About

About Jim

Professional version

Jim Minick is the author of The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family, and winner of the SIBA Best Nonfiction Book of the Year Award. Minick has also written a collection of essays, Finding a Clear Path, two books of poetry, Her Secret Song and Burning Heaven, and he edited All There Is to Keep by Rita Riddle. The Virginia College Bookstore Association awarded Burning Heaven the Jefferson Cup for best book of the year for 2008. Minick has won grants, awards, and honors from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association, Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Appalachian Writers Association, Appalachian Heritage, Now and Then Magazine, Radford University, and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. His poem “I Dream a Bean” was picked by Claudia Emerson for permanent display at the Tysons Corner/Metrorail Station. He’s also garnered grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Minick’s work has appeared in many publications including Shenandoah, Oxford American, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Conversations with Wendell Berry, The Sun, Appalachian Journal, Bay Journal News, and Wind, and for thirteen years, he wrote a monthly column for The Roanoke Times. Currently, he is a core faculty member teaching creative nonfiction in Converse College’s low-residency MFA program. He is also pursuing an MFA in fiction from UNC-Greensboro, where he is The Fred Chappell Fellow and Fiction Editor for The Greensboro Review.

Personal version

I’ve had the great fortune to live in the Appalachian Mountains most of my life. I grew up in Newburg, PA (population: 300), a small farming town with a view of Blue Mountain to the north. My parents both taught, and even my older sister helped teach me to read in this house full of readers. From my family’s brick ranch, I could walk east a half mile to elementary school, north a quarter mile to my best friend Joe’s, or west a half mile to my grandparents’ and uncle’s farm. All of these places–home, school, friend’s, and farm, along with our church next door–gave me a great love of words and woods, field and flora, and of course, blueberries.

I’ve always loved to write. The first poem I ever read to an audience was an ode to my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Haller, titled “Hot Lips Haller.” It made both of us blush. Through high school and college I continued to work at this craft. I graduated from Lycoming College summa cum laude with a degree in English. From there I taught at a high school in Frederick County, Maryland for three years, and then entered the Masters program at Radford University in the mountains of Virginia. From 1989-2013, I continued working at Radford, teaching Creative Nonfiction, the Study of Fiction, American Literature, and Freshman Research and Writing. Currently, I’m a core faculty member, teaching creative nonfiction, in Converse College’s low-residency MFA program. Also, I’m pursuing an MFA in fiction from UNC-Greensboro, where I am The Fred Chappell Fellow and Fiction Editor for The Greensboro Review.

I love the mountains, love to hike on our farm every day with my wife and our dogs, love to work in the woods and the garden. And I still love to weave words together like my wife weaves baskets, both of us trying to shape something of value and beauty that will last.


JimAndJake300Audio Interviews & Readings

WVTF Public Radio

WVTF Public Radio‘s Gene Marrano interviewed me regarding two books of poetry, Her Secret Song and Burning Heaven, on February 5, 2009. In this interview, I also read selections from both books.


With Good Reason

With Good Reason, the only state-wide radio program in Virginia, aired this interview in September of 2006. It follows up on an article I wrote about a project my students do when we study Thoreau. In addition to reading from Walden, students also take Thoreau grocery shopping with them, and in turn, use his insights to analyze all the luxuries and necessities in a grocery store. To read the article titled “Luxuries vs. Necessities, or Traveling with Thoreau,” click here.


Learning to Love Grits

For a sample of Jim’s readings, please have a listen to “Learning to Love Grits” …


Clearstory Interview

Clearstory is a radio station based in Nasheville at 107.1 where River Jordan interviews authors and discusses books and literature.


About Harvest Interview

Nancy O’Mallon, filmmaker and creator of About Harvest, and an expert on blueberry history, interviewed me in November of 2010. About Harvest uses media to inform, educate and celebrate agricultural history, development, and food. (Go to the About Harvest website here)

Recent Posts

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop where writers around the world share what they’re working on by responding to ten questions. Thanks to Denton Loving who invited me to the game. You can read his post at http://www.facebook.com/notes/denton-loving/my-next-big-thing-interview/ I’m tagging Frank X Walker, Abigail DeWitt, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, and Jane Sasser. We’ll see their answers next week.

What is your working title of your book?
Fire Is Your Water, which is a line from a Rumi poem. The full line and epigraph of this novel is “If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My great-grandmother, Ida Franklin Minick, was a healer. When the family barn burned in the early 1950s, she, her daughter-in-law (my grandmother Sarah), and my uncle were the only ones home. The three of them ran into the blazing building and saved all of the animals. In the process, my grandmother severely burned her hands. Afterward, though, Ida did not heal Sarah’s hands; another relative was called in to do that. The why behind this has fascinated me for much of my life. Was Ida too shocked by the fire? What happened to her in the burning building that she could not heal? Or put another way, who heals the healer?
And then later, this question emerged: What happens when the healer, a devotedly religious person, falls in love with a non-religious person? These two questions drive this novel.

What genre does your book fall under?
Novel/Literary Fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Since this takes place in the early 1950s, let’s just make this Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They always had some amazing sparks in the movies they made together.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
How fire transforms people.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I plan to send it to my agent, Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Services. Hopefully she’ll find it a home.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first complete draft took roughly 1-2 years; I’m working on the eighth draft right now. I’ve been working on this book (interspersed w/ other books) for over a dozen years. First, I thought it would be nonfiction, but eventually I saw the need to combine several family stories that cover four generations and thirty years. To do so required the use of fiction. Since this is my first foray into this genre, I had a lot to learn in the process. But that’s the whole point, the process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s easier to call up writers who have influenced me. These include Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Jeannette Walls, and John Casey, along with Darnell Arnoult, Fred Chappell, and James Galvin. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible has also been a touchstone.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It’s impossible to really answer this question—do you start w/ all of the teachers who nurtured you along the way, including your parents and sis who taught you to read, your grandparents who gave you room to roam—or your wife who has read every page with a sharper eye than many editors? And don’t forget about the giant oak you touch every morning or the hoarse crow you listen for every afternoon. Or do you count up all of the many books and writers who have shaped you over the years, from Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, and Jim Wayne Miller to Thoreau, Abbey, Dickinson, to my favorite contemporary poets, Thorpe Moeckel and Maurice Manning. And I’m sure I’ve missed many others here. Or really, do you focus inward and realize that you can’t not write? To do so is insanity, and so the inspiration comes from a deep need to every day touch a little of that universal peace that resides in all of us.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Cicero, the talking raven, will bite you if you don’t watch out. Because the verb to raven means to hunger.

Coming up next week, five writers (Frank X Walker, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, Abigail DeWitt, and Jane Sasser) will share their projects. They’ll post their responses next Wednesday and tag some new people.

  1. New Website 3 Replies
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  3. Sarah’s baskets now on ETSY! Comments Off
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  5. “Blueberry Years” now in paperback Comments Off
  6. Poem selected for display at Tysons Corner/Metrorail Station Comments Off
  7. “About Harvest” Interview Comments Off