From homeless addict to winner of manuscript contest: Kevin John White tells his story


When Kevin John White, a former addict who spent many years of his life homeless, turned to his Christian faith, he found out he had a talent to tell his story through writing.

Steve and Julie Hill met Kevin while he was in and out of Huntsville Hospital, where Steve works as a doctor. As Kevin was often admitted to the hospital for alcohol withdrawal seizures, Steve and Kevin formed a significant bond.

“Steve asked him if he had a faith to draw strength from and Kevin said that he was a Christian,” said Julie. “He mentioned that his dad was a Christian writer, and Steve figured out that his dad was Dr. John White, a well-known and respected author.”

Once Kevin was discharged from the hospital, he was in need of a safe place to live.

“My husband kept asking God, ‘Who would take him?’ Steve then pictured John White in heaven asking Steve, ‘Would you take him?’ That was when we knew this is something that God wanted us to do,” said Julie.

“Kevin came to live with us until we could get him into a treatment centre,” she added. “During that time many people from our church (St. Andrews Presbyterian) were involved in supporting us and him. For two weeks people took two-hour shifts during the day to stay at our house so I could carry on with our farm and kids.”

While Kevin spent seven months in a rehabilitation centre, the facilitators asked him to write in a daily journal.

“The only reason I started writing was because I was forced to. I had never written anything more than my name, and answered some questions for a couple of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) until Dancing on a Razor,” said Kevin. “I was in my sixteenth treatment centre and if I didn’t journal every day they were going to kick me out. They didn’t care what I wrote about, as long as it was about myself. At 16 I’d probably overdosed more times than most 50-year-old heroin addicts. There were all these miracles that had happened, and I wanted to find out why they happened.”

Kevin describes his manuscript Dancing on a Razor as “a collection of stories about a man who had completely lost all hope―and what happened inside that man’s heart as he wrote about some unusual occurrences in his life. A man’s own story brought him to his knees as he saw the many great kindnesses, incredible miracles and mercies that God just poured out and over.”

After he returned to Huntsville, Kevin showed Julie parts of his journal and she said, “Kevin, this is really good! We need to get this published!”

This was when Julie became Kevin’s literary agent and editor.

“I had no idea how to make that happen,” said Julie, “but one step at a time God opened the doors for me to meet key people and get the book from squiggly writing on notebook paper to a computer and then polished up for a publisher to read.”

As Kevin’s handwriting was quite hard to read, Julie advised Kevin to try a different way to get his words onto a computer.

“Kevin got a cell phone for the first time in his life and learned how to speak into the phone using voice to text. He did that with the whole book, which is over 230 pages! Then from there I edited it,” said Julie.

After appropriate edits and alterations were made to the book, Julie reached out to a connection she had in the Christian literary world, Larry Willard.

“Larry had been in a major head-on collision and had been in the ICU for months. He had to learn how to walk and even talk again. I had no idea how he was doing or if he was even still publishing but I wrote him an email and he had recovered enough to be back in business. Larry was a huge fan of Kevin’s dad, John White, and was interested in the book.”

From there began a lengthy process of getting the book proposal ready, which included research of the market, potential endorsers and their contacts as well as chapter summaries.

Julie got copies of the book made in Huntsville and sent it to 12 people across the country, asking them to read and endorse the book. Each person sent in their endorsements in support of Kevin’s book.

Larry then suggested that Kevin enter his book in the Best New Canadian Manuscript Contest, held by The Word Guild, a Christian community of writers, editors, speakers, publishers, booksellers, and librarians. Although he entered last year and didn’t place, he gave it another try again this year and won.

“God is this book. Without Him there is no book and I would be a long-forgotten statistic,” said Kevin.

Kevin never thought he would get any recognition for Dancing on a Razor, let alone win the Word Guild’s Best New Canadian Manuscript contest.

“For the first time in my life I began to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the gifts I had been given,” said Kevin. “I saw the tremendous opportunity I had been so generously, and quite unexpectedly, given. Now I’m almost always on the verge of tears at the thought of being able to share my story with so many people. All of the heartache, pain, and struggle has lead me to such incredible joy, freedom, and grace which God has so powerfully poured all over my life.”

The contest award gala was a black-tie event at Roma’s Hospitality Centre in Mississauga.

“When they announced that he was the winner and he walked up to the stage, I was just so happy for him!” said Julie. “Kevin asked Steve and I to stand and he honoured and thanked us and God for helping him, and on top of that he asked me to come up to the stage and receive the award with him! I was in tears and I stood beside him as he gave his speech.”

As the award winner, Kevin’s book will be published and promoted by Castle Quay Books Canada, all expenses paid.

“The next steps will be time consuming for us both as the book will go through three different editors with Castle Quay, and we will have to work together to make alterations with them,” said Julie. “We also are involved in book cover design, photographs, etc. It will hopefully be ready by spring of 2019. “

Kevin says that this experience has changed his life forever and he doesn’t want to stop writing anytime soon.

“I can’t wait to write more books,” said Kevin. “All those years I spent living homeless I was being taught. God never stopped talking to me, or doing amazing things, sometimes he just wants to play with me—he can be cotton-pickin’ hilarious—but all of it had a purpose.”

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  1. Esther Jennings on

    Wow…what a story of grace and compassion ….thank you Steve and Julie for being so kind and showing such selfless commitment to a virtual stranger. You were willing to be used in God’s beautiful plan for this man’s broken life.

  2. Kevin John White on

    My thoughts on all of this have led me to echo Pauls in Romans.
    “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.”
    Christ is my reward and nothing less than him can ever satisfy. I know. I tried. I have no more strength in me than a meatball. It is by his grace alone that I am empowered both to will and to do his good pleasure. I bless in his name, the name of Jesus Christ all who struggle, as do I to seve him. Take heart! He is our greatest reward, and he will not lose one of us!

  3. Kevin, Julie, Steve,… Absolutely amazing. Looking forward to the Book launch and it being an important tool in God’s hands to reach others with addictions and give them hope.

  4. Kevin, as a peer of yours in junior high and high school back in Winnipeg, where we were members of the same youth group, I am so encouraged to learn that you found your way back to God. If there is ever a chance to reconnect I would welcome that opportunity my brother!

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