Thursday, December 31, 2009
There will be fireworks over San Miguel at midnight to ring in the New Year. We have a lot of business in our spa! Yeah! All the tension and desperation I carried around in my shoulders during 2009, due to business being down and our ability to pay bills curtailed, is gone. For this week at least. I hope this bodes well for 2010. My psychic 15-year old daughter says the coming year will be better.
Going to write about the Teen Writers Workshop in Feburary for my Writer´s Corner column for www.sanmiguelmagazine.com now!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Just go to YouTube and search Fast Break South. Hope you like it!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
As a writer, Alexandra enjoys penning fiction, fantasy and poems. Alexandra´s blog is http://alexandraroman.wordpress.com/
I was excited to meet Alexandra (electronically) because she is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, where my youngest brother was born! We lived in Puerto Rico several summers when I was a kid, as my father coached in the island´s basketball league, Baloncesto Superior. There is a story I wrote about that time, and about my brother´s birth, in a tropical hospital staffed with nuns, over on Alexandra´s blog today. It´s called Basketball and Banana Leaves. Check it out!
Here are some questions I asked Alexandra:
S. I don´t know if bilingual people understand what a gift it is to be truly bilingual. My kids, for example, take it for granted. Are you completely comfortable writing in English and Spanish? Which do you prefer?
A. Yes, in my household we speak both languages. My daughter prefers English and she sounds more American than Puerto Rican. When I´m writing a story, it all depends on how it comes to me. Stories talk to a writer and when you are bilingual, it speaks to you in the way it wants to be told. I translate them so they can be enjoyed by those that don´t understand both languages. I don´t have a preference, but for this novel I did. It needed to be written first in Spanish. I´m working with a translator now so it can be told in English too.
S. The Carribean Islands possess a whole culture that fascinates me: part island, with influences from the Europeans and Africans who stopped by in ships. Do you feel connected to the American literary scene?
A. Yeah, it´s part of the cirriculum in English classes, not so much the classics, but we do get to read Edgar Allen Poe, whom I like, and Emily Dickenson. I have read many others in high school and college, but most of the fiction I read, I´ve found on my own. We are connected to the American literary scene in many ways. Right now there is a big demand for everything Twilight, from that American author, Stephenie Meyer. Many of the movies Puerto Ricans enjoy are based on American novels, and most tend to go to the bookstore and buy those novels. Whether we like it or not, the American influence is there, and will be when we go to the bookstores.
S. I myself am trying to connect to the American literary mainstream from Mexico, and am having my memoir turned down by agent after agent. The reason I hear most often is that the only memoirs that are selling right now are those by nationally prominent people. Can you talk about your experiences trying to publish in the US?
A. It´s difficult because America is a big country and the publishing houses have hundreds of manuscripts delivered to them daily. With this economy trying to pull itself out of a depression, the publishing houses will go with the authors who will make them money. I tried with short stories first and it was very difficult even to place work in magazines. Most of them don´t want new or emerging authors in their magazines, and agents are reacting the same way. It has happened to me lots of times. The key is to never give up, and to keep believing in your work. You will find somebody who will back it up.
S. How has your beautiful island of Puerto Rico influenced your writing? Who do you see as your audience? What are you writing next?
A. Nature is my true inspiration. Sometimes, on weekends, I go for drives with my family to the island shores or to the mountains. It is just what I need to recharge the creative batteries. Puerto Rico has lots of magnificent places to visit and admire. From these breathtaking spots, I draw the strength I need to create.
I know my target audience is Young Adult. It is who I go for. They are not easy to target! The Young Adult reader is very picky in his choices and you have to grab his attention with your writing. Mostly, they enjoy fiction, as I do. So far so good! I have worked with a youth group for over fifteen years now. I share my work with them and they give good feedback. Believe me, when they don´t like something, they let you know! That´s why I say they´re picky.
