Billie Girl, from author Vickie Weaver, won the 2009 Leapfrog Literary Press Contest and was published Sept 1, 2010. Vickie is a 2005 graduate of Spalding University’s MFA Program (Louisville, Kentucky). Her next novel, Job’s Daughters, is taking form on the page. On Vickie’s website you’ll find event schedules, a ‘reader’s guide’ and more info about her writing.
Thanks for joining us, Vickie. Tell us a bit about Billie Girl and how the story came to be.
After reading As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, I kept returning to the end of the novel, and the woman Anse Bundren marries right after burying his first wife. As we know, Anse was far from what we'd call 'a catch.' How desperate might a woman be to marry this man? Surely, no one else wanted her or she would not have become the second Mrs. Bundren. So the idea of a girl that no one wanted stuck with me. The remainder of the inspiration came from century-old photographs of pioneer women: unplucked eyebrows, no makeup, unflattering hairstyles, weathered faces and stern expressions, shapeless dresses. Many of them look like men in women's clothing. Billie Girl was born out of these two observations.
How have the fall promotions come along for you? I’ve noticed you’ve done a lot of traveling for booksignings and related events. How do you manage your writing time while keeping up with the “business” side of things?
Touring is part of the package when a book is published. It’s tough for a first-time unknown author to get her name out there, so I go as much as I can. It’s my routine to head to my office after dinner to write, revise, research, brainstorm—and I like to stick with that because it grounds me. Sure, there have been times when I’m not as productive because I’m tired or distracted. When I have tour details to iron out, three hours in my office to write can be reduced to fifteen minutes, but it’s my goal to at least say hello to my characters every day. They miss me.
You’ve won several awards for your writing, which leads us to the natural conclusion that you’ve also entered a number of contests. How do you determine which ones to enter? How do you know what contests may be right for your work?
Placing in contests is a good way to build writing credits. My writer friends often give me a heads up about contests. Many are listed in publications such as Poets & Writers—it’s a great resource for contests, and grants, too. Besides reading the contest blurb, I check out the contest website for all details to make sure my work is a fit (subject matter, length, genre). I do standard submissions, too (no contest fees!). I can’t always study the literary journals I submit to, to see if they are right for me; I can’t afford to subscribe to them all, and honestly, I don’t like to take the time. I probably should not admit that but it’s true. There are days when I do a Hail Mary and send off my work.
What can you tell us about your experience with the Spalding University MFA program? Do you keep in touch with many of your alumni?
I went to college late in life; I was 48 when I earned a BA in English (minors in Creative Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies). I enrolled at Spalding University in 2003. The first time I stepped into a plenary lecture I was overcome with emotion (it sounds trite but it’s true) to be in a room full of writers. Without speaking to anyone, without knowing one person there, I knew we shared a passion for the written word that had brought us all to the same place. Spalding is the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing, and for my sense of self. I do keep in touch with a handful of alumni, and return to Kentucky often, to visit during every residency that I can. It’s become my second home.
You’ve also done a fellowship at Spiro Arts Community. What did you work on and how was the fellowship beneficial to you?
Because my writer friends encouraged me to try retreats, I did an online search one night and found Spiro Arts. I applied and was absolutely floored that I was chosen. Most of my time there (May 2009) was spent revising the two novels I’d written, Below the Heart and Billie Girl. And I had just started my third novel, a contemporary tale of Job’s daughters (from the Bible). The fellowship was a gift—to be able to write any time I wanted without thought of home-related tasks (laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, social commitments) was a bit surreal. But that month gave me more than time to write. It helped me (at the age of 57) to look inward, to listen to my heart, to build self-confidence and independence. The Spiro Arts Community values the arts, and it showed in their respectful regard for my profession. I will ever be grateful to them. There are many fellowship opportunities for writers; all you have to do is some research. Apply, and cross your fingers!
What are you working on now?
While I am still tweaking Below the Heart, and writing a short story every now and again, most of my writing time is spent on Job’s Daughters. I just try to write something every day. I love what I do.
For the latest news and details regarding Vickie’s events, visit her website: http://www.vickieweaver.com/.