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Q+A with sports novelist Lorna Schultz Nicholson

March 29th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

vegas tryoutcross checkrookieroughing

Q: You’ve aimed at getting boys to read by writing hockey novels. Does it work? Have you seen it working?

A: One of the things I did was approach hockey tournament organizers and see if they wanted to use my books in any way. I hooked into the Kelowna Heat Hockey tournament in B.C. and they used my books as MVP prizes instead of giving out medals. So every game (and there were lots of games) one child from each team would be selected as the MVP and they were given one of my books.

The response was overwhelming. The kids loved the books and so did their parents (for a lot of them it also meant one less trophy to dust.) They wanted me to sign the books and it was so fun to see the boys reading them in between games.

My books have also been used at other many other tournaments and many Junior teams use them for their Read and Succeed programs. And that is cool because here we have teenage hockey players reading to kids. Then the boys leave them in the library and the response from librarians is always positive. They have line-ups to take the books out.

My hockey novels have also been used at the Okanagan Hockey School as give-aways and, again, it is fun to see hockey players at camp sitting under a tree during their down time, reading one of my books.

And most recently, I was asked to present at a Hockey Palooza day in St. Catharines and it was a great way to get students excited about reading sports books.

 

Q: General consensus is that boys are reading about sports, but usually on sports blogs or news sites. Are the boys you're encountered surprised when they learn that hockey fiction exists? What does it take to get them to try it?

A: The fact is that there isn’t a lot of sports fiction books for boys. And boys do love reading fiction — if it has good action. So they are surprised, and pleasantly I might add, when they discover my books and others in the Lorimer Sports Series.

I really research when I write my books so I use language that is sport specific and age specific. I use coaching manuals for drills so when a boy reads my book he can say, “I know that drill. We did it in practice.” I know that kind of information resonates with boys. Librarians can steer boys to them by telling them they are full of authentic action I have so many boys reading my books (and not just hockey players) for the hockey scenes.  

 

Q: How do boys use your books and what kind of reactions have you had?

A: At book signings (I do book signings at hockey tournaments all the time), I tell the boys to use them for their book reports. This creates a lot of excitement with the boys and their parents. A lot of parents will say, “He can never find a book.” Boys also use them in the AR program for points. And this is good too. I have a lot of boys who email me and ask me questions about my books because they need to answer questions for their reports.  I had a young boy (Connor) from an AAA hockey team who emailed me at least three times and he would say, “I love your books and I'm doing a report on Sam.” This was cool, because he was relating to the character which meant . . . he was relating to the fiction!

 

Q: Your new Podium Sports Academy series is sports fiction for an older teen audience. Why write sports fiction at this level?

A: My first book in the Lorimer Sports Stories series, Interference, was published in 2004, so many of my readers are now older. Many have asked me when I would write something that is for teens. So the Podium Sports Academy series is my response to this. I also thought it would be fun to include girls in the books because, in their teens, boys like girls. I have tried to create a school with a recurring cast of characters but still include all the necessary sports action. It has been really fun to write about some other sports in addition to hockey. I speak to a lot junior high and high school students and I’ve written stories for the series that I think they will enjoy reading for pleasure. 

Starting where they’re at: teen boys and relationships

March 29th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

hook upoff limits

There’s no shortage of great fiction about relationships out there for teen girls. Lots of times teen girls are the first to introduce their librarian or teacher to new books. It seems like girls are more willing to talk about the books they read than boys are, especially books about relationships.

Not many boys are going to ask for books that deal with relationships – or even admit they’ve read them. But it's a curious and learning time for them too.  And if you offer them books that look cool and that they can relate to, you can find that they may be willing to try them out.

If they do, they’re more likely to keep on reading if they find the characters believable and the story line gripping. We’ve just published two new titles in our Sidestreets series with stories that many boys will recognize as realistic — and which will allow them to explore difficult situations in the safety of a fictional setting.

In Hook Up by Kim Firmston, Cody's new girlfriend gets pregnant. For the girl, the decision to abort is a non-issue: she's too young to have a child and she's got a university scholarship to look forward to in the Fall. Cody isn't so sure abortion is the answer, and he feels he isn’t even given a say when his girlfriend goes ahead with the procedure without telling him. This causes some complex emotions and reactions for Cody in terms of a guy's responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy.

In Off Limits by Robert Rayner, Birmingham Glover is convinced he's the only kid in his high school who hasn't had sex yet. So when he finally loses his virginity to his new girlfriend, initially he's ecstatic. But soon afterwards he starts to question how readily his girlfriend had sex with him … and who she's been with before. In his effort to sort it all out he starts to form an infatuation with an older woman – his substitute music teacher. After being caught by his girlfriend in an inappropriate encounter with the older woman, Birm faces an inquiry at school, which leaves him to wonder: how much of this was his fault?

The challenging themes in these two books aren’t for every reader, but for some guys they will help them to explore the complex world of relationships – something girls have been openly reading about for years.

Starting where they’re at: hockey

March 29th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

rookie

Not only do lots of boys play hockey. They follow the sport, know the stars, and dream about the NHL themselves.

One route to hockey stardom is an invitation to an elite sports school for athletes. There are several of these across the country.

If you’ve got boys who dream of the big leagues, you might offer them a book that tells them what it’s like to leave home and go to one of those schools.

The book is placed in a fictional school which is a lot like the real schools. Author Lorna Schultz Nicholson drew on her knowledge of top Canadian sports schools as well as her personal experiences with teens who have billeted away from home to play sports to create a new series, the Podium Sports Academy series. In the first book in the series, Rookie, hockey player Aaron Wong is involved in a brutal hazing incident. Upcoming books in the series will tell the story of one athlete involved in a different sport.

How does Lorna know what goes on with teenage boys away from home? She’s had several billeted in her house, plus she’s got to know many of the top hockey players in Canada who’ve played on Canada’s national teams. The boys you know will find Lorna’s book to be true-to-life.

The low reading level of the Podium series makes these books easy for readers to digest, resulting in a stronger confidence that will encourage reluctant teen readers to pick up even more books.

(If you’re trying to reach girl reluctant readers, you might want to give them Vegas Tryout, the second book in the Podum series. In this book, hockey player Aaron’s girlfriend, synchro swimmer Carrie Munroe, struggles with an eating disorder.)

Reaching boys who know the system is unfair

March 29th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

steven truscott

Boys usually know what it’s like to be accused of something they didn’t do. Most have a pretty strong innate sense of what’s fair.

Kids who have had encounters with police officers and social workers often feel they’ve been treated unfairly.

If you are trying to reach boys with this attitude, you might be interested in trying this approach.

Offer them a short, readable paperback about a true Canadian story – of a boy 14 years old, who was actually sentenced to hang. Thing is, he was innocent. He had been convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. And not just once: the Supreme Court of Canada reheard his case and confirmed his conviction.

The case is a famous one, the story of Steven Truscott. It happened just 50 years ago. The book you can offer boys about Steven is a new one, in a new series we’ve launched called Real Justice.

And the compelling thing about this story is that we now know definitely that Steven was innocent. He was absolved of any involvement in the murder, and awarded millions of dollars in compensation when a new trial proved his innocence. But that was after spending several years in jail.

While this new book tells this astonishing and extreme story of the unfairness that the judicial system can dish out, it also offers hope. Ultimately the courts and the government did the right thing. They recognized their error, apologized, and compensated Steven.

Bill Swan has written this new book (Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death) in a narrative style, at a relatively low reading level. It’s a book the most reluctant reader in the same age group as Steven Truscott will be able to pick up and relate to.

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