My mind is set on three things right now. One is a continuation of El Valle de la Inspiracion. But that is a long-term plan. For now, I´m thinking of writing a novel based on the women in my life. At the same time, I´m working on a story I´ve been struggling with for three years. It´s fiction. For now it is called, Los Maestros de AldGar. I´m trying to use the taino language. It´s complicated. It´s a work in progress. It´s on hold right now while I promote El Valle de la Inspiracion.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Now, I have to get that video trailer about the book finished. Yoohoo, Santiago at Zonagrafica!
I´ve made a couple of sales that I know of...to friends. It´s still exciting. My daughter with the psychic gifts said to me out of the blue about three days ago, "Mom, don´t bother with publishers. Nobody´s interested right now. Just do the book yourself." Interesting, as I hadn´t detailed to her much at all about getting my memoir up on Amazon as a Kindle book. The last agent rejection said publishers are only interested in celebrity memoirs right now.
http://tiny.cc/WIWiq That should take you right to the book on Amazon. Or you can search Fast Break South or Susan McKinney de Ortega.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My mother doesn´t have a Kindle by the way. She downloaded it through some Kindle/PC feature onto her computer.
People are laughing at my cover! Ahem. OK, it is a bit ridiculous. A girl on a galloping horse (the romance!) to represent a book that doesn´t have a single horse in it. Alright already. I´ll change it.
More news when a new cover is up!
Friday, November 13, 2009
Uploading to Amazon means the book it only available to Kindle readers, a growing population, from what I read. No hard copy. But I did it at no cost, except for exchanging some massages with Mary for the cover.
Has this been done before? Is this OK? Can I similarily upload it to nook and other readers? I have no idea. I´m guessing I´ll find out.
The cover uses a photo that my 14-year old Carla took of herself riding her horse, Lucky. It is actually a crisp shadow of them against a large flat rock. Since Lucky is galloping, the photo suggests movement, going places, travel, which are elements of my story. There are no actual
horses or riders in the memoir, but I liked the visual metaphor. Also Fast Break is a basketball term that means you´ve broken away from defenders and are going at breakneck speed to the basket for a layup. The other idea was a photo of the back of Carla, showing a single braid falling over her back in a jeans jacket embroidered with flowers. I like that too, but decided to go with the motion photo. Does it work? Check is out on Amazon on Monday, read the book and tell me!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
This year, those timeless teen-pleasing topics - Fantasy and Science Fiction!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
For five or six years, Bev and Sandra Gulland (Mistress of the Sun, the Josephine B. Trilogy) met regularly and exchanged chapters and pages of what we were working on. We met at Bella Italia when it was on Hernandez Macias and had the big parrot in its courtyard. We each ordered the beef filet each time and Bev, a margarita, Sandra, white wine and me, a beer. Every once in awhile, Bev and Sandra would go through a non-drinking period, but I never failed to order my Dos X. Our meetings were sustenance as a writer for me.
So Bev was back last week. Over dinner, I was happy to learn that she still swears like a truck driver, and that she seems pretty darn happy with her life. She came to Colegio Siglo XXI and spoke to my advanced English students about writing and having had a movie made of her life (Riding in Cars with Boys). They were impressed with her candor and willingness to talk about everything in her life. I said that is what makes a good memoir writer.
Bev is on her way back to her beloved cabin now, and on a bright note, writer pal, Sandra Gulland arrives in San Miguel tomorrow!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Dos: Meet your friends at the fountain at the San Miguel fair at sundown.
Tres: Eat tacos and elote (corn on the cob) at the fair.
Cuatro: Pay 15 pesos and get strapped in and bungie-jump at the fair.
Cinco: Hear the free music and plan to return to the fair next year.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
But yo, he said he couldn´t put it down. He says I´m doing it all wrong. I need to stress to agents that they will learn What Happened to Jack McKinney. I immediately think of some Manhattan women who have no clue who Jack McKiiney. Those women who work as agents who I have been contacting. Who yawn at my story. So I think OK, maybe this guy, Pat, is right. I´ll try it his way.
