Looking back at past contest winners

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Vickie Weaver was the first winner of Leapfrog’s Fiction Contest in 2009. Her novel Billie Girl, published in 2010, brings a unique perspective to Southern Gothic literature. We asked her to reflect about her experience as a contest winner.

When I was 44 years old, I was the worst bank teller ever. I’d had several jobs since high school (nothing close to a career), jobs I’d taken because they were close to home and my children. That was my choice, with no regrets. But one day I realized that my two sons were grown, and that I needed to make a change for myself. Since junior high school I’d assumed I’d be a writer, but I’d done nothing about it. At age 44, I enrolled in college, and four years later, in 2000, earned a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing and a minor in Women’s Studies. Still I didn’t write. I wondered about grad school, though I considered at 51 I shouldn’t spend that much more on my education. I am grateful that my husband didn’t agree. In 2003, I applied to Spalding University’s Low Residency MFA in Writing Program. I studied fiction, and graduated in 2005. I published my first short story soon after.

My mother’s family lived in eastern (rural) Kentucky (near Middlesboro), and later, near Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. As a city girl from Indiana, I felt I was being punished when we spent summer vacations there (1950s and 1960s). No sidewalks or night lights, no Beatles on the radio—yes, Dolly Parton sang to us instead. Dirt roads, rattlesnakes, and a grandpa who sold moonshine. As much as I disdained that life as a child, when I began to write, the South came out of my soul and onto the page. I had no idea that I had been carrying those memories next to my heart; it repairs me to write of the butter churn, warm nested eggs, stack cake, rolled cigarettes, the store man, a tin tub bath in the kitchen. Love and work and prayer and more worries than laughter. Those people, those times, are a part of all my stories in some way. I honor them.

Stories come too from old photographs—my family’s, or anyone’s, really. I connect with the eyes looking out at the world, and I give voice to what they’ve seen. The theme appears out of the work. After the writing, I realized the theme of Billie Girl is that we all deserve understanding, kindness, and respect. Of course, the characters convey this theme in rather unconventional ways.

When I completed my novel (in 2008), like any writer, I wanted it published. Creating anything else was set aside for months as I worked toward this goal. I queried agents (via email, snail mail and at conferences that offered pitch sessions). I submitted to small presses and publishing houses that did not require agent submissions. I entered literary contests. The key for me was to try different approaches simultaneously. I did not wait for rejection to submit again and again. Hours of internet research for guidelines to prepare my submission and/or query properly for each source, and checking out the listings in each issue of POETS & WRITERS gave me several options. It was exhausting. Before I could land an agent, I won Leapfrog’s contest in 2009. So for me, success came about with common sense, “elbow grease,” and determination. (I have paused the agent search for now.)

Since then, I’ve had several short stories published (both before and after Billie Girl); I’ve won and placed in contests. For a complete list of my work, please visit my website, www.vickieweaver.com.

As her website states, Vickie currently lives and writes from the middle of a Midwest hayfield. Keep your eyes open for her newest short story in the Twisted Road Southern Gothic Revival Anthology later this year. 

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Leapfrog takes on Buffalo’s Small Press Book Fair!

I think everyone who attended the event would agree that this weekend’s book fair was a success! Dozens of Leapfrog books were distributed along with tons of information on our press. It was inspiring to see the support Buffalo has for small publishing companies like us along with self-published authors and other crafters.

Here’s the beautiful building that hosted the fair & intern, Leo, poking around

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our colorful table:

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past & present Leapfrog interns looking at books & getting eaten by birds:

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food trucks!!:

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Our splendid raffle prizes:

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The Spring 2015 issue of Crossborder approaches!

Rejoice! The spring 2015 issue of Crossborder is coming out in March, and will feature great writing from Rachel Luria, Aaron Tillman, Dustin M. HoffmanMark Spitzer, Sohrab Homi Fracis, Gabriele Glang, Michael Casey and Terrance Manning, Jr.

In the meantime, check out some links to their work to help get you acquainted. Consider it your literary warmup.

Order back issues of Crossborder, read excerpts and subscribe on our website.

Call for manuscript submissions!

Leapfrog Press is currently reading submissions for our annual fiction contest. We’re proud to welcome author Mark Brazaitis (The Incurables, Truth Poker) as this year’s finalist judge. Check out our submission guidelines, then send us your work.

Once you’ve done that, take a few minutes to check out some recent contest winners.

