

The more time Courtney spends with sweet, shy Josh, the harder she falls for him. But they are on opposite sides of the competition, and their futures are headed in opposite directions. Will their friendship blossom into more or are their paths too different to cross?
 
Sounds amazing, right? Jennifer took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions!
 
 
Thanks for joining me on the blog today, Jennifer!  I’m so excited to have a chance to showcase you and Crossing the Ice to our readers.

KCA: Crossing the Ice isn’t your first book about figure skating. What got you interested in figure skating? Are you a skater yourself?

JC: I’ve actually only stepped on the ice once in my life and I was terrified! I always watched skating on TV when I was a little girl, and I was always fascinated by it. When I got older, I decided to attend the national championships one year to see what a competition would be like in person, and I became an even bigger fan of the sport. It was such an incredible experience to watch the event live! After that I started travelling to multiple competitions every year.

KCA: How long have you been writing?

JC: I used to write a lot when I was a kid, but then I went many years without doing any fiction writing. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I started writing stories again.

KCA: What made you start to write seriously?

JC: I had an idea for a romance between a skater and her coach, and my friend insisted that I write it so she could read it. I was very rusty since I hadn’t written fiction in so many years, but I quickly remembered how much I loved it! The story was just supposed to be for family and friends to read, but then I decided I wanted to pursue my childhood dream of having a book published, so I turned that story into my first book Life on the Edge.

KCA: What genres do you write? Do all your books feature Sporty Girls?

JC: I write New Adult romance, and all my books do feature Sporty Girls! The heroines in my books are all female figure skaters chasing their Olympic dreams.

KCA: Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?

JC: I’m currently working on some bonus scenes from Crossing the Ice and also a possible novella sequel to the book. Stay tuned for details!

KCA: Where do you find your inspiration?

JC: I get inspired by watching the beautiful performances of skaters and also from my travels to competitions. There’s so much real-life drama in skating to inspire stories!
KCA: Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?

JC: My full-time job is very different from writing. I’m the Corporate Tax Manager for a large company. I love being able to write at night and on weekends as a creative outlet.


KCA: What is the biggest challenge you find with your writing?

JC: The biggest challenge I face is being a slow writer. Words don’t come to me easily, and I obsessively self-edit as I write, so it takes me about eight months to write a full-length novel. I envy those writers who can spit out a first draft in a month!

KCA: What are your favorite books or movies?

JC: My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. Some of my favorite recent books are Flat-Out Love, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Fangirl. I have lots of favorite movies, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Breakfast Club, Beauty and the Beast, and Center Stage.

KCA: Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share?

JC: My favorite guilty pleasure is watching Catfish: The TV Show. That show is so crazy!

KCA: If people would like to get to know you better, do you tweet?  Blog?

JC: I do both! I love talking to readers, and you can find me on Twitter at @LadyWave4. My blog is jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com. I’m also on Facebook at Jennifer Comeaux Author.
  
Thanks to Jennifer for being here today and good luck with the new book!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Revision Strategies and Sporty Girl Books

This week, I'm going to tell you a little about what goes on behind the scenes in making a Sporty Girl Book. Writing is often a marathon, but I'm in the sprint portion of the revision for my YA work in progress about rowing. This portion of the journey requires a "head in the boat" mentality– keep my eye on the prize, nose to the grindstone, make revising my first priority, work hard no excuses.

The first 75 pages of this novel started as my creative thesis for my MFA degree at Vermont College of Fine Arts (January-June 2011). After graduation I completed a draft, and did a revision that I sent to an initial group of agents (Spring 2012). These agents each had something to say about the work which led me to a third full revision (Winter 2012-2013). A PEN New England Children's Book Discovery Award (Spring 2013) win led me to my fabulous agent, another revision and submissions to wonderful editors (read: declines and feedback-- Fall 2013). The revision that I'm working on now (Summer 2014) is based on an in-depth editorial letter received Spring of 2014.

This morning's post on Pub(lishing)Crawl from Janice Hardy, Dealing with Multiple Drafts, outlines a lot of what I'm doing.

