Posts Tagged sports

Author Spotlight: Joy Jones… plus a GIVEAWAY!

For today’s Author Spotlight, I’m pleased to interview Joy Jones, author of the debut middle-grade novel, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman, 2020). Plus a giveaway!!!!

About the Book:

When 11-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Who knew her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe Double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope—and it just might change her life, in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump-rope action, Jayla Jumps Infollows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.

And now, without further ado, let’s jump into the interview! 

Interview with Joy Jones

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Joy! First and foremost, I need to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It’s filled with heart, humor—and, of course—Double Dutch. What was the impetus for writing this novel?

JJ:  I’m so glad you liked it! I want the reader to have fun. I always feel great when I jump Double Dutch; I’m hoping the reader gets to feel a little bit of that joy–and maybe even decide to actually try it!

When I first came up with the idea to jump Double Dutch, I was trying to lose ten pounds. Now, I’m trying to lose twenty. Hmm… the weight loss has been a little tricky but I gained a great deal of creative capital. I got a stage play and a book out of the deal.  So what happened? Well, some co-workers and I were talking about losing weight and I suggested we jump Double Dutch during lunch. Everyone said they were already too fat to exercise so we never did it. But I thought it was a pretty good idea. Since I didn’t get to do it in real life, I did it in my imagination and wrote a play called Outdoor Recess about a group of adult women who form a Double Dutch team. When I was promoting the play, someone suggested that I actually get some women together to jump rope–and I did. That’s how DC Retro Jumpers got started. {Check out this video of the Team in action!}

Years later, I would talk to my agent in passing about the various exploits of DC Retro Jumpers. “You should write a middle-grade novel about Double Dutch,” she said. But because I had already done a play on the theme, and as the team’s founder who was often promoting our activities, I didn’t think I had anything more to say about Double Dutch. But she brought up the idea again, and this time I decided I’d try writing on that theme. That’s how Jayla Jumps In was born.

Combatting Loneliness

MR: Speaking of your book, Jayla, the 11-year-old protagonist, often feels lonely, despite being part of a large extended family. As an only child myself, I can absolutely relate to this. Did you experience loneliness as a child as well? If so, how did it affect you—and how did you cope?

JJ:  I’m the oldest in my family so there were a few years when I was the only child. My way of coping was to inform my parents that I wanted a baby sister. When I was seven, they delivered what I requested–practically on my birthday! My sister, Lorraine, was born on November 22nd; I was born on November 23rd. (I think that was the last time my parents gave me what I wanted. ) I also have another younger sister, Vita, who is an August baby. But was I lonely as a child? No, I always had a book at hand whenever I wanted company, or was feeling bored, or had nothing to do and nobody else was around. Sometimes I preferred a book even when people were around.

A Jump on Health

MR: The importance of exercise and healthy eating factors heavily in Jayla Jumps In, when Jayla learns that her mom suffers from hypertension, a health issue that affects 1 in 3 Americans. If not treated, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. What prompted you to focus on this particular health issue? What is the message—and ultimate takeaway—for your middle-grade audience?

JJ: Being physical is such a wonderful thing! All you couch potatoes, stop rolling your eyes. A physical body was made to be physically active! You’re zoned out on the sofa only because you haven’t yet discovered the activity that’s right for you. When you move, you stimulate your endorphins–the ‘get-high’ hormones in your body. Vigorous movement feels glorious! It’s not work, it’s pleasure. You do like to feel good, don’t you? As I like to say, not everyone likes to exercise but everyone likes to play.

Too many people spend too much time padlocked to a screen, watching somebody else do something fun. For many adults, we have childhood memories of being outdoors, playing a game that doesn’t require batteries or using our imaginations to entertain ourselves. But too many young people haven’t experienced the fun of physical movement, of outdoor play, or of at least actively exercising their own imaginations, rather than passively consuming someone else’s creativity that’s been packaged for sale.

I also do yoga, take frequent walks, swim, and dance–my favorite physical activity. I hope by reading Jayla’s story, young readers get motivated to try some old-school, screen-free fun. I’m not at my goal weight, but I am convinced that my good health is in large part due to being physically active. My mother has hypertension–she’s 89–and although sometimes we have to nag her about being consistent with her medication,  she regularly exercises and is in pretty good shape. She can still fit into the wedding dress she wore in 1952!

