Like Kirby Nickel, my main character in AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS, I grew up in a small town in Kansas and am a rabid Jayhawk basketball fan. I’ve never played basketball in my underwear, but I used to have a recurring nightmare about walking into the school cafeteria wearing nothing but pajamas. I’m sure the dream meant I was afraid to show people who I really was. In telling Kirby’s story, I hope I show readers they shouldn’t be afraid to let people see who they are. Who they are is okay.

To write AIRBALL, I drew on two sources of athletic experience. The first was my own. I think I was actually born with a bit of natural athletic ability, but you sure couldn’t tell by watching me play. I was so worried about the people in the stands, the people looking at me, that I couldn’t focus on anything else. All I could think about was trying not to look stupid in front of all those people. And of course the more I tried not to look stupid, the more likely I was to run into a pole.

The second sports experience is my son’s. He’s very athletic, and like me, he’s very shy. But unlike me, when he steps onto a playing field, he’s able to put the people in the stands out of his mind and just play. For him, the love of the game trumps the fear of looking stupid. Over the years, as I’ve watched my son and his teammates compete, I’ve realized how important that kind of mental focus is. The kids who excel, the kids who can really play, are the kids who believe they can.

This applies to everything in life, of course, not just sports. I hope that when kids—and adults—read Airball, they’ll see they can reach their goals, too, if they believe they can.

Reading Reptile
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Helpful web sites:
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Harold’s Purple Crayon

Institute of Children’s Literature’s Writer Rx

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