Sometime last month I got completely overwhelmed with all of the threads, plots, time and character changes. I couldn't hold the requirements of the revision and the novel in it's many incarnations in my head any longer. I read through the novel again and created a sticky note for each scene. As I went through I wrote "cut" on some stickies and created some that had a general summary of a new scene I needed to write that said "new."

When were things happening? The editor was concerned about the lack of time markers in the form of regular calendar events that could be subtly added as the year went on. I also needed to be more explicit about what the rowing calendar looked like as not a lot of readers will come to this book with the knowledge about crew. Across the top, I wrote the months in the school year.


The colors of the stickies represented subplots and their important actors and vaguely symbolized place. I realized about halfway through that my original use of light orange for "scenes with the best friend subplot" slowly went away on the chart. But did that character really go away or were there just other players who were more center stage? Turns out that as with many books, the threads started to weave together in a natural way. Good to know. 


At the far left end of this behemoth are the numbers 1-10. As I did the original placement of the stickies, I made an arbitrary decision on the tension rating for the scene. Did an especially steamy or romantic scene really mean more protag/antag, dramatic or plot tension? Hmm... I think I had been confusing the two. I had to be careful.


My biggest issue was the tension leading to the climax. There was a dip at the end between the emotional climax and the plot climax of the book that caused a "spike" feel for the reader. Why was it there? Why weren't the stickies looking more like that gentle slope up plot mountain? Did they have to? Did my book have a different structure and was that okay? (The panorama doesn't show the end but the pic directly above does.)


I needed chocolate. And time... lot's of time.

I use Scrivener and love it. If you do too, you know that what I'm doing is not that different from Scrivener's capabilities, but for me the tactile sticking and moving of scenes both on the timeline and up or down on the tension axis has been helpful. As I change, cut, and add, I'm making those adjustments on my plot chart and will probably end up with a differently shaped story by the end.

Here's another unexpected side-effect of the plot chart: unrolling it before I get to work has become an important part of the preparation for my work sessions. A ceremony of sorts that let's my mind and body know that it is time to work.

If you have any questions for me, leave them in the comments! Until then it's nose to the grindstone, head in the boat, blinders on. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tillie The Terrible Swede

How One Woman, A Sewing Needle, And A Bicycle Changed History

I picked this children's picture biography up on a whim at the library last month because the title is awesome, I'm a quarter Swedish, and I like to ride.

I'd never heard of Tillie Anderson before opening this book, but the author, Sue Stauffacher, and the illustrator, Sarah McMenemy, brought her to life so well that I feel as if we're dear friends.

Tillie is a great example of someone who doesn't let society dictate what they can do, but works towards her dreams, and in so doing, blazed a path for you and me. She came to America with her skills with a needle, but she wanted to ride a bicycle and feel the wind whip through her. But, ladies' dresses in the 1890s didn't go well with riding bikes.


History behind Tillie
Although Women's Bicycle Racing began in 1879, during the high wheel era, it was considered more a novelty than a sport until the advent of the diamond-framed safety bicycle in 1890.
Perhaps no one made a greater contribution to the acknowledgment of women as serious competitors in bicycle racing than Tillie Anderson.
Tillie, who from the years 1897 to 1902 was known as "female bicycling champion of the world," was born in Skane, Sweden on April 23, 1875. She was the fourth of five siblings. Tillie's reputation for having a strong will and perseverance began early.
After her father died when she was eight years old, she began working for a neighboring farmer during haying and harvesting to help support her mother, brother and three sisters.
In 1891, Tillie and her brother August emigrated to America, joining their older sister Hanna in Chicago. The rest of the family came to America the following year.
Tillie found work as a seamstress in a tailor's shop. In two years, she had saved enough money for a bicycle. Newspapers of that era like to say that she was thin and weak when she first came to America, but she was quoted as saying "I did not take to the wheel for my health, particularly. I suppose it was more for the reason that bicycles were being used by women and I wanted to try the fad."...
By Heather Drieth
Published in "The Wheelmen"


She put her skill with the needle to work and made (scandalous) biking pants. She trained hard and won many records in long-distance cycling, both outdoors and in the velodrome. Many people disapproved of her clothing and her training. (Woman shouldn't sweat.) Doctors even examined her to determine the effects of strenuous exercise on a woman's body. They even put a picture of her leg in the newspaper.

