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 31, 2015

Sporty Author Interview with Paula Stokes

I am always excited when I'm able to interview an author, but after reading THE ART OF LAINEY I'm so in love with Paula that I squealed when she tweeted my happy review of LAINEY on The YA Club. I'd heard it was incredible from multiple sources that I trust. Even that it was one of the best contemporary books of nailing high school, and yet, when I saw the cover I didn't think this book could be for me. When I finally read it, I knew I would read anything Paula Stokes wrote. She's that good.

From Goodreads: Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?  

Here's my 30 second review so we can get to the interview:
I adored Lainey and Bee and Micah. Lainey was tough but vulnerable, and her journey to get back her ex…using Tso’s The Art of War, is brilliant. I wish I’d written this book. Read it in a day. I have a soft spot of summer books (think Sarah Dessen) and this one was perfect. The summer job, missing friends, deadly pancakes, a book to save all, and to make it even better, Lainey is a kick a** soccer player. 

RH: Lainey is a talented soccer player, one who could play collegiately. Do you play soccer, yourself?
PS: I played soccer from second grade (that's actually the church team I played for mentioned in the book) up until tenth grade. For my junior and senior year, I focused on tennis, so instead of soccer I played tennis in the fall and managed our boys' tennis team in the spring.

RH: Could you tell us about the extracurricular activities you were involved in growing up?
PS: I started playing soccer when I was seven and then added basketball to that mix when I was in fourth grade. It's funny, I went from being the tall-girl center to being the point guard a couple of years later when everyone else caught up to me in height. I started working out at a gym when I was twelve and have done so consistently for over twenty years. I tried out for tennis as a freshman, made varsity, and realized I had a natural aptitude. Tennis was my primary focus throughout high school.

In addition to sports, I did academic competitions and also spent a lot of time going to rock concerts and music festivals. I was really entrenched in the sports, academic, and music worlds at my high school--a geek-jock-rocker, if you will ;) After high school I got into stuff like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing with my brother and now there's basically nothing sporty I won't try if given the opportunity.

RH: It's funny how we grow at such different rates. I used to be tall, as well. Now I'm exact average (5'6") I love the geek-jock-rocker image of you in high school:) I rock climb, as well. (Living for three years in Utah has me hooked.)
I appreciated that you had a YA character not dying to jump the next boy who walks by. Bianca (or Bee) isn’t looking for a relationship and seems comfortable in her own body. This contrasted well with Lainey’s occasional struggles (cover those freckles!) Although the cover is a bit deceiving, Lainey is a bigger girl. Tall and strong, and she doesn’t always feel confident in her body. Could you talk about her body image, how Jason sometimes made her feel, and how she came to terms with who she is?

PS: Lainey mentions this feeling a couple times in the book, including the part you referenced on page 91 where she's trying to playfully punch Micah and later on 166 when she belches and says Jason would've told her to "quit being a dude."

Most of these flashes of "I'm not girly enough" come from Jason needing her to always fulfill the traditional feminine role in their relationship, and subtly putting her in her place when she doesn't. But that's Jason's problem stemming from his insecurities, not Lainey's problem. I think aside from hating her freckles (and most of us hate at least one thing about our looks, don't we?), she is pretty comfortable in her own skin except when someone she cares about (Jason, Kendall) is belittling her. So really, her struggle is to realize that her own thoughts are just as valid as the opinions of others, something she gradually learns over time after her popular friend and boyfriend leave her and she's forced to think for herself throughout the book.

I wrote Lainey to be built like Jennifer Lawrence before she was cast in The Hunger Games. A few people I know were like: "But Jennifer is so...big." Okay, first of all, just because you can't see all her bones through her skin does not make her "big." And second, as someone who struggled with body image and eating disorders in the past, I really resent the "how dare a YA heroine not be dainty!" mentality, as if her worth is inversely proportional to her weight. I intentionally made Lainey a girl who eats even when she's stressed and wrinkles up her nose at diet soda because I wanted to show readers that you can be popular and desirable and happy without resorting to starving yourself.

RH: I saw on your blog that you kayak and hike. Could you share your favorite hike and/or kayaking experience?

PS: Last year I went to Baja California for a week-long kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortez. It was amazing. We kayaked a few hours each day and then snorkeled and relaxed in the afternoon. Being out in the open ocean with the waves crashing over the hull of your boat is such an intense feeling. You feel very powerful and yet very small at the same time.

I have tons of favorite hikes but I'll name one everyone should consider doing at least once--The Angel's Landing hike at Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah. You have to get up and go early because this trail gets crowded by late morning. It's a strenuous climb that requires using safety chains for the final ascent, but the view is incredible and the feeling of accomplishment when you make it to the top is almost unparalleled. Bonus: last time I did it there were many adorbs chipmunks running around the summit.

RH: That sounds incredible. I dream about trips like that when my babies are older. Zion's Nat'l Park is one of my favorite. Mystery Canyon is my favorite hike/canyoneering in the park. I haven't done Angel's Landing, but will plan on it for my next trip.You’ve written YA mystery set in Renaissance Venice, contemporary soccer girl Lainey, and your new book, LIARS, Inc. comes out this month.

From Goodreads: Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

RH: I can't wait for this one. I'm also excited to read a male POV from you. Could you give us a hint of what subject will you tackle next?

PS: I'm super-excited for VICARIOUS and BAD LUCK CHARM, both of which will release in the first half of 2016.
VICARIOUS is the story of Winter, a eighteen-year-old Korean stunt girl who engages in adrenaline sports and other risky activities so that recordings of her neural impulses can be sold like virtual reality video games. Her sister Rose, another recorder, goes missing and Winter has to search the real world and Rose's neural recordings for clues to find her. It's a dark story, but great for fans of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, and the movie INCEPTION.

BAD LUCK CHARM is the story of Maguire, a sixteen-year-old girl who thinks she's cursed, that people who get too close to her end up injured or dead. She tries to insulate herself but then her mom forces her to join a club at school. Maguire ends up on the tennis team where she meets Jordy, a boy tennis prodigy who doesn't believe in bad luck. The two of them team up to test her curse. This one is great for fans of THE ART OF LAINEY or SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE.

RH: Ooh, those sounds really good. I'm especially looking forward to BAD LUCK CHARM. We'll have to add both of those books to our tenndatabase. Could you share some of your favorite (sporty or not) reads?

Lightning Round
last book you read--Falling into Place
last thing you ate--Thai food--garlic pepper chicken and rice
last movie/show you watched--The Hurt Locker
favorite sport to play--hiking/kayaking/tennis
favorite sport to watch--American Ninja Warrior :)
person you’d most like to meet--Anyone from American Ninja Warrior :)

RH: I'm a huge American Ninja Warrior fan. I used to work at the climbing gym in Provo where Isaac Caldaiero trained, so it was great to see him in ANW!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the sporty girl community?

PS: Keep being sporty! You'll live longer, be less stressed, and feel great in whatever clothes you choose to wear <3

RH: Paula, thank you so much for being here on Sporty Girl Books! And thank you for recognizing the need for sporty books and writing real characters we can relate to. I can't wait to read LIARS, Inc. and everything else you write. If you're ever in the Raleigh area, I'd be happy to give you a belay at my local climbing gym;)

AUTHOR BIO: Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently THE ART OF LAINEY and LIARS, INC. Her writing has been translated into nine foreign languages. When she's not writing, she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

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?