Travis Mewhirter is the founder of Paper Courts as well as a published author of two popular books, More Than a Game, which was released on May 21, and The Last 18, which was released in May of 2015. Here are the easiest places to buy the books:
If you could do one, or all, of three things, I would be immensely appreciative:
- Buy the book!
- If you don’t want to buy the book, you would be helping more than you know if you could at least review it on Amazon and GoodReads, taking it on faith that it’s actually somewhat decent.
- Tell your friends to buy it and review it!
Synopsis of More Than a Game
Basketball and life are one of the same in the hoops-mad town of Gaithersburg. And for good reason. The Covenant Prep girls team is one of the best in the state, led by the mighty Lyla Storm, who may be the best player in the country. She has the college offers and records to prove it. The boys, too, are championship-caliber, having finished second in the state just a year ago while returning the majority of their top players. Both could realistically win the title.
And then, quick as a hiccup, devastating as an Earthquake, the town’s world comes crashing down. Prep’s legendary basketball coach, Bill Stottlemyer, passes away, leaving his son, Kevin, the team’s star point guard, wondering if it’s really all worth it, playing this game. He couldn’t play, not without Coach.
The community is shaken – and then shaken again, when Tara French, a player on the girl’s team, is hit by a car, leaving Lyla, her best friend, wondering, too, if it’s really all worth it. She couldn’t play, not without Tara.
The town couldn’t disagree. How could they ask its two young stars to play a game in the wake of such tragedy? But they needed something, anything, to provide an escape from the specters that hung over Gaithersburg. Basketball became their collective source of refuge. So play they did, in a season that became less about the wins and losses, points and box scores, and more about life, and how sports can so often help us get through it.
And the simple sport of basketball became far more than a game.
The story behind the book
The story behind this book is inspired by events that are as real as the air we breathe and the computer or tablet or screen you’re reading this on. And when I say inspired by, I do not mean based on, for the storylines between what was real and what was fictionalized in the pages of More Than a Game are vastly different. But the seed of this narrative is very real indeed.
I was in my second year at a weekly newspaper headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., covering boys basketball. As the boys basketball writer, one of my obligations was to write at least one story on every team in our coverage area, which was roughly 100 schools. It was a task that was neither small nor enviable. If it were up to me, I’d have covered national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic 30 times and called it a season. Fortunately, it was not up to me, and as the season was winding down, I had to cover a game between two private schools with a combined enrollment of about 500. It was not good basketball. But I stumbled upon one of the most unforgettable stories I have seen in sports.
When your school is that tiny, your community becomes unbelievably close, where nobody locks their front doors and everybody knows their neighbor’s dog’s birthday. So I’m sitting in the stands, covering this game, and I notice that the entire student section is wearing a pink shirt that red “Mama Bear.” Inevitably, I asked the coach afterwards about the shirts, and he explained that his wife had recently passed away. Breast cancer. This being perhaps the most close-knit community in the state of Maryland, the passing of the wife of the basketball coach was no small deal, and they rallied, rocking those pink shirts every single game. Meanwhile, her son was the point guard and best player on the team, which was likely going to make the conference championship. I saw a story brewing beyond a simple gamer.
And then tragedy struck again, and it was abrupt and quick as a hiccup. A player on the girls team had been hit by a car. She was dead on impact. In the same week, this community had to bury two of its loved ones. The girls stopped playing, and the boys debated doing the same – how could they play a simple game in the wake of such tragedy? But the girl’s parents wouldn’t have it. Play, they urged the teams, so we can begin to move on. Basketball is going to be our vehicle. The rest of the season was a magical ride, culminating in an unlikely pair of conference title berths. I won’t reveal who won and who lost,or if they both won or both lost. You’ll have to read to find out.
Now: How did this become a book? I wrote a massive feature on it, maybe 2,000 words or so – this is massive in newspapers, particularly weeklies – but I still felt as if something was missing. A feature in a barely-read newspaper wasn’t enough. This could be a book. Fiction, for sure. Saguaro Books had just offered to publish my first book, The Last 18, so I began brainstorming how to fictionalize these events and write my second. And over the next two years, I outlined and wrote and outlined and wrote some more, loosely inspired by the aforementioned story, twisting details and adding plot twists, creating characters I fell in love with and hope you do, too.
Sports have a power behind them I cannot explain, though in this book I attempt to do so. Follow along this site for updates regarding release date, giveaways and other promos for More Than a Game.
Send me pictures of you reading More Than a Game!
The Last 18
Synopsis: The Last 18 is a story of a mother and her two sons, and the bonds between a family that cannot be broken, no matter the ailment. It explores the question: What would you do if you had two months left with a loved one? Do you make their final days comfortable, normal, routine? Act like nothing was different or wrong, like so many request? Or do you attempt the fantastic, the amazing, the miraculous?
