Introduction by Chris Wiewiora
Starting graduate school this year at Iowa State, Iâ€™ve been asked a lot where I did my undergrad. After I tell people, â€śUniversity of Central Florida,â€ť they ask, â€śThe Florida Review? Jeanne Leiby?â€ť And I say, â€śYes. Yes.â€ť And then they share a storyâ€”a sparkâ€”about Jeanne.
On the MFA roadtrip back from the Badlands of South Dakota, ISU professor David Zimmerman told me how he used to get back from his graduate night classes at the University of Alabama, and then he and Jeanne would sit outside their apartment building and talk about fiction late into the night.
â€śShe listened to a lot of the Cure,â€ť David said.
â€śThatâ€™s when she edited fiction for Black Warrior Review,â€ť I said. It wasnâ€™t a question. I knew, because Jeanne had told me at the Florida Reviewâ€™s office where sheâ€™d ask me to turn up the volume when â€śHeroesâ€ť by David Bowie came on my computer while sorting manuscripts.
â€śYeah, she was passionate,â€ť David said. He looked ahead at the perspective disappearing into the road walled in by cornfields. â€śI mean, she believed writing matters.â€ť
In one of the cafĂ©s on campus, my academic adviser Ben Percy said, â€śJeanneâ€™s tough.â€ť And coming from Benâ€”a manâ€™s whose voice is deeper than a grizzlyâ€™s growlâ€”that means tough. Jeanne had published his story â€śThe Mud Manâ€ť in the Southern Review. I had read it around the time I was applying to graduate schools and figured if Ben was good enough to publish, and Ben taught at Iowa State, then Iowa State must be good enough to go to.
It seems like everyone knew Jeanne. Thereâ€™s essays and memorials and conferences, and even a chapbook contest dedicated to her. A lot of people remember Jeanne as tough and passionate and so many other hard working words.
If our catchphrase in Orlando is â€śItâ€™s a small world,â€ť then Amesâ€™ should be â€śIn the middle.â€ť With that, Iâ€™ve wanted to hear more from people who knew Jeanne in-the-middle; after Alabama, but before Louisiana. What about Florida? What about her students at UCF? Her interns at the Florida Review?
I asked a few friends and former students if they would write something about Jeanne, because I know they had a spark from her, too. Ed Bull, Ashley Inguanta, Nathan Holic, and Tina Kopic will contribute a memorial each Monday this month of October. The last Monday is Halloween, but more importantly, the next day, Novemeber 1st, is All Saintâ€™s Day. I openly welcome others who knew Jeanne to add to the memorials in the comments section as we remember her.
Chris Wiewiora has an English BA Honors in the Major degree from the University of Central Florida where he was one of Jeanneâ€™s last interns. He became the first undergraduate assistant editor of the Florida Review. He is a first-year MFA candidate at Iowa State Universityâ€™s Creative Writing and Environment program. This year, his nonfiction has appeared on Etude, Saw Palm, SwinkMag.com, SplinterGeneration.com, and Marco Polo Arts. Read more at www.chriswiewiora.com.