Hat Trick is just a week away from its debut as an e-book on September 1 (the paperback follows on September 30). The story unfolds during a hockey season at Central High School, which I placed in the town of Dawson, Pennsylvania. The real Dawson doesn’t have a Central High, although the high school that serves the small town of Dawson does have the Falcons as a mascot.
When I was writing the book, I used Central High School and the Falcons mascot based on the high school I went to in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was a Falcon from 1982-86 and worked on the school paper for my sophomore, junior and senior years. It’s probably not a surprise that the newspaper crops up a lot in Hat Trick with each chapter starting off with an “article” about that week’s hockey activities. Plus the school’s sportswriter plays a supporting role in the story. In the book, however, I changed the name of the paper to The Falconer, which was the name of the yearbook at my CHS while the paper was named The Falcon Flyer.
High school in Alabama had no hockey, of course. There the major sport was (and is) football, although there were several other non-football sports.
The huge rivalry between Central and County High makes its way into Hat Trick as well. Each fall, Tuscaloosa’s Central and County High meet up for a huge football game (big enough that after Central lost during my junior year, a band of Central seniors built a small bomb and blew the doors off of Country High’s building). For Hat Trick’s Falcons it’s all about winning the annual Central/County Thanksgiving hockey game for the first time in more than a decade.
The important thing I came away from Tuscaloosa’s Central High with was a love of writing, courtesy of my ninth grade English teacher Janice Winokur. I did my first short stories in her class and she encouraged me to join up with The Falcon Flyer. I also got from her a love of Shakespeare as we did a six week unit on his work. Susan Goodard, the advisor for the newspaper, was also key to my becoming a writer and going on to major in journalism in college. Today I’m not a journalist, but I still love writing.
I was in Tuscaloosa a couple weeks ago and drove by the Central campus. It’s changed a lot since I went there, having undergone massive renovations. I snapped the picture of the sign you see above. I can easily imagine it outside the school in Hat Trick. Meanwhile, if you want to read a great YA novel that’s set at Tuscaloosa’s Central High, pickup Martin Wilson’s 2010 book What They Always Tell Us.