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CNF in the Making

Deanna Hershiser

Relief reader Deanna Hershiser talks about the creative nonfiction coming in issue 4.2. One of my favorite parts of reading submissions is being swept along. Writing that lifts me is writing with a view to a room of my heart's experience, even when (as is usually the case) I haven't been through what the author is describing. I'm drawn to reading and writing essays for the joy of absorbing works made by wordy tools and lyrical recipes.

I was pleased this go-round that Relief's editors chose pieces I really like. They're stories of building boats and baking bread and attempting rehab. Seemingly insignificant facets of days -- a morning walk, an evening on the beach -- carry me into meaning, because they were recorded with patience and skill. Repeated returns to the work must have happened for each essay to become finished, ready. Such is the nature of our task. The same is true in "The Art of Work," where A. S. Peterson's craft-ful description reminds me that early in a process "it is easy to think the work nearly done. This is a deception."

As with the best writing anywhere, "finished" doesn't mean everything's tied up with a bow by the end. These essays retain questions. Their problems are ancient ones: What is art? Why strive in light of painful separations? What does perfection taste like? They give fodder for our processes, for the spiritual work each of us does to find meaning in our own little spaces and times.

I'll finish this post with a Cyber Monday notice, fitting because Leslie Leyland Field's essay for 4.2, "Making the Perfect Loaf of Bread," is already available in the artful anthology, The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God. Leslie is the book's editor, as well, and she has gathered delectables (each essay includes a recipe) from the likes of Wendell Berry, Luci Shaw, and Nancy J. Nordenson.

Here's to making our way through Monday and into a month of attempts at meaning.

Deanna Hershiser’s essays have appeared in Runner’s World, BackHome Magazine, Relief , and other places. She lives with her husband in Oregon and blogs at