By Leah Parodi
Kelsey Maxell is an athlete and has been all of her life. As an athlete, Maxell has learned many lessons on and off the field that have helped shape her as a woman, wife, mother and teacher. And now, Maxell has taken her experiences as an athlete and shares them in the Lily Lynn book series that educates and celebrates girls, involved in sports or not, and encourages them to stay physically active and to go for whatever they want not only in sports, but in life.
Maxell has a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education with a special emphasis in literacy and has been teaching for over ten years. Maxell and her husband, Ben, also an athlete and former collegiate baseball player, have two very active girls heavily involved in sports. Maxell plays softball, volleyball, soccer and runs. She is a former collegiate softball player and was a Division II National Champion in 2001 for the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Maxell said that she learned a lot of lessons as a female athlete, lessons she feels all girls should know and one of many reasons for writing her books. “I learned so many things participating in sports,” Maxell said. “The most important, I think, is to be good a teammate. The girls on your team can end up being your best friends in life and I, myself, am still friends with my college teammates.” Maxell added that learning how to be a good teammate will also help girls know how to be good co-workers and learn to work on many other non-sporting teams.
Another important lesson Maxell learned from participating in sports is that girls who participate in sports are also physically active and tend to stay so. “I think it is important to develop healthy habits as kids. They will continue to enjoy being active like to do. I still play volleyball, softball soccer and I love it and am likely to do it forever. Being active is a great benefit of sports.”
Maxell, after watching her daughters participate in sports, realized she had great subject matter for a children’s book and writing was always something she wanted to do. “I had the material and the desire to write a book, and now I had a very important reason to write. My girls are sporty girls and had trouble finding books about topics they were interested in. There were a lot of princess and fairy books but sporty girls like mine and others in the classroom had no character to remind them of themselves, identify with.” So, Maxell set out to write her first book; Lily Lynn and The Victory Dance.
Lily Lynn and the Victory Dance was released by Building Champions Publishing and won the Next Generation Indie Book finalist Award in the spring of 2016. Maxell’s focus for her books was on learning how to play the game of life through sports. Lily Lynn, the title character is a sporty girl who loves playing soccer and softball. She is competitive, but not just in sports which can get her into a bit of trouble. Lily Lynn and the Victory Dance follows Lily Lynn as she learns that in both sports and life, having a good attitude and sportsmanship are very important and having fun and being a good teammate is much more important than winning or losing.
The name of Maxell’s main character; Lily Lynn, is a combination of both of her daughters’ names and while the character is fictional, some of her experiences and stories are from the author’s experiences and those of her children. “I have the unique perspective of life as an athlete and then that of a mom watching my daughters. There are parts of me as mom and athlete in this book.” Maxell added that she also had great input from her daughters as they read her writing back to her. “I was able to hear the words of my book through my kids’ voices. They read how I wrote to make sure I was getting it right. I had a great perspective.”
Lily Lynn and The Victory Dance was released in May of 2015 and to immediate acclaim. “It was the best feeling to walk into a classroom and see girls (students in Maxell’s school) reading my book.” Maxell said that feedback from parents has been positive as many parents use the book as a conversational piece. “It starts a conversation between kids and parents about what it means to be a good sport.”
The success of Lily Lynn and The Victory Dance led Maxell to write the second book in the series which is expected to be released in April of 2017. The yet to be titled book will focus on the theme of change. “Lily Lynn goes through changes at school, changes with friendships and changes with sports team. We get to see how she handles all of these changes.” Maxell said that her while her first Lily Lynn book focused on softball and soccer, the second book will feature basketball.
In addition to the Lily Lynn books, Maxell has a wonderful website that features sports tips, videos and a blog. “The cool thing about my website is that my daughter Addy writes the blog and that adds a great perspective.” Maxell said that sports for her daughters today are very different from when she was an athlete. “I think sports today are more intense. I was always competitive, I wanted to play everything in every season; soccer in fall, softball in spring. Now every sport is played year year-round.” Maxell said that as a parent it gets tricky and not just because of the busy balance between games, practices and family life. “I don’t want my daughters to have to pick one sport. I want them to play everything, try everything. There are a lot of lessons for them to be learned on and off the field.”
For more information on the how to buy books from the Lily Lynn series, read Addy’s blogs or to meet the author, please visit www.lilylynnseries.com.