What is the Gist of Your Story? #13

A sound premise and compelling themes are undoubtedly the hallmarks of great writing. In another addition to the SERIES on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Patricia McKinzie-Lechault. Ways to connect with her are blog / facebook / book website / sales website.

Author's Bio

As a pioneer for women’s basketball, Pat McKinzie is the first female athletic scholarship recipient in Illinois. She is one of the first Women’s Professional Basketball League draftees and female inductees in the Hall of Fame at Illinois State. After a 1983 car accident in France ended her international playing career, McKinzie began to focus her energy on coaching. With thirty years of experience in coaching, teaching, and writing, she has cultivated an impressive career from hall-of-fame coach to student advisor, columnist, and blogger. She is married to a Frenchman with whom she raised two Third Culture Kids, and she currently resides in Switzerland where she teaches at the International School of Geneva.

The background to Pat's memoir

Tall, smart and athletic, I grew up with three strikes against me. During a time in American history when women were not allowed on the playing fields, I felt like a misfit because I would rather play ball than Barbies. Throughout my career as a pioneer in women’s basketball, I suffered from discrimination and struggled for self-esteem in a society that refused to let me count. Ironically, during a time that the US had the scientific knowledge to drop an atomic bomb and put a man on the moon, the physical education association, backed by medical authorities, forbade competitive sport for girls insisting that rigorous exercise would interfere with their ability to bear children.

By virtue of this unfairness that impacted women’s lives as much as voting inequity had repressed human rights, I wrote a memoir that serves as an inspiring lesson in women’s history and what it meant to be an elite female athlete. But in the beginning, writing was only my way of processing my experiences and the hurt of being left out of the dream. After I finally reached my goal to play professional basketball abroad, a car accident shattered my career. When my body failed me, I thought I had nothing to offer the world until I saw the bigger picture.

My team experiences taught me tolerance as I learned to live with inner city blacks, gays, French and Germans.  As an educator, I applied that understanding and empathy to my teaching and coaching, as well as to my new experience as an expat in a different, more tolerant society.

I learned that it’s okay to be different and that sharing our stories is empowering. Confronted by numerous adversities, I show readers that it’s not about the challenges faced but rather how we handle each hurdle in life. My inspiring odyssey from the cornfields to the City of Lights teaches us all that we can write our own destiny…even if we have to re-learn how to hold a pen. As a coach, whether I am teaching freshmen to put together paragraphs, dyslexic students to unscramble words, or athletes to set a pick and roll, I inspire courage, break barriers, and create connections. And the more I shine my light on others, the greater it shines within me.

The premise of Pat’s memoir

History has shown that the shortsighted ideologies of the powers that be can suppress human rights by denying people equal opportunities as much as they like, but in the end the human spirit will triumph. Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball tells the inside story of a generation of women who came of age coinciding with the controversial Title IX (1972), which mandated equality regardless of race or gender in all publically funded schools. This book is important because, despite many victories, the struggle for gender and racial equality continues.

The main themes and subthemes driving Pat’s story

  • Intolerance not only against women, but also all minorities
  • Adaptation and compromise—through my team experiences, inter cultural marriage to a Frenchman, giving birth abroad, I reveal misconceptions about other countries and subcultures
  • Dilemmas the female athlete confronts, such as discrimination, sexual identity and pregnancy, as well as those genderless issues like the loss of physical ability
  • Female empowerment through education

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

How Pat is using the themes to promote her book

The book is being circulated to libraries and museums, such as the newly opened Illinois Basketball Museum.

During the summer, I will be speaking about the book at the Kewanee and Rotary Club, which is ironical because the organization excluded women until the 1980s.

I will be a guest at the Senior National Games in Cleveland 2013 where the Senior National Women’s Basketball Association will showcase my book.

During 2013-14 school year, I will be speaking to senior students in international high schools in Switzerland.

As part of the inaugural program linked throughout the University of Wisconsin’s new General Education Curriculum Theme of women’s athletics, Title IX and its impact on women, I been invited to speak at the DIII Final Four hosted byUWSP in March 2014. After all these years, I am finally going to the Big Dance!

I will be collaborating with the communications director at Illinois State University, who will be helping launch a campaign with a tour coinciding with March Madness 2014.

Please note that, by popular demand, this blog series will continue a while longer.