For today's Sunday Brunch, we're chatting with Fred Bowen about soccer, sportsmanship, and his brand new soccer title Out of Bounds. Enjoy!
Where did the idea for Out of Bounds come from?
About eighteen months ago, I had lunch with Steve Goff, the principal soccer reporter for the Washington Post, and I mentioned that I was writing a new middle-grade soccer book. We talked about various issues in soccer, including sportsmanship. Steve mentioned the custom in soccer that calls for a player to kick the ball out of bounds if an opposing player gets hurt.
I thought a story of a player struggling with the idea of sportsmanship within the context of a very heated soccer rivalry would be a terrific theme for a book.
After lunch, Steve emailed me a video of the game between AFC Ajax and SC Cambuur that is mentioned in Out of Bounds and is featured in “The Real Story” chapter.
What does your writing process look like?
First, I construct the “arc” of the story by briefly outlining what will be included in each of the fifteen or so chapters in the book. I think this is important because middle readers really enjoy a good story. And a good story – with an interesting beginning, middle and end – takes planning and work.
Once I have the arc, I make a more detailed outline of each chapter. I write the outline up in longhand in a couple 100-page notebooks. These outlines include dialogue and specific details of the story. The outline does not have to be perfect but it is close to what the book will be. This detailed outline is the most fun part of the process. It is the first time I am really telling the story.
Finally, I write a first draft. This is when I try to get the story as close to perfect as I can.
Do you have a specific routine you use when writing?
It depends on what part of the writing process I am in. If I am outlining the story I might do that writing in my den or (weather permitting) on my back porch. But when I am writing a first draft (or editing a draft) I am at my computer in my home office.
However, at almost every step of the writing process I listen to music. I am a HUGE jazz fan. I listen to Miles Davis (from the 1950s), Tommy Flanagan, Jim Hall, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Tony Bennett, Bill Charlap, Houston Person, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, and Scott Hamilton to name a few of my favorites. Jazz is America’s greatest contribution to the arts. I think everyone should get to know it.
What do you hope to accomplish with your sports series?
I have always tried to do three things with each of my 20 sports books for Peachtree.
First, I want to tell a good story. I want my books to be fun to read. I love to hear that kids stayed up late to finish reading one of my books.
Second, I want to tell kids something about the history of the sports they love. That’s why I always include a history chapter in all my books.
Finally, I want to get my readers to stop and think about the sports they play. Kids learn a lot from playing sports and I want my books to be part of that experience.
Are any of the topics in your book(s) especially important to you?
Sports were very important to me when I was growing up. And I realized from all the coaching that I did that sports are still important to kids.
Playing sports and being part of a team teaches kids some very important lessons such as the importance of friendship, fairness, and dealing with failure. What kids learn on the playing field can be every bit as important and life changing as what they learn in school.
What do you want your readers to know about you?
I am not just a writer. I am a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I was a lawyer for more than 30 years. I also coached more than 30 kids’ sports teams when my kids were growing up.
But I was always someone who loved reading and sports. I also love stories. So writing sports stories for kids is a dream job for me. I can only hope that the kids who read my books enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
What do you hope your readers will get from reading Out of Bounds?
I hope kids who play sports will stop and think about winning the right way. It is easy to get lost in the idea of winning at any cost and seeing your opponent as your enemy. But sports, and especially kids’ sports, should be about giving your best and being able to accept the final score whatever it is.
Thanks for joining us, Fred!
You can find more about Fred at fredbowen.com and his sports fiction at sportsstoryseries.com. Keep up with Fred's sports column, "The Score", in the Washington Post.