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March's Book
When Cuba Conquered Kentucky
- by Marianne Walker

Chat with Marianne Walker

Log file opened at: 3/28/0 6:45:37 PM
*** Channel created at Tuesday, March 28, 2000 6:40:55 PM
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*** chelak has set the topic on channel #bookclub to Chat with Marianne Walker, Kentucky author of "When Cuba Conquered Kentucky" tonight at 7:30 pm ET / 6:30 pm CT.
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<chelak> Tonight we welcome Kentucky author Marianne Walker.
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<chelak> Ms. Walker wrote "When Cuba Conquered Kentucky," the incredible story of a basketball team from a tiny high school in Cuba, Kentucky, that baffled opponents, dazzled spectators, and captured a state championship by beating big-city schools along the way.
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<jamal> Hi Marianne, I love the title of the book. It has such a nice flow. How did you come up with it?
<Marianne Walker> Chela is typing for Marianne. She is on the phone with us now.
<Marianne Walker> jamal, the title came from the staff at the Louisville Courier-Journal Sunday Magazine. I did a story about Cuba for the Sunday magazine in February 1989.
That was the first thing I had ever written about Cuba. Magazine editors always title the work, authors rarely do. They can suggest a title, but usually titles come from publishers and editors. That wonderful title came from the staff at the Louisville Courier-Journal Sunday Magazine.

<jamal> When you interviewed people, did you have a tape recorder or did you take notes. Did you have difficulty getting people to talk?
<Marianne Walker> jamal, At first I did use a tape recorder and I had trouble getting people to talk. So, I stopped using a tape recorder for many of the interviews, not for all of them, and I took notes.
But I had many tape recordings of the Cuba cubs themselves, telling me about their lives, their family history, and their basketball experiences. No, I really didn't have trouble getting people to talk. They were very willing to talk.

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<DancesWith> Hi Marianne! I really enjoyed the book. But I thought the most fascinating parts were the chapters about the kids' lives and families, not the basketball. Did the focus change as you expanded it from a magazine article to a book?
<Marianne Walker> Dances, that's a wonderful question. What attracted me to the story in the first place was the lives of the players, not the sports.
I'm so glad you liked that aspect of the book. Thank you.

<jamal> I was particularly interested in the coach. What is your personal feeling about him and how he related to the boys and the community?
<chelak> Welcome grace_b... do you have a question, please jump in anyone.
<Marianne Walker> Coach Story was the most significant person in the Cuba Cubs lives. Without Coach Story I don't think we would have had a Cuba Cubs. I admire and respect him.
<chelak> Did you ever meet him?
<Marianne Walker> No, he died many years ago. I did meet his wife who was very helpful. Also I met his son and daughters.

<jamal> I hope you don't mind answering questions about your Margaret Mitchell book. I wonder how you got access to the Mitchell papers.
<chelak> Did the family give you a lot of background for the book?
<Marianne Walker> Yes, they were very helpful.
<grace_b> The account of Doodle's brother's death was so vivid and moving. Was it Doodle himself who told you that story?
<Marianne Walker> grace, yes that was Doodle's story. He told me that. It was very moving.
<jamal> Did you find any people in the community who were not supporters of the program? Any critics of the Cuba Cubs?
<Marianne Walker> Oh no, not a one. They were all proud of the boys and loved the Cuba Cubs. The whole community supported them. Even members of the opposing teams liked the Cubs. I didn't hear anything negative from any of the opponents.

<chelak> How long did it take to research the book?
<Marianne Walker> I really can't say, because I did the research in bits and pieces. It took maybe two or three years.
Finding the people, getting to know them, getting them to talk. Of course, I had to listen to lots of things that weren't pertinent to the story itself. The material, in a way, was hard to come by.
I had to mainly gather it from oral history and from old newspaper articles and sports enthusiasts.

<Marianne Walker> But gathering information of that kind is different from going to an archive, sitting in a library and working all day. It's a different kind of research.

<grace_b> I wondered how much of the story was oral history.
<jamal> Are the players still friends?
<Marianne Walker> jamal, Yes, the players are all very close. One of the Cuba Cubs died recently, Joe Buddy Warren, who figures largely in the story -- he was one of the important players. He died of cancer a couple of months ago. His teammates were his pallbearers, they all convened to pay their respects.
<Marianne Walker> grace, all of the basketball games were documented in the newspapers. But the part about the lives of the players and the people in the community came from people.... I would talk to different people at different times and when I heard the same version of the story, I figured I could trust that that version was true. I didn't find any discrepancies in the stories.
<Marianne Walker> Say about Doodle's brother's death. There were people who remembered that and how devastating it was.
The all spoke of the poverty and remembered the poverty. None of that was exaggerated. The adversity and poverty that those people experienced was surely no figment of my imagination.