Team Spirit

MR: You founded the DC Retro Jumpers, an adult Double Dutch exhibition team, in 2004. What was your motivation for forming the team? Did you jump as a child, or are you relatively new to the sport? Also, what is it about Double Dutch that appeals to you most? I’m guessing it’s more than exercise.

JJ:  Yes, I jumped rope as a child, but single rope more than Double Dutch. Although I enjoyed it hugely, I think I get even more enjoyment now. Jumping Double Dutch gives a rush that’s both easy and exciting at the same time. Plus, my ego gets stroked because often people are surprised–and impressed–to see someone old doing it. During DC Retro Jumpers demonstrations, I love it when someone comes forward to jump. Usually, it’s been years since they jumped or they never learned how. But once they start jumping and they find the rhythm, the joy that suffuses their whole being is gratifying to witness. People on the sidelines are cheering them on, and cell phone cameras are recording their triumph. The experience hits all my pleasure centers: fresh air, having fun, helping others, ego strokes.

Renaissance Woman

MR: In addition to being a middle-grade author, you are a playwright, a poet, an educator, a journalist, a trainer, a motivational speaker, and you write non-fiction for adults. You’re also active in the DC Retro Jumpers. How do you juggle so many balls—and keep them in the air? Also, what does your writing routine look like? Enquiring minds want to know!

JJ: Some years ago I was working a job that sapped my energy, and my soul. I wanted to quit and spend my days lazing around in bed and reading novels. But my wallet said, “No, Joy, that won’t work!” So I started saving money aggressively. I managed to accumulate a nice stash that allowed me to leave my full-time job for part-time work. I landed a job at DC Public Library (an ideal place for a writer!), working 20 hours a week. This allowed me to have time for my creative pursuits.

My writing routine? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Even now that I’ve got a less stressful schedule, the writing happens catch-as-catch-can. I used to believe one needed long stretches of time to get writing done. That’s nice, but life seldom accommodates me in that way. Usually, I write in stolen snatches of time. I always keep a journal with me, so I can write while in a waiting room, on the subway, during slow moments at work. If you keep doing a little bit of writing, eventually the bits and pieces become pages–and then the pages become books. I begin in longhand, with pen and paper for the first draft, then go to the computer to edit and refine.

Question from Jonathan Rosen

MR: Oh, and Joy? MUF member Jonathan Rosen has a question for you, so I kind of feel obligated to pass it on…

JR: Hi, Joy! Which version of the song “Double Dutch Bus” do you prefer—the original 1981 hit by Frankie Smith or the remake by Raven-Symoné, as featured in the 2008 movie, College Road Trip? (I should mention that “Double Dutch Bus is my go-to karaoke song.) <MR: Sadly, it is.>

JJ:  Shhh… I don’t normally reveal this, but I can’t stand that song. I cringe any time it is played when we’re doing a demo. But I’m sure when you sing it on karaoke night you rock the mic. <JR: Yes, people have noted my rockstar quality…>

And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? Fruit.

Coffee or tea? Tea.

Cat or dog? Traditionally, I’ve preferred cats, but over time dogs have become more appealing. But I’m too lazy to keep a pet myself.

Favorite song? (And certainly not “Double Dutch Bus”! I’m partial to R&B oldies. Too many favorites to single out just one.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay. Unless you count the way everybody is glued to their screens like zombies. In that case, the zombie takeover has already happened.

Superpower? I’m a pretty good listener; especially at hearing what’s not being said.

Favorite place on earth? Muir Woods in California. When I’m among those majestic redwood trees I feel like I’m in God’s living room, basking in His company.

Signature Double Dutch move? Pop-ups. That’s when you propel yourself straight up in the air while jumping. I never could do that as a child, so it’s been especially exhilarating to learn how to do it as an adult. Old dogs can learn new tricks!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A library, a dance partner, and a box of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies.

MR: Thank you for chatting, Joy—and congratulations on the publication of Jayla Jumps In. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

Joy has generously offered to gift a lucky reader with a signed copy of Jayla Jumps In. Just comment on the blog (and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account) for a chance to win! 

