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 25, 2015

Summer Roundup: A Groundbreaking Summer for Women in Sports

Women are breaking barriers in almost every sports arena. As the summer comes to a close, it's time to look back on all the groundbreaking moments from this summer for women in sports.

Soccer
Excitement for Women's Soccer gripped the nation in July, with millions of fans watching on tv or heading to Canada to be there for the U.S. Women Team's win. According to SBNation, more Americans watched the Women's World Cup Finals then had watched the NBA finals or Stanley Cup, which sparked discussions on twitter, Facebook, and the national news over whether or not women in sports has been getting enough airtime. After the win, the members of the U.S. Team were invited to NYC for the first all women ticker tape parade. According to CNN, "the last time female athletes paraded along the Canyon of Heroes was in 1984, when gold medalists Mary Lou Retton and Cheryl Miller joined other U.S. medal winners -- male and female -- after the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles." 

Baseball
The U.S. Women's Soccer team wasn't the only team to have a big win this summer. The U.S. Women's Baseball Team won the gold in the Pam Am games. According to US News, it was the first time women's baseball has been featured in a multi-sport event. Lessons supposedly learned after the U.S. Women's Soccer team coverage went big were ignored for the Baseball Team's debut as not one channel covered the event. Headlines and tweets appeared that made it known that many people weren't even aware there was a women's baseball team. Under the Team USA blog post about the win, the first comment is, "Women play softball, not baseball!" Followed by the response, "Looks like you've already been proven wrong, bub." If people didn't know that there were women's teams playing baseball, they do now.

The win wasn't the only women's baseball news this summer. At the start of the summer, a 16 yo baseball player from France named Melissa Mayeux made news when she became the first woman added to baseball's international registration list, which makes her eligible to be signed by a major league team.

People also continued to talk about Mo'ne Davis who made national news last summer when she pitched a shutout game during the Little League World Series, which landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Mo'ne wasn't the first girl to go to the series, and she won't be the last, which prompted the Little League to write an article about all 18 girls who have made it to the Little League World Series.

Football
In football news, this summer saw the addition of two groundbreaking women to the sport. Jen Welter  became the first woman to coach an NFL game while Sarah Thomas became the first woman to work as a full-time on-field official. You can see a photo of the two women at Fox News, along with other news sites. You can learn more about Jen Welter's feelings about her role in football in her Behind the Facemask post.

Basketball
This summer, the news reflected on Becky Hammon finishing her first season with the San Antonio Spurs as the first NBA female full-time assistant coach. She was quickly followed by Nancy Lieberman, who was hired to be an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings.







Tuesday, August 18, 2015

THE CROSSOVER

Growing up as a sporty girl, I read many books about strong female athletes and their struggles and successes on and off the playing field. But I also read many incredible books about male athletes. So, when I heard about THE CROSSOVER, before its Newberry fame, I considered picking it up, but just couldn't imagine a book in verse from the POV of a basketball playing African American middle schooler. I imagined it would be like a poorly written rap song. (Sorry Kwame Alexander!)

But then, it won the Newberry and I had to give it another look. I don't like to be judged by my cover or by the little that someone might know about me before I get on the playing field, and I regret misjudging this book in the same way.

THE CROSSOVER is deep, it's powerful, and it made me cry more than I've cried in a rather long time while reading a book. One part in particular includes a letter to his brother that can be read as two separate poems or together as one. I pulled at my heart and made me ache in a way I didn't know was possible. This book is sports, it is family, it is about hardship and loss, and it is real, written in verse and all. I hope that our sporty girl readers will give it a try, too.

From Goodreads:
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

 Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It’s August and I’m Ready To Dive In



Thumbs up! I have found my tribe and let me tell you it’s a bold, powerful group of people who love to watch, play, read, and write about girls in sports. My tribe is diverse and fit. My tribe is not just girls and women, but boys and men who recognize and support our passion. So, it is with a flutter of excitementsimilar to inching toward a 10K start line or adjusting my goggles prior to a mass swim startthat I join the bloggers of Sporty Girl Books.

My library, publishing, and editorial experience along with interest in the drama of athletic competition has steered me toward sports fiction and non-fiction. I’ve always been intrigued by the lives of athletes featured on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, such as Billie Jean King (tennis), Julie Moss (triathlon), Lynn Hill (rock climbing), and Jeannie Longo (cycling) to name a few. More recently, I’ve been inspired by Olympic and Paralympic athletes such as Gabrielle Douglas (gymnastics), Missy Franklin (swimming), Mia Hamm (soccer), Greta Neimanas (Paralympic cycling), Melissa Stockwell (Paratriathlon), and Brenda Villa (water polo). I’m fascinated by what makes an athlete leap back up after they fall and drive on through the finish line.

