Valley grad set to release debut novel, ‘Gridiron Girl’

Attentive readers will notice local landmarks and other AK Valley names in the debut novel by Lower Burrell resident Tamara Girardi.

“Gridiron Girl” is the first in a series of six books aimed at young adults. It launches March 3, published by Wise Wolf Books.

“Locals will see a lot of things that they recognize,” said Girardi, who grew up in New Kensington and graduated from Valley High School. “The names are changed, but it won’t be too difficult to understand.”

The main character, Jules Medina, has his heart set on capturing the role of starting quarterback for Iron Valley High School.

She quits her championship volleyball team to follow her true passion for throwing pigskin, only to battle stereotypes of coaches, players, and community members.

“But nothing stops him from pursuing his dream,” Girardi said.

The author’s inspiration comes from many hours spent chatting, watching and living with footballers, she said.

Her husband, Dom, was the Vikings quarterback when they met in high school.

“His younger brothers played and his father was a coach,” Girardi said. “I spent a lot of time watching them throw the ball around the garden. When we were out together, he would mark Xs and O’s on the Eat’n Park placemats and ask me about routes.

“We would go to Memorial Park and practice throwing the football properly.”

The writer began to think, “I wonder what would have happened if they had had a little sister. Would she have wanted to play?

The thought paved the way for “Gridiron Girl,” in which the pages are filled with high school drama, teenage romance, friendships, and lessons in self-esteem.

Girardi said she was inspired by women’s movements in sport today that have empowered young girls.

To celebrate the book’s release, Girardi will host a book signing at 7 p.m. on March 3 at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont. Tickets are $14.95 and include a copy of the book.

This event will be followed by an afternoon coffee and tea with Girardi at the newly opened 1833 Coffee and Tea Co. in Freeport. It will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 6.

“We are so happy to host this event,” said co-owner Virginia Lindsay. “We believe it’s good for our community to support each other and showcase our local talent.”

A third event will take place on March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Riverstone Books in McCandless.

After graduating in 2000 from Valley, Girardi attended the University of Jacksonville in Florida, then traveled to Scotland to earn a master’s degree from the University of St. Andrews.

She returned home and lived with her family in Harrison for over a decade before settling in Lower Burrell. During this time, she obtained a doctorate. in English from IUP and began teaching at Westmoreland County Community College.

Her football-loving husband is now the high school coach at Highlands, and Girardi is an associate English teacher at Harrisburg Area Community College.

After signing the six-book sports series to Wise Wolf, a new Las Vegas-based YA fiction editor, Girardi has maintained a blistering writing pace since last year.

The second book, “Disorder on the Court,” is slated for release in June. She is currently writing Book #3, which will be released in September.

In May, she will release an illustrated children’s book called “Why Daddy Why?” through a separate publisher, before embarking on writing sports history #4, slated for release in December.

“They have an innovative business model where they release authors more frequently,” she said. “It was fun to be a part of it.”

After spending more than 15 years jotting down stories in a notebook, the irony is not lost on Girardi that she will have five books on the shelves this year.

“There are interesting stories in these sports stories and threads to develop,” she said. “I was able to write this series not only because of my husband, but I thought back to my closest friends from high school and imagined the situations. High school has an impact and I want to tell the stories of our wonderful community.”

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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