Q&A with Fort Wayne-raised author of 'More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball'

The best word to describe Fort Wayne-raised, Homestead graduate Madison Moore is: Creator. A quick visit to her website will give you a glimpse into her dabblings in ceramics, illustration, photography, writing, and vlogging. Not to mention: She’s a professional frisbee player for the Milwaukee Monarchs and an acquisition editor with C&T Publishing in Chicago, IL. 

Moore was in town in October 2021 for a signing and reading of her new book More than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball, celebrating the history of basketball from a Black perspective, "revealing how it changed Black communities and how they made the sport into what it is today." 

The book signing took place on the fresh hardwood gym floor at the Fort Wayne Boys and Girls Club on Fairfield Avenue. 

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Moore to learn more about her book and advice to aspiring writers.

Madison Moore, a Fort Wayne-raised author of "More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball," signs copies of her book at the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club.

IFW: What inspired you to dive into writing children's literature and this book, specifically?

MM: I’ve always been interested in how text and illustration can work together, so when I graduated college, I started working editorially at a children’s book publisher. It ended up opening this whole new world for me! I fell in love with picture books; they’re beautiful, impactful, and span such a wide variety of topics. So, while working as an editor, I started thinking about myself as a writer and an illustrator. Then, I was working on an editorial pitch when I discovered the history that More Than Just a Game is based on. I asked myself how basketball had evolved from a sport invented by a white person to a sport played by 70 percent People of Color. The answer was more interesting and amazing than I ever could have imagined. So I kept researching and then dove right into writing!

Madison Moore, a Fort Wayne-raised author of "More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball," signs copies of her book at the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club.

IFW: We see that you dedicated this book to your father. Can you tell us about that?

MM: Yes! I never played basketball, but my dad played basketball in college. He said that when I was a kid, I wasn’t even remotely interested in playing basketball. (I did gymnastics for 12 years and now play professional ultimate frisbee!) So I wanted to dedicate this book to him as a way to make amends to the sport that he loves and that was such a big part of his life. At the same time, because of his love for basketball, the sport has always been a part of my life in some way. All of my siblings played; when I was a kid, all of my neighbors played in the cul-de-sac we lived on; even now, I like going to my dad’s 50+ league games at the YMCA. So I also wanted to thank him for making the sport part of my life, which definitely helped lead me to this book.

Madison Moore, a Fort Wayne-raised author of "More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball," signs copies of her book at the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club.

IFW: Your writing is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. What was it like working with the illustrator Lonnie Ollivierre?

MM: Lonnie’s art is beautiful, and so perfect for this story. We worked together through the publisher, so there wasn’t too much direct contact between us. But, one of the most exciting parts of creating a picture book is getting to see the art as it develops from rough sketches to finals. So, I loved seeing Lonnie’s work at all these different stages and being able to give some notes to help further marry the text and the art. The art has so much motion, and the colors really glow. I’m so happy we got to make this together!

Madison Moore, a Fort Wayne-raised author of "More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball," signs copies of her book at the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club.

IFW: We heard you worked closely with The Black Fives Foundation to do the required research for this book. What’s something everyone should know about this foundation? 

MM: The foundation is just the central hub for everything Black Fives! If you want to read more about any team, see photos, logos, read about early basketball––it’s all on the website. They also have a really awesome fan shop and collaboration with Puma, so you can get super cool Black Fives gear!

Attendees of a book signing at the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club.

IFW: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

MM: I’d tell an aspiring writer to do two things. First, open yourself up to inspiration. Everything around you can be the source of some kind of idea, project, or even just a sentence. I journal every morning to do a lot of thinking and reflection on what I saw, thought about, or enjoyed the previous day. I also jot down notes and sketches whenever I feel inspired. Noticing and keeping track of what strikes you is an important part of being creative! Second, I’d say to write what you like. Don’t try to write what you think you “should,” or what you think other people will like. Writing that comes from an authentic, personal place will always be stronger. Writing is a lot of isolated, individual work, so you’re only going to enjoy it if you’re writing about things you really care about.