Thursday, 21 June 2018

Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Michelle’s blog to join the poetry party.

Greetings and salutations, friends. Happy Poetry Friday!

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my second book for children, TAKEDOWN. (Read a review at the Nerdy Book Club.)

I think of this novel as a friendship story set in the world of youth wrestling.It’s told by two sixth graders: Mikayla, who wants to be a wrestler like her older brothers — until their coach says a girl won’t cut it on his team; and Lev, who is determined to beat his nemesis and make it to the state wrestling championship. Neither one of them is happy when they end up on the same team … as training partners.

The book covers the story of their season, how Mickey and Lev learn to work together.

Though this book is written in prose, its genesis began with poetic sketches.

Wrestling sketches from 2010!

I used to sit with my notebook at my son’s wrestling practices and tournaments, writing down what I observed. I couldn’t *not* include some poetry, so I gave my wrestling notebook to Lev. When he needs some downtime between matches, you’ll find him sitting at the top of the bleachers with a notebook in his lap and a pen in his hand, writing.

Lev has a handful of poems in the book. Here is one that came out of those early poetic sketches. Wrestling season is in the winter. Athletes often spend one or both days of their weekend at tournaments, arriving for weigh-ins before first light, and leaving (if they wrestle well) as the sun sets. This is Lev’s draft of a poem he’s working on for school.

Wrestlers Are Vampires
By Laura Shovan, from TAKEDOWN

Wrestlers are vampires.
Gyms are their caves.
They shut the doors,
stay locked inside,
and don’t come out
until day submits to night.
Wrestlers are vampires.
They never see the sun.
They push your face
into the mat until
your nose oozes blood.
They crush you flat,
break you down, bury you.

If you’re local to the Baltimore/DC area, I hope to see you at the book launch event this Sunday, 12 pm. The Ivy Bookshop is hosting.  Launch details and the address are here. We’ve got something really special planned.

10% off both books if you buy one, donate one.

Don’t know anything about wrestling? We’ve got you covered! Young athletes from Beat the Streets Baltimore will be on-hand to give a wrestling demonstration. We’re running a “Buy a Book/Donate a Book to Beat the Streets” program, so kids at Beat the Streets summer camps will receive a copy of the book.

Because food is very important to wrestlers, we’re going to have Lev and Mickey’s favorite tournament day treats: Twizzlers and donuts. ASL interpretation will be provided.

Thanks for all of your support during this book’s progress, Poetry Friday friends. It’s been two years since I first shared a poem from TAKEDOWN, which was not even a complete draft! You can read “Tournament Rap” here.

25 responses to “Poetry Friday: Takedown Launch”

  1. The review over on Nerdy Book Club of “TAKEDOWN” is excellent! Laura, your book is so timely in addressing the issues of inequality that is so pervasive today, I’m really looking forward to reading it. Strong poems too, thanks–and all the best at the book events forthcoming for you!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks for the good wishes, Michelle. I am very grateful for Bridget Hodder’s insights into the book.

  2. Tabatha says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! So glad you wrote this book, a subject close to your heart!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Tabatha. I don’t think I had made my peace with the sport, even though our son stopped wrestling long ago. This book gave me an opportunity to look back and think about our family’s experiences.

  3. I give a decisive victory thumb’s up to what Michelle said about today’s Nerdy Book Club post on TAKEDOWN.
    Love seeing your Mom drawings from wrestling matches. And so cool you about the gym=bat cave idea. Glad you wrestled this into publication. I look forward to this read very much.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Jan! This was a challenging book to write. I had to relearn the sport after several years away.

  4. I have to admit….wrestling doesn’t do it for me. BUT….the friendship story does and the MG does and now that I know Lev is a writer, well I’m all in! Great post. I’m so happy for you and loving the celebration you are getting to enjoy. Thanks for sharing with us today.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Linda. I’m excited about the launch event. And yes, Lev is definitely a writer. It’s his much-needed outlet.

  5. Linda Baie says:

    You’re getting great reviews, will start the book soon. I didn’t know that you included poetry, too. Lovely, Laura, to mix it up! Congratulations again!

  6. Love your poem! I love your comparison to vampires. The imagery here is brilliant:

    They never see the sun.
    They push your face
    into the mat until
    your nose oozes blood.
    They crush you flat,
    break you down, bury you.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you. We made so many long, pre-dawn drives — spent all day in a gym — and then rode home in darkness. Like many sports, wrestling takes commitment from the whole family.

  7. Laura! So many congratulations!!! I’m sorry I can’t make it on Sunday, but I’m so excited to read this timely book. It’s not exactly a break from poetry, but I’m taking an online Writer’s Center workshop called “Finding Your Memoir Voice,” taught by Emily Rich. I wonder if you know her, since she has edited for LPR.

    Is it possible for me to buy a copy online and still provide one to Beat the Streets?

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Heidi! Yes, I know Emily well. She’s lovely and smart and you’re sure to have a great class with her.

      Thanks for asking about the donation. My suggestion is to call the Ivy Bookshop. The staff will be able to take care of your request.

  8. Congratulations! What a wonderful subject for a book. I love the vampire poem! Can’t wait to read the whole thing. All my best!

  9. Congratulations on the launch of TAKEDOWN. I’ve never quite grasped wrestling, but our school system has a strong wrestling program, so I’ve heard lots about it. TAKEDOWN sounds like a book that both wrestlers and nonathletes could enjoy.

  10. I can’t wait to get my copy. Congratulations! You are really on a roll. What more is in store for you?

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Margaret. I’m working on another contemporary MG — a collaboration with another author. Stay tuned!

  11. Congratulations, Laura! The plans for your book launch sound amazing!

  12. Can’t wait to read this, Laura! My boys were swimmers, so I know almost nothing about wrestling. Congratulations!

  13. Carol Wilcox says:

    Congratulations!!! I loved THE LAST FIFTH GRADERS and can’t wait to read TAKEDOWN. I actually had an ARC, loaned it to a seventh grader who is a wrestler, and then he misplaced it. I kept thinking it would turn up, so I could read it, but it never did. I will go buy a copy this week!

  14. Laura, @BridgetsBooks’s outstanding review of your new book, TAKEDOWN, was so well done that I had to tweet it out. Congratulations on this book that takes us beyond the mat to have middle schoolers grapple with bigger ideas on life and their place in it. It was fascinating to read your post today.

  15. Irene Latham says:

    Laura, you are brilliant and beautiful, and I am very much looking forward to this never offering. Congratulations!! xo

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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