The 2013 Fiction Page Turner winners and runners up were announced earlier this month, and I’ve spent December to get to know each of the three. Check out the link above for our the other two winners- and read on to learn more about runner up Jim McWhinnie, his manuscript The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, and more!
Joanne Sher: First of all, congratulations on your honorable mention! Can you tell us a bit about how you found out? What was your reaction?
Jim McWhinnie: I kept peeking back to the Forums to see if just maybe I might be chosen. Finally, I saw the entry about the selections and I was surprised by joy. Although I am an old man who is much in the look of Santa Claus I did a little dance.
Jim: I have always loved words, especially stories. A legacy of my Canadian upbringing is the tradition of story-telling, either before the fire in those long, hard winters, or on the porch during the well-into-the-evening twilight in those northern summer evenings. In college, I often wrote when I should have been studying … but I suppose that is a forgivable. As a campus minister and as a pastor for near forty years, I, of course, was required to do much writing, yet, in the late nights, I would retreat into my writer’s nook and let my thoughts drift off and bring to life words from a more fanciful realm. Now in retirement, or at least, in these years of ministry of a more vagabond style, I love to write … I reckon preachers always have words needing to be voiced.
Joanne: Is writing a hobby or potential career for you?
Jim: Oh, I believe writing for me is neither hobby nor career, but rather … a holy vocation, a calling to place the whisperings in my soul onto the pages of time. Whether read by one or many, now or later, I sense that I am doing the Lord’s work in humble, creative ways.
Joanne: I love that perception, and the imagery (guess I shouldn’t be surprised coming from a poet:D) Share a bit about The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox. Where did you get the idea for it? What’s it about? How far along in it are you?
Jim: The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox is a fanciful teaching story in the spirit of the Christian classic, The Way of the Pilgrim. It is the confluence of a number of streams, I suppose. My younger son is an animator with Blue Sky Studios. In college, his project involved a mystical fox who provided for the needs of a kind- hearted boy. Probably, that was the genesis of the Shadow Fox. In my retirement years, I have been studying monastic spirituality, in particular, Benedictine spirituality (I have always been a church history buff.) As part of those graduate studies I began writing a series of devotions using the literary device of writing as a novice in an imaginary realm I called Greyfriars’ Abbey. That was the genesis for the setting for the Mystic Realms …
Mystic Realms is a fantasy about a monk named Brother Anthony of the Cross who one day encounters a most curious fox, a fox he later names Shadow Fox. The Fox makes herself known in various moments in his daily life in the monastery. Then at night, in his dreams (or visions) Brother Anthony of the Cross is led by Shadow Fox into a realm that looks much like the world of Greyfriars’ Abbey, yet it is so very different. Shadow Fox guides this monk on a great journey, along the way he comes to know other souls in this mystic realm and discovers much about the ways of God. As the story matures, the monk watches the mystic realm and his everyday realm become more and more part of each other.
Presently, I have penned about 70,000 words … but I am now re-drafting that beginning, hopefully, with the help of a good editor.
Joanne: Sounds like a fascinating story! How did you find FaithWriters, and what made you stick around?
Jim: Late in my ministry, I was stricken with cancer and then with late onset Multiple Sclerosis. This was a challenging time for me. I went search the internet for writing communities … one day I came upon FaithWriters … and I have lingered there because of a number of beautiful souls who are a part of that community.
Joanne: There are indeed beautiful souls at FaithWriters – you included. I know, in the Writing Challenge anyway, you’re known as a wonderful poet. Is that your preferred writing style? What kinds of books or genres to you prefer to read and/or write?
Jim: I am a poet who became one in the autumn of my days, thanks to the nudging of souls such as Lisa Mikitarian, Verna Cole Mitchell, and others. I find I love both writing and re-reading my poetic writing. I love creating images and metaphors in my prose. I struggle with plot and I am deathly afraid of grammar. I love writing prose, but I struggle with rewrites and editing. I think it may be a childhood apprehension about failing in my use of proper grammar. As to my reading … I love the Christian classics. I love Shakespeare, Sandburg and Frost, and the novels of Joseph Conrad, James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, and of course, Jack London.
Joanne: A wide range for sure! Tell us about your family.
Jim: My wife Debbie is a teacher of the hearing impaired and a stain glass artist. My older Shawn is at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and is the worship leader at the local campus ministry. My young son Scott is an animator with Blue Sky Studios, presently working overtime to put the finishing touches on Rio 2.
Joanne: What are your other passions besides writing?
Jim: I canoe into the woodlands, as often as I can.
Joanne: Sounds lovely. Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what do you hope to accomplish in 2014?
Jim: In 2014 … mature a little more, discover a little more, serve a little better.
Joanne: Sounds like some good resolutions for all of us! Where can people connect with you and see your writing?
Jim: You might begin by visiting my poetry site … www.willowwordspoetry.wordpress.com
Joanne: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Jim: I hope not … when the sermon reaches the altar call … stop …
Joanne: Well, I guess I’ll do the same – but not without congratulating you again, AND thanking you for sharing with us. Blessings to you!
The 2014 Page Turner opens on January 1 – that’s less than a week! The contest will be for non-fiction this time. Check out this page for details once they’re available after the first of the year.