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The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles, Gregory Hill (2014 first place winner)

(review of Hill’s previous novel East of Denver)

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Going Anywhere, David Armstrong (2013 first place winner)

(review at The Literary Review, “Declarations” at Narrative)

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Being Dead in South Carolina, Jacob White (2012 first place winner)

(interview at Crossborder, review at Publishers Weekly)

Loss of an author — Farley Mowat

Canadian writer Farley Mowat has died. Another great loss for the world and for the environment.

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2014/05/07/farley_mowat_acclaimed_canadian_author_dead_at_92.html

Short Stories — For FREE!

Our short stories are now free online! Bookslinger comes preloaded with short stories from independent publishers around the world. Every week we let fly a free story from one of our award-winning publishers. Available on iTunes.

Just out:

“Our Big Game” from “Immanence of God in the Tropics” by George Rosen

 

 

 
Recent Leapfrog Press stories available on Bookslinger:

 

 

“Shadowboxing” from “Dancing at the Gold Monkey” by Allen Learst
http://thebookslinger.com/?s=Dancing+at+the+Gold+Monkey

 

 

 

 

 
“The Floods” from “And Yet They Were Happy” by Helen Phillips
http://thebookslinger.com/?s=Helen+Phillips

 

 

 

 

“Men in Brown” from “How to Stop Loving Someone” by Joan Connor
— this one is guaranteed to make you fall out of your chair laughing!
http://thebookslinger.com/?s=joan+connor

Being Dead in South Carolina – Three Guys One Book Review

In Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Warren Beatty’s John McCabe—with all his roughness and maundering—grumbles, “I got poetry in me,” an assertion with which nobody around him seems to agree. This dialogue kept running through my head while I read Being Dead in South Carolina, Jacob White’s debut short story collection, which begins with a question: “Look. Have you ever tried to right a car you yourself have tumbled?” Immediately, the reader intuits that this narrator is a fuck-up who spends his life attempting to fix disasters that he himself has caused. But check out the way he describes the overturned car: He calls it a “strange articulation of stupidity and rebirth.” He may be a fuck-up, but he got poetry in him.

The majority of the 17 stories in Being Dead are told in a conversational first-person voice. Many of these narrators are ne’er-do-wells whose unremarkable lives dot the American South; in this way, the book’s cover—a cheap-looking couch perched next to shimmering water—is a perfect evocation of its contents. But if you’re a reader fed up with the MFA-workshop-story conventions usually (if not entirely correctly) blamed on Raymond Carver’s brand of “dirty realism,” don’t be turned off.

Consider, again, that opening story—titled “Being Dead in South Carolina”—in which the narrator, after righting the car, ends up at a bar with some friends. By this point, the reader has learned that the narrator was shot in the head years before and has weakened mental faculties as a result. This feels like a familiar redemption story—he will fix his life, connect with other people, etc. etc.—until the final paragraph, which turns in a sudden, frightening direction. “I’ve been born again a thousand times,” the narrator says in the closing moments, “and each time’s scarier than the last.”

Consider, also, “Bethel,” in which the narrator recalls the time that his brother reappeared at the family’s farmhouse after a mysterious (and maybe murderous) six-year absence. The narrator was 12 at that time, and is now a middle-aged trucker. “Bethel” reaches its climax between the 12-year-old narrator and his brother, and then returns to the present, and then keeps going on and on for too many rambling pages, it seems, until it becomes clear that the story is actually about the narrator’s disturbing present-day psychology. White’s endings always force the reader to reconsider what s/he thought the story was about…

“The Days Down Here,” Being Dead’s centerpiece and best story, [is one] in which Hammond and Jean, an old married couple, have moved to South Carolina with their 19-year-old son, Zach. Their days are idyllic, but punctured with brutal flash forwards—“This was only weeks before her cheeks sallowed and sank, before her eyes turned to pitch”—which remind the reader that Jean has cancer and that these days, though idyllic, will be her last. The story becomes a sun-soaked Amour, and White’s poetic flourishes are in fine form. (At dusk, the lake becomes “a floating city of gridlocked boats.”)

Eventually, those problematic prose poems seem like a rehearsal for the climax of “The Days Down Here,” when Hammond, the narrator, describes his son doing something fantastic in a lake while the sun sets and his movements become “smears of shadow.” Here, White’s leap into sustained poetic language feels organic, attached to Hammond’s experience of the world as it becomes heightened and lyrical. This is the best story—maybe the best moment—in Being Dead in South Carolina, and it establishes Jacob White as a fine new writer.

Read the complete review at http://threeguysonebook.com/being-dead-in-south-carolina-by-jacob-white/