To be continued.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
And it was easy.
And it was fun.
And the story is good.
Pant, pant. I´m back.
And it feels good.
PS This space will soon - like when Sean gets home from school - have the correct titles and author named of the abovementioned favorite books. Apologies to the author.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Jesus identified a spirit or ghost who lived in the area of a mesquite tree on the property, rather peacefully. The problem, he noted, was not the ghost but the manager of one of the houses, whose livlihood would be threatened by a sale. Would he keep his job? Yes, Maggi concurred. Don Mario, we´ll call him, had been less than friendly, since an imminent sale was announced.
Don Jesus´mission was to cleanse the energy around Maggi´s house and minimize the impact of Don Mario´s insecurity. Again, as with the Burch´s house, Jesus opened windows, spread his magic water across the floors and spritzed the air. Then he cleansed all of us inside, including me, so we could spread good energy to the newly uncontaminated space.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Carla´s idea for her own party is that it will be at the equestrian center where we ride. She will wear riding gear, and when she is introduced, ride into the party on Lucky. Her chambelánes will be the grooms who tack the horses up - Ramiro, Chon and maybe Xavier nephew of the equestrian center owner. The idea started out as a joke but lately I´m thinking it´s not such a bad idea.
For the last couple of years, my Philadlephia friend, Amanda and I have been discussing about doing a double quinceaños party for our girls, Carla and Lily. We started this talk when they were twelve and had similar interests. But this summer, it turns out Lily came down from Philly as a designer flip-flop combined with old basketball shirt sort of kid, while Carla´s favorite story of the summer is how she chased down an escaped bull that was housed at our dressage barn for an upcoming Western event. Carla, in other words, is more of a horse gal than ever.
We have until next summer to plan an event, and I´m guessing formal dresses and a sparkling disco ball are not in the picture. My friend Gina, whose daughter went to pre-school and first grade in San Miguel, jokes maybe drive her dressed-up daughter through their western Massachusettes town in a pick-up as a celebration.
I´m open to all suggestions.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The house, with its lovely pepper tree-shaded garden, newly belongs to our Philadelphia friends, the Burches. They asked me to call Don Jesus. I´ve been a client of his for years. I see him when I get loaded up with people´s energy after giving lots of massages. A little copal, some general brushing off with an eagle´s wing, some energy moving with his hands inches from my skin and I´m good as new.
Don Jesus twitched, walking through the kitchen, from all the heavy, old energy left in the house after the previous owner´s months with cancer and her death. He said the house had two spirits hanging around. "Not bad spirits?" Charlie Burch asked. "I mean, like OK fellows?"
"You spend the night here and tell me tomorrow," Don Jesus said. He advised the family to light little alcohol fires at 8 that night in the strategic spots he showed them in the garden to shoo the lingering spirits.
After advising Charlie to open all the windows, he doused the floors with tap water mixed with some water he brought in a bottle, and moved it into the corners with a broom. When it dried, he lit little fires inside the rooms on a circle of rubbing alcohol he had squirted. Then he misted the air with another liquid he´d brought.
"Ya," he said, spreading his hands. All done.
"With all the stale energy gone, now the trabajadores will do better work And your family can move in comfortably."
We´ll see if the new energy helps convince city officials to grant the Burches a garage.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
"I have the best news ever!" Susan gushed.
Can´t be a new baby, I thought. You´re going on a cruise? It´s going to rain in central Mexico soon?
"Guess who we got to keynote at the Writers Conference?" Susan began to hyperventilate.
"Who?" I obliged, but I was beginning to get excited too. Then I thought, nah, with a buildup like this, it´s likely to be disappointing.
OK. Susan had me. I was speechless. Then I caught the aroma of lavender on a passing breeze, and breathed deeply.
"Susan. Wow!" This is how you know I am a writer; I use big words.
