Even if your swimming skills aren’t a match for the swim team, you might enjoy reading Swim Team – a recent release that focuses on girls who compete on their high school’s team. The author, Marianne Sciucco, is here to tell us a bit about how and why she wrote the story.
Sometimes winning is everything.
Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.
But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?
An Interview with Marianne Sciucco
Why did you write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming?
Like so many writers, I wear many hats, one of which is called “Swim Mom.” I’ve shuttled my daughter to swim meets and swim practice for years, and now follow her across state lines during her college swimming career. All those hours sitting on cold, metal bleachers waiting to watch her swim for a minute or two gave me more than a sore you-know- what: It inspired me to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming.
My goal was to write a story about the whole high school swimming experience, to show others who may not be as familiar with the sport how much fun it is and how hard these kids work. But this story is about more than swimming as my young heroine, Aerin, deals with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, a stepmother and two stepsisters she doesn’t want, her mother’s PTSD and drug addiction after two tours of duty in the Middle East as an Army nurse, and her best friend’s cute twin brother. And she’s just started senior year in her third high school. Aerin is a girl you will definitely cheer for.
What has swimming taught you?
Swimming is such a great sport with lifelong benefits. Swimming competitively, especially in high school, can be a positive experience that builds character, self-esteem, and friendships. In New York State, girls can join the varsity team in seventh grade, when they’re 12, and compete against girls who are much older and bigger. When my daughter joined the high school team as a seventh grader, I was unsure whether or not she’d be able to meet its demands: practice after school every day and on Saturday mornings, and swim meets at least twice a week. She looked so small compared to the other girls. Could she really compete against them? Would she be crushed? How would this affect her self-esteem? Would she quit? Our kids often surprise us, and my daughter surprised me. She loved being on the team, loved her teammates, and never complained about going to practice or asked if she could skip.
Sure, there were times when the older girls pushed her to work harder, swim faster, but that only made her a better swimmer. As the years went on, her skills improved and she quickly became a team leader, one of their top swimmers, and a contender in the division. She grew up a lot in her six years on this team and learned many valuable lessons: keeping a commitment to a sport and a team that spanned a third of her life; setting and making personal goals; the grace of winning; the humility of defeat; confidence in her athleticism; pride in her body and what it can do; and the rewards earned through hard work and dedication. She has gone on to swim in college where she continues to exhibit the same skills and attitudes she cultivated in high school. These are lifelong lessons that will benefit her in whatever she chooses to do, in sports, work, and more. All girls should have the opportunity to learn about themselves through sports, any sport.
What did you learn from writing Swim Season?
Swim Season is my second novel, and was five years in the making. During that time, I learned that writing a book is an arduous, grueling, laborious, painstaking task that requires diligence, dedication, time, tenacity, and talent. Much like being a competitive swimmer.
Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
I love Devon, Aerin’s mom. Like me, she is a nurse, but brought her nursing skills to the battlefield to attend to our soldiers at war. She is brave and selfless, a patriot. I spent a lot of time researching women in the military and Army nurses. They are incredibly inspiring. I also researched the wounded warrior, PTSD, opiate addiction, and depression. These are real issues for our returning soldiers that must be addressed. Devon’s story was my attempt to shed light on this. I have plans to write a sequel to Swim Season, tentatively called Swim Mom, which will be Devon’s story after she is released from her incarceration. No promises as to when this will be completed. I hope it doesn’t take five years.
What other research did you do for Swim Season?
For a while I was taking Aquasize classes at my local YMCA. One day I got the idea to try to swim 500 yards, which is the length of the race at the heart of Swim Season. I wanted to see if I could do it, how long it would take, and how I would feel during and afterwards. I have never swum competitively, although I have always loved to swim and am capable of doing the freestyle. My first 500 clocked in at 30 minutes. I stopped after every length to catch my breath and chat with the other ladies in the Aquasize class. I kept at it, though, and after a few weeks managed to complete the 500 in 16 minutes, which was phenomenal for me. Of course, the time to beat in Swim Season is 4:52.50, which was in never never land for me. But, as a middle-aged woman with below-average fitness, I was proud of my achievement. In the end, unfortunately, it exacerbated my repetitive strain injuries and I had to give it up.
Tell us something strange, odd, weird, or random about yourself.
In 2001, I came close to drowning in a rip tide at Race Point Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was terrifying and life changing. It still scares me, but I continue to swim in the ocean and in those particular waters.
What inspires you to write?
Everything inspires me to write. The world is amazing. People are fascinating. I see stories everywhere and some of them are compelling enough for me to want to tell them. Once an idea or image penetrates my brain I start filling in the details, developing a story line, building characters. If it excites me and takes off far enough, I write an outline so I don’t forget it and put it on my “To Be Written List.” Hopefully, I will live long enough to complete all of these stories.
About the Author
During swim season, you can find Marianne Sciucco, a dedicated Swim Mom for ten years, at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets, cheering for her daughter Allison and the Mount Saint Mary College Knights.
Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues.
Her debut novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller; IndieReader Approved; a BookWorks featured book; and a Library Journal Self-e Selection. She also has two short stories available on Kindle, Ino’s Love and Collection.
A native Bostonian, Marianne lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college.
Swim Season is currently available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.