Hello all! Today we have guest blogger Heather Smith here to talk about what it was like writing her novel Balancing Act for a non-gymnast audience. I asked her how she balanced using the terminology and culture that comes with being a gymnast to make it feel real while explaining what exactly all of that means to layman readers. She created a great post in response, and I have shared it below. Enjoy the post, and afterward, read the included book blurb, and then go buy a copy of Balancing Act by Heather Smith.
Hey, everyone! So glad I could be with ya’ll today to talk about my new book, Balancing Act. As you’ve probably seen, Balancing Act is a YA contemporary romance that centers around a high school gymnastics team.
I had a great advantage when I first set out to write this book. I trained as a gymnast for six years and spent a season on my high school’s gymnastic team. I knew many of the terms already, as well as what it felt like to be in a high school atmosphere. I’d seen guys linger around meets after they were done with basketball practice. Had known that some girls were only on the team to get out of gym class. But also that there were girls who were spectacular and learned skills with ease.
But conveying this world turned out to be difficult for me. Indeed, some things which I took for granted that people would know, my editor told me I should explain. She was a great help when it came to this. I tried to explain certain complicated moves well enough that the reader could get a sense of what it would look like, but also not go into so much detail that it would clog up the scene. I actually tried to limit the number of specific terms I used because, at the base of it, this book is not about becoming a gymnast. It’s about Callie discovering who she is outside of her passion, and figuring out what to do when her passion becomes impossible to pursue.
To this end, what I focused on the most when trying to convey the high school gymnastics world was the emotions that went along with it. The excitement of learning a new move. Frustration at a coach. Exhaustion at the end of the day. Fear of injury. All of these emotions are familiar to people, if not in the context of gymnastics. Sensory images were also very important to me, especially because the gym was being seen through a veteran gymnast’s eyes. Callie associates memories with almost everything in the gym, especially the smell.
To this day I still remember what my gym smelled like. Dry hand chalk, sweat, and that somehow squeaky foam smell. It was pungent, and every time I smell it I’m taken back. For me it was important for the gym to feel familiar to Callie, and so to the reader. Instead of knowing the ins and outs of a salto, I wanted them to know the exhaustion of conditioning after practice and the whirring of the fans that are always on. I wanted the gym to be a home and a training ground.
And in the process of writing, Callie’s world became another home for me. And now, hopefully, for you. 🙂
Balancing Act by Heather Smith
February 3, 2014
One year ago, Callie Harding was the star of the Redwood High gymnastics team. Now, she’s just trying to forget that her Olympic dreams were stolen from her in one failed landing. Most of all, she wants to forget her first love, Ty. That part of her life is over and she’s sure she has got something good with Scott… even if he doesn’t exactly understand her passion for sports.
But when Callie is persuaded to take on the position of assistant coach of the gymnastics team, Ty and Callie are thrown together almost nightly, and she’s forced to confront her memories of the night everything changed. As things get tense on and off the balancing beam, Callie must find a way to stay strong. But is forgetting her accident – and forgetting Ty – the best way to do that?
About the Author:
Heather Smith is a student of English and History at University of Washington in Seattle. She works as a senior editor at Entranced Publishing, with the Kissed and Entranced imprints. In her free time, Heather loves to ride horses and watch Disney movies. She would like to travel the world one day, and Europe would be her first stop.
Heather’s first book “Balancing Act” will be published in 2014 by Entranced Publishing. You can find out more about Heather and what the future holds at the links below.