Taking a Shot

Stout math professor writes a young adult sports novel

Trevor Kupfer, photos by Leah Dunbar

Inspired by a lack of good female protagonists in sports fiction, Jeanne Foley’s novel Shooting Two draws on her experience as a college basketball coach.
 
Inspired by a lack of good female protagonists
in sports fiction, Jeanne Foley’s novel Shooting
Two draws on her experience as a college
basketball coach.
For writers looking to get published, they say the proverbial “foot in the door” is convincing a publisher that your book will sell. And if you’re filling an unexplored niche with a market interested in seeing it, well that’s just a no-brainer. Well that’s exactly what Jeanne Foley did with her young adult novel Shooting Two, fresh off the presses from Peppermint Books.

It started when Jeanne was in a bookstore looking for a gift for her 13-year-old niece, Jamie. She had just started playing basketball, and Jeanne being a long-time college basketball coach, she hoped to find the kind of sports fiction that hooked her at that age, only this time with a female protagonist.

“What’s astounding to me is that I was looking in 1995,” Jeanne began, “but even now I’m looking to see what’s out there and there’s still not much.”

What female-fronted sports fiction that does exist either follows a loner gal (on a boys’ team or in an individual sport like gymnastics) or is team-based, but on a purely social level (like a softball team sponsored by a beauty parlor). Another recent example follows a girl with magic hightops that make her play better. Not exactly progressive stuff.

Jeanne’s book, however, combines her experience from coaching for Princeton, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Wyoming universities, but speaks to a normal young adult audience. The book follows a high school varsity team circa late-80s in a small Minnesota town that has its sights on a state championship. The 185 pages focus mostly on best friends Barb and Jamie, plus a new girl that brings big talent but throws off the team chemistry.

“I wanted to focus a lot on the sport and the team experience, and maybe a little on the coach’s perspective,” she said. “The sport is the primary focus, rather than secondary. That’s the way boys’ sports fiction is, so why not girls?”

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