Fred Bowen: 2019 National Book Festival

Fred Bowen: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Hi. I’m here to
present author Fred Bowen. His kid’s sports column, “The
Score,” appears each week in the kid’s post section
of the Washington Post. You might have seen it. But Fred Bowen is
also the author of the popular Fred Bowen’s
sports stories series. It’s a middle grade series
that talks about stories that feature baseball,
football, basketball and soccer. And his lifelong — he is
a lifelong sports fanatic and has coached youth league
baseball, basketball and soccer. And he’s here today to
talk about his newest book, “Speed Demon,” which
is about a kid going into high school
who’s trying to choose between playing football
or track. So without further
ado, here’s Fred Bowen. [ Applause ]>>All right, good afternoon. That’s right, my name is Fred
Bowen and I do all the things that she just said that I do. Let’s see, I think I want
to get a — there it is. I write kid’s sports books and
I’ve written 24 of them so far and I’m also — I also write
a weekly kid’s sports columns for the Washington Post. How many kids know
about the kid’s post? All right, good. I feel like I’m among friends. The — and the — when
you’re an author you get lots of questions. One of the questions you get,
“Oh, what’s your favorite book?” Sometimes they ask you how old
you are when you go to a school. But the question I get a lot is,
“Why do you write about sports?” Because all my books
are about sports. And the reason I
write about sports is because when I was a
kid I loved sports. That is a picture of me
when I was 6 years old and I’m the short kid
and my brother Rich, who is 11 years old, is the
other guy in the picture. And I was the bat boy for
my brother Rich’s team. And that day the coach
of the Dodgers came by and gave me that uniform. So you are looking at a
picture of the happiest kid in the history of the world. I had gotten my first uniform. And I know I’m supposed to say,
I’ve been married 38 years, “Oh, the day I got married was
the happiest day of my life.” Or I have two kids, oh, that — that was the happiest
day of my life. I’d — I just loved
that uniform. And the great thing about it when you write a book is
sometimes you can name characters after
some of the people who have been nice
to you in your life. And, so, in my first
book, “TJ’s Secret Pitch,” I had a coach character,
who’d I name him? I named him Mr. Upton. He was the coach of the Dodgers. But I didn’t just play baseball. I played football too. Look at that. That is a picture of pure joy. In other words, I was so — again, so happy just
to have a helmet. I was — I remember my father
had just tossed me a pass and he took the picture
with his left hand after he had tossed me the ball. And I played basketball for
years with a bunch of guys that I went to school
with and whenever they saw that picture they said, “Fred, we never saw you jump
that high, ever.” But — so that was one of
the reasons that I write about sports, because
I love sports. But I know other
kids love sports too. When my kids were
growing up I coached more than 30 different teams. I coached soccer, basketball,
baseball and softball. And I knew that the
kids just loved sports, because they would come
running onto the field, they were just happy
to be there. By the way, that picture there
is a picture of a team I had, a baseball team that had
seven boys, seven girls. I’ve never understood, why
don’t girls play baseball more, instead of softball. But. So I know that — I go
to schools and I talk about the writing process and
I know the kids love sports because I ask the
question all the time and I’ll ask the kids here, “How
many kids here play sports?” Yeah, we got a lot. Most kids play sports
and they like sports. So that’s the reason that
I write sports books. Here are just some of the books. Like I said, I got 24 of them. I write on four different
sports. I write on baseball,
basketball, soccer and football. Guess what the four most
popular sports are for kids. Baseball, basketball,
soccer and football. So, please, when we come
to questions, don’t ask me to write a bowling
book or something. Which I’ve had people do. Or will you — you know,
some obscure sports. Those are the ones that
you have to write on more. Yeah, what the books do is
they combine sports fiction, sports history and
there’s always a chapter of sports history on the back. And I’m going to talk about
some of the recent books and then we can have questions. We can — although everybody
looks pretty comfortable down here, I’m not sure
anybody’s going to get up. More recent books. This one’s called,
“Outside Shot.” And what it’s about is about a
kid named Matt who sees himself as he’s the shooter on the
team, he’s the guy who’s going to put the ball in the basket. But what I talk about
in the book is that even the great
shooters, and by the way, somebody here name a
great shooter in the NBA. Steph Curry. Steph Curry is probably the
best shooter who’s ever been. But Steph Curry does a
lot more than just shoot. Steph Curry is a
fantastic dribbler. Steph Curry is a
terrific passer. In a couple of years he’s
led the NBA in steals. So, it’s important to be
— if you play any game, that you do more
than just one thing. So, Matt has to learn,
hey, I got to play more — I got to do more
than just be shooter. Here’s another book. This one’s called,
“Lucky Enough.” And it’s about a kid named Trey and Trey thinks he has a
blue piece of sea glass which he thinks is lucky. In other words, it’s going
to help him play baseball. And what I talk about in
the back of that book, in the history part, are some of
the superstitions in baseball. And there have been a lot of
crazy superstitions in baseball. For example, there was once a
manager, a guy named Jim Lehman who said — or would
