BALTIMORE — Becca Mann says "The Stolen Dragon of Quanx" is close to being published, perhaps early next month. And she might have completed the 450-page manuscript for the first installment of the planned "Eyes Trilogy" sooner if so many other things hadn't taken up her time.
There were the frequent trips from southwest suburban Chicago to the west coast of Florida to work with an eminent coach and finally a move south for Mann three years ago. Then another move, in January, to Baltimore, as Mann continued to seek the coaching she felt would further her swimming career.
And there was swimming in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, where she was fifth in two events and sixth in a third. Competing in the open water events at the 2013 World Championships. Winning her first U.S. open water title in June. Preparing to swim five pool events at the U.S. championships Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif., where she will be a podium contender in the distance freestyles and individual medleys and can get a leg up on making the 2015 world team.
Not to mention school.
It all meant Mann needed to take a year's break from writing "The Stolen Dragon of Quanx." When she got back to it, much of the first couple of chapters needed reworking, not surprising since Mann first had written them at age 11.
She is only 16 now.
She wants no extra credit for being precocious.
"I don't like to think of accomplishments based on my age," Mann said. "I don't judge myself against anything."
For an athlete, that really cannot be the case because results and times always will be measures of accomplishment. By those standards, even in a sport like women's swimming where youth frequently is served, Mann's early success is impressive.
And getting a book ready to be self-published by age 16 isn't bad, either. Where that goes remains to be seen. But think of another fantasy genre writer, Christopher Paolini: he wrote a first draft of "Eragon" at 15, self-published it with his family three years later, had the book picked up by a major publisher and later made into a movie.
"Very interesting!" Mann wrote in an email after learning the back story of Eragon's success.
Mann's mother, Beth, a real estate attorney, was not initially aware that her daughter had begun writing a book.
She also was not surprised that the middle of her three children was doing it.
"I would expect that," Beth Mann said. "Everyone has projects in our house."
Make that houses.
The biggest project may be keeping track of who is doing what, when and where in households with schedules so complicated no one dares miss one of the regular family calendar meetings that allow Beth Mann to make sure everyone is accounted for. That includes Dock, a beach stray cat from Florida whom the Manns took in, brought to Baltimore and fly to Illinois to join Becca's other cat, Backstroke, when she is on long swimming trips.
"I'm a big planner," Beth Mann said, grievously understating the truth outlined in her three family calendars.
She and Becca are sitting in the dining room of a rented house about a mile uphill from Meadowbrook, a pool where literary giant F. Scott Fitzgerald swam during his years in Baltimore, the pool where Becca trains with the aquatic giants of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. It is as if her being at Meadowbrook owes more to destiny than coincidence, that this is the place where a young writer/swimmer should be.
Especially because few young people have taken charge of their destinies as thoroughly as Becca Mann has.
It was she who pushed at age 13 for the move to Belleair Beach, Fla., so she could train full time with swimming Hall of Fame coach Randy Reese. Her parents went along with the idea despite its logistical consequences, which included making sure someone was in the rented house in Florida — mother, father, grandparent, friend — to be with Becca.