Wingate writer wins Thomas Wolfe Fiction Award

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 04:32 PM

Kevin Winchester’s mother has a box of stories in her attic that he started writing when he learned how to write. 

Winchester, 52, has not stopped writing since those days and was recently awarded the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a national award named for internationally-acclaimed author Thomas Wolfe.

His story, “Waiting on Something to Happen,” studies the idea of perseverance and how humans are able to get up and keep going, regardless of what seems to be in front of them, Winchester said.

Final Judge Ruth Moose said his story is “a powerful story, with sparse dialogue, at a critical juncture in the life of a tragic hero. Not a word is wasted, and the emotion skillfully underplayed so that the reader’s mind fills in the backstory...A masterpiece of work,” in a statement released by the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Winchester had the idea for the story in his head for a long time. Once he started writing it, the entire story took about three months.

“Whenever I write a piece, I have to hear the voice in my head for a story,” Winchester explained. “I have to hear the character talk to get the voice and the tone and that sort of thing before I can move forward.”

Once he heard the voice of his protagonist, the first draft took about a week, he said. 

Winchester submitted the story to numerous publications for consideration. He said he submitted it for the Thomas Wolfe prize almost as an afterthought.

“I thought you know, why not?” he said. “I had no idea, I just thought I’ll enter it almost on a whim.” 

He received an e-mail that he initially thought was the form rejection letter authors often receive from publications after they submit a piece.

“When I first saw the e-mail, the way I was reading it, that’s what I thought it was,” Winchester said. “It seemed to have that feel.” 

After skimming the e-mail, he was surprised to see the name of his story in the body. He then went back and read the letter a little  closer. 

“It was a shock,” he said. 

While he felt like it was a strong story, he was not at all expecting to win. He then had to quickly turn around and withdraw the story from the other publications he had submitted it to.

Winchester is the director of the Wingate University Writing Center. He is a Union County native and though he has lived in different places, he returned to the county and currently lives in Waxhaw.

He considers himself a southern writer and admires the work of other southern authors like Flannery O’Connor, Ron Rash, Silas House, Tim McLaurin and others.

Though he has written since he was a kid and considers himself a voracious writer, he said it did not click that he could also write until the 1990s. 

“That idea of seriously approaching it didn’t come for a long, long time,” Winchester said. 

Winchester has had short story collections and will have another piece published shortly. He remains stunned by his recent award.

“I’m really humbled by the award itself...I was just not expecting it,” he said.