It was the solstice this week, Poetry Friday friends. Summer is here. I’m not a hot weather person, but there is one thing I will go outside for: baseball.
I love going to Camden Yards for an Orioles game on a hot summer night, eating crab cakes, drinking beer or Icees, and spending time with my family through the long innings.
I’ve been thinking a lot about sports in the past several months as I finish up work on my next book, Take Down, which is set on a middle school wrestling team. Visiting me today for an interview — and to share a poem for Poetry Friday — is Stacy Barnett Mozer, one of the authors behind the blog Sporty Girl Books.
Stacy’s latest book is The Perfect Trip, about Sam (Samantha) Barrette, a girl who has just made the boys’ travel baseball league.
Thanks for joining me for 5 Questions for the Author, Stacy!
1. THE PERFECT TRIP works as a stand-alone novel, but can you fill us in on Sam’s first story, THE SWEET SPOT? How has the character grown and changed since that book?
In the first book Sam is struggling to find her place as a thirteen-year-old female baseball player. At the beginning of the book she learns that her coach feels she has an attitude and that the only way he’ll recommend her for travel baseball is if she gets a good performance at baseball camp. But when she arrives they expect her to be a boy and place her on the team with weaker and younger players and it goes downhill from there. As in this book, Sam’s family plays an important role in the story. At the start of the book Sam sees her stepmother Nancy as the enemy and is completely forgiving of her never-present birth mother. She has to learn to sort those relationships out too.
2. One of my favorite scenes in THE PERFECT TRIP takes place at a pick-up baseball game at a campground. A group of older boys is sure they’ll win against their younger brothers, even more so when Sam joins the younger boys’ team. I love the dramatic irony of this scene. Can you talk about how girl athletes challenge expectations?
Thank you for picking up on that scene. My two books were originally written in the reverse order and it was when I wrote that scene at the campground that I discovered the real motivation of my real main character. As an elementary school teacher, there have been many years that I have watched girls being undervalued when they want to play sports at recess. I used to be able to name on my hand the ones who were able to persevere and fight for the respect they deserved on the field. Fortunately, I do feel that trend is currently on the upswing. There has been more attention given to women and sports in the news and the boys don’t seem as surprised to see the girls playing with them. I don’t think it hurts that they all know about my book as well.
3. I loved the relationship between Sam and her younger half-sister, Deborah. Would you describe how you drew these sisters and made their moments of love, annoyance, and betrayal so believable.
My younger sister and I always had a very close relationship. Even though she is as different from Deborah as I am from Sam, I definitely put the emotion behind our relationship into the story. We had mostly good times, but there were those moments. Deborah also has in her some of my daughter Annie. Annie was Deborah’s age when I wrote the book and I would pluck some scenes and conversations from observing her behavior and interests. Then I would place myself in the role of her older sister to see how I would react.
4. Sam’s real name is Samantha — a name she doesn’t use much. One of the main characters in my upcoming book is a girl wrestler, and I played around with names and nicknames too. She’s Mikayla at home, but “Mickey” on the wrestling mat (on the advice of her older brothers). Why are names so important? When female athletes play on co-ed or male teams, do you think names impact how their teammates and opponents view girls and women?
When I first wrote The Perfect Trip Sam’s name was Zoey. When I realized I wanted the people at baseball camp to think she was a boy, I needed a unisex name. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted, so I took it back to my third grade class. They voted for Sam. I don’t think that names should matter, but in this case it was important for the mix up.
5. Who was your female athlete hero when you were Sam’s age? What was important to you about her?
I can’t remember any particular female athlete heroes from my childhood, but there were two movies with female athletes that I’ve never forgotten. The first was Quarterback Princess with Helen Hunt as a female football player. The second is a lesser-known movie called Blue Skies Again, which is about a female baseball player. I remember watching both movies over and over and thinking how amazing it was that these girls were fighting for their right to play with the boys. When I was older, I admired Mia Hamm, which is why I had Sam’s best friend Tasha give her a few shout outs during The Perfect Trip.
Please stop by Stacy’s website to read her full bio. I had no idea we were both NYU grads!
Since it’s Poetry Friday, I asked Stacy to recommend a poem to pair with THE PERFECT TRIP.
Her choice? The perfect poem! Here is “First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis — shared with Pat’s express permission.
First Girls in Little League Baseball
December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.
The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”
Posted with permission of the author.
Interesting interview, Laura! I love author interviews and insights. Thanks for sharing that! And thanks for Pat’s poem as well!