Barbara Kingsolver! I read The Poisonwood Bible about a year ago, and thought, this writer is a heavyweight.
The San Miguel Writers Conference takes place February 19-23, 2010 in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. For more information, go to www.sanmiguelworkshops.com.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Three agents have asked for my first 30 or 50 pages. So I´m Waiting To Hear. And Should Be Writing. Anybody notice that I´m not?
I wrote a novel before without planning the plot beforehand, and that novel is in a file, suffering from structural problems. I don´t want to make the same mistake again. I´m Thinking...that´s what I´m doing! I am really, and making notes. So that once I begin to write the YA novel I´ve mentioned, I can power ahead.
Anyone ever work in cable TV? Can you describe a cable station to me? As in physically. I worked in local network television (WISC-TV, Madison, Wisconsin) and have a good idea of its layout and workings. Is a local cable station in the 1970s different? Cable TV is key, as I´ll reveal as I get the story going, only to my readers here!
Friday, July 17, 2009
When we went for a pollo a week ago, a new hand-lettered sign said the chickens were now $80 pesos. Outraged, we stalked off, and dined on cold cuts that Sunday. By Monday, the chickens were back to 50 pesos.
"What´s the message here?" I asked Carlos. "Tourist prices on Sundays only?"
"Nah," Carlos said. "Es que the owners were probably out of town and the employees jacked up the prices so they could pocket the difference."
Oh, silly me, to not have remembered how absurd and funny life is in Mexico.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I was invited to speak to University of New Orlean´s Summer Program memoir class today by the teacher, memoirist Kristen Iversen. First everyone spoke about his or her project. Some are just starting the process of writing non-fiction; some are close to finishing and looking at agents and marketing. Seemed like an admirable group who shared a willingness to look at their varied themes head-on.
I talked about how long it has taken me to write my memoir (hm, ten years), the pages I thought were so important that have been cut, the idea of theme. That once you can identify your theme, you can let it guide you about what to include and what not to include in your writing. Hope I talked smart!
Wanted to go to the UNO Open Mike reading tonight, but I´m home watching Wipeout with my kids. I have to cover my eyes for most of it.
Ít´s summer. The summer people are in town, which means I go out a lot with friends who only come in July. It´s fun and exhausting, and my kids need me home sometimes. Like tonight.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Celebrate is a stretch of a word. Carlos and I planned to see the play Jamaica, Farewell and then go to the after-play reception at the home of the play´s producer and my good friend, Jody. Out without the kids! But Carlos went to the Hyder House and did a million massages late in the day, and had to cancel the play (not regretfully, I suspect). So I took the kids to the play, and we sent some text messages to each other around 10 pm. You are thinking, "I love you honey. I´m glad I´m married to you." It was, "Aqui, con Jody."
"Cansado. A la casa."
On the way home, Carlos ran into his brother, Hector, and wife, Maribel and wouldn´t you know...they ended up going for a beer at Mama Mia. We grunted at each other when he rolled into bed about 1 am.
July 11, 1994 -
My parents speak no Spanish and are wonderously overdressed. Not really, but I have NEVER seen anyone wear a beautiful summer-wool suit in San Miguel. But that´s my father. Handsome as ever, walking me down the aisle with all the Go, Get-em vibe he can transfer to me with his smile. Even though I´m pregnant and marrying a guy without a high school degree or a job.
Then there are my in-laws - my father-in-law pulling at a borrowed sports jacket, my mother-in-law, pretty in a champagne colored dress that she unfortunately has to cover with a jacket because the zipper up the back suddenly broke. Clutching hands with my mom because neither speaks the other´s language. The wedding is detailed in my memoir, Fast Break South, which is presently seeking representation.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The honoree was the daughter of a teacher friend of Hector, Carlos´ brother. So Hector and his wife, Mari and their 9-year old made up the rest of our gang, occupying a long table on the second level, the perfect perch from which to spy on the teenagers, once, after the father-daughter dance, and the escort-quinceñera dance, the discoing began. Research, let´s call it, into the world of teens, if I´m going to be writing about and for them.