When I was young, my favorite books included HARRIET THE SPY and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. Fast forward to today and my bookshelves include sporty girl books like, GIRLS GOT GAME and WHEELS OF CHANGE (Sue Macy), PLAYING TO WIN (Karen Deans), and LET ME PLAY (Karen Blumenthal).

While reviewing grant applications for a sports organization a few years ago, I was shocked to see a recommended reading list for girls with outdated titles. Surely there had to be more sports books where girls could see athletes like themselves? There is a need for more books on this topic plus titles that reflect the diversity girls see on the playing field and titles from diverse authors as well. I’m excited to contribute to this blog and look forward to bringing my perspective and experience to the conversation.

August is my birthday month, and I was curious to see who else is a Leo in the sporty girl world. 

August 4, 1958 - Mary Decker Slaney
Athletics. Four-time Olympian
Fun Facts: Mary is the only athlete to hold every American record from 800 to 10,000 meters. A double-decker is an iconic bus in the United Kingdom, but in track & field it is also a reference to the 1983 World Championships where Mary Decker did a "Double-Decker" when she won the 1,500 and 3000 meter races.

August 8, 1973 – Meg Galliard
Sailing. 2004 Summer Olympian
Fun Fact: Playing one sport in college is demanding, but Meg competed in two sports during her years at Connecticut College and is inducted in the school’s hall of fame for sailing and soccer.

August 10, 1985 – Stephanie Nesbitt
Synchronized swimming. 2004 Summer Olympic Games bronze medal
Fun Fact: Before Stephanie swims a program she has a ritual - she yawns to calm herself down.

August 23, 1982 – Natalie Coughlin
Swimming. Three-time Olympian
Fun Facts: She became the first woman to swim the 100m back in less than one minute.

August 25, 1927 - Althea Gibson
Tennis.
Fun Facts: Not only did Althea Gibson break racial barriers in tennis with her historic Wimbledon and French Open wins, but she was also the first African-American to play on the Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit.
Photo credit: TriDuo.com

Do you know of any other athletes or sporty girl authors who have a birthday this month?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PIXELATED by LS Murphy



L.S. Murphy is a fellow Bloomsbury Spark author, and I’m so excited that her book PIXELATED is finally out in the world. We’re so happy to feature it on Sporty Girl Books.

SGB: Linda, tell us about PIXELATED!

Pixelated is about 17 year-old Piper Marks who is forced to move from St. Louis to tiny Clarkton, Iowa for her senior year of high school where she falls for golden boy Les Williams IV who’s got a bit of a secret.

SGB: Can you tell us about the journey your book has taken to this point? How has it been different than you expected?

This book was a few decades in the making. Seriously. The opening scene of chapter 2 has Piper pulling up to her new school and seeing a row of tractors lined up in the parking lot. That hails back to my HS days when my creative writing teacher pointed out such a moment and said “If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is.” That’s one reason the book is dedicated to him.

SGB: I know you’ve written other titles—how has this process differed from those?

Each process is different. Each book has its own identity and personality. I can’t imagine them ever being similar. I also can’t imagine Piper  and Quincy (from REAPER) being in the same room together.

SGB: Writing instructors often tell new writers to "write what you know." How have your own experiences or emotions influenced this story? 

This is so close to my heart in many ways. Clarkton, Iowa is very loosely based on my hometown of Kahoka, Missouri. And some of Piper’s attitudes about small town life are things I’ve observed now that I live in St. Louis.

SGB: How does your book stand out in the expanding sporty girl book world? What makes it unique?

Football plays a small role in the story. Piper knows nothing about it, but she learns and begins to appreciate it in her own way. She has to step outside of her comfort zone so much. Plus the game itself is a bit of a metaphor for her new life.

Speed Round:
Pizza or sushi? PIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZA
Bike or run? Why isn’t sitting an option? Bike
eBook or paper copy? (reading preference) BOTH.
Dance to loud music or talk with friends?  Dance.
If you could be any animal what would it be? My cat… PIPER. Yep, I have a cat named Piper. J

Thanks so much for being on Sporty Girls--good luck and I can't wait to read PIXELATED!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Athlete Interview with Horseback-riding Julia

Julia is our youngest interviewee yet, at seven years old. She loves all things horses and has taken Western lessons over the past year. She lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and dreams of one day owning her own horse. 