"Although Miss Anderson's limbs are not as regular from an artistic point of view, her general health is better. Simply put, front head to food, she is a mass of muscle."

The book is whimsical and fun in how the illustrator shows her life. All four of my children (boys included) enjoyed this book and requested it more than once.

I highly recommend giving Tillie The Terrible Swede a try, and then getting on your bike and riding fast and hard like she did.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Athletes of the Month: 12 U Stamford Stars

Our athletes of the month are the 12 U Stamford Stars.

This team doesn't just have the ability to win, they have a love for the game and for each other that surrounds them on and off the field. Just watch:




The Stars are heading to the championships, but they need some help to get there. While Babe Ruth Baseball pays for the flight, they do not pay for the hotel, food, or other transportation. Instead of celebrating, the day after the Stars win found them working as a team at a local shopping center, asking people for donations of any size to help them live their dream. 

One of the moms helping the team told me, "It was so exciting winning the game. Then they tell you about this cost and that cost and that we have to get everything together by this weekend. It's a little overwhelming."

The girls are standing together in uniform for this challenge too. And the multiple "thank yous" received for even the smallest donation makes it worth giving. To support the Stars email Colleen at cmbm65@gmail.com.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Like a Girl

According to Better Than Ezra, "There are six and three quarter billion people in this world
And 51 percent of them are girls. You roll your eyes like I'm full of it, But I Googled that sh**" (Crazy Lucky). 

Have you heard this song? I love it. But that's another story.

I *did* Google it and they are pretty accurate.

So if half the population are girls, then how did "you throw (or run, or whatever) like a girl" become an insult? Why is it that the most insulting thing you can yell at a boy is that he does anything "like a girl."

I'm even guilty of it myself. I recently revised a sentence in my own manuscript where the main character (a girl) was disparaging herself for "whining like a girl." (I revised it to whining like a baby.)

Why do we do this?

Have you seen this video from Always? It's fabulous. Basically, volunteers were asked to demonstrate running or throwing "like a girl." Older volunteers (of both gender) demonstrate "like a girl" by using exaggerated movements, or floppy arms. Girls under the age of 10 just did the activity like themselves. 

The video brings tears to my eyes. As the mother of a tween girl, I'm very aware of the barrage of messages that she sees everyday. And while it might be subtle--the very real message is that "like a girl" is less than/not as good as the alternative.
We *should* run like girls, or boys, or whatever we happen to be. And do whatever it is (run or walk or throw or sing) to the very best of our ability. 

I can't get the video to embed, but here's the link. Watch it!

http://youtu.be/XjJQBjWYDTs

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Author Interview: Christina Fernandez-Morrow on Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts

When your father is Puerto Rican boxer José “Cheo” Fernandez, you learn to box. Christina Fernandez-Morrow threw punches and learned how to dodge the training pads her father swung her way. She learned along side her brothers and their friends in their Chicago neighborhood but it was Christina and her sister who outlasted all the boys.

In her currently unnamed Young Adult novel, the main character Zulima Diaz, Zuli, lives in a rough area of Chicago with her mother. It’s clear that Zuli does much of the caretaking. Zuli makes grocery lists, and makes decisions about which one or two items they might afford that week. While she eats mayonnaise sandwiches, she cleans up her mother’s messes from the night before– messes that include drug paraphernalia and sexual encounters.

Zuli is angry about her situation. She fights in school and has been suspended more than once. Is it synchronicity when Zuli keeps seeing the same poster – an open call for a mixed martial arts reality show– throughout the city? If she were to win, the prize money and scholarship possibilities would give Zuli a future she never thought she could achieve. Zuli gets onto the show and trains for the grueling and often violent mix of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and other unarmed combat sports.

