SERIES / Themes & Premise

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

story themesAuthor’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.

BookCoverImage-199x300The 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

Women'sBasketball_Mar1978_K29V-3-78_ACCESS_copyDuring 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 by UWSP 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.

27 thoughts on “What is the Gist of Your Story? #13

  1. Thank heavens for people like Pat who won’t accept ‘No’ as an answer. Now we seem to be growing into an era when the sort of mindless discrimination she faced is waning, at least in most of the world. But it would be too easy to be complacent and that’s why books like this hold such a valuable place in our literature, keeping us mindful of the pitfalls whilst showing what can be achieved through sheer determination, guts and positive attitude.

    I have one small problem with the title, however: not being an American, Title XI means nothing to me and I’m left with only the reference to basketball to attract my attention. This is clearly a book that should reach well beyond America, just as its author has, so it needs an internationally comprehensible title.

    Her premise, to show what really is possible, is superb.

    • Well said about Pat’s resilience, Ian.

      I share your unfamiliarity with Title XI. I had to Google it and do my research … found the notion and its history fascinating. It absolutely is a book that will find its audience wide and far, even just considering the number of American expats all over the world. In one way, the title might elicit intrigue and in another it might invite indifference due to ignorance. Worth thinking about, Pat?

      • Thanks, Ian and Belinda for bringing this issue to my attention. I really appreciate the opportunity Belinda gave me to reach a wider market, the expat community, through her work on this blog. When I could no longer play sport, I subconsciously transferred that self-discipline to writing, which as you both know is as arduous as running a marathon.

    • Thanks, Ian. My French husband kept saying no one in Europe knows what Title IX means, but initially when I wrote the book, I had no idea that the story would interest the international community so greatly. My colleagues at the international school where I teach were dumbfounded when I told them that as a girl I was not allowed to participate in sports. Originally the sub title was chosen to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Title IX amendment, which was a hot topic in the USA. But of course the writing, editing, and publishing biz takes so long, July 23 will mark the 41st anniversary.

  2. Pat, reading about your past struggles and your accomplishments in view of all that, I want to say thank goodness you’re different—being who YOU are now means that the world gets a live-and-learned perspective on equality issues that, sadly, still exist in some form or fashion all over the world.

    Welcome at My Rite of Passage and thank you for sharing your story here. Your books has a definitive appeal yet wide focus; with such worthy themes it can only do well and I wish you much success.

    • Thanks, Belinda, for providing me with another venue to tell my story, which is really the story of what it feels like to be left out of the dream and yet, never give up. I feel my life, (and those of women of that era), represent a right of passage to the next generation.

  3. Pat, Your invitation to speak at the DIII Final Four next March says it all. You are the epitome of an inspirational trailblazer; a woman on fire with a message of perseverance, courage and triumph. Your memoir is a gift and a tribute to that fighting McKinzie spirit! You make it happen. I always feel so pumped up after reading your posts :-) Thanks Belinda for featuring Pat.

      • Thanks, Belinda, but I am humbled to be featured here. Your coaching on this piece helped me clarify the premise and message. Never underestimate the power of your platform and your words. We all have a story to share and we are connected in so many ways that I truly hope we will meet in person one day.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I feel like you have been with me every step of the way from the DanClan to Sonia’s Gutsy Independent Publishers to Belinda’s Rites of Passage Blog. Yes, I did inherit that fighting McKinzie spirit that was finally nurtured on America’s playing fields, but it is people like you that believed in me and helped create connections that gave me the courage to share my story.

  4. Pat, I remember arguing with my gym teacher in high school in the 50s. Why couldn’t I dribble the ball past midcourt? Why couldn’t we, the girls, play basketball like the boys did? So glad Title IX was passed. Looking forward to reading your book.

    • Jan, the gym teachers were still telling me to slow down in the 60s. But the legendary Jill Hutchinson, my college coach at Illinois State University, proved that a woman’s heart wouldn’t explode by running up and down a full court. For her master’s thesis, she attached electrodes to female athletes and measuring their heart rate. Though the Division of Girls and Women’s Sports (DGWS) opposed any alterations in the rules, Hutchison’s research forced them to make a change. Consequently, the half court game with 6 women to a side (2 defenders, 2 rovers, and 2 attackers limited to one third of the court) was abandoned, except in Iowa and Oklahoma. The faster 5-on-5 full court game became official in the 1970-71 season.
      Thanks for commenting. I hope you enjoy the book. I wrote it in part for women like you who may have wanted to compete, but were never given the opportunity.

    • Jan, the gym teachers were still telling me to slow down in the 60s. But the legendary Jill Hutchison, my college coach at Illinois State University, proved that a woman’s heart wouldn’t explode by running up and down a full court. For her master’s thesis, she attached electrodes to female athletes and measured their heart rate. Though the Division of Girls and Women’s Sports (DGWS) opposed any alterations in the rules, Hutchison’s research forced them to make a change. Consequently, the half court game with 6 women to a side (2 defenders, 2 rovers, and 2 attackers limited to one third of the court) was abandoned, except in Iowa and Oklahoma. The faster 5-on-5 full court game became official in the 1970-71 season.
      Thanks for commenting. I hope you enjoy the book. I wrote it in part for women like you who may have wanted to compete, but were never given the opportunity.

