Amy Butcher recalls sitting in the passenger seat of “Mothertrucker” Joy Wiebe’s 59-foot tanker and watching in admiration and awe as the veteran truck driver maneuvered Alaska’s 414-mile Dalton Highway to deliver fuel to Prudhoe Bay.
Even then, Butcher, an award-winning essayist and assistant professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, knew the moment held special significance.
“God brought you to me,” Butcher recalls Wiebe telling her several times during their time together in April 2018. “He wants you to tell my story.”
Tragically, Wiebe was killed four months later when her tanker slipped off a soft shoulder on the treacherous highway and plunged down a steep embankment. The 50-year-old wife-and-mother died at the scene.
When she heard the tragic news, Butcher knew she, indeed, was meant to tell Wiebe’s story. The result, “Mothertrucker,” is expected to be released by Little A Books in early 2022.
Butcher wasn’t the only one to realize Wiebe’s story was inspiring, compelling, and deserving of a wider audience. As she began to carefully craft the story, Butcher also began to field inquiries from filmmakers interested in turning “Mothertrucker” into a feature film.
After a series of phone calls and interviews, Butcher selected Primetime Emmy-winning director Jill Soloway (they/them) to direct the film, and Academy and Golden Globe-winning actress Julianne Moore to portray “Mothertrucker” Wiebe.
“I pursued Jill not only because of their talent and incredibly nuanced, empathetic way of portraying complicated characters and human relationships,” Butcher said, “but because they have been a champion for LGBTQIA+ rights, which is so important to me and a level of inclusivity I want to model for my students and writers. As the executive producer and director of ‘Transparent’ (Amazon Studios), Soloway hired over 80 transgender people, including two transgender consultants, and established a ‘transfirmative action program,’ which gave transgender applicants preference to non-transgender ones.
“Julianne Moore is also an incredible feminist and activist,” Butcher said, “and she’s an especially vocal and dedicated advocate in putting an end to gun violence and championing women and women’s stories.”
In announcing their involvement with the film, Soloway said, “I’m honored to tell this deeply resonant story about two women finding meaning and strength as they face an epic challenge in one of the most punishing and beautiful landscapes on the planet.”
Butcher also notes she took her initial call with Moore in the first-floor reading room of OWU’s Sturges Hall, dedicated in memory to former comparative literature associate professor Sally Livingston.
“Sally Livingston was a close mentor of mine and a remarkable advocate for women and women’s rights,” Butcher said. “I was nervous to talk with Moore, so I took the call there, surround by Sally’s presence and memories of her incredible spirit.”
Upon selecting her team, Butcher assisted in a pitch proposal to Hollywood Studios.
“It’s been surreal,” Butcher said of the experience. “We received a lot of bids for the film rights, but ultimately we went with Brad Weston and Makeready Films because they’re a boutique, hands-on studio that pursues projects they’re passionate about and invests all their time and energy into developing them.”
Weston’s credits include “The Revenant,” “Birdman,” “Gone Girl,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “The Big Short” – earning him 34 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins.
Butcher joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2014 and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. Her first book is “Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder,” and her essays have appeared in Granta, Harper’s, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The American Scholar, The Iowa Review, Lit Hub, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Fourth Genre, and Brevity, among numerous other magazines and journals.
Learn more about Butcher, Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of English, and its creative writing concentration at www.owu.edu/english.