Going for the Record
--a 223 young adult novel (ages 12 and up) published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2004, see HOME page or click on cover image at left for story details and reviews. ISBN:0802852734, $8.00
Other Stories and Works in Progress...
A humorous chapter book for boys
--Orville Wrong and the Underground Fliers
A middle grade low fantasy flying adventure.
--A young middle grade coming-of-age story set in the 70's dealing with gender-role confusion
--A girls' basketball series with stories ranging from older middle grade to YA...
featuring a main character who's obsessed with basketball. I have 8 stories planned and have completed or written good portions of 5 of them. Now that I have a better idea of what needs to be laid down for each story to work, I am concentrating on finishing the first. The series ends with a YA love story; I am trying to make it an "un-gooshy" love story, one that I could've stomached when I was a teen.
--several other completed manuscripts whose titles and subject matter I'd like to keep under wraps for right now, including a picture book for boys and a non-basketball young adult novel.
My own dad's death of cancer. His suffering and death was the most powerful thing I've ever witnessed. Yes, it was sad and hard to watch, but because of the faith and bravery he demonstrated, it was beautiful in many ways, too, a love-filled, life-affirming, inspirational thing. I wanted to share that, that and some of the thoughts and ideas which brought me comfort or gave me strength throughout it.
When my dad was sick, I couldn’t find enough to read in the way of personal accounts of people going through similar situations. I craved stories about people losing a loved one to cancer. It relieved me to know others had the same strange thoughts and emotions, made me feel less guilty, weird, selfish, angry, confused. Just to know others have reacted the same way, it helps us to feel more human. Sharing somehow lessens the burden.
My maiden name is Polakowski so I've always had a soft spot for Polish names. As a kid, I was often teased about my last name. That, and I never read about characters with "ski" last names. So I've decided to do something about that and try to give characters in all my novels Polish last names (it's worked in all but once so far; for plot reasons, I couldn't do it in Orville Wrong and the Underground Fliers). As for the long and impossible-looking name Weiczynkowski (Weez-in-kow-ski), the main character in Going for the Record is sort of half me and half my friend, Laura Wiesen, so I just combined our last names, or made Laura's last name Polish, whichever way you want to think of it.
The man who first encouraged me to try writing a sports novel, Rich Wallce (an author of several young adult sports novels for boys), advised me not to write about my own sport in my first attempt at a sports novel. He said he was given this same advice when he started. I guess the idea is that it's hard for a first-timer to distance him/herself from what really happened and write true fiction if the story hits too close to home. You feel freer to stray from the facts, don't have to be loyal to any old truths, if the sport is one that's not so near and dear to your heart. In my case, the sport I knew the most about besides basketball was soccer--my husband is a college women's soccer coach, and our kids play. I see and hear about young women who play soccer every day of my life!
I've thought about writing a sequel, but the problem is that it would be much the same as another story I'm planning on writing as one of the books in a series of basketball stories. I'm just really into writing this basketball series and would prefer to include the story in it. But if my basketball series doesn't end up going anywhere, I may use this story idea as a sequel to GFR. I'm interested to know, though, what sort of sequel you're imagining. The one I had in mind would skip a year, and have Leah leaving home to go to college and play soccer. And I've wondered if that would disappoint readers, to have her skip her senior year in high school and the whole "do I go away to college or don't I?" dilemma she would undoubtedly have, as well as the college recruitment/selection process, which can be pretty interesting, too. I also imagine readers would want to know what happens with Leah and Clay, and I'm not sure I want the sequel to be about that. So I'm afraid I might disappoint using the story idea I currently have in mind. But I have not ruled out the idea of a sequel.
Yes, so far at least the seeds for all my stories have come from my own life. It's often said that you write best what you know, and there's a lot of truth in that for me. The things I write about are things I've always wanted to share, things I feel or felt deeply as a young person. Often times I'll have someone I don't know read one of my stories and realize they find it boring, though, and I know that's because I haven't fictionalized it enough. Then I back go in and invent, spice up my story, add conflict. Other than hating being a girl, my own childhood was magical, almost a fairy tale, too Pollyanna-ish to make good story. Perfect and safe and everything happy is boring (it wasn't, but in a story it is, I guess), I'm learning that. So on my first draft, I just spit the real thing out, as it happened, as I remember it, and once I've done that, it's no longer so sacred somehow, and I can tear it apart and rearrange, add to it and delete the stuff that's probably only interesting only to me and my family and friends.
Maybe someday when I get my young life all out of my system, I'll be able to invent stories purely out of thin air. I admire writers who can do that.