For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features writer Mitch Toews. Born and raised in Steinbach, he lived in Chilliwack, British Columbia, for nine years with shorter stints in Winnipeg and Victoria. In 1995, Toews and his wife bought a cottage at Jessica Lake in Whiteshelll Provincial Park and they have lived there full-time since 2016.
Toews writes fiction and creative nonfiction, including flash, short story, and novel, and he describes his work as what he calls, “MennoGrit.” Inspired by Patrick Friesen’s poetry and Miriam Toews’ prose, he also enjoys Hemingway and Vonnegut (even though they aren’t Mennonite). He paints as a hobby and loves Winslow Homer’s water colours.
He says, “I like unusual people, and situations or characters that cause me to consider social issues or ‘the human condition’ in a new way. I’m drawn to stories of those who go against the grain or stand their ground.”
While he was a teen, people encouraged him to follow his artistic leanings, but he soon realized the challenges of survival as an artist. Although he ended up working in business, he preferred the parts that involved creativity, marketing, and advertising. At university, he studied sociology, but did not quite complete his BA. He also did a two-year program to earn a Master’s Certificate from Schulich (York) in Marketing. He says, “The latter program taught me a lot about business copywriting and marketing communication, and these skills have spilled over into my creative writing.”
Toews enjoys critique groups and the camaraderie of writers, participate in readings whenever he can, and works hard at his craft. At present, around 90 of his stories have appeared in print and online, via literary magazines and anthologies in Canada, United Kingdom, and United States.
His writing has also earned prose contests awards and two nominations for Pushcart Prizes. Recently, he learned that his story, selected from over 800 entrants, won a finalist spot in The Writers’ Union of Canada’s annual contest, Short Prose Competition for Emerging Writers. He says, “As a 65-year-old emerging artist, this inspired me to keep reaching.”
Upcoming pieces will appear with Fenechty Publishing in UK and in WordCity, a Canadian and International online literary journal. His story postings can be found at: Mitchellaneous.com, https://www.facebook.com/mitch.toews, https://twitter.com/mitchell_toewsWhen asked for inspiring words, he quotes Winslow Homer – “Travel widely, experiment boldly, love deeply.” And an old advertising pal, upon hearing Toews was working in fiction, told him – “Shut up and write.”