So, I wrote a book! My first children’s book, The Competition, was published earlier this month. The Competition is a story about boys’ gymnastics, aimed at children between the ages of around 6 to 9. Although it is a stand-alone story, it is also the beginning of a series involving its main character, Archie Fletcher.
Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life for many years. Back in 2000, my younger sister was invited to trial for our local gymnastics club. She went on to train several times a week, and since I often went to drop her off or pick her up afterwards, I asked the head coach if I could start helping out with some coaching. One of the older gymnasts, who had also just started some coaching, was the same age as me. He went on to become my husband.
Fast forward twenty years, and although I stopped coaching gymnastics when I left for university, my husband is still in the gym six days a week. My two sons are both keen gymnasts, training ten hours each week, and even my three-year-old daughter takes part in a weekly gymnastics class. As a family, we enjoy going to large scale events such as the British and World Championships, and watching gymnastics on TV as much as possible.
The idea for the book first came about when my eldest son started gymnastics at the age of three. As a keen reader myself, I had always enjoyed reading to him; but when I started looking for a story about boys in gymnastics, I discovered that there wasn’t much choice available, and those books that were already on the market were either about girls, and girls’ gymnastics; or were non-fiction.
This is probably because -unusually- gymnastics is a sport in which far more girls than boys take part at a recreational level. Because of this, most gymnastics-themed gift products are aimed at girls- in fact, I wrote a whole blog post about that HERE.
However, in recent years, men’s gymnastics has become much more popular in the UK, thanks to the successes of our male gymnasts in international competitions like the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. British Gymnastics has over sixty-two thousand male members, with the vast majority of those being children. As well-known male gymnasts like James Hall, Brinn Bevan and Nile Wilson continue to inspire others on their social media platforms, it seems likely that boys’ interest and participation in the sport will only continue to grow.
Online, I am a member of several social media groups for parents of gymnasts, and I often see parents of boy gymnasts in the group ask for suggestions of books about gym that their sons might like to read. With no suitable fiction titles available, they are usually directed towards biographies of well-known gymnasts. Parents of both boys and girls often comment that it is a shame there are no books for boys similar in style to the ‘Gym Stars’ series by Jane Lawes,’ or Cate Shearwater’s ‘Somersaults and Dreams.’ I felt that there was a gap in the literature market that needed to be filled, and so I decided to do something about it.
I wrote a story aimed at children between the ages of approximately six to nine years old because this is the age when boys are most likely to participate in gymnastics; and it is also when children are developing their ability to read independently, hopefully building an interest in reading for pleasure. I believe that for those boys who participate in gymnastics, having a book with a main character who is like them, and who they can relate to, could inspire both a love of reading, and a greater passion for their sport. I hope that The Competition could be the book that meets this need.