After the Shot Drops hits shelves today! Much love to the team that helped bring this story to life:
To Kathryn—thank you for pretty much everything. I am a better writer and a better human being because of you. Thank you for reading so many drafts of everything I write, for board game date nights, for weekend hikes, and for season one of The Amazing Race.
To my parents—thank you for believing in me throughout the years. To my brother and sister—thank you for being excited about my writing even when I wasn’t. To all of my family—thank you for the love you send across borders and oceans. From your kind words to the selfies with my first book you posted online when you found it in the store, your support makes my heart explode.
To all of my students, past and present—thank you for inspiring me and for continuing to give me hope in the next generation. I truly believe you are more aware and more compassionate than any other.
To Margaret Raymo and the entire HMH crew—thank you for believing in this story, whipping it into shape, and sending it out into the real world. It would be grossly obvious to say this book would not exist without you all, so I won’t.
To Kaylee Davis, Kimiko Nakamura, and Dee Mura—thank you for your editorial feedback and moral support, and for handling all the business-y type stuff so I can focus on playing make believe.
To Paul Davis—thank you for giving me insight into what life is like for a high school basketball star. Though, I’m pretty sure I beat you one-on-one when we were kids in that little court in your backyard. If not, I’m still going to tell people that I did.
To Aaron Kim, who read the very first version of Nasir and Bunny’s tale when it was just a short story—thank you for your critique notes and encouragement as I turned it into a full novel. I still remember the exact moment when you told me you knew you’d see it in a bookstore someday.
To my early readers: RJ McDaniel, Xavier Berry, Shahmar Beasley, Miles Burton, Brendan Kiely, Patrice Caldwell, and others—thank you for your honest feedback. This story is better because of each one of you. Of course, all mistakes are my own.
To Dr. Kate Delaney—thank you for answering my weird medical questions. Book-related and otherwise.
To Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Blue Scholars, and Tupac—thank you for your music. Your songs played as I wrote much of this book, and I know my words would not have been the same without yours.
To Loki and Arwen—you can’t read this because you are dogs, but thank you for making sure I wake up in the morning. Also, you are very soft, which I like.
To my YA communities in Philly, the Bay Area, and online—thank you for the panels and Twitter chats, the advice, the writing sessions, the companionship, the conversations, and the commiseration. Thank you for making me feel included, and thank you for the stories you tell.
Thank you to the teachers and counselors and coaches who care, to the teammates who know they need to look out for each other on and off the court, to the librarians and booksellers and bloggers who know that stories can save lives, and to anyone who fights for careful representation because they know how much it matters.
Finally, thank you, dear reader. You are why I write.