Hi, Julia, and welcome to Sporty Girl Books. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
*giggles* I'm entering the third grade this fall, and I play the piano. I like to visit both my grandparents and ride their horses (though one of them only has English and one time she flung me off), I like to play outdoor games like Kubb, build forts, ride my bike fast, play card games (spoons is my favorite), and I read all the horse books I can find. I went to my first rodeo on the 4th of July. One day I want to be a barrel racer and live on a ranch.

Can you tell us about your horse lessons?
Riding bareback for the first time
I take lessons from Penny. The first thing she taught me was how to jump off of a horse and keep my hand on the reins. It's still one of my favorite things to do. I just hold tight to the reins, grab the mane, and slide off on the left side. I prefer to ride bareback, but sit a good Western saddle. Horse lessons are all about remembering who is in control, me, or the horse. As my teacher likes to say, "Itty bitty girl, big strong horse, but who's in control? Itty bitty girl."
If I don't pay attention, Wind Prince will ride me around the ring where he wants to go. When I ride, it's important that the horse does what I'm asking, and I don't let him take me around the ring, so we work to go and stop at my commands. One time my instructor told me to go twenty steps and then stop and hold still for as long as I could before going again, so I stopped Wind Prince, my favorite horse, and we waited for ten minutes. My teacher was shocked I could wait that long.

Can you tell us about this favorite horse?
Julia with her teacher Miss Penny
Wind Prince is a dapple gray. He is the sweetest boy, but I always remember that horses have two ends, the biting end and the kicking end. So far, I haven't been bitten or kicked, so that's pretty good. I like to groom Wind Prince after our lessons and we talk to each other. It's important to be gentle around a horse and get all the sweat from riding off them so they don't get sores. Did you know horses could get sunburns?

I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm around a horse! What are your favorite horse books?
For Christmas my mom got me the first book in the Horse Diaries series about an Icelandic filly named Elska. Now I've read all the Horse Diaries books. They're really good and written from the horse. (Now I'm reading Dog Diaries, which are the same thing, told from the dog). I also read Black Beauty.

I'll have to check out the Horse Diaries and maybe revisit Black Beauty one of these days. Thanks for being on Sporty Girl Books!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Interview with Warren Firschein, author of Out of Synch

I am very excited to introduce Warren Firschein to you today. I had the pleasure of reading Warren's book, Out of Synch, a few weeks ago. It's the story of Katie Phillips, a thirteen-year-old swimmer who dreams of going to Nationals with her Synchronized Swimming Team but is being pushed by her father to place all of her energy into her traditional swimming. Katie's struggle trying to do something she loves when her family wants her to go another way is something that all tweens and teens can relate to, even if they aren't swimmers. 

I interviewed Warren to learn more about what inspired him to write this book.


What inspired you to write this book?

Out of Synch was inspired by my twelve-year-old daughter, Sophie, who has been a competitive synchronized swimmer since the age of eight. When she first joined her team I knew nothing about synchro, but through her experiences I learned what an exciting, fun, and incredibly difficult sport it is. Synchro combines swimming with gymnastics, ballet, and cheerleading stunts, and requires an unbelievable amount of strength, athleticism, and agility. Unfortunately, the sport has low visibility, and all most people know about it is from works of satire, such as the video of those fifth-grade boys performing a synchro “routine” on stage that went viral last year. I wrote the book as a way to promote the sport by introducing it to people who don’t know anything about it, and to hopefully inspire them to try it for themselves. 

Were any parts of the story hard for you to write?

Without giving away any of the plot, at times it was a challenge to write a story from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl, which obviously I’ve never been. Hopefully, I’ve done a credible job. Other than that, the hardest part was finding the proper balance between describing the sport in detail without interrupting the flow of the story.

How accurate is your description of the sport?

Very much so. Since many of my readers may not know much about synchro before picking up the book, one of my goals was to portray the team practices and meets as accurately as possible. Early in the story I describe a training accident during practice, and an older girl on my daughter’s team told me that it was “freaky realistic,” which made me very pleased. However, I took several minor creative liberties with the way a meet is run in order to advance the plot in certain places.

What was the book’s publication journey?

