Jim McWhinnie had four entries in the running for the 2011 Best of the Best contest. Incidentally, all four were poems. It just so happened that one of those poems outshined the others. Jim takes the title of BoB this year for his entry, This Cathedral for Boys, This Cathedral of Dreams, written for the "Outstanding" topic. Join interviewer Lynda Schab as she talks with Jim about his win, his writing, and how it feels to be the first guy in four years to steal the crown from a girl.
LYNDA: Congratulations on your win, Jim! What was your first reaction when you found out you took the title for the 2011 Best of the Best?
JIM: Wow! A few tears of joy, a word of thanks to God, and an overwhelming experience of "this-can't-possibly-be-true" considering the many gifted writers who are members of this most wonderful of writing communities.
I also believe it to be a beautiful bit of healing grace from our Lord. You see, Lynda, I received this news while resting in my bed, recuperating from cancer surgery. All is well and this news added to the joy of living.
Again, I am sitting here thinking, "This can't be true!"
LYNDA: Now it's my turn to say "Wow." I'm glad to hear you're doing well. You're right - what a wonderful piece of news in the midst of such a difficult time.
I have to say…not that the Challenge is a male vs. female thing, of course, but the past four years, the title of Best of the Best has been won by a woman. It has to feel good to be the guy who took back the crown.
JIM: We of the male gender are a bit overwhelmed by all the feminine participation in Faithwriters ... but this is not uncommon in the literary realm. I find women tend to better wordsmiths. But I have also found that men and women - often, but not always - have distinctive tones to their writing voices and this is of God. When we listen to the wide spectrum of the masculine and feminine, I believe we embrace life in a more perfect whole-ness.
LYNDA: Good answer, Jim. Way to dodge the question with a politically correct answer. (Just giving you a hard time).
Let's talk about your writing. You started entering the Weekly Writing Challenge with short stories, but most of your entries lately have been poetry, which have fared well in the Challenge. Have you always liked poetry or did you only recently discovered your poet's voice?
JIM: Oh, when I began, I understood the Challenge to be akin to writing exercises. My early entries were not so much short stories - a format which still confounds me - but rather vignettes of local color. As time went by, I ventured to my private love, poetry. In fact, I believe it was Lisa Mikitarian who gave me the little push to give it a try. Through the years, I have published a number of chapbooks of poetry for distribution to friends and church members. I believe I love the "purity" of poetry - the beauty of distilling the essence.
LYNDA: Where did the idea for your winning entry, This Cathedral for Boys, This Cathedral of Dreams, come from? Did you play baseball or just have a love for this All-American sport?
JIM: Like most young lads, I played baseball. First in the hay fields of my Canadian boyhood and later in high school and college. I even played in minor league baseball for a year, but the Lord had other fields for me to work. This particular poem was actually a bringing to life a memory of the radio broadcasts of baseball that I would hear as a boy on the farm. To this day, I would rather listen to a nighttime radio broadcast of a game than to watch one on television.
LYNDA: In this day of visual-everything, I can see exactly what you mean. As much as I love television, computers, etc., sometimes I wish we could go back and experience life as it used to be without all that technical stuff. So I'm curious. Is there a particular process you go through when preparing your Challenge entry? Do you mull over the topic for a while or do ideas come to you quickly?
JIM: I always take some time to find the "other" slant on the topic. Then I prayerfully stroll around the topic for awhile and then put pen to paper. I set it aside and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes.
LYNDA: In what areas of writing would you say you have grown the most since entering the Challenge?
JIM: My growing edge has been in mastering the frustration that comes with the writing life ... to not fret about the frustrations and simply keep writing and sharing.
LYNDA: I'm sure most writers can relate to that! So which came first - the pastor or the writer? Was there a particular moment when you realizes your love for writing?
JIM: I have always loved words. I am probably one of many FaithWriters who could find childhood writings hidden somewhere in the attic. So I sense that the good Lord called a writer into the ministry.
LYNDA: You must have a plethora of wonderful stories from your years as a pastor. Do you ever think about writing a book about your experiences?
JIM: If I wrote a book about my thirty-eight years of pastoral ministry (I retired June 1st), it would be how God used hundreds even thousands of souls to minister unto mine through all these years.
LYNDA: Spoken like the wonderful, humble guy I'm sure you are. Take a moment right now to brag about your family.
JIM: My lovely wife is a teacher of the hearing impaired and is simply beautiful inside and out, through and through. My older son is Shawn in a pharmacist with the University of Florida and my younger son Scott is an animator with a major studio. Fine Christians one and all.
LYNDA: What do you like to do for fun? Any unique hobbies or interests?
JIM: I play chess, study history, canoe, hike, but most of the time I am a watercolorist of some modest success.
LYNDA: Any goals for the future, either personally or as a writer?
JIM: I am presently working on a devotional commentary of the Gospel of John. I also continue to publish my daily e-mail devotional called The Peace River Devotional. I have a few manuscripts that I keep sending to agents and publishers who in turn send them back... but one day, some day ...
LYNDA: You're definitely well on your way, Jim. I have no doubt you will accomplish great and mighty things. For now, enjoy your Best of the Best crown. I, for one, will be praying for your complete healing from cancer. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next for you. Again, congratulations on your win and best wishes for a bright and successful future!
To read more of Jim's work. Visit his FaithWritesr profile: http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=41297
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