Best-selling children’s author and former teacher Eric Walters began his writing career as a challenge from his students.

He put together a short novel to encourage his creative writing class, and ended up discovering a passion for it. As Walters joked with Metro, his writing may have begun as a classroom activity, “but that was 69 novels ago.” The author is perhaps best known for his basketball novels.

“The series originated when I was still teaching and hosting a 3-on-3 basketball tournament,” said Walters. “I wrote the kids this book and read it to them chapter by chapter, day by day when they showed up to the tournament.”

There are now 10 books in the series, including the latest entry, Home Team, about a few local Toronto kids trying to get the Toronto Raptors to appear at their school. Inspired by his teaching days when he would read early drafts of his books to his class, Walters published every chapter of Home Team online and allowed students from around Toronto to read and comment on the material.

“We had over 600 co-writers,” he said. “When you get kids involved, especially boys, they become more willing to read. And for me, it was really important to have their feedback.”

The book is being released as part of Walters’s Hoops For Hope campaign, which raises awareness for literacy across Canada. There have been a variety of events so far, but the biggest will be the All Canada Classic.

 

The best young basketball players from around the country will be playing live, and at halftime, Walters plans to get on the court to challenge some of them with his co-writers Johnny Williams and former Toronto Raptor Jerome Williams. When asked if he was nervous to put down his pen and pick up a ball, Walters laughed, “Nah, I’m a pretty good player actually.

 

I’m not NBA quality though. When Jerome plays with me, he just fools around. If he were to play with me seriously it wouldn’t be whether I won or lost, it would be whether I ended up in the emergency room.”