  5. Pat, so nice to see you on Belinda’s blog. Your story fascinates me because of the wide spectrum of inequities for women and a large number of minorities. It was a time when even those of us who were discriminated against following divorce in a variety of ways — denied credit cards, denied auto insurance, employed doing a man’s job but receiving less in wages (still true today) and much more. I admire your courage and determination to spread the word about your acceptance of what was set before you in order to accomplish your dream. I agree with Kathy that your invitation to the Final Four next March speaks well to the respect you have obviously earned among your peers and others. Hip hip hooray, Pat!

    • Ditto, Sherrey. Although my athletics ambitions (gymnastics) were quelled by my parents’ mindset and sanctions against S.A. at the time, I experienced gender discrimination in the work place and … oh yes, my first marriage. Ugh, on both accounts, plus racial discrimination of the past and present! So yes, hip-hip-hooray to Pat, because we must never give up on our efforts to make the world a better place that’s accepting of all.

      • Belinda, thanks so much for your support. I can hear you cheering from across the miles.I can’t wait to read Out of Sync because I have felt that way so many times in my life, first as young girl feeling left out of the dream and later as a foreigner living in France, Germany and Switzerland with all the language and cultural misunderstandings that are inherent in any expat’s life.

        • Do read Out of Sync, Pat. it’s energising! And it will inspire you to keep going when things are against you and you keel like chucking your hand in. If Belinda were an adhesive shed make Super Glue look weak, she’s so tenacious. It’s a wonderful quality to have.

          • Ian and Belinda,
            I can’t WAIT to read Out of Sync…it is the carrot at the end of the stick…my reward for making it through the school year. I have 2 weeks to go. I will read it first thing in summer holidays and write a review.

          • You’re a star, Pat! Thanks for the exchange (I trust you received the gift copy?) I’ll be reading Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball soon; I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve posted a review. Have a super holiday!

    • Thanks for your support Sherrey. Within my story are sub stories of discrimination faced by other minorities. I am glad that you mentioned the other very crucial aspects of gender inequity and ways in which society short-changed women throughout history even in the “democratic” western world. Although I focused on equality in education and athletics, you and Belinda have raised about other important issues over equal rights such as lack of equitable pay. The very fact that gender inequity still exists is disconcerting and makes it even more important that we share our stories.
      When I go to the Big Dance, the Final Four next March, I will be kicking up my heels in celebration for a generation of women.

  6. Belinda, your blog certainly rakes up a lot of vigorous and interesting comment and raises issues that need a a good airing. I’ve now looked up Title XI and, although i don’t even now fully understand it, I’m amazed that such discrimination should persist so strongly and in so many fields.
    I know female fighter and helicopter pilots, a lady deep sea diver – the commercial, working kind who mends oil rigs – surgeons, carpet weavers, artists, writers, sports coaches and all sorts. Apart from one one instance (I don’t fancy sleeping with blokes) I can’t think of any justifiable reason for gender discrimination. Perhaps we all need to see others as ‘people’ first and foremost and only think of their gender when it’s actually relevant.
    Well done Pat for precipitating this debate. May your voice be heard far and wide, and listened to.

    • “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

      These are the words of the law known as Title IX, which President Nixon signed on June 23, 1972. Its regulations were to be final by July 21, 1975, with full compliance required by 1978, which was met with great resistance in the beginning because of the revenue involved in American scholastic sports. Men did not want to share the pot of gold that is Division 1 college sport.

      As you said, Ian, “we need to see others as people first and foremost,” instead of a race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity, which is why our work as writers is so important. I can see from your website you have had a fascinating life story and I look forward to following your work.

      • Yes, Pat, I finally found out about Title IX through the wonders of Google but however much it may be enshrined on law, it seems there are many gaps where there is still gender based discrimination in the US. In the rest of the world it is rife too. That’s where your book can be so useful in highlighting the anomalies and inequalities. I look forward to leaning more when I read it as there is always room for everyone of us to learn on this subject.

        If you’re interested in my crazy life, two of my books are now out as e-books ( the link is on my website), all the paperbacks are available though Amazon, and I’ve just finished the first draft of another volume of memoirs – about sorcery (and orange peel) this time.

        Keep up the good work barnstorming!

        • Yes, Ian it is so true that for all the advances we’ve made, all kinds of inequity and discrimination still exists in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Since you have expressed so much interest in the topic, I would be happy to send you a Kindle copy of my book, just let me know. I am swamped with end of year hoop a la at the international school where I teach, but look forward to reading your work this summer while on holidays.

  7. Pingback: The Gist of a Great Blog Series | My Rite of Passage

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