5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, February 17, 2017!
William Ellsworth Hoy loved baseball more than anything. When he was told he was too short for his school team, he wouldn’t let that stop him — he practiced and became good enough to play in the major leagues! But William had another challenge. He was deaf and being deaf in the major leagues wasn’t easy, since few people used sign language in the 1880s. William had a hard time reading lips on the field and some players tried to trick him. But he wouldn’t let that stop him either. William taught umpires hand signals so he could see the calls, and then he really started to score!
Exclusive interview with the author:
1) We’d love to hear all about the specific moment you got the idea for your book. Were you in the shower? Jogging? Out to dinner? When/how did your book idea actually hit you?
I was sitting at my desk at The Dallas Morning News where I am the theater critic when I responded to a curious email. It was a thank you note from Steve Sandy of Ohio for a story I had done on a play called The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy at a high school in Garland, Texas. I wrote back, “You’re welcome,” but asked him why someone from Ohio was interested in a play in Garland, Texas. Steve told me he was deaf, he was a friend of the Hoy family and it was his longtime dream to raise awareness about William Hoy with the goal of getting him inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. We continued emailing back and forth and soon I was convinced Steve was right and William Hoy SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame. I thought about how I could help. And then I came up with the idea of writing a children’s book because I believe the children can and will make it happen. As of this interview, kids have already sent almost 800 letters and drawings to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on William’s behalf!
2) What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made as an author? The best decision you’ve made as an author?
The worst mistake I made was thinking I knew more than I did about the craft of writing children’s books. When I promised my friend Steve I would write a children’s book about William Hoy, I had never written a children’s book before. As a longtime professional journalist, I had the hubris to think how hard could it be? So I stubbornly wrote draft after draft after draft for 13 YEARS until FINALLY I did the smartest thing I had yet done — I started looking online for children’s book groups. In 2013, I discovered 12 X 12, Rate Your Story and a host of wonderful, encouraging teachers and fellow travelers. Seven months later I sent a new draft of William Hoy to Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, who became my wonderful agent. By 2014, she sold William Hoy to Wendy McClure of Albert Whitman and Company. In 2016, she sold three more of my books, two to Albert Whitman and one to Creston Books.
3) Thinking back to the way beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
You need very different approaches for different types of writing. As a journalist, I understand the power of research, the importance of learning to understand my subject and the wonder of the well-chosen word. However, as a journalist, you also write at a certain objective and analytical distance. As a children’s book writer, you can’t write from the outside, you have to feel your subject from the inside. I could tell William’s story in a moving article, but I had to become one with his heart if I wanted to make children feel his longing, his frustration and his courage. I knew I had it when I was crying with his joy when the fans showed him love on the last page of the book.
4) If you had one message that you’d like to impart on your readers, what would it be?
Your difference can be your gift. William’s deafness made him different from most of the other ballplayers, but because of his difference, he knew sign language, and when he introduced signs to baseball he made it a better game for everyone. Deep inside, I think all of us worry that we’re odd or different from everyone else. I want kids and people of all ages to know that we are all odd and different in our own peculiar ways and that’s a good thing. Find and embrace your difference, because that difference may be just what the world needs.
5) What’s up next for you?
I am so excited that I have three more books coming out in 2017 and 2018, all true stories. Manjhi Moves a Mountain (September 2017, Creston Books) is the story of a poor man in India who moved a mountain for love, using only a hammer, chisel and his own persistence. Making His Shot, How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf (December 2017, Albert Whitman) is about Charlie Sifford, who was inspired by Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, to do the same for golf. The Princess and the Tree (November 2018, Albert Whitman) is the story of Princess Charlotte, a very different sort of princess, who introduced the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle. As these stories continue on their journeys, I continue on many more projects. I have so many inspiring stories I want to explore and share with kids.
About the author:
Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman & Company). She has two books coming out in Fall 2017, MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN (Creston Books) and MAKING HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF (Albert Whitman & Company) and one in Fall 2018, THE PRINCESS AND THE TREE (Albert Whitman & Company). A native New Yorker, she’s a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University School of Journalism, who is happy to call Dallas her home. Between shows and deadlines, she and her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, are raising four sweet boys and two crazy cats. Visit Nancy online at nancychurnin.com.
Title: The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game
Author: Nancy Churnin
Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
Author website: nancychurnin.com
5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, February 17, 2017.
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