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Spotlight on local author

Spotlight on local author

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 1:58 pm
By: Sara Reid, Special to The Press

With the publication of her third book, local author Joyce Billingsby enthusiastically admits she is returning to her first love — poetry.
Fueled by her passion for poetry and driven by the genes of her story-telling father, Billingsby produced “Tales of Big Hatchie,” a collection of poems stitched together by heavy research and a burning desire to commemorate her father.
“I’ve worked on these poems over the years,” Billingsby admits. “My father was a big storyteller. He’d flap his hands and paw his feet and scare the kids with his stories. He died in 1978 and I felt like I needed to commemorate him.”
Billingsby did not take the task lightly. She took on Indian legends and did her research by analyzing the speeches of chiefs and using their descriptions.
“Many people have asked me how I came up with the character names. I looked for rhymes and just went from there. My father always told of the demon Octamarydus,” Billingsby related.
The book holds a two-fold purpose — history and entertainment. The poems are intended to reflect the heritage of Joshua Rainbow, a main character of Billingsby’s second work, Song of Elizabeth, and her first work, Wildwood. Going in chronological order, Billingsby tracks the history of the Hatchie tribe based on the Chickasaw Indians who once inhabited the area surrounding Reelfoot Lake.
From the introduction of the white man, to trading with the Seminoles, to battling the Shawnees, Billingsby uses her knowledge and mastery of the elements of poetry to paint a picture of a people who not only fought for a land, but who were, in essence, the land itself.
As Billingsby tells the tale of each character, she wraps the story into a neat package of personification relating the characters to some of the most important aspects of everyday life.
“In the book acknowledgements are several speeches by Indian chiefs. I used to local artists from Union City, Bonnie Willis and Hillary Webb. My daughter, Sherri Stinson, helped to lay the book out and went with an antique look to it,” Billingsby explained.
“The book is one of my favorite things,” she added. “I’ve always liked exploring the Indian background.”
And in the true nature of the Hatchie people who live on in her pages, Billingsby’s father certainly looks down at his daughter and smiles as she carries on his storytelling for all readers to enjoy.
To purchase a copy of “Tales of Big Hatchie,” go to www.rainbowtrilogy.com or contact Billingsby at joyce.billingsby@citlink.net.  Copies of the book will be given to local libraries.

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