Christina’s own boxing training lay dormant for many years while she pursued a college degree. Even though she liked creative writing, she knew that a business degree meant financial stability and as the oldest in her family she was the role model for her younger siblings. After college she married and started a family. She worked in corporate marketing for her day job and often helped other Latina writers market their work. She was thrilled that someone was writing about the Latina experience in the US. Along the way, she wrote the Iowa Latina Lifestyle section for Examiner.com. When she took writing classes, she wrote about teen characters. She made photo books for her foster children that included their creative writing. Her husband saw her as a writer, but that’s not how she saw her self. She was a business major and business majors went on to get MBA’s. However, when she entered a five-minute fiction writing contest, and her winning entry was published in Juice Magazine, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In 2012, Christina’s husband died unexpectedly and his funeral coincided with her acceptance to VCFA. Would she go? Could she leave her daughter to further her writing career? She had to. Her husband had been the one person who saw her passion and calling.

The emotional pain of his death was overwhelming and, to help with her grief, she turned to writing. After a few semesters, she realized she missed boxing and found a trainer to help get in shape through boxing. The return to training was difficult. Still, the physical pain was easier to handle than the emotional pain of her loss.

“I could put physical pain into words, something I couldn’t do with what I felt inside. Writing about sore muscles, swollen knuckles, bloody noses and broken ribs became therapeutic for me, as was stepping out of my reality and into one that I could control.”

Soon, Zuli’s character came to her. Growing up in Humboldt Park, in Chicago, Christina had known girls like Zuli and families who faced similar challenges. As Christina faced her own training, she was researching Zuli’s.

Five minutes in the caged octagon might not seem like a lot but Zuli had to have amazing endurance. When Christina jumped with a leather rope for 15 minutes she knew what was like to have legs like cinder blocks. She studied videos of MMA training and read memoirs of women fighters. She learned about the fast, often bloody sport that had so few limitations its practitioners felt glory in just getting through. Her character, Zuli, wasn’t the only one who turned to combat sports when things were rough. Many of the real girls and women that Christina learned about were abandoned or neglected. They were scrappy fighters like Zuli whose anger and pain got them into trouble until they got into the cage.

Christina found that many fighters went on to college, that there was a movement to make MMA a college sport, that as a recognized collegiate sport there would be scholarships. She knew then, that MMA was Zuli’s way out of her bad situation and into a better future.

Christina Fernadez-Morrow was saluted as a Next Generation Latina at Latina.com in 2012 and featured in the Des Moines Register's article, 13 People to Watch in 2013.  With a finished manuscript and a newly minted MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Christina Fernadez-Morrow is looking for the right agent. She wants to get Zuli’s story into the hands of girls everywhere. Christina’s writing and boxing training makes her specially qualified for the grueling road ahead.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with BREAKING THE ICE author Gail Nall

Gail and I are #5amwritersclub pals and also share a literary agent. I'm so glad she's willing to come on Sporty Girl Books and talk about her debut, MG novel, BREAKING THE ICE, out Jan, 13, 2015 from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

First, the blurb:
BREAKING THE ICE

Twelve-year-old Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.

When no other club in town will have her, she's forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.

But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.

In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.

Now for the interview:

Kaitlin, the main character in your novel, is a competitive figure skater. Did you figure skate like her, as well? (I know you did)
I skated through my childhood and as a teenager, but I wasn't as good as Kaitlin. I loved going to competitions, but I was not at all competitive. I still skate; the best thing about the sport is that you're never too old for it. 

Kaitlin's story begins with her throwing a major tantrum at a competition. Can you tell us about the most difficult or embarrassing moment of your skating career? 
The absolute worst was when I was about 10 years old, and I was invited to join a synchronized skating team. Almost all of the girls were older than me, so I was super nervous but excited too. At the first practice, I flew off the end of a line of skaters whipping around in a pinwheel and crashed head-first into the boards. It hurt, and I was SO embarrassed. My mom had to make me go back out on the ice. Totally worth it though, because I ended up really enjoying the team! (Thanks, Mom!)

