Cross, Shauna 1976(?)-
Cross, Shauna 1976(?)-
Born c. 1976. Education: Attended University of Texas.
Home—Los Angeles, CA.
Author and screenwriter. Los Angeles Derby Dolls (roller derby team), member under name Maggie Mayhem.
Whip It! (movie adaptation of Derby Girl), Flower Films, 2009.
Also author of screenplays, including Shake It Up, for Disney.
After attending film school at the University of Texas, Shauna Cross set her sights on Los Angeles to begin a career in the film industry. Moving to Southern California in 2001, Cross began writing screenplays while looking for her big break. During that time, she also discovered the world of women's roller derby, a move that ultimately led to successful publication of both a young-adult novel, Derby Girl, and the production of a screenplay, Whip It!
Competing under the name Maggie Mayhem, Cross joined the Los Angeles Derby Dolls in the mid-2000s, becoming a participant in the cross-country resurgence of roller derby. Acting upon the advice of a friend, she has turned those experiences into a young-adult novel about a teenaged girl named Bliss Cavendar who uses the sport as a way to assert her independence. Set in the small town of Bodeen, Derby Girl relates Bliss's story about growing up in the state of Texas. To a certain extent, some aspects of the book may be seen as autobiographical; in an interview with J.L. Sosa for FilmSchoolRejects.com, Cross explained that she combined her experiences growing up in the Lone Star State with her time in LA roller rinks. "My mom did not push me into beauty pageants, but I grew up with those girls and it always fascinated/creeped me out," the author told Sosa. "The juxtaposition of the beauty pageant world and the roller derby world was really fascinating to me because they both represent two extreme ideas of femininity."
Cross examines both those sides through Derby Girl's rebellious protagonist, Bliss. The daughter of an overbearing mother, Bliss prefers punk rock music, Converse sneakers, and blue hair to her mother's penchant for beauty contests. Together with friend Pash Amini, Bliss fights boredom in her dull hometown, eventually venturing to nearby Austin to watch a roller-derby event. Thrilled by the bone-jarring collisions as much as by the wild costumes, Bliss fibs about her age in order to qualify to join a team, competing under the name Babe Ruthless. Throughout the process, she learns a few lessons about the complexities of the adult world, just as her parents learn to accept their daughter's independent nature.
Reviewers offered a variety of thoughts on Cross's first novel for young adults. Writing in Kliatt, Myrna Marler found merit in the author's depiction "of a smart, sassy, opinionated, arrogant girl who takes extreme pride in her own distinctiveness," the critic adding that by the end of Derby Girl Bliss learns the importance of respecting the lifestyle choices of others. Despite suggesting that the book rehashes stock elements of teen literature, a Publishers Weekly critic found much merit in the novel's action scenes. Cross "shines in describing the dashing world of roller derby," the critic wrote, and "her naked enthusiasm for the edgy, underground sport injects some energy" to the novel. A Kirkus Reviews contributor also offered positive comments regarding Cross's first effort. Although acknowledging the ending as too orderly, the contributor claimed that "sharp humor dominates this entertaining debut," making Derby Girl "exuberant and insightful."
Deciding that her story would translate well to the movie screen, Cross adapted Derby Girl, and Hollywood actor Drew Barrymore quickly picked up the movie rights to the screenplay. Starring Ellen Page, the retitled Whip It! was also slated to be Barrymore's first effort behind the camera as a director.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2007, April Spisak, review of Derby Girl, p. 169.
Daily Variety, June 19, 2008, Sharon Swart, "Ten Screenwriters to Watch," p. A11.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Derby Girl.
Kliatt, September, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Derby Girl, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2007, review of Derby Girl, p. 62.
School Library Journal, December, 2007, Julianna M. Helt, review of Derby Girl, p. 124.
Film School Rejects Web site,http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/ (January 12, 2008), J.L. Sosa, interview with Cross.