Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
We’re chatting with Sarah Kapit, the author of
GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN!
Vivy Cohen wants to play baseball. Ever since her hero, Major League star pitcher VJ Capello, taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day for kids with autism, she’s been perfecting her pitch. And now she knows she’s ready to play on a real team. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone she knows, she writes to VJ and tells him everything about how much she wants to pitch, and how her mom says she can’t because she’s a girl and because she has autism. And then two amazing things happen: Vivy meets a Little League coach who invites her to join his team, the Flying Squirrels. And VJ starts writing back.
Let’s talk to this excellent author about her awesome book!
This is Sarah. Everyone say, “Hi, Sarah!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Sarah! Tell us about yourself!
I write middle-grade novels because I never quite outgrew being a kid. GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN! is my first published novel. In my past life, I earned a PhD in History from UCLA, where I studied the history of women and medicine. I currently live in Bellevue, Washington with my husband and our goofy orange cat.
Where did the idea for GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN! come from?
Vivy was the result of a lot of different things coming together. First, I’ve long wanted to write about an autistic character. A lot of the existing books with autistic characters don’t really feel authentic to me, and I wanted to do better. So it was just a matter of finding the right story.
When I saw the trailer for the TV show PITCH I had an intensely emotional reaction. The show featured a woman pitcher who played for the San Diego Padres. Sadly, it was cancelled before its time. But for me as a woman baseball fan, it was just so moving to see a woman take the mound. I’ve long thought that the first woman to play in MLB might be a knuckleball pitcher. That’s because it’s a bit of a “trick” pitch that relies on finger movements rather than pure strength.
All of this came together to create the idea of an autistic girl knuckleball pitcher. Once I had Vivy in place the rest of it flowed quite naturally.
PITCH!!! Loved that show. It was DEFINITELY cancelled before its time. Glad to see threads of it living on in your book!
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? (We love these stories at Kick-butt Kidlit!)
I’m afraid that there isn’t anything terribly exciting about my story! Before I had an offer, I talked to my editor on the phone. We really clicked well and basically re-arranged the latter half of the book together. She told me that an offer was very likely so I was anxiously waiting for several days. Then I got an email from my agent informing me of the offer and it was pretty awesome. I was probably at home or at a coffee shop, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on your book?
I didn’t have to do a ton of research for VIVY because I already knew about the main subjects so well. But I did discover a lot of interesting facts about the knuckleball:
1. One of the first pitchers to throw the knuckleball was Eddie Cicotte, who was later part of the 1919 White Sox team that threw the World Series. Unlike most of today’s knuckleballers, the knuckleball was only one of Cicotte’s pitches.
2. Pitchers who throw the knuckleball are super-hard-working. Most turn to the knuckleball only after something else in their baseball career went wrong. Tim Wakefield started out as a first baseman, but he couldn’t hit. He learned the knuckleball to have a shot at a career. R.A. Dickey found out after being drafted that he’s missing a ligament in his elbow, which would make traditional pitching impossible in the long-term. A lot of pitchers in this situation would have quit, but Dickey learned the knuckleball. These pitchers really had to show tenacity in order to get to where they are, which is definitely reflected in Vivy.
3. Despite the knuckleball’s reputation as a “trick” pitch, it is really, really hard to hit. Derek Jeter–a great hitter by any measure–could not hit the knuckleball.
Wow! Who knew the knuckleball was so cool? (Sarah and Vivy, that’s who.)
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
It’s cliched, but I’d love to see Vivy and her friend Alex go to Hogwarts. I think they’d both join the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. Her older brother Nate would play for Ravenclaw and they’d strike up a friendly rivalry.
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
The first novel I ever finished was a YA, but after writing that I realized that middle grade is a category that might suit my natural voice better. Maybe it’s just because my own middle school experiences still feel vivid to me, but it was easy to challenge all of the emotions of that age. I had so much fun with it that I didn’t look back.
Any hints about your next book project?
In all of my books I channel some aspect of my personality and experiences. I’m very excited about the next book because it’s all about one of the most fundamental experiences of my life: having a sister.
Love a sister story. 😀
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
The number of stages involved was definitely a bit of a surprise. You expect to just turn in a book and have it be done, but that actually happens many different times.
What are you reading right now?
In middle-grade, I just finished THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINKEL, which I absolutely loved. Such vivid characters and setting! I started A SONG FOR A WHALE and am loving that also.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Things may not always work out exactly the way you want them to, but most of the time you can still end up exactly where you need to be.
What a great perspective to have!
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Sarah!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN!
It hits shelves on February 25th!
Add GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN! on Goodreads!
Click here and enter to win a copy of GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN!
Contest closes Friday, February 14th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!