Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interview with Weezie Mackey, author of THROWING LIKE A GIRL,

My friend and fellow author, Weezie Mackey, took time off from her busy writing and family schedule to answer a few questions about writing, sports, and the Dixie Chicks. 

1. Throwing Like a Girl is fantastic. What inspired you to write the book? 

Thanks for liking the book! Throwing Like a Girl is based on my experience coaching and teaching PE at Greenhill School in Dallas, Texas. I had such a great happy time there and was pleased to discover this new phase of my life as an athlete: coaching. I never dreamed it would be as satisfying as a player, but I loved it and I loved the girls I coached. I left that job to enter a MFA program in Creative Writing and toyed with trying to tell that story - of a woman who thinks her competitive athletic, team life is over and then enters a new phase, accidentally by taking this job as a coach. Essentially it was a chick lit book in my head. I must've started that novel five or six different times and I'd get forty or fifty pages into it and nowhere to go. I put it aside for years while I wrote other things, had jobs, got married, had two kids, and then finally it resurfaced. My husband, who fancies himself my manager/publicist of sorts, suggested I try it from one of the players' points of view. I stared at him blankly for a long time. Could that work? I wasn't sure, but I started reading a lot of YA fiction and loved the genre.  It was right up my alley. I sat down, began writing, and the story just flew out of me. I had a first draft in six months and an agent within a year. So, I'm delighted to give credit to my husband for nudging me to write this book. 

2. What character are you most like and why? 

All my characters have some level of familiarity to me, for instance, Ella is the youngest of four girls and so am I. Addie was a new coach in the middle of the school year and so was I when I started at Greenhill. But the beautiful thing about writing, to me, is the story that emerges from the seed of an idea or character. I found that I wanted to tell a story about a girl who discovers how powerful being a part of a team can be. It didn't matter what sport she played, necessarily. It mattered that she found herself by playing sports. I feel in a lot of ways, that was my experience. I played sports through high school and college and it helped define who I was. Being on a team made me strong and bold and connected. 

3. When did you decide you wanted to be an author? Who or what inspires you to write? 

I don't know that I ever consciously decided to be an author. I'm so amazed and impressed when I hear from young girls who say they want to be writers. I would love to sit down with any one of them and ask a million questions.  How do you know what you want to be? How are you going to do it? What do you see yourself writing? I mean, how honestly, how cool is it that someone who hasn't even finished high school already knows what they want to be? I stumbled around a lot. I was an English major in college and discovered my writing ability (actually a professor did). I never presumed that meant I would write a book one day or be published. I knew I would have to have jobs and I could always write on the side. I still don't mention it that often. Writing is private to me. 

Good books inspire me constantly. I read a ton, young adult, adult, The New Yorker, Captain Underpants, Dick and Jane. I just read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, first published in j1948. Loved it. Good writing in movies and television inspires me. Music inspires me (especially in my car with the windows down).

4. What is your favorite sport to play? What is your favorite sport to watch?

At this stage in my life, tennis is my top to play, though a neighbor has invited me to play on a local kickball team and that sounds like a lot of fun! My favorite sport to watch at the moment is Tadpole Little League Baseball because my son, Matty, is on the team and he is really good. I'd like to think he takes after me. On TV, I like to watch women's tennis and women's college sports. This past winter my husband and I got into watching high school volleyball. I just love watching girls be intense about something so positive (and the fans of those games are so loyal!).

5. What was it like coaching the Dixie Chicks? What positions did they play?

I coached Martie (as a high school junior) in softball and Emily (as an 8th grader) in soccer. Martie played right field and was a solid hitter, but her sport was soccer. I don't know what position she played, but she was fast. Emily and her teammates were undefeated. (I don't take any credit for this even though I was the coach.. they were SO GOOD! Once I went back to the gym to get our huge thing of water and they started the game without me. They were practically coaching themselves.) They were both great team players. 

My friend Jo Ann De Martini, who coached Emily volleyball during high school, told me the story of when Emily had to come to her and quite the team. She said her mom (who was a math teacher at the school) told her it was too risky to play volleyball when she needed her fingers to be a musician. Jo And said, "So you're telling me that the music thing is more important than the volleyball?" I don't think any of us realized what gifted musicians Martie and Emily were, except their mother. 

6. What was your most memorable moment as an athlete? As a coach? 

Wow, that a hard one. I won the state championship in field hockey my senior year of high school. That was really cool. But I think looking back, I would have to say that seeing my name on the varsity line up my freshman year of college was one of the highlights.. and I was standing alone in the locker room. Funny how that is. 

As a coach, winning the Division II softball title at Greenhill was probably my highlight. We had come a long way as a team. It was fantastic. 

7. What are you working on right now? 

Oh, I'm working two simultaneously! One is Halfway to Where I'm Going about two sisters, 15 and 16. The older one is the narrator and not nearly as confident or outgoing as the younger one. She wants to change this. Of course there'"Ts some romance in this one and mystery. The other one is another sports book, Kick, about a high school soccer star who discovers photography and realizes there is more to life than winning and losing, she also finds a little romance along the way. (Because that's so much fun to write!)

Thanks, Weezie! 


PJ Hoover said...

Cool interview! Do I pick up on a sports trend here? :)

Amy Addison said...

Wonderful, wonderful interview. I love all these books that are so positive about girls and what they are capable of. Fabulous.

keri mikulski :) said...

PJ - Is it that obvious?? I'm a little bit of a fan. :)

Amy - Thanks bunches. :)