Alex´s kids are two tall good-looking blondes - Brad, 19 and Chris, 15. After several summers of swimming and outings with them, our girls are a bit immune to their charms. But not all the girls were. One particular 14-year old asked Brad to dance every single dance, and made him pinky-promise to come back each time he went to the bathroom. Another Mexican gal asked Chris, who was stuffing his face with cake, to dance. Chris said, "I´m eating cake."
"Chris," I growled at him.
"What?" he said, through crumbs.
"O.K." he said, and went down to find the girl who had found the courage to invite him to dance.
My Carla, who at age 14, is more interested in horses than boys, was asked to dance by a guy she´s known for awhile, who happens to be a senior in high school. When he asked for the following dance, she begged off, and ran up to me. "My God, Mom," she said. "Once was enough!"
No mean girls or fast boys. A less hurried, less frenetic life for adolescents? I´ve never tried to raise my kids in the United States of America, but I tend to think so.
Monday, July 6, 2009
So I´m thinking of my YA novel, set in 1974. I picked the brain of my friend, Mary, who like me, was in high school in the seventies. She owns Libros El Tecolote, a superb independent book store, here in San Miguel.
Mary remembers Zots candy, smiley face buttons, James Taylor, Jethro Tull and Ozium, which covered the odor of pot. I remembered painter pants, Kool and the Gang and Dungeons and Dragons. Does anyone play that any more?
Friday, July 3, 2009
He loves NBA basketball, he likes Romance and he signed off his last blog post with Que tenga buen fin de semana. What´s to lose?
My 14-year old daughter, who is psychic, says a tall graying man will be interested in publishing my book in July or August. Does that sound farfetched? Down here in Mexico it doesn´t. It´s July already. so i´d like to secure representation pretty soon, so this canoso publisher can find me.
Oh, perfect fit of an agent, please come forward!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
I plugged in Memoir, and was perusing the agents who say they are interested in memoir, when all of the sudden one stood out. It´s a gal in New York who SPEAKS FLUENT SPANISH!
Sent my query for my Mexican memoir, Fast Break South off to her today. She studied in Spain. We´ll see if she has an interest in Mexico too.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Of course I want to get it in the mail to someone else asap, but I am being advised by a published author friend who is in Colorado to wait Mexico, it seems, presently has an unfavorable image in the US. And agents and editors, the reasoning goes, will have a hard time convincing the marketers that they can sell my book.
I AM NOT A PATIENT PERSON!
Wait or don´t wait. Comments?
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Here´s what came to me: Katie is new in school and wants to be POpULar! It´s 1974. (This much I arlready knew.) She´s a Soul Train-loving chick from Philadelphia, entering a conservative school in Wisconsin where kids still go to cotillions (she has to look the word up). She gets pulled into all the geek groups, like the Cable TV Club, while her younger sister´s popularity star shines. I don´t want to give everything away, but let´s just say that she discovers that the very elements that keep her from rising from obscurity, are suddenly the things that rocket her to not just popularity, but fame.
I mean, who doesn´t want to be on TV?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Now, she needs a PLAN! What is her plan for becoming popular?
Of course, she´ll misread all the signs (like in the new school, watching Soul Train is not only not popular, the kids have barely even heard of it), and her sister makes all the teams she tries out for and is elected to Student Council, but what about Wanna Be Cool Katie?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
She replied within 30 minutes that she had; she was reading it and she would get back to me soon.
My memoir is about growing up in an sports-dominated household (my father, Jack McKinney coached in the National Basketball League in the 70s and 80s). That´s the first element. The second element is my romance with a poor Mexican teenager.
If you wonder how the two are related, it´s in the book, and I hope the publishing gods smile on me you can read it some day soon.
