Willis, Paul J. 1955–

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WILLIS, Paul J. 1955–


Born November 8, 1955, in Fullerton, CA; son of David Lee (a biology professor) and Earline Louise (a homemaker) Willis; married Sharon Gail Leitzel (a registered nurse), August 25, 1979; children: Jonathan David, Johanna Leitzel. Ethnicity: "Northern European." Education: Wheaton College, B.A. (cum laude), 1977; Washington State University, M.A., 1980, Ph.D., 1985. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Evangelical Covenant. Hobbies and other interests: Backpacking, mountain climbing.


Home—Santa Barbara, CA. Office—Department of English, Westmont College, 955 La Paz Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 98108-1099. E-mail[email protected]


Whitworth College, Spokane, WA, adjunct instructor in English, 1982-85; Houghton College, Houghton, NY, assistant professor of English, 1985-88; Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, assistant professor, 1988-92, associate professor, 1992-98, professor of English, 1998—. Sierra Treks, wilderness guide, beginning 1974. Gives poetry workshops and readings; judge of writing contests.


Modern Language Association of America, Conference on Christianity and Literature, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, Southern California C.S. Lewis Society, Sierra Club (chair of wilderness committee, 1983-84), Wilderness Society, Phi Kappa Phi.


Fiction award, Evangelical Press Association, 1992, for "All the World;" Critics' Choice Award, Christianity Today, 1993, for The Stolen River; Chapbook Award, Small Poetry Press, 1992, for The Deep and Secret Color of Ice; Individual Artist Award for Poetry, Arts Fund of Santa Barbara, 1997; Best Essay Collection Published by an Independent Press, ForeWord Magazine, 2005, for Bright Shoots of Everlastingness.


No Clock in the Forest: An Alpine Tale (young adult fiction), Crossway Books (Wheaton, IL), 1991.

The Stolen River (young adult fiction), Crossway Books (Wheaton, IL), 1992.

Frog at Midnight (poetry chapbook), Pretty Good Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1992.

Genesis Poems (chapbook), Pretty Good Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1994.

Poison Oak (poetry chapbook), Mille Grazie Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1999.

The Deep and Secret Color of Ice (poetry chapbook), Small Poetry Press (Concord, CA), 2003.

How to Get There (poetry chapbook), Finishing Line Press (Georgetown, KY), 2004.

Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild, WordFarm (La Porte, IN), 2005.

(Editor, with David Starkey) In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2005.

Visiting Home (poetry), Pecan Grove Press (San Antonio, TX), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1996, Scribner (New York, NY), 1996; and Best Spiritual Writing 1999, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1999; Selected Comedies and Late Romances of Shakespeare from a Christian Perspective, edited by Beatrice Batson, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 2002; So Luminous the Wildflowers: An Anthology of California Poets, edited by Paul Suntup, Tebot Bach (Huntington Beach, CA), 2003; The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004, edited by Philip Zaleski, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004; and Best Christian Writing 2006, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2006. Contributor of essays, short stories, poetry, and reviews to periodicals, including Poetry, Weber Studies, Christian Century, Ascent, Wilderness, Books and Culture, River Teeth, Redwood Coast Review, Moody, and Image: Journal of the Arts and Religion. Contributing editor, Earth Letter, 1997-2002.


No Clock in the Forest was adapted for the stage and directed by John Blondell at the Westmont Classical Repertory Theatre, 1995.


When English professor Paul Willis published his first novel, No Clock in the Forest: An Alpine Tale, Jonathan D. Lauer of Library Journal suggested that the term for the genre of the story might be "ecofantasy." Willis's story for young adults takes place in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest when Grace decides that she is bored with an organized backpacking trip and heads back home through the woods. When Grace is discovered missing, a group leader and another camper named Lance set off to find her.

Lance eventually locates Grace, but the two are gradually transported into a transfigured wilderness which they realize they must help to save. Lance and Grace are eventually captured by the beautiful Lady Lira, who pilots a small barge pulled by marmots. Lira is particularly interested in locating a magic ice ax which Grace's uncle has in his possession. Grace and Lance realize that they are being kept alive only until a mysterious poem can be located. Grace meets and collaborates with William, an all-too-serious mountain climber who is also trying to locate her uncle. According to Lauer, the author effectively combines his knowledge of the Alpine setting with the more mystical elements of the story.

Margaret Ann Fincher of Voice of Youth Advocates also commented on No Clock in the Forest and wrote: "Young adults will enjoy these strange and enchanted adventures and will rejoice over the triumph of the tenacity and courage of Grace, Lance, and William." SFRA Newsletter writer Andrea Winkler found that "Willis' first novel fits admirably into the venerable tradition stretching from George MacDonald's Curdie books and C.S. Lewis's Narnia to Walter Wangerin and Ursula Le Guin."

Willis once told CA: " No Clock in the Forest and its sequel, The Stolen River, are set in a mythic version of the Three Sisters Wilderness in the Cascades of Oregon. These books grew out of a love for those mountains and an active interest in the cause of wilderness preservation. They also grew out of a love for C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, which matured into a lasting delight in the great sixteenth-century poem The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser."

More recently Willis added: "Over the years, my novels, poems, and essays seem to return to what are for me the twin mysteries of Christian faith and mountain wild. Part of me is John the Baptist; part of me is John Muir; all of me is both."



Bookwatch, April, 1991, review of No Clock in the Forest: An Alpine Tale, p. 12.

Lamp-Post, December, 1994, pp. 36-37.

Library Journal, November 1, 1991, Jonathan D. Lauer, review of No Clock in the Forest, pp. 65-67.

Locus, April, 1991, review of No Clock in the Forest, p. 44; October, 1992, review of The Stolen River, p. 55; September, 1993, review of No Clock in the Forest, p. 67.

Prairie Schooner, spring, 2006, Carmine Sarracino, review of How to Get There, p. 208.

SFRA Newsletter, November, 1991, Andrea Winkler, review of No Clock in the Forest, pp. 80-81.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1991, Margaret Ann Fincher, review of No Clock in the Forest, p. 250.

Solo, 2004, M.L. Williams, review of The Deep and Secret Color of Ice, pp. 151-152.


Westmont College Web site: Paul J. Willis Home Page,http://www.westmont.edu/ (July 6, 1999).

Paul J. Willis Home Page,http://www.pauljwillis.com (July 12, 2006).