<grace_b> You did a good job taking all those different voices and establishing a single narrative voice; it was very clear and totally believable.
<Marianne Walker> Thank you grace. I worked very hard to achieve that single voice. I'm very grateful to you for saying that I succeeded.

<Rhonda> Hi Marianne, Are you a huge basketball fan?
<Marianne Walker> I like basketball better than I do football or baseball, but I can't say that I'm a huge fan, no.
<jamal> I wonder if I might ask a question about your Margaret Mitchell research? How did you get access to her letters.
<Marianne Walker> jamal, I got access to her letters through her husband's family. At the time I started the research one family member was in Kentucky. It was through her that I gained access to others in different parts of the country.

<Rhonda> Did you have much discussion about the recent high school champions...both were from small areas, especially the girls first place trophy from Olive Hill, Ky.?
<Marianne Walker> That was my major problem ... finding that unifying voice. Because I had so many people to deal with and so many life stories, that I struggled to pull them all together.
<grace_b> You're welcome. I loved the book. The poverty you describe interested me, too. I moved to Murray as a child in 1963 and Murray was a very different kind of place, quite prosperous, even though it was just 20 minutes or so down the road.

<Rhonda> This would be such a wonderful motion picture, even after "Hoosiers"...any hope that we could see "Cuba" on the big screen?
<grace_b> I'm with Rhonda.
<Marianne Walker> Rhonda, no, but I was really happy to read about that. (the Olive Hill girls winning).
<Marianne Walker> Rhonda, well, I don't know, I hope so. Someone is handling the film rights right now and is trying to find a home for it.
<grace_b> The Harlem Globetrotters' moves with Western Kentucky farm boys would make great cinema!
<Marianne Walker> grace, I think so too.
<DancesWith> But the critics would say it's just *too* far-fetched! <grin>
<Marianne Walker> I'll pass those comments on... *laughing* Yes they probably would think it was unbelievable!
<grace_b> Are you working on another book?
<Marianne Walker> grace, I wish I were.... I do have a project in mind. I do want to write more about Margaret Mitchell and her writing. That's going to be my next project, but finding time to sit down and write has been very difficult lately.
<chelak> You are an English teacher?
<DancesWith> What interests you particularly about Mitchell?
<Marianne Walker> Dances, A lot of things interest me about her. The fact that she wrote the best-known, perhaps, best-loved novel in the world, interests me. Her relationship with her husband was certainly interesting and worth writing about. The dedication and the work that she put into writing "Gone With the Wind" was interesting to discover.
<grace_b> There has been a film about Margaret Mitchell, hasn't there? Was it based on your biography?
<Marianne Walker> And the way she and her husband managed the phenomenal success that the book created for them was interesting too. My publisher is publishing a second edition of my biography of Margaret Mitchell this summer. It's going to be an anniversary, a Centennial edition with a new cover and new information. On November 8, 2000 Margaret Mitchell would have been 100 years old had she lived. I'm thrilled with that. It's gone through different printings, but this is a new edition, which is like bringing out a new book, so I'm real excited and happy about that.
No, the film wasn't based on my biography. It wasn't based on any biography. Someone is looking at making a film about Margaret Mitchell.

<jamal> I thank you so much for doing the Cuba book. I was truly inspired by the story and think it should be required reading for high school students.
<Marianne Walker> Wonderful! I think young people do need to read about people who set goals for themselves and who work to achieve those goals. I wish I could get it before more teachers.
<chelak> Any more questions for Ms. Walker?
<Marianne Walker> OK, if no more questions... we'll finish up.
<Marianne Walker> (Ms. Walker thinks the web page looks great.)
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<DancesWith> Thank you! I enjoyed it.
<grace_b> I'd just like to say again how much I liked the book. I found the account of these boys' lives and the lives of their families very moving. I loved being give this look into the past.
<chelak> Thank you so much Marianne for being with us tonight.
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<Marianne Walker> That's wonderful, I appreciate that very much. You can write me in care of Henderson Community College.
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Log file closed at: 3/28/0 8:22:25 PM

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