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TCC professor Lu Vickers receives fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts

Lu Vickers 2.JPG

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (January 13, 2014) – Lu Vickers, professor of English at Tallahassee Community College, has received a prestigious creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Vickers is one of only 38 recipients of the $25,000 national award, selected from among more than 1,300 entries.
NEA Literature Fellowships provide grants of $25,000 to published creative writers to enable them to set aside time for writing, research, travel and general career advancement. According to an NEA news release, successful manuscripts are selected through an anonymous panel-review process for which the sole criterion is artistic excellence.
Vickers was awarded the fellowship based on an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, “The Natural History of a Mermaid.” She described it as the story of a woman who had left her young family to become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs in central Florida—dreaming of being “the next Esther Williams.” After years of disappointment, she does the “deep dive” down into the Floridan aquifer and begins to swim back home to Wakulla Springs. Vickers was told that members of the review panel appreciated the thread of magical realism, and several were surprised to learn that a place like Weeki Wachee really existed.
Vickers is a graduate of Florida State University and has published one novel and three books on Florida history. She is currently finishing a history of Paradise Park, the segregated attraction operated by Silver Springs from 1949 to 1969. It will be published by the University Press of Florida in the fall.
Vickers’ first novel, “Breathing Underwater,” was published in 2007, and she was actually working on “The Natural History of a Mermaid” when she became fascinated with a group of former Weeki Wachee mermaids who, now in their 70s, still make appearances at the park. She told their story in her nonfiction work, “Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida’s Oldest Roadside Attractions.” She followed that with the history of another classic Florida attraction, Cypress Gardens, and then with a compilation of underwater photography from Weeki Wachee.
“I’ve wanted to go back to fiction,” Vickers said. “This fellowship is a big boost for me psychologically—to say, yes you can write fiction, you can be successful at this. That’s even more important than the money.”
The financial support will be welcome, however, allowing her to devote more time to writing.
“I won’t be teaching in the summers for the next few years. That’s my prime writing time. I’ve taught a couple of summers, and it’s hard to switch gears back to writing. It will also allow me to do extra research if I need to.”
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