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Author inspires middle school and UConn Co-op

By Zarrin Ahmed
On February 6, 2013

Children and parents carried in copies of Mike Lupica's newest addition to the Game Changers series, "Play Makers," for autographs at a book talk given by Lupica on Wednesday evening.

Earlier the same day, Lupica made an appearance at Mansfield Middle School, where he spoke to a crowd of 600, including 580 children, and received a standing ovation. Some of the students from the middle school traveled to UConn to see him again. After facing some parking issues, Lupica grabbed a coffee at the Co-op Café before jogging into the bookstore. After a quick introduction by a student worker, Lupica thanked the crowd for coming out.

A native of New York, Lupica spent his childhood in New Hampshire and later attended Boston College. Lupica had his own column with Esquire magazine for 10 years, writes regularly for Travel + Leisure Golf, ESPN the Magazine and the Men's Journal. He writes several sports columns during the week for Daily News as well as a Sunday column called "Shooting from the Lip," and broadcasts daily on EPSN New York. In the midst of a busy journalist career, Lupica dedicates time to writing mystery and sports books.

"The best part of my day is writing books that young readers love to read," Lupica said.

He explained how writing was a lot easier than getting through the rest of the day and how he functioned better behind his desk. He also told the children in the crowd that seeing them read his books reinforced his passion.

Lupica writes from the perspective of 12-year-olds in his Game Changers series, focusing on the importance of friendship, loyalty and being a good teammate. Lupica's inspiration for his first sports novel, "Travel Team," came from his youngest son, who was cut from his school's basketball team. The first line of the book, which Lupica recited, reads, "He knew he was small but he just didn't think he was small." Knowing his son's situation, Lupica put together a team that included other kids who didn't make the school's team. This "Bad News Bears" team got better and better. This is the underlying story of Travel Team.

Play Makers, Lupica's newest book, follows the life of Ben McBain, who struggles to keep his position as the best point guard when a new kid who is better, stronger and faster challenges him. Focused on out-doing his competition, McBain loses sight of the importance of friendship and being a good teammate. Having grown up reading books like the Hardy Boys and Mark Twain novels that were about loyalty and friendship, Lupica realized that he had to write books about the same things. Lupica feels lucky that in fiction he can make sports come out the way he wants them to, and that he doesn't have to say goodbye to the characters at the end of each book, but can create an entire series based on them.

Before a short question-and-answer session, Lupica made a deal with his young readers - if they continue to read his books, he will continue to write them. After answering questions ranging from subjects like his childhood to sports predictions, Lupica signed all of his fans' books.

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