Action Packed

John Coy's sports novels, picture books aim to inspire

Ian Jacoby |

John Coy is the man that every boy dreams of growing up to be. OK, that might not exactly be true, he isn't a professional football player, a cowboy, or a T-rex (all things that I definitely toyed with as a child), but he does happen to write great sports novels and travel the world. That sounds like a big two for two on the career goal checklist if you ask me.

Coy grew up in Eau Claire, graduating from Memorial in the '70s. His childhood was far from a normal one. "My father taught American history at the university and took us to 49 states to see battlefields and burial grounds," Coy said in a recent interview. He filled his time playing football and basketball for Memorial while fostering his love of creative writing.

Flash forward to the late '90s. Coy had already been extremely successful with a number of picture books with sports themes for children, but wanted to do something even bigger. He saw a lack of quality books for teens about the sports that he loved to play growing up, and decided to do something about it. The fruits of those labors soon turned into the books, Crackback and Box Out, both of which have been received with commercial and critical acclaim. "I feel there is a shortage," said Coy. "These are books I would have enjoyed in middle school and high school."

Coy has stayed connected to the area (his mother still lives here) in numerous ways. He was a guest speaker at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival last year, and - in an interesting turn - adapted one of his picture books to be read aloud over music written by local musical genius (and former UW-Eau Claire professor) Ivar Lunde. Coy is hopeful for the creativity that seems to be fostered in Eau Claire. "I think snow, cold, and the dark are all beneficial for the creative process. ... I think that there is a lot of interesting work being done in the area. When I was a guest at the book festival, I was really impressed with the other writers who participated."

Coy also gives talks at the local high schools, most famously to the Memorial football team. And although many Old Abes walked away with copies of his book that day, he hasn't let it sway him from the safe arms of neutrality. When asked to pick who he thought would win in a fight between a Civil War-era eagle and a husky, Coy answered, um, coyly, "I think a rambler could probably take them both."

Coy's plans for the next few years include writing a new sports series, the first book of which comes out in 2009 and is centered around a group of kids moving from elementary to middle school. He also plans to have up to three more picture books on publishers' desks in the next six months. Becoming a T-rex may or may not be in the cards.

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