When Janis Lammey’s two youngest sons — Jay and Brian — are still in high school, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a late diagnosis. In two months, Janis Lammey is going to die. She will never see her sons graduate from college, she will not cry at their weddings, she will not cradle her grandchildren. But there is one thing that she can still do, and that’s watch her boys play golf. Jay and Brian have a freakish knack for the game. College prospects are on the horizon. It’s only a matter of time before the Tour comes calling. But time is no longer a luxury they have.
They set out to do what their mother had wanted to see ever since they first
picked up a club: play professional golf. With the help of a college coach,
the boys receive an exemption into a tournament where their mother’s dream of seeing them play on Tour can be realized. And so they play, with their mother close-by, the last 18 holes of golf she will ever see.
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The story behind the book
My first of what I hope to be many books, The Last 18 was published in May of 2015, by Saguaro Books, a small publishing house in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and it was a milestone achievement for me for a number of reasons. I had always wanted to write a book. What precocious reader and aspiring writer doesn’t, really? But I didn’t think I ever would. Books are hard. Books are long. Books require an attention span longer than an hour, a day, a month, a year. Books will teach you how to cope with rejection more than any high school dance or college date ever could. I didn’t know this when I started, of course. I just knew I had an idea, a laptop, and fingers that were itchy to write.
But first, the idea: Where did it come from? An ESPN feature. I must have been 15 or 16, just beginning an internship with a weekly newspaper in Baltimore County called The Community Times. I was sitting on the couch in my living room with my younger brother Cody, and ESPN had one of those feel-good features about this wildly precocious golfer who was the best junior in the nation, or one of them. The girl’s mother loved nothing more than watching her daughter play golf. Her dream was to watch her girl play professionally. But life has a curious habit of getting in the way of our dreams sometimes, and the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Well, somehow (I do not remember the exact details) the LPGA caught wind of the situation and gave the girl a sponsorship exemption to a professional event, and so this girl’s mother was able to see her daughter play professional golf before she died, which she did shortly after. It’s an incredible story. I love that kind of stuff, and I love writing about it. While that was playing, I was drawing similarities to my own life. I was a high school golfer at the time, as was Cody, and our mother loved — absolutely loved — watching us play golf. The woman, bless her heart, never missed a match. What if I took the storyline of that ESPN feature, and tweaked it to fit my own little novel? An idea was born. One problem: I was not a good writer.
I let the idea marinate for a few years, and in the meantime, I enrolled in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, where I realized just how terrible of a writer I was. God, it sucked. I received more zeroes on assignments than I thought possible. But I was learning and progressing an alarming rate. I loathe failing at things. Doesn’t matter what it is. Could be badminton for all I care. If I’m bad at it, I’m going to work at it until I’m not so bad. So I read everything I could get my hands on, developing a habit of re-reading Sports Illustrated to the point that it was a borderline fetish. During my sophomore year, I felt confident enough to begin writing the book. I’d pick at it here and there when I wasn’t busy emptying Natty Lights or working on homework or failing another writing assignment. And let me tell you: That initial rough draft was terrible. I finished five chapters and scrapped the whole thing, leaving it alone again for another two years.
By then I was a senior in college, working part-time at The Washington Post and at a weekly paper called The Gazette. I was also still emptying Natty Lights and failing assignments, though I was failing less of them, and I was passing nonetheless, and The Gazette had offered me a full-time position covering high school sports upon my graduation. With a job guaranteed, all I had to do was pass my classes (Cs get degrees, right?), so I shifted my priorities, revisiting this book project that had been collecting metaphorical dust for the past few years. And I just lit into the thing. I’ll always remember the exact moment I finished the manuscript, too. I was sitting in the apartment of my girlfriend at the time, and I hit that final period, and I just sat there. I had no clue what to do. I turned over to her and wondered aloud, “What do I do now?”
Turns out, edit. And edit. And edit. Edit a little more then do it again. When I was finished editing, or thought I was, I sent it off to New York for a professional look at it, and when I got it back, I cleaned it up with the hundreds of recommended edits. Ok. It’s edited. It’s clean. So…now what?
Turns out, Random House doesn’t accept submissions from writers with exactly zero experience and zero qualifications. Time to look for an agent. My editor, a man named Hillel Black, passed along the names of 100 agents, and I began blindly querying them, probably pissing off 99 of them until I eventually landed on James Fitzgerald, who took a shot on me, something I’ll never be able to thank him enough for. From there it took a year — a long, shitty year filled with more rejection and second-guessing and confidence-depletion than I had endured in 24 of them. And then it came. That email from Saguaro Books. They loved it.
It doesn’t matter how many rejections you have, so long as you have one acceptance, right? And I had mine. It was easy enough from there. Saguaro edited it and we put a nice little cover on it. It looked good. It read — well, I honestly didn’t know if it read well. I’d probably read the thing 3,000 times. Maybe it was pure gibberish to everyone else. But I didn’t care. I had a book. I was an author.
Now it was time to write another one.