Thanks, B.J. I enjoy doing the 5 Questions series because of the insights the authors share.
Fun interview and absolutely adore that “First Girls” poem. Thanks! — Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/
Thanks, Christie. Yes — I think this poem and novel would make a great pairing for the classroom.
Laura, fascinating post as always–and always interesting to meet new authors and hear about their decision-making. Go girls!
If you haven’t been to the Sporty Girl Books website yet, Heidi, I think you’d enjoy the posts they do and the list of recommended books. http://sportygirlbooks.blogspot.com/
Reading the bit about girls being undervalued at recess reminded me of my daughter in PE class, not long ago, being completely frustrated by boys who wouldn’t pass to her. The whole class was completely demoralizing. The PE teacher didn’t back them up at all (it was all boys except for two or three girls) and would suggest to them that they didn’t have to play! Ugh. (I complained, didn’t seem to help.)
Thanks for sharing that connection, Tabatha. I hope that this is changing. I know youth wrestling — at least in Maryland — has seen a huge shift in the last several years. The sport has made an effort to be more welcoming for female athletes.
I am so glad to learn of more and more books that feature female athletes. When I taught middle school, I was always looking for titles to share with students. They couldn’t get enough. Things are slowly changing. When my daughter was in middle school, she played on a coed travel soccer team (her team was one of the few with girls). She took advantage of the fact the boys on the team underestimated the girls and thought they could take it easy–at least until one of the girls took the ball out from under them.
Hi, Kay. I’m glad you mentioned the issue of boys underestimating girl athletes — to the girls’ advantage. It’s a key concept in Stacy’s book and also comes up in my wrestling novel. I think you’ll enjoy the Sporty Girl Books website too.
I’m old enough to remember that girls only got to play intramurally, NOT against other schools. My basketball team won the championship, & that was nice, but it didn’t really go anywhere. I’m so happy that girls, and women, have fought and succeeded in many ways. Thanks for this, will find the books for my granddaughters! The poem is sweet too!
Linda, thank you for sharing this story. In studying Olympic Gold Medal wrestler Helen Maroulis, I saw this too. At first, she didn’t want to continue with wrestling, because women could not compete at the Olympics. When the sport was added for women, that was a big motivator for her.
I’m looking forward to reading Sam’s first story. The relationships in The Perfect Trip are so well-drawn!
Enjoyed hearing from Stacy about her new book. Hooray for girl power! Baseball, along with tennis and basketball, are the only sports I enjoy as a spectator. It’s great to have more books about female athletes. Thanks for sharing Pat’s poem too. 🙂
Thanks, Jama. I agree that we need more of these books. I’m looking forward to Jason Reynolds’ second Track book, which features a girl named Patina.
Girls have a rough time entering traditional boy spheres, whether sports or math, but it is nice that it’s becoming more common. Mia Hamm is a hero of mine, too. She is amazing.
Absolutely, which is why it’s so important that adults make sure they hold space for the girls (physically and emotionally) and make them feel welcome.
Thanks so much for the interview, Laura. I was so glad to have found Pat’s poem. Atta girl!
It was my pleasure, Stacy. I’m so glad you visited. From these responses, it’s clear that the subject of girls in sports resonates for many of us — and thanks to Pat for commemorating that important moment in his poem.
Thanks for a fascinating interview, Laura and Stacy. I especially love reading about how much of Stacy’s life and experience was reflected in her characters and the plot.
Thanks, Violet. I’m looking forward to going back and reading the first book about Sam.
I found this interview fascinating too. I love to hear about girls who have girl power in sporting arenas. We have come a long way in sports and highlighting the challenges for adolescents is a good way to have them open up on the topic. Bravo to both of you, Laura and Stacy.
Thanks for stopping by, Carol. I think these books showing girls who want to and do compete with the boys, despite the struggles inherent in doing so, are great models.
I love stories like this, that help both girls and boys open their horizons, and see opportunities instead of boundaries.
Thanks, Jane. I love that phrase: opportunities instead of boundaries.
I get excited by stories that are promoting girls and especially in areas where it’s been so difficult to advance, thanks for writing these Stacy–I definitely would like to read them. Loved the Little League poem too. Thanks for sharing Stacy’s stories and background with us Laura!
Michelle, you will love the Sporty Girl Books website. Part of what’s helping girls make inroads is the leagues and coaches who make traditional male sports open and safe for female athletes.
What a great interview. I loved hearing about the story behind the story. I think it is awesome that Stacy got the name from her third grade class. Kids are so helpful when it comes to stories. 🙂 Wishing her all the best!