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.

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!


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:

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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