In a word, it was unexpected. Initially, I thought I’d try to get the book published the traditional way, starting with finding an agent to represent me. But while working through my final drafts, I learned that there were going to be some fairly significant changes to the sport starting with the 2014-15 season. For example, they’ve done away with trios and have drastically reduced the number of soloists who qualify for Nationals (which is now called the Junior Olympics). Instead of rewriting the story to reflect these changes, I focused on getting the book published as quickly as possible. To do so, I formed my own publishing company, which is called Chapter Two Press, and released the book myself. I’ve never owned a business before, but I think there’s a need for small presses, and I hope to publish works by other authors in the years ahead.

Katie’s dad puts a lot of pressure on her to give up synchro. What would you tell kids to do if they are being forced to give up the sport they love?

First, I think it’s important for kids in this situation to try to understand why they are being pressured to give up the sport they love. Although it may feel like punishment, that may not be the intent. In Out of Synch, for example, Katie’s father is drawing on his own experiences as a college athlete to help his daughter take the best path toward achieving a successful future. His efforts are misguided, but he is acting out of love. Once you understand your parents’ perspective, you may be able to find a compromise that will allow you to continue to compete while satisfying their wishes. For example, maybe you can offer to give up a spot on a travel team to focus on your schoolwork, and instead play in a local league. Some swimmers will get up early and swim laps before school. Sometimes being an athlete means learning to juggle many different activities, but there’s often a way to fit everything in if you are creative and think positively.

Were there any books that inspired you when you were a kid?

Of course! I loved adventure stories growing up, and I still do. I couldn’t get enough of classic science fiction, such as Isaac Asimov’s robot books and his original Foundation trilogy, but the books that affected me the most include The Hobbit and, when I was a little older, The Once and Future King, which is about King Arthur. When I was thirteen, my counselor at sleep-away camp read The Princess Bride aloud to the bunk throughout the summer, and that’s probably still my favorite book. 

What is one thing you would like your fans to know about you or your book?

Most of Out of Synch was written on a tiny netbook on the pool deck while my older daughter was at synchro practice. As for something about me, I’ve wanted to write novels since I was ten, but it took me a long time to learn how to craft a story and develop compelling characters. If there’s something you want to do, never give up, and don’t let other people convince you to stop trying to fulfill your dream. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? In a nutshell, that’s what Katie must discover for herself in this story.


Let me add that Out of Synch is available through online retailers, and you can purchase a signed copy through my website, www.warrenfirschein.com. I love hearing from my readers!

Thanks so much for doing this interview, Warren. Best of luck to you and Out of Synch.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Congratulations on the World Cup Team USA!

"You can't be what you can't see," says ESPN soccer analyst and past World Cup winner Kate Markgraf.

We at Sporty Girl Books hope that this Team USA win inspires a whole new group of young players to take up soccer and any other sport they want. To keep the momentum going, major networks need to continue to embrace women's sports during prime time not because it is a duty, but because action-packed sporting events with highly-skilled athletes are good for business. Audiences want to see the amazing level of athleticism that happens in every women's sport on the national and international stages.

Although Sports Illustrated editor Andy Benoit has apologized for his tweet, "women's sports in general not worth watching," he aired an opinion I'd presume a lot of sports journalism gatekeepers are keeping to themselves.  Hopefully the television viewing numbers for this evening, again reveal that the market is strong for prime time women's sports. The more coverage and advertising dollars there are for women's sports, the more these athletes and their coaches will be paid.

The following is from the Women's Sports Foundation website:
Gender Inequity in Professional Sports

  • Total prize money for the PGA tour, $256 million, is more than five times that of the LPGA tour, $50 million. Similar discrepancies exist throughout professional sports.
  • For a WNBA player in the 2005 season, the minimum salary was $31,200, the maximum salary was $89,000, and the team salary cap was $673,000. For NBA players in the 2004-2005 season, the minimum salary was $385,277, the maximum salary was $15.355 million, and the team salary cap was $46 million.
  • For finishing in third place in the 2003 Women's World Cup, each U.S. women's national soccer team member was awarded $25,000. They would have received $58,000 if they had won the Cup. For reaching the quarterfinal of the World Cup in 2002, the U.S. men's national soccer team members received $200,000 each. 

Celebrate Team USA's win with sparklers, paint your face red, white, and blue and then--as is the American way, write a letter to the editor or tweet to your favorite network. Let the editors and producers know that you want more women athletes and their sports featured during prime time. We shouldn't have to wait another 16 years for women athletes to get this kind of press.

-Anna E. Jordan