An Author Answers The Question Everyone Asks, a guest post by Fred Bowen
Every writer gets the same question. Whether they write for adults or kids. Whether they are at a school or a cocktail party.
“Where did you get the idea for the book?”
I write sports books for kids. My 29th book will be published this year. The latest book is part of the Fred Bowen Sports Story series. The books combine sports fiction, sports history and have a chapter of real sports history in the back. They are perfect for kids ages 8-12 who like sports.
I coached more than thirty youth sports teams when my kids were younger. Some of the ideas for the books came from what I saw my players going through in their games.
More recently, I have gotten some ideas for books from talking sports with my son Liam who is now the head baseball coach at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
Frankly, looking back over my 28-year book writing career, I am not sure exactly where I got the idea for each book.
But I know precisely where I was when I got the idea for my latest book – Extra Innings.
Some time around June 8, 2009 I received my weekly copy of Sports Illustrated (back when the magazine was a weekly). On the cover was a picture of a sixteen-year-old baseball phenom – Bryce Harper.
But it was not the article about Harper that made me save the magazine. Leafing through the pages I stopped at a picture of a college pitcher striding off the mound, his glove in his right hand, eyes forward, the bill of his cap as straight as his stare. Behind him, the other team was celebrating, dog-piling their teammate who had driven in the winning run.
The caption explained “Mark Miller, an All-American pitcher for College of Wooster (Ohio), walked away from University of St. Thomas players after the Tommies of St. Paul Minn., scored a run in the bottom of the 12th to win the NCAA Division III national championship game 3-2 on May 26 in Grand Chute, Wis. Miller pitched all 11 1/3 innings for the Fighting Scots.”
I knew then I wanted to write about that picture. Or more accurately, about what that picture represented.
As I said, my books combine sports fiction and sports history. But because I write for 8-12 year-old readers I include something else (although please don’t tell my readers).
Too often kids’ books fill their readers with empty promises. Promises such as you can be anything you want to be if you try hard enough. Or everything will be okay in the end.
That’s why I like writing about sports. Because playing sports remains one of the few places where kids learn some of life’s hardest lessons.
Everyone who plays sports – from the kids in the playground to the greatest of all time – have to learn to deal with losing and disappointment. Think of Mark Miller, the Wooster pitcher. He was an All-American … he pitched 11 1/3 innings … and had given up only three runs.
And still it wasn’t enough. He walked off the mound the losing pitcher.
Don’t worry, Extra Innings is not a complete downer. The book has plenty of sports action, as well as a group of wisecracking baseball buddies. The main character (Mike McGinn) has to show his hard-working father, who thinks summer baseball is nothing but useless play, that pitching is not easy and that he is working hard to get better.
The sports history is about the famous “Harvey Haddix game.” That is when the Pittsburgh Pirates lefthander threw twelve perfect innings – 36 batters up, 36 batters down – against the Milwaukee Braves only to lose the game in the 13th inning.
Still, there is that lesson. The lesson I saw in the picture fifteen years ago and which gave me the idea for Extra Innings. Sometimes in sports and in life you try your hardest and things do not turn out as you had hoped.
So in the penultimate chapter …
“Mike turned without a word, took off his glove, held it in his right hand, and marched off the field with his eyes looking straight ahead to the Rays bench.
The game was over. Mike and the Rays had lost 2–1 in extra innings.”
I hope I have written a book my readers will love. But most of all, I hope I have written a book that is worthy of my original idea. Worthy of that picture of Mark Miller.
Meet the author
Fred Bowen is the author of twenty-nine sports books for young readers ages 8-12. He is the creator and author of the Fred Bowen Sports Story series, twenty-six books for readers 8-12 that combine sports fiction, sports history and always have a chapter of sports history in the back (Peachtree Publishers).
Bowen has also written three sports history books, including Gridiron: Stories From 100 Years of the National Football League (Margaret K. McEldery Books 2020) and Hardcourt: Stories From 75 Years of the National Basketball Association (Margaret K. McEldery Books 2022).
From April 2000 to February 2023, Bowen wrote a weekly kids’ sports column for The Washington Post.
About Extra Innings
A baseball book full of on the field action perfect for middle grade readers.
“Strike one is the best pitch in baseball.” Mike loves pitching, and he loves knowing his team counts on him to deliver wins. But Mike’s father starts to worry that Mike is getting too carried away with baseball and not spending time working at after school jobs and developing a sense of responsibility. Can Mike and his father reach a compromise in order to let Mike play the game he loves and help his team win the league championship?
Read “The Real Story” of Harvey Haddix, who pitched a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves in 1959 and LOST. Baseball fans will love this extra dive into sports history.
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 02/06/2024
Series: Fred Bowen Sports Story Series
Age Range: 7 – 11 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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