TROY — Members of the First Universalist Church of Norway (Unitarian-Universalist) asked Jennifer Wixson to lead their services once a month while they were without a settled minister. Little did they know they would get much more than preaching and hymn selections.
The engagement prompted Wixson to write a novel, "Hens and Chickens," set for release by White Wave on Aug. 5.
Wixson, an itinerant Quaker minister who writes from her farm in Troy, drove over the back roads of central Maine this past fall, winter and spring, to fill in at the church. The two-hour drive gave her plenty of time to work out the details of her story about two Boston women, victimized by corporate downsizing, who move to Maine to raise chickens and sell organic eggs — and discover more than they bargained for, including romance.
"Hens and Chickens" is set in the mythical town of Sovereign, Maine, (population 1,048). The novel is narrated by the town’s itinerant Quaker minister, who, like Wixson, fills in for the First Universalist Church of Norway, as well as the West Paris Universalist Church with which Wixson also has a long-standing pastoral relationship.
“I knew I had a story to tell, but I just couldn’t figure out what the tale was until I started thinking about writing regular pastoral messages for the Norway and West Paris churches. Then, I began to wonder what it would be like to live in a town where evil didn’t exist," Wixson said. "So, I created the town of Sovereign in a sermon— now chapter 4 in the novel— and the rest of the 82,000 words just sort of naturally followed."
Wixson has gone on to create "The Sovereign Series," a three-book series that picks up where "Hens and Chickens" ends. She is working on the second novel, "Peas, Beans and Corn," in which an Afghanistan war veteran returns home from the front to restart the old pea canning factory in Sovereign and can local organic produce. The third book, "The Minister’s Daughter," is scheduled for release by White Wave in 2014.
Wixson lives and writes from her home in Troy, where she and her husband raise Scottish Highland cattle. She received a master’s degree in divinity from Bangor Theological Seminary in 2001.
"Hens and Chickens" will be available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and independent book stores.
NOTE: Wixson is scheduled to give a reading at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at Norway Memorial Library, where she was once an assistant librarian. She will also discuss "Hens and Chickens" from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Sherman’s Books, 128 Main St., Freeport.