Finding a Clear Path

Finding a Clear Path

“An eloquent invitation to slow down and pay attention.” Sandra Ballard

fcpcover216Finding a Clear Path intertwines literature, agriculture, and ecology as author Jim Minick takes the reader on many journeys, allowing you to float on a pond, fly with a titmouse, gather ginseng, and grow the lowly potato. The reader visits monarch butterflies and morel mushrooms, encountering beavers, black snakes, and bloodroot along the way. Using his background as a blueberry farmer, gardener, and naturalist, Minick explores the Appalachian region and also explains the ears of an owl, or the problems with how the typical Christmas tree is grown. Reading this collection of essays invites you to search for ways to better understand and appreciate this marvelous world, opening paths for journeys of your own.

Finding a Clear Path may be purchased from your favorite bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Better World Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Borders, or from the publisher. Or support your local bookseller. For a list of independent bookstores, visit

Finding a Clear Path

West Virginia University Press
PB: 978-0-937058-97-8

What others say:

“In Finding a Clear Path, Jim Minick maps the trails, real and metaphorical, that twine through the ancient Appalachian hills and through the hearts of those who love them, gracefully uniting the land, the wildlife and its people.”

— Scott Weidensaul, author of Mountains of the Heart

“Another shining writer has emerged from the Southern landscape. Here Jim Minick has written an exquisitely beautiful book about his Appalachian farm and his engagement in a life that makes sense. In impressive vignettes, Minick sketches his life and his desire to know the depths of it. “I need to name what I love,” he writes. With merry deftness, he tells of counting osprey, growing beans, and finding box turtles, but beyond the immediate, his subjects outline a formula for a good life: community, rootedness, history, family, the beauty of nature. The Virginia mountains are lucky to have Minick as a new voice: would that every place find such a singer of praises.”

— Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

“In Finding a Clear Path, Jim Minick walks woods, gardens, and fields with a poet’s eye; his seeing is sharp, his knowledge deep, his sentences tough and lean. And he is as practical as a farmer’s almanac, too, offering not only observations and reflections, but advice on country matters of all kinds. Minick knows that on this lovely, flawed planet of ours, much is well.”

— Richard Hague, author of Ripenings

“Finding a Clear Path is an eloquent invitation to slow down and pay attention, to the birds and box turtles, to the soil and what it grows. Jim Minick is what I’d call a “kitchen table activist”—an environmentalist whose ideas took root at home and affect everything along the way.”

— Sandra Ballard, Editor of The Appalachian Journal

“Compelling, practical and hopeful, Finding a Clear Path will inspire both rural and urban readers to seek their own solutions to what Jim Minick sees as a systemic dilemma of modern life: ‘We create the same world that we eat,’ he writes, as well as the same world we inhabit. One thousand words would be inadequate to describe Finding a Clear Path. Minick is a powerful poet and advocate—and person. This book should be in the entire American thought-system. Hooray for this crucial work!”

— Marilou Awiakta, author of Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom

“Jim Minick is blessed with brevity. Each of his essays meditates on one small thing, yet manages to enhance our understanding of the whole wide world. Readers be warned: seeing the macrocosm in a microcosm is a dangerous subversion of the normal egocentric human perspective, and may cause changes in attitude.”

— Chris Bolgiano, author of Living in the Appalachian Forest

To read an excerpt, the title essay “Finding a Clear Path,” click here: Finding a Clear Path

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 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.

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