Keri Mikulski writes under the pseudonym Nicole Leigh Shepherd. She is the author of
Head Games (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), Stealing Bases (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), Making Waves (Razorbill/Penguin, 2012), and Fifteen Love (Razorbill/Penguin, 2012). Currently, she teaches college writing and literature courses at Rutgers University and Burlington County College. Previously, Keri worked as a personal trainer, lifeguard, registered nurse, middle school teacher, columnist, and high school coach. She lives in New Jersey with her family. Find out more at http://www.kerimikulski.com
How did you get involved with Pretty Tough?
I stumbled upon the website, prettyTOUGH, while completing research for my first novel, Screwball. After feeling absolutely blown away and excited by the realistic depiction of the female athlete, I contacted the site’s owner, Jane Schonberger. We discussed collaborating, and I immediately began writing articles for the site. A few months later, Jane read Screwball and asked me if I was working on any other ‘sporty books. At the time, I was writing a basketball book entitled Full Court Press. Jane read it and loved it. A year later, Full Court Press became Head Games.
You took over the series from Liz Tigelaar. What was that process like?
I love, love, love Liz Tigelaar’s work. Therefore, I was absolutely honored to be asked to write within the same series of such an uber-talented television writer, producer, and author. But, since the first two books were written four years prior to selling Head Games and each novel follows a separate female athlete with a separate story at Beachwood High School, it wasn’t as much of a takeover as a seamless continuation of the series. Each book follows a different female athlete with a different story to tell, but the setting remains the same.
At this point you have written about basketball, softball, lifeguarding, and tennis. What will you write about next?
My oldest daughter is begging me to pen a soccer book. She’s obsessed with soccer at the moment. We’re writing a few fun stories together that we publish at home using lots of crayons, pencils, and paper. J
Have you played all of these sports or do you have to find ways to research them?
Yes. I played basketball and softball for many years. During college, I worked as a lifeguard. Therefore, the sports-specific scenes in Head Games, Stealing Bases, and Making Waves were quick to write. The tennis scenes in Fifteen Love, on the other hand, were definitely slower since I wasn’t as familiar with the sport. Before I wrote Fifteen Love, I took tennis lesson, and I played four times a week for eight weeks (until I pulled an abdominal muscle). Then, I peppered a poor guy (who played tennis in college) at my oldest daughter’s school with daily questions about tennis at the parking lot at eight every morning.
What sporty books are you reading and/or have you read lately?
Right now, I’m reading and loving Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. Recently, I re-read Warren St. John’s Outcasts United. I’m psyched to utilize Outcasts United and a few other ‘sporty’ books for a ‘Sports and Social Change’ writing thematic course I’ll be teaching at Rutgers University this fall.
What advice would you give to writers of sporty girl books?
Know your sport inside and out. An athlete can spot a poser a mile away. And please, keep writing sporty books. There are so many girls out there hungry for more.
Thanks so much for having me today! Love the new site.