Hey, I love to follow writers on Twitter, and you can follow me: mckinneyortega (!)
Monday, June 8, 2009
Keith and I talked about the publishing industry. He said, he never subscribed to a newspaper or read one, but now that he carried an I-phone (or was it a Blackberry?) he reads 30 - 40 minutes of news a day. Because he has access to the internet, he reads! A new reader!
From what I have read on Publishers Lunch and other sources, the publishing industry seems pretty alarmed at what Kindle and on-demand and on-line publishers mean for the future of traditional publishing, but YOO HOO! maybe the worry can be taken down a notch. Does anybody like me, think that new readers is GOOD NEWS for publishers and the writers of books?
I know. Keith was only one example, but I´m betting he stood for many more like him. I think the future of publishing will be different, but not grim.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
My writing partners, both published authors - Sandra Gulland and Beverly Donofrio, liked chapters from my novel King of the World when we were reviewing them about two years ago, but the structure needs work and I have to admit, I was disillusioned by the reaction of a famous editor (non-fiction editor, mind you) who read it. He took my $175 US dollar consultation fee, sat back and said, "I hated it." And then offered nothing more.
Putting King of the World aside allowed me to get to the serious work of rewriting my memoir. So that´s done, and the memoir, Fast Break South, is up in NY seeking an agent, and I´ve been in the state of not working on a story, memoir, novel, project ever since I sent it. What anxiety!
Back to the good news. I´ve solved at least a couple of the questions about the protagonist and the young adult story. It´s about a high school junior starting a new school in Wisconsin, having moved from Philadelphia in 1974.
Another sign I´m on the right track: a writer on Twitter asked for book reccommendations for her 11-year old, who didn´t want wizards either (like my girls) but rather stories about real people.
The best news so far: I´ve written two pages!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Me puse a clean out some drawers while I tried to channel my main gal and her personality, and what did I find among some old Mother´s Day cards the girls have made, but a short story titled Picarón.
I wrote Picarón in 1992. I was taking a Spanish class at El Instituto Allende, and was interested in (as a character study) and sympathetic to a bulky middle-aged man who seemed to struggle more than the rest of us to learn Spanish.
Picarón means rascal. A salty sort of guy. This is how the character sees himself, as a teasing and romantic fellow, even though the younger people in the class likely see him as inept.
I was surprised to find that I liked the story. Surprised because I think my writing has improved over the years, but here was a 17-year old story that doesn´t need much work. I´m going to polish it up and send it to a contest or literary magazine, and see how Picarón does out in the world.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I asked Carla, if she were to choose a novel, what she would look for.
"Something realistic. About real people," she said.
So while the YA market seems to thrive on stories about seers and vampires and teenaged witches, those are not the stories my kids look for. For what it´s worth.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Here´s some elements. Many come, again, from my 12-year old Sean.
* a wierd and funny friend
* the friend is obsessed with a boy and they toilet paper his house
* the friend never eats with her parents, always alone
* the friend, at a school dance, cuts herself with a plastic knife
* the friend wants to go on a show like MTV´s Made and become popular overnight
* the mom is nutty and likes seagulls
* during a sleepover, the friends have a bloody boogie fight
Hmmm. Some of these elements might not fit in 1974. Some might not fit together at all.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Also, a snappy voice is only going to carry the story so far. What happens? If it is going to be picked up by the movies, what is it´s beginning, middle and resolution? (This helps me structure a story.)
Further burning questions:
1) When are tourists going to come back to Mexico and walk into our business, Jasmine Day Spa, in San Miguel de Allende?
2) Isn´t it time for a haircut?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Sean´s recent favorite is I´d Tell You I Love You, But Then I´d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter. It´s about a fancy prep school for girls that´s actually a spy school. These girls can speak twelve languages and dismantle bombs, but still fret about regular adolescent stuff. Sean likes the voice, which is a little bit sassy but not dumb. She doesn´t like overly bitchy voices or characters. In sixth grade, she loved Beverly Donofrio´s Thank You, Lucky Stars because the conflict about what to do when your best friend dumps you was so true-to-life.