not change his underwear if his team was winning. He’d play, in other words, he
went with the same underwear — if his team was winning,
we’re not washing it, we’re not doing anything. There was a pitcher,
Ted Lincecum who won the Cy Young
Award two different times, he played nine years in
the major leagues, one hat. That was the dirtiest hat
anybody had ever seen. But he thought it was lucky. Of course, what Trey learns
is, it’s not just luck that makes you a good
ball player, you’re going to have to work at it. So, this is the last book I’ll
talk about and then we’re going to — does anybody want
to get a free book? Yeah, all right, well, you’re
going to have to earn it, because I got a couple of sports
history questions for you. Last book and this one is
officially coming out tomorrow, although they have it in the
Politics’ Pro store over here. It’s called, “Speed Demon.” And what it’s about
is it’s about a kid who is the fastest kid in his
school and everybody wants him to play football, because
football is a big deal at his school. But he’s not sure of whether
he wants to play football. He loves to run, but
he’s not sure if he wants to take all the hits that
you have to do in football. So, what the book is about
is about him trying to make up his mind about whether
or not to play football. So you can see that the books that when I write
them they’re not, as some people, “Just sports.” What I try to do is I try
to have a really good story, I try to weave in some
sports history and then — I shouldn’t tell you this
— I try to put a lesson. Something that you can
learn from the book. So, we are going to have a — and maybe when you give the
answer you may want to go up to the microphone
on this one. And adults can help
children get the answer, because these are a little hard. And the first question is
going to be, “Name the — the only athlete in
the history of sports who won an Olympic gold
medal and a Super Bowl ring?” Anybody know? Any adult know? Oh, somebody over there. You’re going to win
it for a kid though. You got to win it for a kid. All right, go ahead. [ Inaudible Speaker ] Renaldo Nehemiah,
very good guess. He was a guy who was
a track star at — at the University of Maryland, but it is not the
answer, but you are close. Oh, I can’t call on you,
Win, I know you too well, that would be — and
he’s a — nobody knows. Oh, this is why you
have to read the books, because you learn a lot
about sports history. Somebody knows, somebody point? Yeah, go ask your — you know. Yeah. Go ahead, step up.>>Jim Thorpe.>>Jim Thorpe. He never won a Super Bowl ring, because they didn’t
have the Super Bowl, but that’s a very
good guess again. Go ahead, somebody
get to the microphone. How’s it — ah. All right, I’ll give you a hint. He played for the
Dallas Cowboys. Go ask, that’s it, go ask. And now, you know what
they’re finding out, man, even dad doesn’t know. Isn’t that disappointing. Well, somebody going over? Go ahead. Try.>>Bob Hayes.>>Bob Hayes. Bullet Bob Hayes. Very good. Very good, dad. He knew it. Dad’s probably around
my age, you know. Bullet Bob Hayes, he won the — what was it, he won the gold
medal in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 in the 100 meter dash. Ran it in 10 seconds flat,
which was the fastest time at that time and he
also was a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and won
Super Bowl ring while he was a Dallas Cowboy. And, in fact, you’ll hear
the — what is it, the — the football season
is about to start and you’ll be watching
a game and they’ll talk about zone defenses,
instead of man to man. The reason they play
zone defenses was because of Bob Hayes. He was so fast, nobody
could cover him man to man. All right, now, that
young lady, she’s — come up afterwards and
I will give you one of the books, all right. Second question for
a second book, for Washington football fans. They used to have a contest
which decided the fastest man in the NFL, there was
a Washington Redskin who was the only one who
won it more than once and he won it four times,
does anybody know — oh, wait a second, she’s
going back to her dad. We have somebody new? All right, go ahead.>>Darryl Green.>>Darryl Green, exactly. Darryl Green was a
terrific defensive back for the Washington Redskins,
but he also was a track star in college in Texas and was a
fantastic athlete who stayed as a defensive back
with the Redskins until he was almost
40 years old. Now, those are the
books, I’m all done. Does anybody want to get up? You guys look so comfortable, but you know what’s a little
disturbing, is I’m looking down here and you have so
many kids reading other people’s books. You know, I mean, isn’t
that a little weird. And they’re so entranced
that they don’t even look up. That must be pretty good. That must be pretty good. We’ll take some questions though and will let adults
have questions. You can ask about writing,
you can ask about sports, you can ask about anything? Ah, there we — are
they jumping? Go ahead. Oh, get the mic down.>>Your books are very nice.>>Ahhh. But that’s not
technically a question. You know, I think —
my books are very nice. I’ll tell you, you actually —
you do get a lot of compliments. One of the nice things about
being a children’s author is that you deal with kids and
they’re so sweet and stuff, but sometimes you have to
have a little thicker skin. And I was signing books one
time and this little boy who was about, I guess, about
7 years old came up to me and he had a Garfield
book and he said, “Will you sign this
Garfield book?” And I said, “Well,
no, I can’t sign it, I didn’t write the book.” And then I pointed to
my books and I said, “I wrote these books.” And he looked at them
and he said, “Yeah, but I don’t like those books.” So, you know, it’s not — it’s not everything
it’s cracked up to be. You really have to
sometimes have a tough skin. Anybody else there