JOY JONES is a trainer, performance poet, playwright and author of several books, including her MG debut, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020). She has won awards for her writing from the D. C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Colonial Players Promising Playwrights Competition, plus awards from both the D. C. Department of Recreation & Parks and the D. C. Commission on National & Community Service for outstanding community service. She is the director of the arts organization, The Spoken Word, and the founder of the Double Dutch team, the DC Retro Jumpers, which has led exhibitions and classes throughout metropolitan Washington and abroad. Joy often leads workshops on creative writing, communications and black history. Learn more about Joy on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

And…Touchdown!

Recently a fellow writer started a discussion about how we can get children more motivated to read. My answer was that the experience had to be organic. If we don’t have to push kids to read, let’s not. But…it sure helps to have books lying around that catch their eye and match up with their interests.

Jauerback [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

My eight-year-old son has now shown an interest in football. He’s watching it. He’s collecting and sorting football trading cards. He’s throwing a ball around the house. He wants to play it. Unfortunately, I don’t understand downs or scoring and can only name players from the 1986 Super Bowl—winning Bears (go Gary Fencik!). But my son’s interest made me realize it was time: time to find out what books are available on that sport.

Here is my starting line-up of books with football themes. And, like an experienced sportscaster, I noted the highlights of each game…I mean book.  (Be sure to check out the nonfiction titles listed at the end.)

 

MY FICTION ALL-STAR FOOTBALL BOOKS

Back to Pass: A Choose Your Path Football Book by Lisa M. Bolt Simons
You’re the main character, and you’ve played football for most of your life. But without any parents, you’re not only off the team―you don’t go to school anymore. You don’t even have a place to live. When your uncle takes you in, will you get your life in order? And when the local team’s quarterback gets injured, will your skills save their season? Back to Pass isn’t like other football books for kids. With an interactive format, your choices affect the story’s outcome.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli   Cocky seventh-grade super-jock Crash Coogan got his nickname the day he used his first football helmet to knock his cousin Bridget flat on her backside. And he has been running over people ever since, especially Penn Webb, the dweeby, vegetarian Quaker kid who lives down the block. Through the eyes of Crash, readers get a rare glimpse into the life of a bully in this unforgettable and beloved story about stereotypes and the surprises life can bring.

Pop by Gordon Korman
When Marcus moves to a new town in the dead of summer, he doesn’t know a soul. While practicing football for impending tryouts, he strikes up a friendship with a man named Charlie, the best football player Marcus has ever seen.

Coach Hyatt Is a Riot! by Dan Gutman
It’s Pee Wee Football season, and A.J.’s new coach is crazy. She wants the boys to do push-ups in the mud. She wants them to pick up a car. And worst of all, she wants to put girls on the team! You’ll never believe in a million hundred years what happens in the big game.

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
If a million dollars was at stake, could you make the throw? Nate Brodie is nicknamed “Brady” not only for his arm, but also because he’s the biggest Tom Brady fan. He’s even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he’s never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars.

Football Genius series by Tim Green
Twelve-year-old Troy White has a phenomenal gift: He can predict football plays before they even happen. Any position. Any player. Any team. When Troy’s single mom gets a job working for the Atlanta Falcons, Troy sees this as an opportunity to show what he can do.

MVP #3: The Football Fumble by David A. Kelly
The MVP kids can’t wait to play in the big football game. That is, until they catch a glimpse of their opponents! The team from Hamilton Elementary School seems bigger and—even worse—just plain mean. Taking on a tough opponent is never easy. Will this bully blitz keep the MVPs off their game? Or can they find a way to huddle together and win the day?

 

TIME OUT!

I must mention two MVPs of football books for middle graders: authors Jake Maddox and Matt Christopher. And as we all know, it’s better to have a whole team of books ready for a pumped-up reader.

Jake Maddox books
Home-Field Football
Running Back Dreams
Quarterback Sneak
Quarterback Comeback
Touchdown Triumph
On the Line
Linebacker Block
Punter’s Pride

Matt Christopher books
Football Double Threat
The Great Quarterback Switch
Catch That Pass!
Touchdown for Tommy
Tough to Tackle
QB Blitz
The Team That Couldn’t Lose
Long-Arm Quarterback
Football Nightmare
Undercover Tailback
Halfback Attack
Football Fugitive

Matt Christopher’s Football Jokes and Riddles
Football bloopers, puzzlers, fun facts, and wacky stories — Matt Christopher, the number-one sports writer for kids, scores a touchdown with this zany collection for fans of pigskin-tossing, gridiron-hitting action!