I asked what she likes in a book and Sean said, "Funny. Or has a funny friend."
"Do you like fantasy, or super hero girls?"
"No. Just regular kids."
Suddenly I thought of myself at 15, having to move from Philadelphia and all things comfortable - aunts, uncles, cousins, summer picnics, two best friends in high school called Annette and Cheryl, and another one, Meg, from grade school. We moved to a Milwaukee suburb called Whitefish Bay. For the first day of school I polished up my Sly Stone platform shoes and pulled on my wide jeans, ready to conquer the halls of Whitefish Bay High School. But I walked into a school where the kids had walked right out of the Preppy Handbook. They went to cotillions. I didn´t even know what a cotillion was!
So I´m playing with this idea. The teenaged fish out of water. I think I´m going to get an outline together and then, later, have Sean read my first chapter.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
When my dad, Jack McKinney, first started as head coach of the Lakers, he walked into one of the first practices, where passes were going everywhere, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar´s skyhooks weren´t going through the hoop, and said, "It looks like LAX in here." The balls stopped bouncing; everyone grew quiet. Nobody talked to Kareem that way.
Then Kareem picked up a ball, and continued shooting. So the other players did too.
It was Jack´s first year - his first few days, actually - as an NBA head coach. He took rookie Magic Johnson aside and told him he wanted him to play guard, and he wanted him to be the floor leader. My dad knew Magic´s unique spirit and enthusiasm could really spark the team.
"Coach, I don´t know if I can do that. You want me to tell Kareem what to do?"
"Kareem told me he´s looking for leadership from you.¨
"All right, Coach. If Kareem says so," Magic said, wide-eyed. "I´ll do my best."
That was in 1979. By the end of that season Magic was a media star, the Lakers had won the championship and my dad was looking for another job. But that´s another story, one told in my memoir.
Years later, Jack interviewed Magic Johnson for a pre-game show, and reminded Magic of how
he´d agreed to lead the team at Kareem´s request. "Magic, Kareem never said that," Jack admitted.
"Coach, you got me!" Magic laughed. And the two retired basketball legends laughed, knowing it had all worked out for the best.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Jabbar and Walton are two of basketball´s most famous centers. Both played at UCLA for John Wooden and, then, during different years in their NBA careers, under Jack McKinney. There´s your answer.
Jabbar was a member of the 1974-1975 Milwaukee Bucks, where McKinney was assistant coach. McKinney was also the assistant coach to the 1977-78 championship Portland Trailblazers, which featured Bill Walton at center.
When the Los Angeles Lakers were looking for a coach in 1979, it was Jabbar who suggested McKinney. McKinney was lured away from the Trailblazers, and began the 1979-80 season as the Lakers head coach, but he didn´t finish. Does any sports fan out there remember why?
I know why, of course, because Jack McKinney is my father. That´s a photo of us up on the left at my birthday party in December. Jack fell off my brother´s bicycle and ended up in a coma. The story of that year with the Lakers is told in my memoir, Fast Break South, which is presently looking for representation.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I cruised the web for writer jobs, knowing that wouldn´t really help. I needed immediate cash. I needed food in the fridge. Plus, Universidad of Leon was going to kick my husband, Carlos out in his last year if he couldn´t pay May tuition.
As I was figuring our phone service in the business (Jasmine Day Spa) would last through May 16th, but that after that, we could use our cell phones, my mother-in-law called. “Ven. I made albondigas for mis muchachitas.” My mother-in-law´s albondigas, or meatballs, are favorites with our girls. Carlos went over and picked up enough meatballs and rice to feed us for days.
