It was a few month ago that Holly was looking for people to review her book, Playing Hurt. I signed up to be a participant and mentioned that I happen to be a sports player myself and it was a few weeks later that Holly asked me to have a “conversation style interview” with her on my sports history. I was thrilled! If there’s something I loved to talk about more than books it’s softball :D
Thanks so much to Holly for allowing me to be apart of her tour (expect a review soon!) and her inviting me to talk! So enjoyed, and tell me how you feel about sports in YA!
Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?)
HS: Hi, Caitlin! Can you tell us a bit about yourself—and your sports history?
C: Hey Holly! Thanks so much for having me here. Now, a bit about myself? Well, I’m a 15 (almost 16!) year old sophomore in high school. I’m a very active and competitive person and I have a great love for reading. My sports history goes all the way back to when I was about 6 years old when I started playing soccer, but now a day, I’m a strictly softball only player. It really is a passion of mine. I’ve played from my town recreation team for seven years to a tournament 16U travel team. While reading Playing Hurt, I was wondering if it was a love of playing a sport that helped inspired the book.
HS: Oh, if you only knew…I’m really, really not an athlete. I’m a bit of a klutz, actually. (I swear I can fall around corners!) I’m really flattered, though, that the depiction of sports felt authentic enough to you that you wondered if I played / loved sports.
I definitely have a much stronger appreciation of athletics now that I’m older—I realize now just how mental sports are. I can’t imagine what it must be like trying to come back to the game after an injury—or even after surgery, as is often the case with athletes who have overused their bodies.
I believe you’ve had some experience with a sports-related injury yourself. Can you tell us about that?
C: Well, I’d first like to thank God that I have never had as severe injury like Chelsea (*knocks on wood*), but I have definitely had my fair share of sports injury in my years. One of my most serious injuries from over the years happened when I was pitching for softball. It was just a regular game while I was pitching. A girl comes up to hit, I pitched the ball, and it all happened really fast. The ball had hit off the bat and came straight back at me, towards my face. I had enough reflexes to try and bring my mitt up to block the ball, but I was only able to reflect it a bit and it hit me on the side of my face right next to my left eye. I remember hearing the gasp from the people in the stands and the pain on the side of my face. I was kind of in shock and just fell to a knee. My coach ran out and they took me off the field. I was examined and ice packed. I honestly just like to shake these kinds of things off but people love to make a bigger situation out of things then needed and they didn’t let me play for the rest of the game. I ended up coming out of it with minor scars, but I did have a giant, nasty purple bruise on my face for two week (not fun, lots of cover up).
It just shows how easily you can be hurt and how suddenly. I’ve had teammates with broken legs, strained wrist and angles, and even a few knocked out teeth and, it’s scary thinking about all the possibilities of injuries that could happen. I’ve been hit by pitches (once really bad in the head, but thank Lord for helmets), ground balls, aching shoulders from pitching too much. I’m use to those pains, but a permanent pain like with Chelsea’s hip is something that I’m not sure I could deal with. Which leads me into asking – Why was it a hip injury you chose to have happen to Chelsea? I know with basketball players sprained ankles or wrist would be pretty severe too, so a hip injury was something I wasn’t expecting.
HS: First of all, I’m so sorry to hear of your accident. Though I’m a bit of a klutz, I’ve never broken a bone…I can’t imagine how much your injury must have hurt…
When I came up with the sports subplot (which didn’t come about until the very last rewrite…about five years after I wrote the first draft!), I immediately imagined Chelsea as a workaholic. Somebody who lived basketball—who felt guilty when she wasn’t working out, or practicing, or engaged in visualization techniques…
I also knew I wanted to show the scene of Chelsea’s accident, and wanted a dramatic impact—I tried to picture scenarios of Chelsea falling, and what it might look like from the stands—or from the screen of Chelsea’s bedroom TV, as she watched the DVD of her last game over and over…
Of all the scenarios I imagined, none seemed quite as dramatic as Chelsea coming down from a jump, into the splits—and breaking her already-stress-fractured hip.
What kind of impact has being injured had on your ability to play? Do you find yourself hesitant now in a way you weren’t before? What’s the mental healing process been like?
C: Well, being physically hurt, believe it or not, causes me more mental pain then being in actual physical pain sometimes. There have been times where my shoulders are killing me or my elbow feels like it’s got to burst, but I never like to let it on so it’s always a mental battle with myself to push past the annoying pains. There have been times where injuries have affected my playing, like when I sometimes twist my ankle the wrong way and can’t run as fast as I want or my shoulder starts to hurt and I can’t pitch as consistently, but I would say I have never been hesitant towards going right back into it (unless for some reason I’m really nervous about playing a certain team!)