 

MY NONFICTION ALL-STAR FOOTBALL BOOKS

Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Jen Swanson
Take a close-up look at sports and nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science that manipulates objects at the atomic level. Nanotechnology is used to create high-tech swimsuits, tennis rackets, golf clubs, running shoes, and more. It is changing the face of sports as we know it.

What Is the Super Bowl? by Dina Anastasio
With over 110 million viewers every year, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched television events in the United States. The final showdown between the two best football teams in the NFL attracts some of the biggest musicians to perform at the half-time show. But the Super Bowl is more than just a spectacle – it’s a high-stakes game to win the championship and claim a place in history.

John Madden’s Heroes of Football by John Madden
Illustrated with photos, sidebars, and analytical charts, the story of football is told by the man who defined the game.

The Science of Football with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Nikole Brooks Bethea
Snap! The quarterback throws it deep into the endzone. With the leap of a receiver, the team earns six points. What’s behind it all? Science! Let Max Axiom, Super Scientist, explain the science behind the perfect punt, the right way to throw a football, and much, much more.

Football Superstars 2018: Facts & Stats by Simon Mugford
It’s a touchdown! With plenty of photos and facts about football’s finest, this book is the perfect gift for any young fan of the sport. It covers 20 players across the NFL.

Football: Then to Wow! by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
See how all aspects of football have evolved in this highly visual book filled with history and trivia about the game. You’ll see a football transform before your eyes from a melon-like ball crudely stitched together to the aerodynamic pigskin it is today.

It’s the fourth quarter, and the clock ticks down. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The game is up! Enjoy this list of winning football books!

Natalie Rompella on OCD, #OwnVoices, and Sled Dog Racing

Today we welcome author and MUF contributor Natalie Rompella to the blog. We asked her to speak about the #OwnVoices movement in #kidlit, and how it relates to her latest book, Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners.

The character, Ana Morgan, in my book Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners, has obsessive-compulsive disorder.  She obsesses about germs, and she washes compulsively. At the start of the book, we learn that Ana has OCD. She sees a therapist and seems to be working through her obsessions and compulsions. However, her life faces many changes, and her OCD flares up.

The idea of Ana having OCD wasn’t planned. That’s just what came out as I began writing. I’m often influenced by other research I’ve done. The idea of sled dog racing came from a book I wrote on sports that started in the United States. I had also just finished writing a nonfiction book for teens called It Happened to Me: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Scarecrow Press, 2009). I couldn’t get either topic out of my mind and recycled them for this book.

Although I didn’t have in mind who I wanted my readers to be when I started writing the book, I’m glad I tackled this topic. While writing my nonfiction book on OCD, I reached out to teens, hoping to get narratives about what it was like for them living with the disorder. It was very difficult to find people with OCD who were willing to share their experience. But I think it’s important for others with OCD to see that they’re not alone. And I think it’s just as important for people without OCD to learn about the disorder. I hope that in my book, I help the reader get inside Ana’s head and feel what obsessive thoughts are like and how powerless you can feel to them.

Books that fall under the category of #OwnVoices are written by someone who is from the same marginalized group as the protagonist in the book. Like my character, Ana, I have suffered from OCD. Although I feel it is under control, I will find it gets worse when I’m stressed or overtired. I have not had it spiral out of control as it does for Ana, but I was able to draw on my own experiences with both OCD and anxiety when writing her story. I vividly remember having a flare up on an airplane. When I got home, I was able to write up the big OCD scene in my book. The whole idea of knowing that your brain is throwing out these unwanted thoughts but not being entirely sure whether to ignore the thoughts or act on them is from experience. (For instance, having the desire to check that you turned off the oven even though you’re pretty sure you did already check but not feeling 100% positive you actually did. So you check you turned it off. And then, as you’re walking away, part of your brain wonders, Did you really check that it was turned off? I’m not sure you actually did, so you check once more. This process may repeat numerous times.)

I want kids who have OCD to be able to relate to Ana. They know what it’s like to have these unwanted thoughts. They can see they’re not alone.

Author Natalie Rompella

Natalie Rompella is the author of eleven trade books including Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press, 2017) and The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House Publishers, 2018) as well as twenty leveled readers and workbooks on a variety of topics, including STEM, text evidence, common core, and science fair experiments. Natalie lives in the Chicago suburbs. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatalieRompella or find her at www.natalierompella.com.