My sister-in-law called next. “I want to buy your Pointer. Want to sell it? I have $10,000 pesos in cash now. I´ll give you the rest later.” Carlos raced over and sold our second car to his sister and came home with a pocketful of bills. His nephew, Cruz, gave him a ride back into town, and handed Carlos a pot of his mother´s rice to take home.
Carlos´ brother, Hector was the next to call. “Use our Land Rover to get to school,” he said. "We never use it during the week." He took Carlos out for a few Victoria beers before he gave him the keys.
My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Hector all appear in my memoir, Fast Break South. When Carlos and I went out in our first year together, Hector usually came along.
Fast Break South is looking for a home with a literary agency right now. I´ll let you know if it finds one.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
On to finding someone else. Unfortunately, a large part of my story takes place in Mexico, and psychologically, the idea of Mexico is hitting people´s fear button right now, because of the flu.
I´ll probably try an agent I met two years ago at the San Miguel Writers Conference. She at least has experienced San Miguel´s charms.
I´m encouraged to have a couple of heavy hitting cheerleaders - my historical novelist friend, Sandra and Fred Hills, former Editor-in-Chief of the General Books Division of McGraw-Hill and former Vice-President and Senior Editor of Simon Schuster. Fred says he wishes he were still in acquisitions at S&S to have a chance at buying it.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
October, 1992: San Miguel de Allende
It is an October night in 1992 and, despite the chill in the air outside, I am wearing a sleeveless powder blue velvet top with front darts atop my low slung black jeans. My clothing choice would be vintage and hip in downtown Philadelphia where I routinely roamed four months prior, but here in a discothèque in the heart of central Mexico, the irony is lost and I suspect I even look a bit old-ladyish. Around me, Mexican adolescents dressed in shiny pants, short skirts and high heels shimmy to the disco beat but I have stopped noticing the teens because I am kissing one with my eyes closed.
His name is Carlos and he is my 19 year-old student and I have tried to resist him because I am the teacher, but not really. I haven’t been trying to resist him at all; I’ve only told myself so. If I had, I wouldn’t have agreed to come out with him on a Sunday night, when the disco closes earlier than other nights so it seems more innocent. I have brought along my teacher friend, Gussie to pretend to myself I am not going out with a student but the ruse is rapidly falling away. Muted squares of light from the disco ball above fall across our faces and Cristian Castro is singing, “Babe, I love you so. And I want you to know. That I’m going to miss your love, the minute you walk out that door.” Then he sings, “Please don’t go. Don’t gooooo. Don’t go away.” And there is a deep sadness to the words already because I have been asking myself in the cooler days of October why I am still in Mexico. I am a 33-year old coach´s daughter, teaching English a few hours a week for less than minimum wage and it is something, but not much, so I also ask, not only for how much longer will I stay, but what would be my destination should I leave. And now I am kissing my student and the questions will never be asked in a carefree way again.
But tonight, under the glittering disco ball, shuffling in a small circle on a wooden floor, one arm delicately around Carlos’ shoulder, the other hand clutching the too-long sleeve of his paisley button-down shirt, realizing his lips are so soft because he has almost no facial hair, I am not thinking of my life’s direction or lack thereof. I am just una muchacha besando a un muchacho, not wanting the song or the kiss to end.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
My memoir is called Fast Break South and the proposal for it has been at the office of a top New York literary agent since late April, if I can trust Mexpost. She just got back from the London Book Fair and has lots of catching up to do no doubt. Do you think if I offer $20 bucks, she´ll take it home and read it this weekend?
My father, Jack, coached basketball at St. Joseph´s University - a school completely nutty for its basketball - in the 70s, and then coached in the NBA in the 8os. Part of my memoir is about being the coach´s daughter. The other part is about how I came to San Miguel one summer, flipped over a 19-year old kid from a poor family, and never went back to my life in Philadelphia.
Wouldn´t you like to know how those two elements relate? Wanna know if we´re still together?
Hope so, because that means you´ll probably like reading my memoir!