Though, it was actually just a few days away during my softball practice that I was hitting off the machine when one of the balls I hit spun weird and hit me in my leg. It stung real bad so I had to sit down, and as I was doing so I was thinking about how funny it was that I was talking to you about the injuries I’ve gotten from sports and how often they happen. Though, I have to say that I haven’t really experienced any emotional injuries relating to sports like Clint or Chelsea did.
So, I was wondering if you thought that emotional injuries (like with Clint’s past and Chelsea’s loss of basketball) have a stronger impact then physical injuries?
HS: I think the mind is the toughest “muscle” to heal. Once you know the pain of an injury—emotional or physical—it’s got to be really hard to put yourself in line to be hurt again. I really admire athletes who get back in the game after an injury.
I do understand why athletes would want to get back out there, though…In order to write Chelsea, I just imagined that she felt the same way about sports that I felt about my writing. If something happened to me that made it impossible for me to continue writing, I’d be devastated. My sense of self would be shattered. It’d change my life completely.
What are your thoughts on sports in literature? Do you find, as an athlete, that they’re presented accurately? Do you see holes that you’d like filled—even holes you hope to fill yourself (if you have any interests in pursuing writing)?
C: I must say that if an author uses sports in literature well, it can really capture reader’s attention, especially younger readers and boys. Sports are a huge part of the world today and if used correctly it can broaden your reader audience.
Though I must say that there are sometimes I’ll read a book and the author will use a sport in a negative way and it will really get on my nerves. Let’s just take the universally unrated sport, cheerleading. I’ve read dozens of books where the cheerleaders are the stupid, clueless girls who don’t know how to add or the super bitchy girls that are weak sluts. Whoa, hold on a minute, have you ever even tried to cheerlead? Do you know how much upper and lower body strength you need? How much hand-eye coordination you have to have? And let’s not get into how flexible you need to be. Just think about it. If an author writes for young adults you are writing for teenagers who do these sports you are insulting. You are possibly losing an entire category of readers by insulting one’s sport. I know I would not feel friendly towards a book that insulted softball.
Getting off my rant, there are really great books that accurately represent sports (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Deadline by Chris Crutches, Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs, and, of course, Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler). All these books bring feeling into the sports they talk about and I feel like any sports lover would enjoy then. As for holes I see in the writing of sports, I’m really no expert on all sports I read about (except for maybe softball ^^). I’m not sure that if I did pursue writing that I would write about sports. Softball is something that I do out of enjoyment and for myself. If I ever were to pursue writing, it’d probably be fantasy and I’d invent my own sport, haha.
I loved talking about my love of sports with you Holly and just from reading Playing Hurt I could tell you took great care into reading about Chelsea and Clint’s sport history. You think you’ll write a book with sports in it again?
HS: I love what you just said about cheerleading. That’s so incredibly spot-on—both about the amount of strength and focus it takes in order to cheerlead, and about the way a negative depiction can limit an author’s readership…Very intuitive…
As for my own writing, I’d love, love love to write more physically-oriented books. Not necessarily just about sports, either…
What I mean is, what comes easiest for me as an author is the internal dialogue and metaphorical, poetic writing that filled much of my debut, A BLUE SO DARK…In fact, when PLAYING HURT was in development, my editor sent me a copy of the manuscript with all the metaphors highlighted, telling me I HAD to prune some of it back!
What’s tough is to write something physical as it’s happening—and make the scene feel real. I so admire authors of genre fiction—mystery, adventure, horror—who can write dramatic scenes that you can see, hear, smell, feel.
…That’s what I’d love to do more of, as an author: dramatic, physical writing.
How’s your softball season been this year?
C: Sadly my school season has ended. We had our last game this week. The seasons go by so fast that I barely felt like we played all the games! It was a pretty good season, but now I can concentrate on my travel team I'm on for the summer. I play for a 16U tournament team that goes through the end of July. It really a wonderful thing to be a part of if you're really into the sport. I know I have a great time with my teammates over the summer playing in different places. I've also had a great time talking with you, Holly, about your book and softball. Thank so much for having me on my blog and thank you all for reading!
Thanks so much, Caitlin, for taking the time to talk about sports, and for your insights and love of literature…Best of luck this summer—and be safe on the field