Derek Sullivan’s debut novel features an obese teen whose only friends are in the virtual world until a perfect-pitch Wiffle ball game starts him on a path that will change his life forever.
“Biggie,” released by Albert Whitman Teen publisher on March 1, was inspired by the author’s time as a sports editor, and later education reporter, at the Owatonna People’s Press. Sullivan ’05 now works as a columnist and features writer at the Rochester Post-Bulletin. He started writing “Biggie” while studying for his Master of Arts at Hamline University.
Sullivan credits his mass communications professors and classmates at St. Cloud State University for getting him started on his writing career.
“St. Cloud State was the first place I went to where I studied writing,” he said. “… Everyone was supportive, even if what I wrote wasn’t great.”
Even the title for “Biggie” was inspired by a St. Cloud State professor, Sullivan said.
He once heard a professor tell a classmate to use her main character’s name as her title until something better came along, so he started out with “Biggie” and it stuck.
“St. Cloud State is really important to me,” he said. “It kind of jump-started my writing career — not just as an author, as a journalist.”
As a reporter Sullivan spent a lot of time writing about teenagers and came to realize that the age is a very interesting time in a person’s life. He was also inspired to write “Biggie” by a little league coach and by an episode of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
When he was young, Sullivan struggled with hitting the ball, so his coach told him about a boy who could never hit the ball, but got a home run one day and turned into a good hitter.
That story always stuck with Sullivan, who learned a similar lesson from “Food Revolution” when the star, Jamie Oliver, visited a school in Huntington, W.V. to teach about healthier school lunches
A girl at the school told Oliver that she thought she’d die early from bad health, but his visit made her feel she’d be OK.
Both instances made him think about how a lucky shot, or a small moment for anyone else, can change everything for one person, he said.
Sullivan will hold a reading and book signing at 2 p.m. March 15 at Addendum Books in St. Paul. “Biggie” can be found in bookstores and online.