with a question? Go ahead.>>What inspired
you to write books?>>What inspired
me to write books? A very funny thing inspired
me to write books and that is, I was reading sports books
to my son when he was little and I didn’t think
they were very good. And, so, I thought, “Gee, I can write a better
sports book than this.” And I guess I have, because
they’ve let me write 24 of them. But I thought — a lot of sports
books were like, oh, you know, the dog that played
second base or something. And it was — they
didn’t take sports as seriously as a
lot of kids do. And I think sometimes
kids can take and parents especially can
take sports too seriously, but, you know, they are something
— if you think about it, sports is something that
people have been interested in for thousands of years. And, so, you know, people
ought to take it seriously. But I thought a lot of the
kid’s books were not very good. Anybody else have a question? All right, go ahead,
could you go to the mic? I know you’re comfy,
but it helps me. I don’t hear very well. Go ahead.>>Do you have a favorite sport?>>I’m sorry?>>Do you have a favorite sport?>>Do I have a favorite sport? Yes, I have a favorite sport. To watch my favorite
sport is baseball. I’m very excited
about the Nationals. Who’s excited about
the Nationals? All right. But I’m mostly excited and
probably most of you are not as excited as I am about
this, about the University of Maryland Baltimore
County Retrievers, because just this May my son was
named the head baseball coach at UMBC. So, and I wrote a column
about this one time in the Washington Post, I said, when I go to schools
kids ask me all the time, “Who’s your favorite team?” Well, I told them, my favorite
team are the UMBC Retrievers. And kid’s favorite teams
should be who they play for. I mean, that’s really
who you really want to — that’s, you know, why
root for a business. I mean, that’s what teams
are, but they’re a lot of fun to — to root for. We got another question, anybody
else have a — oh, go ahead.>>What’s your favorite —
what sports do you play?>>What sport do I play? When I was growing up
I played everything. As you saw, I played
— I played, you know, baseball, I played football. You’re looking at one of the
great 65 pound tight ends. But the — so I tried
all the sports. I played basketball,
played street hockey. Unfortunately, now the only
sport I can play is golf. Because I got too old. But, no, it’s a — I
like all the sports. And what’s great is that
now kids are growing up with so many sports than
when we grew up. We just had a few. Go ahead, over here,
does somebody — are you going to ask a question?>>Yeah. How long
does it take for you to write about — one book?>>How long does it
take to write a book? My old answer to that was
about six months, but that was when I — I was a lawyer
for 30 years and I used to write the books
on my lunch hour. So I’d only write an hour a day. Now it takes a little less. It takes maybe three, four
months to write a book. But, you know. I’m now going to be doing sports
history books and I’m going to have a history of the
National Football League for kids come out in
— in May of next year. And that took a little
longer, because it takes a lot of research to look
everything up. Go ahead.>>I really enjoy your
column, I read it all the time.>>All right. How old are you? Oh no, that’s not —
don’t worry about it.>>You got me about 10 years. Anyway, what’s the best advice
you would give kids for sports? You give a lot of good
advice in your column.>>Oh, for sports? First thing, before age 14
play as many sports as you can. In other words, don’t
specialize, just try to become
a better athlete. And the different sports
make people better athletes. One of the fun things I did in the column is I interviewed
Cal Ripken, who, of course, is a Hall of Fame
baseball player. And I asked him, when is the
first time you played baseball year around? And he said, “Oh, when
I signed the contract to be a professional
baseball player.” And in high school Cal Ripken
was an Allstate soccer player. And do you know what
he was in baseball? A very big man who could
really move his feet. You know where he learned that? That was playing soccer. So do that. The other thing is,
fun, joy, that’s — that is the whole thing
about kid’s sports and we miss out on that. The other thing I would say,
just everybody in the crowd, very — the kids who are
playing sports right now, very few of them —
or not that many go on to play high school
sports, very few of them go on to play college athletics
and almost nobody goes on to become a professional
athlete. And, so, what they should really
be learning from sports is — but by the way, every one of those kids will become
a citizen of this country. And, so, they should be learning
how to be better citizens and how to be better teammates. And that’s really what
sports should be doing. And the fact that we
don’t really concentrate on that just means that we’ve
really — we fairly run — we just forgotten
what sports are about. I’ll take one more
question, then I got to go.>>What’s your favorite
sports book?>>What’s my favorite
sports book? Well, gee, there are 24
tied for first place. No, it’s kind of
funny, I’m really proud that of all the books and there
was a day, a couple months ago, where I got three letters
from kids who loved the books from different places
all over the country and they said they loved the
books, but they were all talking about a different book. So, it’s one of those things
I think different kids like different books and
it isn’t just one book that they say, “Oh, yeah,
you know, Outside Shots good, but the rest of them stink. You know. No. So. Listen, thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of the day. It’s a great event.

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