Oh, man. I would have been horrified too. Good thing for Mom's making us get back up! Growing up I watched The Cutting Edge repeatedly. Did you notice the smell of the ice? Did you ever compete in pairs? Ever watch the movie?
Toepick!! (Sorry, couldn't resist!) I love The Cutting Edge! Smell of the ice...yes! It's this combination of ammonia and feet and Zamboni fumes and something that reminds me of my freezer. It definitely has a distinct scent. Pairs--no way! Talk about scary. I don't think I truly appreciated how insane and hard pairs skating is until I saw it in person. Those girls are beyond brave. Unfortunately, it's really difficult for girls to find a guy to partner with in pairs. We need more boys to skate!

I'm glad I'm not alone in my love for that movie:) When and why did you start writing?
I always wrote as a kid, but then I didn't for a really long time. One afternoon in 2006, I was sitting in the law school library and started writing a book instead of working on my Con Law outline. Guess which one was more fun? ;)

Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I finished my first book in 2008 and sent a bazillion queries to agents. I got a whopping two requests. So I wrote a second book, queried that one some, and then set it aside while life got in the way. I started a few other books that I never finished. Then I started writing a third book (which became BREAKING THE ICE). While I finished that one, I resolved to start querying Book #2 again. A few months pass, and I'd decided to shelve Book #2. I had just begun querying BREAKING THE ICE when I got an offer from agent Julia Weber. That was February 2013.  In September 2013, we sold BREAKING THE ICE to Aladdin/S&S. So that's six years from when I started writing!

Have you always wanted to write about sporty girls?
I love characters who are passionate about something, and sporty girls definitely fit that description! Sports take drive and focus and discipline, and characters (and real people!) who have those characteristics tend to be fascinating and amazing people. Also, I'd wanted to write a skating book ever since I read Silver Blades in the '90s. 

Now I need to read Silver Blades, ASAP. What are you reading right now?
I just finished an ARC of Sandra Waugh's LARK RISING, a YA fantasy that comes out in September. Up next are ARCs of Becky Wallace's THE STORYSPINNER and Miranda Kenneally's BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE (a sporty girl book!).

Oh, those are some great reads. Do you have a favorite sporty girl read?
For MG, Silver Blades, of course, and I loved Kate Messner's SUGAR AND ICE. Donna Freitas wrote two great YA sporty books -- GOLD MEDAL SUMMER (about a gymnast) and GOLD MEDAL WINTER (skating!). 

You recently sold two more MG books to Aladdin. Are these also sporty girl books?
I'm co-writing the RSVP books with Jen Malone. They're also MG, and they're about four girls who start a party-planning business in a North Carolina beach town. The books are told from a rotating POV between all four girls. I absolutely love Vi, who is a total sporty girl! Vi is all about swimming, kayaking, surfing, beach volleyball, and she also plays soccer.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I had a lot of fun with the skating details in BREAKING THE ICE. Even though I know how a salchow jump is done, and what it feels like, trying to explain it was something entirely different. You get so used to doing something that you don't necessarily have to think through all the little steps to make it happen. You just do it. So I found myself setting my computer down and walking through moves on the floor, trying to remember when exactly you have to move your arm or bend your knee to make a jump happen. And if that didn't work, I'd test it out on-ice! I had one line in the book in which Kaitlin describes something very specific she sees as she's in a sit spin. It felt off to me, so one afternoon at the rink, I did a sit spin and sure enough -- everything was a huge blur! It's funny the details you don't notice until you need to notice them.

I hug trees, do camel spins, & write contracts - all at the same time! MG debut BREAKING THE ICE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Spring 2015). PLEASE RSVP, Books One & Two, with Jen Malone (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Summer & Fall 2015). Contributor at www.kidliterati.com and member of http://fearlessfifteeners.wordpress.com/. SCBWI member. Represented by Julia A. Weber of J.A. Weber Literaturagentur.

Thanks so much for joining us. We're looking forward to reading BREAKING THE ICE.

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