Hello, dear reader. Welcome to my first-ever blog post on this newly minted website.
These words were fueled by a hot cup of coffee and the sound of our two aging but attentive dogs, Sophie and Beau, barking at goodness-knows-what in the backyard.
My goal in these posts will be threefold: 1) to provide thought-provoking insight into the creative writing process of Young Adult fiction, 2) to explore basketball’s profound impact on the world and the folks who populate it, and 3) to respond to your questions and comments about “This Was Never About Basketball” in a meaningful (and hopefully entertaining) way.
I’m going to kick off this post with a question I received from Steven L., a young reader and basketball enthusiast from Fairfield, Ohio. In his email, Steven inquires about a sentence in the “About the Author” section at the back of the book.
It was encouraging to receive Steven’s note so close to the novel’s publication date because it alludes to the fact that Steven read everything else in the book to get to that point, which is every writer’s dream. So, Steven, assuming that actually happened, thanks, pal!
Anyway, Steven writes: “The About the Author section says you purport to be an 87% free-throw shooter on your backyard home court, but it also says the claim has never been independently verified. C’mon, that’s a way better percentage than most everyone in the NBA, so it’s more than a little suspicious that you’ve been unable to have anyone independently verify it. What gives?”
That’s a good question, Steven. I’ll do my best to answer it.
First of all, I’m fortunate to have a basketball court in the backyard. It’s actually a half-court, meaning there’s only one backboard instead of the customary two you’d find on a regulation court. It’s about half the size of a normal half-court, but the backboard has official NBA dimensions — it is 6 feet wide and 3.5 feet high. The best part of all is that my wife arranged to have it built as a birthday present a couple of years ago, and that makes me pretty lucky.
So, here’s the deal. It took me about seven months to write the first draft of the novel. Most of my free-throw attempts during that time happened when I was experiencing something known in writing circles as writer’s block. Writer’s block, otherwise known as “Blank Screen Syndrome,” is a temporary condition whereby a writer is unable to think of what to write.
Whenever it set in as I was hammering away at the keyboard, I would head for the friendly confines of the backyard for endless attempts from the charity stripe.
Since writing a novel is mostly a solitary exercise, it meant, by extension, that free-throw shooting would be as well. Tossing up a continuous stream of shots 15 feet from the rack helped to clear my head — think lots and lots of knee, elbow, wrist, repeat. The unexpected side-benefit was an increased skill level from the line.
Since I’m a numbers person in addition to being a word person, I found myself loosely keeping track of the make-to-miss ratio in my mind. So, Steven, I’m pretty sure my success rate is right around 87%, but with no one around to confirm it, I was asking my collective readership to embrace it and take it on faith.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I’ve asked readers to do with the storyline of “This Was Never About Basketball” — embrace Zeke’s journey into the unknown and take his basketball sojourn on faith.
Steven, thanks for taking the time to write. I really appreciate it.
Next question, please.