Entering the Family (Book) Business

From Publisher’s Weekly:

For some people, the family business, if they have one at all, might be a pizza joint or a plumbing company. In our family, for better or worse, it’s writing.

My grandfather, Elliott Maraniss, was a lifelong newspaperman; my grandmother, Mary, was a book editor; my mom wrote an activity book for kids on the Gulf of Mexico; and my sister writes plays. My father, David Maraniss, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of bestselling biographies and other nonfiction.

And there’s me, writing sports and social justice nonfiction for teens and adults.

We have all seen the memes declaring how much of a masochist one has to be to write books. Often, I wish I had been taught to spin dough or fix leaky pipes.

But for as long as I can remember, it was writing that brought the family together, and writers who were my role models—not just the writers in my family but also my dad’s colleagues at the Washington Post when I was a kid. I tagged along to press conferences, played flag football with reporters under the shadow of the Washington Monument, and joined many a fantasy baseball draft with writers and editors. I observed journalists and authors as everyday people and writing as an admirable vocation.

Now that my father and I have nonfiction books out at the same time—his, a biography of Jim Thorpe (Path Lit by Lightning), his 13th book; mine, the story of the first U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team (Inaugural Ballers), my fifth—I think it’s pretty cool that we’re in this thing together. I don’t know of many other father-son combos who have written bestselling narrative nonfiction, simultaneously or otherwise.

I felt some pressure joining the family business. Any writer braces for public criticism; being compared to the guy across the dinner table could theoretically be doubly tough. But it hasn’t really worked out that way. More of a shared interest and pride, not a father-son competition.

I constantly wonder about undue privilege that comes with following a well-blazed path. No doubt that has opened doors, but not as many as one might expect. I was turned down by every agent and publisher I approached when writing my first book, just like most authors. Finally, after spending eight years researching and writing Strong Inside, a biography of pioneering basketball player Perry Wallace, I found a small university press (Vanderbilt) willing to publish it. After that book became a surprise bestseller, an agent (and young adult publisher) followed.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly