Looking back at past contest winners

BillieGirl vickie weaver

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. 

Crossborder’s spring issue is on its way!

front cover image

Somewhere out there, at this very moment, a copy of Crossborder’s stellar spring issue is winding through the channels of the US Postal Service, working its way toward your mailbox. Keep an eye out.

Not subscribed? Really, really want to be? Have at it. 

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.

lonesometrialsjohnnyriles

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

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

GoingAnywhereCBSD2

Going Anywhere, David Armstrong (2013 first place winner)

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

jacob white dead in sc cover

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

(interview at Crossborder, review at Publishers Weekly)

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/

Being Dead in South Carolina Review

A new review from Midwest Book Review!

Being Dead in South Carolina is a 200 page compendium comprised of seventeen skillfully crafted short stories set in the modern South. The deftly written characters combine with strongly developed and original storylines resulting in a series of literary experiences that the reader will remember long after Bring Dead in South Carolina is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended.”

Attention Writers: NaNoWriMo is coming up!

The month of October is ending, which brings our attention to National Novel Writing Month!

This website is a great way for new writers to experiment in trying out new styles or improving writing skills because of the support and tips given each week for every member who signs up (for free). All a writer needs to do is create an account and they will receive tips and hints toward better writing and avoiding writer’s block, have the opportunity to talk to other writers both online and in person, and be able to track their progress. This year, the inspirational pep talks sent to your personal NaNoWriMo inboxes will be given by published authors such as Lev Grossman, Rainbow Rowell, and James Patterson (to name a few). The site also has a page for forums where writers can post just about anything to the NaNoWriMo community, which is helpful for questions and browsing when you get stuck. The program even shows which writing events are going on in your local area.

If you’re considering writing something but are unsure of what to say, how to start, or need encouragement to keep working on your story, this is a great website to turn to for help. Also, once you’re done, you can submit your new stories to us here at Crossborder!

Crossborder is calling for submissions!

We are currently looking for submissions of fictional short stories and experimental works for our next issue coming out in May! If you or anyone you know is interested, polish up your unpublished work and send it to our e-mail account at crossborder@leapfrogpress.com.

Guidelines for Submissions:

  • include your first and last name with submission
  • utilize an e-mail address that we may contact in the future
  • if sending excerpts of longer works, please indicate so (however, no piece is too short or too long – if it’s smaller than a novel, we are considering it!)

What we’re really looking for:

  • flash fiction, short stories, things of that nature
  • out-of-the-ordinary uses of style, tone, characterization, etc.
  • the stranger the better
  • creativity and originality

We would love to see your work so don’t be shy. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain by sending us an e-mail.

Excerpts from Vol. 1, No. 2

After a Sermon at the Church of Infinite Confusion (poem)

John Smelcer

***

Hear It

David Armstrong

He has the blunt, hard knuckles of a streetfighter. Hairy in multiple ways, he wears a brown serviceman’s shirt with the name Cal embroidered across a patch on the left breast. He raises his fist at me.

“I’m gonna knock your teeth in, bud.”

Summer heat like hellfire swoons across the oil-soaked concrete of the service station, and relentless blasts of it roll over us in waves as we stand in front of the little clerk’s counter. It’s a backroad, backcountry, and Plummer’s Sup and Pump crouches in the shade of a fleshy green hill. I haven’t had water for hours. My mouth tastes like that grime-caked nickel Jason Crabtree found on the floor of the bus and dared me to lick when we were in fifth grade. Twenty years ago? Why can’t I remember how old I am?

***

Crazy Dan

Sara Netto

No one had much of a problem with Crazy Dan. He kept mainly to himself. He lived in a tiny 80-year-old house next to an even smaller shack on a lot surrounded by walnut trees. No one knew exactly where he came from, who his parents were, or if he had always been crazy. He collected disability checks twice a month from the government—but physically he was fine. He looked as though he’d always been in his thirties; his hair and face he kept trimmed enough to not attract attention; he always wore a bright red windbreaker, no matter the weather. He drove a 2-stroke 50cc Honda motor scooter, even though no one else did anymore. Everyone talked about him and loved him as they would love the town drunk, but no one really knew much about him. The only other thing they really knew was that he filmed everything he could with a handheld camcorder— anything and everything, the most mundane things. No one could understand it—that’s why he was Crazy Dan.

***

Woodchuck Tries a Family

Ted Pelton

Woodchuck awoke.
He was in bed with his woman but he was awakened by something else some creature between him and his lover.
He could tell without opening his eyes that it was still dark but dawn was near.
He heard his woman snoring and he kept his eyes closed and rolled over to get back to sleep.
The creature rolled up against Woodchuck and threw out an only slightly muffled elbow.
Woodchuck winced and looked next to him but saw nothing only his woman’s stomach protruding.
His gaze seemed to wake her.
She turned toward him.
That’s right she said.

***

Columbine

Ted Pelton

Woodchuck stood up in a field in the sun on a spring day.
By a tree at the end of a stone wall sat a human boy with his gun who might or might not have been a good shot.
Woodchuck remained still.
It would take some skill to hit the brown animal at such distance and the boy knew hunting safety knew not to risk a bad shot knew not to trust the safety switch on his gun that remained switched on to prevent accidental release.
The boy it was plain to see was bored.
He raised and aimed his gun and put it down again.
He looked up at clouds.
They always said of him at home that he walked around with his head in the sky.

***

The Border

Marge Piercy

She drove, not too fast, never over the speed limit but not too slowly either—the important thing was not to attract attention. She had the car radio on to the new album the Beatles had just put out, Revolver. The DJ was playing it all the way
through with interruptions for acne medication, shampoo and beer commercials. She would have liked to turn it up to help her stay awake, but if she did, he might wake up. In the backseat, the man was still sleeping, occasionally moaning or
cursing or grunting. It was better when he was asleep. Awake, he made her nervous.

***

La cantina

Michael McGuire

No one ever knew why José Antonio came to La Cantina.

La Cantina was not its official name, it was just what the place was known for, the only cantina as far as a man could drive in one day.

José Antonio himself knew why he had come here. His work in the city had not been undistinguished or unrewarded, he had just tired of unnecessary words.

Yes, that was it. He was tired of the Tower of Babel. It had been time to rest his ears, his tongue, and so he had moved to a place where words were few and far between.

José Antonio had traveled as far as you could without leaving Mexico and arrived at a spot the frequent fliers on Aeromexico seldom saw: the US/Mexico border, a spot where what little crossing there was was usually done under cover of night.

***

The Baby

Nicole Louise Reid

She appeared one morning from nothing. We looked at our boy, eating oatmeal in his chair. Tall for the booster’s four inches. Day was in his hair like glow, like fluff of weeds to blow. Our boy.

He looked at her, too. So we knew we were not drunk or stoned or made loopy with dreaming.

We said, “Hello” and moved nearer.

She was a baby. The light of morning showed just how bald she was. Nothing like our son. She wore a pink dress. The kind babies wore when one of us was a girl and had dolls and called them babies, bought them real Pampers and Gerber bottles to suck. It was soft pink with smocking across her chest. An appliquéd squirrel and tree, small at the hemline splayed out across her fat ankles.

***

The Trench Angel

Michael Gutierrez

The men lined up for their pictures before they died. It was an orderly, single-file queue snaking through the trench, no pushing or shoving, none of that childhood hokum, because, after all, they were Englishman. Each held a letter addressed to
his mum or sweetheart, brother or father, mostly commenting on the poorness of the weather or the morale of the men or even razzing the queer ways of the French, but they didn’t have any words for what was really going on. How could you remember all of this and put it down on paper? When their turn arrived, they handed the letter to me, the Yank, and I raised my camera, the indestructible Miss Constance, then fired. The pose never changed—head tilted a smidge left, eyes wide—the same picture over and over again like a broken projector. You went through that death line enough times it became rote. Still, if I could go back, if I could somehow re-enter the mind of my younger self, I’d have kept those photos,
every last one of them, and I’d have put them all together in a book without a title because no pithy phrase, no publisher’s cliché could sum up those stares.